From atop the cliffs, William Griffon smiled as he surveyed the ruin in front of him, delighted to be back on English soil once again. He looked wild as the breeze from the sea swirled his cape around his legs. It was not the carnage that pleased him, but the feeling that the end was near, that soon the world would be as it should be. His only regret was that Alice would not be at his side, their son at hand, watching with pride as the new world he worked so hard to achieve was completed.
‘Wonderful isn’t it Cornelius?’
His familiar did not reply.
‘Don’t you ever speak anymore? I think I preferred you as a raven, at least then you’d screech every now and then.’ He forced a chuckle, but Cornelius did not react, staring blankly out to sea.
‘It seems none of my captives are willing to converse with me. I can’t imagine why.’
The familiar’s face remained stone and Griffon sighed.
‘Very well. Rosemary?’
Rosemary Carrera slowly made her way towards Griffon. Her face was drawn and haggard, marked as much by the mental trials she had endured as the physical ones. She was pushing a stark metal wheelchair, occupied by a man so gaunt and lifeless that he was barely recognisable as Miguel Carrera. He was sitting rigidly upright, but his eyes had the same glazed look as Griffon’s familiar. Upon his lap sat the lion cub Eduardo, who was as lean as his master, with a silent, stoic temperament to match.
‘Fetch me some refreshment. Eliminating upstarts always leaves me parched.’
Rosemary bowed sarcastically, and went to wheel Miguel away, but Griffon raised his hand.
‘No, leave him here.’ The wheelchair moved effortlessly towards the necromancer’s hands.
‘Oh don’t give me that look Rosemary. I’m not going to hurt him. I promise.’ Rosemary gave her husband a look and glared at Griffon, but left without a word.
‘I do enjoy our little talks.’
Griffon leant in towards the skeletal sorcerer, as though he were speaking in confidence.
‘Still not planning on coming back to us then Miguel?’ Griffon taunted, clicking his fingers in front of Miguel’s face, but he did not respond. Griffon sighed. Despite his mocking, he wished that Miguel would answer. He had not spoken with another sorcerer properly for decades, save for a few brief exceptions, and most of those times were during the interrogation of his enemies, which hardly counted for intelligent conversation. He lowered his voice and spoke softly, as if explaining something to a child, sitting down on the grass so his head just reached above Miguel’s knee.
‘I know you never will come round to my way of thinking, but just consider what I’m trying to do here. A world liberated from the restraints of the Conclave and their outdated dogma, where sorcerers and necromancers need not fear each other. We might even have the humans accepting us one day.’
And then, he said something that made Miguel momentarily break from his trance.
‘You know, I despise myself sometimes. I despise that I have had to do all this to bring about peace and order. But if I ever thought, for one moment, that my sacrifice was unnecessary, that all this ruination was in vain, I wouldn’t have thought twice about handing myself into the Conclave years ago. And then, that day when Fortuno killed me… I would have been happy to have died… after all I had done, maybe it was my time. Clearly someone didn’t agree with me. Given a second chance, I felt I had to resume my duty to bring freedom to all sorcerers. Everything I had risked and lost… it had to be worth something.’
He paused, and curled his hand tighter around the chair, as if physically weakened by this outpouring of his soul.
‘I had hoped that you would accept my way, all the things you’ve seen and changed. You shied away from the norm, you consorted with pirates and lawbreakers, participated in revolutions and counter-coups…. what is necromancy to all the anarchy and revolution you’ve seen?’ He paused again, taking a deep breath. ‘And I want you to know that… I always respected you.’
He did not continue, for Rosemary had returned with refreshment. The necromancer stood up, his face returning to its usual mocking, death’s head grin.
‘Well, enough talk. You two can go.’
Upon their departure from the cliff top, they passed Paul Spencer, his clothes stained from the blood and dirt of the battle. He approached Griffon with his head slightly lowered, a soldier who was both in awe of his commander, and yet afraid at the same time.
‘Mr. Griffon sir, the enemy have been completely routed… those who haven’t been killed have fled into the hills. Shall we give pursuit?’
‘No, we have broken their spirits; they wouldn’t dare come out to challenge us again.’ Griffon turned away, but Spencer did not leave, he was waiting, hoping for some commendation for his progress today.
‘Oh yes… you may go.’
‘Sir.’ Spencer bowed and walked off, more than a little disappointed.
Griffon turned in surprise. Sarah was standing behind him, her face betraying nothing.
‘Yes my dear?’
‘William, I’m leaving.’
For the first time in decades, the necromancer was shocked.
‘What did you say?’
The woman who had been his only comfort for the past seven years nearly choked on her words, but stood firm.
