The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
Like a Thief in the Night
9am 28th December.
Andrew, Twitch – Stonehenge
The others – the hotel
“Traitors!” Twitch yells. “Find the traitors!” He leaps out of his sleeping bag and joins the nearest group of people, running back and forth in the general panic. There’s no chance of running away from these people, he thinks. He crosses his fingers and hopes that there are other infiltrators – police or special branch – who’ll be grabbed before him.
Somebody brushes past him, shouting. Twitch takes the opportunity to double back. A quick look around shows that no one is paying him any attention, though several are running out of the campsite in the direction of Andrew’s hideout. Some of these are carrying guns. Breaking into an ungainly job, Twitch grabs up a camping gas canister from outside a tent as he passes. A couple of cars stand some distance away and he starts towards them, pausing every now and then to make sure no one is watching.
On the hillside, Andrew reacts quickly. The main thing is to make sure Twitch gets away safely, he thinks, but there are people climbing the hill towards him. His car is only a short distance away – close enough to reach if he runs, but he can’t go without Twitch.
He flips his radio on. “Twitch, where are you?”
The suddenness of Andrew’s voice startles Twitch and almost makes him drop the gas canister. “I’m in the camp,” he answers irritably. “I’m all right. You just…” A shout makes him turn his head. He sees three men struggling together. “I think they’ve found an infiltrator,” he says. “You better get out. I’ll catch up later.”
There is no time to argue. Andrew turns and throws a flash grenade down the hillside. An answering flash come from the camp – Twitch has lit his gas canister and set fire to a car. The twin explosions seem to stop people in their tracks. Several of the ones who were running up the hill turn and start back down, the others pause, confused, blinded by the sudden flare of light. Without waiting to see if anyone else is coming after him, Andrew starts to run.
Blood streaming down both hands, Eric rushes to Isabelle’s side. John helps him support her. She is unconscious but breathing steadily, and her eyes flicker open as the two men bend over her. For one moment, John’s vision blurs and he sees a young woman standing behind Eric – the same woman he saw weeping in the vision of the lake. She smiles at him, lays her hands on Eric’s shoulders and vanishes as Isabelle Kingston opens her eyes fully and struggles to sit up.
TR joins them, seeming more concern about Eric than about the medium.
“I’m fine,” Eric assures him. He doesn’t even seem to realise he’s bleeding. TR takes him by the wrist. “We’d better bandage these.”
“How are you feeling?” John asks. “Are you hurt anywhere else? Feet? Side?” He studies the old doctor anxiously for any signs of head wounds.
Eric smiles and brushes him aside. “There’s no need to worry. I feel better than I have done for a long time.” It’s true, John thinks. He can sense an aura of power around Eric, an energy that feels almost like warmth emanating from him. As Eric turns his attention back to Isabelle Kingston, John can feel the power focussing on her, lancing deep into her. Eric is searching for something: the old wound that severed her connection with Aiwass. Without really knowing what he’s doing, he finds a patch of cold within her and touches it. A door opens inside her mind. She gasps and jerks away from him.
“Did I heal it?” Eric asks anxiously. Isabelle frowns and nods hesitantly.
“I’m not sure. I… I think so.”
Then Andrew’s voice breaks through on the radio.
“We’re in trouble here. The head druids say power has been lost from the camp. Twitch is all right, but they know where I am. I could do with some help.”
TR reacts first, jumping to his feet. “Andrew, get the hell out of there now! We’ll be there to help as soon as we can. Isobel, stay here with Holly and help Eric. If Eric is the grail now, he’s going to be a target. The rest of you come with me!” He grabs a radio headset and a handful of flash grenades and races out. Matt and Mickey follow after a moment’s hesitation.
Isobel sits back disapprovingly. “Knowing Andrew, he’s got a tank full of guns hidden behind a bush,” she comments. “It’s silly to have everyone go running around trying to rescue people that don’t need rescuing.”
