Chapter Seventeen: Birth and Death of an Immortal

One hundred and twenty years later, Alexander Fortuno and the former Miss Miranda Warwick stood in a stone courtyard, watching the red sun set behind the mountains. They had spent many years trekking across Europe, removing all traces of Griffon’s former acolytes from the Earth, partly so they would not be disturbed by any old enemies, but also so that the Conclave might deem it fit to forgive Alexander one day and allow him to return to England. Alexander had passed the Gift to Miranda, granting her immortal life, and, now that their enemies had been defeated, the two immortals could be at peace.
The couple were at that moment living in a small, medieval town in the Umbria region of Italy, where they were enjoying a quiet existence of a café owner and his wife. Ten months following their escape from the Elder Conclave, they had managed to be reunited with Miguel and his new wife Rosemary, who had, surprisingly, been let off lightly despite his crimes. It seemed that the Conclave had been weary, and had followed procedure out of duty more than any real motivation. The influence of Vladimir Serapus as Deputy of the Conclave certainly contributed in Miguel’s favour, and Miguel’s role in bringing about Griffon’s defeat had also helped hugely. Whilst they would arrest Fortuno if he returned to England again,
they were not about to devote time and resources to finding him.
The Italianate-Spaniard had been sentenced to have his staff broken, a symbolic gesture
of his ban from sorcery, and he had been summarily banished from England for one hundred years. Rosemary received the Sorcerer’s Gift shortly afterwards, and the two of
them had moved to a small village on the Spanish Coast with their three children, Luke, Alonso and Mia, one of whom was just a toddling infant, although Rosemary was already
expecting their fourth child. Alexander and Miranda had been the only witnesses to the
couple’s marriage, an event that Fortuno was greatly pleased about, not only for his
friend’s happiness, but also because he felt that Miguel often needed someone to rein him
in. Rosemary’s father Lord Weaver had died peacefully in 1902, extremely fat but extremely content with the life he had lived.
As the last traces of sunlight disappeared behind the Umbrian mountains, a band in the courtyard began a soft Italian love song on their mandolins. The singer, a round faced man in his forties, winked at Alexander as he began to sing. The song reminded Alexander of the years past, and as he looked deeply into the eyes of the woman for whom he had risked everything to bring back from the dead, he was at peace for the first time in years. They began to dance around the courtyard, silent, their faces expressing what words could not.
Alexander dropped to one knee.
‘Miranda Warwick, will you marry me?’
‘Oh Alex, of course I will.’
‘Will you love him, cherish him and forsaking all others be faithful to him, as long as you both shall live?’
‘I will.’
‘May the Lord in His goodness strengthen your consent and fill you both with His blessings. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.
You may now kiss your bride.’

Alexander lay sleeping across an inflatable water bed, not noticing his bride reach up and release the air from it, causing him to drop, startled, into the swimming pool.
They spent days under the Mediterranean sun, caring about nothing but each other. They visited Miguel and Rosemary in Spain, where the two men chased each other across the beach like children, whilst the women stretched out under the hot sun, trying hard not to get splashed.

‘Alex… I’m pregnant.’

The words drifted past as the lovers danced around the courtyard. The singing stopped, but the music played on, and so they did not notice the seven hooded men that approached them, moving silently from the darkness. Before the two dancers could react, the tallest of the figures fired two perfect, silent shots that pierced their chests. He grinned beneath his hood and nodded to the two men next to him, who picked up the fallen couple and carried them off into the night.

When Alexander awoke, a man was looking at him with an air of dark curiosity. He had silvery hair, and octagonal, black tinted glasses.
‘Who…who are you?’
‘Shhh.’ The man gestured behind him. The room looked like a hospital, with pale yellow, tiled walls and a white ceiling which had paint peeling off it. The man had been gesturing to a figure on the bed that was doubled up in pain. He tried to get up, to reach her, but his arms were tightly fastened to the chair, and his head still felt groggy from being tranquilised.
‘Miranda…what have you done to her?’
‘I’m not to blame for her predicament sir. You are.’ He indicated Miranda’s swollen stomach. ‘Don’t try to resist me, or she’ll be in even greater discomfort. Understand?’ Alexander did not respond. The man curled his lip.
‘Understand?’ Fortuno managed a brief nod. ‘Good. Now give Dr. Mutor some quiet.’
Dr. Mutor was a tall, bony, man with thinning brown hair. He was holding Miranda’s hand and whispering something to her that Fortuno could not hear. It was then he realised what was happening, and he fell silent. Next to him stood two tall, muscular attendants whose faces were covered in surgical masks.

‘It’s coming sir.’ The Doctor had a soft, pleasant voice which held more than just a trace of weariness in its tone.
‘Very good.’
Mutor reached for a thin syringe, but the man stopped him.
‘But surely sir…’
‘No.’ There was such finality in this single word that the Doctor ceased immediately. Miranda’s cries became more and more pained and Fortuno felt like crying with her, enraged at his own helplessness.

