Chapter Ten: The Last Waltz

Some time after his encounter with Mr Evans, and whilst the two young ladies finished their preparations, Alexander Fortuno dressed in his best clothes, and met with Miguel in the vestibule as they waited to be admitted to Rosemary Weaver’s party.
‘Alexander this isn’t a masquerade. Remove that grotesque disguise at once.’
‘Oh ha ha ha.’
They were led by a servant into the lavish ballroom on the ground floor. Crystal
chandeliers were suspended from high ceilings decorated with intricate carvings. Heavy
curtains framed the great glass windows at either side of the room, looking out on the
lawns which were spectacular even in the darkness, illuminated by a series of lamps.
Fortuno was in awe of the splendour of the room, yet Miguel took in his stride and
walked straight towards Rosemary, who was clearly the star of the ball. Miguel gave a
grimace however; as he saw that she was standing with another man, dressed as elegantly
as himself. The sorcerer stiffened as he acknowledged an opponent to his wooing of the
party’s guest of honour. Fortuno recognised him as the man he had seen alone on the
terrace the previous afternoon.

‘Ah, there you are!’ Rosemary greeted them genially. ‘Captain, this is Miguel Carrera and
Alexander Fortuno; they’re here from the Court, like you.’ Miguel and Alexander
exchanged looks. Hopefully, this man would not enquire too deeply into their lives as
courtiers, otherwise they would lose their cover. Fortuno politely shook hands with the man, who introduced himself as:
‘Negan. Captain Jonathan Negan. Royal Marines.’
Fortuno smiled warmly without betraying his mood, yet when Miguel followed, the
tension between the two men almost audibly crackled through the air as they attempted to
crush each others fingers, whilst still smiling politely.
‘Captain Negan is quite the pride of the fleet. Three medals for gallantry alone, isn’t that
right Captain?’
‘You do flatter me.’ smiled the Captain, turning to face his hostess. He did not notice the
crude gesture Miguel was making at his back, but Fortuno did and had to disguise his
laughter as a cough.
‘Now, may I get you a drink milady?’ asked Negan, directing all his charm towards
Rosemary, who beamed graciously.
‘No need.’ interrupted Miguel, magically producing two glasses of wine from his sleeve.
He offered one to Rosemary, and one to Negan, who blinked with surprise, but accepted
it anyway.
‘To the birthday girl.’ Miguel said simply, before flicking his glass into the air, where it
revolved. He plucked it down and drank it in one smooth movement, without spilling a
single drop.

Rosemary looked on, enchanted, while the Captain had turned sour faced. He took his
glass and span it round on his finger, again without spilling a drop, before catching it in
the other hand and taking a drink. Fortuno looked to Miguel, and was surprised to see a
sly grin on his face. Suddenly, the Captain went green and quickly excused himself,before running off, startling Lord Weaver, who was making his way towards his
daughter, accompanied by Dr. Emerson and several older, equally tipsy gentlemen, who
he briefly introduced as Earl Poulett, Count Moritz, and Mr. Grinby, a London
industrialist. Rosemary seemed incredibly amused at the Captain’s plight, although she
was a paragon of concern when her father questioned her. Fortuno wagged his finger at
Miguel with mock reproach, before grinning madly behind his Lordship’s back.

‘Something wrong with the Captain, Rosemary?’
‘Problem with his drink I think milord.’ replied Miguel. ‘Perhaps he has no head for such
a fine vintage.’ Rosemary did not reply, for it seemed her amusement had overcome her
concern, and she was giggling girlishly.
‘Well, poor man, he’s going to miss the first dance.’ Weaver turned to Fortuno and spoke
to him conspiratorially. ‘Captain Negan once pursued my daughter’s maidservant
Miranda. I told her, give him some consideration, he’s got a steady job, he’s handsome
and refined… but you know women. They always manage to find fault with perfection.’
‘He is no longer her suitor?’ Fortuno asked, trying to sound only casually interested.
‘Evidently not, and he has the scars to show for it.’ laughed Count Moritz heartily.
Weaver joined in, and soon the hall was ringing with laughter.
‘Here, have a swig of this, it’ll bring tears to your eyes.’ said Dr. Emerson, handing
Fortuno a bubbling glass.
‘Ah, no thank you sir, I’m trying not to…’
‘Oh come on, I’m a doctor, it won’t do you any harm. After all, a party without liquor is a
party not worth having.’
‘Well, if you insist.’

Fortuno drank it down it one, a move which proved most unwise, resulting in a fit of
coughing and spluttering.
‘Corrupting my guests Desmond? Tut tut tut…’ Weaver checked his pocket watch and
called for attention, clearing his throat loudly.
‘Everyone…everyone!’ He had to shout to get the attention of the bustling guests. ‘As you
all know, we are here to celebrate the birthday of my only daughter…’
As Weaver continued in his speech, Fortuno spotted two servants hurry over to the main
doors.
‘So, I invite you to all to join me in a toast…Happy birthday Rosemary, and here’s to
many more.’ Weaver raised his glass, as did the rest of the people in the room, who drank
them down with gusto. The servants by the doors flung them open, to reveal an enormous
birthday cake, with three tiers and sparkling white icing. Rosemary squealed and clapped
happily, hugging her father, then Miguel, who was almost knocked off his feet.

