Chapter Four: Lord Daniel Weaver

After packing their bags and experiencing an unusually smooth journey up to Nottingham, the sorcerers’ coach pulled up outside the stately home of Lord Daniel Weaver. Alexander shook the sleeping Miguel’s shoulder, and they exited onto the smooth, stone pathway. As soon as the coach had departed, Sam and Eduardo crawled out of the men’s suitcases and fled into the forest to investigate the site of the crater’s impact. The sorcerers continued up the path, and were met at the oak panelled door by a butler dressed in red and gold, who sported a rather ill-fitting periwig that struggled to cover his explosive hair. The butler mumbled a brief, formal greeting before opening the door to the great house. Miguel managed to notice the gentleman swiftly hide a half-full bottle of alcohol in his jacket before continuing forward. They walked up a grand flight of stairs, bypassed several rooms and then up another flight of stairs before turning sharply to a pair of double doors that led into Lord Weaver’s study. The butler knocked, paused and opened the door.

Lord Weaver was sitting at a highly polished mahogany wood table, talking to a man with silver hair. Behind him was a portrait of a golden haired woman with bright eyes who Alexander assumed was the lady of the house. Weaver was a particularly tall man, who also happened to be particularly wide, especially around the waist. He had a brown, bristling moustache and thinning hair that had been pushed over his head to hide a large bald patch. He wore a jumbled collection of clothes that gave Fortuno the impression of a man who had dressed to impress, but with little idea of how to do so.
‘Ah! Her Majesty’s representatives! Wonderful!’ He cleared his throat and mumbled to the other man. ‘We’ll have to finish this some other time Desmond.’
‘Oh of course… I l know when I’m not wanted.’ The man replied, walking out and greeting the two sorcerers by way of a passing nod.

‘That’s Dr. Emerson, formerly my physician, though he seems to find the prospect of permanent house guest much more to his taste.’ Weaver chuckled to the new arrivals, who indulged him by laughing back. He then shook both men warmly and firmly by the hand, before motioning for them to sit down.
‘Well gentlemen, I am most pleased to see you, and honoured to receive you as guests in my home. I trust you had a pleasant trip?’
‘Perfect, thank you milord. We are humbled by the courtesy of your home.’ Miguel said in his best business voice.
‘And I am sure Her Majesty would be delighted to hear of your kindness.’ Fortuno added for good measure. He noticed the Lord’s eyes flash at the mention of the Queen.
‘And how is our good Queen?’
‘Well my lord. At least, physically well, for she still mourns over the loss of her husband.’ Fortuno answered gravely.
‘Yes, a most tragic affair. Still, there is to be no woe in my house, it is my daughter’s birthday tomorrow! But now, Roland will show you to your rooms. In the mean time, if there’s anything you want, anything at all, don’t hesitate to ask.’
‘My lord is most generous.’ said Miguel, rising to shake Weaver’s hand again.

The two men followed Roland out of the room and along the corridor to two incredibly lavish guest bedrooms at the end of the hall. They were separate rooms, but were connected by a lockable door.
‘Well, this is certainly the best mission I’ve received from the Elders in long time.’ smiled Miguel, once the butler had left them alone. He kicked his boots off and leapt onto the bed, stretching himself out like a cat.
‘Yes, well, just remind yourself why we’re here.’ shouted Fortuno from his room, whilst unpacking a few small necessities.
‘I know.’ Miguel reached across the bed and took a bottle of wine and a glass from his suitcase, before filling the glass to the brim. ‘I just wanted to enjoy it a little bit this time, a rare reprieve from all the running and fighting.’ He drank the contents of the glass down in one go.
‘I thought you enjoyed the running and the fighting.’ replied Fortuno, who was currently pondering as to why he had packed a pair of women’s stockings.
‘I suppose, but, still…’
Miguel poured himself another glass and absent-mindedly caught the stockings that Fortuno threw at him.
‘I think those might be yours.’
Miguel laughed and put the stockings down on the bed.
‘Might I enquire of the previous owner?’ asked Fortuno with a sly grin.
‘Mmm…I think her name was Dianne, she was a…I think she was a seamstress. We didn’t do a great deal of small talk.’ Miguel poured another glass of wine, but this time, he sipped it gently.
‘No more after that, we’ve got work to do.’ said Fortuno.
‘Care to join me for a glass?’
‘You know I don’t drink anymore Miguel. Not since…’
‘I know, your vow of abstinence. But this is a special occasion … and it’s only the one glass.’
‘Are you sure this is a good idea?’
Miguel did not reply, instead he smiled and handed him a second glass.

