Tag Archives: Miguel de Carrera

Chapter Forty Two: A Brighter Future

Griffon’s remaining acolytes surrendered swiftly afterwards. None of them posed any real threat now that Griffon was dead and the Gentleman had disappeared. Against his will, Simon was proclaimed the new leader of the free sorcerers, much to Miguel, Jason and Bianca’s amusement, and he was instantly called upon to form a new Conclave. The sorcerers seemed determined that everything would return to normal, as if none of the terrible events of the last year had taken place. Still exhausted from the battle, and still reeling from recent revelations, Simon straightened his tie and ascended to the top of the hill. Below him was Maurice, the current leader of the defeated necromancers, who stood stoically, head bowed, awaiting his fate.
‘I know that all of you here today are eager to return to normality following these dark and troubling times. You may feel that we once again need the guiding hand of a Conclave to lead us.’ There were murmurs of approval from the crowd.
‘But I say not.’

Gasps and angry words quickly replaced the show of warm support.
‘We had… we had a group that provided order and rules to our society, but at what cost? The laws our leaders created constricted us until someone was bound to break them. Yes, I enforced these rules, but I have learnt from the mistakes of the past. If we don’t do that, we cannot hope to move into the future. If we don’t trust ourselves, and our future generations to do what is morally right without laws to bind us, how are we different to the beasts which crawl upon the Earth? We must have faith, trust in each other… and in ourselves. Not so long ago, someone much younger than me showed me that sometimes we must act with our hearts, not our heads. And that is what I plan to do from this day forward.’ He stepped down to face Maurice. ‘Maurice, you and your followers are free to go.’
The necromancer looked at him with astonishment and respect.
‘This is a new day for all of us. Let us make it one of freedom, understanding, and peace.’ He paused. There was a long silence, before soft clapping came from Jason and Bianca. It soon spread to Miguel and Edward Hartnell, and before long, the entire gathering was cheering and applauding. Former enemies turned to warmly shake hands, realising that, despite conflicting views on the nature of sorcery, they were not so different after all.

The sorcerers began to disperse soon afterwards, each heading off back to their own home awaiting the next new challenge. Despite Jason’s role in turning the tide of the battle against Griffon, his succumbing to necromancy meant that he had been treated with barely concealed fear and disdain by some of the ‘pure’ sorcerers, and he decided to leave them as soon as possible. The records of the Facility would have to be recovered, and parents reunited with their children, and Maurice had volunteered to help Edward Hartnell in this act. He immediately dissolved the elite school of sorcery, much to the joy of its captive students.

Miguel Carrera was reunited with his wife, who had, like several rebellious students from the Facility, been guarded under the watchful of eye of several of Griffon’s novice necromancers, the few who had not been involved with the battle. Rosemary embraced her husband in silence, and the two disappeared for several hours to rest. Their experience in Griffon’s captivity had left them drained, but news of his defeat had invigorated their spirit and gladdened their hearts.

Over the course of the next few weeks, the casualties of the battle were buried, and a ceremonial funeral was held for the Elders and high ranking casualties of war whose bodies were not found, but most notably for Alexander Fortuno and Miranda Warwick. There was a surprising turn-out of those wishing to pay their respects, many people who had never even met the two, but who laughed and cried at Miguel’s speech all the same. After the eulogy, Paul Spencer slowly walked up to Jason, his head bowed low. He was still bedraggled and ravaged from the battle, but the most terrible scars he bore were not physical.
‘Listen… Jason…’
Jason looked at the pathetic figure in front of him. He felt so much hatred for Griffon’s most devoted acolyte, and yet, for some curious reason, he felt pity.
‘It’s alright.’
He thought about embracing his enemy, before settling for a handshake.
‘That’s past now. Just promise me you’ll make something better out of yourself.’

As the sun began to set on a green field where lay the flower strewn graves of Alexander and Miranda Fortuno, Simon Liberthine approached his two ‘foster children’.
‘Well… these have been hard times. The Conclave has gone, only time will tell if any of the old guard survived the attack, so… well I guess I’m out of a job. We’re trying our best to reunite the students with their parents, but in some cases… not a lot of luck. But now that’s it over, well… I don’t know where I’m going, but you’re more than welcome to come along.’
Jason smiled at the man who he would have been proud to call his father.
‘We’d love to, but I’m afraid we’ve both got other obligations now.’ His eyes flitted proudly down to Bianca’s stomach.
‘You mean…ah.’ His face flushed. ‘Well, I wish you both the best.’
‘This isn’t goodbye Simon.’ Bianca grinned, standing on tiptoes so that she could kiss him on the cheek. ‘We’ll see you again soon.’
Simon smiled, and walked off along the country road. Jason and Bianca watched him go, embraced, and left in the opposite direction.
‘Yes B?’
‘Where exactly are we going?’

Later that evening, Simon and Miguel attended a small, quiet service in a London churchyard. While most of the sorcerers had celebrated his demise, they two knew the goodness that had remained in the man, even to the very end. As they took a moment to mourn William Griffon, laid to rest next to his beloved wife, the sorcerers, even the usually talkative Miguel, were silent. An era had passed; a new one would soon begin. As they left, they did not notice a small figure quietly approach the grave and leave a single lily behind on the freshly dug earth.
‘Goodbye William.’

