Tag Archives: Paul Spencer

Chapter Forty: The Battle of Ages

William Griffon stood confidently at the head of his army, clad in an elegant black robe and red lined cape which swirled dramatically in the wind. He wore no protection or armour, so sure was he of their success. At his side was the Gentleman, silent and implacable, his hand resting on his silver swordcane. The necromancer’s acolytes and their legions of the dead vastly outnumbered Liberthine’s forces and Griffon’s powers outclassed any sorcerer on the field. Crushing these meagre foes would leave him completely unopposed. And yet… what did it matter in the end? His friends lay dead or scattered, opposing him from afar. His wife and child were long gone, and now even Sarah had deserted him. Could he not just give it all up, leave this place and never return? No. He had passed the point of no return; there was nothing to be done. He turned to Paul Spencer, one of the few willing alumni of the Facility on the field that day, and smiled.
‘This is our day. Today is where the old world ends, and a new world begins.’ He gave a signal to the men at his side.
‘Prepare to attack.’

On the other side of the field, where the rain had settled and hardened to become ice, Jason Fortuno tightly gripped the white staff that Simon had fashioned for him. He had expected to feel nervous, but there was nothing, just a cold sense of purpose. Beside him stood Bianca, who managed an anxious smile. For her sake, and for the sake of his family’s honour, he would find William Griffon on the field and wipe the wicked necromancer from the face of the Earth. In front of them was Simon, his face stern, prepared for the battle. His suit was once again immaculate; bowler hat placed firmly on his head, umbrella grasped tightly in his fist as he looked across the field.
‘There are a number of young sorcerers under Griffon’s control today, most of whom have no desire to fight. Deal with them carefully.’ Then, to Jason, he spoke softly.
‘Your parents would be proud of you Jason…don’t forget that, no matter what happens. Stick close to me.’

Jason smiled at the closest thing he had to a father on this Earth, and tensed. The other side were signalling for a parlay. He followed Simon forwards, as they walked to meet Griffon, Cornelius and the Gentleman in the centre of the field. The assassin smiled at Jason politely, with no hint of menace. Griffon strode up to Simon, a confident grin on his face.
‘Simon Liberthine… last of the old guard and now leader of the sorcerers’ ragtag resistance. Quite a promotion. But you’re no Macellan I’m afraid.’ Griffon turned to Jason and spoke as if giving a lecture. ‘You remember Andreas Macellan from your studies don’t you? He was Machiavellian before Machiavelli… nearly fought me to a standstill several hundred years ago with half the force you’ve gathered today before finally seeing the light. But his successor apparently prefers the bureaucratic side of his position. The priest, the functionary who abhors fighting… because he is terrified of it.’
Simon gritted his teeth and bore the insult the way only an ambassador could.
‘One last gloat before the battle… you never change Griffon.’
‘Oh you’re quite mistaken…I’ve changed considerably since our last tête-à-tête. Enhanced, you could say.’
‘I’m tired of talking William. Let’s just get this over with.’
‘Ever the professional, Liberthine? Very well.’
He turned to go, but Simon stopped him.
‘It’s not too late Griffon… it’s never too late. We can set you free.’
Griffon’s confident smile turned to puzzlement.
‘The old ‘last minute second chance’?’ He sighed and lowered his head. ‘No… it is too late for that I’m afraid, Simon. After all I’ve done, the work must be carried out.’ He bowed ceremoniously. ‘Farewell young Jason. I’ll look for you on the field.’ With that, he raised his staff in salute, turned, and walked back to his army.

‘My fellow sorcerers and sorceresses… we stand about to face the greatest battle of our time. We may all meet our maker today… but we can certainly give them hell before the end. It has been an honour and a privilege living and fighting alongside you…’ His voice faltered, for the first time in his life, Simon realised he could not hide his feelings.
‘Good luck… and Godspeed.’
There was a roar as the sorcerers drew their weapons. Despite the massive advancement in technology since the last war, they still fought with swords and melee weapons; a gun was no use against a sorcerer.