The following morning, the son of Alexander Fortuno and Miranda Warwick was born, after a painful five hour labour. The tall man left following the birth, and Dr. Mutor immediately began to do his best to make Miranda feel more comfortable. Alexander was also weary, but it was his mind, rather than his body which had suffered. Now he was staring at his newborn child with a mixture of pride and misery, knowing that he may never get the chance to hold his child. The tall man returned and sat down in front of Fortuno, regarding him coolly through his dark glasses.
‘Who the hell are you?’
‘Now now.’ He gestured in Miranda’s direction. ‘She’s just been through labour. We don’t want to distress her further.’
‘What do you want with us?’
‘I want your son.’
‘Why? What has he ever done to you?’
‘Nothing. But soon, I shall have need of him and I can’t have you interfering with my plans.’
‘You’ll regret this day mortal.’
‘Oh I think not Mr. Fortuno, I think not. Now, perhaps you’d like to name your son before he vanishes from your life.’
Fortuno did not answer.
‘Wait for your wife to wake up. Give me a name and then it will all be well.’ He spoke in the manner of someone comforting a young child, but with a cruel mocking tone to his voice. He then left, leaving Fortuno to brood over the impending loss of his progeny.

‘Jason. We’ve decided to call him Jason.’
The tall man nodded. Dr. Mutor was holding the newborn baby with a resigned sadness.
‘Very well. Say your farewells.’
Miranda kissed the baby’s head, sobbing uncontrollably as she did so. Alexander also kissed the baby’s head as his wife had done, but instead of weeping, he glared at the tall man. If it were possible for a gaze to pierce flesh, the man’s head would have been reduced to pulp. Dr. Mutor carried the baby away, doing his best to keep it quiet as he left the building.
‘Right, now I shall bid you adieu. Mrs. Fortuno.’ He bowed with mock courtesy, and forced Fortuno from the room, grabbing him by the scruff of his neck.
‘Alex…nooo!’
The tall man threw Alexander to the floor and followed him through the doorway, waving at Miranda as he did so. The attendants followed him, slowly closing the door.

Alexander Fortuno tried to rise from his knees as the tall man separated him from the two people in the world he loved the most. He cried out in anguish, but it was no good. The tall man pulled a gilded dagger from his jacket.
‘We shall see if you bleed as easily as the rest of us.’
‘Just tell me this… why?’
The man leant in, and whispered in the sorcerer’s ear.
‘I give you a chance to make a difference. Choose wisely.’ he said, moving away. The sorcerer’s eyes widened, before he shook his head and closed his eyes.
‘Well, I offered you the choice. So now, your charmed life comes to end.’
He pulled the dagger swiftly across the sorcerer’s throat, standing back to avoid the spray of blood.
‘Goodbye Alexander.’ He turned and walked off down the corridor. ‘Dispose of him.’

Alexander did not regain conciousness as he was impaled against the wall of the cellar. Even a gallon of petroleum failed to rouse him as the two brutish attendants went about the grim and nigh impossible task of destroying an immortal. Whilst the mutilations, immolations and explosions resulted in no trace of a body being left behind, it is possible that his spirit had left some while before.

That was 1973.

Chapter Sixteen: The Trial of a Sorcerer

As Fortune stood over the body of Miranda Warwick, he gave no thought to the consequences his actions would bring. He would be outcast, maybe even executed. No, not maybe… certainly. But none of this mattered now… he didn’t think he was stupid for committing himself to someone he barely knew… all Alexander Fortuno could think of was Miranda.

All of the onlookers, save Miguel had turned away, for a powerful, deathly sensation had filled the air as Fortuno finished the incantation, energy visibly streaming from his fingertips. Miranda’s chest began to heave, and her eyes fluttered open.

‘Alex…’

‘Don’t worry Miranda… you’ll be okay now.’

As he finished the sentence, Alexander Fortuno embraced Miranda Warwick tightly as if he was never going to let go. But as they parted, an arrow of blinding, multicoloured light came shooting from over the horizon and looped over itself several times before crashing by Miguel’s feet. As it did so, a very tall man dressed in a black suit and bowler hat materialised in the glade, an umbrella in his hand. The umbrella concealed a sword, but more importantly it was a symbol of office imbued with magical energies. Wielding it was a man greatly respected by the sorcerous world. This was Simon Liberthine, The Arbiter, ambassador and herald to the Conclave.

‘Mr. Liberthine.’

‘Mr. Carrera.’

The tall, thin man wasted no more time; he went up to Fortuno and a pair of shackles shot out of his pockets, sealing themselves tightly onto the sorcerer’s wrists.

‘Alexander Fortuno, I am placing you under arrest for use of necromancy.’

