Chapter Fifteen: The Wedding

Fortuno was numb as he was dressed in a wedding suit, roughly shaven and escorted to the small chapel a short way from the manor. He was thrown onto the front row, between the shackled Lord Weaver and the morose Miguel. Weaver gave him a brief look of acknowledgment but said nothing; Miguel did not even look up. Next to Lord Weaver sat Dr. Emerson, who visibly had to prop his friend up, for the Lord of the Manor was so emaciated he could barely support himself. Griffon stood at the altar with an oblivious priest, unaware of the circumstances that had brought about this particular marriage. Nor did he notice the aura of menace surrounding the smiling Jonathan Negan, or Griffon’s lieutenant, Maurice, who stood at the back of the manor in an ill-fitting suit. The numerous officers and acolytes, including the dim-witted Scriven, had all been hastily dressed to suit the occasion, and some of them appeared to be truly getting into the swing of things. Then, the organ began to play and all eyes turned to the back of the chapel.

There, walking gracefully up the aisle in a beautiful white gown was a radiant Miranda, followed by Rosemary Weaver as the maid of honour. No one in the pews seemed to notice the faraway look in the bride’s eyes, or disdain emanating from the bride’s other escorts. And, not even Griffon noticed the small black cat that had crept into the chapel and made his way round the edge of the seats towards Miguel Carrera. The priest waited for the procession to reach the altar, before beginning the ceremony.

‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered her today to witness the marriage…’
Fortuno closed his eyes. He could only presume that Griffon was making him witness this marriage as a final insult before he dispatched him. He would enjoy the bride’s virtue before eliminating her as well. It would have surprised Fortuno to know that these presumptions were completely wrong.
‘Do you, William Steven Griffon, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?’
Griffon looked straight at Fortuno before replying with confidence.
‘I do.’
‘And do you Miranda Sophia Warwick; take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband…?’
Miguel looked at Alexander.
‘In sickness…’
Alexander looked back at Miguel.
‘…and in health…’
The shackles began to loosen.
‘…until death do you part?’
Alexander leapt from his seat, his heart pounding furiously.
‘You forgot something Father.’
Negan ordered his men forward.
‘You forgot to ask if anyone objected to this union.’
Griffon reached for the staff in his belt, which had extended.
‘Well, I most certainly do.’
Everything happened at once. Miguel took advantage of Negan’s distraction in order to retrieve a blade from the scabbard on the unsuspecting soldier next to him and throw Alexander his staff, which extended in mid air. The sorcerer gripped it just in time to block a bolt of energy that Griffon had directed at him. The soldiers followed behind Negan, drawing their swords. All of them were too distracted to notice the mist clear from the bride’s eyes as she fell towards her friend, who caught her seconds before she hit the floor.
‘Sirs, cease this madness! We are in a house of God!’ shouted the priest, accosting Griffon.
‘Well, give him my regards.’ Snarled the Necromancer, viciously pushing the priest back against the pulpit, knocking him unconscious. Once again, his handsome mask flickered, this time for longer than an instant. He then fired another blast of energy at Fortuno, sending him crashing back into the wall of the chapel. Negan and Maurice had reached the front but were set upon by Miguel, wielding a rapier that flashed in the light as he fought off four foes at once. Fortuno picked himself up from the broken pews.
‘Rosemary, get them out of here!’ Fortuno yelled, blasting a ball of fire at Griffon, who deflected it towards the ceiling.
‘But the ceremony’s not over yet.’ Griffon growled, his eyes flashing a dangerous, necromantic black. ‘Not getting cold feet are you dear?’
At this remark, Fortuno yelled and leapt towards Griffon, his staff glinting brightly. As the two sorcerers duelled, Miguel knocked the clumsy Officer Scriven into the lectern, causing him to stumble and knock himself unconscious. Negan lunged forwards as his opponent was distracted, but the Italianate-Spanish duellist seized Scriven’s sword in his other hand and deflected the blow. He quickly cast a glance at Fortuno, who had been using his staff to hurl several organ pipes at Griffon. Two of them were deflected but the necromancer was sent sprawling by a third. He forced a wave of energy at Fortuno in retaliation, but missed, sending his own lieutenant into an unconscious heap.