A few minutes later, the two men exited the rooms in very high spirits, singing boisterously a song whose lyrics consisted mostly of unintelligible yells and slurred harmonies. As they reached the stairwell, Fortuno shushed his friend, as he could hear footsteps coming up the stairs. The two men sobered up and brushed themselves down. The footsteps became closer and were joined by the sound of female chatter, as two young women ascended the staircase. The first was dressed in an elegant cream coloured gown, and had blonde hair which had been tied up into a bun. Her eyes were an icy blue, but expressed none of the coldness of that colour. She was quite small and slender, her face and nose both pointed and willowy, but she seemed to express warmth and energy with her whole being. The second was taller than the first, with chestnut brown eyes and porcelain white skin. She had striking, sylphlike features, particularly her ears, which protruded neatly from beneath her nut-brown hair. Unlike her finely dressed companion, she was wearing the outfit of a servant. As soon as they saw the two men, they ceased talking and, just as the men had done seconds before them, sobered up sharply and assumed a more respectable appearance.
‘Are you Miss Weaver?’ asked Miguel politely. The young woman smiled at him coquettishly.
‘Quite possibly, that would depend who is asking.’
Miguel gave the woman a rogue’s grin, before taking her hand and kissing it.
‘Miguel Carrera ma’am. At your service.’ He spoke with a warm Mediterranean lilt and the young woman giggled, before asserting herself.
‘Rosemary Weaver. And, you sir?’
‘Alexander ma’am. Alexander Fortuno. We are here on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen to visit the estate…and celebrate your birthday.’
He gave her a polite bow. The other woman had not spoken through these events; she simply stood behind her mistress with her head lowered. Fortuno tried to catch her eye, but he knew that it would be seen as rude to pay too much attention to a servant when the mistress of the house was present.
‘Well, Miss Weaver, it has been a pleasure to meet you. However, I am sure that you have business elsewhere…perhaps we will see each other at dinner tonight?’
Rosemary smiled and her eyes sparkled mischievously, yet her face remained the perfect picture of respectability.
‘Certainly sir. I look forward to it.’
Rosemary moved off, and the young woman followed her. As they left, Miguel turned to Fortuno and grinned.
‘This assignment just keeps getting better and better.’

 

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Chapter Three: The Dark Path

Five hundred and sixty three years, three months and twenty-seven days before the Conclave summoned Miguel Carrera and Alexander Fortuno to their meeting-place, William Griffon arrived in London on a white stallion in order to meet with his peers at Bernard King’s home in the city. He ascended into the meeting chamber, and met his colleagues warmly before sitting down next to Vladimir Serapus, who smiled at him, as did Bernard. Back in those days, the Elder had looked every inch the wizard of mythology, clad in robes of deep red with a great beard and flowing white hair. They had been friends for generations, the three most powerful sorcerers in existence. The council’s Arbiter -a slender, bearded gentleman named Andreas Macellan- began the proceedings.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, I call to order this meeting of the Elder Conclave. Elder Abado, would you like to begin?’
The dark-skinned Councillor Abado graciously accepted the floor and intoned in a voice that was as rich and deep as coffee.
‘Ladies, gentlemen, colleagues all, I am pleased to report that all remnants of the rogue sorcerers have been destroyed. We can all hope this signals a new period of peace and prosperity for us all.’
He was greeted with warm applause, as the assembled sorcerers all raised their flagons to his expressed sentiment. They had spent three years hunting down a rogue tribe of necromancers, sorcerers of death magic, led by a dark sorceress named Evanna Rosemunde. She had specifically targeted William Griffon, and had attempted to seduce him to her side, as well as to the ways of necromancy. After a long duel, she had been defeated and was sealed in an impregnable prison in the North. Her chief lieutenant, Thomas Marshall, had defected to the Council, but was still regarded warily by most of the junior members.