‘After today…everything will be as it should.’
It was uncertain whether Griffon spoke to his army or to himself as he prepared to meet the assault. He tensed, and concentrated hard before sending a wave of dark energy at the sorcerers, who managed to deflect it, but at the cost of slowing their attack. Chaos descended in a matter of seconds. Jason was the second to run forwards, hot on Simon’s heels. He remembered everything he had learned in the Facility, all the tricks and underhand ways of achieving victory, for he knew there would be no victory through brute strength alone. He saw Simon leap through the air and bring his sword down on the heads of several acolytes, while further back, Bianca and the unarmed sorcerers continued to cast defensive sorcery around their fighters. At the rear of Griffon’s army, the unwilling students of his Facility served a similar purpose, while the more militant students seemed gruesomely delighted to be in the middle of the fray. They were led by Maurice, who was effortlessly knocking down all in his way, halting only when he locked blades with the Castellan.
‘Traitor.’
‘Bootlicker.’
‘Hypocrite.’
Maurice sighed. ‘This is going to be a long day.’

William Griffon felt the adrenaline surge through his body as he cast down his opponents with ease. He had not felt such raw power since the War, and he yelled in exhilaration as he struck out at the sorcerers, his dark eyes on the constant watch for Jason Fortuno. Never wanting to stray too far from his idol was Paul Spencer, who was fighting as ferociously as any of the adult sorcerers on the field. He halted his destructive frenzy as he reached the far end of the field, coming face to face with Bianca White.
‘Bianca. I’ve been looking forward to this. Mr. Griffon’s been particularly vexed by the trouble you’ve caused. Well…’
Before he could finish, Bianca knocked him out cold with a single punch to the face.
‘You always did talk too much.’

Bianca wasn’t the only one dealing with an old enemy. At the other end of the fracas, Simon Liberthine cut a path through the black clad acolytes with his rapier. While he had confidence in Jason, he knew the boy would be no match for Griffon if they met on the field. But the acolytes continued to swarm around him, and he lost sight of the young sorcerer amidst the chaos.
‘Having trouble Mr. Liberthine?’
Liberthine turned to face the Gentleman, who was standing unsullied and unharmed in the centre of the fracas, as though both friend and foe alike had cleared a path for him.
‘Not at all. Care to join me?’ Simon smirked with a great deal more confidence than he possessed.
‘But of course.’
The two professionals leapt at each other and began a vicious yet almost elegant battle that no sorcerer or acolyte dared to venture near to.

Jason ducked and weaved through the combatants, his heart pounding furiously against his chest. He stopped suddenly in his tracks. Griffon was standing, smiling at the young sorcerer as though he were a long-lost relative.
‘Ah young Fortuno. It’s been too long.’
‘Not long enough.’ Jason snarled, raising his staff. ‘But since you’re here…’
‘Oh please.’ Griffon smirked, batting the staff away. ‘You have your father’s penchant for cliché, but I doubt you have his skills.’
‘Of course not. I learnt them at your Facility.’
‘Touché. But rather childish don’t you think’ He raised his staff towards the young sorcerer. ‘Well, we might as well get this over with.’

The moment Griffon finished speaking; Jason hurled a ball of energy at his head, which dissipated in an instant. The necromancer deflected all of his attacks with ease, he had been a formidable sorcerer in the past, and his rebirth had only strengthened his abilities. He blocked all Jason’s attempts at attacks with a gesture of his hand before breaking the head from the boy’s staff with an almighty crunch. Jason felt like a child being toyed with as he prepared for the inevitable melee.
‘You can still surrender.’
‘No turning back now.’
Jason raised his sword to Griffon, but the necromancer was too quick, he viciously backhanded the youth across the face, causing Jason to fall to the floor, his mouth bloody.
‘Give my regards to your father.’
Griffon launched a blast of fire at the inert figure. As the flames surrounded him, Jason closed his eyes and raised his arms heavenward.
‘Reach out Jason…’
No one else heard the voice, though it echoed in Jason’s ears as clear as day. He reached his hands out further… and felt the presence of all the sorcerers and necromancers around him.
‘Draw on their strength… and strike!’
The combat seemed to grind to a halt as the flames around Jason licked up higher. Bianca gasped in horror and ran, uncaring, through the field to where her beloved stood, now completely hidden within the inferno.
‘Jason!’
The flames died down and there was a collective gasp amongst the warriors.
‘No… it can’t be.’

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.