Lauren Sanders forlornly wiped the bar top clean. She had been happier in the last six months than in her whole life, and then everything was suddenly turned upside down. She was so lost in her thoughts that she barely even noticed the front door open.
‘We’re clo…’
‘I thought I might stick around…if that’s okay?’ asked Simon Liberthine. He looked out at her with a shy grin, clutching his hat under his chin like a bashful schoolboy.
‘Oh…that would be…just perfect.’

That night, they sat on the rooftop, high above the lights of the City, gazing down at the people in the square below them
‘You’re sure I’m not going to fall?’
‘I’m absolutely certain.’ He clinked wine glasses with her, and they both looked up into the night sky.
‘To the future.’


Chapter Thirty-Nine: Under the Stars

Simon Liberthine walked over to the centre of the campsite, joining the pensive Miguel, wrapped in a blanket in his chair as he gazed up at the stars.
‘No matter how depressed I’m feeling, no matter how hopeless everything seems, I can look at the stars and there seems to be just a little less darkness in the world.’ He sighed longingly. ‘Quite a day you have ahead of you tomorrow Simon.’ he remarked, not looking back.
‘How did you know it was me? I didn’t make a sound.’
‘Precisely.’ Miguel smiled, and a little of the old twinkle came into his eyes. He turned around in his chair.
‘Where’s Eduardo?’
‘Gone for a walk. I never thought I’d envy him for that.’ There was an awkward silence before he added: ‘Won’t you sit down? There are some chairs around here somewhere…’
He gestured to a seat a little way from him. Simon reached into his coat and extended his arm, causing a shooting stick to appear from his sleeve. He pegged it into the grass beside his comrade and caused the seat to unfold with a flick of his wrist.
‘Very impressive.’
Simon sat down on the seat and sighed heavily.
‘Why did he let you go Miguel?’
‘I told you… so that I could inform you where the battle will be tomorrow.’
‘He could have sent an avatar to do that.’
Miguel sank back in his chair.
‘To honour a last request. William Griffon is many things, but he has always been a man of his word.’
‘Whose last request?’
‘Thomas Marshall’s.’
It took every ounce of strength and every last inch of his famed resolve to stop Simon from gasping in shock. He knew it was unlikely his mentor was still alive, but to have it confirmed dealt him a blow greater than any earthly weapon could deliver.
‘How did he die?’
‘He survived the attack on the headquarters…. Griffon wanted him alive to provide information. His methods of persuasion remain very… effective. Thomas talked, and then…’ He faltered, and Simon impatiently pressed on.
‘He couldn’t live with himself. Whether Griffon would have killed him or not, I don’t know.’
‘And his last request?’
‘He left a message for you.’ Miguel leant in closer and his voice lowered. ‘Simon… you parents weren’t killed by raiders so many years ago. Evanna Rosemunde was your mother… and Thomas was your father.’

The two men were silent for a long time. Simon was speechless. He had his head rested in his hands, and he stared at the floor through his fingers.
‘It’s fine Miguel. Just fine.’

Jason Fortuno awoke with a start and sat up. He looked to his right. Bianca had not stirred, she still slumbered on peacefully. Trying not to wake her, he slipped on his jacket and left the tent. In the centre of the campsite, Simon sat with Miguel, the stranger, who was the first to notice Jason’s arrival. His cub familiar, Eduardo, padded up to the chair at Miguel’s side, looked up at the boy, and tried to smile, but only succeeded in baring his teeth oddly. Simon seemed lost in thought, but upon Jason’s arrival, he stiffened and tried to smile encouragingly.
‘Jason. Couldn’t sleep?’ Miguel asked, offering him a seat.
‘Just a little… well, petrified.’ Jason laughed nervously. Simon smiled knowingly.
‘So am I.’
‘But you… you were the Arbiter… you fought hundreds of battles during the war…’
Simon winced and Miguel smiled a little at his fellow sorcerer’s discomfort.
‘Well… I may have exaggerated the truth a little… you see… the moment the war ended, I took up the Arbiter position so I would never have to fight again.’
Miguel put his hand on Jason’s arm and spoke to him in a paternal tone.
‘But that doesn’t make him a coward, and to be afraid of fighting tomorrow doesn’t make you a coward either. Sometimes, it’s the braver man who walks away.’

