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Chapter Thirty-Seven: Abandoning the Past

William Griffon had been in Romania when he received the summons, standing in the ruins of Vladimir Serapus’ old fortress. When the last war began, the castle had become a prison for necromancers who had been captured, the most notable being the man who Griffon had arrived to visit: Andreas Macellan, former Arbiter of the Elder Conclave and later Griffon’s deputy in the ‘Shadow Conclave’ of necromancers. If he had not been captured, it was highly likely that the necromancers would have triumphed.

Griffon walked almost blindly through the remains of the skirmish happening all around him, his black cloak whipped by the wind as his acolytes, led by Maurice and Paul Spencer, cast down the guardians of the prison with little effort. Though he was so close to achieving victory, Griffon’s mind was far from easy. A little way behind him walked Cornelius, as pensive as his master. A sentry hurried up to the necromancer and bowed.
‘We’ve found him sir.’
Maurice, lighting a torch with a wave of his hand, escorted Griffon along the dark hallways, where several of his men were busy setting free key members of the old guard from their cells. Those who remained were enraged, shouting and screaming themselves hoarse, but the acolytes paid them no heed. Griffon did not hear them; he was deep in thought; remembering his first visit to the castle, a memory that remained clear in his mind even after over a thousand years. Back then, the castle had been filled with the smell of freshly cooked meats, its hallways illuminated by torchlight. It had been a place of welcome hospitality. He and Bernard had stridden into the great hall where Vladimir Serapus waited, clad in robes of rich silk. The room was imposing, with great portraits hung in ornate golden frames. A large oak table had been set out before them, laden with a bounteous feast. That day, a friendship had been made that he had thought would endure forever. But for an immortal, forever is never as long as it seems.

Stirring from his reverie, Griffon eventually arrived at a great chamber, larger than the rest of the cells. In the centre of the room on the cold stone floor sat a dark, hunched figure that flinched at Griffon’s approach, before recognising his old ally. Macellan had wished to be given a seat on the Council, but was granted the Arbiter’s position for his years of faithful service. When the war began, Griffon had played on his ally’s disappointment at not being accepted into the inner circle and won him over to the side of necromancy.
‘Now here is a welcome face. They told me you were long gone William.’
‘They were right… in a fashion.’
Andreas Macellan had never been a large man, but centuries of captivity had left him emaciated to the point of being skeletal. His face had been handsome, but was worn from years of neglect, and was mostly covered by a large black beard. His entire body was a framework of skin stretched thinly over old bones that seemed to radiate a great sense of weariness. But in his eyes there still shone some cunning, a remnant of his days as councillor to Bernard King, and later Griffon himself. The memories of wild hopes and dreams that had once driven him lurked beneath the deep hazel eyes.
‘I tell you, if I had been there, things would have gone a little differently.’ He chuckled, the sound rattling around in his throat. ‘You actually managed to return then, come back from beyond?’
‘I did, and here I stand for all to see.’
Macellan’s eyes gleamed, and a crooked smile came over his bony face.
‘I knew it could be done.’
Griffon smiled as well, but there was something threatening in the gesture as he leant in closer. Macellan spoke again, and this time there was some genuine concern in his voice
‘Tell me, what became of my wife?’ For a moment an expression of concern appeared on the man’s treacherous face.
‘Katarina? She’s eluded me so far.’
‘Well, I am sure she will return once I am free of this place.’
Griffon made a murmur of agreement, but his face remained suspicious.
‘They named Simon Liberthine as your successor. Do you remember him?’
Macellan frowned and mused over the name before a flash of recognition came to his face.
‘Thomas’ lapdog? That subservient cleric boy? I presume you put that young upstart out of his misery swiftly and effectively.’
Griffon’s face darkened.
‘As a matter of fact, he still eludes me. He was never one to confront an enemy directly.’
Macellan rose to his feet, though the exertion was clearly an effort for him.
‘Well then, now that you have your old councillor once again, it’ll take no time at all before we find him… and crush whatever resistance remains.’