John nods. “TR is right, though. The power of the Grail now possesses Eric, and that power was taken from the Druid camp. They’ll be wanting it back.”
“We could do with finding somewhere else to stay,” Isobel agrees. “I’ll sort that out. You stay with Eric.”
The burning car is bright as any bonfire. Someone tried throwing water on the flames to put them out, which didn’t help.
A captive is dragged to the centre of the camp. “I’m a journalist!” he is yelling. “From the Daily Telegraph!” A good cover story, Twitch thinks. He was planning to use it himself if he was caught.
The chief druid glowers darkly. “Throw him out of the camp,” he growls eventually. Make sure he doesn’t get back in. He’s not the one we want. Keep looking.”
Twitch relaxes a fraction, then remembers there are people still hunting Andrew and glances around fearfully. Thankfully, for the moment, no one seems to be paying him much attention. He eases away from the main group and heads back to his sleeping bag. He ought to stay in the camp as long as he can, he knows that – someone needs to keep an eye on things – but at the same time, he wants to keep as much distance as he can between himself and the druids.
Andrew doesn’t have time to worry about what Twitch might be doing. Dark shapes are closing in around him and the car is still several hundred metres away. He fingers his handgun nervously, not wanting to have to shoot anyone – it’s not SITU’s way to shoot innocent people – but knowing he may have to if he’s threatened.
“Where are you?” he hisses to TR via the radio set.
“On the main road. Give us another five minutes.”
Andrew’s not sure he’s got five minutes. He crouches low, then jumps to his feet and hurls another grenade, shielding his eyes against the explosion that is bright even through his protective goggles. He hears people screaming, a woman’s voice among them. Disabled for the moment but not seriously hurt, he knows. He takes a chance and runs for the car. A gun goes off close behind him. He throws himself flat, fires back once. With a shock of relief, his hands close over the hard metal of the car door. Andrew wrenches it open. At the same moment he hears the sound of an engine approaching from the road.
There are people running everywhere. TR wrenches the steering wheel, skidding around two of them, watching others dash between trees. In the glare of the headlights he can see that some of them are waving guns about.
Mickey winds down a window and throws a flash grenade out. The flash lights up the sky behind them.
“I can see him!” Matt shouts. Andrew’s car is parked at the side of the road. The driver’s door is open. TR aims right at it. A line of cultists who were preparing to block the road scatter. There is another flash – one of Andrew’s grenades this time – and a smattering of gunfire, then Andrew’s car begins to move, the door swinging shut.
“I’m all right,” Andrew says. “Let’s get out of here.”
“You left him behind?” Isobel demands in disgust. “How could you? You know what he’s like. He can get into all sorts of trouble.”
Andrew shrugs uneasily. He was feeling guilty enough about leaving Twitch at Stonehenge without Isobel pointing it out to him. “He wanted to stay. He says he’s ok – and he’s got a radio and a phone in case he gets into trouble.” Feeling Isobel’s eyes still on him, he glares at her. “What did you expect me to do? Go storming into the camp after him?”
Isobel drops her gaze. “I suppose not.” She looks around the room. Not a hotel this time, but a private house on the outskirts of Avebury, courtesy of Geoff Blaize. “Well this is nice, isn’t it?” she asks.
Andrew wonders how long they’ll be able to stay before the Watcher’s people are onto them again. “Ought I to go back to Stonehenge and kill the cult leader?” he asks hopefully. When several people groan he shrugs and asks, “Then how about sabotaging the arms cache? Someone could inform the media and the police. A big police force descending on the camp could be a nice surprise for the Ylid.”
“Not a bad idea,” Matt says surprised. “Though I think we should work out a plan for rescuing Arthur Henry first. Assuming the baby we saw was Arthur, that is.”
“If I am Igraine,” Isobel muses, “and am the mother of Arthur, does that make Edward Merlin, for arranging for me to be impregnated with the seed of Uther? That would make him a ‘good guy’ – Merlin was originally born to be the evil providing a counterweight on earth to the good of Christ, but after he was baptised, this was negated. And does that make Henry Gorlois – which would mean that Merlin/Edward had him killed – and then, who is Uther?” She pauses, confused.
