Category Archives: Uncategorized

Chapter Thirty-Six: The Professionals Meet

The Gentleman made his way across the nightclub floor. There was no visible sign of his earlier fall and impact with the pavement; even his suit remained spotlessly white.
‘Remember me?’
‘Jack, do you know this guy?’ Lauren asked, turning from the man she was serving. ‘And why did he call you…’ Simon cut her off with a whisper.
‘Lauren, take the kids and go.’
‘But…’
‘Now!’
She looked at him with alarm, but complied, swiftly but silently making her way towards the stairs.
‘You’re looking very well.’ He made his way past the table and onto the circular dance floor, which had now been hastily vacated. The crowd, sensing trouble, parted like the Red Sea to let The Gentleman pass. Simon came out from behind the bar and joined him, while the crowd looked on hungrily awaiting a fight.
‘Thank you. I might say the same of you, all things considered. I thought Freya dispatched you back in Munich.’
The Gentleman smiled in reminiscence.
‘Her effort was admirable. But I had a contract to complete, and my employer would have been so disappointed for it not to have been fulfilled.’ The two men circled each other like animals ready to pounce.
‘Where is the Fortuno boy?’ The Gentleman asked with cool authority.
‘Far away from you, and I intend to keep it that way.’
‘You can try sir, you can try.’
With that, the Gentleman’s hand shot outwards, and a thin blade extended from the base of his cane. From the inside of his coat, Simon pulled out his umbrella, revealing the rapier concealed with in its handle. The crowd scattered as the two men began to fight.

In the living room above the club, Jason sat on the cracked leather sofa, still drowsy from his sleep and lost in thought. His whole life had been spent adhering to a monotonous unchanging routine, and now everything had begun to happen all at once. He had finally found a surrogate family with Bianca, Simon and Lauren, a family which could now be under threat from the same fiend who had killed his parents. Jason’s knuckles whitened as he clenched and unclenched his fists. Someday, he thought, he would have his revenge.

His violent thoughts were disturbed as Bianca emerged from the bathroom wearing nothing but a robe, her hair still wet.
‘Oh… sorry Jason… I didn’t know you’d be there.’
‘Sorry. Do you want me to go while you get dressed?’
‘Oh after the Facility I don’t think there’s anything you haven’t already seen.’ They both giggled, and Jason turned away to allow Bianca some privacy as she changed.
‘Jason?’
‘Yes Bianca?’
‘Simon told me what you did today… you were very brave.’
Jason laughed.
‘I was lucky.’
They looked at each other in silence. Jason brushed a stray hair from Bianca’s face.
‘You are so beautiful.’
The tender moment was suddenly broken as Lauren burst into the room, gasping for breath as she spoke; unaware of the intimate scene she had interrupted.
‘Guys, we need to go.’
‘But…’
‘Now!’

A furious battle played out downstairs, each man matching the other blow for blow with text book swordsmanship. The music continued to play at a great volume, as though dramatically underscoring the conflict.
‘I congratulate you on hiding place Simon. It was not an easy task to find you here.’
‘Oh that was nothing. The hard part’s yet to come.’
He grabbed a wine glass with his free hand and flung its contents into the Gentleman’s eyes. The assassin stumbled backwards and Simon took advantage of this lapse, stabbing him through the chest.
‘I sincerely hope that hurt.’
He removed the blade and crossed himself before turning and running towards the backrooms. The crowd looked open mouthed as the Gentleman slowly raised himself up, brushed himself down and set off after him.

Simon managed to reach his silver Bentley and quickly ushered Lauren, Jason and Bianca into the back. While he knew that he couldn’t have defeated the Gentleman, he had bought them enough time to escape. As he moved off, he spied the Gentleman in the rear view mirror, his sword cane glinting as he sprinted to reach them.
‘Everybody, close your eyes.’
Simon swerved the car round and drove full speed towards the assassin, catapulting him several feet into the air before he was dropped to the pavement with a sickening crunch. Simon put his foot down and didn’t look back at, as his passengers stared at him, bewildered.
‘What just happened?’

Twisting his mutilated joints back into place for the second time that day, the elegant assassin watched as his quarry escaped his grasp again. Instead of making off in pursuit, he made his way to a telephone booth and inserted several coins into the slot, before dialling a number.
‘Sir, Fortuno has escaped.’
The voice on the other end did not explode with anger as the Gentleman had expected it to. Instead, there was a long pause, after which William Griffon’s cool, collected tone came through.
‘He won’t go far, not if he knows you’re after him, it would be hopeless.’ There was a few seconds of silence. ‘That was a compliment.’
‘Thank you sir.’
‘He knows he’s trapped… so he’ll call them altogether, whatever’s left of the old guard. All that remains is for us to meet them in battle… and crush them.’