‘I’ve had enough William! I stood by you through all those horrible experiments, all these massacres because I actually thought that you were doing it for good. But I was wrong… I’ve been so blind. There’s not one shred of goodness left in you… you’re so wrapped up your own hatred you’ve forgotten everything it means to be human. And I can’t stay with you anymore…goodbye William.’
The necromancer remained silent for a long while, before turning slowly to face her. When he spoke, his voice was like ice.
‘Do you think it’s that easy? Do you think you can leave me here flat?’ His eyes flashed menacingly and he raised the former Nurse of the ground. ‘And before you forget… I have always been so much more than…’ he spat the next word out with contempt. ‘…human.’
‘Please…’ The former nurse struggled to speak, overwhelmed by the tremendous physical pain and the raging emotions that she tried to suppress.
‘You were quite content to sit back and watch the show, and now you get cold feet?’
‘William…’ Sarah Ellis’ voice was almost a whisper. ‘I’m pregnant…it’s…it’s yours…’
There was silence, and Sarah fell to the ground. For once, Griffon was speechless, he turned away.
Sarah wiped away a tear from her eye and vanished into the night. Griffon slowly, heavily sat down on the grass. Cornelius watched him from far off, almost pitying his master. Their souls were linked, his brain told him not to care, his heart disobeyed. The necromancer closed his eyes, perhaps out of weariness, or perhaps in order to stem the tears that flowed from them.
There had been no unusual circumstances surrounding the birth of William Steven Griffon on the 28th October 533 in a small town on the Scottish border. He had been born on time, with no signs off ill health or outward deformity. His early years also passed on unassumingly, and it seemed that Griffon would live a quiet, simple life, before assuming his father’s mantle as the village’s healer.
All that changed when he was fifteen. Without warning, there was a vicious raid conducted by the Picts from the other side of the border, and young William was one of several youths taken as hostage. Sitting huddled together in terror; the children were looked over by the Pict Elder, a tall, thin man in his forties with a long black beard who inspected the children imperiously. Upon seeing Griffon, he motioned to his two escorts, who pulled the young man from the line and escorted him to the Elder’s tent.
William stood petrified as the two soldiers left the room, leaving him alone with this imposing man. To his surprise, he was offered a seat, and the man addressed him in perfect English.
‘What is your name, lad?’
‘Griffon…William Griffon.’ the boy stammered.
‘Don’t be afraid William. I am no Scotsman. My name is Bernard King and I have been looking for someone like you for a long time.’
‘Someone like me?’
‘You are more special than you think, William. You are one of the few people in the world with the potential for sorcery.’
‘Let me show you.’
King took a gnarled wooden pole that was leaning against the side of the tent. As the young boy sat, fascinated, the man made several motions with his free hand, and the chair Griffon was sitting on ascended slowly.
‘How did you…the stick?’
‘The ‘stick’ is merely a conduit… something through which I can channel my energy through.’
‘And I’ve got the power to do…’
‘Almost anything you could imagine William.’
After being returned to his village, William Griffon acted as though nothing out of the ordinary had occurred during his kidnapping. Yet once every week or whenever he could find the opportunity, the boy would seek out Bernard King and learn the ways of a sorcerer. When he was twenty, the Romans came to the village, and many of the men were enlisted into their army, Griffon included. But one night, during a campaign in the east of Europe, Bernard found him once again and the two of them made off across the continent, seeking other sorcerers. It was not until they reached Romania that they found anyone else of their kind. Invited to dine one night in the castle of warlord Vladimir Serapus, the two men discovered that their host was also a sorcerer, and Griffon first laid eyes on the warlord’s niece, Alice. However, that very night, the people of Serapus’ town also discovered Serapus’ secret, and the sorcerers were forced to flee across the country. They became good friends, enlisted the most powerful sorcerers from regions around the world and formed the Elder Conclave, which would maintain order and peace. Griffon made new friends, like Andreas Macellan, the Conclave’s Arbiter and Maurice Kendall, a great sorcerer from the Dark Continent. That was before the war, before the schism tore them apart and before William Griffon murdered the two men who had been his greatest friends.
The necromancer stretched his arms out onto the grass and stared up into the night sky, obliviously to the passing of time as he became lost in his reverie. The white lights of the stars offered him no solace as he considered the slaughter he had sanctioned and everything he had sacrificed for his bloody crusade. In the land of his birth, thinking of what he had striven for centuries to accomplish, he recited the words of an old poem:
‘I will not cease from mental flight… nor shall my sword sleep in my hand: till we have built Jerusalem, in England’s green and pleasant land.’
William Griffon did not seek to build a new Holy Land, but somehow, he found the poetry bitterly appropriate. He would make it right; he would not give in, he would make the sacrifices worthwhile.