Griffon did not respond immediately, and when he did, his words were spoken with such abruptness and venom that Macellan recoiled.
‘You aren’t going anywhere.’
As he spoke, Griffon took a step towards the skeletal man, forcing him to cower back into the corner of his cell. Macellan looked out into the doorway for help, but the two were completely alone.
‘William?’
Griffon sealed the door behind him with a flick of his wrist.
‘I was secure in my fortress at Dijon. We had turned the tide of the war. Then I was forced to flee to some godforsaken cave in the Urals, because the Elders had discovered where I was. How did they do that Andreas? How ever did they find me?’
Macellan paled, and his hands began to shake, though his voice was calm and persuasive; the years in prison had not taken their toll in his sharp mind.
‘They could have intercepted a messenger, or deduced it from your past behaviour and attack patterns… how should I know William? I was in captivity by then.’
‘And that, Andreas, is when you betrayed me. What did they promise you? A more lenient sentence when I was found? The restoration of your abilities and station?’
He gripped the former Arbiter tightly by the throat and lifted him high above the ground.
‘Never trust a betrayer they told me. Much suffering and pain could have been prevented if you had held your tongue. Now, I will see you pay for it.’
Struggling to speak, Macellan managed to rasp out a few words:
‘There was… no bargain. If you had endured what I did… you would have submitted as well. Day after day, praying that the next turn of the wheel or lash of the whip hurts just a little less than the last. But they don’t stop; they never stop, not until you give them what they want.’
Griffon’s grip tightened.
‘Then why not lie, for all they knew I might have left long before they even arrived.’
‘It would… have done no good.’ He grimaced through his pain and glared at Griffon. ‘If you’re going to kill me…do it now. Finish this.’

Time seemed to stand still for one tense moment before Griffon threw Macellan to the ground. The fallen necromancer clutched at his throat, coughing and rasping as he struggled to regain his breath.
‘You will remain here until the end of days…. or until someone with a greater sense of mercy than I come to find you. Maybe they’ll free you from your miserable existence.’
He stormed out of the room and sealed the doorway.
‘Why didn’t you kill him sir?’ asked Maurice as they walked away from the cell.
‘I have seen too many old friends perish to have another die at my own hand. His captivity is punishment enough.’
Maurice sighed, and for one moment, his tough façade disappeared.
‘I’m tired sir.’
‘So am I Maurice. So am I. But think of your family. You love them don’t you?’
‘Of course.’ Maurice stiffened.
‘Then you’ll want your children, and one day their children to live in a better world. And they’ll know their grandfather was a great hero… a powerful necromancer, someone who helped to bring about peace and order to the land.’
‘Sir.’ Maurice shuffled off, not entirely convinced. Beside him, his owl familiar, Amos, had landed, carrion-like on a corpse, before pecking at it and disappearing. Seconds later, the corpse stood up, rather unsteadily, its own features now curiously owl-like. Griffon turned to the acolytes who remained in the area and spoke softly.
‘I require a moment alone. Finish the scouring of the castle, and meet me outside in ten minutes.
A great hero… someone to be proud of. If only there were someone left to think that of me Griffon thought to himself. It was then that he received the call from The Gentleman, and he immediately began mustering his forces for the greatest battle of their time.

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It may have just been coincidence that it was this night Bernard King found himself thinking of his two greatest apprentices, and how similar they had been. Both had been eager to learn, and swift to understand the ways of a sorcerer. Yet William had always been a force of brute strength, a hammer to Alexander’s rapier. He would pepper Bernard with questions and he, with the patience and tolerance of a loving parent, would answer them as best he could. The young Griffon had been an idealist even then; frustrated that he could not fix the wrongs of the world by himself. Fortuno, on the other hand, had been more patient, willing to do things one step at a time. The Elder breathed out heavily, and frowned. Because of him, they were both dead, his staunch refusal to help Griffon in his time of need had torn the world in two and robbed him of the closest things he had to sons. He had never had a family of his own, upon discovering his sorcerous abilities, he had avoided settling down for fear of loss, and fear of endangering the lives of anyone he loved. Bernard King had lived a sad and lonely life, but he had strived to continue for the good of his brothers and sisters in sorcery, so that they might learn to manage their Gifts.

He sat up in his chair and cleared his throat. The Elder Conclave sat, reposed, at their council table. They had assembled in haste, and haste was not something they usually did well. Edward Hartnell was on leave in South America, and the Conclave’s security was entrusted to other men, strong warriors but with less potency in the art of sorcery. But the Conclave were not concerned, there had not been a breach in security since the days of Griffon.