Simon tried to collect his thoughts as he drove aimlessly along a country road that seemed to lead nowhere in particular.
‘So what was with tall dark and handsome back there? And who’s Simon?’
‘Simon is me.’
He pushed his foot down hard on the accelerator. The Gentleman could have easily procured a car by now and could well be on their tail.
‘Hey wait…what do you mean you’re Simon? You mean you lied to me?’
‘I have got much more important things to worry about right now!’ yelled Simon, shooting an angry look at his passenger, before swerving to avoid an oncoming car.
‘You lied to me… even after I took you in, got you up on your feet..?’ The catch in her voice nearly broke Simon’s heart, but he gritted his teeth and thought back to his days as the Arbiter, the days where the slightest sign of emotion could have brought his negotiations crashing down.
‘I’m sorry, but, we have to go back to England.’
‘What? Why?’ Asked all three of Simon’s passengers.
‘Did you not just see that man? He won’t stop until you’re in Griffon’s hands. And Miss Sanders, I’m sorry…’
‘But I’m coming with you right? I mean, that guy might come after…’
‘Why? Why would he come after you? He’s after us! You’re just unfortunate enough to have gotten caught up in this mess.’ Simon screeched the car to a halt, and lowered his voice, all the while avoiding Lauren’s gaze. ‘Take this car back home; once he sees we’re not with you, he’ll leave you alone. Jason, Bianca, come on.’
‘But Jack… Simon… I don’t care; I just want to be with you.’
‘Find someone else. There’s no future with someone like me.’
He got out of the car, Bianca and Jason following on behind. Lauren sat dejectedly in the front of the car and Simon was almost tempted to turn back, to apologise, to do something, anything … but eventually his professionalism won over and he walked along the road, not looking behind him. He couldn’t risk letting himself look back, he couldn’t have the luxury of emotion. The young sorcerers followed Simon along the path, wearied by the day’s events and saddened at leaving their life in New York behind, sorry to leave Lauren and have a chance to be ordinary. There was a small town up ahead, and they managed to sit down in a small booth at the local bar.
‘Where are we going?’ asked Jason.
‘We’re not running, or hiding anymore. I have a few friends to contact… then we must prepare to fight.’

Jason and Bianca sat silently nursing two lemonades whilst their protector made several brief calls on the telephone next to the bar.
‘Well, there goes our life.’ remarked Bianca bitterly. Jason put his arm around her and tried to smile.
‘Simon will make it right. Maybe we’ll even find your parents someday.’ Just a shame we’ll never find mine, Jason lamented to himself. As if she knew what he was thinking, Bianca moved in a little closer to him.
‘You’re bound to miss them Jason. But feeling bad will never bring them back, you can’t change the past. All we can do is decide what to do with the future.’

Their tender moment was interrupted by the return of Simon, who stood over the table, his face grim. He’d settled the bill, leaving a barely touched cup of hot coffee on the counter.
‘Time to go I’m afraid.’
They silently followed him out of the pub, leaving their own half finished drinks behind. Simon stood perfectly still outside for a moment, gazing up at the heavens.
‘Soon, every loyal sorcerer will arrive here.’
‘What for?’
‘One last gathering. For the final council.’

Advertisements

Chapter Twenty-Five: Sorrento

The plane touched down two hours after leaving Gatwick Airport. It was something of an ordeal getting through customs with false passports and several weapons, but after Miguel caused a distraction, Miranda and Rosemary managed to slip through inspection with a minimum of fuss, most of the security staff seemed rather tired and unobservant. The rest of them were preoccupied with chasing Miguel through the corridors. He gave them the slip shortly afterwards, and joined his friends for a coffee, before they picked up an arranged rental car and headed for the coast.
‘You seem to be thoroughly enjoying yourself.’ Rosemary remarked to her husband as they sped along the coastal road.
‘Of course I am. It’s great fun being me.’

The group soon arrived in the city of Sorrento, which was bathed in golden sunlight. The taxi stopped outside a large villa on the outskirts of town.
‘Why have stopped here Miguel?
‘We’re here to visit an old friend of mine, who may be able to help us. One who always has his ear to the street.’
‘You mean a…’
Miguel winked.
‘I try not to get on his bad side.’