The two battles became more ferocious, Miguel and Negan slashing at each other with cat-like agility, the remaining officers having been quickly dispatched by the athletic sorcerer, whilst Fortuno and Griffon proceeded with a little less grace, blasting at each other with deadly arcs of energy.
‘So impolite of you to interrupt my wedding day.’ Griffon said, dodging another white hot ball of flame. ‘And I was so looking forward to married life. Ah well, if I can’t have my day of happiness, then neither can you!’

Yelling the last few words, Griffon leapt out of the back window, shattering it into fragments. Fortuno scooped up the sword from one of the fallen soldiers and leapt after him, rage contorting his handsome face. When the necromancer noticed his pursuer, he snarled and directed his staff at the lightning rod on the roof, bringing it crashing down through Alexander’s chest. He threw blast after blast of energy at him. But the sorcerer did not stop. He did not care that the necromancer was his superior in every respect; he would slay him, not for honour, not for the Conclave, but for revenge. Turning on his heel, William Griffon ran, for the first time in a lifetime, his heart was filled with fear.

Back inside the chapel, Negan took advantage of the distraction caused by Griffon’s dramatic exit by stabbing Miguel straight through the heart. To the Major’s surprise, his foe merely turned and removed the rapier as if it were a minor inconvenience.
‘Major Negan, this is…pointless. You’re failing to see the true enemy here.’
Negan hesitated.
‘Not only have you broken the laws of the British Empire…but you and your ally are clearly abominations against God. I cannot allow you to live.’
‘Cannot allow? What choice do you have?’ Miguel’s voice grew cold, his amiable features barely masking the soul of a man who had lived with Hell for six months. Negan shrank back further, petrified as Miguel moved slowly towards him, his voice lowered to a harsh whisper as he spoke.
‘You human beings… always ignoring the bigger picture. He had to mesmerise others into obeying him, but you… you fell into line of your own accord. He’s going to kill all of you the moment he’s finished with Miranda, he’s going to kill Rosemary…don’t you see?’
‘I am…only doing my duty.’
‘No… you have perverted your duty. Redeem yourself; help me, if not for my sake, then Rosemary’s.’
The Major slowly got up.
‘She wants you.’
‘Is that more important to you than her life? You call yourself an agent of the Queen.’ Miguel’s voice dripped with contempt. ‘Help me…’he held out a hand. ‘Or die.’
Negan scowled, pulling himself together.
‘Very well.’

Miranda Warwick could remember precious little of the past six months. After Alexander had fled, William Griffon had been recuperating at the manor, though it seemed as though he was completely fine. He had come to her with flattery and extravagant gifts, claiming that he would make her his wife, and that they would be together forever. He had seemed charming, and she almost felt tempted to accept, but something had felt deeply wrong. She had refused, and he had turned on her. At first, she believed he was going to assault her, but then… all she could remember before the wedding were his eyes flashing a cold blue…

She turned to her mistress, who, like the rest of the captives, was running through the forest without looking back. Rosemary Weaver was unhealthily thin. She had not been under Griffon’s influence, yet she had witnessed the fall of her father, her friends, and her entire life as they all became Griffon’s playthings. Her only company had been Miguel, bright, handsome Miguel, who had comforted her in the dark days. He had hugged her, and assured her that everything would be well again, that Alexander was all that the necromancer wanted. He had explained to her about the sorcerers, before feigning submission to Griffon, making an oath to bring his old friend back to Nottingham, or suffer Rosemary’s execution for his failure. And now, all of Griffon’s plans were unravelling, but Rosemary Weaver was still afraid. Because there was a chance that her hero, her Miguel, would not make it.