This was the time that Liberthine had promised to report by, and they trusted him not to be late. Yet he had been acting unusually lately since the reports of Jason Fortuno’s whereabouts and some of the councillors were considering having him honourably retired from his post.
‘Nine thirty.’ Remarked Vladimir, checking his fob watch. ‘He should be here anytime now.’

The signature three knocks were heard on the exterior door, followed by the scrape of the stone door moving back. Footsteps echoed along the staircase and the councillors turned to the sound of the noise.
‘I’ve come to retake my old position.’
The councillors stared in shock at the necromancer, who nonchalantly went to take his place. The council members rose to their feet as one. Bernard spoke for them, his voice calm and level.
‘You are not welcome on this Council anymore. You are no better than the rogues and abominations we sought to destroy when this council was formed half a millennia ago. You are not one of us.’
‘How…disappointing. But not entirely unexpected.’
Griffon coldly surveyed his former friends with a casual disdain, showing neither fear nor remorse.
‘Well, I offered you a chance.’

The sorcerers attempted to attack, but Griffon was too swift for them. With a wave of his hand he threw them to the ground. The energy he had received in Italy had strengthened him impossibly; he was casting magic without drawing upon his staff, charged with the energy of every student of the Facility. The councillors own weapons were summoned to the necromancer’s hand in an instant and turned to dust. Griffon saved Bernard’s until last, breaking the head from the wooden staff with his bare hands and casting it to the floor at the Elder’s feet.

‘Now you’re going to see why it was so unwise to deny me all those years ago.’
Griffon’s acolytes descended the stairs, led by the grim faced Maurice. They numbered fifteen in all, and were themselves accompanied by two dead creatures each, crowding the small room with their terrible presence.
‘Mr. Marshall, if you would come with me please.’
He looked over at Elder Thomas, who glared back at him.
‘You’ll have to drag me.’
Griffon smiled nonchalantly.
‘Very well.’
He extended his hand and Thomas was drawn to him as if by some invisible force. Griffon turned to his acolytes and said coolly.
‘Deal with them how you see fit. But save these two for me.’ He gestured to Vladimir and Bernard, who grimaced at him with hatred.
‘You monstrous…’
Griffon turned, his face contorted with rage.
‘If I am a monster Bernard, then it was because of what you did to me! I am your creation!’ He breathed heavily and turned to Maurice, quickly regaining his composure.
‘Have fun.’
He turned away from the Conclave and ascended the steps, shaking his head as the massacre began. Bernard and Vladimir were restrained, but were not allowed to leave the chamber until the last of the terrible executions was over.

Griffon joined Cornelius and Sarah outside. His familiar remained silent, staring into space, remaining in the almost catatonic state he had been in since his master’s return. Sarah, on the other hand, kissed him warmly, smiling as the raw energy coursing through Griffon touched her lips. Griffon smiled sincerely for the first time in centuries. Soon, the two of them would rule supreme, and he might at last fill the void that had occupied his soul for six hundred years.

When the dreadful deed was done, Maurice dragged the surviving elders outside, where they were flung to the grass. Next to him stood Paul Spencer and a number of students who were struggling to keep the bloodied Elder Thomas under control. Griffon ignored them and pulled Bernard King to his feet, spitting in his face with utter contempt.
‘Look at me now, you stupid old man. Haven’t I proven you wrong? Look at all I have accomplished! Twice I have cheated death, and this is just the beginning! A new age will soon be upon us, and there’s nothing you or your pathetic followers can do to stop me.’

Bernard lifted his blood stained face to look at Griffon, but instead of a fear or defeat, he gave a sad smile, a smile of pity.
‘William, William. Always getting it wrong… all you’ve managed to prove is that we were completely right.’
Bernard closed his eyes, accepting that his time had come. Two thousand, two hundred and twenty eight years he had been on the Earth, witnessing the rise and fall of empires, encountering figures out of myth and participating first hand in events scattered broadly across the history books. It had been long and often lonely, full of pain and suffering, but there had been happiness as well. He smiled as he remembered attending the Sermon on the Mount, fleeing the fire of Rome, fighting the French at Agincourt and meeting Shakespeare one rainy night outside the Globe, giving him warm praise and confidence after a poor performance. But the last thought that went through Bernard King’s mind before he died were the times spent with his two greatest friends, Vladimir Serapus and William Griffon.