“I don’t think we need extend the metaphor too far,” Eric murmurs. “Matt has been designated as Merlin for now, and I doubt he arranged to have you impregnated.” A slight smile in Matt’s direction. Matt grins back, but TR frowns thoughtfully.
“You know,” he says, “there is one thing I still don’t understand. I admit that I am hardly the world’s most knowledgeable person about King Arthur – aside from reading about the excavations at Tintagel and Glastonbury – but I have a little knowledge of the folklore of the area. According to legend, King Arthur was a soldier, not an alchemist or a magician. If the Grail Maiden is right and Isobel is the modern equivalent of Ygraine, the mother of Arthur, how can her son be the White Alchemist?” He pauses, glancing at Matt. For once, he is absolutely serious, not a trace of sarcasm in his voice. “If anyone in the Arthur mythos is the White Alchemist, shouldn’t that be Merlin? And, at least according to my limited knowledge, Merlin has a far stronger connection with Stonehenge than Arthur does. Isn’t there a legend about Merlin raising the stones or causing them to walk into place or something? I don’t think it was any coincidence that ‘Merlin’ was supposed to take part in the Druid ceremony on the 31st. But according to the Grail Maiden, Matt is Merlin. So like, does that mean he has some connection to the power of Merlin or something? Can he call on the power of Stonehenge or Avebury and use it against them? I mean, I’m sure I am a thousand miles off base, so feel free to correct me or just forget I brought up the subject. But I am curious to know what you all think about Arthur Henry and why he is the White Alchemist, not Matt.”
“The druids think they’re bringing back Merlin,” Eric adds. “Matt has been identified as Merlin, so can we make use of this?”
He looks at Matt curiously.
“I believe the White Alchemist was supposed to combine elements of Merlin and Arthur,” Matt tells them. “So he’d become a focus of people’s belief as Arthur was, but he’d also have supernatural powers as Merlin did. But you’re right – I’ve been named as Merlin in all this, which proves what I’ve known all along -that the Trismegistus Club don’t have a bloody clue what they’re doing.” He grins without humour. “Come to think of it, the Tri Club must have a lot of belief invested in Arthur already. Their whole organisation has been leading up to his birth. As for these Arthurian identities, I think they’re probably quite fluid things. We all have different personae in Germany, remember. Last time I was the Fisher King. Now I’m Merlin. Maybe that mantle will pass on to Arthur Henry when he’s fully grown. I don’t know. For now, I can see that our priority is to get him back. That and make sure the Watcher doesn’t get hold of Eric.”
TR nods agreement. “If Eric is the grail now, the druids might want to sacrifice him in their ritual as well as the baby. I think at least one of us should stay with you at all times, Eric.”
“And you’ll have to stay out of trouble, and definitely away from the camp,” John adds. “With Twitch at the camp at least we’ll known what’s going on there. Maybe you, Andrew, could go back and watch things from another vantage point some time later? Their sorcery told them you were there but it probably won’t tell them you’re back.”
“After we’ve rescued Arthur,” Andrew agrees.
“Another thing is that Eric should make sure all his power is saved for the final battle,” Isobel points out. “For example, it would be good to heal Darius, but if it saps the power of the Grail, it would be better to wait.”
They all turn to look at Eric. He, in turn, looks down at his bandaged hands. The bleeding has stopped for now, but he knows it will start again whenever the power of the Grail moves through him. Just as he knows the power cannot be sapped by using it. Nevertheless, he nods agreeably. “Well, I’d be glad of the company if anyone wants to stand guard,” he says. “But I don’t think there’s any danger for now. As for Darius, we’ll have to find him before I can heal him.”
