Fortuno was numb as he was dressed in a wedding suit, roughly shaven and escorted to the small chapel a short way from the manor. He was thrown onto the front row, between the shackled Lord Weaver and the morose Miguel. Weaver gave him a brief look of acknowledgment but said nothing; Miguel did not even look up. Next to Lord Weaver sat Dr. Emerson, who visibly had to prop his friend up, for the Lord of the Manor was so emaciated he could barely support himself. Griffon stood at the altar with an oblivious priest, unaware of the circumstances that had brought about this particular marriage. Nor did he notice the aura of menace surrounding the smiling Jonathan Negan, or Griffon’s lieutenant, Maurice, who stood at the back of the manor in an ill-fitting suit. The numerous officers and acolytes, including the dim-witted Scriven, had all been hastily dressed to suit the occasion, and some of them appeared to be truly getting into the swing of things. Then, the organ began to play and all eyes turned to the back of the chapel.
There, walking gracefully up the aisle in a beautiful white gown was a radiant Miranda, followed by Rosemary Weaver as the maid of honour. No one in the pews seemed to notice the faraway look in the bride’s eyes, or disdain emanating from the bride’s other escorts. And, not even Griffon noticed the small black cat that had crept into the chapel and made his way round the edge of the seats towards Miguel Carrera. The priest waited for the procession to reach the altar, before beginning the ceremony.
‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered her today to witness the marriage…’
Fortuno closed his eyes. He could only presume that Griffon was making him witness this marriage as a final insult before he dispatched him. He would enjoy the bride’s virtue before eliminating her as well. It would have surprised Fortuno to know that these presumptions were completely wrong.
‘Do you, William Steven Griffon, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?’
Griffon looked straight at Fortuno before replying with confidence.
‘And do you Miranda Sophia Warwick; take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband…?’
Miguel looked at Alexander.
Alexander looked back at Miguel.
‘…and in health…’
The shackles began to loosen.
‘…until death do you part?’
Alexander leapt from his seat, his heart pounding furiously.
‘You forgot something Father.’
Negan ordered his men forward.
‘You forgot to ask if anyone objected to this union.’
Griffon reached for the staff in his belt, which had extended.
‘Well, I most certainly do.’
Everything happened at once. Miguel took advantage of Negan’s distraction in order to retrieve a blade from the scabbard on the unsuspecting soldier next to him and throw Alexander his staff, which extended in mid air. The sorcerer gripped it just in time to block a bolt of energy that Griffon had directed at him. The soldiers followed behind Negan, drawing their swords. All of them were too distracted to notice the mist clear from the bride’s eyes as she fell towards her friend, who caught her seconds before she hit the floor.
‘Sirs, cease this madness! We are in a house of God!’ shouted the priest, accosting Griffon.
‘Well, give him my regards.’ Snarled the Necromancer, viciously pushing the priest back against the pulpit, knocking him unconscious. Once again, his handsome mask flickered, this time for longer than an instant. He then fired another blast of energy at Fortuno, sending him crashing back into the wall of the chapel. Negan and Maurice had reached the front but were set upon by Miguel, wielding a rapier that flashed in the light as he fought off four foes at once. Fortuno picked himself up from the broken pews.
‘Rosemary, get them out of here!’ Fortuno yelled, blasting a ball of fire at Griffon, who deflected it towards the ceiling.
‘But the ceremony’s not over yet.’ Griffon growled, his eyes flashing a dangerous, necromantic black. ‘Not getting cold feet are you dear?’
At this remark, Fortuno yelled and leapt towards Griffon, his staff glinting brightly. As the two sorcerers duelled, Miguel knocked the clumsy Officer Scriven into the lectern, causing him to stumble and knock himself unconscious. Negan lunged forwards as his opponent was distracted, but the Italianate-Spanish duellist seized Scriven’s sword in his other hand and deflected the blow. He quickly cast a glance at Fortuno, who had been using his staff to hurl several organ pipes at Griffon. Two of them were deflected but the necromancer was sent sprawling by a third. He forced a wave of energy at Fortuno in retaliation, but missed, sending his own lieutenant into an unconscious heap.
The two battles became more ferocious, Miguel and Negan slashing at each other with cat-like agility, the remaining officers having been quickly dispatched by the athletic sorcerer, whilst Fortuno and Griffon proceeded with a little less grace, blasting at each other with deadly arcs of energy.
‘So impolite of you to interrupt my wedding day.’ Griffon said, dodging another white hot ball of flame. ‘And I was so looking forward to married life. Ah well, if I can’t have my day of happiness, then neither can you!’
Yelling the last few words, Griffon leapt out of the back window, shattering it into fragments. Fortuno scooped up the sword from one of the fallen soldiers and leapt after him, rage contorting his handsome face. When the necromancer noticed his pursuer, he snarled and directed his staff at the lightning rod on the roof, bringing it crashing down through Alexander’s chest. He threw blast after blast of energy at him. But the sorcerer did not stop. He did not care that the necromancer was his superior in every respect; he would slay him, not for honour, not for the Conclave, but for revenge. Turning on his heel, William Griffon ran, for the first time in a lifetime, his heart was filled with fear.