Chapter Thirty-Four: Revelations

The following evening, whilst most of Griffon’s war party were preparing for their next campaign, the necromancer summoned Paul Spencer into his presence, much to the young man’s delight. The older man was seated on a deck chair, with another set out opposite him.
‘You summoned me my lord?’
‘Yes Mr. Spencer. What is your opinion of our campaign?’
‘Excellent sir, we have made better progress than we could have hoped for.’
‘I asked for an opinion, not a report.’
‘Oh’. Spencer was taken aback and struggled to muster up a suitable answer. ‘We… we do what must be done sir. For our enterprise to succeed, the ends must justify the means.’
‘Hmmm.’ Griffon paused for a moment. ‘Bring Thomas Marshall to me at once.’
‘As you wish sir.’
He bowed and quickly departed, leaving Griffon to his thoughts.

When Spencer returned soon after, he brought with him the emaciated form of Thomas Marshall, who was being supported by two necromancers. Marshall’s familiar, Clavius, had taken his usual form as a magpie, but with a white bib that was strangely reminiscent of the shirt he wore as a human butler, and was perched on his master’s shoulder.
‘Leave us.’
The necromancers obeyed. Griffon waved his hand and a chair moved out for Marshall, who wearily slumped into it.
‘How fortunate that I decided to keep you alive Thomas. For you see, now that I have eliminated my opposition, there is a little unfinished business I wish to complete, for which I need your help. Where is Andreas Macellan being held?’
Thomas looked up at him under hooded eyes. His face was haunted and drawn, while his eyes, always so stern and calm, were bloodshot, the right twitching dangerously. He spoke in a voice that was devoid of his usual professionalism and control, but that retained a flat monotone.
‘Why would I help you? I’ve told you too much already. You can rot in Hell Griffon.’
‘And you can be there to keep me company.’ Griffon retorted. ‘Don’t forget Marshall, it was your mistress who led me down this path in the first place. You were as willing a servant as any.’
‘I changed Griffon. I changed; because I knew what I was doing was wrong.’
‘Don’t try to take the high ground here. You changed because you saw your downfall approaching. The rat fled the sinking ship.’ He curled his lip at the former Councillor. ‘And I’m sure the fact that your mistress no longer found your company…’
Thomas had moved faster than Griffon had expected, and the necromancer was left holding his bloodied nose. He laughed, spitting blood onto the grass.
‘I haven’t…been taken by surprise like that for quite some time.’ He paused. ‘My apologies. There was no need for me to speak of Evanna like that.’
Thomas made no attempt to hide his surprise at this show of courtesy.
‘Why are you apologising to me?’
Griffon sank into his chair and gave a long sigh. The coldness seemed to drain from his facade, replaced with a deep melancholy. When he finally spoke, it was in a low whisper.
‘Because I’m turning into her. No matter how hard I try to stop.’

Griffon had not been present when his old co-conspirator died. While he was safely concealed in his lair in the Urals, he had received an urgent distress call from Evanna’s avatar. However, by the time he had got to her lair in Greece, she was dead, finally consumed by necromancy. Vladimir Serapus had been waiting for him, Miguel and Thomas at his side. His old friend had a great cut across his eye, and it appeared that he would be unable to see from it again. There was a great sense of unease in the air, but none of the men attacked.
‘Griffon.’
‘Gentlemen. So who did it? Vladimir?’
‘It was me.’ Came a voice from behind, the voice of Thomas Marshall. Griffon had not expected that. He had considered the former necromancer to be little more than a lackey.
‘She asked me to. Better to die, she said, than to live with the knowledge that she had caused such suffering. Her works brought about her ruin.’
‘I see.’
Vladimir Serapus spoke up, his voice wearied from battle.
‘Do what you have to do Griffon.’
Griffon paused for a long-time, and looked down at Evanna’s fallen form, her face finally peaceful in death.
‘No. You once spared my life for the sake of our old friendship. I owe you the same kindness. But the next time we meet, I will not be so lenient.’