Serapus could do nothing but stare as his oldest friend was reduced to dust and ashes. He turned expectantly to Griffon, who pulled the Elder to his feet.
‘Join me.’
‘What?’ Vladimir asked incredulously.
‘You don’t have to worry about Bernard anymore. It can be as it always should have been.’ The necromancer was speaking with genuine sincerity, his hand outstretched towards his old friend.
‘It isn’t meant to be. I’m sorry William. But you are destined to fail.’
Griffon’s smile faded sadly from his face, quickly turning to a snarl as he angrily thrust out a palm towards Vladimir Serapus’ face, sending him flying into a large tree. The Elder did not get up, yet there was a placid smile fixed on his face. Griffon turned away as his servants disposed of the dying sorcerer.

Elder Thomas looked down at him in silence, inert with shock. The acolytes turned to Griffon.
‘What should we do now Master?’ Their lord and master did not reply. For an instant a tear passed across his cheek and he was completely still. ‘Master?’ But an instant was all it took, and the necromancer’s face hardened once more.
‘Track down every sorcerer you can find and bring them to me. As for the Fortuno child… bring me the Gentleman.’

Later that night, Griffon and Sarah lay in each others arms looking silently looking up at the stars. She was surprised at his tenderness towards her despite his violent behaviour. Back at the Facility, she had seen past the mature, flawed body of Dr. Edwin Orphal and fallen in love with the mind of William Griffon, that brilliant force that imagined a great and glorious future, the mind that had made her willing tolerate his temper and the necessary cruelties her job forced her to inflict. She had struggled through beatings and mental abuse as a child, before moving into the monotony of a day-job as a hospital intern, never thinking her life would change until that day when she had caught William Griffon at her hospital, in the process of bringing a child to the Facility. It had been a strange first meeting, but his ideas and promises of a better life had won her over instantly, and there had been no looking back.

William Griffon had tried not to think of Alice as he made love to Sarah. She had stood by him loyally, but he didn’t feel love for her as he had with his wife, or even in his pursuit of Miranda Warwick. But behind all his cruel intelligence and necromantic idealism was a lonely man who wanted to see his vision come to fruition with someone by his side. No matter, once his world was established and the hatred had gone from his soul, he was sure that his heart would open up to her. After all, what was the point in creating a new world if you had no desire to live in it anymore?

Chapter Fourteen: The Darkness Before Dawn

‘Well well, if it isn’t Alexander Fortuno. We meet again.’
‘Captain Negan’
‘It’s Major now, actually.’
‘What are you doing here?’
‘Sadly, Mr. Carrera here happens to have more loyalty to the Crown than to his friends.’
‘What?’
Fortuno gasped in surprise. Miguel had betrayed him? The sorcerer did not meet his gaze, and turned away, leaving the room, silent as the grave.
‘Take him to the coach.’
‘And what about the men who attacked the fortress?’
‘Round them up, and then hang them at dawn.’

Alexander was silent as the ship took him back to England. His staff had been taken by Negan, who kept it in his cabin, unaware of its true nature, he seemed more afraid that Fortuno might use it to bludgeon him with it. Miguel never visited him, which was just as well, as Alexander would probably have strangled him. The only visitors he received were the silent sentinels who brought him a few scraps of food or a small jug of water or ale, though never enough to get him drunk, which Fortuno lamented. At least he would have forgotten his worries for a few hours. He spent the lonely few days thinking of Weaver’s manor in Nottingham, the vile Griffon, and Miranda…especially Miranda.
The Elder Conclave had gathered in secret in their Hyde Park lair. Freya, the Elder from Denmark, had just finished placing the protective wards on the entrance, and Elder Bernard cleared his throat.
‘Now, we’ve all heard the rumours and our esteemed colleague Elder Nikolai has confirmed that the manor in Nottingham has been taken over by William Griffon. We have sent in several of our ilk to assist, but they have all been unsuccessful. Griffon’s power has reached its former height and we must act quickly if we are to…’

