Redemption of the Cross

Pressing on into the darkness, the companions continued along the road for an hour before spotting a rough building, a barn or old hut, in the trees. Investigating carefully, they found it to be abandoned and settled in to spend the night, building a fire against the cold.

Next morning they rose early, and by midday they could see the spires of York minster in the distance. Recognising the trio, the guards on Bootham Bar saluted as they entered the city. The Templar Knights on the gates of the Minster compound did the same, smiling and calling out thanks to God as they noticed Tector’s surcoat emblazoned with the Templar cross.

Their joy did not last long, however, as Storm stopped the wagon and Tector dropped the tailgate. Priests, novices, Templars and guards crowded round, with anguished cries of ‘God save us!’ as the still forms of the Archbishop and Uther were revealed.

Ordering a group of novices into action, the companions supervised the transfer of the Archbishop to the infirmary, while leaving a priest to arrange for Uther’s body to be taken to the mortuary for burial preparations to begin.

As they walked through the cloistered passageways, Father Benedict drew alongside them. “God’s death!” he exclaimed. “We have heard news of the fall of Hadrian’s Wall, but nothing about this horror!”

The companions quickly explained to Benedict how the Archbishop had been injured and what had happened since, including their attempts to heal him, the slight improvement in his condition, and the moment the old man twitched slightly at one point on the road when Tector called the Lord’s blessing upon him.

As they spoke in low tones, the Archbishop was laid on a bed at the far end of the infirmary and quickly curtained off to give him privacy. Benedict took his leave and ducked through the curtain to tend to the Archbishop.

As they collected their thoughts, Father Geoffrey bustled into the infirmary. He was clearly distressed by the news filtering through the Minster, and visibly shocked as the companions confirmed the death of Uther and the incapacity of the Archbishop. They had never seen the jovial priest so grim as he uttered Latin prayers for the soul of the knight and the deliverance of the Archbishop.

Having given them his blessing, Geoffrey too passed through the curtain to add his care to the Archbishop. As he did so, he looked over his shoulder at Sophia. “You should visit the Castle my lady. You father has important visitors.”

Intrigued, the three companions left for the castle, leaving the Archbishop in the care of his most senior priests. They walked across York, through familiar streets filled with slush and dirty snow, to the huge complex at the southeast of the city.

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The companions arrived to find the castle a hive of activity. Dozens of tents were pitched on the open field outside the walls, and they saw at least two dozen Templar knights galloping their horses. As they walked through the bailey, their gaze took in hundreds of soldiers, some engaged in drills, some cleaning weapons or armour, others loading supplies or equipment onto wagons. Save for a handful of York men Tector had grown up with, who waved greeting to the big warrior across the bailey, all were wearing livery of three lions passant guardant. “The livery of King!” breathed the companions to one another, excitedly. image.jpg

They crossed the bridge to the castle keep and ascended the steps up the side of the motte, to be met within by Henry de Percy’s steward, Gilbert. The loyal servant was clearly run off his feet, but took the time to greet Sophia warmly. “Is the King here?” she asked the old steward. “No my lady, but his Chief Justiciar is. Your father is in council with him now. I am sure he would wish to know you are here. I will take word to him.” Quickly calling a servant to bring food and drink to the companions, the steward bustled off into the heart of the keep.

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The three friends had barely finished their repast when Gilbert returned. “They wish to see you, my lady, all of you. Please, follow me.” The companions followed him up the spiral stairways of the keep, to a council chamber on the top floor. As they entered, they noted that the fine chair at the head of the table, usually the place of the Baron, was occupied by an old man, bald but for a fringe of white hair and with a long grey beard. His piercing grey-blue eyes were watchful, seeming to take in every detail as they entered.

They noted his voluminous robes of thick midnight blue silk, embroidered in silver thread with runic patterns at the hem with and at the breast with the three lions passant guardant of King Henry. A slender staff of ebony, perfectly smooth and engraved along its entire length with glowing silver runes, stood against the back of the chair behind him. The companions also noticed a silver ring with a large diamond on his right hand, and an ancient mithril band of celtic design on his left.

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To the old man’s left sat Baron Henry, but the figure seated opposite the Baron drew everyone’s eyes. Storm’s jaw dropped as he looked upon a powerfully-built dragonborn, with pale golden scales and piercing blue eyes that glowed with an inner light. The huge warrior was clad in a massive suit of full-plate armour, crafted of blackened steel inlaid with golden flame motifs, over which he wore the white mantle, bearing a red cross, of the Templars.