The meeting continued for forty-five minutes. Serapus and Griffon spent most of that time imitating Bernard behind his back and asking off-topic questions. When the meeting ended, Griffon turned to his friend and remarked;
‘You’re looking remarkably pleased with yourself Vladimir.’
‘Well, the old group all in one place again. And my apprentice completed his training only last week.’
‘You mean that unruly Spanish youth you keep parading around?’
Serapus laughed.
‘Half-Spanish. I’m sure he’d be delighted to hear you call him that’. There was suddenly a mischievous glint in his eye, and he whispered;
‘A certain someone’s been asking about you for the past month you’ve been gone.’ He winked at Griffon, who smiled wryly.

That afternoon, Griffon arrived at his home in London, where he was amorously pounced upon by a petite, yet voluptuous fair haired young woman. He wrestled her onto the table-top and they locked lips passionately. It was several moments before they allowed themselves to part.
‘William?’
‘Yes my love?’
‘I’m pregnant.’

And so, William and Alice Griffon made the mistake that all young people who are in love make. They believed that life was now complete, that nothing could go wrong. But sadly, tragedy struck when Alice suffered an accident whilst out riding and the child was stillborn. Worse still; the accident meant that she could no longer have children. The two were distraught, and, desperate for help, Griffon turned to his friends.

‘It’s not possible William, there’s no existing spell that can restore Alice without damaging her beyond repair.’ The Elder put an arm around his former apprentice, who angrily swatted it away.
‘Why us Bernard…why did this have to happen to us?’
‘William…it’s just a sad occurrence that happened to you. Nothing more.’ Serapus said slowly, upset at seeing his friend in such an anguished state. Suddenly, Griffon stiffened, his mind working rapidly, he stood up and began to pace the room.
‘The child, the one we lost…I could…’
‘No.’ Bernard’s voice was firm, but not harsh. ‘You know better than anyone what necromancy can do to its users. Its effects warp and twist the greatest of men, until they become nothing but shadows of their former selves. It happened to Evanna, it will happen to you.’
‘The necromancers we fought were pagans and fools. They used their art to bind dead men and eldritch creatures to their will. With our combined powers we can make it safe… only as a necessity… but enough to stop things like this from happening again.’
Vladimir spoke for the first time. He too had suffered heavily from this tragedy, for Alice was his niece, and the closest he had to a daughter. ‘It will never be safe William. And once you allow a single usage, then where does it end? I’m not willing to risk it.’
‘Well I am!’ The sorcerer snapped back defiantly, before attempting to regain his composure. ‘Bernard, please. Just this once then?’
‘William…if you open yourself to those elements, there’s no going back. And I won’t let that happen to you, you are my friend.’
‘So you would rather I suffer for the remainder of eternity? You are not my friend King. I resign from the Conclave as of this moment.’
He turned on his heel and left, ignoring the pleas from Bernard and Vladimir. On his shoulder sat his loyal familiar Cornelius, who had known even then that no good would come of this act. But he was bound to the fate of his master, and he would support him until the day they died.

That afternoon, William Griffon packed his belongings and made his way to the stronghold where the sorceress Evanna was being held. Andreas Macellan did not bar his way, for there was no reason to suspect the sorcerer of any ill motives. The sorceress did not seem surprised to see him. She was tall, thin and impossibly beautiful, with raven hair that flowed down to her breast. Despite the murk and grime surrounding them, the necromancer’s dress remained spotless, a sparkling flash of silver in the darkness.
‘William Griffon. My nemesis.’ She purred at him, and her green eyes flashed eagerly.
‘No tricks Evanna. I need you to teach me how to bring someone back from the dead.’
An enormous self satisfied grin broke across Evanna’s face. She stroked his arm, and he flinched at her touch.
‘The incorruptible hero asks for my help? Well, why should I be surprised? I knew you couldn’t resist my charms for long. Vladimir certainly didn’t.’
Griffon started, but did not pursue the matter.
‘So tell me, what happened? Did that stripling wife of yours finally break?’
Griffon grabbed her by the throat and growled.
‘You speak nothing of Alice. Help me… and I can ensure your freedom.’
The sorceress mused over this for a while before assenting.
‘This had better be worth my while.’
Griffon hung his head resignedly and mumbled.
‘Anything you want.’
‘I never thought I’d see the day.’
Neither did I. Thought William Griffon sadly.