“As Matt says, our priority for now should be rescuing Arthur,” TR says. “Before we get onto that, there’s an experiment I want to try – and a request I want to make. I’d like to bring Jane Tate in as an unofficial member of the group. I trust her, and I think she might be able to help us.”
There is a short silence. “I suppose she could prove useful,” says Mickey. “But are you sure we can trust her? We don’t exactly know much about her.”
“Maybe we should check out her background before making a decision, just in case,” Eric suggests.
The others agree, and even TR has to admit that it’s sensible to take precautions – especially after Mexico where an Ylid took over the identity of an archaeologist. They agree to discuss the matter again once Eric has made some discreet enquiries.
“This is the experiment Anita Rohinder was trying at the first Oxford convention,” TR explains, laying out a pack of cards in front of him. Each card is marked with a different symbol. “These are what the Tri Club were using for psychic testing, apparently. As we’re getting nowhere asking Rohinder what the cards were supposed to do, I suggest we try our own experiment. There might be something about the deck itself that can be used as a focus, so if we concentrate on them, we may get a clue as to what Rohinder and the Tri Club intended.” He breaks off with a smile. “By ‘we’, I mean ‘you’, of course. I appear to have no psychic sensitivity whatsoever – if such a thing exists at all.”
He lays out three cards carefully. Isabelle Kingston, Eric, Matt and Isobel lean forward expectantly. TR shrugs and raises his hands in the air. “I don’t know how all this stuff works, so maybe it’s a wild goose chase, but it probably can’t hurt…well, assuming the cards don’t catch on fire again, that is…”
The three symbols are a circle, a star and a cross. After several minutes of staring at them, the group sits back.
“It’s no good,” Isabelle says. “The cards don’t have any charge in themselves. By concentrating on them we may be able to transfer a psychic charge to them – that’s what Rohinder was trying to do, I believe. The energy stored in them will stay there until the cards are destroyed.” She picks up one of the cards and tears it in half. Isobel, Eric and Matt see a quick spark of light that could have been nothing at all. TR does see nothing at all.
“It won’t tell us anything about the Tri Club,” Isabelle says apologetically. She looks at the others for confirmation. Matt nods.
“She’s right. Nice try, TR, but it’s not going to work.”
John sits on the small bed in the room that he now shares with Mickey and Holly. Various pieces of equipment are spread out around him: rope, silver knives, two vials of holy water, Shaman ritual items. He includes the bones he took from the cellar of the Red Lion. Holly watches him, fascinated, as he goes through them all, one by one.
“The bones aren’t nice,” she says. “They came from someone who died.”
John grimaces. “I know that.”
“Someone who died exactly eight hundred years ago,” Holly adds helpfully.
The camp has quietened down somewhat. The druid group have all settled down to sleep, although it is broad daylight. Elsewhere, people are beginning to cook breakfast. Realising how hungry he is, Twitch joins a group of about a dozen people around a small campfire.
“Who’d you think the spies were?” he asks, accepting a veggie burger.
A girl with dyed red hair shrugs. “Journalists, I suppose. Rick fired a gun at one of them and frightened him off quick enough.”
“A gun?” Twitch’s eyebrows shoot up. “A bit dangerous, don’t you think?”
“Nah,” she grins. “It’s all blanks. It’s only for frightening people off.”
Blanks? Twitch chokes on his burger in surprise. “Are you sure?” he asks carefully.
“Course I am. You don’t think we’d actually kill anyone, do you?”
In a small shop in Avebury, Isobel pays for the cuddly red dragon she’s chosen and goes out quickly.
If Arthur is King Arthur, she muses, that will make him a Pendragon. And dragons have come up time and again in connection with Ylids. In the legends, she’s pretty sure the red dragon symbolised the Britons and the white dragon the Saxons. She wonders if the Saxons were Ylids.
She needs to find out more, that is clear. Maybe Isabelle Kingston can take her into the spirit world to talk to Henry.