‘Ah… before I forget.’ Miguel sighed wearily and placed his hand inside his pocket, bringing it out again with a silver necklace clasped in his palm. It held a locket in the shape of a heart on a fine thin silver chain.
‘This was given to your mother by your grandmother… for when she got married… I acquired it from Griffon during my time in captivity.’ He opened the locket, and there was a picture on either side. Jason realised that they were images of his parents. He recognised Alexander from his visions, and saw that his father’s eyes were as his own, while Miranda Warwick had the coffee brown hair, slender neck and cheekbones of her son.
‘’I’m sure she would have wanted you to have it… to give to your young lady.’ He winked, handing the locket over.
‘Thank you.’ Jason replied, his voice catching slightly. ‘What were they like… my parents?’
‘Your father could be a difficult man sometimes. He was stubborn, and an unrelenting cynic, but I loved him, and I never doubted that he cared. Your mother got him out of his shell; he fell for her at first sight. Perhaps they fell too quickly. But he’d been very depressed with life, perhaps he saw her as a beacon of light in his life. Maybe that’s why he fought for her so fiercely. As for your mother, my wife… my wife tells me that although she’d never admit it, she was quite the romantic, and your father came along when she had given up hope on love. She was a bold woman, she wouldn’t take any of his nonsense, and perhaps why that’s why they were perfect for each other.’ Miguel’s eyes had grown misty, and he had to stop himself. Simon saw this, and tried to cover up for the older sorcerer’s show of emotion.
‘You’d better get ready for tomorrow Jason. Give my best to Bianca.’ he added, conspiratorially raising an eyebrow. Jason blushed. Miguel wheeled himself over to him and placed an arm on his shoulder.
‘And remember this; there isn’t a man or woman in this army who isn’t shivering at the thought of facing Griffon tomorrow. But they fight because they know it’s the right thing, no matter how scared they are.’
‘And although he doesn’t want to admit it, he’s just as scared as you. Even if he won’t be fighting.’ Added Eduardo, cleaning his paws.
‘Yes… thank you Eduardo.’ Sighed Miguel. ‘You spent too much time with that…’ he froze mid-sentence and smiled up at Jason. ‘Well anyway, time to get some sleep. Tomorrow is the big day.’

The two old sorcerers sat silently for the rest of the night, each knowing what the other was thinking. Simon thought of his father, and Miguel… his thoughts turned inwards. It had been Simon who had broken the news of Fortuno’s death to Miguel one cold night all those years ago. The former sorcerer had nodded, before numbly disappearing into the house. Rosemary and Simon had sat quietly downstairs with Rosemary’s son Luke, only a toddler, and tried to block out the sound of Miguel’s haunting sobs. They found Miguel’s crucifix, which he had always worn around his neck, cast aside in the road the following day. None of them had spoken of that night since. Only once before had Simon seen Miguel so vulnerable and wracked with guilt, and that was after a mission in France, where he had began an affair with an abused, married woman. Upon discovering the affair, the husband had stabbed them both. Miguel had of course recovered and taken revenge, but that the lady was lost and he would not speak of it to anyone, not even Alexander, confessing his sins to Simon and trying to forget about it. But this had been worse, Fortuno’s death had broken his carefree spirit, despite his best efforts to return to normal following his argument with Rosemary, the toll it had taken was evident.

When dawn broke the next morning, Simon rose unsteadily from his chair and embraced Miguel.
‘Well this is it. I’d hoped my fighting days were over.’ He paused. ‘I was always a coward.’
‘No, you were simply… sensible.’
Simon straightened up, and looked up at the rising sun.
‘I promise I’ll make him proud of us.’
‘I know you will.’

Chapter Thirty-Eight: The Final Council

It took two days for all the sorcerers to arrive in America, and the former Arbiter was silently dismayed to notice that there were far fewer than he had hoped for. Still, he arranged for them all to meet that evening on a field some miles from the town where he had called them from. Griffon had slain many of the pure sorcerers, but a few remained, having taken refuge from the storm that had taken Europe. There was Jeffrey Holmes, once the prison warder at Serapus’ castle and a trainer of sorcerers during the first war, Matthew Dent and his partner Brittany Rose, Alexia Bishara, daughter of the late Elder Cassim, and Caroline le Fleur, a sorceress and healer from England. Most comforting to Simon was the arrival of Edward Hartnell, formerly the Castellan, who had survived Griffon’s attack having been hiding out in South America with his wife Eilish and her brother Edmund. Hartnell had sent his familiar to gather more troops upon his arrival. However the sorcerer and former official was wracked with guilt, he had been unable to attend the Conclave’s meeting where the councillors had been massacred and the security detail had been left to lesser men.
‘If I had been there… perhaps things would have been different. I could have stopped Griffon right there…’
‘There’s nothing you could have done Edward. But perhaps now, we can make things right.’
He ascended a small hill overlooking the field in order to gain a better view of the assembled masses, who were indulging or nostalgic reminisces about the past rather than facing up to the terrifying reality of the present. Simon took a deep breath and spoke clearly, causing all assembled to stop and listen.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, I have called you here at a most troubling time. The Elder Conclave is no more, and though there are reports that some of them may have survived, we cannot count on their leadership and guidance any longer. Sorcerers all over Europe and Asia have been massacred. And yes, the rumours are true; William Griffon is the one responsible.’
There was uproar from the assembled sorcerers and sorceresses at this comment, and Liberthine had to shout to return order to the proceedings.
‘William Griffon is responsible, and he is hell-bent on annihilating anyone who stands in his way. We must stand together against him, or divided we will fall.’
‘You must be crazy Simon!’ came a voice from the crowd. ‘If Griffon has done that much damage then he must have at least three hundred men on his side.’

