The story is set just after the end of the Second World War, with the action split between our own world and the mysterious world of Lyndesfarne. In Lyndesfarne, everyday technology from our own world simply fails to work, but a society every bit as sophisticated as our own is supported by pervasive magic.
Disclaimer: The world of Lyndesfarne described in these books is entirely fictitious, and bears no resemblance to the charming Holy Island of Lindisfarne in North East England.
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Tom, together with his companions Alistair and Bram have just been released from active military service in Europe at the end ofthe Second World War. Neither Tom nor Alistair have any close family, and are uncertain where their future lies. After discharging some personal committments in and around London, the three friends meet up in a pub under the arches near King's Cross railway station, then catch a train north to Berwick-on-Tweed. Having decided to seek farm work for the summer, they sleep in a carriage compartment that 'Lucky' Bram had managed to locate for them.
Tom thinks back to the time that he and Alistair had first met Bram. At the time, Tom and Alistair were on active service in Normandy, a battleground in that maze of hedgerows known as 'bocage'. Bram had suddenly appeared, as if by magic, in the middle of a moonlit field, standing unconcernedly and jotting in his notebook.
Bram is shot at and wounded by an enemy sniper and Tom and Alistair bravely risk their own life to rescue him. After Bram recovers, he seeks out Tom and Alistair to thank them, and the three men become companions and friends.
Tom, Alistair and Bram arrive in Berwick and seek out a cafe for breakfast. In the cafe, they meet a farmer, John Smith, who offers them employment at Holme Farm, not far from the crossing to Lyndesfarne.
The companions arrive at Holme Farm, where Farmer John's wife Edna organises suitable working clothing for the young men. The three men rapidly settle to the farm labouring.
A story that Alistair tells to Tom and Bram when they are in barracks in Berlin. The story concerns Alistair's Grandfather who undertakes a series of perilous trading journeys in Siberia. On the last trip, he is turned back for unexplained reasons, and later witnesses a huge explosion in the sky.
The three young men take lunch in the Crossed Keys public house, where they are unexpectedly approached by a mysterious Irish Lady, who asserts that she has two meesages for them. The first message enigmatically suggests that the lives of the three men will continue to be closely intertwined.
The Irish Mystic's second message is a tale of old Ireland, and the crossings and pathways that used to be present leading to the land of Faerie. Her story describes magical beings at war in our world.
Her tale concludes with a heroic mission to warn both of the warring factions of the presence of an invader - Oliver Cromwell - the squabbling between the factions from the Other World, and the rapid, forced and explosive closure of all of the crossings in Ireland.
After the harvest at Holme Farm, Bram invites Tom and Alistair to join him on a visit to his family, on the 'island' of Lyndesfarne. They use St. Cuthbert's Way, a hidden track through the countryside, and get their first view of the stone causeway and the Old Bridge. The also gain their first sight of Lyndesfarne castle.
One evening, Tom and Alistair, not on this occasion accompanied by Bram, visit the Ship and Anchor. There, they encounter a badly-wounded gunner, who tells them a story of some strangers who visited his battery during the War, and added magical sprites to the shells, so that they would not miss their target.
In the company of Bram, Tom and Alistair enter the world of Lyndesfarne for the first time. Bram changes money at the tiny tented market just before the crossing. Tom and Alistair get their first sight of the communciations tower before crossing the causeway and the Old Bridge.
Also, while digging ditches around the farm, Alistair uncovers a stoneware box containing a strange pendant. Bram suggests that he keep his find, and Alistair resolves to renovate both box and necklace.
Tom, Alistair and Bram arrive in Lyndesfarne and make their way to the Dragon's Nest public house. There, they enjoy a pleasant meal and several pints of beer before Tom spots the head of a dragon stuffed and mounted over the fireplace. They make the acquaintance of Old Ged the Dragonhunter.
Over a pint of beer, Old Ged the Dragonhunter tells Tom, Alistair and Bram tales of hunting dragons, with nets and crossbows and magic, and using piglets as bait. They also learn of smaller, domesticated dragons, including Nightwings, as well as appreciating the virtues of the Lyndesfarne preference for underground living.