Thinking of Henry sends a brief flash of guilt through her. Is Arthur really his child? Igraine had other children, she thinks. As far as she knows she hasn’t, unless eggs were taken from her without her permission. She dismisses the theory with a smile. Still, if she’s Igraine, that makes her a descendant of Joseph of Arimathea, who brought the grail to Britain. So it’s appropriate that she’s tied up in all this.
One last thought crosses her mind. If she is Igraine, she has to make sure it only lasts as long as is absolutely necessary. She has no intention of ending up in a nunnery!
When TR calls SITU, it is Blaize who answers.
“What is it? We’ve got problems here. Swahn’s gone missing – hasn’t been seen since last night – and with Sophia, Nerfetiti and the Watcher to contend with it’s not looking good.”
“Swahn missing?” TR frowns. “All I wanted was whatever information you had on Tanith. We know where she is, and that she has the baby so the more information we have on her the better. When people call Tanith the Watcher’s woman, what does that mean?”
“She’s a known agent of his,” Blaize says. “Either human or part Ylid. As well as the Watcher, she has connections with the Prieure de Sion. She was linked with a Templar group during the Glastonbury investigation. This time she definitely appears to be working for the Watcher.”
“All right. So, apart from hypnotising people, what else can she do?”
“She can appear as different people,” Blaize says. “That’s how she fooled our team last time, posing as a journalist. She’s very strong, good in a fight. I’m not sure, but I’d imagine she’s got weapons training. She’ll also have considerable supernatural power. I’d suggest tackling her with a mixture of both.”
Which means Andrew, Mickey, John. Possibly Matt, TR thinks. Hopefully, it will be enough.
“Blaize? It’s Eric. A few questions, if you don’t mind. First of all, we’ve found out that Swahn was at the Roseway Hotel the night Sophia was there.” He pauses and clears his throat. “What do you know about his son?”
Blaize hesitates as well. “Only what’s on the file. The boy was killed in a hit-and-run accident when he was twelve. They never found the driver responsible. It was just before Swahn set up with SITU. He believes it may have been a warning, but, of course, there’s no way to prove that. In any case, he’s never spoken about it to anyone.”
Eric nods understandingly. “I see. Is there any chance of setting up a meeting with you and Swahn?”
“Not at the moment,” Blaize says flatly. “Swahn’s missing. TR will fill you in on the details.”
Eric reads off the Roseway guest list to him. He grunts. “No. None of the other names are familiar. Only Swahn. We’ll work on tracking him down. You concentrate on Tanith.”
“Can you send any extra help for that?” Eric asks.
“Sorry, no. We’ve got our hands full here. I’m sure you’ll manage with the people you’ve got.”
“Blanks?” Andrew says. “No, there’s no way. I spoke to Mickey – he said those trucks were full of live ammunition. Maybe the camp leaders have been keeping everyone in the dark over it.” He breaks off suddenly. “Or maybe the leaders are in the dark as well. Someone could have supplied all that stuff, told them it was for show only, and then when they use it on the police people really start dying.”
“It could be nasty,” Twitch agrees. “I really think we ought to… um… do something.”
“Agreed,” Andrew snaps. “I think you ought to get out of there as fast as you can.” He cuts the connection, waits a moment then punches out another number.
“Hello? Daily Telegraph office?” he says. “I’d like to pass on a news report that the New-Agers camping near Stonehenge may have a large cache of weapons on the site. No, I’d rather not give my name, but it’s something that should be looked into.”
Hanging up, he calls another number. “Hello, police? I’m calling about the New-Age camp near Stonehenge…”
The Trismegistus Club
Rumours abound about this club, but no one seems to know the truth. Apparently founded as a gentleman’s club based in Oxford, England, during the Victorian era, Trismegistus is the Egyptian version of the god Hermes, so maybe the club does indeed consider itself as the messenger of the gods.
James P Blaylock mentions the club in a fictional form in his novel ‘Homonculus.’ There, it consists of seven scientist trying to save the world. The novel is claimed to be entirely fictional, but who knows?
