Finally gotten round to adding a few more illustrations, so here we are, the several members of the mysterious Elder Conclave!

Bernard King Vladimir SerapusThomas MarshallVincenzo ContadiniCassim Bishara


Chapter Twenty Three: Freedom’s End

Jason reached the bottom of the hill, where he could hear the steady crashing of the
waves against the shore. He had never heard the sound before, and it soothed his aching
head. He sat down at the foot of the hill to catch his breath. Suddenly, there was a
crunching noise, and a pair of yellow lights shone brightly into his face. A woman
emerged from behind the lights, which, to Jason’s relief, were coming from a small Fiat.
The woman yelled at Jason in a thick Italian accent.
‘Hey! Why are you sitting in the middle of the road? Come on, move!’
Jason stood up slowly, taken aback by the small, angry woman. He spoke slowly in his
best Italian; one of the few benefits of attending the Facility was that it included intensive
linguistic training.
‘I’m really sorry ma’am, I don’t know where I am and I need to find the police or the
carabinieri as soon as possible.’
The woman’s features softened, and she shouted in the direction of the Fiat.
‘Luke, take the children to bed!’
A tall, gangly Spanish man a little older than Jason opened the passenger seat and
staggered towards the woman.
‘But I was gonna go back with…’
‘Oh no, you cause enough trouble tonight already. You listen to me, stay away from that
puttana. Otherwise your parents will hear about what happened this evening.’
The youth sighed and opened the back door for a younger girl, who was carrying a small,sleeping toddler over her back.
‘I’m taking this young man into town. I trust you’ll have no more ‘accidents’?’
‘No Mrs. Cecchini.’
‘Good.’ She smiled, and beckoned Jason to step into the car, and he hopped in without

‘A spectre, you say?’
‘Yes sir. He claimed it materialized over the sea, disclosed the location of his son and
vanished. Preposterous.’
‘I wouldn’t be so sure.’
Councillor Thomas Marshall sat reclining at his desk in the London townhouse where he
dwelt, his hawkeyed butler Clavius keeping silent vigil at his master’s side. Simon
Liberthine stood awkwardly in front of him, appearing like a schoolboy giving a report.
Marshall was one of the only men who could make him nervous.
‘You’ve lived long enough to expect the unexpected Simon. Spirits becoming lost in
between worlds… it has happened on occasion. Remember William Griffon fooled us into
thinking he was dead by casting himself into the ether? What’s to say Fortuno didn’t do
the same… but less successfully?’
The Arbiter turned. It sounded like his mentor was not explaining his thoughts to him, but
hypothesizing, theorizing for his own benefit. Marshall extended his arm out sideward
and Clavius thrust a glass of liquor into his master’s outstretched palm.
‘You know I don’t sir.’
‘But of course. Almost like a proper man of the cloth, just as I used to be. Alas, I have elapsed into
sin in my old age.’ He took a sip from his glass. ‘This spirit business, better not tell
young Miranda, no sense in raising her hopes.’
Simon was puzzled by this and raised one eyebrow quizzically.
‘You mean to say you want me to go ahead with this?’
‘Of course.’
Thomas placed his glass on the table, deliberating for some time.
‘Do you enjoy your position Simon?’
‘Don’t you ever question the decisions we make, decisions whose results you have to
‘I…’ Simon began with difficulty. ‘The decision of the Conclave is final. My job is not to
question, but to carry out orders. And if people falter… I relish the challenge of bringing
them back to our side.’
‘But of course you do.’
Simon paused for a long time before he spoke.
‘What about you sir?’
Thomas’ sombre façade slipped for a fraction of a second before he took another sip of
his glass.
‘I simply accept that life is unfair.’
Thomas made a lazy motion with his finger, and a dossier flew out from the shelf into
Simon’s hands.
‘The most recent whereabouts of Mrs. Fortuno.’ Thomas smiled wryly, the only non-malignant expression he seemed capable of. ‘It’s most unlikely she’ll have moved on.
Good luck Simon.’
‘Thank you sir.’
Simon disappeared in a flash of light and Thomas, slowly, wearily got out of his seat and
gazed at the ancient portrait of the raven-haired sorceress on his wall. Clavius moved to
offer him some assistance, but Thomas waved him away. He sighed, sipping the last of
the wine.
‘Life is unfair.’

On the way into town, Jason learnt that his driver’s name was Simona Cecchini and the
young man she had dropped off was Luke Carrera, son of one of her friends, who had
decided to pay them an unexpected visit. He was supposed to have been babysitting his
younger siblings who had been staying with him that week, but had attempted to combine
the occasion with a party with his friends, and the whole evening had gone disastrously
wrong. The woman spoke good English, but she would occasionally lapse into thickly-
accented Italian, which Jason struggled to understand. He said little about himself, only
that he urgently needed to speak to the police. Simona seemed content to leave it at that,
and in a short while they arrived at the police station.
‘You want me to help you speak to them?’ Jason assured her that he would be fine. He
thanked Mrs. Cecchini for her help and marched swiftly into the station and launched into
a stream of his best Italian to the desk sergeant who looked highly startled.
‘This sounds serious young man. I think I had better contact the Chief.’
Jason nodded frantically as the sergeant left his post and disappeared out of Jason’s
The Arbiter was brisk and to the point upon his return to Miguel’s café.
‘They have agreed. Come with me.’
He held out his umbrella to Rosemary and Miguel, who took hold of it tightly.
‘Don’t let go.’
Before he had finished the sentence, they were off.
Jason sat waiting for what seemed like forever before he heard the sound of approaching
footsteps. He turned to the desk to see the Director smiling back at him, waving a finger
and tutting with mock disappointment. Jason ran out of the building as fast as he could…
before feeling a sharp pain in his arm. He turned to see Nurse Ellis clutching a vicious
looking needle, its tip suddenly dripping red. As he fell into unconsciousness, all Jason
could think was:
‘I was so close.’