Baron Henry rose and crossed to the companions, embracing his daughter. “Welcome home,” he whispered in her ear. “Speak freely now, you are among friends.”

He turned to those seated at the council chamber and gestured to the companions. “My Lords, allow me to introduce my daughter Sophia, Sir Tector, and Storm of the Minster.”

Turning back to the three friends, he announced: “You have the honour of being in the presence of Ranulf de Glanvill, the Chief Justiciar of King Henry, and Sir Gabriel of Canterbury, the most trusted aide of the English Templar Master, Sir Geoffrey FitzStephen.”

Looking at Tector, he said: “I thank you again for safeguarding my daughter these years. I am pleased to formally release you from fealty and into the service of Sir Gabriel and the Templar Order.” The dragonborn knight, whose gaze had lingered momentarily on Storm, inclined his head to Tector.

The Chief Justiciar took control of the meeting. “Please be seated,” he instructed, in a strong, noble voice. Then, looking at Storm, who as usual had the cowl of his robes pulled down, concealing his face: “Remove your cowl dragonborn, let us see you.”

Storm obeyed, his face impassive, and de Glanvill continued. “We have heard the terrible news from the North, but little of the detail. I understand you were present at the battles of both Newcastle and Vindolanda, and played a key role in each. I would hear the account of your involvement.”

The companions gave a detailed account, starting with the mission to Durham to bring the Carricks back to York, the attack of the dark elf hand, and the group’s pursuit of Lahm Scath at the request of the Bishop of Durham. They continued, telling of the ambush sprung by Lahm Scath and the victory of the companions, followed by the pursuit of the group by Lahm Sealguire, their flight to Hexham, refuge in the Priory and eventual surrender to the Hand due to the threats made to the lives of an innocent family. They told of their hellish journey from Hexham to Hadrian’s Wall, Storm’s escape, and the intervention of Myrddin and the caeltir.

The Chief Justiciar interjected at this point. “These elves, can they be trusted?”

Storm replied in a level voice. “Yes, I think so, because they helped us escape from the dark elves and fought with us at Newcastle and Vindolanda.”

The group went on to tell of the battle of Newcastle, including the traitor who summoned the flame demon in the gatehouse (who Tector speculated was enchanted by Morgause), the elimination of the kurgen necromancer by the group, working with Myrddin and Tegan, which caused the undead to freeze or collapse, and the flight of the araken force, pursued by the danagrim of Clan Foehammer. de Glanvill took an interest in the Foehammer involvement, asking for more details and commenting wryly in response that “we seem to have an abundance of allies.”

The account culminated with their journey to Vindolanda, the assault on the fortress by the Scarak Filidh and Callus, and the destruction of the gatehouse and the Elder Stone beneath by the battling dragons.

de Glanvill interrupted the companions at this point. “Why do you think a dragon would aid the defenders of Vindolanda?” he asked.

“Because he hates the Witches,” Tector replied.

“Indeed!” replied the Chief Justiciar. “What makes you think so?”

“They imprisoned him for hundreds of years,” Tector answered.

“And how do you know that?” asked de Glanvill.

Tector seemed stumped by the question, and an awkward silence stretched on as de Glanvill’s gaze searched his face, before he turned to Sophia. “Perhaps you can shed some light on this, my lady?”

Sophia also seemed overwhelmed by the question, and the silence was beginning to verge on defiance when Storm spoke up. “We were told by Myrddin. Apparently the Witches imprisoned this dragon, Ice, but he escaped around the time of the summer solstice. He was seeking revenge.”

“I see,” replied de Glanvill. “And where were you on the summer solstice?”

“Northwest of Durham. That was the day we fought the dark elf hand, Lahm Scath,” Storm replied.

de Glanvill’’s piecing gaze fell on each of the friends in turn. “Very well,” he said steadily. “Please continue.”

The companions did so, telling of Morgana’s assault on the Archbishop’s defences, Uther’s last battle cry and his heroic sacrifice.

“A true martyr,” breathed Sir Gabriel.

“Indeed,” replied de Glanvill, “truly the King’s son.”

The companions completed their account by describing the frantic recovery of the Archbishop and Uther’s body and the desperate flight from Vindolanda.

“What of the Archbishop’s bodyguard, Guillaume de la Croix?” asked de Glanvill.

“He perished,” answered Tector, sadly.

“No,” replied de Glanvill, with a half-smile, “he did not.”

