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The Father Michael’s Saga III – The Warlock Executive

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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:58 pm


The Warlock Executive
A Father Michael Story
by Joanne and Richard Easter (c) 2017




Part 26

The sky overhead was a sullen orange-red in color. It seemed to come from everywhere; there was no sun visible, no specific source of illumination. The ground beneath him was closely packed coarse gravel, swept bare of loose particles by the hot desert wind that never stopped blowing. There was not a trace of greenery, no living thing in sight, no blade of grass or scurrying insect or motionless lizard. The air was almost too hot to breathe, filled with toxic gases and silicate ash that made every breath choking and painful, in and out. In the far distance, an enormous plume of volcanic ash rose through the sky to some tremendous height, an intricate dance of lightning playing within the column. The faint rumble of distant geologic violence hung in the air, and the ground itself trembled in sympathetic response.

Klaus Dortmund levered himself up from the ground onto his hands and knees, and then sat back on his heels and took stock of his situation. He was in a small depression, perhaps a blowout scooped out by the wind, perhaps twenty meters across. The vibrating earth caused occasional pebbles to roll down into the depression from the rim, some traveling across the bottom near to where he now sat.

Where was he? The last thing he remembered was being painfully squeezed in the enormous grip of some incredibly powerful demon. Obviously, he had overreached himself. It had probably not been very smart to try to summon such an incredibly potent creature, but it had been an act of desperation. That damned smirking priest! This was all the fault of Michael Mendez and that Director Kriger. They had no business meddling in his affairs. This must be the Underworld, but he would find a way back, and he would make them pay a terrible price for their impudence. He was a universe away from the power of the grimoire, but he still had the powers he was born with.

Dortmund stood up, coughing from inhalation of the sulfurous fumes, but still could not see over the rim of the shallow depression. He walked over to the edge of the crater and began to climb upward, going back down onto his hands and knees as he came to the top, and allowing only his eyes to rise above the rim, peered cautiously out at the landscape before him. He was already sweating profusely in the oppressive heat, a trickle of sweat running down the small of his back.

The view was grim in every direction that he could survey, a barren desert land, yet unlike any desert that had ever existed on his own world. The landscape was flat, a vast plain that extended as far as he could see, save for the presence of the distant volcanic mountain, mostly obscured by the haze it had generated in its eruption. There appeared to be more such mountains even farther away, and all of them were actively spewing pyroclastic ash into the atmosphere. The most striking feature, however, was not the volcanoes, but nearer to hand, perhaps a half-kilometer, what appeared to be a forest made entirely of crystal. The trees, if that’s what they were, had crystal branches and foliage that sparkled as the swaying limbs reflected the reddish light from above. He froze as he saw movement among the crystal trees, and swallowed reflexively as a two-legged figure stepped out from among the strange mineral growths. Recognizing it as a spike demon, Dortmund plastered himself even closer to the ground, blinking from the salty sweat in his eyes, and watched as the creature strode away, becoming smaller with distance.

There was no doubt about it. This was the Underworld.

Carefully and quietly, he backed down away from the rim of the depression, and at the bottom of the slope he sat down, thinking furiously. In this heat, he was losing water from his body very quickly, and would soon be dehydrated if he did not do something about it. It was best if he spent no more time in this dreadful world than was absolutely necessary. It was time to test his powers, and see what remained to him. First things first, though. This heat was just intolerable!

He untied his tie and laid it aside, unbuttoned the top two buttons of his silk shirt, and then shrugged out of his suit jacket. He contemplated it for a moment, holding it in his hands, and then started ripping the cloth along the seams. Dortmund wondered what Giorgio Armani would think of this cavalier destruction of one of his £3,000 suits. He tore the sleeves free, and then tore the lining out of the jacket; it was of a light color and should reflect the light. He ripped the lining into a rough square of an appropriate size, draped it over the back of his head, and then tied it in place with the designer tie (another three hundred pounds’ sterling, he thought sourly) around his forehead. So now I’m a Bedouin. Great. He took the remnants of the Armani suit and bundled it up and tied it into a package.

He looked at his Italian leather shoes. Already they were all but ruined, scuffed and dirty. The soles were so thin that he swore he could feel every pebble he trod upon. They would not last very long in this environment, but he did not plan to walk very far. The first thing to do would be to go over to the crystal forest and bind a few of those spike demons to his will, force them to assist him. He was becoming increasingly thirsty, and there had to be water here somewhere. And there must be a demon, somewhere, that would know how to return to the human world, even if they could not do it themselves.