At that moment, a gramophone began playing loudly, which disturbed the convened elders, none of whom remembered turning it on. Immediately, a tall, thin man seemed to materialise in the room, wearing an Inverness coat over his emerald dress jacket, red waistcoat and tan trousers. A great white falcon perched at his shoulders, its steely gaze surveying the councillors. This was Edward Hartnell, the Castellan of the Conclave, adjutant and leader of their defensive task force, with the falcon Caldeum, his brave and loyal familiar. Hartnell spoke in a soft undertone that belied no hint of his emotions.
‘Forgive the intrusion, but our position has been compromised. We must leave immediately.’
The councillors swiftly began to exit, but as they reached the blackness of the Park at night, the music seemed to swell.
‘Who has the strength to break the wards?’ asked Serapus.
‘Me.’
The elders looked up to see Griffon and three black hooded acolytes drifting towards them out of the night sky.
‘Griffon.’
‘Bernard. Vladimir. How delightful to see you again.’ The elders reached for their staffs, but their attacks seemed to pass through Griffon unharmed, and he laughed. The silent acolytes mirrored his movements exactly, as if they were all puppets on the same set of strings. This was merely an avatar, a simulacrum of the real Griffon, which enabled him to deliver his message without fear of being attacked.
‘Have you not the courage to face us yourself?’
‘And leave my prisoners unguarded? We are not all as foolish as you…. didn’t you think to change your meeting place after all these centuries?’
Griffon’s avatar laughed.
‘No, I am not here to fight. I am merely here to tell you of my upcoming nuptials. I would invite you, but I wouldn’t want you ruining the reception. Every sorcerer that treads my soil triggers the death of one mortal. I hardly think I need to give you a demonstration.’
‘You’ll fail Griffon, you’ll still fail.’
‘And who’s going to stop me? I have your errand boys on the way right now…ready to pay the penalty for your foolishness. But don’t worry, I’ll let you observe. You’ll get to watch as I reduce the great Fortuno to dust.’
As he spoke, the ‘great Fortuno’ was being forcibly escorted from the ship to a small coach at Liverpool port. The soldiers were taking no chances; the driver was armed, as were the two men sitting atop the coach. Negan and Miguel sat opposite Fortuno for the journey, the Major’s eyes always on his bounty. When they finally arrived at Lord Weaver’s manor, none of the men assembled spoke. They walked towards the building in silence, into the dark stronghold of William Griffon, master of the Necromancers.
William Griffon sat behind the oak polished desk with an enormous smile on his face, so much that any onlooker would just see a man who was ecstatic to be getting married. He was dressed in a fine wedding suit that had come all the way from London. On a perch beside the window sat Cornelius, his ever watchful familiar.
‘Ah, Major Negan, delightful to see you again. And I see you’ve brought a guest. Welcome Mr. Fortuno, to my humble abode.’ He gestured for Negan to place Fortuno in the chair in front of the desk.
‘I presume you know why I have assembled these fine people to my home?’ Fortuno did not reply, nor did he meet Griffon’s gaze. The necromancer stood up and leant towards him, resting an arm on Fortuno’s shoulder as a father would do to his son.
‘Oh, poor Alex. To have your heart and your life broken in such a short time. And to have lost your dearest friend to the Crown. Or was it to the love of young Miss Weaver? My my…love can make fools of us all.’
Miguel stood silent behind his former friend, his eyes fixed firmly on his shoes.
‘Jonathan, escort Mr. Carrera outside for a moment.’
‘Yes sir.’
When the two men had left, Griffon sat down at the desk, and looked Fortuno directly in the eye.
‘I hope you won’t take this too personally. I couldn’t ask for a finer woman to stand at my side when I make the world how it should be, and I’m sorry that it just happens to be the woman who caught your particular fancy.’
‘And at what point do you intend on releasing her from your influence?’ Fortuno replied grimly, his voice cutting, but low as a whisper.
‘Once the Conclave is defeated and Bernard King begs me on his knees to rejoin them. When sorcerers are free and she can be proud of what I’ve done, then she will be free.’
‘What about Alice? What would she have made of all this?’
This caught the necromancer off guard, and his acerbic air disappeared.
‘I loved Alice, more than you could hope to comprehend. But Alice is gone now… and immortality is a lonely road to walk alone.’ He stood up, and began pacing the room. ‘I’ll be frank with you then, it is personal. You’re Bernard King’s shining star, and if I had to lose my wife and son because of his stubbornness and pride, then he can watch helplessly as his protégé is destroyed.’
‘You won’t succeed Griffon. I swear, on everything I hold dear… you won’t live past today.’
Griffon did not reply. He called for Negan, who returned promptly, without Miguel, and stood at attention behind Fortuno’s chair.
‘Well, I’d love to stay and chat, but then I’d be late for my own wedding.’ Griffon patted Fortuno on the shoulder, before walking to the door, but before he left, he stopped and turned back.
‘Oh… and Major? Ensure that he is presentable for the ceremony…my bride would be very upset if her day wasn’t…absolutely perfect.’ There was an unmistakable trace of menace in the necromancer’s voice before he left the room, shutting the door behind him.