Fortuno pursued Griffon, running as if the Devil was on his heels. The necromancer stormed through the forest, scanning, searching for his fiancée. Eventually, he spotted her, fleeing with the rest of the servants and a good deal of the guests. His familiar, Cornelius, flew ahead, guiding his master through the wooded labyrinth. As they reached the glade where he had been reborn, Griffon gave a great leap and caught his bride by the arm. She hit him hard in the face, but this only made his advance more determined.
‘That’s no way to treat your future husband.’ He laughed and kissed her deeply on the lips with a surprising tenderness.
‘I’m not an evil man. I simply have the misfortune of having objectives in life that clash with those of my peers. Give it time… you will learn to love me.’
‘I will never love you. You killed people for your own pleasure, and you were going to force me to marry you through some cheap trick. And no amount of mesmerising or sweet-talking will make me forget that.’
She slapped him hard across the face, but he caught her by the hand before she could move again.
‘It’s over Griffon.’ Yelled Fortuno from the lip of the glade. The necromancer stood up.
‘Oh no Alexander. It has only just begun.’

Fortuno leapt forward, driving his sword towards Griffon’s chest… and plunged it deep…into the heart of Miranda Warwick. There was a horrible silence, before Fortuno gave a yell of primal rage and thrust his staff into Griffon’s face. The necromancer did not blink; he was staring, shell-shocked at his fallen fiancée.
‘Go on… do it.’
A great ball of fire engulfed Griffon, leaving him screaming and cursing in pain before disappearing into dust, his staff clattering weakly to the floor. Cornelius, his constant companion for most of his life, sat down forlornly on his fallen master’s staff, blinked in confusion and then vanished into thin air.

Fortuno rushed to Miranda’s side, propping her up on his weary arms. Blood was seeping through her white gown and her face had turned pale as her life began to ebb away.
‘Come on Miranda…hold on…’
Miranda coughed weakly and smiled sadly at Alexander.
‘It was…an accident…’
‘I was stupid…reckless…’
‘But…you came back for me…’
And with that, Miranda Warwick died. Miguel ran up to his friend’s side, followed by Major Negan. The fleeing servants had heard the anguished cry of Fortuno, and had turned back, approaching warily.
‘Oh… Alex. I’m so sorry… but there’s nothing we can do. She’s gone.’
Fortuno grimly shook his head. He turned his head slowly, and Negan shrank back, the sorcerer’s eyes had turned as blue as Griffon’s had been.
‘Yes…’ He said coldly, calmly, rising to his feet and walking over to where Griffon had been. ‘But not for long.’
‘But… Oh…Alex…Alex no!’
But it was too late. Alexander had seized the fallen Griffon’s staff and began to chant under his breath.

Supplementals: Necromancy

Sorcerous Encyclopedia: Necromancy

A dark and mysterious art, the practice of necromancy is almost as old as sorcery itself. It’s practitioners have always been forced to either act in secret or actively oppose the main body of immortals due to the nature of their art.

Necromancy can involve the raising and animating of the dead, as well as the draining of the life force from living beings in order to add to one’s own power. The process of animating the dead can also be used on living beings, putting them in a trancelike state and affecting their actions. However, it is almost impossible to properly bring a person back from the dead without some side effects, and so most necromancers mainly use their art to animate corpses to act as disposable warriors or workers.

The first great necromancers to emerge were Erik Ulriksson, father of later Elder Freya Eriksdotter, and his associate Evanna Rosemunde, who infiltrated the Elder Conclave in order to find sympathetic parties within who she could convert to their cause. Unlike William Griffon, their motives seemed entirely justified by a desire for power. When Griffon became a necromancer in order to resurrect his child, he challenged the Conclave with the belief that by practicing the art it could be harnessed and controlled. They refused, and thus began the great war.

The effects of necromancy on it’s user vary, but typically it can be compared to a narcotics addiction, making the individual involved drained and desperate for additional boosts to their power. It also drains emotion and inhibitions, often reducing wielders to mere shadows of their former selves. Powerful emotions such as love or anger have been known to survive the process for a longer period of time.

Practicing an act of necromancy whilst in full control of one’s actions held a penalty of being stripped of one’s powers in the years before the war; afterwards the sentence was raised to execution.