This Arab headdress wasn’t helping very much, he thought irritably. Let’s see, now, a simple test. He held out his hand and tried to conjure a fireball into existence. Nothing happened. He stared at the empty surface of his palm in disbelief. Creation of a fireball was one of the simplest of magical exertions, one of the first things he had learned as a youth. Controlling it had been another matter, however; he had nearly burned down his parent’s home while experimenting, but ever since, willing a small fireball into existence had been as easy and natural as breathing. He balled his hand into a fist, then opened his fingers and thrust his hand out again. He concentrated fiercely, sweat now pouring down his face, not from the heat, but from the effort of his focus, and still his hand remained empty.

Desperately, he tried a few more exercises in magic. He tried to move a pebble a short distance without touching it, he sought to erect a barrier of force around himself, a much smaller version of the one he had employed in his workshop to keep the were-beasts at bay, all to no avail. He had no powers in this world. He was no different than any ordinary man.

The former warlock slumped to the ground in despair. He might be a billionaire in his own world, but his life wasn’t worth a shilling here. If he approached any of the demons, without his powers to cow them into servitude, they would most likely eat him or enslave him. Dortmund wondered what had become of the vast entity that had brought him here through the pentagram in his underground workshop. Certainly, it could have killed him as easily as swatting a fly, but it had just brought him here and dumped him in the middle of this desolation. Hah. Great joke, that. And he would just bet that insufferably priest was having a big laugh, right about now.

There was a faint popping sound, and he looked up to see one of the little demon imps crouching on the desert pavement about three meters away, staring at him out of its little yellow eyes, wings fanning slowly. It cocked its head to one side, then the other, curious.

“Go away,” Dortmund ordered irately, sitting cross-legged on the gravel floor of the depression. “Leave me alone.”

Its eyes widened slightly at the sound of his voice, and it took a couple of little hopping steps closer, peering at him. Dortmund reached down without looking and, with some effort, pried a pebble out of the soil. He flung it at the little demon, which looked alarmed by his action but only side-stepped as the missile went harmlessly by. It continued to stare at him.

Dortmund dug into the packed surface with his fingers and came up with an entire handful of gravel. “I said, go away!” he shouted, and threw the collection at the imp. This time it reacted by fluttering up on its wings, a meter above the ground, and then, it blinked out of existence.

“Hmph,” the warlock grumped. “Arrogant little pest.” He tried to think. Surely there must be something he could do to extract himself from this predicament. “I am a very smart man,” he told himself. “I built and ran a global corporation.” His confidence began to return, although he failed to acknowledge, even to himself, that his magical powers had a great deal to do with his success. “When I snapped my fingers, people jumped to obey. I should be able to run this place! I just need to get my bearings and figure out the best approach, how to take over.”

At that moment he heard a slight sound, and looked up to see that the demon imp had returned. It was now standing a little closer than it had before, but still just out of reach even if he lunged forward to grab it.

“I thought I told you to go away,” he informed it. “I could crush the life out of you.”

He decided to ignore it, and returned to his musings. The thing wasn’t even as big as a pigeon, what harm could it do?

When he looked up again, it was still there, but now it had company. Another demon imp stood near it, about the same distance away from him. He blinked, and when he looked again, there were a half-dozen of the miserable creatures…and in seconds, there were more than he could count, forming a circle with him in the center.

Dortmund jumped to his feet, and strode forward to the nearest cluster of little demons, and began kicking at them with his feet. “I told you…to leave me…alone!” he shouted, his face reddening. All to no effect, for they merely scattered, some taking wing to hover at arm’s length just above his head, others blinking away and popping back an instant later. The circle reformed about him.

“Ow!” he exclaimed, slapping at the side of his head. His hand came away bloody; one of the foul things had bitten off his earlobe and darted away with its prize. “Why, I’ll kill you all!” he roared, but before he had time to act on this, they swarmed upon him, slashing and tearing with their beaks and tiny teeth, and he was bleeding from a hundred little gashes. He spun and danced, slapping at the creatures, trying to avoid their attacks, but they were relentless, and before long, he was on the ground, and no longer moving, and a squirming, squabbling pile of insignificant little demons fought over the windfall of tender flesh.