They left the car and knocked three times on the villa door. A small Italian woman opened the door with a frown, before spotting Rosemary and beaming enormously.
‘Hey, bella, where have you been? We haven’t seen you for three years.’ She embraced her before turning on Miguel and berating him in Italian. Miranda stifled a giggle.
‘And who is this?’ the woman asked in heavily accented English.
‘This is Miranda; she’s a very good friend of ours.’ The woman smiled warmly and kissed Miranda on both cheeks. As she lead the guests through the house towards the back garden, Miguel whispered something to her in Italian.
‘Miranda èla moglie de Fortuno.’
The woman looked at the haggard guest and crossed herself.
‘Madonn’, il bambino compassionevole.’
On the patio, a man in a blue shirt and Panama hat was sitting on his deck chair, playing with two small children. There was a record player next to him, playing Antonio Prieto’s ‘La Novia’.
‘Hey Mario, Rosemary e il pagliaccio sono qui!’
The man turned in his chair. He was in his early sixties, but had a youthful exuberance and welcoming smile that helped shed several decades.
‘Well, this is a coincidence. Only the other day that ruffian son of yours decided to pay us a visit.’
‘Luke? You didn’t give him money did you?’
‘No, but Simona did have to save him from some very angry German tourists. Some little misunderstanding with their daughter.’
‘Like father like son.’ said Rosemary, and everyone laughed.
‘And how are your other children? The little ones giving you any trouble?’
‘It’s not them, we’re worried about, it’s Mia. Who ever invented the term ‘sweet sixteen’ has a very dark sense of humour.’
Cecchini laughed again and rose from his seat before gently shooing the children away.
‘Forgive me. My son Guido’s children.’ He kissed Miguel on both cheeks. ‘Miguel my friend, it’s been too long. Three years at least.’
‘Three years exactly.’ Miguel smiled. ‘I only hope you will accept…my apologies.’ He drew two bottles of dark red wine from his coat before placing them on the table beside the patio.
‘Bordeaux. ’47. Very good year. Thank you my friend. I shall save these for a special occasion.’
He turned to Rosemary, pinching her cheek and whispering something in her ear that made her giggle with delight.
‘And who is this beauty?’
He took Miranda’s hand and kissed it with perfect courtesy.
‘Mario Cecchini, this is Miranda Warwick.’
‘Charmed.’
‘This is…’ Cecchini gesticulated to Miguel and said something hushed under his breath. Miguel nodded, before turning to the two women.
‘Now, ladies, Mr. Cecchini and I need to talk a little business, so why don’t you stay out here, make yourselves comfortable?’
Miranda and Rosemary happily agreed, and Mr. Cecchini fetched a second chair.
‘If you want anything, just call my wife.’

Cecchini and Miguel disappeared indoors into a lavish study on the upper floor of the villa, sitting down on two leather chairs placed either side of an oak desk. There was a set of glass doors on one side of the room that led to a balcony, looking out onto the tree tops below. Behind Cecchini’s head was a detailed portrait of a bearded sailor dressed in red, a gold handled cutlass in a scabbard at his side.
‘A new painting?’
‘We found it on our travels to Corsica last year. My great-great grandfather, apparently something of a pirate, provided supplies for Garibaldi during the wars. You wouldn’t suspect that pirate blood ran in these veins would you Miguel?’
‘I might have suspected.’ Miguel remarked wryly, casting another glance at the almost perfect likeness of Captain Sherman Fraser that hung on the wall. His host took a bottle of Grappa out from a small cabinet beneath the painting, and poured it out into two glasses.
‘Now… my intuition tells me you’ve not just come here for the weather and the wine. What can I help you with Miguel?’
‘What, a man can’t simply come to visit an old friend every once in a while?’
Cecchini smiled.
‘Seriously though.’
‘Mario… you’re a well-connected man.’ Miguel said, looking into his friend’s eyes and giving a wicked grin. Cecchini acknowledged the compliment by raising his glass. ‘I have reason to believe that there is a facility nearby… off the radar as it were… where several people are being held against their will. Maybe a school or academy of some sort?’
‘Hmm… there is only one facility I know of that fits your description, about five miles away… my cousin Giacomo makes deliveries there occasionally…but it is a private school, a respectable institution.’
‘Have you ever been inside?’
‘No. But I have met the owner; his name is Dr. Orphal. An Englishman, very genial, if a little withdrawn, he seems to be trustworthy.’
Miguel did not respond for a moment, choosing his words carefully.
‘I know you are an excellent judge of character… but I would still very much like to find out for myself.’
Cecchini frowned and poured another glass before offering it to Miguel. The sorcerer held up a hand politely.
‘Abbastanza, grazie.’
‘Well, it would be difficult. Their regulations are very tight… the children of the very rich and powerful apparently go there… but I suppose that would not stop a man like you?’
‘You know me far too well Mario.’
He rose to go.
‘Are you sure you won’t stay, help me finish off the bottle? I was planning on sitting down with a glass on the porch; watching “Ricomincio da Tre”… Simona has just made some of her delightful ciabatta…’
Miguel gave a smile of regret and downed the rest of his glass.
‘Another time, my friend.’