‘Musicians!’ yelled Weaver to the band, who were impeccably dressed, but all seemed to
be using instruments from several decades ago. They began to play a gentle waltz,
Weaver joined hands with his daughter, and they took the floor for the first dance, as was
customary. Afterwards, there was a polite applause, and Weaver handed his daughter
over to Miguel, who walked up to the band leader and whispered something in his ear.
The man nodded, smiling broadly, and as the dancers took their partners, he began a
seductive, Spanish-sounding tune that suited Miguel perfectly, and he had the centre of
the floor to himself. None of the other guests dared to compete with the wild, twirling
foreigner and his petite yet fearsome partner; rather, they all stuck to dancing around the edges and were continually bumping into each other. When they finished, everyone in the
room, including the musicians, gave a thunderous round of applause. Even the Captain,
who had returned looking considerably better, gave his unsteady congratulations.

Lord Weaver, who had drunk several glasses during the dance approached Fortuno and slurred.
‘Ah, we need to find you a partner now Mr. Fortuno, see if you can light up the dance
floor like your friend.’ A third dance had begun, though this one was of a slower pace,
and the majority of the guests were now joining in with confidence.
‘Ah, I’m not really much of a dancer…’ stuttered Fortuno, stumbling backwards and nearly
tripping over the Earl of Leicester, which led him to apologise profusely. Fortunately, the Earl did not seem to be occupying the same universe as him at the time.
‘If it’s all the same to you sir, I’m going to sit down for a moment…’
He managed to escape Weaver and sat down on one of the chairs that had been laid out
near the window. He noticed that the majority of the people sitting here were either
paralytic or, judging by the manner by which they left the floor, cursed with a pair of left
feet.

‘What’s the matter sir, tiring so easily?’
Fortuno turned to see Miranda standing behind him with a tray of drinks. Although she
was still acting as a servant, she was wearing a dark blue dress instead of her usual
maid’s uniform. He smiled at her, though with the rather uncomfortable manner of a
nervous adolescent.
‘Merely, resting my feet Miss Warwick. Which reminds me…’ he tried to emulate
Miguel’s casual style. ‘What is a beautiful young lady like you doing without a partner?
Would you care to join me for the next dance?’
Alexander presumed he had failed miserably, yet Miranda put down her tray of drinks
and grabbed his hand. She had a warm yet surprisingly firm grip.
‘Take me away then.’
The band finished the dance and began a slow, rhythmic waltz. Alexander and Miranda
took their positions and slowly began to dance. Fortuno spent most of the time watching
his feet, making sure he didn’t tread on anyone. But to his surprise, he actually began to
enjoy himself and started to relax as he guided Miranda across the dancefloor.
‘I saw what you did this afternoon.’ Miranda spoke softly into his ear.
‘Pardon?’ asked Fortuno, momentarily raising his gaze from his shoes.
‘That persistent gentleman was thrown out because of you.’
‘Oh, I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to…’
‘I’m glad someone had the nerve to stand up to him.’
Alexander felt his eyes falling shyly back to the floor, but Miranda locked her gaze onto
his and could not tear away. The two moved past Miguel and Rosemary, who were fixed
on each other as if nothing else existed. Alexander looked deeply into the blue eyes of his
partner and felt himself forgetting his quest…the Elders…the necromancers….
And just like that, the dance stopped.

‘Well, not too bad.’ Miranda grinned at him. He went to return the grin, before almost
doubling over in pain.
‘Are you all right?’
‘Yes I’m…I think I just need to go out and get some air…’ Fortuno fled the room, feeling
as though he might vomit any second. Rosemary and Miguel, who were standing near the
centre of the room, managed to break away from each other in order to see his departure.
‘Forgive me, my dear, but I think I’d best see what’s up with him. Don’t go finding
yourself a new partner now.’ He winked, and followed Fortuno out. Miranda looked on,
puzzled by partner’s behaviour.

Miguel found Fortuno leaning heavily on a pillar outside in the corridor, his face a tinge
of bright green.
‘I must say, I haven’t been to a party this lively since Edward Hartnell’s wedding. That’s the Irish for you I suppose…’
‘I’m so glad you’re enjoying yourself.’ replied Alexander, suppressing the urge to retch.
‘What’s wrong Alex? The lady danced a little too hard for you?’
Fortuno glared up at Miguel.
‘There’s a necromancer in that room.’
‘Really? I didn’t feel anything.’
‘Maybe he didn’t want your attention.’ Fortuno attempted a smirk, but it ended up more
like a grimace.
‘Come on. We’ll stand a better chance if we take him together.’
The sorcerers returned to the ballroom, and Fortuno was met with an unpleasant surprise.
Miranda had a man with her, a man who made Fortuno’s flesh crawl. He was wearing a
blood-red coat, with a rapier and black staff at his belt. His green eyes seemed to draw
you in, as if they were deep pools willing you to plummet to your death.
‘Why hello Mr. Fortuno. It’s been so long since I last had the pleasure of your company.’
Alexander’s hand jumped to his sword, but Miguel held him back.
‘Not here Alex.’
Alexander removed his hand, and backed off slightly.
‘I must say, you found yourself quite a partner.’