‘I know you loved her Thomas.’
Marshall did not reply.
‘She was not a cruel person. Necromancy… it does something to you…’
‘You would know of course. The most beloved son of the Elder Conclave, hero of our race…’
‘It’s all a matter of perspective.’
Marshall scoffed.
‘Alright. I’ve done things… terrible things… things I can’t just blame on being under the influence of necromancy…’
‘Back in the old days you claimed that you could control that influence.’
Griffon laughed, a brief, mirthless chuckle.
‘That’s what I like about you Marshall, argumentative to the very last.’
‘It’s one of my few redeeming qualities.’
‘I know about your son.’ That comment stopped Thomas in his tracks. ‘The son she bore you in one of her last loving moments.’
‘My son is a dead man. If he hasn’t died already, then I’m sure you will show him no mercy when you find him.’
‘Why did you lie to him?’
‘Would you tell your son that his parents were monsters? A failed necromancer and a power addict who abandoned him at birth? I should have been damned for loving her…’
‘You don’t choose who you fall in love with.’ said Griffon, so softly that Thomas was barely sure he had heard him.
‘You and I are not so different are we… William?’
He stood up, and moved towards the cliff edge.
‘What do you think you’re doing?’
Marshall did not turn around. He smoothed down his coat and did up the buttons on his jacket, before responding in his famously calm and collected manner:
‘I have become deeply and thoroughly unsatisfied with the present company.’
‘You’re not just walking away…’
‘You will find Mr. Macellan at Serapus’ old castle in Romania. We always used it to house undesirables after the war. Jeffrey Holmes was the guardsman, but knowing him he will have done the sensible thing and found somewhere to hide.’ Thomas took a deep breath, as though in preparation. ‘I’m sure you will enjoy renewing old acquaintances.’
Thomas looked out into the black, unforgiving sea and was reminded of Evanna, his untameable, ever-changing love. He remembered the carefree days of their youth, and the passions they had shared as they reached maturity. When he had finished reminiscing, Thomas turned to Griffon with a sharp intake of breath, looking deep into the necromancer’s eyes.
‘Tell Simon the truth for me.’
He clasped his hands together, as if in prayer, before stepping over the precipice.

Griffon walked slowly over to the edge. There was no sign of Marshall. Slowly, calmly, he walked through his encampment and went up to the tent where Miguel Carrera was being held.
‘I have something I need you to do for me.’

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?’
‘Yes…master?’
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.
‘Sir?’
‘Oh yes… you may go.’
‘Sir.’ Spencer bowed and walked off, more than a little disappointed.

‘William.’
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.
‘Go.’
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.’
‘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: The Escape

Jason returned to Dr. Mutor’s classroom shortly afterwards to verify his choice of topic with his teacher.
‘An interesting choice. Not a popular one… although I suspect that’s why you selected him, is that right Jason?’
Jason nodded. He liked Dr. Mutor.
‘The Grecian wars will be a good place to focus on, and the whole feud with his brother Stefano is a very juicy topic. But be careful to get your facts right when writing about the Battle of Bordeaux, it’s a pet subject of mine.’ He smiled, and Jason forced himself to do the same.
‘I’m sure I can trust you to avoid bias.’
‘Yes sir.’
‘Have a good day now Jason.’

At exactly 8: 30, the students filed out back to their dormitories as usual, but as the lights in the main hall flickered out, one of the guards noticed a student crouching beneath the table, so well concealed that he had almost missed him. Moving towards the table, he was sent suddenly flying through the air by an outstretched foot. He did not have time to pick himself up before he was seized upon by the young sorcerers, who had been hidden behind the serving counter.
‘All too easy.’

Maurice, the Head of Security at the Facility, was standing watch at the doors to the living quarters when a guard in a hazard suit approached him, leading three students by the shoulder.
‘I’m taking these three to see Nurse Ellis, they have complained about feeling…unwell. I think there may be a virus going around.’
Maurice raised one eyebrow and snorted.
‘They’re probably pretending…’
He was cut short as one of the children vomited on his shoes. Maurice sighed, raised his other eyebrow and, making a gesture with the baton from his belt, cleared the mess away.
‘One at a time then, you know the regulations.’
‘Yes sir.’
The guard led the sick child past him, whilst the remaining youths stared silently at the floor.

After turning the corner and heading swiftly down a series of corridors, the guard and his young charge reached one of the four main outer doors of the facility. There were two guards standing outside the door. The guard motioned for the student to hide behind the corner, before disappearing outside.

‘Maurice sent me to relieve you; he needs to talk to one of you about a rumoured breakout.’
The guards looked suspiciously at him. Unlike most of the security forces stationed in and around the Facility, they did not wear hazard suits, and were clad in simple black uniforms. They had been hired for their size and their lack of expense rather than their brains, and it clearly showed.
‘Why only one of us?’
‘Because he needs to ask some questions about an event that happened earlier, and I’m the only guard on reserve. If he sent for both of you, there’d only be me to guard this place and that’s against protocol.’
There was a long pause, and the hooded guard asked, very slowly and deliberately:
‘Do you un-der-stan-d me?’
The security personnel nodded dumbly at him.
‘Good. Off you go then.’
The guards nodded dumbly, and one of them made his way back into the building.
‘Glad we can be alone.’

