The metal had weakened; time and the elements had clawed at the very fabric of its twisted links. The chain now hung slack against the huge rings that held it in place. The gates strained against the dulled silver metal as what lay behind them tested the strength of the barrier that held it in check. Three men stood on the top most steps hard against the gates; they too bore the marks of time. Each head was greyed limps not as strong as they were in youth, but each pair of eyes bright and sure. Each ones heart true to the burden that had been placed there when their predecessors had called them to this duty. The smallest of the three sighed and stepped forward, his boot heels crunching in the mound of dusty leaves blown against the gate. He placed a hand on the tarnished links, a limb more used to the turning the pages of books than the tasks that now lay ahead of it “So it's a matter of when, not if?” “Aye and it has already sought to strike at us through this small opening.” The tall regal man agreed running his own hand down the gaping gates. The fingers of his clawed right hand broke the light battering its way out of the opening in the huge ornately carved metal barrier. He pulled away the arm easing the silk glove covering his deformity down over his wrist. The large sword in his scabbard hissed at the presence of the enemy it had been forged to fight against. He placed his right hand on the hilt and the blade quietened. His ice blue eyes softened with compassion as he looked at their third member. The man straightened his bowed back as much as he could. A lifetime of striking metal on metal had stooped his shoulders. But that did not mean that he could not shoulder his part of the burden. In fact it was at him that the force behind the gates had struck, knowing that only one of his calling could replace the chain that held the gate closed. “Will we have enough time?” He asked softly, his callused hand running down the intricate plait of his now thinning hair. The grey wisps were woven from the temple up and across his crown, down to the nape of his neck.” I must have time. Choose carefully, no mistakes. No mistake this time…” His head came down, the grief of what had lately happened drawn large on his features. “You did last time man do not chastise yourself. Karl was a master, all thought highly of him he hid his true nature well” The smaller man placed his hand on his companion’s arm his grey eyes full of sorrow. He too had been won over by Karl’s charmed and honeyed tongue. The man had seemed the perfect choice for a mate. “But she knew… she tried to tell me so many times. But I didn't listen, not until it was too late.” His thickened fingers came up and brushed away the glistening tear off his lined cheek. “But you acted swiftly once you realised. The child is unharmed, yes?” The regal man asked straightening his well-cut tunic under his thick cloak. “Aye safe and I shall not let her out of my sight until I am sure. There are a few promising men. But I need time. Both to watch them and manoeuvre their training in a way that will not be noticed.” The man nodded his head with each word, his grey plait bouncing on his back. It was as if he had to confirm each thing he said to himself. “I too need time.” The clawed handed man said, “time to train men and horses. Some of the Lords and hopefully King Ferdinand will listen to me, but others.” He shook his head. “By my mother's bones, they will not take notice until the enemy are knocking at their door.” “You're not the only ones that need time. Spell twisters do not walk openly among others any more. There have been too many burnings and hangings. Most have gone to ground, finding them and convincing them of the danger?” The five-foot scholar shrugged his slight shoulders. “Sometimes I feel it's behind that as much as what happened to your daughter.” He shook his grey bearded face; the young woman's untimely death had affected them all. It had been a blow they could ill afford. For the chain could not be repaired where it stood, those that had originally forged the chain had fitted it to the gate in such away that to mend it you would have to remove it. Thus letting into the world what the gates and chain had been made to keep out. There was only one way the task could be done. The same way it had been done two thousand years ago. First they had to find enough of the rare metal arian and forge a new chain, then carefully remove the old one and fit its replacement. The bright rare blue silver metal bonded in place by a spell twister’s magic, a sword and three true hearts. But all of the men knew that would not be the end of it, not at all. The evil that had poured through while the gates were open would have to be fought and defeated. Thrown back to the pit of hell it had clawed its way out of. Each member of the small group that made their way down the blighted shore knew in their hearts their people would endure years of war. The question upper most in each ones mind was how long had they to prepare for it? Also what would happen if the chain broke before they were ready?