The Warlock Executive
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The Epilogue




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PostEaster01 on Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:59 pm


The Warlock Executive
A Father Michael Story
by Joanne and Richard Easter (c) 2017



EPILOGUE

The Airbus ACJ318 stood on the tarmac at the London City Airport, in the east end of the city next to the Thames River, ready to taxi out to the runway. Its accommodations were rather unusual for a corporate jet, in that all of the windows along the body were heavily blacked, so that it was not possible to see in or out of anywhere in the aircraft save for the pilot’s cabin. Most passengers liked to be able to view the landscape from their windows, but not so the owner of this jet, who had specified that the windows be rendered impermeable to sunlight. The manufacturer, Airbus SAS, a French corporation, had been perfectly willing to comply with this custom order, for anyone willing to fork out more than fifty million pounds sterling for a private jet was someone whose whims would be gladly accommodated. The interior was luxurious, in the extreme, and all designed for the use of one man.

It was 10:30 pm, London time, and the man once known as Niccolò Machiavelli occupied a very comfortable lounge chair in the forward lounge. The cabin of the craft had been expensively appointed by Aeria Luxury Interiors, and in addition to separate lounges for both the crew and the owner, also contained a large master suite area in the rear. Mack’s preoccupation with collecting and analyzing information also meant that the plane was also equipped with the most sophisticated electronics for his use, including Immarsat and Iridium satellite communications systems, the most advanced computing systems that money could buy, hi-speed Wi-Fi and a state-of-the-art digital entertainment center with multiple high-definition screens. He sipped from a long-stemmed crystal wine glass that contained, not wine, but blood that had been kept chilled in the galley kitchen and heated to body temperature for his pleasure. The crew may or may not have suspected that they were employed by a vampire, but they were paid extremely well to humor his foibles.

All in all, he had rather enjoyed his stay in London, as short as it may have been this time. His flat in the city was one of many that he maintained around the globe, and used whenever he traveled on business or pleasure. Dortmund had been a thoroughly unpleasant man, to be sure, but the experience had been quite profitable. Not in monetary terms, since the salary provided him by the warlock during the weeks of his employ was inconsequential compared to the vampire’s true net worth, but by allowing him to obtain something he had long desired. The grimoire, the long-lost Tenebris Magicae of Belarius. He would be able to put it to far better use than Dortmund, that rank amateur!

His goal all along had been to get his hands on the book. It had been child’s play to stir things up, to set Dortmund and the Directorate at each other’s throats until one or the other had been destroyed. It was the affair at Meursault that had really tipped the balance. Although both sides had been devastated by the conflict, the warlock had come out of it so weakened that it had been a simple matter to assure Kriger’s ultimate victory by returning the sword to the credulous priest and informing them of the identity of their foe. And now the warlock was gone. Had things turned out otherwise, had Dortmund come away from Meursault in a position of strength, capable of eliminating the Directorate, then all “Mack” had to do was simply bide his time, insinuate himself further into the warlock’s confidence, and purloin the book at some convenient time.

He was content with the way things had worked out. Mack had no particular animosity toward the Directorate, for all that it existed to put an end to vampires and others of like kind, since they had never before crossed paths. Dortmund, on the other hand…not only was he an execrable chess player, he had also been slightly insane. Not his fault, perhaps. Merely an inevitable outcome for any mortal human who chose to employ the grimoire.

The grimoire was not merely a book, not at all. It was the habitat for a malignant spirit of great power, that had resided in it for more than a thousand years, and was the source of all the power it contained. The spirit sought out humans who could use magic, called to them, persuaded them to take up the book, and to become hopelessly addicted to the exercise of power. In the process, the user came gradually more and more under its influence, became corrupted beyond recovery, and ultimately, descended into madness. Dortmund had been naturally arrogant, but the spirit had ceaselessly cultivated his increasing homicidal tendencies. In the end, the warlock had become a perfect psychopath, no longer able to separate moral behavior from his own desires.

I have no such weakness, Mack thought comfortably. I am no mortal human, but a dead thing, without a soul, incapable of corruption because I am already corrupt. I will be able to use the power of the book without becoming enslaved to it.

After Dortmund’s rather spectacular exit from this world, which he had happily viewed through the closed circuit camera in the penthouse suite, he had simply made himself more or less invisible to the other occupants of the building until an appropriate time came to extricate the grimoire from its hiding place in the warlock’s subterranean workshop. Oh, not that he was actually invisible, although no doubt the book would in due course allow him to perform that little trick. Simple enough for an old vampire to hide among most humans, confusing their mental perceptions so that they could not see him even though he might be standing in plain sight. Some, however, were not as susceptible as others, particularly the shape-shifters employed by the Directorate, who were able to smell or sense a vampire with relative ease.

