Vindolanda, Part One - Prologue
The weather had worsened in the few days since the battle for Newcastle, and deep drifts of snow lay against the walls of the keep. Sophia, Storm and Tector had been summoned by the Archbishop, and made their way to the solar atop Newcastle keep.
Entering, they found themselves before a most unlikely couple – the Archbishop and Myrddin, seated together and clearly deep in conversation. The Archbishop welcomed the group and Myrddin told them that the town of Carlisle, on the west coast, had fallen to a sithe invasion force and the fortress of Netherby, which housed the western Elder Stone, was under siege by the forces of Morrigan the Black.
The Archbishop explained that dark forces of huge power were on the move, and that both he and the druid had dread premonitions that events would come to a head at the ancient fortress of Vindolanda, several day’s ride to the west of Newcastle on Hadrian’s Wall. Myrddin outlined the visions he had seen in the snows, while the Archbishop explained that God had spoken to him and the message was clear: he must travel to Vindolanda with as much strength as he could muster to face the gathering darkness.
With the Foehammer clan off hunting Volodskya and her araken, the Newcastle garrison and the Pons Aelius cohort sworn to protect the keep, and the Umfravilles leading their force back to defend Prudhoe castle and the surrounding land, their options were limited. Myrddin agreed to head south and seek aid from his kin, but cautioned that this would likely be limited. The elves remembered all too well their persecution at the hands of the Church, and were distracted by sithe raids on their forest realm. In the meantime, the Archbishop would lead a force along the Wall to Vindolanda.
Settling out in freezing temperatures and deep snows, the group made slow progress. With them rode Mary of Stamford, the Archbishop’s bodyguard Guillaume de la Croix, five other Templars and seven priests. It proved impossible to light fires, even with the help of Storm’s wand of fire, as all the wood was sodden with snow, and after two bitterly cold camps they were delighted to spend the third night at the legionary fortress of Corstopitum, which lay close to Hexham south of the Wall. Mary spoke to Tector again about the Knights Templar, and was delighted when he informed her that he wished to join the order. She promised to speak to the Archbishop and make the necessary arrangements.
With warm food in their bellies and a good night’s rest behind them, the group set out with renewed optimism. This soon faded under the onslaught of a blizzard, and the temperature dropped even further. They struggled on throughout the day, before making camp and collapsing into an exhausted sleep.
The day dawned to temperatures that were unprecedented, even in the depths of winter. All the tents were buried under snow, and when they had dug their way out the group found that all their horses had frozen to death during the night. The Archbishop led prayers, before the food and tents were parcelled out among the men, and they continued the gruelling journey on foot. Sophia drew on the power of her Solstice Amulet to shield her from the worst of the weather, while the cold resistance of Tector’s armour offered him some protection. By his very nature, Storm was inured to the cold, but even he felt the freezing temperatures in a way he had never done before. The rest of the group fared much worse, and by the time they arrived at Vindolanda two days later, having been intercepted and escorted by the Eastern Rangers cohort of danagrim legionaries, many were suffering from frostbite.
Finding the fortress crammed with refugees from Carlisle and the west, the friends were given lodging in the chapel, close to the Archbishop. From there, they accompanied Guillaume and Mary to the Templar chapterhouse, where the two senior Templars knighted Tector in a holy ceremony. After receiving their blessings and swearing his vows, the big warrior was dubbed Sir Tector the Dragonknight by Guillaume and Mary speaking in unison, the Spear of St Peter on his left shoulder and the sword of de la Croix on his right.
Shortly after the completion of the ceremony, the companions were joined by their old friends, Uther and Raphael. Delighted to see each other, they spent the next few minutes swapping tales of their adventures since they departed Ben Nevis two months earlier.