The following morning, the three companions continue their journey on foot through country roads and well-tilled farmland, finally arriving at Bram's family home. Tom and Alistair are introduced to Bram's mother, Yellez, and his father Briz, as well as Bram's sister Yise.
Tom recalls his family, growing up with his Granny in Long Benton in Tyneside. He was taught about the care and maintenance of motor vehicles by his 'Uncle' George. He remembers being told by Granny about the strange disappearance of his parents (Brad and Lizzie (Elizabeth)) when he was a tiny child.
Tom and his companions are treated to a wonderful lunch by Yellez. He also meets Bram's uncle Hamet, who he immediately dislikes, as well as Hamet's wife Preda, who seemed permanently distracted. After lunch, Tom volunteers to help in the garden, while Alistair assists Yise in the stables.
That evening, Tom, Alistair and Bram are invited to join Briz in his study. Bram and Briz explain about the Two Worlds and the barrier located at the exact centre of the Old Bridge. They explain that machinery does not work in Lyndesfarne, and that magic is used everywhere instead.
Briz then explains about the importance of safeguarding the crossing as well as the secret of the Two Worlds. He explains that, when a crossing was severely threatened, then it has been to close the crossing permanently. Apparently, this is happened many times in the past, and Briz confirms the underlying truth of the Faerie tales told by the Irish Mystic and the story Alistair related from his grandfather.
Finally, Briz invites Tom and Alistair to join the Guardians; they both accept immediately.
The following morning, Tom, Alistair and Bram return to the Other World, driven by Hamet. At the crossing, Tom and Alistair are introduced to a few of the Guardians, including Fred and Duty Warden Arden.
Again travelling along St. Cuthbert's Way, the three companions return to Holme Farm. There, they pack their belongings and take their leave of Farmer John and his wife Edna. They are collected by truck and driven to the Reserve Defence Training Establishment (RDTE) based at Cliviger Grange. Before they arrive, Bram suddenly departs.
Tom and Alistair undergo training at the Reserve Defence Training Establishment (RDTE) based at Cliviger Grange. They attend classes in magic and its control using gestures. They learn the basics of the written and spoken language of Lyndesfarne, which Alistair finds partiuclarly easy. Because of his inreasing fluency, Alistair is offered a place in the Travellers Guidance Group, also known as the Guides.
The two men also receive more military training, including use of weapons (at which Tom excels) and unarmed combat (taught by Mister Giles). They also get to know the comrades at the Grange, including the cousins Stan and Charlie, the amazonian Sophia, bright and bubbly Marjorie and little Ifor from Wales.
Trainees are also expected to undertake supervised duty at the causeway. For this, Tom is accompanied by Fred, who appears to acting as a kind of mentor to the younger man. Tom first catches sight of a Watcher.
On duty at the causeway, Tom receives further instruction from Fred in dealing with unexpected Visitors from Lyndesfarne, as well as attempted smuggling and drunks. He also has his first exposure to the Official Messengers.
Tom and Alistair, together with others from their intake at Cliviger Grange, are guided on their first official visit to Lyndesfarne and the School for Guardians. The group is guided by Sergeant Brasham of the Reserve Defence Training Establishment.
The party is transported by trucks to the crossing, march across the causeway and the bridge, then use a portal to the Guardian School. They are welcomed by Warden Acris, while Tom wonders about the magical windows which allow daylight into lower floors.
While undertaking springtime chores outside Cliviger Grange, Tom skives off to re-establish his acquaintance with Edgar, the garage foreman. Later, Tom wanders idly along little-used pathways behind the stables and garage blocks, and chances upon a furtive meeting between Major Markham and Bram's uncle Hamet.
On a trip from Cliviger Grange, Tom, Alistair and the other trainees are guided on a visit to the communications tower on the coast near to the causeway. Unusually, the group is escorted by Major Markham himself. The tower is used to send and receive messages across the straights, encoded as flashes of light using an Aldis Lamp.