Mack had simply moved into Dortmund’s comfortable penthouse suite, and remained there throughout the entire investigation of the building by the London Metropolitan police and Interpol’s Directorate 14. They had come to Dortmund’s office, and to the suite as well, turning them inside out and upside down in search of incriminating information and any sort of supernatural artifacts, and among them were the werewolves the Directorate liked to use for their security forces. They could sense that a vampire had been about, but could not find him. He had eluded this inconvenient scrutiny by taking to the air ducts and other hidden spaces of the building for a time. Alas, he did not possess the ability to turn himself into a bat, a rat, or an insubstantial mist; those were the powers of fictional vampires created by Hollywood. Real vampires of his acquaintance did not possess any such attributes, although the ancient ones certainly had some potent powers of their own.

He waited, in hiding, for several weeks, until the investigation had concluded and all the furor had died away. There was still quite a fuss going on among the members of the board of directors for Dortmund Power & Automation, since the primary stockholder had just disappeared without warning, and none of the authorities involved in the investigation had seen fit to inform them of his fate. Not that it mattered, not in the least.

At last, a week after the last investigator had departed, he had taken Dortmund’s private elevator down to the hidden level. Mack had not survived for five centuries as a vampire by taking unnecessary risks. He had some idea of what was down there, of course, since he had taken the trouble to conduct a little investigation of his own, when he had first gained the warlock’s trust and been given a keycode to the office. The warlock had relied a little too much on technology, thinking that a simple keypad code would protect his secrets. Such was no deterrent to a vampire like him, whose senses could easily determine which keys had been pressed from the lingering human scent. It took a little time to work out the exact combination, but patience was Mack’s stock-in-trade.

The big, black portal stone was gone, of course. They had taken that away to try to decipher what it was and how it worked. The grisly remains of demon feasts had also been cleaned up, and all of the computer equipment and anything else of possible interest had been removed. The big room was now entirely empty.

They had missed the one really important artifact, of course. From his earlier visit to these precincts, Mack knew that it was buried beneath one of the corner squares of the warlock’s ostentatious chessboard, locked in an airtight steel vault where not even shifter senses could detect it. Mack could feel it, could hear the siren call of the wicked spirit within the book, seeking a new and more suitable owner.

Now it was his, tucked away in a safe in the master suite of this aircraft.

In another half-hour, this plane would lift off from the airport, and cross the Atlantic to New York City, where he had another apartment, a nineteenth-century brownstone on Fifth Avenue. Actually, he owned the entire building. It would be good to be back in the United States, for despite what he had told Dortmund about the unhealthy flavor of American blood, they were a rather interesting people. He supposed it was not so much that they tasted bad, rather that Americans tended to have bad taste. Mack smiled and took another sip of the warm blood, amused by his own little jest.

Possession of the grimoire very well might allow him to obtain possession of something else he greatly desired. The acquisition of power was the key to nearly anything that one might wish to have, and the book was the source of great power, indeed. Imagine, a vampire warlock! He was not aware that there had ever been one before, not in the long history of the world.

All of that was, however, secondary. The book was but the means to his primary goal; even great power was but a tool, not the end in itself. With such power in his hands, he could very well regain the favor of the one creature for whom he cared.

Lucrezia, she had been called, in the Florence of the fifteenth century. Eleven years younger than Niccolò Machiavelli, blonde and beautiful, clever and cold-hearted, he had fallen in love with her when both were mortal beings. Daughter of the powerful Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander XI, he was but insignificant to her; she had toyed with him for a while, and then discarded him like last week’s rubbish. Despite this, he had despaired when she had died in 1519, still lovely at the age of thirty-nine.

But he saw her again, nearly a decade later, when she came to him in the night, and took his life and made him into a vampire. They were together for nearly a century after that, before she tired of him once again, and departed.

He had sought her through the centuries, and finally found her, in America, where she now went by the name of Nicole.

Perhaps now, with the powers of the grimoire, he would be able to impress her sufficiently that she would remain with him.

The purring whine of the jet engines grew in volume, and the plane began to move down the taxiway to the runway. He consulted his watch. They should be in New York in about eight hours. It would still be dark, across the Atlantic, time enough to take up residency in his Fifth Avenue apartment before the sun rose again.

Soon, he would seek out his lost love. Nicole, the queen of the American vampires.  


(c) 2017 Joanne Easter and Richard Easter. All Rights Reserved.




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PostEaster01 on Tue Sep 12, 2017 8:08 pm




The Saga continues:  forthcoming



The Saga continues:  forthcoming



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