At midnight, Carroll, Fraser, Miguel and the crew met at the dock, outlined the battle plan, wished each other good luck and vanished into the night. Fraser and the crew got to work setting about a distraction, removing several large barrels from the ship. During the unloading of their cargo, Davenport dropped one of the heavy barrels on his toe and received a clout from Fraser for his troubles. They reached the front of the fort, where two men stood on guard.
‘This area is off limits to civilians, what do you want?’
‘We’re here with a delivery.’ Fraser replied, staring the guard down as his men lined the barrels up in front of them.
‘I don’t know anything about no delivery. Leave ‘em here.’
‘As you wish sir.’
The crew placed the barrels in front of the guards and moved off slowly. In the darkness, the guards did not notice the look of satisfaction on Fraser’s face as he bid them good night. Nor did they spy the thin cord of rope trailing out of one of the barrels.
Carroll and Miguel followed the wooden walkway along the side of the fort as they waited for the signal. Fortuno took a look at Miguel, who had taken a long length of rope from his belt. He looked every inch the pirate, wearing only the sword from his gentleman’s attire. Fortuno also noted that since that had met in the bar, Miguel had avoided his gaze.
‘So, how did calm quiet Alexander Fortuno end up with a pirate like Sherman Fraser?’
‘He’s not a pirate.’
‘Officially, no. Unofficially, he’s a much a pirate as you are… sorry…were a sorcerer. Not that there’s nothing wrong with that walk of life.’
‘Of course. When did you first meet him…and how did you end up here?’
‘Twenty… or was it thirty years ago, I got him out of a spot of bother during the Mexican war with the Americans … As for Virginia, I’ve been coming here since Ratcliffe landed; it’s the perfect place for an enterprise like this. I simply told my good friend the Captain to meet me here as soon as possible and bided my time.’
Miguel seemed guarded and closed against Fortuno; he spoke in a low voice and did not say more than was necessary. He glanced towards the Fort, where the crewmen were walking away, the guards oblivious to what was going on. Miguel gave a slight chuckle, before swinging the rope in a circle over his head and hooking it onto a spike that was part of the fortress wall.
‘So how did you find me? Fortuno asked after a long silence.
‘In spite of what you may think, the Conclave has long been aware of your whereabouts. They have a spy on Fraser’s ship apparently, which might explain how you managed to get on board so easily.’
Fortuno briefly began to wonder who that might be, but he brought his thoughts right back to the matter at hand. He wanted answers.
‘Miguel, why didn’t you try to contact me before?’
Miguel said nothing, before gesturing to Fortuno, who tightened the rope with his sorcery. He hadn’t seen his friend in such a dark mood since once during an excursion to France, the details of which were between God, Miguel and his confessor, Simon Liberthine.
‘Miguel? Did you deal with Griffon?’
Miguel pulled the rope tight, before pausing for a moment. He spoke slowly and deliberately.
‘After you left, Griffon took over the manor. From there he has begun to systematically kill anyone who defied him or tried to escape, using the Marines as his puppets.’
‘He hypnotised them?’
‘No need. Our friend Captain Negan is still tied by some perverse sense of duty; he has loyally kept his guard at the manor.’
‘Why? What does he hope to accomplish?’
‘He has…commandeered the manor; Griffon lets him run it like a prison. To round up the undesirables and criminals of this land and bring them to justice, he says. A real paragon of virtue is our friend.’
‘And the Conclave?’ Alexander asked, shooting a glance at Fraser and his men, who had quickly ran for cover.
‘The Conclave has so far sent five men to investigate the problem, two of them were killed, and the other three are now Griffon’s acolytes. He has…powerful methods of persuasion.’
He paused, before tying the other end of the rope to a mooring post.
‘And what about…’
Fortuno did not get to finish his sentence, because at that moment, an enormous explosion shook the dock. When Fortuno picked himself up, Miguel had already climbed to the top of the fortress. Fortuno followed, and joined Miguel at the top.
‘What about Miranda? She wasn’t…’
‘No, she wasn’t one of the ones who tried to escape. Her fate is… it’s much worse than that.’
‘What do you mean?’
Miguel took a deep breath before replying.
‘At the end of this month, Griffon is going to marry her; he’s hunting far and wide to ensure you’re the guest of honour.’
Fortuno turned on his friend angrily.
‘And you didn’t think to stop him?’
‘Of course, I’d manage to stop the greatest Necromancer the world has ever known all on my own?’
‘I managed it.’ Fortuno retorted petulantly.
‘Then why is he still here? He tricked you Alex. He tricked us all, and now he’s stronger than ever.’
Captain Fraser stood up, ignoring the slight ringing in his ears that had come from demolishing the front of the fort. He signalled to Brooks, who nodded and headed towards the cloud of smoke. Two soldiers came running across the dock and they were immediately set upon by the crew. Fraser smiled amiably at them.
‘Sorry gentlemen, but the fortress is out of bounds.’
Instead of frowning, the guards smirked. Fraser turned and heard the click of a pistol.
‘Well… that makes things harder for us.’
In one move, he ducked, pulled his cutlass from its scabbard, clouting his would be attacker on the head. The other men were taken aback by this, and were quickly set upon by the crew. One large guard attempted to arrest Dr. Troughton, but the older man knocked his sword aside and cracked him over the head with his cane with extreme nonchalance, taking a hearty swig from the bottle he clutched tightly in his other hand.
‘That was highly enjoyable.’
‘If you say so Captain.’ replied Davenport, nursing a cut to his right arm.
‘Have to take the rough with the smooth, Paul. Now come, let’s see if we can help out Mr. Carroll in his task.’
‘Stop right where you are.’
Once again, Fraser was taken by surprise by the click of a gun. This time, he did not have time to respond before one of the several musketeers who had arrived knocked him out cold.
Fortuno peered through the archway at the end of the passage and looked down the stairs. No one. He quietly made his way down, Miguel following close behind.
‘So why did he let you go?’
‘He believes he can manipulate me, that he’s got some power over my actions.’
‘He thinks I’m… in love with Rosemary Weaver.’
‘And you aren’t?’
‘Of course not.’ Miguel hissed, but there was little conviction in his words.
‘And he actually believed you?’
‘Apparently so.’ Retorted Miguel dryly.
Neither man spoke for a while after that, and they managed to sneak down into the armoury. There were only a few guards patrolling and they had all been relatively easy to deal with. They strode confidently into the armoury to find… the barrels of several muskets pointing in their faces. Behind the muskets were four men. Behind the men, frowning like a displeased schoolmaster, was Captain Negan.