The guards at Evanna’s prison did not blink when the Elder departed with the sorceress in tow, and it was only too late that they learnt of his true motives. The Elder Conclave immediately began to seek Griffon out, but he had vanished, swiftly being taught the ways of necromancy by Evanna, who relished in the corrupting of her former opponent. But he was way beyond caring; all that mattered was bringing his son back, by any means necessary.

A little while later, one glum, foggy night, William Griffon exhumed the infant’s pitifully tiny coffin from the parish graveyard of his village. The shadows of the grave markers extended in the darkness, casting nightmarish shapes upon the ground. A lesser man would have been intimidated by these surroundings. But William Griffon did not care. He lifted out the cold little figure of his son from out of its coffin and clutched him to his chest. He hesitated, before beginning to mutter under his breath. Energy in the form of blue flames coursed through his hands to the body of the child. At the same time, the sorcerer gave a yell of pain and ecstasy, his senses heightened, the whites of his eyes briefly darkened. Then he heard the sound of his child crying, the most beautiful sound he had ever heard.
‘It’s okay…everything’s alright now…I’m here.’ he cooed softly to the infant, who began to pull at the sleeves of his robe to use as an impromptu blanket. Griffon gently placed him in a basket that he had been carrying under his arm.
‘William Griffon, I’m afraid I have no choice but to place you under arrest.’ Came a voice from the fog. He turned. Standing in the shadows was Bernard King, flanked by Vladimir, Elders Abado and Thomas.
‘Why Bernard? I’ve done all I wanted to do, I’ll perform no more necromancy as of this moment. And you can have Evanna, she’s served her purpose.’ He raised his hands, and said again. ‘No more necromancy.’
‘I’m sorry William, but we can’t take that chance. You know from experience how corrupting its influence is.’
‘You don’t trust me; you don’t believe I’m strong enough to counter that influence?’
‘This is not a question of trust.’
The Elders raised their staffs at him and Griffon snarled, outnumbered, but unwilling to back down. He placed the basket on the ground.
‘Last chance William.’
Griffon sent a string of fireballs towards his enemies, but they dissipated with a just a flick of Bernard King’s wrist. Griffon knew he could not defeat the Elder, especially not with the other councillors against him. Bernard looked at him resignedly and made a slight gesture with his hand.
‘Elders, take him.’
The former sorcerer looked around, desperate for an opening. As his foes began to form a circle around him, Griffon thrust his hands outwards, causing the dirt from several nearby graves to fly upwards.
‘Don’t try it!’
Griffon ignored him, and soon, the decomposing occupants of several dozen graves had clawed their way to the top and began swiping at the elders. Griffon took their distraction as an opportunity to seize the basket and flee. The recently resurrected creatures were soon dispatched but the Elders had lost Griffon’s trail.
‘Should I pursue him?’ Thomas asked Bernard, cleaning the mud from his cloak.
‘No. In this fog he could easily take you by surprise.’ He paused, regret building in his voice. ‘We shall wait until morning, and then begin a search.’ Then he added coldly. ‘He is no longer one of us.’

Try as they might, the Elders did not find Griffon the following morning, scouring the countryside in vain. He had left the child with Alice, before fleeing in the early hours of the morning. The news was broken to her gently by Thomas, but her poor heart could not bear the knowledge of what her husband had done, and the consequences of his actions. She died later that day and the Elders left London to continue their search.

It was November the 5th that year when Vladimir Serapus caught up with Griffon in Normandy. The Elder surrounded his former friend’s room with his apprentice and a troop of guards, all of whom were perfectly happy to burn the place to the ground, gaining the element of surprise and leaving little chance of escape. Serapus refused, and entered the room, locking it behind him.