Jonathan Negan had waited patiently outside as his new ally spoke with Fortuno. Life had been good to him over the past months. Following the duel, the man who had called himself Lord Savernake had taken him aside and explained that the two men were impostors and that he was an agent of the Government who had been tracking them across the country. The entire Weaver household had been ruled as threats by Her Majesty, and Negan was required to stand as sentinel over the manor, receiving a pay increase and promotion as his reward. But these were nothing to Negan, serving his country and monarch whilst being offered the opportunity of hunting down criminals was reward enough. Alexander Fortuno was a fugitive from British justice, and Negan had no qualms about using the underhand methods required to take him in. And if capturing the fugitives also helped him catch a notorious smuggler, well, that was fine by him.

Hundreds of miles across the ocean, Captain Sherman Fraser and his crew ascended the gallows with their heads held high. They had all had a good run of life, and were determined to face execution with bravado. At least, this was the view of the older sailors, the ship’s boy and several others had not seen their fill of the world, and held back tears as their heads were placed in the nooses. As the official read out their crimes, the men took one last look at the rising sun.
‘May God have mercy on your souls. Proceed.’

The hangman dropped the lever and the trapdoors fell… and so did the ropes, seeming to magically loosen themselves from around the gallows frame… At that moment, a burst of cannon fire hit the wall of the fort, and the observers were thrown to the floor. When they looked up, the condemned had vanished.

Chapter Three: The Dark Path

Five hundred and sixty three years, three months and twenty-seven days before the Conclave summoned Miguel Carrera and Alexander Fortuno to their meeting-place, William Griffon arrived in London on a white stallion in order to meet with his peers at Bernard King’s home in the city. He ascended into the meeting chamber, and met his colleagues warmly before sitting down next to Vladimir Serapus, who smiled at him, as did Bernard. Back in those days, the Elder had looked every inch the wizard of mythology, clad in robes of deep red with a great beard and flowing white hair. They had been friends for generations, the three most powerful sorcerers in existence. The council’s Arbiter -a slender, bearded gentleman named Andreas Macellan- began the proceedings.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, I call to order this meeting of the Elder Conclave. Elder Abado, would you like to begin?’
The dark-skinned Councillor Abado graciously accepted the floor and intoned in a voice that was as rich and deep as coffee.
‘Ladies, gentlemen, colleagues all, I am pleased to report that all remnants of the rogue sorcerers have been destroyed. We can all hope this signals a new period of peace and prosperity for us all.’
He was greeted with warm applause, as the assembled sorcerers all raised their flagons to his expressed sentiment. They had spent three years hunting down a rogue tribe of necromancers, sorcerers of death magic, led by a dark sorceress named Evanna Rosemunde. She had specifically targeted William Griffon, and had attempted to seduce him to her side, as well as to the ways of necromancy. After a long duel, she had been defeated and was sealed in an impregnable prison in the North. Her chief lieutenant, Thomas Marshall, had defected to the Council, but was still regarded warily by most of the junior members.

The meeting continued for forty-five minutes. Serapus and Griffon spent most of that time imitating Bernard behind his back and asking off-topic questions. When the meeting ended, Griffon turned to his friend and remarked;
‘You’re looking remarkably pleased with yourself Vladimir.’
‘Well, the old group all in one place again. And my apprentice completed his training only last week.’
‘You mean that unruly Spanish youth you keep parading around?’
Serapus laughed.
‘Half-Spanish. I’m sure he’d be delighted to hear you call him that’. There was suddenly a mischievous glint in his eye, and he whispered;
‘A certain someone’s been asking about you for the past month you’ve been gone.’ He winked at Griffon, who smiled wryly.

That afternoon, Griffon arrived at his home in London, where he was amorously pounced upon by a petite, yet voluptuous fair haired young woman. He wrestled her onto the table-top and they locked lips passionately. It was several moments before they allowed themselves to part.
‘William?’
‘Yes my love?’
‘I’m pregnant.’

