Chapter Nineteen: School for Sorcery

That morning, Jason pondered the plan that Lewis had laid out. The classes at the facility were divided into three, history, practical, and contextual studies, all of which would prepare them for the day when they would be let out into the world. They were led by a series of humourless men and women who dealt with any stepping out of line with extreme harshness.

Fortunately, the man in charge of Jason’s group was the exception to the rule. Dr. Alan Mutor was the Deputy Leader of the Facility. He answered only to the mysterious Director, who they had never encountered, save for a few brief, chilling messages over the tannoy. Mutor tried to avoid unnecessary disciplinary actions, and would probably cease them altogether, if not for the presence of one student who seemed determined to make everyone’s life a misery.
‘Pushing it for time aren’t you Fortuno?’
‘Do you want people to hate you Spencer, or are you just naturally like this?’
Spencer went to respond, but another student appeared behind Fortuno, causing him to pale slightly and hurry into the classroom.
‘Morning Millie’
‘Morning Jason’
Milly Chapman was a tall, thin pretty girl whose dark bob cut hair made her look like a relic of the nineteen-twenties. She was in a different class to Jason and his companions, but that did not stop her from being close friends, particularly as she seemed to be the only student that could silence Paul Spencer simply by being there.
‘Try not to have too much fun today.’

‘Carter, S.’
‘Present.’
‘Cross, R’
‘Present.’
‘Dillon, G.’
‘Fortuno, J.’
‘Present.’
Ever since he could remember, Jason had been a student at the Facility, where they learnt about sorcery, and how to perform it. He had known no other life, but had become restless; he wanted to explore the world they learnt about as a person, not as a soldier.

Dr. Mutor finished the calling out of the register and walked to the front of the room.
‘I hope all of you have finished your assignment.’ The students murmured in response. ‘Well, let’s see shall we? Can someone tell me the connection between sorcery and mortality?’
‘Yes sir. A sorcerer has a natural lifespan until they perform their first act of sorcery, wherein it is greatly extended. The aging process halts here, a fact that sometimes affects the personality of the individual affected, but it is possible to create the illusion of aging.’
‘Correct Mr. Spencer. A very handy trick for avoiding suspicion.’ Mutor paused for a moment before posing another question. ‘Who is the oldest living sorcerer in the world?’ A hand shot up. ‘Mr. Spencer again.’
‘Bernard King.’
‘Correct… as far as we know. Right, a tricky one now… how do you kill a sorcerer?’ He sighed. ‘Someone besides Mr. Spencer perhaps? Yes, Miss Fulham.’
‘Very difficult sir, but generally anything that destroys the brain or disintegrates the body completely. Sorcerers cannot be defeated by inflicting physical injuries, although they do cause pain and they still have to heal over time like a mortal’s injuries.’ Patricia answered, shooting a smirk at the sullen Spencer.
‘Good. Well, today, we’re going to be using the information you found to put together a study. After all, the very point of studying the past is to help us make wiser decisions in the future.’

Jason tended to keep his head down in class, answering only what was necessary. Fortunately, Dr. Mutor asked him very little, although he always commended Jason’s hard work in assignments.

‘You all now know about the earlier days of sorcery and necromancy, although we may never know what exactly caused people to develop these talents. The study shall be your own work, I want you all to pick a figure from history who you admire, for whatever reasons, and use this hour’s lesson to prepare a five minute presentation on them for tomorrow. No judgement will be made on the figure you select; marks will only be awarded with regards to the quality of your presentation.’

Jason already knew who the popular choice would be. Topics in the Facility were treated with a curious type of bias, while they showed both sides of the argument in regards to the divide between sorcerers and necromancers; they presented the sorcerers side half-heartedly, so people would not choose them out of disinterest rather than dislike. So no doubt there would be dozens of reports on William Griffon and Evanna Rosemunde with only maybe one or two on Vladimir Serapus or Bernard King. After not a great deal of deliberation, Jason elected to do his presentation on the sorcerer Vincenzo Contadini, just to be different.
‘Use whatever resources you require, but be back here in forty-five minutes to tell me how you’re each getting on. And remember, cite your sources, or I shan’t be marking you. That goes for you too Miss Fulham.’
‘Yes sir.’ came the sullen reply.
‘Right, go forth and be educated.’