The group started at this, and de Glanvill continued. “I have several talents that make me valuable to the King. One of these is the gift of farsight. de la Croix is not dead. He is imprisoned in the Templar Chapterhouse in Vindolanda, and is being tortured for his knowledge of the Church, the Templar order, the Archbishop and the defences of York. His mind is strong, and Morgana has been at Corstopitum giving siege to Achilleus the Golden, so he has not yet broken, despite his torments.”

“The King remains in Normandy, raising an army to fight the Witches, and I have been tasked with preventing their advance. In haste I raised an army of three thousand men in the south, that you will have seen encamped around the castle. The noble Templars agreed to send one hundred knights, most of their English strength, to aid us, under the command of Sir Gabriel. In return, I agreed that our first priority would be to rescue one of their finest from his torture in Vindolanda.”

“Time is now of the essence. Morgana has turned away from Corstopitum and may be returning to Vindolanda. We cannot allow de la Croix to break, and I have given my word to Sir Gabriel that we will save him. It is timely that you have arrived. You know de la Croix, and Vindolanda, and have more experience than most in fighting the foes we face. You are the best we have to complete this task.”

Glancing at his daughter, Baron Henry spoke. “My Lord, would it not be certain death to venture to Vindolanda, so far into the territory held by hordes of undead, at this time?”

“In normal circumstances that would be the case,” replied de Glanvill. “But I have the means that will make their passage possible, if not completely free of danger. I have in my possession an artifact of the Levant. Bisath Sihr ad Sultan; the Sultan’s Carpet.”

“It was brought back from the First Crusade in 1100 by Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy and son of William I the Conqueror, who looted it from the palace of the Seljuk sultan, Malik-Shah, at the fall of Antioch.”

“Henry I, the King’s grandfather, seized the carpet when he defeated Robert at the battle of Tinchebray in 1106. It then formed part of the dowry of his daughter Matilda, the King’s mother, when she married the future Holy Roman Emperor, Henry V. It returned with her after his death in 1125, and was used by her chief servants and messengers for matters requiring the utmost speed, particularly during the wars with the usurper Stephen.”

The companions stared, in awe of the provenance of the artifact they were to be entrusted with, as de Glanvill continued.

“The Sultan’s Carpet passed to the King upon the death of his mother the Empress, but it has been entrusted to my possession for the same purpose it was used by her – to facilitate communication in the most urgent circumstances. It will enable you to travel to Vindolanda in a matter of hours.”

The Chief Justiciar reached out to a small table by his chair and handed the companions three grey silk drawstring bags. “Within these pouches is a fine, shimmering dust. When sprinkled carefully over a person or object, it will cause that thing to be invisible from sight. It will last several hours, or until vigorous movement shakes it loose or you attack a foe and reveal your whereabouts.”

De Glanvill then withdrew from his robes a glittering emerald. “This gem is enchanted. It will open any door, even if it is magically sealed.”

“How many times can it be used?” asked Storm.

“Only once,” the Chief Justiciar replied, “so use it with care. It is activated with the command word ‘Domus’.”

Looking around at the companions, de Glanvill continued. “There is one more thing you need to know. Some form of necromantic enchantment has been placed on de la Croix. I have been unable to identify it, or its effects, but I sense that he would be in grave danger if removed from the Chapterhouse. You must take care to identify and remove this enchantment before getting him out.” He paused. “Now, if you would follow me.”

With that, the old man rose from the table, grasped his staff, and rapped it on the carpeted stone floor. Immediately, two servants in the livery of the King entered. “Bring the Sultan’s Carpet to the roof,” de Glanville commanded.

The Baron and Sir Gabriel also stood, the latter rising over seven feet in height. He stepped forward, grasping Tector’s arm in greeting. “Welcome to our Order, brother,” he said in a rich, deep voice. “Your courage and faith are greatly needed in these dark times. God be with you on this holy quest.”

Turning to Sophia, he bowed as deeply as his full-plate would allow. “May God protect you, my lady.”

Finally, he looked at Storm. “God be in your heart and guide your mind,” he said, before leaving the council chamber.

Following, the companions climbed to the roof of the keep, noting as they did that the Chief Justiciar was fit and strong despite his advanced years. After a few moments the servants arrived and unfurled a splendid Persian carpet.

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Stepping onto it, de Glanvill turned to the companions. “The carpet responds to Arabic commands from a person of magical talents who has established a bond with it. Observe!”

Badihk!” he called, and the carpet rose into the air. “Hatit!” and it began to move forward. “Aysar!” and it began to turn to the left, circling above the roof of the keep.