‘Closer to five hundred.’
Simon turned to face whoever had just spoken. He almost leapt back upon seeing the skeletal form of Miguel Carrera, who looked as if he was using every last reserve of strength just to stay sitting upright in his wheelchair.
‘Miguel? We thought you were…’
‘No. He sent me here… to tell you where our fates will be decided.’
‘Miguel… what happened to Rosemary?’ His companion sighed wearily, and coughed. His voice was thin and rattled as he spoke.
‘She’s… he has her.’ Miguel coughed again, more heavily, and his equally fragile familiar continued in his stead.
‘He’s gathered together all his acolytes from across the globe… all the students from the Facility… summoned creatures from beyond… and you’re the only ones left who can oppose him.’
The sorcerers all began to speak at once.
‘We’re two hundred and fifty men at the most; we’ll never manage to…’
‘There’s still a chance of getting away before morning, we could…’
Simon sighed heavily, before raising his umbrella and firing a bright light into the air with a bang. When the sorcerers were silent, he intoned gravely:
‘There will be no more running. We face them at dawn.’

The crowd of sorcerers began to disperse, hastily setting up temporary camps in the field before preparing for the upcoming battle. Simon Liberthine remained where he was, thoughtfully staring off into the distance. Why couldn’t Griffon have left them alone? He had been alive for centuries, but he hadn’t lived a day of his life until arriving in New York. He had got used to life at the nightclub, grown fond of his young wards and… though it brought a blush to his cheeks to admit it… the woman who showed them so much kindness. The former Arbiter sighed. He had been unnecessarily blunt with her… if he survived, the first thing he would do was to go back to the city and apologise. If he survived… He was a bureaucrat, not a warrior, even in his mortal disguise he was a missionary, never raising arms against his fellows; his duty had been to save his neighbour, his flock. And now look at him. The leader of an exhausted, disorganised, hopelessly outnumbered resistance against William Griffon’s trained necromancers, the students of his academy and all their unnatural legions. For the first time in his life, Simon Liberthine prayed for himself.
‘Please…help me… to save my family … to defeat Griffon … to make things right.’
Because he knew that only a miracle could help them now.

Simon was not the only sorcerer who was trembling as the day drew to a close. Jason Fortuno entered his tent and sat down on the camp bed, his head in his hands. He had never been in a real battle before… despite all the training he had received at the Facility, hours of drilling , practice with the swordmaster and the endless demonstrations of practical sorcery, he could not feel more unprepared. This was all too real, and there was so much at stake.
He looked up, startled, to find Bianca standing over him.
‘Hey. You er… ready for tomorrow?’
Bianca smiled and sat down on the edge of the makeshift bed. She tried to hide the fear in her voice and her heart.
‘As ready as I’m ever likely to be.’ She put her hand on his shoulder, and he relaxed.
‘It’s been a funny couple of months hasn’t it?’
Jason chuckled despite himself.
‘Well, that’s certainly one way of putting it B.’

He kissed her, tentatively at first, before they both fell into a deep embrace. All those years of torment, all those fears of tomorrow vanished for just a few precious moments.

Jason Fortuno walked alongside the roadside, a change from the glade he usually saw in his dreams. He did not know where he was going, he felt as if he were moving on automatic pilot, as though his legs had their own momentum. He started. The hooded figure was there again, his blue eyes glaring down at Jason, his arm poised to strike. But then the figure looked up, gave a scream of terror and vanished.
Jason turned. There was a man standing behind him, the same man who had appeared that night in the Facility, and later in his feverish dreams induced by Griffon’s sedatives.
The man smiled.
‘That’s right. You’ve grown into a fine young man… I always knew you would escape somehow.’
‘Dad… I’m frightened. Tomorrow, we face Griffon and I’m just going to freeze…I look at everyone… Simon, Bianca, Mr. Carrera… they say we can win but I see it in their eyes. We’re doomed.’
Alexander placed a reassuring hand on his son’s shoulder.
‘Don’t be afraid. You have my stubbornness and your mother’s fighting spirit.’ He grinned. ‘I believe in you. Do what your father never could.’
He began to slowly fade, and Jason reached out, but his hand passed right through his father.
‘No… don’t go… I need you.’
Alexander smiled sadly.
‘I’m always with you Jason. Never forget that.’

Chapter Thirty-Three: Fragments of a Dream

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.

Chapter Twenty-Eight: The Second War

William Griffon strode out of the mist and smiled at his former fiancée.
‘Miranda Warwick…how nice to see you again. And you’ve brought your friends along…this is shaping up to be a fantastic reunion. Although we seem to be missing someone.’
Miranda gave a primal scream and leapt at Griffon, her twin blades aimed straight at his heart. Griffon made a weary movement with his hand, and his attacker flew across the floodlit courtyard, crashing into several dustbins. He turned to address the sorcerers, who were struggling to get back on their feet.
‘I must thank you for rejuvenating me…all that power… it has been almost millennia since I felt such energy…’ The necromancer’s voice crackled as though charged with electricity, and he gave a hollow laugh.
‘Is it…really worth it William? Isolation…pain…hatred… Many lives have been lost… but you could save hundreds more…’ The Arbiter moved slowly towards Griffon and held out his hand, pleading with the necromancer, who was almost hovering above the ground.
‘And you would grant me a full pardon? Amnesty, freedom to go where I choose?’
‘Of course.’
Griffon laughed again, before his face turned hauntingly serious.
‘I think not.’