Fortuno swung round, and hit Griffon hard in the face with such force that the
necromancer flew into the refreshments table, sending guests and glasses flying in all
directions. Lord Weaver immediately staggered up to Fortuno, anger and alcohol
reddening his cheeks.
‘Sir, now that was quite out of order. You could have seriously hurt this gentleman here.
Not to mention ruining my daughter’s birthday.’ Weaver turned to Griffon. ‘I’m
dreadfully sorry Lord Savernake.’
‘Think nothing of it.’
Dr. Emerson put on his arm on Fortuno and spoke softly, trying to sooth his temper.
‘Perhaps you should step outside for a few moments, clear your head.’
‘That might indeed be wise, it seems the night has been too much for our friend. Too
much wine, perhaps?’ smirked Griffon, pulling himself to his feet and rubbing his broken
nose with a handkerchief. Several jeers accompanied this remark.
‘Now that’s quite enough.’ The guests fell silent as Rosemary Weaver made her way to
the centre of the crowd. ‘There’s no need for this to ruin the evening. If the two of you
want to hurt each other I suggest you do it in the morning, outside, like civilised people. The law of the land prevents any brutality, but perhaps you need the opportunity to cool your heels.’
The more drunken guests grumbled at this, but the two combatants had calmed down at Rosemary’s
words. Griffon looked directly into Fortuno’s eyes, with the entire room watching them in anticipation.
‘Very well. Alexander Fortuno, a shame it has to come to this, but you leave me no choice. I demand satisfaction.’
‘I readily accept…’ he added with a whisper. ‘Mr. Griffon.

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Supplementals: The Nature of Sorcery

Hi everyone, this piece is the first in what is intended to be several supplemental pieces detailing the backstory, ins and outs of the world in which the characters inhabit.

The Sorcerous Encyclopedia: Sorcerers

-The term sorcerer began to be used upon the founding of the Elder Conclave in the 600s, but was more frequently used once necromancers became more commonplace, in order to differentiate between the two. How individuals became imbued with sorcererous abilities remained unknown until very recently, but what was known was that it was usage of such abilities that resulted in human beings gaining immortal life. If an individual with sorcerous blood never utilised their abilities, they would live an ordinary human life and pass away, even if they were the child of an active sorcerer. Research by sorcerer historians indicates that several notable historical figures may have in fact been of sorcerous descent, but this is often dismissed by the upper classes as pure conjecture.

Once an individual has become immortal, their lifespan becomes seemingly limitless, and they retain the appearance of remaining whatever age they were upon first utilising sorcery. However this is purely a cosmetic circumstance, and sorcerers have been known to change their appearance somewhat to reflect a sense of aging. This is an extremely difficult technique and only the most powerful elders have ever been able to master it.

A sorcerer cannot be slain by most conventional means, the most common causes of death being decapitation or any other means by which the brain is destroyed. There have been cases of sorcerers, consumed by despair or madness, ending their own life through pure force of will, but such instances are extremely rare.

Passing on the sorcerous bloodline can occur in one of two ways. Any child with at least one sorcerous parent will automatically receive the gene, but for a sorcerer to pass on immortal life to a mortal, the process is more difficult. Referred to as “bestowing The Gift” (or “breaking the soul” by pure-blood supremacists), it requires a sorcerer to imbue the mortal with a portion of their essence. This somewhat saps their power and grants the partner with the immortal life, but not the skills, of a sorcerer, which are untransferrable. This act is comparable to making a vow of marriage, and therefore not to be taking lightly. Its power draining capabilites mean that no sorcerer has ever bestowed The Gift on more than one other, as the effort involved would most likely reduce them to a state of permanent catatonia, if not death. A similar but far less strenous version of this process exists in the creation of a familiar, by which the sorcerer imbues a non-sentient being with a portion of their consciousness.

To list the skills available to a sorcerer would be virtually impossible, as new ones are being discovered almost every day, however they can generally be categorised as either active or passive sorcery (or in a wartime scenario, offensive or defensive). Passive sorcery includes the more mundane, such as the moving of objects, whilst active sorcery includes the production of fire and the manipulations of elements. Despite much research between both sides during the wars, no spell has ever being discovered that can cause instant death.

Casting spells is a fairly simple process, requiring no incantation (though novices are known to still use such practices), simply requiring the concentration of the mind and often a gesture of the hand to imbue a sense of direction. However, casting can be tiring without a power source, which early sorcerers solved through the creation of “staffs”, an object they imbued with sorcerous properties in a similar method to the creation of a familiar. These objects allow sorcerers to cast spells with relative ease, as such, sorcerers treat their staffs with a great deal of care. Breaking another sorcerers staff has often been used as a punishment, and as a symbolic system gesture to indicate the removal of their power.