The long-term goal of the Club appears to be to bring about the birth of the new Messiah – the so-called White Alchemist. They also claim to be fighting against enemies of mankind, and one rumour says the White Alchemist will be the one who eventually destroys these enemies once and for all. The Christian influence here is obvious. The Trismegistus Club, however, embraces all religions and occult practices and is known for its research into magic and mysticism.
Matt hits the print key on his computer and phones Twitch while he’s waiting.
“Hi, Matt here,” he says. “How’s it going?”
“No problem at all,” Twitch replies happily. “The Druids are all asleep. The camp leaders, Richard and Cath are organising a search of everyone, but there’s far too many people here for them to do it properly. They all seem a bit confused about this traitor thing – though the Druids really managed to impress everyone with their bit of magic.”
“Good. Why don’t you leave now, while it’s safe?”
“While there’s still work to be done here?” Twitch draws himself up to his full height, even though Matt can’t see him. “I am an agent,” he hisses. “I know the risks, what? I shall remain here to assess the, um, situation.”
John loops the last of his amulets over his head.
“The vow of every warrior, who ever rode the plains,” he chants softly. “To protect the children, Forever will remain. These hearts full of courage, Promised to defend, The Elders and the Life Givers, until the bitter end. Those times are a memory, To many, a bygone day, But a new sun is dawning, Upon the Warriors way. The peaceful warriors awaken, Their Hearts hear the cry, Their eyes embrace the vision, Found in Brother Eagle’s eye. They rise from every nation, Ready to claim the right, To stand as men of courage, the defenders of the Light.”
He sits down, cross-legged on the floor, closes his eyes and draws in a deep breath. Holds it.
When he opens his eyes, the white wolf is standing before him.
“I need to go to Diamond Row,” John whispers. The wolf nods her head. John moves forward, standing on four feet. Looking back once, he sees his human body, sitting against the bed, apparently asleep.
The two wolves pad quietly away…
The mist clears abruptly. John finds himself standing on a silver road. Standing stones are all around him, a ghostly circle, and in the middle is a house made out of crystal. Spinning a protection ritual around himself as he goes, he creeps forward, furred belly touching the cold ground.
Three people are sitting together in the house. John sees them as auras: patterns of energy rather than physical forms. Two of them appear weak. The third burns with power. And, in her arms is the suggestion of a shape. Something that looks like it is dead.
“The child,” the wolf says. “Its spirit is not there. After tonight, your task will be to find it and bring it back to its body. But look.”
John turns his head.
Outside the house, more shapes are appearing. A tall, blonde man, a woman that John recognises as the Grail Maiden. Other men and women standing alongside them, swords in their hands.
“They are there for protection,” the wolf says. “Trust in them and you will not fail tonight.”
“Right,” Mickey announces, “I have a plan.”
John blinks and looks up.
“Sleeping on the job?” Mickey asks cheerfully. He throws a set of syringes onto the bed. “I’ve got smoke bombs too. I reckon we should go in at two in the morning. Now, here’s what we do…”
“I’m sorry,” says the recorded message. “This number is no longer available.”
Eric frowns and tries again. The same message greets him. He tries another number. Same response.
He puts down the phone. Either Anita Rohinder and the Tri Club have forgotten to pay their phone bills, or they’ve all decided to become unavailable at the same time.
Isobel sits opposite Isabelle Kingston nervously. “But will it be possible to enter the Spirit World?”
“Most certainly,” she smiles. “Anyone with the necessary skill can take you there. The problem will be finding your way around, and finding your way back afterwards.” She smiles again. “If Eric’s healing has worked – and I believe it has – I could act as your guide and take you into the Spirit World, you and the whole team if you want. Once there, you will have to stay together and, most importantly, you will have to stay with me so I can guide you back.” She sits forward, studying Isobel’s face. “Are you sure about this? The spirit world is a dangerous place. Anything that happens to you there can have deadly repercussions here.”
“I’m sure,” Isobel says uncertainly.