Before anyone could react, the newborn necromancer flung his arms skyward and yelled to the night. There was an almighty bang and a great ripple exploded outwards from Griffon, sending everyone toppling to the floor. The necromancer extended his arms and rocks began to tear themselves from the very earth and fly upwards. Miguel and the Arbiter struggled to shield themselves and their allies from the avalanche of debris that had begun to fall upon their heads.
‘Simon…take them and go!’ Miguel yelled over the sound of the falling rubble.
Liberthine nodded, grabbed the still entranced Jason and Bianca and then muttered several times under his breath, gripping his umbrella tightly.

‘No, you can’t get away…you’ll miss the best part!’ Griffon yelled maniacally, any semblance of sanity lost. He hurled several large chunks of brick at the Arbiter, who clung tightly to the unconscious Jason and Bianca and muttered faster and faster, before the three vanished in a flash of light which careered wildly upwards. The bombardment stopped in an instant, and the remaining pieces of rocks and debris fell uselessly to the floor. Griffon lowered his arms and strode towards Miranda.
‘You have lost your husband…and now your son Miranda. Without ever getting to know him. Alexander killed you once, he had to die… as for Jason…I’ll help you find him. He has your fire, your bravery… I’ll be a father to him. I can make it all better…join me…we can erase the wrongs of mankind together.’ He extended his arm to her, smiling almost pleasantly.
‘Never.’ Hissed Miranda. ‘Alexander was always better than you in every way.’ She gave a hollow laugh. ‘You thought you were the only one who could cheat death… but he’s out there too William… and he’ll look down on you and watch you fail.’
Griffon frowned and withdrew his arm.
‘Even in death you couldn’t beat him…. And I’d rather face eternity in limbo with him than a single moment with you alive.’ She grimaced and drove one of the gleaming daggers deep into her chest. Griffon growled in fury, but there was nothing he could do as Miranda Fortuno died for a second time, her beautiful face contorted into a hateful grimace, before she smiled serenely, relaxing peacefully as she fell into death’s embrace.

Silenced, the necromancer paused and strode over to Miguel and Rosemary, who had been thoroughly battered by the bombardment. The sorcerer’s legs were shattered; it seemed unlikely that he would be able to use them again. Rosemary was in shock, she was staring at her fallen friend, unable to speak.
‘Do your worst Griffon.’ Miguel defiantly met his gaze, spitting and gritting his bloodied teeth at the necromancer, who smirked.
‘That’s a rather overused phrase to select as your last. Your old friend Wilde would be disappointed. You used to be quite the wordsmith.’
‘If death means I will be finally rid of your arrogance, kill me now and be done with it.’
‘Kill you?’ Griffon laughed, and the sound echoed through the ruins. ‘You do amuse me.’
He leant in towards his fallen enemy and whispered: ‘I’m not going to kill you Miguel. Where would the pleasure be in that? No…you’re going to watch as the world kneels at my banner while you are forced to stand helplessly by. Then I will have paid you back in kind for helping to destroy my world.’ He drew himself up to his full height and yelled; his voice magnified across the basin.
‘Let the war begin!’

The surviving guards from the facility swiftly gained control of the situation, rounding up the terrified students at gunpoint, while Maurice effortlessly pulled Miguel out from underneath the rubble that had crushed his legs before putting the sorcerer in a fireman’s lift and carrying him off. Griffon made his way over to the students, casting a dark look at Cornelius, who had bowed his head. The majority of them were still recovering from the aftermath of Griffon’s resurrection, and they were too weak and afraid to offer any resistance when he pulled Paul Spencer from their group.
‘Mr. Spencer… my little spy. I hear you’ve become quite the adept in necromancy.’
‘Yes sir.’
Spencer was trembling; he could not look Griffon in the eye.
‘Not afraid to accept praise either. Good, I despise false modesty.’
He paused, and looked Spencer straight in the face. ‘Do you know who I am?’ The youth shook his head. ‘My name is William Griffon… maybe you’ve heard of me?’ Spencer goggled. Griffon had been his role model for all his years at the Facility.
‘Can you lead these students, organise and prepare them for battle?’
‘I will do my best sir.’
‘Good lad.’

It was only after the students had walked away and his enemies had been frogmarched off that Griffon soundlessly lifted Miranda Fortuno’s crumpled form from the ground and gently carried her away.

Chapter Twenty-Seven: School’s Out

Miguel, Rosemary, Simon and Miranda fought their way past the last of the guards; reaching the sick bay at the end of the corridor. They entered cautiously, but there was no one there.
‘Jason? Are you there?’
As Miguel and Rosemary made their way towards the heavy metal door at the back of the room, Miranda paused. Something didn’t seem quite right about the situation.
With a scream, Nurse Ellis leapt at Miranda and knocked her to the floor with a powerful kick.
‘Go, I can handle her!’ The immortal shouted, pulling herself quickly to her feet. Rosemary, Simon and Miguel ran off down the hall towards the Director’s inner sanctum while Miranda and Nurse Ellis engaged in a furious hand-to-hand melee. Ellis delivered a crippling blow to Miranda’s face, knocking her back into the medical table.
‘You played right into our hands you silly girl.’
Miranda feigned weakness before she elbowed the Nurse hard in the stomach, hissing like a wildcat.
‘Girl? I think I’m more than a few years older than you, harlot.’
Miranda wiped the blood from her face and prepared for the Nurse’s next attack. At times like this, she wished she had been granted Alexander’s sorcerous talents as well as his immortality.
‘Oh I know all about you. Miranda Warwick, the young woman swept off her feet by an immortal sorcerer, like something from an old romance novel.’ She snickered, an action that was both childish and malicious, picking up a scalpel in her right hand. Slashing wildly at Miranda, she drove the immortal back towards the pool.
‘Or perhaps immortal is the wrong word to use?’
Miranda did not reply, she merely dodged Ellis’ clumsy stab and hit her hard in the face with her palm, sending the evil woman sprawling backwards, causing her head to collide with the table, knocking her unconscious.

