Chapter 27:


The Wizard's Virginity

The sun had long set over the priory. Agnies had finished her tasks for the day. It was a challenging job, being the High Priestess of a large coven. She delegated as best she could and did have many capable subordinates. Still, Agnies had come to the conclusion long ago that nobody could do something as well as she could herself. And that was the way she liked it.

She got up from her desk and moved over to the more comfortable armchair, in the corner of the room. This was a daily ritual she allowed herself, to symbolise the end of work and the start of rest. Not that Agnies ever really rested. Her mind was always whirring, planning some scheme or other.

There was a wall calendar next to her armchair, which had a different photo of a famous church each month. Agnies didn’t much care for churches, cathedrals, monasteries, or any religious buildings, but one of the younger sisters at the priory had bought it for her as a gift, assuming that Agnies’ long years spent in the priory would have given her an appreciation for such things. Not so. In fact, if Agnies didn’t have so many other pressing things to attend to, she would have moved the Vindeca headquarters to a more modern facility. Magic was incredible, but there was no reason why it shouldn’t be employed in tandem with technology. Despite her age, she had no particular love for tradition or the old way of doing things. It was purely a matter of utility. Whatever made the most sense to fulfil her goals.

Which took her back to the calendar. Friday 22nd July. Mere weeks away. She smiled.

James would be returning to the priory then. After years, the boy was finally going to be directly under her influence. She had wanted to get her hands on him from the second that Alexander had died.

Agnies had respected the wishes of the boy’s mother, at least on the surface. She understood Laura's motivations well. The woman had lost her husband and, driven by fear of further loss, wanted to keep her son safe. But that was not her decision to make. The boy had too much potential. Either he would grow to use it himself, or it would be taken from him. There was no chance for him to lead a normal life; to believe so was naïve and foolish. That's why Agnies had intervened.

It began with the notebooks. Laura had burnt them after Alexander’s death, but it was a simple matter to restore them. To both restore them and adjust them somewhat, so that the contents were what she wanted James to see. They were still the words that Alexander had written, as she didn’t want to lose the truth in those. But just… Certain omissions. Details that the boy didn’t need to know. Also the obfuscation spell, concealing the parts that he wasn’t ready for yet. The restoration and adjustment of the notebooks had been easy, but it was slightly more of a challenge to subtly enchant the boy so that he found them in their hiding place, whilst believing he was acting according to his own will.

The notebooks weren’t enough, though. Even with the motivation to learn magic, the boy’s power would have lain dormant without proper mentoring. It was not possible to give that actively without arousing Laura’s suspicions, but she could do it passively. Diana, whilst believing her role was merely to protect James and conceal the existence of magic from him, actually had a much greater purpose. One that she wasn’t even aware of herself.

Agnies had enchanted the girl so that she acted like a sort of amplifier, gently prodding at the potential within James and developing it. The more time Diana spent with James, the more James's power would come to the surface. Obviously, this would make the boy more recognisable by other witches, which would make him more of a target. But nobody ever grew powerful without overcoming adversity. If the boy couldn’t survive this much, then he would never grow into the almighty warrior that the coven needed.

The Sekkaku incident had been the final step in the first phase of the plan. She knew that the details of James’s whereabouts would leak eventually. Therefore, she decided, she might as well guide events so that James’s first encounter with magic would be an appropriate test case. The man-hating witch Fusae seemed a good fit. Someone powerful enough to pose a threat, but who wouldn’t try to take James’s potential instantly. If the boy had failed to protect himself and been taken, she could have sent someone to Japan to retrieve him. Fortunately it hadn’t come to that.

Agnies had devised the encounter as a way to introduce James to magic without it being her fault. Whilst keeping Laura on side. Whilst making the boy feel like he earned it. Whilst making him want to come to her. It all worked flawlessly.

Of course, she knew that it would. Common wisdom held that only wizards had powers of premonition. What common wisdom did not know was that a witch who takes a wizard's potential can also cultivate her own powers of foresight, if she is motivated enough. Agnies was nothing if not motivated.

Once James made it back to the priory, she would have a special assignment waiting for him. In the meantime, maybe it was time to lift the obfuscation spell on some of the other notebooks, so that James could read them. After all, she still needed to deal with the man responsible for the death of Alexander. There was information in those notebooks that would set James on the path to finding his father’s murderer. Although there was a step to take before that…

Agnies got up from the armchair and approached the antique grandfather clock in the opposite corner of the room. There was a small drawer at the clock’s base. Something that the vast majority of people would never notice. To be safe though, Agnies had cast an illusion spell on the base of the clock, so that anyone who did happen to look at it by chance would be blind to the drawer’s existence. Very likely an unnecessary precaution to take in her own office, but the contents of the drawer were something that, up until now, she had hidden from even her most trusted allies.

She opened the drawer and retrieved an envelope. A name was written on its surface, scrawled in Alexander’s unmistakable hand. ‘James’.

After a seven year delay, it was finally time to send the letter to her grandson.