Chapter 10
The Sleeper

Outside the Glacier, Arma

"Every relationship starts with the first meeting. You may be separated for a little while, but the thought of a reunion keeps the relationship alive. The relationship can change form, but the fundamental bond stays the same. A relationship is not lost until a reunion becomes impossible."
--Excerpt from the assorted writings of Mark the Guardian

As Mark's eyes adjusted to the light, he was jolted by the realization of what was going on. Felix stood in a fighting stance with his sword drawn, facing three men. The first matched the description of the Dark Knight who attacked Sonia, the second was dressed as one of the fabled desert people, and the third was clad in the robes of a mage.
The mage rose into the air, his robes billowing in the breeze. A soft chuckle quickly broke into a loud, manic guffaw that seemed to unnerve even the mage's comrades. An uncomfortable sense of foreboding crept upon Mark. As if he sensed the swordsman's growing unease, the mage stopped laughing and threw back his hood to expose his face. Though many years had passed, Mark knew that face. Those cruel eyes and the sadistic grin to match loosed a flood of bitter memories.
"Brenok!" Mark exclaimed.
The Guardian's childhood tormentor broke into another peal of laughter as he twirled his rod.
"You remember!" Brenok squealed in twisted delight. "And don't think I forgot about you, Mark! How I've waited for this day! Old Randwulf wants you right away, but we're going to have some fun first!"
"Fool!" the Dark Knight yelled. "Do not disobey the King!" He pointed his menacing blade at the mage. "If you intend to jeopardize our mission, I'll strike you down here and now!"
Completely unafraid of the threat, Brenok looked down on the Dark Knight scornfully. "You're pointing at the wrong person, Sir Knight. Let me show you how to use that sword properly."
Brenok pointed his rod at the Dark Knight. The rod's runic inscriptions began to glow and the Dark Knight's sword rattled in his hand. Brenok made a wide sweeping gesture, pointing the rod directly at Felix. The sword broke from the Dark Knight's grip and flew forward with remarkable speed. The blade plunged deeply into the Crusader's body, striking him with enough force to knock him clean off his feet. The old knight landed roughly on the ground, clutching at the serrated blade wedged under his chest plate. While Mark and Teresa rushed up to the fallen warrior, the desert man cursed loudly in his own tongue.
"The Franj was mine!" he screamed bitterly.
"You should have killed him when you had the chance," Brenok replied indifferently.
The desert man drew his sword, a curved damascene blade unlike anything found on the Continent. The yellow gems in its hilt shone as the wind whipped around him. No less hostile than his counterpart, the Dark Knight drew his secondary weapon, a slender thrusting sword. Seeing his comrades turn against him, Brenok gave an affected sigh.
"Ah, dissension in the ranks..." He shook his head with galling insincerity. "Old Randwulf won't be pleased at all. I guess I'm going to handle this myself..."
With a wave of his rod, Brenok made his two partners vanish. He then made a flick of the wrist that drew out the Dark Knight's sword from Felix's body before it too disappeared. While Teresa desperately tried to stop the blood gushing from the wound, Mark stood up to face his old enemy. His anger only broadened the grin on Brenok's face.
"Oh, did I upset you?" the mage jeered. "Well then, how about I make it up to you? Here is a present from the bottom of my heart. Enjoy!"
Brenok and his laughter disappeared in a pillar of light. When the pillar faded, two figures could be seen in its place. One was a man in the garb of an Eastland fighter and the other was a woman in an elegant white gown laying unconscious in the man's arms.
Ignoring Brenok's 'present' for the moment, Mark's attention quickly went back to Felix. With Jasper's help, Teresa had already gotten the old knight out of his tabard and cuirass and was trying to treat the wound. Though she was struggling with all her ability, the novice's efforts were proving ineffectual. Blood continued to seep through the dressing even though she was pressing down on the wound with all her weight. His face already an ashen grey, Felix reached out to Mark with his bloodied gauntlet. Mark clasped his hand.
Coughing up some blood, Felix barely managed to muster the strength to speak in a slow, weak voice. "You must... keep going... Together... you can... defeat... Randwulf..."
"Don't talk," Mark pleaded. "You'll only make it worse."