And so, William and Alice Griffon made the mistake that all young people who are in love make. They believed that life was now complete, that nothing could go wrong. But sadly, tragedy struck when Alice suffered an accident whilst out riding and the child was stillborn. Worse still; the accident meant that she could no longer have children. The two were distraught, and, desperate for help, Griffon turned to his friends.

‘It’s not possible William, there’s no existing spell that can restore Alice without damaging her beyond repair.’ The Elder put an arm around his former apprentice, who angrily swatted it away.
‘Why us Bernard…why did this have to happen to us?’
‘William…it’s just a sad occurrence that happened to you. Nothing more.’ Serapus said slowly, upset at seeing his friend in such an anguished state. Suddenly, Griffon stiffened, his mind working rapidly, he stood up and began to pace the room.
‘The child, the one we lost…I could…’
‘No.’ Bernard’s voice was firm, but not harsh. ‘You know better than anyone what necromancy can do to its users. Its effects warp and twist the greatest of men, until they become nothing but shadows of their former selves. It happened to Evanna, it will happen to you.’
‘The necromancers we fought were pagans and fools. They used their art to bind dead men and eldritch creatures to their will. With our combined powers we can make it safe… only as a necessity… but enough to stop things like this from happening again.’
Vladimir spoke for the first time. He too had suffered heavily from this tragedy, for Alice was his niece, and the closest he had to a daughter. ‘It will never be safe William. And once you allow a single usage, then where does it end? I’m not willing to risk it.’
‘Well I am!’ The sorcerer snapped back defiantly, before attempting to regain his composure. ‘Bernard, please. Just this once then?’
‘William…if you open yourself to those elements, there’s no going back. And I won’t let that happen to you, you are my friend.’
‘So you would rather I suffer for the remainder of eternity? You are not my friend King. I resign from the Conclave as of this moment.’
He turned on his heel and left, ignoring the pleas from Bernard and Vladimir. On his shoulder sat his loyal familiar Cornelius, who had known even then that no good would come of this act. But he was bound to the fate of his master, and he would support him until the day they died.

That afternoon, William Griffon packed his belongings and made his way to the stronghold where the sorceress Evanna was being held. Andreas Macellan did not bar his way, for there was no reason to suspect the sorcerer of any ill motives. The sorceress did not seem surprised to see him. She was tall, thin and impossibly beautiful, with raven hair that flowed down to her breast. Despite the murk and grime surrounding them, the necromancer’s dress remained spotless, a sparkling flash of silver in the darkness.
‘William Griffon. My nemesis.’ She purred at him, and her green eyes flashed eagerly.
‘No tricks Evanna. I need you to teach me how to bring someone back from the dead.’
An enormous self satisfied grin broke across Evanna’s face. She stroked his arm, and he flinched at her touch.
‘The incorruptible hero asks for my help? Well, why should I be surprised? I knew you couldn’t resist my charms for long. Vladimir certainly didn’t.’
Griffon started, but did not pursue the matter.
‘So tell me, what happened? Did that stripling wife of yours finally break?’
Griffon grabbed her by the throat and growled.
‘You speak nothing of Alice. Help me… and I can ensure your freedom.’
The sorceress mused over this for a while before assenting.
‘This had better be worth my while.’
Griffon hung his head resignedly and mumbled.
‘Anything you want.’
‘I never thought I’d see the day.’
Neither did I. Thought William Griffon sadly.

The guards at Evanna’s prison did not blink when the Elder departed with the sorceress in tow, and it was only too late that they learnt of his true motives. The Elder Conclave immediately began to seek Griffon out, but he had vanished, swiftly being taught the ways of necromancy by Evanna, who relished in the corrupting of her former opponent. But he was way beyond caring; all that mattered was bringing his son back, by any means necessary.