Later, during their trip to the School for Guardians, Sergeant Brasham guides the trainees on a tour of the corresponding tower on the Lyndesfarne coast. Tom is impressed by the use of magic slates for onward communications.
Tom has now graduated from the Reserve Defence Training Establishment at Cliviger Grange, and is now a propationary member of the Guardians. Alistair has left the Grange to further his life in the Guides.
One day, Tom is on duty at the crossing when Police Constable Percival Nelson appears on his bicycle. Later on, Tom cadges an early lift back to the Grange in a truck, and spots Nelson's bicycle - and his dead body. He returns at speed to the causeway to warn the Guardians. Suddenly, three armed motorcyclists carrying explosives roar through the guard post. Tom manages to bring down the leader with a rifle shot, and Ifor and the others quickly overwhelm the riders before they can detonate the explosives.
Tom is patrolling the coastline to the south of the crossing, again in the company of Fred. Fred tells the other man the truth behind the story of Grace Darling's daring rescue of the crew of the Forfarshire. The rescuers were actually members of the Lyndesfarne Guardian force, and their names were actually Graz and Farrar. Both recuers were in fact women, but Farrar was able to shapeshift before they crossed the barrier.
Tom is on leave for a few days. He is unable to catch up with either Alistair or Bram. He decides to walk over to Lyndesfarne and once again stay overnight in the Dragon's Nest pub. On the way, he stops off at the old castle which is just visible across the straights.
Tom has dinner in the Dragon's Nest public house. He again encounters Old Ged, the dragon hunter he and his companions met last year. Ged tells Tom about a new group of dragon hunters that has just been established, who decline the offer of Ged's services. Annoyed, Ged follows the hunters secretly, and observes them capturing dragons alive, caging them carefully and, he suspects, transporting them via secret portals.
Tom's warning is just in time. A flight of starving dragons follows a panicking herd of pigs who have somehow been allowed to get onto the causeway. Tom manages to start the cranky old engine which powers the fire pumps, and he, together with Fred, Ifor and the other Guardians beat the dragons (who hate water) back with powerful water jets.
One wet evening at Cliviger Grange, Fred tells Tom, Ifor and the other trainees a story from the War, of an attempted infiltration of the crossing by German troops. The attack was repulsed, with losses, and Fred himself was wounded. The objectives of the mission remained unclear, especially since no explosives were recovered.
Tom takes summertime leave. He has continued a correspondence with both Alistair and Bram, and the three young men decide to congregate at Bram's family home again. Tom expects to have to walk from the crossing alone but, when he leaves the causeway on the Lyndesfarne cost, he is unexpectedly joined by Alistair. Alistair shows off the knowledge of the portal network he has gained in the Guides and rapidly directs Tom through a sequence of portals to one close to Bram's house.
On the way to Bram's family home, Alistair tells Tom of a strange sequence of events. On his very first unaccompanied engagement as a Guide, Alistair's Visitor, a VIP from the Board of Control called Tarm, is collected from Bram's house after a meeting with Hamet. He is then escorted to the Other World, where he meets secretly with Markham in the Crossed Keys public house in Alnwick. Shortly afterwards, Tarm disappears.
Tom and Alistair are interviewed by a tired-looked Bram and his father, Briz. While Yellez serves them all chocolate, Tom retells the story of the motorcycle attack and the dragon invasion. Tom learns that Bram's uncle Hamet has disappeared, and that his wife Preda is understandably worried.
Briz explains the circumstances of Hamet's disappearance, which appears to have utilised a long-defunct portal. Tom repeats Old Ged's gossip about hidden portals being re-opened. They realise that Hamet's position in the Board of Control might have enabled him to steal information which would allow portals to be re-opened easily.
Alistair repeats to Briz his story about Tarm meeting with Hamet and later meeting with Major Markham, and reports that Tarm, too, has gone missing. Finally, Tom repeats his story about seeing Hamet meeting in secret with Markham.