Over the next hour, de Glanvill instructed the companions in the basic control of the carpet, and allowed Storm to practice, guiding it into the air and in a short flight around the castle, much to the interest of the many troops in the precincts below!

Once they were comfortable with the commands, the companions ate and were visited by Templars who healed their wounds. Turning in for the night, Sophia enjoyed being back in her own rooms, and all found that, sleeping in feather beds for the first time in weeks, they quickly fell asleep and were well rested by dawn.

Assembling atop the keep once more, de Glanvill’s servants gave each of the companions a thick fur coat as proof against the cold, as their master gave a final briefing.

“Once you reach Durham, I would advise you to stay away from the roads, lest you be spotted by the enemy. Fly as high as you can, and circle across country. Good fortune and God’s blessing go with you.”

Setting out, with the frozen landscape sliding quickly by beneath them, they soon realised the reason for their extra clothing. Flying just beneath the clouds, with the wind whipping at them, the chill was far more intense than at ground level.

In a little over an hour they reached Durham, gazing down over hundreds of men digging trenches and erecting earthen ramparts to the north of the city. Speeding on, they moved away from the road, keeping it just in sight to their right.

After another hour, they spied in the distance a vast horde of undead, shambling south along Dere Street towards Durham. From their vantage point they could see the tide of undead stretched for miles. As they sped past, they noticed the form of a huge bird circling above the enemy force.

It began moving toward them, having clearly seen the companions. Realising they were not too far from Vindolanda, they quickly applied de Glanvill’s invisibility dust to themselves and the carpet. By the time the confused vulture reached the point where it had spotted them, the carpet was already more than a mile away.

Passing to the west of Hexham, the companions were distressed to see that, although the town itself seemed little damaged, the Priory was devastated. The buildings, including the church, had been burned, and the roof of the church had collapsed in a heap of blackened timbers. “Poor Prior John,” the three friends breathed, sadly, joining together in a quick prayer for his soul.

They arrived at Vindolanda a bare few hours after leaving York, cold but determined. The fortress town was largely as they remembered it, with the huge gaping hole in the north wall where the gatehouse had once stood. A few listless zombies roamed the streets, and the odd skeleton seemed to stand sentry by a building.

The Chapterhouse stood in a square near the centre of the fortress, its circular nave and rectangular chancel very similar to the Church of the Temple in far-away London. The companions, confident that they were cloaked from sight, flew around the building, noting the entrance porch at the end of the chancel and the small, narrow windows beneath the dome of the nave.

Flying closer, and peering through those windows, they saw a flickering orange light within. As their eyes adjusted to the dim light, they noted that the light was shed by flames, dancing within the ribcage and eye sockets of a skeleton, which stood between two pillars in the circular nave.

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“Ugh, a blazing bones,” groaned the companions in unison.

In the centre of the nave, beneath the dome, a figure lay slumped on the floor, within a dome-shaped cage comprised of midnight black bars. Squinting down at the prone form of de la Croix, they also noticed a glint of metal on the opposite side of the nave. They manoeuvred the carpet to the other side of the dome for a better vantage point, and took in the sight of a four-armed skeleton, a jagged blade held in each hand.

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Nursing memories of the York Catacombs, the group flew slowly around the building until they drew level with the entrance porch. They saw double doors within, and in the shadows before them, the faint yellow glow of a Swordwraith’s eyes!

As they hovered a few feet away, the wraith seemed to sense something, despite their invisibility, and took a step forward, drawing its slender greatsword from its scabbard with a faint ringing sound. Storm quickly guided the carpet upward and they circled back to the dome of the nave at the far end of the Chapterhouse.

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Searching for an alternative way in, the friends were frustrated by the size of the Chapterhouse windows. Those beneath the dome, high in the walls of the nave, were clearly too small, with only Sophia having any chance of squeezing through. Tall, narrow windows on the sides of the chancel gave more hope, but it was clear that Tector, with his bulky armour, would not be able to fit through.

Casting around, the friends came up with a plan. Among the rubble, Storm spotted the head of a danagrim warhammer, cleanly broken from its haft. He flew the carpet over and picked it up. It made a strange sight, appearing to float in mid air atop the invisible carpet as the companions flew slowly back toward the entrance porch.

Noticing the apparently disembodied hammer head a few feet away, the sentinel Swordwraith stepped out of the porch. Following their ingenious plan, Storm called up a wall of ice to surround and imprison the wraith so they could avoid combat. But their foe was both alert and fast, and it quickly leaped backwards as the wall began to grow up from the cobbles around it.