Miguel found Rosemary playing with Cecchini’s grandchildren on the terrace, whilst Miranda was trying to hold a conversation with Mrs. Cecchini in somewhat broken Italian.
‘Are we leaving already?’ asked Rosemary, prompting complaints from the infants.
‘I’m afraid so.’
After saying their goodbyes, they returned to the car, which Miguel started before the two young women had time to get comfortable in their seats.
‘Er… Miguel?’
‘Yes Miranda?’
‘You couldn’t possibly go a little slower could you?’

Chapter Twenty-Four: Angel of Death

The Arbiter flashed an identity card at the reception and briskly made his way through the corridors to a lift. The three were silent as the lift ascended to the fifth floor. Eventually, they reached a door which, unlike the others, had no viewing window. The Arbiter thumbed in a code and opened the door carefully.

The trio entered the room cautiously, with The Arbiter leading the way. It was dimly lit and sparsely furnished, with only a bed, a small bed-side table and two small plastic chairs to the right of the bed. In it, sitting bolt upright against the bed head was a woman who Rosemary only just recognised as her old friend. She did not look up; the former servant was virtually catatonic.
‘Miranda… Miranda, it’s me, Rosie.’
She went over to her friend and gently touched her cheek, but Miranda did not respond.
‘We found her abandoned in the middle of nowhere in Italy. She was crying uncontrollably… didn’t seem to comprehend we were there. Ever since then she’s just been…’ The Arbiter shrugged. ‘Completely unresponsive.’ He sighed. ‘I had been on my way to tell them that their exile was over.’
Rosemary sat down slowly on the bed, facing Miranda.
‘Miranda… if you can hear me… we found him… your son. We found Jason.’
There was still no response. Miguel laid his hand on Rosemary’s shoulder and gave a long, heavy sigh.
‘I’m sorry Rosemary. I don’t think we can help her.’
Rosemary nodded slowly. The Arbiter, tactfully realising they needed to be left alone, soundlessly moved out of the room, while Miguel moved over to the door.
‘I don’t know what I’d do without you Miranda. You were always there for me when I needed you; stopping me getting out of hand, defending me… you were like family to me. Please… wake up…’
‘Rosie… come on.’
Rosemary choked back a sob, squeezed Miranda’s hand, and went to follow her husband.

She did not expect to feel her hand squeezed back.

‘Miguel!’
The sorcerer turned back into the room and almost yelped with surprise. Miranda was had her hands pressed onto the bed, as if to support her. She looked uncertainly at Rosemary, then, as if a veil had been drawn away from her face, her eyes brightened as she recognised her old friend.
‘Rosie?’ she asked; her voice hoarse, filled with the fearful curiosity of a child.
‘Yes Miranda it’s me.’ Rosemary shed tear after joyful tear as she embraced the woman who had been like a sister to her. When they finally parted, Miranda embraced Miguel in turn, before turning to the Arbiter and intoning dryly:
‘I’m sure you’ll forgive me if I don’t hug you.’
‘I’m used to it.’
The Arbiter reached inside his jacket and handed a rapier, the blade divided from the hilt, to Miguel. Upon touching the former sorcerer’s hand, the metal seemed to strain and twist until it was whole again. It was the sorcerer’s ancient weapon, and also the conduit for his powers.
‘It’s not often that they grant second chances. I shall be ever-present to ensure you don’t abuse this privilege.’
‘You’re coming too?’
‘Of course. As soon as you have determined the boy’s location, I shall be around to assist you.’
Miguel gave a pained look over his shoulder to Rosemary, but whether the Arbiter noticed or not, he was unsure.
‘Miranda, Jason is somewhere in the south of Italy and we’re on our way to find him. As soon as you feel up to it…’
‘I’m ready now.’ Miranda slowly moved the bed covers aside and slid her legs over the edge of the bed. She was only wearing a plain white hospital gown that came up to her knees, which were quite visibly trembling.
‘Mrs. Fortuno, you’ve been in a coma for nearly twenty years…’
Miranda held up her hand, and the Arbiter was silenced.
‘I’m ready now.’ she repeated, rising unsteadily to her feet.
‘Well, perhaps we should find you an outfit that might be a bit more practical… and that comes with some underwear.’ Rosemary smiled, but got a minimal response from Miranda.
‘As soon as you can.’