The class was summarily dismissed, and the majority of the students made their way to the archives to prepare their presentation. No one registered Paul Spencer being plucked out of the ranks by a guard and marched down the corridor. He was led in Nurse Ellis’ office and sat down, for once a little unsure of himself.
‘You wanted to see me Nurse?’
‘Yes. Mr Spencer.’ She scanned his file with great interest, before slamming it down on the desk. ‘A remarkable student.’
‘Thank you.’
The Nurse frowned.
‘That was a statement, not a compliment. Though, despite your successes, you appear to be somewhat unpopular with your fellow students.’
‘My studies are all that count. Friends are an expense that I can’t afford.’
‘Good boy.’ She stared at him for some time, before smiling a cold, cruel smile.
‘The Director needs someone of your calibre for a special task. Will you accept?’

Jason arrived at the archives and sat next to Lewis. Unlike the rest of the Facility, the library did not have that clinical feel to it; it was filled with row upon row of dusty tomes on the nature of sorcery and necromancy, as well as more modern files in plastic wallets that lay in untidy stacks on the desks.
‘So, who did you decide to do your project on?’
‘Vincenzo Contadini. Councillor, Italian sorcerer, hero of the Grecian campaign. You?’
‘The Marquis, Benedict le Fleur. Defeated Shadow Conclave member Claude Rothbart in the later years of the war in Belarus. His cousin apparently. And look…’ Lewis showed Jason a portrait of his subject, a handsome, yet haughty looking nobleman with red hair.
‘Don’t you think he looks a bit like Bianca?’
‘The resemblance is uncanny.’ Jason replied drily. Then, checking that no staff members were around, he whispered to him:
‘So are we actually going to do it?’
‘Of course.’
‘Do you really think it will work?’
‘Absolutely one hun…ninety n…six percent positive.’ Lewis replied.
‘You really do instil confidence in others Lewis.’ Jason smirked. ‘Half past eight.’
They could not have known that every word they said was being listened to with great interest.

Chapter Eighteen: Son of Fortune

It was a pleasant evening, and he walked through the glade without looking around; it was a place he knew all too well, though curiously he couldn’t remember ever being there before. Then, he felt a cold shudder running down his spine. The whole area had suddenly become cold, and deathly quiet. He turned instinctively, and behind him stood the very embodiment of his nightmares. The figure was clad in a black hood and blood-stained robes, and all that could be seen of his face were two glowing blue eyes. He turned and ran, but the figure pursued, gaining on him. He seemed to drift rather than run, and yet the boy could not outrun him, he tripped, and the man bore down on him…

Seven o’clock. Jason Fortuno awoke from his deep sleep, yawned, hauled himself out of bed and changed from his pyjamas to a set of working overalls. He had not slept well that night, but that was not unusual. He saw his three roommates, Bianca, Lewis and Patricia following suit, changing their simple night underclothes for their dull, grey uniforms without shame or embarrassment. They were an odd bunch, their looks clashing as violently as their personalities.

Bianca was a small, energetic girl with green eyes and a kind, selfless nature that had endeared her to Jason, as well as the rest of their friends. Lewis was Asiatic, tall and gangly, with round spectacles that were pushed to the very brink of his long nose. He was an intellectual, but without the arrogance that made such individuals dislikeable. Patricia was red-haired, with piercing eyes and a body that was perhaps a little too thin. Her face was slender, aquiline, and very beautiful, and her razor-sharp wit ensured she was never without friends. And although none of them knew it, they were all here for a very special purpose.

This was the Facility. It had no other name, nor did it need one. Here, students of sorcerous descent learn how to utilise their gifts to become sorcerers and necromancers, though what happened once this happened, none of the students knew. Day after day for as long as they could remember, the students had been taught not only practical sorcery and its history but also survival skills for the world outside, several necessary languages and basic weapons training. Jason, Bianca, Lewis and Patricia were just four of nearly a hundred youths who endured this program, they knew nothing else, and they never expected anything to change. Though the majority of the students had come to the Facility as orphans, there was a handful whose parents had practically leapt at the opportunity to have them enrolled. Jason felt a swell of pity for these individuals, until he saw the treatment they were given compared to the regular students, getting made into prefects, given extra time on assignments and essentially gaining a free reign over their “inferiors”.

