"The Children's Crusade: Part 1": The small rural British town of Flaxdown has suffered the loss of nearly 40 children. Many theorized that the parents of the village had killed their children and buried them in shallow graves. Others believed that it was a mass kidnapping by terrori
- How can it be a distraction and a clue? Doesn't it have to be one or the other? And if it's a clue, then the children you saw must be pretty important. Maybe they've been kidnapped too.
- -- Edwin Paine
Appearing in "The Children's Crusade: Part 1"
- Avril Mitchell
- Jumping Joan
- Maxine Baker (In dream sequence only)
- Tim Hunter (In dream sequence only)
- Suzy Linden (In dream sequence only)
- Tefé Holland (In dream sequence only)
- Dorothy Spinner (In dream sequence only)
- Aiken Drum
- The Pied Piper
Synopsis for "The Children's Crusade: Part 1"
The small rural British town of Flaxdown has suffered the loss of nearly 40 children. Many theorized that the parents of the village had killed their children and buried them in shallow graves. Others believed that it was a mass kidnapping by terrorists. However, despite the massive loss to the town's citizens, the story died down, and the case was left unsolved.
In London, young Avril Mitchell discovers a flyer advertising for Rowland & Pain, Private Detectives. With disbelief, she seeks out the address, and marvels that the flyer and sign outside the door are both full of spelling errors. She knocks on the door, and is greeted by Charles Rowland, who introduces her to his partner Edwin Paine. Despite her doubts that they are real detectives, and despite Charles' reassurances, Avril explains her case.
Avril comes from Flaxdown, and would like the boys to determine where her brother Oliver has gone. Avril herself narrowly escaped disappearing, having been in London when the other children disappeared. She demands that the find Oliver, with little regard for the other missing children. While she has no idea what happened to the children, Avril suspects that a foreign boy named Wat had something to do with it. The boys agree to take the case for £10. Edwin believes that if they go back to Flaxdown, they will be able to find clues that the police missed. He believes this for three reasons: the police always miss something, kids can go places that grown-ups can't, and he and Charles are dead - which must count for something.
In a parallel with the case of the missing children in Flaxdown, there is the story of the Children's Crusade. In 1212, a man posing as a monk convinced the people of Europe to send their children on a crusade to the Holy Land - an army of innocents. He convinced them that sending innocents would assure victory. Nearly 50,000 children were sent on ships, but the ships did not sail for Jerusalem. A storm destroyed 98 of the 100 ships, and the two remaining ships and the 800 surviving children were sold into slavery in Morocco, and then distributed around the world.
Charles and Edwin travel to Flaxdown, and begin their investigation with Flaxdown Manor. Inside, Edwin discovers a toy spinning top, and keeps it as a clue. Soon after, he notices a strange set of words written on a mirror: J-Hinx Minx. Later, they discover a playhouse built behind the manor. Inside, Edwin recalls a nursery rhyme that uses the words that were on the mirror. As he finishes reciting it, Charles hears someone coming.
Charles opens the door, and then attacks the person outside it, only to discover that it's a very dishevelled girl. She introduces herself as Jumping Joan, a character in the nursery rhyme, and claims that they called her there. She hints that if they intended to go to a place called Free Country, they should have called Wat, and then disappears. However, she dropped a scrap of paper which is full of names. The boys begin to suspect that this is more than a simple missing persons case.
In another parallel with the missing children, an event which occurred in Hamelin Town in June of 1284 was commemorated in the famous poem of the Pied Piper. However, the poem's author was once visited by a boy from the town of St. Cecile, Italy, who claimed that the legend of Hamelin originated in his home town. St. Cecile had been plagued by rats, and when a piper arrived, claiming that he could dispose of them, the mayor promised more money than the town could afford, just to get rid of the rats. Of course, the piper used his abilities to drown all the rats in the river, but when he discovered that the villagers could not pay him, he played his pipes and led all of their children away to a far off land, and they never returned.
Back in London, Edwin attempts to extract some kind of clue from the top he found. However, he realizes that Charles has fallen asleep - a strange occurrence, since they are both dead. As Edwin observes his friend, Charles seems to disappear before his eyes. Suddenly, he returns and awakes, revealing that he has had a strange dream of a dark tower. In the dream, he heard a voice which showed him the faces of several strange and powerful children. The voice commands him to save them, because if they are taken, then all children can be taken. Edwin believes that the dream was actually a vision - a thought which disturbs Charles, because he wonders to whom the voice belonged.
In 1213, Aiken Drum was gathered along with a number of other children, chained together, and locked away in a pit. Eventually, their captors came and took a girl named Yolinde, and killed her. The children knew this, and when they were fed her meat the next day, they refused to eat it. That night, Yolinde appeared to them in a dream, and explained how to escape. They used process of elimination to decide who would have to be sacrificed for the others' freedom. They ended up killing a boy, and using his blood to draw a hopscotch game. Each of them hopped along the blood outline, and upon reaching the end, they appeared in a paradise.
As the boys deliberate about what they should do next, they happen to say the same phrase at the same time, which prompts Edwin to recall another rhyme to prevent jinxes. Upon reciting the rhyme, a boy appears before them, demanding to know where an object that belongs to him is. He introduces himself as Wat, and claims to be from a place called Free Country. They show him the picture of Oliver Mitchell, and he recognizes the boy, admitting that he 'rescued' the children of Flaxdown. Wat claims that the world of adults is cruel to children, and kills them - a fact that both detectives are aware of, having both been murdered. Wat promises to end the tyranny of the adults, and save all the children.
The boys attempt to convince Wat to take them to Freedom Country, but when he discovers that they are dead, he looks on them in horror and disappears. With little to go on, the boys decide to seek out the children Charles saw in his vision.
- This issue features three thematically related legends interspersed with the main plot in chapters.
- The back of the bus that the boys ride to Flaxdown on has the Vertigo logo emblazoned on the back of it.
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