‘William?’ The necromancer swung round. The whites of his eyes had now turned a dark blue. The sorcerer’s face, once bright and full of life, was gaunt and pale. The use of necromancy had taken its toll on him.
‘Vladimir.’ He reached for his sword, but Vladimir batted it away.
‘I’m not here to fight William, I’m here to talk.’
‘You have…come round to my ideas then?’
‘William…necromancy is dangerous, you know that. You have not only damned yourself, but those who followed you in this madness. The Elders will hunt you down and… I don’t want to see that happen to you.’
‘Then help me. Leave Bernard to his own foolishness and help me harness its potential so that it might be used for good.’
‘No good can come from it.’ Vladimir sighed. For a moment, his face displayed all its centuries of life. ‘Give yourself up… you’ll be forbidden from practicing sorcery, but at least you’ll be alive, in peace…’
‘No.’ Griffon drew himself up to his full height, steely determination in his blue eyes, eyes filled with hatred for those who had ruined his life. ‘My beloved is dead, my child was taken… my path is chosen. If I cannot bring my family back, I shall fight the Conclave with all my might until the day I die.’ He took up his sword and staff.
‘And you…what will you do, Vladimir Serapus? Are you going to fight me now, to kill me even?’
Vladimir looked directly into his deep blue eyes, and then slowly, as though burdened, he turned his back to Griffon.
‘Go.’ His voice was choked with emotion. ‘We part as friends. But if we meet again…there can only be one outcome.’

And so Serapus allowed his friend to flee, and thus began the first great sorcerer’s war.

That was 1310.

 

Chapter Two: The Elder Conclave

Alexander Fortuno was born in 1397 to an Italian travelling salesman and an Earl’s daughter who had eloped with him to Rome. At the age of twenty-two he had been discovered as a sorcerer by an Elder of their race after accidentally singeing the man’s cloak with a blast of fire. Impressed, the gentleman took him off to begin his initiation, with his parents under the impression that young Alex was to become a carpenter in the employ of the man’s brother. Despite his initial shock at his newfound talent, Alexander learned quickly and became highly skilled in the art of sorcery.

At the age of twenty-six he had been caught up in a war between two factions of sorcerers, narrowly surviving a battle with the leader of the opposition, burying his opponent under several feet of snow during a vicious battle in the Urals. Then, a short number of years later, after becoming a fully fledged sorcerer, he survived a second encounter with the necromancer, this time ending him for good.

And now, some centuries later, he was walking through Hyde Park in the hot summer sun. Instead of the battered armour he used to wear all those years ago, Fortuno was wearing an olive coloured frock coat with a gold trim. He still wore a sword and staff at his hip, although instead of a medieval longsword, he now carried a more gentlemanly dress sword.

Sam followed a little way behind, leaping at butterflies. He would seem to any passers by as a perfectly ordinary cat. No one would suspect that he was the familiar to a sorcerer. He had in fact once been just a regular cat until one day he decided to leave the half-digested remains of his dinner on a rug belonging to the Elder who was Alexander’s mentor. The Elder then decided that this was an excellent time for Fortuno to create a familiar, and, without so much as a by-your-leave, the small cat had been transformed. Tied to the lifespan of his master, and with the new ability to speak, Sam soon became used to his new lifestyle and swiftly gained a reputation in sorcerous circles as something of a public menace.

Alexander had walked past a tall tree in the centre of the park when a rapier appeared at his throat.
‘Stand and deliver, your money or your life’.
Fortuno did not even flinch; he merely batted the blade away and said calmly:
‘Good afternoon Miguel.’
Miguel stepped out from behind the tree. He was a handsome man of Spanish descent, with dark hair that ran just past his chin, meeting a small silver crucifix that hung round his neck. He wore a dove-tail morning coat that was sky blue, with an intricate woven design that suited his background. Miguel was over a century older than Fortuno, but had the youthful energy and charisma of a twenty year old. The fact that he physically appeared to be in his thirties helped to maintain the illusion. He lowered his rapier and smiled at his friend. Next to his feet was a small lion cub that greeted his fellow familiar with what was clearly intended to be a bow. Sam uncharacteristically responded in kind. Such etiquette was only to be expected.

