Jerusalem_dome_of_rock_2_1880Stephen walked towards his father. At that moment all the other figures, all the politics, all the history disappeared from his conscious mind. All he knew was that his father was here and he desperately needed him.

“My son!”

“Oh Father, how I have missed you!”

They embraced, and for a long time they said nothing at all. Words would have been a distraction. And so they walked away and mounted their horses and left the details in the hands of Sir Thomas and the company.

Some days later Werwick was drawn up from the cistern and taken with them back to Akko. There he was tried in public and executed for his crimes. So much of the struggle had been conducted in the fear that open moves to restore Henry would trigger wars and civil unrest. The power of the Marridans and Werwick’s faction had been feared in Akko, and at home the schemes of Abbot Hebert and the struggle for succession had caused murders and battles.

Finally Sir Thomas was going home. He had been on pilgrimage to the Holy City itself, and now he felt he could return to Izzy with a sense of peace. Whatever happened in Anglia, he knew he would put his wife and child first, and he trusted God to get him home in time for the birth.

For Stephen and Henry the future was still uncertain. Stephen had accepted his position as Cardinal of the Great Holiness. In the coming months he would be ordained as deacon, then priest, then bishop. No one doubted his theological credentials and the sincerity of his walk with the Lord, and he had faithful priests to guide him and lead him in ministry to serve his community. Father Celestine would never be far from him. But he realised that this post would forever remove him from the Anglian throne. It was a life-long commitment, and celibacy meant he would never father a successor.

Henry, once he had been briefed on the developments since his abduction, was left to consider what land would receive him now. Over time he came to terms with Isolde as his successor. He trusted Sir Thomas and his report of her good character. Abbot Herbert would be sent to the Marridan Empire, which would hopefully keep him from polluting royal councils, and he believed Isolde would stand up to her mother. But should Henry return home to Anglia or continue to fight in the Holy Land? He was still King, and in theory he could dissolve the acts that had been passed in his absence.

Civil war was not what Anglia needed, however. He had been an absentee monarch and Stephen’s presence reminded him of the fact that he had left his own son and daughter behind to fight this ‘Holy War’. From a certain angle, he had no right to return and claim the direct kingship he had failed to exercise in years past. Instead, he resolved to stay in Akko and draw up a framework that would invest Isolde with true political power, while maintaining his own right to troops for the fight to reclaim the Holy City. This would of course infuriate the Marridans, and that is what sparked this whole disaster in the first place; but the struggle that had taken place since his abduction served as proof that the Anglians could not be so easily manipulated and broken: they were tough as old roots, and as cunning as their native foxes.

Would Isolde like to continue? 😛