Back inside the chapel, Negan took advantage of the distraction caused by Griffon’s dramatic exit by stabbing Miguel straight through the heart. To the Major’s surprise, his foe merely turned and removed the rapier as if it were a minor inconvenience.
‘Major Negan, this is…pointless. You’re failing to see the true enemy here.’
‘Not only have you broken the laws of the British Empire…but you and your ally are clearly abominations against God. I cannot allow you to live.’
‘Cannot allow? What choice do you have?’ Miguel’s voice grew cold, his amiable features barely masking the soul of a man who had lived with Hell for six months. Negan shrank back further, petrified as Miguel moved slowly towards him, his voice lowered to a harsh whisper as he spoke.
‘You human beings… always ignoring the bigger picture. He had to mesmerise others into obeying him, but you… you fell into line of your own accord. He’s going to kill all of you the moment he’s finished with Miranda, he’s going to kill Rosemary…don’t you see?’
‘I am…only doing my duty.’
‘No… you have perverted your duty. Redeem yourself; help me, if not for my sake, then Rosemary’s.’
The Major slowly got up.
‘She wants you.’
‘Is that more important to you than her life? You call yourself an agent of the Queen.’ Miguel’s voice dripped with contempt. ‘Help me…’he held out a hand. ‘Or die.’
Negan scowled, pulling himself together.
Miranda Warwick could remember precious little of the past six months. After Alexander had fled, William Griffon had been recuperating at the manor, though it seemed as though he was completely fine. He had come to her with flattery and extravagant gifts, claiming that he would make her his wife, and that they would be together forever. He had seemed charming, and she almost felt tempted to accept, but something had felt deeply wrong. She had refused, and he had turned on her. At first, she believed he was going to assault her, but then… all she could remember before the wedding were his eyes flashing a cold blue…
She turned to her mistress, who, like the rest of the captives, was running through the forest without looking back. Rosemary Weaver was unhealthily thin. She had not been under Griffon’s influence, yet she had witnessed the fall of her father, her friends, and her entire life as they all became Griffon’s playthings. Her only company had been Miguel, bright, handsome Miguel, who had comforted her in the dark days. He had hugged her, and assured her that everything would be well again, that Alexander was all that the necromancer wanted. He had explained to her about the sorcerers, before feigning submission to Griffon, making an oath to bring his old friend back to Nottingham, or suffer Rosemary’s execution for his failure. And now, all of Griffon’s plans were unravelling, but Rosemary Weaver was still afraid. Because there was a chance that her hero, her Miguel, would not make it.
Fortuno pursued Griffon, running as if the Devil was on his heels. The necromancer stormed through the forest, scanning, searching for his fiancée. Eventually, he spotted her, fleeing with the rest of the servants and a good deal of the guests. His familiar, Cornelius, flew ahead, guiding his master through the wooded labyrinth. As they reached the glade where he had been reborn, Griffon gave a great leap and caught his bride by the arm. She hit him hard in the face, but this only made his advance more determined.
‘That’s no way to treat your future husband.’ He laughed and kissed her deeply on the lips with a surprising tenderness.
‘I’m not an evil man. I simply have the misfortune of having objectives in life that clash with those of my peers. Give it time… you will learn to love me.’
‘I will never love you. You killed people for your own pleasure, and you were going to force me to marry you through some cheap trick. And no amount of mesmerising or sweet-talking will make me forget that.’
She slapped him hard across the face, but he caught her by the hand before she could move again.
‘It’s over Griffon.’ Yelled Fortuno from the lip of the glade. The necromancer stood up.
‘Oh no Alexander. It has only just begun.’
Fortuno leapt forward, driving his sword towards Griffon’s chest… and plunged it deep…into the heart of Miranda Warwick. There was a horrible silence, before Fortuno gave a yell of primal rage and thrust his staff into Griffon’s face. The necromancer did not blink; he was staring, shell-shocked at his fallen fiancée.
‘Go on… do it.’
A great ball of fire engulfed Griffon, leaving him screaming and cursing in pain before disappearing into dust, his staff clattering weakly to the floor. Cornelius, his constant companion for most of his life, sat down forlornly on his fallen master’s staff, blinked in confusion and then vanished into thin air.
Fortuno rushed to Miranda’s side, propping her up on his weary arms. Blood was seeping through her white gown and her face had turned pale as her life began to ebb away.
‘Come on Miranda…hold on…’
Miranda coughed weakly and smiled sadly at Alexander.
‘It was…an accident…’
‘I was stupid…reckless…’
‘But…you came back for me…’
And with that, Miranda Warwick died. Miguel ran up to his friend’s side, followed by Major Negan. The fleeing servants had heard the anguished cry of Fortuno, and had turned back, approaching warily.
‘Oh… Alex. I’m so sorry… but there’s nothing we can do. She’s gone.’
Fortuno grimly shook his head. He turned his head slowly, and Negan shrank back, the sorcerer’s eyes had turned as blue as Griffon’s had been.
‘Yes…’ He said coldly, calmly, rising to his feet and walking over to where Griffon had been. ‘But not for long.’
‘But… Oh…Alex…Alex no!’
But it was too late. Alexander had seized the fallen Griffon’s staff and began to chant under his breath.