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.

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