Chapter Fourteen: The Darkness Before Dawn

‘Well well, if it isn’t Alexander Fortuno. We meet again.’
‘Captain Negan’
‘It’s Major now, actually.’
‘What are you doing here?’
‘Sadly, Mr. Carrera here happens to have more loyalty to the Crown than to his friends.’
‘What?’
Fortuno gasped in surprise. Miguel had betrayed him? The sorcerer did not meet his gaze, and turned away, leaving the room, silent as the grave.
‘Take him to the coach.’
‘And what about the men who attacked the fortress?’
‘Round them up, and then hang them at dawn.’

Alexander was silent as the ship took him back to England. His staff had been taken by Negan, who kept it in his cabin, unaware of its true nature, he seemed more afraid that Fortuno might use it to bludgeon him with it. Miguel never visited him, which was just as well, as Alexander would probably have strangled him. The only visitors he received were the silent sentinels who brought him a few scraps of food or a small jug of water or ale, though never enough to get him drunk, which Fortuno lamented. At least he would have forgotten his worries for a few hours. He spent the lonely few days thinking of Weaver’s manor in Nottingham, the vile Griffon, and Miranda…especially Miranda.
The Elder Conclave had gathered in secret in their Hyde Park lair. Freya, the Elder from Denmark, had just finished placing the protective wards on the entrance, and Elder Bernard cleared his throat.
‘Now, we’ve all heard the rumours and our esteemed colleague Elder Nikolai has confirmed that the manor in Nottingham has been taken over by William Griffon. We have sent in several of our ilk to assist, but they have all been unsuccessful. Griffon’s power has reached its former height and we must act quickly if we are to…’