"The wound is mortal," Felix said. "I do not have... much time..." The old knight was using every ounce of his waning strength. "Listen... to me... The power behind Randwulf... the warlock... In the shadows... you too have... and ally... The grey wizard... He will come to you... when you need him most..." A particularly fierce spasm seized Felix, leaving him completely drained. Only by sheer force of will was he able to say anything more. "I only wish... I could have... done more..."
Spent from the exertion, the Crusader's eyes rolled back and his body went limp. Choking back a gasp, Teresa recoiled slightly. With quaking hands fingering her rosary, she recited a prayer for the dead in an unsteady voice while Mark, still holding Felix's hand, hung his head in defeat. The Guardian could feel his insides turn to lead, and it was more than just the Gems reacting to the loss of a fellow Elemental Knight. The others could only stare in silence. No matter how any of them felt about the old knight, only the frigid Adrienne seemed to be unaffected by his loss.
As Teresa's prayer denigrated into muted sobbing, Mark placed Felix's hand on his chest and rose. Struggling to contain his emotions, he knew he had to investigate Brenok's 'present'. Once he was close enough to make out the faces of the two people, he could hardly believe what his eyes were seeing.
"Catherine? Stefan?"
It had been eight years since the last time he had seen them, but Mark recognized his old companions instantly. Whether Stefan recognized him or not was harder to say. He did not respond to Mark's voice, but God only knew what Brenok had put him through.
Mark saw a bleeding wound in Stefan's calf. It was small but deep, most likely an arrow shot. Mark tentatively placed a hand on the fighter's shoulder.
"Stefan, you're hurt..."
Stefan's body twitched at Mark's touch. Leaning forward, Stefan gently lowered Catherine to the ground. As he slowly slid his hands away, Mark noticed the tattered hide on his knuckles. The swordsman would have done well not to be so easily distracted.
What followed could only be described as an explosion. In a single fluid motion, Stefan swung widely, knocking away Mark's arm; turned on the balls of his feet and sprang at Mark with fists flying. Even when they had first met, Stefan was an excellent fighter, and his skills had improved vastly since then. Mark's own talents were nothing to scoff at, but he was at a distinct disadvantage. He refused to draw his sword against his old comrade and he had left his shield by Felix. The best he could do was raise his arms to absorb any strikes aimed at his head.
"It's all your fault!" Stefan howled.
Mark's armor did not avail him much. Each punch felt like a blow from a sledgehammer, but it was not enough to keep him hearing Stefan's cry.
"What's my fault?" Mark asked, his voice jarred by the unrelenting barrage.
"Everything! It's your fault, damn you!"
In his anger, Stefan did not fight at his full potential. He simply whaled on Mark in unfocused rage. Had he been thinking clearly, Mark knew he would already be dead, but at the rate things were going, the sheer volume of punishment could be enough to kill him.
Fortunately, his companions were not content to stand by and watch him get pummeled. Sonia and Edward charged forward with blades drawn while Giles and Jill circled around to attack Stefan from a distance. Defending against Stefan's attacks took nearly all of Mark's attention, but it did not keep him from noticing his comrades moving in for the kill.
"Put your weapons away!" Mark shouted. "He's a friend!"
"Some friend!" Sonia scoffed, quickly closing the distance between them.
Realizing that he could not stop Sonia and the others, the embattled swordsman cried, "Just hold him down without hurting him!"
His plea seemed to be a futile gesture as Edward brought down his sword on Stefan, but despite his fury and singular focus Mark, the fighter guided him safely clear of the Prince's blade. Stefan then struck Edward's sword, taking him off balance before delivering a kick to his chest that sent the burly Prince to the ground. The fighter had barely pulled his leg back when he was forced to sidestep a thrust from Sonia's rapier. He responded with a powerful strike the fencer intercepted with her buckler. Before he could follow through, he jumped backwards to dodge an arrow from Jill and twisted his body to escape a stab from Giles' pike, suffering only a light graze across his torso. Without skipping a beat, Stefan took hold of the pike and gave it a strong tug, strong enough to yank Giles off his feet.
With the violence escalating out of control, Mark feared that there would be no way to bring the fight to an end without someone getting seriously hurt... or worse. All this changed when out of nowhere, Adrienne appeared behind Stefan.
"Go to sleep," she said.