After dealing with the guard with a well timed strike to the back of the head, and checking to see that Bianca had managed to intercept his companion, Jason removed his hood and breathed a sigh of relief.
‘Hey, we’re not out yet.’
‘Still, good job dealing with him.’
She smirked at him and raised a playful eyebrow.
‘You managed to do it, just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I can’t knock someone unconscious.’
They both took a deep breath, before stepping outside the building and quietly making their way up the nearby hill. The slope was steeper here than at the front entrance of the Facility, but it was also less well defended.
‘Almost there. Can you believe it? We’re actually…’ An owl hooted nearby, startling the two escapees. It was only then that they saw Maurice Kendall, with the said bird on his shoulder, flanked by three guards. Next to him stood Paul Spencer, smirking triumphantly.
‘You kids didn’t really think I believed you did you?’
There was no chance of escape. Moving surprisingly fast for a man of his bulk, Maurice whipped a baton from his tyrian purple duffel coat and aimed it at his young targets. They fell to the ground, as though struck by some invisible force. Maurice slowly approached them, the ground crunching beneath his boots as he pointed the baton at Jason’s face.
‘So, whose idea was this? Yours or your lady friend’s?’
Jason hesitated, until Maurice directed his weapon at Bianca.
‘Mine sir. She was just an accomplice.’
‘He’s lying Mr. Kendall; he’s covering for her…’ Spencer began.
‘Shut up. If I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it.’ Kendall silenced him with a glare, before turning back to Jason.
‘It was all my idea.’ Jason repeated.
‘Are you sure? Because if I find out you were lying…’
‘Why would I sacrifice myself for nothing?’
Maurice considered this, and lowered his baton.
‘I think you need to spend some time with the Director.’

Chapter Eighteen: Son of Fortune

It was a pleasant evening, and he walked through the glade without looking around; it was a place he knew all too well, though curiously he couldn’t remember ever being there before. Then, he felt a cold shudder running down his spine. The whole area had suddenly become cold, and deathly quiet. He turned instinctively, and behind him stood the very embodiment of his nightmares. The figure was clad in a black hood and blood-stained robes, and all that could be seen of his face were two glowing blue eyes. He turned and ran, but the figure pursued, gaining on him. He seemed to drift rather than run, and yet the boy could not outrun him, he tripped, and the man bore down on him…

Seven o’clock. Jason Fortuno awoke from his deep sleep, yawned, hauled himself out of bed and changed from his pyjamas to a set of working overalls. He had not slept well that night, but that was not unusual. He saw his three roommates, Bianca, Lewis and Patricia following suit, changing their simple night underclothes for their dull, grey uniforms without shame or embarrassment. They were an odd bunch, their looks clashing as violently as their personalities.

Bianca was a small, energetic girl with green eyes and a kind, selfless nature that had endeared her to Jason, as well as the rest of their friends. Lewis was Asiatic, tall and gangly, with round spectacles that were pushed to the very brink of his long nose. He was an intellectual, but without the arrogance that made such individuals dislikeable. Patricia was red-haired, with piercing eyes and a body that was perhaps a little too thin. Her face was slender, aquiline, and very beautiful, and her razor-sharp wit ensured she was never without friends. And although none of them knew it, they were all here for a very special purpose.

This was the Facility. It had no other name, nor did it need one. Here, students of sorcerous descent learn how to utilise their gifts to become sorcerers and necromancers, though what happened once this happened, none of the students knew. Day after day for as long as they could remember, the students had been taught not only practical sorcery and its history but also survival skills for the world outside, several necessary languages and basic weapons training. Jason, Bianca, Lewis and Patricia were just four of nearly a hundred youths who endured this program, they knew nothing else, and they never expected anything to change. Though the majority of the students had come to the Facility as orphans, there was a handful whose parents had practically leapt at the opportunity to have them enrolled. Jason felt a swell of pity for these individuals, until he saw the treatment they were given compared to the regular students, getting made into prefects, given extra time on assignments and essentially gaining a free reign over their “inferiors”.