‘Well Alex, another year gone by. It seems to me that every year these people get more peculiar. A man being held at sword point in broad daylight and they don’t even bat an eyelid. It seems foot pads are a thing of the past.’ Miguel remarked dryly, picking lint from his coat.
‘Or perhaps no one would imagine a thief would be so stupid as to rob a man in the middle of the day in a densely populated area.’
‘Touché. So, what delights do you suppose the year will bring us this time?’

‘Well Miguel, all I can say is that I’m sure you won’t break the tradition of getting me hauled before the Conclave for recklessness.’
Fortuno’s face was deathly serious for a moment, but he couldn’t hold it for long and the two men began chuckling. Their familiars chased each other along the grass playfully as the two experienced sorcerers ambled along towards the eastern edge of the park.
‘And maybe this year you’ll start to lighten up a bit.’ Miguel said teasingly, nudging his friend in the ribs.
‘What do you mean Miguel?’ Fortuno asked with mock curiosity, he knew exactly what was coming.
‘Find a girl, live a life instead of acting like a common servant for the Conclave. This state of ennui you live in was almost the death of you. ’
Fortuno did not reply. He enjoyed the missions that the Conclave sent him on; they were the only things that provided any interest to him anymore, and besides, you never know when you might need a favour. He did not wish to become a wastrel like Miguel. Miguel was an unpardonable hedonist, he had been with women from all over the world and fathered several children along the way; been chased across countries by the militia and had risked the wrath of the Conclave time and time again. But that was just how he was, and he tended to take it all in his stride.
‘Your problem is you work too hard, then you look out at the world and it’s no wonder you can give nothing but cynical criticisms. Alexander, I’ve lived over half a century with my way of things and yet still everyday I find something that makes me appreciate life. Take chances, have an affair with a stranger, visit a new land without a map, and if you’re not dead, then you’ll soon see the world through my eyes.’
‘You forget, I inherited my vituperative nature from you. Before meeting you I was just a wide-eyed adolescent.’
‘Vituperative? You do say some strange things Alex. A remnant from your friendship with Dr. Johnson is it?’ He smiled. ‘And besides, you’re still just an adolescent at heart. Just a grouchy, bitter one.’
‘Oh Miguel… it’s the human condition to find fault when they are at their most content.’
‘But you aren’t human Alexander.’
‘And neither am I content.’
‘Still lamenting the one that got away? The beautiful sorceress with the copper coloured hair? What was her name…?’
‘Shut up. Besides, that was your fault. You spurred me on, I was under the impression she liked me.’
Miguel raised his hands, protesting innocence. ‘So did I, how was I to know she found you miserable and depressive?’
‘Laugh now, you didn’t have to live with the aftermath.’ muttered Sam.

The two reached an archway on the eastern side of the park, and –after checking that no one else was around- knocked three times on the stonework. A small stone door opened in the wall, and they stepped inside. Inside the opening was a small threshold, holding only a winding stone stairway which led deep underground. The doorwarden was waiting for them, thinly disguising his impatience.
‘The two of you are very late.’
‘Misadventure Mr. Hartnell. Nothing for such an upstanding gentleman as yourself to be concerned about.’
‘I see your humour is still drier than a patron’s eye after a Shakespeare tragedy.’
‘Look Alex, someone thinks he’s witty.’
The man sighed and gestured to the stairway.
‘Go on, they’re waiting.’
As the men descended, the opening sealed itself.

The room below was a vast cavern that had been lavishly furnished. It contained an assortment of items from different cultures and times. In the centre of the room was a perfectly round conference table, which had fifteen places set, yet five of them were empty, their occupants absent, or lost to treachery and death. The other ten had people sitting in them, people who were as wildly contrasting as the furniture. There was a deeply tanned man from Arabia, sporting a blue weather worn cloak and turban, a strongly built woman wearing the furs of a Nordic sailor, a slender Japanese woman dressed in a fine purple silk kimono, and a whole host of other unusually dressed people. They were the Elders, sorcerers of immense power, skill and intelligence, from all four corners of the Earth. Under their rule, the sorcerous world had seen a vast amount of change, yet many saw them as old-fashioned and unwilling to accept new ideas, bureaucrats who would take an age to make the simplest of decisions. They had placed limitations on sorcerous practices and created charms which allowed them to immediately locate practioners of forbidden arts and punish them. This was their meeting-place and it had been for several centuries, abandoned only in times of great chaos.

