The False One
Three hundred years after they were betrayed and burnt at the stake a coven of witches begin to exact their revenge.
Richard Harbridge has just become Prime Minister and has raised his family name to the pinnacle of its status. In doing so he has unwittingly unleashed a chain of events that will threaten to destroy his political career.
Professor Stephen Brightside has recently discovered a rare set of Anglo Saxon manuscripts. What he uncovers as he translates the secrets locked away in the documents is terrifying and unbelievable.
Counter terrorism agent Carmichael starts what he thinks is just another routine assignment. He has no idea that he is about to face a terror that has lain dormant for three centuries but is now waking and is hungry for retribution.
Stephen Brightside dreamed about the boy again. He had been having these dreams for over ten years and they always began the same way.
Stephen was in a meadow. The ground underfoot was soft and wet and there was running water nearby. Stephen couldn’t see it though, because his field of vision was limited to about twenty feet in any direction. Beyond that the world was hidden behind a blurry haze.
A small figure emerged from the haze. The boy was dressed in a rough spun smock that looked to have been handed down from someone much larger. The boy approached fearlessly and spoke in a language that had been dead for over a thousand years.
“Welcome stranger. Are you a Viking?”
“No,” Stephen replied. “I am just a visitor from afar.”
“Good. I have been waiting for you. Come, let us talk.”
The boy turned away and Stephen followed. The haze opened up ahead and closed in behind so that Stephen’s dream world only ever existed for a hand full of yards around him. The man and the boy talked and the man learned.
It was this learning that had made Professor Stephen Brightside the country’s foremost authority on the Anglo Saxon language.
Stephen suddenly snapped awake, woken by one of his extensive collection of Derby Beer Festival mugs slipping from his sleeping fingers and thudding onto the bare floorboards of his apartment. Fortunately, the mug had been drained several hours earlier while Stephen had attempted to watch the unfolding of the general election results.
Stephen yawned. He had tried his best to keep up with the election results but had failed miserably, falling asleep when boredom overtook him. Not that Stephen cared who won. He hadn’t bothered to vote and had only watched the results programme because there was nothing else on television.
He climbed out of his battered old armchair and shuffled barefoot across the moon washed floorboards to turn the television off. He had a revision lecture for the hopeless and the frantic to deliver in the morning and really needed a few more hours of sleep.
Stephen glanced down at the ancient document on the floor by his chair and winced. There was ash peppered all over it. The manuscript was part of an important archaeological find that Stephen had discovered on the banks of the River Trent, south of Derby where Stephen lived and worked. No-one, not even Stephen was supposed to take any of the artefacts out of the university and if he had inadvertently damaged it his life wouldn’t be worth living. Stephen carefully picked up the manuscript. He took the document, together with the remnants of the joint he had smoked earlier in the evening, over to the window. He flicked the joint out of the window to the street, three floors below. He then blew the ash into the air. Such debris on the streets would come as no surprise in this part of the city – and no-one would ever suspect that the source of the joint would be the professor’s apartment. Stephen checked the ancient document for burn marks and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that it was undamaged.
Stephen shuffled back across the lounge floor towards his bedroom. Cleo, an English Blue house cat, slit her eyes to watch her housemate.
“Don’t pretend to be sleeping,” Stephen chuckled. “I know you’ve been listening to the election coverage.” He scratched the back of the cat’s ear. “What do you think of our new Prime Minister?”
The cat’s purring suddenly stopped and she gave Stephen a disdainful look.
“Hmm. A shrewd political commentator, as usual,” mused Stephen. “Not a good choice for the country. Maybe we should consider a spell abroad. Three or four years should cover it. I can’t see this clown staying in office for a full term.”
Cleo didn’t look too impressed either. Whether it was the prospect of the new Prime Minister or a move away, Stephen had no way of knowing and the cat wouldn’t say.
Cleo had arrived when a girlfriend had moved in with Stephen. It had been an ill fated pairing and the already tottering relationship had quickly crumbled. When the girl moved out she left the cat behind. Stephen had realised that he liked Cleo more than he had his ex-girlfriend, so the cat stayed.
Stephen ruffled the cat’s head once more then went to grab a couple of hours sleep.
A dozen or so miles away, in a graveyard on the top of a lonely hill, the ground gently shook. It was only a mild tremor and it didn’t disturb the sleeping residents in the village of Wymeshall, at the foot of the hill. The tremor was strong enough to loosen plant pots on some graves though, and topple those that were already precariously balanced. It was strong enough to crack the base of a tomb, set away from the graveyard, in the centre of an ancient stone circle. The ground shook again and a piece of the tomb wall fell away.
In the moonlight all that could be seen was a dark opening, darker than the night surrounding it. Buried beneath the bottom of the tomb something stirred. Bones that had lain in restless wait for three centuries moved.
“Richard, we need to set off for London. You should be at party headquarters when the result is formally announced.” Elizabeth Bennett said.