Cursing, Tector leaped from the carpet and charged the wraith, calling frost from his armour and hurling a net of ice over it. He followed up by slamming his greataxe into its side, as Sophia sank a mithril-tipped arrow of piercing into its arm. Stepping back, the swordwraith used its glittering blade to slice through the net of ice, as Storm circled on the carpet and, extending Geimhreadh’s wand, blasted it with a bolt of lightning.

Pressing the advantage, Tector put all his strength behind an overhead blow, but the wraith ghosted aside. Sophia struck with another arrow, this time piercing the breastplate. Recovering, wraith lunged forward, blade extended to skewer Tector in the midriff. The big warrior was quick on his feet though and managed to half-parry, half-sidestep the lethal strike. As he did so, Storm conjured a dragon of lightning which swooped down, slamming into their foe and filling its shadowy form with tendrils of crackling electricity.

Switching his grip, Tector unleashed an arcing circular blow which cleaved straight through the shadowy space beneath the swordwraith’s helm, which flew into the air before clanging onto the cobbles a few feet away. The wraith imploded into shadow while its sword hung, vertical for a second, before exploding. Perhaps he knew what was coming, for Tector threw himself backwards and his superb armour deflected the few shards that struck him.

The companions, all now fully visible, grinned at each other for a moment, hardly believing what they had just done. A Swordwraith, destroyed in less than thirty seconds, and they had not a scratch on them to show for it! What a contrast to their first encounter with such a foe a few months earlier.

Their joy was shortlived however. The sound of battle had attracted a skeleton, which lunged at Storm but stumbled into the (still invisible) carpet on which he stood, grabbing into it with bony talons. Calling up his claws of lightning, Storm reached down and ripped the skeleton’s hands off the carpet, shredding them and leaving his foe with little more than splinters of bone at the wrists.

Tector charged the skeleton, his greataxe cleaving it in twain with ease, while Storm circled round and picked up the Swordwraith’s helm. Terrible necrotic energy surged into his hands, but he dropped the helm like a hot coal and was resilient enough to shrug off the ill effects.

Meanwhile, Sophia noticed a zombie shambling toward them and sank an arrow into its leg. Storm flew the carpet to the entrance porch, leaving it hovering ten feet in the air and gliding down on his wings. Quickly producing de Glanvill’s emerald, he pressed it to the double doors and called “Domus!”. The gem glowed with a brilliant green light that seemed to flow, like liquid, into the doors, pooling in the lock and the small gaps between the doors and the frame. Storm heard a faint snick and the doors swung open.

Backing to the doors as Storm went through, Sophia and Tector fired at the advancing zombie, the latter hitting it with a crossbow bolt. It rushed forward, grasping at Tector, but he reacted with blinding speed, grabbing his axe and beheading his foe! Storm ran down the chancel and leaped into the nave, flying up into the dome and conjuring his ice javelins before the two guardian undead could react. Two slammed into the flaming skeleton below, and its flames dimmed for a moment before erupting outwards in a surge of flame which engulfed Storm, burning him quite badly.

Tector and Sophia quickly barred the doors before running down the chancel and into the circular nave. The four-armed skeletal guardian could not reach Storm so rushed at Sophia with a cascade of blades, leaving her bleeding from three separate wounds! Storm, still airborne, opened his jaws and engulfed the blazing bones in a cloud of freezing dragonbreath. It collapsed inwards, its flames extinguished momentarily, before exploding in a fireball that singed Tector.

Ignoring his burns, the Dragonknight rounded on the four-armed skeletal guardian, evoking frost from his armour and drawing it, glittering, onto his axe blade. His swing was deadly accurate and he was left aghast at the blinding speed of his opponent, as it somehow brought two blades to bear and parried his strike.

Backing away from the flashing blades, Sophia closed her eyes for a moment and focused her mind on the skeleton. Her slumber magic could not send the undead to sleep, but her power did affect her foe, slowing it for a few moments. It sought to turn defence into attack, slicing at Tector high and low with two blades, but Tector displayed astonishing speed for such a big man, leaping over one blade before ducking the other! [by rolling a 20 on his first defence check]

Storm hurled a lighting orb which struck the skeleton in the side, charring its ribs, while Sophia heard a pounding behind her and turned to see the doors at the end of the chancel shaking under heavy blows from outside. Caught in two minds, she loosed an arrow at the guardian which went high and wide. Storm hurled a lightning orb, which also missed. It continued to press Tector, striking him twice, his fine armour protecting him from the worst of the damage. His greataxe still rimed with frost, the big warrior invoked the power of his Brooch of Mithras, feeling the adrenaline surge through him as he smashed half the skeleton’s ribs with a huge blow.