Miguel and Alexander took their seats without a second glance at these assembled peculiarities. There was a polite cough from a finely dressed, moustachioed Venetian who sat directly opposite Fortuno. His parrot familiar rested on his shoulder, looking somewhat wary of the hungry eyed Sam.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, I call to order the five hundred and ninth official meeting of the Elders Conclave. Chairing today is our esteemed colleague from Wales, Elder Bernard King.’

All eyes turned to the Welsh sorcerer. He was not a tall man, but there was something about him that commanded respect. He had a short beard that had been messily shorn, and was wearing simple white robes. According to legend, Bernard King was the oldest living sorcerer, who had founded the Elder Conclave nearly a millennium ago with his two fellow sorcerers, Vladimir Serapus and William Griffon. He had fought countless battles to keep his fellow sorcerers alive and hidden from the mortal world. It was even rumoured that he was the legendary wizard Merlin, one of the few of their kind who had become known in mortal circles. He had devised the technique known as ‘the sleep of ages’, where a sorcerer became comatose in order to combat the threat of insanity presented by an immortal life. Bernard had supported Fortuno ever since he was discovered all those years ago and had been a kindly, yet powerful figure in the young sorcerer’s life, the man who had discovered him and trained him in the secret arts. But the terrible events that followed shortly after left the Elder cold and distant. When he spoke, there was a hollow rattling sound to his voice.
‘If we can all stand for the address.’ The sorcerers all rose, their hands on their breast, repeating Bernard’s words. ‘We who are assembled pledge to uphold the rules of the Conclave. To love, honour and protect our fellow sorcerers, to remain united against evil and adversity so that one day, we may all be as one.’
The other sorcerers took their seats as Bernard cleared his throat.
‘Now colleagues, a new year is upon us and it seems that our mortal cousins are advancing at an alarming rate.’ The Conclave always kept an eye on human activity, ensuring there was no sorcerous involvement in their technology. This system also enabled them to keep up to date with the latest human inventions, many of which were located within the chamber, including a gramophone playing Beethoven’s ‘Rage over a Lost Penny’.
‘Excuse me sirs, but before we begin might I ask why Alex and I have been brought here?’ Miguel asked the assembled Conclave, who all stared at him. He did not seem to notice, merely continuing to drum his fingers in time to the music.

“Miguel…” Alexander began to whisper to his friend.

“It’s too pleasant a day to be spent on bureaucracy.” Miguel interrupted quietly.
‘Were you not needed by this Council, I am sure that you would be given the long task of rearranging our agenda so that it fits your tastes, Mr. Carrera.’