After running tirelessly down the hallways, the trio finally reached the red door to the Director’s office, and stood outside, breathing heavily.
‘Rosemary, go with Simon and find the rest of the captives. I’ll handle this.’
Simon nodded and headed off down the hallway, but Rosemary hesitated.
‘Come back to me in one piece, understand.’ she said simply, kissing him softly on the cheek.
‘You’d kill me if I didn’t.’ he laughed. Rosemary followed Simon down the hall, not noticing that her husbands eye remained fixed on her until she disappeared around the corner and out of sight.

Drawing his sword and taking a deep breath, Miguel kicked down the door to the Director’s office. The Director stood behind his desk, his back turned to Miguel. Jason and Bianca sat prone in two chairs next to him, unresponsive.
‘Put your hands in the air Doctor.’
‘I was wondering when you would put in an appearance.’
‘You’ve lost, human.’
The man turned slowly and removed his glasses, revealing deep obsidian black eyes that flashed with malicious intensity.
‘I think not Miguel. I think not.’

Sprinting through the hallways, Dr. Alan Mutor, better known as Cornelius, tried to keep calm. He had felt no guilt in betraying his master over the life of Jason Fortuno, William Griffon had not been his friend for many years. When he defied the Conclave and declared war, the necromancer offered Cornelius his freedom, but the raven had refused. He had stuck by his master through thick and thin, they kept each other going through the difficult times. Even when Griffon had faked his death to escape the sorcerers, Cornelius had accepted the pain and followed his master. He tried not to feel pity when Fortuno was to be killed, but grew distant from the cruelty of his master, and when he died, Cornelius felt at peace. But William Griffon was not the kind of man who would stay dead. As his methods grew crueller, and his madness became more evident, Cornelius began to feel disdain for his master. He just wanted it all to end.
Breathing heavily, Cornelius turned into the canteen, where only the head of security and three guards remained.
‘Maurice, the Director wants you at the front of the troops.’
Maurice raised a sceptical eyebrow. Amos, his owl familiar, blinked at the doctor, who did not react.
‘I shall remain here with the children.’
Maurice scowled, but he strode out of the canteen nonetheless. He paused for a moment, before remarking.
‘If anything happens… it’s your head on the plate, not mine.’
‘Of course.’
Maurice left the room with haste, and Cornelius breathed a sigh of relief.
‘All students are to follow me through to the rear exit of the Facility.’

‘You just won’t stay dead will you?’
Griffon gave a brief, mirthless chuckle.
‘I tried. But it seems someone thinks it is not my time.’ From his sleeve, the man drew out a dagger, the same one he had used to slit Fortuno’s throat.
Miguel thrust his sword at the man, who sidestepped and brought his knife down on the sorcerer’s arm, pinning him to the table. Miguel grimaced and attempted to remove the blade, but it was stuck fast. Griffon continued speaking as if nothing had happened.
‘I wandered, shapeless, for so many years. I could not reconstruct my physical form, so I was forced to take refuge in this fragile human body… a doctor of some repute apparently, but there’s nothing left of him now. I thought that with a body I would return to the way I was, but I was wrong. Only the power of a true sorcerer could rebuild who I once was… and here you are.’
‘These children… they’re all of sorcerous blood, why were they not sufficient?’ Miguel grunted, exerting all his willpower into freeing himself.
‘Not strong enough… most of them come from mixed blood. I need a pure source, and one untainted by necromancy. I took the children to form my new army, and in the hope that one day, some foolish sorcerer would play into my hands and search for them.’ Griffon smirked. ‘I never imagined it would be you.’
Miguel scowled at him and glared from beneath hooded eyes, his usually melodic, pleasant voice a harsh, rasping whisper.
‘You’ll never be able to succeed. For all your grand speeches, all you really are is a misguided idealist with a cold, vicious streak… who’ll murder anyone who stands in his way as simply as a another man might swat away a fly.’
‘I’m not the only one with such a streak Mr. Carrera, as both of us know.’ The Director, Griffon, remarked enigmatically. Miguel ignored him.
‘A new world can’t survive on the power of ideas alone…and soon, you’ll face an enemy too big for even you to take down.’
‘A most astute observation. Which is precisely why I need you.’
Grinning like a madman, he placed both hands on Miguel’s rapier-staff, unleashing a blast of energy which exploded outwards, bending shape and light as it sought its targets.

Every sorcerer and necromancer in the Facility fell to their knees as the heat of the white beams touched their skin. Their life energies shot through the air faster than the speed of light. The human staff and guards averted their gaze in terror, unable to bear the glow’s intensity.