Even with his finely tuned reflexes, Stefan was not fast enough to defend himself. Adrienne shot her elbow into the back of his neck and the fighter collapsed. Though aching from the hail of blows he had taken, Mark rushed to his old friend's side. He feared Adrienne had broken Stefan's neck with her attack, but he was able to breathe a sigh of relief when he saw that Stefan was still breathing. Adrienne's perfectly measured strike had left the fighter unconscious. It was probably the best conclusion Mark could hope for. Once Stefan came to, he would have some explaining to do.

* * *

It was about an hour before sunset when Stefan regained consciousness. Teresa had treated his wounds, but the group did not share Mark's trust in the fighter. His wrists and ankles were tied together behind his back, and if that was not enough incentive for him to sit still, Jill stood by with an arrow aimed straight at his heart. For the time being at least, all Stefan did was glare at his captors.
Except for Mark and Ignatiy, everyone in the group met Stefan's hostility with their own. Standing in front of him with her arms crossed, Sonia looked down on the Byrnan contemptuously.
"Are you going to behave now?" she asked him in Bannish.
Stefan cursed in Byrnan--something Mark was not going to translate--and spat at the fencer's feet. This did nothing to improve Sonia's regard for him. In fact, she probably would have tried to spill his guts with a sharp kick had she not felt Mark's hand on her shoulder. As temperamental as she was, Sonia had developed a good habit of self-restraint out of consideration for her cousin's softer sentiments.
Crouching next to his old friend, Mark spoke to him in Byrnan. "Stefan, tell me what happened to you and Catherine."
Stefan did not answer. He only looked away.
"Please," Mark pleaded. "I want to help you, but I can't if you won't tell me."
Stefan still did not look him in eye. "You want to help, huh? It's a little late for that."
"What do you mean?"
Stefan shook his head. "It's over. Byrn has fallen. Those Gladians pigs, they killed them by the thousands. Our countrymen..." He paused. "No, my countrymen."
His words stung, especially coming from a friend and someone who knew all too well how it felt to be treated as an outsider.
"Are you a Gladian or aren't you? Back in the fatherland at long last... It's what you wanted, isn't it? It's why you abandoned us."
"I didn't abandon anyone," Mark insisted. "I didn't even know about Randwulf's campaign in Byrn until a few days ago."
Stefan eyed Giles, clearly recognizing the pikeman's armor. His anger from before quickly rushed back. "You learn about it from him? He's one of them!" He shot a particularly venomous glare at Mark and howled, "You're one of them, damn you!"
Stefan had worked himself up into a rage again and started to twist and strain against the ropes. Over Mark's objection, Jill had been instructed to shoot the moment their captive tried to break loose. Before she could loose her arrow, Mark quickly moved to block the archer's target, took a hold of Stefan and gave him a good shake.
"No, Stefan! Calm down!" The swordsman glanced over his shoulder to make sure Jill was not moving to get a clear shot and then looked back to Stefan. "Giles is a defector from the Marauders," he said. "All of us, we're fighting against Randwulf, against the people who attacked Byrn."
Stefan stopped struggling and seemed to calm down a bit, but burning anger was replaced by a chilly glower. It hurt Mark to see his old friend look at him that way.
"What difference does it make now? It won't change what happened."
"Will you tell me what happened?"
"Why should I?"
"I told you that I want to help. You're a victim of Randwulf as much as any of us."
"If it'll get you to stop badgering me, fine."
"You know Bannish, don't you? The others should hear this."
Stefan narrowed his eyes. "There's only one language I speak. I don't plan on doing any favors for Gladian pigs and I'm only going to tell you this story once. I won't be stopping for you to play interpreter."
Mark sighed. "Okay, if that's how you want it to be."
"It's been months since the beacons were lit," Stefan said. "Not too long after, there were reports that Arita fell. We heard that the invaders were destroying everything in their path, not just towns, but the boyar estates, the farms and pastures, too.
"Most of the Dragon Guard assembled outside Dragova to push them back, but they were routed and forced to flee into the city. While the invaders' main force laid siege to Dragova, a detachment went south to wipe out Falko and the Romany village. When the Gladian pigs broke the siege, the survivors from the Guard escaped to the castle. The pigs followed them there and started another siege.
"When rumor started to spread that they killed the King, everyone knew it was over. They razed Sagia and then they moved on Fiora. It was just a matter of time for them to reach the Antonovich mansion.