Isabelle Kingston nods. “Very well. I can prepare a drug – something that will enable you to relax and your spirit to step outside of your physical body. If anyone else wishes to join you, I am willing to act as a guide. But I must warn you again that it is a serious thing to do. I’ll prepare the drug. In the meantime you should think about what you wish to achieve from this.”
Finding Arthur, Isobel thinks. That and talking to Henry. She wants to tell him what’s been going on, see if he can help her in any way.
Sitting in the small lounge of the house, TR is going through the box of photographs taken from the Red Lion. From the look of it, parts of the stones were taken and used all over the village, and artifacts turned up just about everywhere. But one place stands up in particular – the Devil’s Chair. It is where most of the bones, and two of the sacrificial knives, were found.
He’ll get Isabelle Kingston to go there, he thinks, to see if she can sense anything about the place, why the sacrifices took place – and why they stopped. He almost laughs as he thinks it. He’s even starting to believe in all this psychic nonsense now!
He turns the computer on. Just because he’s not psychic, there’s no reason he can’t do some research of his own. He goes online, types in ‘Avebury’ and then ‘1200.’
Eric is also doing some research. First of all getting a full description of the woman who called herself Morgan. He’s not surprised when it corresponds to the description of Tanith he obtained from SITU.
On the subject of ley lines there is an abundance of information. Supposed lines of power across the Earth, they have been blamed for everything from witch-craft to crop circles. Witches tap into them as a source of power, ghosts and spirits haunt them, all kinds of psychic phenomena have their origin in them. More importantly, Ylids have been known to site their bases of operations on ley lines for the extra power that they give. Especially powerful is a convergence of two ley lines, although this is rare.
Ley lines never move.
Eric wanders into Matt’s room.
“I was thinking,” he says. “Was the vision you had from Ezili a picture of the ritual that Rohinder refused to give us? And, if so, will Arthur Henry remain unharmed. You said you heard a baby crying as the cards were torn.” His palms tingle. He looks down to see spots of blood seeping through the bandages.
Avebury 1200 AD.
The Celts first appeared in Britain in 1200 AD, TR discovers. But he can’t find any connection between them and the Watcher or Sophia. Stonehenge was completed by 1200 BC, which gives a nice symmetry but doesn’t cast any light on the puzzle.
“I got the sense that the rituals were trying to call to someone or something,” Isabelle reports. “It doesn’t feel like they ever worked, though.”
“Richard Lionheart died in Chalus in 1199,” Eric adds, coming in, “but I don’t know where Chalus is.”
“France,” TR tells him.
The doctor smiles and rubs at his hands. “Is it really? What about William Rufus, then? He was killed in what appears to have been a royal sacrifice in 1100. Does this tie in?”
TR doesn’t answer. “Richard the Lionheart was a great symbol for his people,” he murmurs. “I wonder if he was the intended sacrifice, but he was killed before it could happen? So the Watcher, or whoever, had to sacrifice someone else, and he didn’t get the desired result, and he’s had to wait until now to find someone with enough symbolic power to repeat the sacrifice?” He looks up at Eric. “All guesswork, of course.”
“Holy Angel Michael,” Eric prays. “You were called on once in Egypt, maybe we can call on your help tonight. Fight on our side. Help us rescue the child that has been stolen. Let us restore him to his mother. Protect us.”
It is just short of two in the morning when Andrew, Mickey and John leave the car and creep along Diamond Row.
“I don’t think they’ll harm Arthur until the ritual,” John whispers. “That gives us some leeway.”
Mickey shakes his head. He knows how Isobel is feeling right now. He intends to rescue the kidnapped child tonight. With or without anyone’s help.
Even so, he thinks, he’s glad he’s not here alone. The house is quiet – eerily so – and there’s not even any wind.
Leaving him there, Andrew slips round to the back of the house. He climbs the back fence easily and runs silently to the kitchen door. The lighter fuel soaks quickly through the rags he’s carrying. He wedges them into the keyhole and pours the remaining lighter fuel down the door itself. Standing back, he lights and match and throws it.