The Director yelled in agony and ecstasy as the energies of the students began to course through his entire body, making it glow with a terrible light. The man’s body, now an enormous conduit for the immense power, started to flake, as though burnt by an intense heat. With a final, victorious yell, his body exploded in a burst of white light, which shot up and out of the office, reducing it to rubble. The walls of the facility soon followed, disintegrating into dust.

Miranda was the first to uncover her face. All of the young students were lying prone on the ground, only Miguel and Simon Liberthine had managed to stand the force of the blast. Turning with dread towards the ruins of the Director’s office, Miranda witnessed a chilling sight. From the Director’s shattered form, the shape of another man arose, a man whose face made Miranda’s blood run cold.
‘Hello my dear.’

Chapter Twenty-Six: Preparing for War

That day, to avoid provoking suspicion, Simon Liberthine arrived in a more conventional sense than he was generally accustomed to, travelling by plane to the nearest airport. When he encountered Miguel outside Sorrento, he was still looking a little green.
‘Good flight Simon?’
The Arbiter did not reply before intoning heavily: ‘If I had to choose between repeating the Battle of the Urals and two more hours with Airtours, I’d be sharpening my sword right now.’
Miguel sniggered at him. The Arbiter looked at him wearily.
‘Can we get on with this?’

Once again, the functionary found himself regretting this assignment. He had never even liked Alexander Fortuno, largely because acting as the Conclave’s hatchet man was bound to make you some enemies, especially if you were dealing with a man whose best friend was the most notorious maverick in the organisation. Fortuno had finally stopped trying to talk to him after the ‘Salem Incident’. Many years ago, Fortuno and Councillor Nikolai’s affable apprentice Edmund Kraven had been sent to investigate the soon to be infamous witch trials, in case sorcery was discovered to have been practiced and a cover-up operation was required. Upon discovering the truth, Fortuno and Edmund had been able to persuade one of the leading authorities to return to his post and begin denouncing them, but before they could effectively put a stop to the killings, Simon came to withdraw both sorcerers, for the Elders were getting concerned that they might reveal the existence of sorcery. Fortuno had been furious with him, and it had nearly come to blows between them.
‘You’re amoral Liberthine. If the Conclave makes it so, then it is so. You disgust me.’
‘I am only doing my duty. Perhaps you should reflect on yours.’
Those had been the last words he had said to him before the trial in 1873. But Simon had believed in the rules he carried out. He had been willing to endure the hatred of his peers, to stand alone on the high road as the Conclave’s representative whilst they united against him and all that he stood for. Simon knew right was on his side, his mind told him that he would win out in the end, and that they would see the error of their ways, and the wisdom of his words. But his heart told him otherwise.

The sun was just beginning to set when the group arrived on the lip of the hill, which led down a great bowl of earth. Simon turned to look at Miguel sceptically.
‘You see, nothing there.’
‘Perhaps we’re looking in the wrong place Miguel. Besides, it’s getting late, maybe we should come back in the day, otherwise we won’t see anything.’
‘We won’t see anything anyway, because there isn’t anything there.’ Simon retorted.
‘Are you prepared to bet on that?’
‘I don’t see why not.’
Miguel sighed and threw a small rock into the middle of the bowl. There was a dull thunk as it bounced off the thin air.
‘Sorcery… that’s an old trick from the war…’
‘A very old trick… so either our new friend is a sentimentalist, or, his skills are somewhat lacking.’
‘Or they could simply not wish to draw too much attention to themselves.’
He marched up to where the wall would be and beckoned for the others to follow him. He pointed his rapier-staff at the wall, and a thin line of energy shot out.
‘Simon, would you…?’
The Arbiter nodded, and extended his umbrella towards the invisible wall, pointing it at the same spot as Miguel had. Suddenly, a mighty flash of light shot outwards and lit up the entire crater.
‘Now that was too large just to be…’ Miguel started, before noticing that his companions had already begun walking towards the already materialising double doors.

Jason was dreaming again. He was walking in a vast garden, which was almost dwarfed by the shadow cast by the adjacent house. A handsome man in a waistcoat was standing there smiling at him, and Jason recognised him as the spirit he had seen the previous day in the Director’s office.
‘My Jason…’
Suddenly, his smile turned dark and he began to laugh, a cruel, mocking sound that echoed throughout the garden. There was a great ripping sound and the hooded figure was now standing before him, a blood stained dagger in his hand. Around him lay the bodies of Bianca, Lewis, Patricia and nearly a dozen more.
‘Hello young Jason. Wonderful to see you again.’
His voice was a low whisper, but it seemed to echo through Jason’s head.
‘Who are you?’
The man lowered his hood, and the face of the Director stared back at Jason, his usual black glasses discarded.
‘Time to wake up now Jason…’
For an instant his face became that of a younger, thin man with deep, dark eyes.