Miguel stared back at the speaker, Cassim, the archivist from Arabia. Cassim had once been a legendary bandit who led thirty nine men in taking some of the greatest treasures of the ancient world and disappearing without a trace. The other thieves all passed away many years ago, and Cassim retired to a more peaceful profession, while the tales of his exploits had passed into myth. His familiar, a small desert rat, hissed at Miguel’s lion cub familiar Eduardo, who blew a raspberry in return.
‘So what you’re saying is that you need our assistance?’ Miguel asked, with a look of great satisfaction on his face.
‘Regrettably yes.’
The sorcerer grinned devilishly and rubbed his hands together.
‘Fantastic. So what do we have to do, quell another uprising, kill another rebel…?’
Jalka Selkari, the nomadic Elder from the Antarctic Wastes, glared at Miguel. There was always tension in the air when the Conclave met with Miguel; he was too rash, too free and unpredictable in his nature.
‘You may think this funny Mr. Carrera, but there are forces at work here that would make even you turn pale with fear.’
Miguel looked sceptical at this comment, but decided not to interrupt again.
‘In order to cut to the point, Councillor Thomas will fill you in on the details.’
Councillor Thomas was one of the younger members of the council, dressed in the simple black robes of a travelling cleric. He had been born the bastard son of an Earl on a manor in the ninth century, and bore a clipped upper-class accent because of his educated upbringing. His calculating nature and former position as a necromancer meant that he was treated with caution by the rest of the Council.
‘Well gentlemen, several nights ago, we spotted a mysterious shape moving towards the Earth. It was pitch-black, mortal eyes could not have seen it, although it was rather clear to myself and my fellow astronomers who were able to distinguish it. Two days ago, it crashed, leaving behind a rather obvious crater in Nottingham Forest and a mob of confused locals who have begun to ask far too many questions.’
‘So, we’re being called upon to clean up the mess left by a natural occurrence?’ Fortuno asked politely, though there was a trace of reproach to his voice.
‘They are asking questions, Mr. Fortuno, because since this incident, several people have been found dead…murdered by necromantic means.’
There was a sudden stillness in the room that struck even Miguel, who tried to hide his feelings by stretching and yawning with gusto.
‘But, surely all the necromancers were destroyed at least two hundred years ago; none of them could have survived the culling.’
‘Or so we thought.’ replied Bernard. ‘Gentlemen, your task is to find the source of these murders and eliminate it.’ He leant in closely to the two guests. ‘I need not remind you what happened the last time necromancers were abroad in England.’

Indeed he did not. In the year 1310, William Griffon, a former council Elder, and master in the art of hypnotic suggestion and teleportation, had become an adept in necromancy following a personal tragedy. After the refusal of his colleagues to accept this new form, he declared war on the pure sorcerers and swayed many to his banner, going so far as to form a ‘Shadow Conclave’ to combat Bernard and his Councillors. He used dead spirits and demons to fill his legions, and, during one of the most terrible times, used a plague that spread across the Earth, carried by rats to the homes of mortals and sorcerers alike. The war lasted several decades, claiming many victims on both sides until 1485, when Griffon was killed by Fortuno. The tide turned against the necromancers, and by the year 1500, the necromancers had been practically purged from existence, their powers waning, forced to earn a living by performing conjuring tricks for travelling shows. Everyone around the table had lost friends and loved ones to the war, and had no desire to see necromancy reign again.

The silence was broken by Miguel, who said in a casual manner:
‘Well, off to sunny Nottingham then.’
The goateed, funereal Lord Serapus nodded and turned to the two young sorcerers. Out of all the councillors, he was perhaps the most feared, hiding his strength beneath the silks and cape of a Romanian nobleman. One of his eyes had been blinded white following the war against Griffon, and this made him appear even more formidable.
‘You will be members of Her Majesty’s court, visiting the manor of one Lord Weaver, who lives near to Nottingham Forest. Weaver is an old councillor of the Queen who is desperate to gain her favour. You will be acting as emissaries to present her gifts upon Weaver’s daughter, who will be celebrating her twenty-fifth birthday in several days, along with every noble who happens to be in fashion at the moment. Usually a mission involving high society would have been given to the Marquis, but unfortunately, he is unavailable.’
‘Second choice again.’ muttered Sam, so low that no one was sure they heard him.
‘I’m assuming gifts will be provided beforehand?’ asked Miguel. Serapus gave a sardonic grin. He and Miguel understood each other; Serapus was the one who had trained the maverick in the sorcerous arts.
‘Don’t worry; your expansive wallet is quite safe Mr. Carrera, we have selected something quite appropriate for the occasion. However, and this is most important, you must give no one any clues to your true purpose, for there’s no telling what dark forces have been employed against us.’
The two sorcerers rose, as did Bernard, who said softly.
‘Good luck gentlemen. And may God go with you.’

Alexander Fortuno- a few sketches

Every story needs a hero, and here’s ours, Alexander Fortuno, sorcerer and agent of the Elder Conclave. He’s been pretty much the same character since the story’s conception and in my minds eye has always sported the snazzy green greatcoat  seen below. Also pictured are his trusty sword, customised staff (which was based on that of Malbeth  the Seer from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien) and a variation in seafarers attire, which will become relevant soon…