A little while later, one glum, foggy night, William Griffon exhumed the infant’s pitifully tiny coffin from the parish graveyard of his village. The shadows of the grave markers extended in the darkness, casting nightmarish shapes upon the ground. A lesser man would have been intimidated by these surroundings. But William Griffon did not care. He lifted out the cold little figure of his son from out of its coffin and clutched him to his chest. He hesitated, before beginning to mutter under his breath. Energy in the form of blue flames coursed through his hands to the body of the child. At the same time, the sorcerer gave a yell of pain and ecstasy, his senses heightened, the whites of his eyes briefly darkened. Then he heard the sound of his child crying, the most beautiful sound he had ever heard.
‘It’s okay…everything’s alright now…I’m here.’ he cooed softly to the infant, who began to pull at the sleeves of his robe to use as an impromptu blanket. Griffon gently placed him in a basket that he had been carrying under his arm.
‘William Griffon, I’m afraid I have no choice but to place you under arrest.’ Came a voice from the fog. He turned. Standing in the shadows was Bernard King, flanked by Vladimir, Elders Abado and Thomas.
‘Why Bernard? I’ve done all I wanted to do, I’ll perform no more necromancy as of this moment. And you can have Evanna, she’s served her purpose.’ He raised his hands, and said again. ‘No more necromancy.’
‘I’m sorry William, but we can’t take that chance. You know from experience how corrupting its influence is.’
‘You don’t trust me; you don’t believe I’m strong enough to counter that influence?’
‘This is not a question of trust.’
The Elders raised their staffs at him and Griffon snarled, outnumbered, but unwilling to back down. He placed the basket on the ground.
‘Last chance William.’
Griffon sent a string of fireballs towards his enemies, but they dissipated with a just a flick of Bernard King’s wrist. Griffon knew he could not defeat the Elder, especially not with the other councillors against him. Bernard looked at him resignedly and made a slight gesture with his hand.
‘Elders, take him.’
The former sorcerer looked around, desperate for an opening. As his foes began to form a circle around him, Griffon thrust his hands outwards, causing the dirt from several nearby graves to fly upwards.
‘Don’t try it!’
Griffon ignored him, and soon, the decomposing occupants of several dozen graves had clawed their way to the top and began swiping at the elders. Griffon took their distraction as an opportunity to seize the basket and flee. The recently resurrected creatures were soon dispatched but the Elders had lost Griffon’s trail.
‘Should I pursue him?’ Thomas asked Bernard, cleaning the mud from his cloak.
‘No. In this fog he could easily take you by surprise.’ He paused, regret building in his voice. ‘We shall wait until morning, and then begin a search.’ Then he added coldly. ‘He is no longer one of us.’

Try as they might, the Elders did not find Griffon the following morning, scouring the countryside in vain. He had left the child with Alice, before fleeing in the early hours of the morning. The news was broken to her gently by Thomas, but her poor heart could not bear the knowledge of what her husband had done, and the consequences of his actions. She died later that day and the Elders left London to continue their search.

It was November the 5th that year when Vladimir Serapus caught up with Griffon in Normandy. The Elder surrounded his former friend’s room with his apprentice and a troop of guards, all of whom were perfectly happy to burn the place to the ground, gaining the element of surprise and leaving little chance of escape. Serapus refused, and entered the room, locking it behind him.

‘William?’ The necromancer swung round. The whites of his eyes had now turned a dark blue. The sorcerer’s face, once bright and full of life, was gaunt and pale. The use of necromancy had taken its toll on him.
‘Vladimir.’ He reached for his sword, but Vladimir batted it away.
‘I’m not here to fight William, I’m here to talk.’
‘You have…come round to my ideas then?’
‘William…necromancy is dangerous, you know that. You have not only damned yourself, but those who followed you in this madness. The Elders will hunt you down and… I don’t want to see that happen to you.’
‘Then help me. Leave Bernard to his own foolishness and help me harness its potential so that it might be used for good.’
‘No good can come from it.’ Vladimir sighed. For a moment, his face displayed all its centuries of life. ‘Give yourself up… you’ll be forbidden from practicing sorcery, but at least you’ll be alive, in peace…’
‘No.’ Griffon drew himself up to his full height, steely determination in his blue eyes, eyes filled with hatred for those who had ruined his life. ‘My beloved is dead, my child was taken… my path is chosen. If I cannot bring my family back, I shall fight the Conclave with all my might until the day I die.’ He took up his sword and staff.
‘And you…what will you do, Vladimir Serapus? Are you going to fight me now, to kill me even?’
Vladimir looked directly into his deep blue eyes, and then slowly, as though burdened, he turned his back to Griffon.
‘Go.’ His voice was choked with emotion. ‘We part as friends. But if we meet again…there can only be one outcome.’

And so Serapus allowed his friend to flee, and thus began the first great sorcerer’s war.

That was 1310.