"Lady Catherine, she started acting odd since before the beacons. She kept to herself more. She barely ate. She wouldn't talk to anybody, not even me. I know she could've her powers to protect the city, to protect the inheritance of her forefathers, but she didn't do anything. And I don't know why.
"I fought the Gladian pigs alone when they broke into mansion, and it wasn't until I was nearly overwhelmed that Lady Catherine finally used her powers. Then he showed up, that damned traitor Brenok. He confronted Lady Catherine, mocked her, taunted her, taunted me. Then he bewitched her, used some of his deviltry on her. Said he put her sleep, that she'd sleep for long time. Then I found myself here."
Stefan's telling was not as gut-wrenching as Giles' first-hand account of the carnage, but the scope of the destruction since Giles' desertion was every bit as disheartening. By the sound of it, Byrn was a total loss. If it was true that Randwulf invaded Byrn in search of Mark, then Stefan's accusation was true.
"Well?" Stefan asked, not having the patience to let Mark dwell on his story. "Aren't you going to say something? Thousands of people dead because of you. The King, those monk friends of yours, my Romany brothers, thousands more..."
All those lives weighed heavily on Mark, but even as the guilt pressed down on him, he secretly felt relieved. There was one life Randwulf and his Marauders had not taken, one precious life that outweighed the untold thousands. Mark was shamed by that relief, his guilt sharpened by Stefan's accusing glare. And he probably would have remained wrapped in the coils of guilt and shame if Sonia did not speak up at last.
"Okay, I've had enough jabbering," she said. "Mark, what's going on? Who's this creep? It doesn't look like he likes you too much, so why are you sticking out your neck for him? I want an explanation."
Mark embraced the welcome distraction. "This is Stefan," he said. "He's one of my friends from Byrn, like Ignatiy. So is Catherine, the woman who was with him."
"Lady Catherine," Stefan interrupted. "Where's Lady Catherine? What did you do with her?"
'Catherine' in Everardian was apparently close enough for Stefan to catch. Because he started to struggle again, Mark turned his attention back to the fighter before he could finish his explanation to Sonia.
"Catherine's fine, Stefan. Calm down." Mark pointed to where Catherine lay. "She's right over there."
Teresa was tending to her, something that Stefan did not view favorably.
"Who's that?" the fighter demanded. "Get away from her, you Gladian whore!"
Reflexively, Mark cuffed Stefan with the back of his hand, surprising the fighter almost as much as he surprised himself. Thankfully, Teresa could not understand Byrnan, but that was no excuse. Still, Mark regretted what he did and withdrew his hand.
"I'm sorry I did that," he said, "but I let you insult one of my companions once. I won't allow it again."
"Tough words coming from you," Stefan sneered. "You plan on backing it up?"
Mark simply ignored Stefan's attempt to pick a fight. "Teresa is one of the best healers I've seen. Catherine couldn't be in better hands. She'll do everything she can to help her."
"I told you," Stefan said irritably, "Lady Catherine was bewitched. What good is a healer?"
"She can take care of Catherine until we find a way to break the spell."
Mark sighed. "I know you blame me for what's happened, and there is part of the responsibility that's mine, but your true enemy is Randwulf and the Marauders. They're the ones who brought tragedy to Gladius and Byrn. I want you to join us."
Stefan scowled. "You want me to join you and a bunch of Gladian pigs? You want me to forget the Byrnan blood on your hands?"
Mark shook his head. "I'm not asking you to forget, or to stop blaming me. I'm asking you to help us defeat Randwulf. If we don't stop him, others will suffer Byrn's fate."
"You've got gall," Stefan said, spitting on the ground, "to ask me for help after you turned your back on us. Why should I join you?"
"You want to do something about what happened to Byrn, don't you? You want to save Catherine from Brenok's spell, but you can't do it on your own." Mark put a hand on the fighter's shoulder, resisting his attempt to shake it off. "We have the same enemy. You're throwing your life away if you go at it alone. Put your strength to better use by joining it with ours.
"Besides, this land is a long way from Gladius or Byrn. I'm not going to leave you and Catherine alone here. Right now the others don't trust you, but it doesn't have to stay that way. It'll be a lot easier for you if you're our ally."
Stefan took a moment to consider Mark's offer. He glared at the others in the group, meeting distrust with distrust, hostility with hostility, and contempt with contempt. Then he stared at Catherine, silent and still in her cursed slumber. Lastly, he turned back to Mark.