They left the room without speaking and entered the grim, dismal canteen, making no comment on the repulsive looking slop that was piled on their plates. It was only once all four of them had sat down that they began to speak.
‘Anyone know much about the Battle of Luxembourg? Only I’m supposed to give a presentation on it today.’ said Jason, quickly gulping the food on his tray whilst trying to avoid having it touch his tongue.
‘It was quite important… many people died… etc. The usual. Come on Jason, it’s History. Who cares?’
‘Thank you Trish. Lewis, do you have anything more helpful to contribute?’ Jason asked.
‘Here, borrow my notes.’ replied Lewis, passing over a thick wad of paper covered with several dozen barely legible points.
‘This is indecipherable.’
‘You asked for my help.’
‘Perhaps I should ask Millie, she usually seems to be in the know.’
‘Oh, so suddenly my insight isn’t good enough.’
‘Oh grow up you two.’
They were silent for a moment, allowing time for their breakfast to settle, before Bianca spoke up.
‘So, what’s the plan for today?’
‘Eat, study, eat, work, eat, sleep.’ Replied Patricia flippantly. The others laughed, but became quieter as an attendant passed by their table, wearing something that resembled a bio-hazard suit, a silver hood all but concealing his face so that only the guard’s mouth was visible. Once he passed by they continued.
‘Unless you’re working on another plan?’
Lewis glanced at the attendant, before leaning in and whispering conspiratorially.
‘Well, now that you mention it…’
But he was not able to finish his sentence, for at that moment; all of the suited attendants stopped, stood bolt upright and marched to the double doors at the edge of the canteen, forming two perfect lines on either side. The children sat around the tables rose to their feet with a sense of monstrous unison. They all stood before their chairs, waiting.

The double doors swung open to reveal a troop of grey clad men, led by a steely-eyed blonde nurse in blue scrubs. She had a pretty, well formed face that was made ugly by the no-nonsense grimace of disgust that it bore. To her right was a tall thin man with dark hair, who was wearing a white doctor’s coat. He stood rigidly, his eyes staring off into the distance as if they registered nothing.
‘Inspection.’ Snapped the Nurse.
The staff divided into four groups, each moving to a row on either side of the two sets of tables, before inspecting the eyes, teeth and general status of each person. Bianca and Jason’s row was singled out by the Nurse, who made her way down the row considerably faster than her co-workers. The row stood bolt upright, sweating in nervous anticipation, but fortunately, no problems were detected, and the Nurse went on her way. As soon as the staff left, there was a collective sigh of relief from the teenagers.
‘So…this plan…’ asked Jason, breaking the silence.
‘Yes…as I was saying…’ Lewis leant in to the other students as he explained his latest escape plan.

The students had no time to consider Lewis’ words, for almost as soon as he finished, a handsome but cruel eyed young man picked up his tray, moved over to their table and cleared his throat. Paul Spencer was one of the few students at the Facility who never expressed unhappiness at being there; rather he seemed to revel in it, enjoying the power that he learnt from practical studies. He would sit at the front of the classroom, eagerly waiting the commencing of studies and seize any question thrown by one of their teachers with the greed of a predator leaping for a scrap of meat. His devotion had led him to becoming one of a handful of students to gain prefect status without being “voluntary” members of the Facility.
‘Well if it isn’t my favourite foursome. Actually planning to do any work today?’
‘Bugger off Spencer, no one invited you.’
Spencer sat down regardless and smirked at the others.
‘Looking forward to another day of studies? You know, I have a feeling that you could all be great necromancers one day, if you just paid a little more attention.’
‘Who says we want to be great necromancers?’ asked Patricia. Spencer laughed, and took a large bite from Lewis’ breakfast.
‘Pay no attention to him Lewis.’
‘Tell me Patricia, did Mr. Kendall call you inept or just stupid when you nearly managed to burn down the classroom?’
‘No, you tell us Paul, did Nurse Ellis say you were unfortunate or just asking for it when you annoyed Amelia so much that she managed to cause an outbreak of boils to develop on your backside?’ Bianca shot at him.
Spencer went scarlet and quickly left the table, leaving his tray behind. The canteen was filled with the familiar rings of the morning bell.
‘Horrible man.’
‘He’ll get what’s coming to him some day. Come on, time for class.’
Patricia and Lewis stood up and left the table, but Jason remained seated.
‘What’s wrong Jason?’ Bianca asked, resting her hand on his shoulder. ‘Another dream?’
‘Yeah… but that’s not what’s bothering me.’
‘Well what then?’
Jason sighed.
‘Do you think it’ll work? Do you think we’ll ever get out of here B?’
‘Some day Jason. Some day.’ she sighed, and took his hand, leading him off to class. ‘Come on, mustn’t be late.’