They left the room without speaking and entered the grim, dismal canteen, making no comment on the repulsive looking slop that was piled on their plates. It was only once all four of them had sat down that they began to speak.
‘Anyone know much about the Battle of Luxembourg? Only I’m supposed to give a presentation on it today.’ said Jason, quickly gulping the food on his tray whilst trying to avoid having it touch his tongue.
‘It was quite important… many people died… etc. The usual. Come on Jason, it’s History. Who cares?’
‘Thank you Trish. Lewis, do you have anything more helpful to contribute?’ Jason asked.
‘Here, borrow my notes.’ replied Lewis, passing over a thick wad of paper covered with several dozen barely legible points.
‘This is indecipherable.’
‘You asked for my help.’
‘Perhaps I should ask Millie, she usually seems to be in the know.’
‘Oh, so suddenly my insight isn’t good enough.’
‘Oh grow up you two.’
They were silent for a moment, allowing time for their breakfast to settle, before Bianca spoke up.
‘So, what’s the plan for today?’
‘Eat, study, eat, work, eat, sleep.’ Replied Patricia flippantly. The others laughed, but became quieter as an attendant passed by their table, wearing something that resembled a bio-hazard suit, a silver hood all but concealing his face so that only the guard’s mouth was visible. Once he passed by they continued.
‘Unless you’re working on another plan?’
Lewis glanced at the attendant, before leaning in and whispering conspiratorially.
‘Well, now that you mention it…’
But he was not able to finish his sentence, for at that moment; all of the suited attendants stopped, stood bolt upright and marched to the double doors at the edge of the canteen, forming two perfect lines on either side. The children sat around the tables rose to their feet with a sense of monstrous unison. They all stood before their chairs, waiting.

The double doors swung open to reveal a troop of grey clad men, led by a steely-eyed blonde nurse in blue scrubs. She had a pretty, well formed face that was made ugly by the no-nonsense grimace of disgust that it bore. To her right was a tall thin man with dark hair, who was wearing a white doctor’s coat. He stood rigidly, his eyes staring off into the distance as if they registered nothing.
‘Inspection.’ Snapped the Nurse.
The staff divided into four groups, each moving to a row on either side of the two sets of tables, before inspecting the eyes, teeth and general status of each person. Bianca and Jason’s row was singled out by the Nurse, who made her way down the row considerably faster than her co-workers. The row stood bolt upright, sweating in nervous anticipation, but fortunately, no problems were detected, and the Nurse went on her way. As soon as the staff left, there was a collective sigh of relief from the teenagers.
‘So…this plan…’ asked Jason, breaking the silence.
‘Yes…as I was saying…’ Lewis leant in to the other students as he explained his latest escape plan.

The students had no time to consider Lewis’ words, for almost as soon as he finished, a handsome but cruel eyed young man picked up his tray, moved over to their table and cleared his throat. Paul Spencer was one of the few students at the Facility who never expressed unhappiness at being there; rather he seemed to revel in it, enjoying the power that he learnt from practical studies. He would sit at the front of the classroom, eagerly waiting the commencing of studies and seize any question thrown by one of their teachers with the greed of a predator leaping for a scrap of meat. His devotion had led him to becoming one of a handful of students to gain prefect status without being “voluntary” members of the Facility.
‘Well if it isn’t my favourite foursome. Actually planning to do any work today?’
‘Bugger off Spencer, no one invited you.’
Spencer sat down regardless and smirked at the others.
‘Looking forward to another day of studies? You know, I have a feeling that you could all be great necromancers one day, if you just paid a little more attention.’
‘Who says we want to be great necromancers?’ asked Patricia. Spencer laughed, and took a large bite from Lewis’ breakfast.
‘Pay no attention to him Lewis.’
‘Tell me Patricia, did Mr. Kendall call you inept or just stupid when you nearly managed to burn down the classroom?’
‘No, you tell us Paul, did Nurse Ellis say you were unfortunate or just asking for it when you annoyed Amelia so much that she managed to cause an outbreak of boils to develop on your backside?’ Bianca shot at him.
Spencer went scarlet and quickly left the table, leaving his tray behind. The canteen was filled with the familiar rings of the morning bell.
‘Horrible man.’
‘He’ll get what’s coming to him some day. Come on, time for class.’
Patricia and Lewis stood up and left the table, but Jason remained seated.
‘What’s wrong Jason?’ Bianca asked, resting her hand on his shoulder. ‘Another dream?’
‘Yeah… but that’s not what’s bothering me.’
‘Well what then?’
Jason sighed.
‘Do you think it’ll work? Do you think we’ll ever get out of here B?’
‘Some day Jason. Some day.’ she sighed, and took his hand, leading him off to class. ‘Come on, mustn’t be late.’