Briz delegates Bram to travel to Cliviger Grange to interview Major Markham, and Tom and Alistair volunteer to accompany him. Bram disguises himself as a Messenger and they return by portal to the crossing in a worried state of mind.
The Guardians on either end of the causeway, including Fred and Ifor, have seen nothing unusual, but are noticably more alert when the three companions leave. Using Messenger privileges, they commandeer a staff car from Oliver. Tom drives, having previously learned from his 'Uncle' George and Edgar.
On arrival at the Grange, the companions make their way to Warden Markham's office, and are surprised to find Duty Warden Arden sitting at the desk. Arden reports that Markham left unexpectedly just a few minutes ago.
Tom remembers the evening at Cliviger Grange before the graduation as Guardians. Tom, together with Ifor and Sophia, will be policing the crossing, while Alistair will be joining the Guides. Stan and Charlie will be joining the Guild of Directions as interpreters, while Marjorie will be attached to a mysterious intelligence organisation based at the Grange.
Bram, together with Tom and Alistair, prepare to leave Cliviger Grange. On the way out, they encounter Sergeant Brasham, who recognises Bram. Brasham admits he has been watching Major Markham, as well as admitting that he was the other person watching the secret meeting between Hamet and Markham. Tom begins to suspect that Brasham is a member of the Watchers.
Prompted by Bram, Alistair recalls the strange pendant that he had dug up when working on Holme Farm, which he suspects contains a magical sprite - a Finder. Alistair has left this item in the care of Tom, who volunteers to retrieve it from his locker.
Tom thinks back to a historical tale that he and Alistair were told by Briz on their first acquaintance. It concerns the political situation around the crossing from Siberia to Agrea, the crossing that Alistair's grandfather had used, and was later destroyed in a vast explosion.
Bris explains that the political situation between the Bolsheviks and the Imperials was so tense that many groups in the world of Lyndesfarne wanted the Agrea crossing closed. Agrea disagreed, wishing to retain the political and economic benefits that the crossing enabled. Lyndeafarne and other countries engage in covert military action, culmenating in the explosive closure of the Agrea crossing.
Tom spots a mystery man be believes to be Hamet emerging from a caravan near the crossing. The stranger sneaks behind the Guardians who are distracted by a battle on the opposite shore of the straights. Followed by Tom, the other man makes his way to the communications tower where, using a magical weapon, he disables the Guardians on duty.
Tom bravely alerts the other Guardians, then tackles the mystery man, who is in fact Hamet. He is trying to operate the emergency magic that destroys the crossing. During the struggle, Tom falls from the tower.
Tom has a strange, lucid dream while unconcious from his fall. He dreams of his childhood with Granny, and a visit from his supposedly-missing parents Lizzie and Brad. They explain a little of why they were forced to abandon young Tom and go into hiding.
Tom wakes in hospital, injured but safe, accompanied by an anxious Bram. Tom's heroic action on the communications tower alerted the Guardians and prevented the crossing from being destroyed. Hamet was killed in the struggle, and Tarm and Major Markham have been apprehended.
While recuperating, Tom has many visitors. Fred is to succeed Markham as Warden of Cliviger Grange. Alistair and Yise visit to announce their engagement, and to ask Tom to be their Best Man. Tom's colleagues (Ifor, Sophia, Marjorie, Stan and Charlie) from the Grange visit to extend their good wishes and to hear his story first-hand.
While Tom recuperates at Cliviger Grange, he has several further visitors including Sergeant Brasham, who makes it clear that Tom must keep his speculations about Brasham's membership of the Watchers to himself. He is also visited by Old Ged and the aloof Irish Mystic.
He is also visited by Briz, to whom Tom tells of his strange dream about his parents. Bris delegates Bram to find out everything he can about Tom's missing parents Lizzie and Brad. Later, Bram reports his findings - that he and Tom are distant relatives. More importantly, he informs Tom that Major Markham himself was instrumental in Brad and Lizzie's disappearance.
Bram believes that Tom's parents may still be alive, perhaps in some distant part of Tom's world. Bram presents Tom with the Finder that Alistair found, with instructions to use it to track down his family.
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