Miranda and the sorcerers vanished into thin air, leaving the startled Negan staring into space, rubbing his eyes in disbelief.

‘Those lawless, Godless curs…’ He turned to face his officers, who had swiftly followed on behind him.

‘Round up a search party at once. Fetch the constabulary, the Dragoons, anyone!’

‘I’m afraid we can’t do that sir.’ Mumbled Scriven. ‘I’m afraid you’ll have to come with us.’

Negan was stunned into silence as the young officer slapped the irons on his wrists.

‘Sorry about this sir. But the law is the law.’

‘That’s all right son…’ Negan gave an odd chuckle and smiled. At a time like this, all a man could do was appreciate the irony. ‘You’re only doing your duty.’

Alexander was swiftly escorted to the Elders’ meeting place where a courtroom had been hastily assembled, although a place of execution might be a more appropriate term. When he was placed behind the stand, he could see the disappointment and shock in the eyes of those gathered. Elder Bernard, who was presiding as Judge, gave his former apprentice a long, indecipherable stare. Miguel had been allowed to observe the proceedings as something of a comfort, though the bailiffs had confiscated the blade he had obtained from Negan’s men and were stood at the doorway, prepared for any shenanigans. Miranda was nowhere to be seen, and Fortuno could only assume the Conclave would have her silenced.

Liberthine spoke up, his soft voice betraying no emotion as he proclaimed the sentence:

‘Alexander Fortuno, you have been found guilty of the crime of necromancy, specifically the resurrection of the mortal Miranda Warwick. The penalty for such a crime, under any circumstances… is death.’

Alexander looked across at Miguel, who grimly looked back. Even a single use of necromancy could corrupt the user to the point that they could not do without it, and after finally disposing of Griffon, another power hungry necromancer was the last thing the Conclave wanted. It was after all, love that had driven Griffon to such ends in the first place.

As Fortuno looked away, he did not notice Miguel looking oddly at Simon Liberthine, who had his back to him as he continued to address the court.

‘This grieves the Conclave deeply, as you have performed many great services for us, but the law is absolute.’

The Arbiter grimly pulled out a gleaming ceremonial blade, ready for the execution, and handed it to a hooded figure dressed all in black. It was unusual for the punishment to be carried out immediately, but these were unusual times.

‘Do you have anything to say before the sentence is carried out?’

Alexander looked straight up at the Elders.

‘Milord, ladies and gentlemen of the Council, I am aware that I have broken our most ancient laws and am fully willing to pay the price. But, sirs, know this… given the choices again, I would surely do the same.’

As he said this, Miguel grabbed the umbrella from Simon Liberthine’s hand, using it to create a blinding blast of white light. Before the light cleared, Miguel had caught his friend by the arm, and they vanished into thin air, much to the indignation of the Councillors. None of them noticed a sly grin quickly shoot across the face of Bernard King.

Alexander and Miguel reappeared on the southern edge of Hyde Park, where Miranda and Sam were already standing. Miranda embraced her beloved; Sam immediately began to clean himself.

‘You can teleport? No wonder you always seem to get in and out of trouble so easily.’ Fortuno grinned.

‘I know enough of the ‘forbidden arts’ to get me by. And I do have friends in high places.’

Fortuno grinned, before remembering something that he had put out of his mind whilst trying to save Miranda.

‘Miguel, what happened to Captain Fraser?’

‘I took special effort to meet with the Elders’ spy before our little attack on the fort and prepare an escape. They’ll be on the run, but I imagine he’d have it no other way.’

‘Tell me then, who was the spy?’

Miguel tapped his nose and smiled.

‘Some other time. There are powers on this Earth greater than even the Conclave’s agents.’ He took a glance at the far end of the park. The Conclave’s enforcers had not yet emerged, but it was only a matter of time. ‘Well Alex, this is where I leave you.’

‘In trouble? How like you Miguel. Although it would have been good of you to inform me of your little plan before you sprang into action.’ Fortuno smiled at his old friend.

‘Always keep them guessing Alex.’

‘This is twice you’ve saved my life, I am in your debt Miguel.’

Miguel scoffed.

‘How can a friend be in debt?’ he asked philosophically. ‘Besides, this is sure to cover most of the trouble I’ve got you in before.’ His faced turned serious. ‘Now run, run far away. We will not be able to see each other for some time I fear.’ He grinned. ‘I believe Mr Liberthine will be wanting his umbrella back.’

‘Farewell my friend.’

‘Good luck… to both of you.

The two sorcerers embraced tightly, Miguel gave Miranda a quick peck on the cheek, and the two fugitives vanished into the night. Sam paused from his bath to look at Miguel.

‘Assisting a fugitive from justice, unlawful teleportation…you do know they’ll crucify you when they find you, don’t you?’

Miguel did not reply, he simply smiled, gave a magician’s flourish and disappeared.

That was 1873.