"Fine," the fighter said. "I'll go along with you for now, but only because it's the quickest way to get my revenge. Don't think this changes anything between us."
"If your feelings haven't changed once we've defeated Randwulf, we'll settle things then," Mark said. He stood up and faced the others. "Everyone, I've talked to Stefan and he's agreed to join us. I'm sorry for the trouble he's caused, but it's over now. Jill, would you put that arrow away?"
Jill looked tentatively at Sonia, who nodded for her to do as Mark asked. While Mark was untying Stefan, the fencer gave her cousin a dubious look.
"Are you sure about this?" she asked. "Those Byrnans must've given you a really warped idea of what friendship is if you think that guy's a friend."
"The only thing warped about him is how damn naive he is," Edward grumbled. "And it doesn't look like experience is going to straighten him out either."
"You'd still be in Stormtree if I hadn't taken the chance to trust you," Mark said pointedly. "I can assure you, Stefan will fight like ten men against Randwulf's forces." Mark turned to the fighter, who was rubbing his newly freed wrists. "Let me introduce you to the group, Stefan. The fencer is Sonia, the big man with the oversized sword is Edward, the archer is Jill, the man in the colored cloak is Jasper, the healer treating Catherine is Teresa, the pikeman is Giles, the woman with the hooded mantle is Adrienne, and although he's a lot thinner now, I hope you remember Ignatiy."
"That bony wraith is Ignatiy?" Stefan asked.
"He was captured in Gladius several years back," Mark explained. "We found him a few weeks ago after he escaped from the dungeon of Randwulf's castle."
Stefan did not seem particularly interested in catching up. In spite of the introduction, he did not say anything to the others. Instead he walked over to Catherine and stood by her side, as if the former Lady of Fiora needed her bodyguard to protect her from the Gladian cutthroats all around her. Ignatiy was too afraid to approach him and no one else shared Mark's faith in him, so Stefan's stand-offish behavior had little impact on how he was regarded by the group. Though disappointed in the way things had turned out, Mark had to accept the tenuous alliance as it was.
It was already too late for them to reach Trader's Point by nightfall, so the group decided to go ahead and set up camp. Few words were exchanged that evening. The silence highlighted the somber mood of the group. Between Felix's death and the hostile new addition to their ranks, their victory over the Ice Golem was not enough to offset the blow to their morale.
Taking the first watch of the night, Mark sat by the fire with his journal, but the words would not come to him. As he stared at the blank page, he heard a noise in the distance. It did not sound especially threatening, but he could not readily distinguish what it was.
His curiosity piqued, he followed the noise, which led him some distance from the rest of the group. He found Teresa kneeling in the grass near a bush. She was wearing nothing but a flimsy shift, her habit laying neatly folded beside her. Blood dribbled down her bare back from dozens of tiny cuts. In her hand was a small scourge. She struggled to suppress a whimper with each crack of the scourge. Mark had seen other monks perform corporal mortification during his time at the abbey, but he could hardly believe Teresa was doing it. Quietly approaching her from behind, he grasped her wrist before she could land another blow.
Teresa squeaked like a mouse whose tail had been stepped on the moment she felt him take hold of her arm. Looking at him in shock, she covered herself with her free arm. Tears streamed down her blushing cheeks.
"Mark, w-what are you doing here?"
"That's what I should be asking you," Mark replied. "Why are you doing this to yourself?"
Teresa turned her head away from him. "Today... When my shame was exposed to everyone... To be exposed in the company of men..."
"That's no reason to do this sort of thing," Mark said. "I was embarrassed by it, too, but it was done to save our lives. It wouldn't have been so bad if they had separated the men from the women, but maybe the people of Niflheim don't feel the same way."
Teresa continued to sob. "That a man exposed me and lay with me..."
"They didn't mean it that way. They just used the warmth of their bodies to save us. Think of King David and Abishag. You remember that story, don't you?"
Teresa nodded slightly, but did not seem to take any comfort from his words.
"I should've repented sooner," she sobbed. "My heart was still black with sin... That's why Master Felix died..."
"That wasn't your fault," Mark insisted. "That was a mortal wound. You tried as hard as you could. No one expects anything more out of you."
"God does," she replied.
Mark shook his head. "No, Teresa, God doesn't ask the impossible of His children. He expects you to do what you can and trust in Him to take care of the rest. You haven't done anything wrong and even if you had, you don't seek penitence like this."