Sophia, still mindful of the pummelling being taken by the doors behind her, shot the skeleton with an arrow that punctured its skull. Storm missed with a lightning orb, as did Tector with his axe, before the guardian lashed out with a devastating combination. A lunge pierced the armour scales of the Solstice Dragon armour, but somehow Tector managed to pirouette away before it sliced into his skin, evading the other blades in the process. [that’s what happens when you roll a 1 on your first defence check and a 20 on your second!]

Noticing the doors starting to splinter and break behind her, Sophia activated the Solstice Amulet with a mere thought and slipped past the guardian, its protective field absorbing the thrust of her foe’s blade. She ran lightly over to the ebony cage in which de la Croix lay, casting her gaze over the patches of withered flesh and blackened scars on his body. Extending her senses, she felt powerful death magic emanating from both de la Croix and the cage surrounding him. Mindful of de Glanvill’s advice, she channelled her dispelling magic into de la Croix, driving out incredibly powerful magic with sheer force of will. [rolled a modified 28 on her dispel check!]

de la Croix stirred, vomited a gout of black sludge onto the tiled floor, and let out a low groan, his eyes flickering open. Meanwhile, Tector dodged another assault from the increasingly shattered skeletal guardian, before Storm struck with a lighting orb through the eye socket. Its skull exploded in a shower of sparks and it collapsed to the floor in a clatter of bones and blades.

Seeing that the bar holding the doors was splintering apart under the constant pounding, Tector ran over and braced his huge frame against them, buying precious time. Sophia reached through the inky black bars of the cage, taking great care not to brush against them, and touched de la Croix, channelling her healing power into his body. The senior Templar pushed himself painfully into a seated position, despite his broken state, with a prayer on his lips. Storm, seeking a way to free him, slashed at the bars with his lightning claws, only to find that they were insubstantial and his claws passed through them with no effect.

With Tector still holding the doors against the gathering horde outside, Sophia healed Guillaume once more. This time his eyes focused on her. “Thank you, most gracious lady,” he croaked.

“How can we destroy these bars?” Sophia asked him urgently.

He shook his head. “I do not know my lady.”

Frantically, Sophia and Storm shouted out ideas to each other, trying to think of a way to counter the necromantic magic of the cage and get the Templar out, while at the end of the chancel the doors began to splinter, skeletal fingers appearing through the rents.

Listening to their exchange, de la Croix quietly rasped, “Life is the antithesis of death.”

“Healing!” cried the dragonborn. “Sophia, channel your healing into the bars!”

“I have none left!” she groaned.

Looking at each other, they both cried in unison “Tector!”

They sprinted to the doors, each bracing against one of them, and sent the Dragonknight pounding back along the chancel. Stopping before the cage, he called down the blessing of the Lord and bathed the entire nave in brilliant golden light. The ebony bars on the side closest to him faded away in seconds and, reaching down, he lifted the senior Templar effortlessly and carried him to the doors.

Storm and Sophia had rapidly hatched a plan for this moment, and jumped back in unison, the doors bursting inwards as the thick wooden bar finally splintered apart. Undead fell forward into the chancel, only to be lifted into the air and flung backwards by Storm’s conjured whirlwind! More surged forward, and Storm drew his wand of fire, levelling it through the door and unleashing a blast of flame into the midst of the undead, driving them back.

Seizing the moment, the companions rushed through the doors, Storm leaping atop the carpet with a flex of his wings and lowering it enough for Tector to throw Guillaume onto it, before he and Sophia climbed on. As they were doing so, a zombie grabbed Storm’s leg with a rotting hand, but Tector helped him tear free and with a cry of “badikh!” the dragonborn flew the carpet out of reach of the crowd of undead below.

Barking arabic commands, Storm quickly had the companions soaring into the sky above Vindolanda and away, their valuable cargo lying safely in the centre of the carpet.

They sped south, looking back on the fallen fort. As it faded into the distance, a silent shadow detached itself from the solid horizon of Hadrian’s Wall, climbing rapidly into the afternoon sky . . .

The story continues in Pursuit!

Redemption of the Cross

Albion Andrew_Brereton Andrew_Brereton