The whole lot bursts into flame at once.
John, counting the seconds on his watch, nods. Mickey pulls the pin out of a smoke grenade and pushes it through the letterbox.
Thirty seconds later, Andrew appears. Mickey bangs on the front door. “Fire! Hey! Wake up! Fire!” The door shudders as he kicks it, then, as Andrew and John join in, it gives way altogether.
A figure stumbles down the stairs towards them. Chrissie Adair, John realises. He grabs her arm, pushing her against Mickey so he can inject her with one of the syringes of sedative.
Her eyes glaze over almost straight away. John pulls her out of the house and lays her on the garden path.
Jack Adair is next to come. He has time to squawk once in fear before the sedative takes effect.
“Now for the baby,” Mickey mutters.
Without warning, the smoke blows back in their faces, and then clears. Mickey coughs, goes for his gun and feels his hand freeze to his side.
“Nice try,” Tanith mocks him. “Nowhere near good enough, of course, but that’s what I’ve come to expect from SITU. She comes gliding down the last few stairs, her eyes burning like fire. In her arms she holds a baby. He is limp, breathing but not moving.
“I’ll have to leave here now,” Tanith says. “And I suppose I’ll have to kill you too, to make sure you don’t try this again. A waste of energy, but never mind.”
She sets the baby down on the step. John and Mickey, both frozen, can only watch her as she raises her hands. Fire sparks from her fingertips.
Matt is going through his nightly ritual.
Garlic pills. Holy water. Furniture up against the windows. Lock every window, every door. Maglite torches where he can reach them quickly. With Eric to protect now, this has become doubly important.
He finishes pulling a wardrobe against the bedroom window and turns around.
“How nice,” says Maurice. “Now we’re all locked in together.”
A torch shines in Twitch’s face. Struggling awake he sees the face of the red-haired girl he was talking to earlier.
“Wake up,” she says urgently. “The police are here. We’re getting ready to fight them. Here, have one of these. Just wave it around and look threatening.” She pushes something into his hands and moves on quickly.
Looking down, Twitch sees the silver barrel of a gun.
Believe, John thinks. Trust in the ones who are there to protect you and you won’t fail. Slowly, his right hand begins to move.
Tanith sees it. “I burned once,” she snarls. “Because of SITU. Do you know what it feels like to have your flesh melt away?” Her face changes as if a mask has dropped away, showing skin that is hideously scarred down one side. Flames course from her hands.
Then a voice rings out.
It is Andrew. He appears taller than usual, his blonde hair glowing in a halo about his head. In his hands is a sword: a glowing katana inscribed all along its blade with ancient symbols. He steps between John and Tanith. “You will not succeed here,” he says. “Go back to where you came from.”
She launches herself at him. Fire surrounds them both, glances off the katana’s blade, shatters like glass. The sound is like the first clash of battle. Straining to move, John hears voices that are neither Tanith’s nor Andrew’s shouting out challenges and snatches of old battle cries.
“You will die!” Tanith screams.
The whole garden appears to be burning. Tanith screams again, first in anger, then in pain. There is a quick flash of a katana slicing down.
Blinking, Mickey looks around. Jack and Chrissie Adair and lying unconscious on the path. The baby, also unconscious, is on the doorstep. Andrew lowers his katana, looking dazed and triumphant. At his feet is the body of a woman. The head lies a few paces away.
2.30am 29th December 2000
Matt, Isobel, Eric, TR – the SITU house (with Maurice.)
Twitch – Stonehenge
Andrew, Mickey, John – Diamond Row
ISOBEL: With Twitch at Stonehenge you’ve only been able to keep in touch by phone. He seems fine – cheerful and convinced he’s doing a good job.
JOHN: Everyone seems all right.
You get the sense of something very old coming to fruition here. There’s a feeling of urgency, that this is the last chance. And a sense of something approaching from a long way off.