Mark pulled the scourge from Teresa's hand and threw away. Teresa gave a soft cry as she watched it disappear into the night. Mark let go of her wrist and looked at her with eyes full of compassion.
"If you repent from the heart, that's enough. Don't do this to your body anymore."
Teresa nodded weakly. Mark smiled.
"Now, let me tend to those wounds."
The blush returned to Teresa's cheeks. "N-no, I can do it myself..."
"Please let me do it," Mark said. "It'll be too hard for you to dress the wounds yourself. After all you've done for me, it's the least I can do."
"If you insist..." she said with a sigh.
Mark picked up her medicine pouch and peered inside.
"Which one has the salve you use?"
"It's the short round jar," she replied.
Finding the jar he was looking for, he sat down behind Teresa and took off his gloves. He bathed her wounds from his own waterskin and spread the salve over her back. He then pulled out a spool of bandages and began to wrap her up, deferring to her modesty by letting Teresa bring the bandage around the front. When he was finished, he returned what was left to her pouch and stood up.
"Get dressed and hurry back to camp," he said. "I'll go on ahead."
"Mark..." Teresa trailed. "Thank you."
"I owe you my life, sister. I only wish I could do more."
From the bottom of his heart, Mark hoped he had tended more that just her fleshly wounds. Teresa's self-doubt was clear from the first day they met, but he never realized how far it went. Stefan had brought his own guilt and self-doubt to the fore. It was clear that he had to overcome such snares and live as an example to timid souls like Teresa.
Yes, Byrn was lost, but there was nothing he could have done if he had stayed. If he could save other lands from sharing Byrn's fate, he would serve the greater good. As bloodthirsty as the Marauders were, they could not have killed everyone in the kingdom. There was still hope for Byrn, a future waiting in the wings. If he could create a world free of Randwulf's tyranny, that future would have a chance to flourish. It was his duty, his penance.
As the new resolve crystallized inside him, a familiar voice spoke in his head.
It is one of the things I love about you, my dear Mark. You find strength in your compassion. Your doubts clear and you approach your destiny. I have been waiting a long time for this. Soon your heart will be ready for the confrontation with Randwulf. Stay strong and do not stray from the path before you.
"I've missed talking to you," Mark said. "You had me worried."
I am sorry, but I would have been a distraction to you. You needed to focus and look where it has gotten you. You have succeeded your father and soon you will finish his work. The new world is at hand.
"You're always so vague. I know you've seen it, so what is this new world?"
You know I cannot tell you. The future must be made.
"Okay, I guess I'll have to accept that. Are you alright?"
Body and mind are sound. This spell is more of a nuisance than anything else. Part of me wishes your compassion had not stayed our hand back at Pandemonium. That Brenok will only cause more pain before the end.
"Maybe I'm just naive like Edward says, but I couldn't kill someone in cold blood, not even a monster like Brenok."
I know. It would be a greater loss if that compassion left you. Still, an existence like Brenok's is a blight on this world. Until I can undo his spell, I need you to protect my body. The threat is not great, but I will be able to devote more of my energy to freeing myself if I know you are watching over me.
"Is Stefan not enough?"
Stefan is devoted, but yours is the truer heart. Please, whatever happens, do not bear him any ill will. The fires of his passion burn all too hotly. Unlike you, he does not have the strength to conquer himself. Forgive him.
"I wonder if Stefan will ever forgive me."
The silence that followed was hardly encouraging. For Catherine to be at a loss for words spoke volumes. Was it really that hopeless?
Not all hope is lost. Give it time.
She was clearly trying to soften the truth without resorting to white lies, but it did nothing to change the way things were. Stefan needed to overcome his bitterness for his own sake and Mark intended to help. Even if Catherine had told him there was no hope at all, it would not stop him from trying.
I must go now, Catherine interrupted. I cannot afford to tax my powers in this state. I will contact you again when I can. Take care, my knight.
Hearing Catherine's voice again after so long was the one bright spot in that dark day. Without Felix to guide them, it was up to Mark to bring the group back home to Gladius and settle things with Randwulf once and for all. The appearance of Brenok and his two companions showed that there were powerful forces working against them, but with Catherine and the grey wizard Felix spoke of with his dying breath, they had powerful allies as well.