Rosemary and Miguel sat in silence outside the room as Miranda changed. Miguel held his head in his hands, lost in thought. Rosemary caressed her husband’s cheek and he smiled. He knew exactly what she was thinking of. When he learnt of Alexander’s death, Miguel became a changed man, he was distant from Rosemary, and was sharp with their children. They had endured it for several years in silence, before Rosemary had decided to speak with her husband. He wouldn’t want you to live like this. She had told him. Do you remember the way we used to be, so carefree and reckless? The world was our oyster. He had replied coldly. That was then. This had been too much for Rosemary, and she had given him an almighty slap across the face and called him and very crude name in Spanish, shocking him out of his stupor. I had almost forgotten how passionate you could be. Miguel laughed, rubbing his cheek. That day had been a step out of the darkness, although the shadows still lingered.

Simon Liberthine cleared his throat, nervously interrupting the moment of remembrance between the couple.
‘Mr. Carrera, whilst we are waiting for Miss Warwick to prepare, I was wondering if you might want to find another old friend of yours?’
‘Of course. Rosemary do you…?’
‘I’m fine. I’ll stay with Miranda.’
Miguel walked over to the Arbiter, who had taken his umbrella out.
‘Can I not teleport myself?’
The Arbiter gave him a withering look.
‘The Conclave did not allow the return of your powers merely so that you could break the rules Mr. Carrera. Now hold on.’

Though this journey took slightly longer than the last, it was still not long before Miguel Carrera and Simon Liberthine arrived in Geneva.
‘Beautiful city don’t you think Mr. Liberthine?’
‘I have no strong opinion.’ came the bland reply.
They arrived at a small unassuming building in the city, and the Arbiter knocked politely on the door, where he was let in by a vulture-like man in a dark suit.
‘Hello Sam.’
The man nodded in greeting, and stepped out of the way as a younger man arrived, with the appearance of one who had dressed in haste, the upper buttons of his shirt undone and only one shoe on his feet. He was handsome in a messy sort of way, and youthful, but his eyes belied many years of experience.
‘Ah Simon, one of my favourite people. Official business is it?’ It was then that he noticed Miguel for the first time. ‘Well well, Miguel Carrera. I never expected to see you again!’
‘Matthew.’
They shook hands warmly. Matthew Dent was a sorcerer, though he had not been attached to the practical side for many years. An orphan, he had been the apprentice to Jeffrey Holmes, an Irish sorcerer who trained many during the war, but who had accepted Matthew largely out of sympathy. A kindly soul, he had taken a job caring for familiars in place of their owners when they had been left in cases of exile, or worse.
‘I’ll just take you to him shall I?’
They passed down a corridor and up a set of stairs, as Dent attempted adjust his clothes.
‘Doorman of yours is a bit quiet isn’t he?’ The Arbiter commented, swinging his umbrella in time with his strides.
‘Yes. Not quite right in the head, I’m told. Took him in as a favour to my friend Gabriel. He does what I tell him and doesn’t need much.’
Miguel leant in and whispered mischievously:
‘Matthew, I can’t help but notice your current state of undress…’
‘Ah yes. Well until your arrival, I was enjoying a rather delightful young lady’s company.’
‘I hope for your sake that Brittany doesn’t find out.’
‘I’d be very surprised if she didn’t. It was her company I was referring to. Not everyone has your overactive libido Miguel.’
The Arbiter smirked, but disguised it with a cough as the three reached their destination.
‘Hello Eduardo.’
‘Miguel?’ The cub looked up at his master and his eyes widened. He spoke coolly, trying to swallow a spontaneous purr of delight that he felt in seeing his old friend again. ‘About time you visited.’
‘This isn’t a visit Eduardo. I’ve come to take you with me.’
For once, the familiar was at a loss for words.

Miranda Fortuno looked at herself for the first time in many years in the full length mirror. She had slowly replaced her simple hospital gown for a black tunic, knee-length coat, gloves and trousers. At her waist she wore a belt with two long daggers sheathed at each hip, generously donated by Miguel. Her body felt heavy, she was still drowsy after recovering from her near-comatose state, but her mind was sharp, and directed at a single objective; no matter what, she would find her son.

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
hesitation.

‘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.
‘Drink?’
‘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?’
‘Sir?’
‘Don’t you ever question the decisions we make, decisions whose results you have to
enforce?’
‘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
eyeline.
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.’

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.

Q & A

Hi everyone, thanks for your keen interest in my work its nice to get some appreciation! Just so you know I’m always open to a bit of Question and Answer whether it’s about The Sorcerer’s War or about anything in general (though try to stay a but relevant). So if you have any questions just drop me a comment and Ill reply asap.

Keep reading all!