Richard Harbridge glanced up from his laptop where he had been watching the election results unfold, seat by seat. He had long ago abandoned the television coverage. The fawning of the BBC commentators had sickened him. The other channels had been no better.
“Yes, of course,” he replied to his election campaign manager. “It’s the right thing to do. Just give me a moment would you please?”
Elizabeth knew that to be an order and not a request. She smiled as subserviently as she could manage and retreated from the study. Elizabeth breathed a sigh of relief when she closed the door behind her. Richard was insufferable at the best of times, especially when he was between her legs. It always amused her though, how such an imposing man could have such a tiny cock. Now, if the results carried on the way they were, his ego would give him a permanent hard on. The man would be impossible to be around. Elizabeth would need to find a new job, well away from the cabinet office.
Richard Harbridge closed down his laptop and rose from his desk. The sun was threatening to climb over the horizon of the Oxfordshire countryside. It would be almost fully light by the time he reached central London. It was going to be a long and trying, but glorious, day.
Harbridge crossed the study to a bookcase that filled the wall. He pulled out a copy of the collected works of Euripides and pressed a button in the back panel of the bookcase. There was a soft click and a small section of bookcase swung outwards. Richard pulled the panel fully open to reveal a safe built into the wall of the study. He keyed in the combination then held his left thumb against a scanner. A pale blue light traversed up and down the digit. After a short pause the locking mechanism in the safe whirred into life and the indicator light on the door changed from red to green. Harbridge swung the door of the safe open. Inside was an old, box file.
He picked up the file and returned to his desk. He opened the lid and gently withdrew most of the contents of the file and set them on the desk. He was careful to avoid contact with the document in the bottom of the file. It was made of a strange material that was unpleasant to touch. On the rare occasions that Harbridge had handled the document he had always felt soiled and physically sick afterwards. He couldn’t understand a word that was written on the damn thing anyway, so always tried to leave it in the box file.
The contents of the file were legal in nature, but would never carry in a modern day court. They still held enormous power though. They were a covenant that had been crucial to the rise and position of the Harbridge family for hundreds of years and would continue to be so for generations to come. That said, the covenant was secret, even within the family. It was only shared with the first born of the line, and then only when that person achieved the age of majority. At that time the importance of the documents were hammered home, leaving the bearer in no doubt of the power that the documents carried.
Harbridge scanned over the Latin wording of the covenant, and its more up to date English translation, several times, even though he knew both documents off by heart. He had carried out his part of the deal and it looked as if the sacrifice he had made was about to be repaid. He returned the delicate documents to the box file and closed the lid. He couldn’t understand why his family hadn’t invoked the covenant to better effect before. They had always been conservative with what they asked for and had danced around the edges of its power for over three centuries, as if fearful of fully unleashing it. Now, finally, Richard Harbridge had used the gift bestowed upon his family name to elevate the Harbridges to where they truly belonged.
The false panel in the bookcase had just closed and hidden the secret safe when there was a faint knock on the door. Harbridge moved quickly away from the bookcase before the door opened.
“I’m sorry to disturb you Richard, but the car will be here in five minutes,” Elizabeth whispered.
Harbridge smiled. “That just gives me time to put on a fresh shirt and tie.”
He wondered if it also gave him enough time to take Elizabeth across his huge antique writing desk. She was becoming tiresome to have around but still performed admirably beneath him. Elizabeth didn’t give him the time to indulge himself though. She flashed him a dead eyed smile and left the room.
Less than three minutes later Richard Harbridge was standing in the lounge of the rambling thatched cottage that had been the Harbridge family home for almost three hundred years, ever since they had moved down from a quiet back water of rural Derbyshire. He was accompanied by two plain clothes police officers. Elizabeth Bennett kept a discrete distance.
Richard’s wife, Amanda, came into the lounge. Their two young children, who should have been in bed hours ago, stood in the doorway. From the looks on their faces, excitement was going to keep the children awake for the rest of the night. Richard smiled at them with the kind of cold detachment he used on journalists and opposition MPs. Amanda fussed over his tie and made a few adjustments to his mane of thick dark hair. Harbridge slapped her hand away.
A couple of cars crunched the gravel outside the cottage. Harbridge pulled the curtains to one side to be met by the flashes of cameras through the shrinking gap of the heavy wooden gates as they slid closed.
“Keep the twins off school today,” he instructed Amanda. “We don’t want them to be subjected to too much press attention.”
Amanda nodded her compliance and the twins looked positively pleased at the idea of an impromptu day off school. Amanda knew what her husband meant. This was his day and he didn’t want his thunder being stolen by his family.
“Time to go.” Harbridge lightly brushed his lips across his wife’s cheek then moved into the hallway, completely ignoring his daughters. One of the police officers put his hand on the door and turned to wait for Harbridge to say that he was ready. Harbridge stood for a moment. He had to give the right impression to everyone around him now. He took a deep breath and nodded his head. The officer opened the front door and Britain’s new Prime Minister stepped outside.