At that moment, a gramophone began playing loudly, which disturbed the convened elders, none of whom remembered turning it on. Immediately, a tall, thin man seemed to materialise in the room, wearing an Inverness coat over his emerald dress jacket, red waistcoat and tan trousers. A great white falcon perched at his shoulders, its steely gaze surveying the councillors. This was Edward Hartnell, the Castellan of the Conclave, adjutant and leader of their defensive task force, with the falcon Caldeum, his brave and loyal familiar. Hartnell spoke in a soft undertone that belied no hint of his emotions.
‘Forgive the intrusion, but our position has been compromised. We must leave immediately.’
The councillors swiftly began to exit, but as they reached the blackness of the Park at night, the music seemed to swell.
‘Who has the strength to break the wards?’ asked Serapus.
‘Me.’
The elders looked up to see Griffon and three black hooded acolytes drifting towards them out of the night sky.
‘Griffon.’
‘Bernard. Vladimir. How delightful to see you again.’ The elders reached for their staffs, but their attacks seemed to pass through Griffon unharmed, and he laughed. The silent acolytes mirrored his movements exactly, as if they were all puppets on the same set of strings. This was merely an avatar, a simulacrum of the real Griffon, which enabled him to deliver his message without fear of being attacked.
‘Have you not the courage to face us yourself?’
‘And leave my prisoners unguarded? We are not all as foolish as you…. didn’t you think to change your meeting place after all these centuries?’
Griffon’s avatar laughed.
‘No, I am not here to fight. I am merely here to tell you of my upcoming nuptials. I would invite you, but I wouldn’t want you ruining the reception. Every sorcerer that treads my soil triggers the death of one mortal. I hardly think I need to give you a demonstration.’
‘You’ll fail Griffon, you’ll still fail.’
‘And who’s going to stop me? I have your errand boys on the way right now…ready to pay the penalty for your foolishness. But don’t worry, I’ll let you observe. You’ll get to watch as I reduce the great Fortuno to dust.’
As he spoke, the ‘great Fortuno’ was being forcibly escorted from the ship to a small coach at Liverpool port. The soldiers were taking no chances; the driver was armed, as were the two men sitting atop the coach. Negan and Miguel sat opposite Fortuno for the journey, the Major’s eyes always on his bounty. When they finally arrived at Lord Weaver’s manor, none of the men assembled spoke. They walked towards the building in silence, into the dark stronghold of William Griffon, master of the Necromancers.
William Griffon sat behind the oak polished desk with an enormous smile on his face, so much that any onlooker would just see a man who was ecstatic to be getting married. He was dressed in a fine wedding suit that had come all the way from London. On a perch beside the window sat Cornelius, his ever watchful familiar.
‘Ah, Major Negan, delightful to see you again. And I see you’ve brought a guest. Welcome Mr. Fortuno, to my humble abode.’ He gestured for Negan to place Fortuno in the chair in front of the desk.
‘I presume you know why I have assembled these fine people to my home?’ Fortuno did not reply, nor did he meet Griffon’s gaze. The necromancer stood up and leant towards him, resting an arm on Fortuno’s shoulder as a father would do to his son.
‘Oh, poor Alex. To have your heart and your life broken in such a short time. And to have lost your dearest friend to the Crown. Or was it to the love of young Miss Weaver? My my…love can make fools of us all.’
Miguel stood silent behind his former friend, his eyes fixed firmly on his shoes.
‘Jonathan, escort Mr. Carrera outside for a moment.’
‘Yes sir.’
When the two men had left, Griffon sat down at the desk, and looked Fortuno directly in the eye.
‘I hope you won’t take this too personally. I couldn’t ask for a finer woman to stand at my side when I make the world how it should be, and I’m sorry that it just happens to be the woman who caught your particular fancy.’
‘And at what point do you intend on releasing her from your influence?’ Fortuno replied grimly, his voice cutting, but low as a whisper.
‘Once the Conclave is defeated and Bernard King begs me on his knees to rejoin them. When sorcerers are free and she can be proud of what I’ve done, then she will be free.’
‘What about Alice? What would she have made of all this?’
This caught the necromancer off guard, and his acerbic air disappeared.
‘I loved Alice, more than you could hope to comprehend. But Alice is gone now… and immortality is a lonely road to walk alone.’ He stood up, and began pacing the room. ‘I’ll be frank with you then, it is personal. You’re Bernard King’s shining star, and if I had to lose my wife and son because of his stubbornness and pride, then he can watch helplessly as his protégé is destroyed.’
‘You won’t succeed Griffon. I swear, on everything I hold dear… you won’t live past today.’
Griffon did not reply. He called for Negan, who returned promptly, without Miguel, and stood at attention behind Fortuno’s chair.
‘Well, I’d love to stay and chat, but then I’d be late for my own wedding.’ Griffon patted Fortuno on the shoulder, before walking to the door, but before he left, he stopped and turned back.
‘Oh… and Major? Ensure that he is presentable for the ceremony…my bride would be very upset if her day wasn’t…absolutely perfect.’ There was an unmistakable trace of menace in the necromancer’s voice before he left the room, shutting the door behind him.

Jonathan Negan had waited patiently outside as his new ally spoke with Fortuno. Life had been good to him over the past months. Following the duel, the man who had called himself Lord Savernake had taken him aside and explained that the two men were impostors and that he was an agent of the Government who had been tracking them across the country. The entire Weaver household had been ruled as threats by Her Majesty, and Negan was required to stand as sentinel over the manor, receiving a pay increase and promotion as his reward. But these were nothing to Negan, serving his country and monarch whilst being offered the opportunity of hunting down criminals was reward enough. Alexander Fortuno was a fugitive from British justice, and Negan had no qualms about using the underhand methods required to take him in. And if capturing the fugitives also helped him catch a notorious smuggler, well, that was fine by him.

Hundreds of miles across the ocean, Captain Sherman Fraser and his crew ascended the gallows with their heads held high. They had all had a good run of life, and were determined to face execution with bravado. At least, this was the view of the older sailors, the ship’s boy and several others had not seen their fill of the world, and held back tears as their heads were placed in the nooses. As the official read out their crimes, the men took one last look at the rising sun.
‘May God have mercy on your souls. Proceed.’

The hangman dropped the lever and the trapdoors fell… and so did the ropes, seeming to magically loosen themselves from around the gallows frame… At that moment, a burst of cannon fire hit the wall of the fort, and the observers were thrown to the floor. When they looked up, the condemned had vanished.