Jason blinked as he slowly became conscious. He found himself lying on a cold operating table that was tilted at a diagonal angle, with several straps holding him down. He struggled to turn his head, but as he looked around the room, he noticed Nurse Ellis and the Director standing over a similar table. He could not see who lay upon it.
‘Ah, so you’re back with us Mr. Fortuno.’ The Director turned and began to walk towards him. There was a sinister smile on his face, which Jason could not read. ‘I am most disappointed at your little escape, and I’m afraid you shall have to be punished for it. Miss Ellis?’
The Nurse nodded and pressed a button on the table next to her, pivoting it upwards to face Jason. Atop it, strapped down in the same manner as Jason, was Bianca White, her eyes cold and distant, staring straight ahead. It was now that he realised they were in the sick bay. Curiously, the exercise pool at the far end of the room was filled with water.
‘Bianca! If you touch her… I swear…’
‘Ssh.’ The Director put one finger to his mouth. ‘Such bravado is impressive, but pointless. You are in no position to threaten us young Jason.’ He smiled again, and Nurse Ellis began to untie Bianca, assisted by the silent Dr. Mutor, who Jason had not initially noticed.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Providing you with a little incentive for assisting me Jason.’ He added as an aside. ‘You’ve done quite a lot already… your little escape actually managed to accelerate my plans. It was only a matter of time before the Elder Conclave was alerted to my presence. But this is something a little more… personal.’ He turned to Bianca and began to speak to her in a slow, hypnotic voice. She immediately got up off the table and stood bolt upright, eyes open but facing off into the distance, unseeing.
‘Usually, we use this area for fitness, as you know, but today, I have something rather different in mind.’ He smiled. ‘Miss White… step into the pool.’
Without any visible emotion, Bianca obeyed, literally stepping out into to thin air and falling face down into the pool.
‘Normally this wouldn’t be possible, but the effect the sedative creates makes her mind much more open to suggestion. And I always have been very convincing.’
‘Sorcerers are immortal, you can’t kill her like that, we learned that in class.’
‘Oh can’t I? Well that’s one lesson you can forget all about. The water will go into her lungs and eventually she will simply burst. Not even a sorcerer could survive that.’
‘Well even then, you can’t make her drown… even ordinary people can’t drown themselves. The body won’t let itself die.’ Jason was babbling, unconvinced of his own words as they spilled out.
‘I wouldn’t be so sure young Jason.’
The Director smiled at Jason with mock regret and shook his head.
‘With sorcery, anything’s possible. Particularly if the person is not in control of their faculties. I just thought I’d give you one last unhappy memory before you die… and before I am reborn. Or you can join me, and she will be safe.’
‘What do you mean, reborn?’
‘For many years, I have been unable to perform sorcery at all. This body you see here? A mere shell of some unfortunate human who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But your escape yielded unexpected results. Any moment now, the chosen agents of the Elder Conclave will burst in here, and I shall take their sorcery. Only then will I be whole again.’
Jason glanced at the pool, where Bianca lay face down in the water.
‘If you join me, then she will live… otherwise… I’m afraid she will be the first casualty of this war.’

‘No news.’
‘Nothing?’ Hissed Lewis as the students were filed into the cafeteria.
‘No. I spoke to Millie, and she said that the Nurse took Bianca away about fifteen minutes ago, but Jason was nowhere to be seen.’
Her voice lowered as the burly head of security walked past their table.
‘You don’t think they’ve…’
Patricia was cut off by a blaring alarm and the garbled, emotionless voice of Dr. Mutor over the intercom.
‘Intruder alert. Guards report to your stations immediately. This is not a drill.’
The guards immediately made their way to the armoury as the canteen descended into chaos.

The immortals made their way down the hallway towards the armoury, hoping to catch the guards mid-way through their defensive preparations. They turned the corner and stopped abruptly. Twenty or so security personnel waited, patting their weapons.
There was a second or so of hesitation before the battle began. Simon and Miguel leapt into action, their staffs and swords flashing in the weak clinical light, while Rosemary took on several guards with her bare hands. The most vicious of all however, was Miranda. Moving like a panther, she struck down her foes with such speed that their faces barely had time to register surprise before they passed on.
‘I see he taught you well.’ Rosemary shouted to her friend, knocking a guard unconscious with a high kick to the face.
‘You should see me when I’m warmed up. This is thirty years without practice.’ Miranda replied, digging her dagger deep into a guard’s shoulder blade. It was a relatively one-sided fight, and it was not long before the guards had begun to fall back.
‘We’re wasting time with this!’ Miranda growled, seizing the nearest guard by the throat. ‘Where’s Jason Fortuno?’
The guard scoffed and spat in Miranda’s face.
‘Why would I tell you? Nothing you can do to me is worse than what’ll happen when he finds out we failed.’
‘Oh no?’ Miranda whispered something in his ear, and the guard went deathly pale.
‘Down the hall, to the left, keep going through to the sick bay at the end of the corridor.’ he instructed with one breath.
The guard’s parting shot died on his lips as a blow with the hilt of Miranda’s dagger knocked him unconscious.

‘Alright! Just let her go!’
The Director smiled as the alarm continued to blare. He clicked his fingers and Bianca burst out from the pool, panting and coughing, petrified at finding herself there.
‘Oh you are so much like your father. He would risk the world to save a pretty face.’ The Director reached out his arms to Bianca, and she grabbed them, climbing dripping wet from the water.
‘Nurse Ellis… you are to remain here. I will take these two to my office… then all we need to do is wait.’
The Nurse nodded.
‘Is it almost time sir?’
‘Oh yes. I do believe it is.’