The Consultant and the Mask Ch 7 of 7

With her mother rescued and the Mask safe Morgana is left to deal with the aftermath of a cross realm security incident.


The Consultant and the Mask

Author note: Magic has always existed is now openly acknowledged. 10% of the population is magically sensitive and 5% can actually be taught to cast spells. Only about 1% have the ability to earn a Magic-User 3rd Class license. In a country of 300 million that means there are potentially 3 million professional practitioners. However, it takes hard work and training to develop that raw talent. There are currently in the United States about 1 million licensed practitioners. Of that about 100,000 are rated 2nd Class, with about 10,000 1st Class Magic-Users, and about 300 Masters in the entire country.

There are also ancient private schools of magic whose traditions extend hundreds of years into the past. These schools are not registered with the Guild and specialize in unique types of magic that are considered illegal. The Guild of Magic-Users actively hunts these schools yet they persist.

The multiverse is layered with world stacked upon world the only thing separating each realm of existence is the veil. The veil separates what is, from what might have been, and from what may yet come to be. It’s as thin as silk and yet unless one has the power and skill it is impenetrable. For those with the ability it can be parted and thus, Elves, Dwarves, Fairies, Ogres, Orcs, and Trolls and all manner of legendary creatures now walk the earth.

The power of magic is rising how humanity reacts will chart the course of civilization of the next thousand years. An Age has come to an end and a new Age has arrived and as yet no one has noticed.


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Chapter 7
“Epilogue”
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I wanted nothing more than to take my mother and get into the Charger, along with Mark, and leave this mess behind. By default I found myself in charge. Sir Galohond was rocking back and forth softly singing a song I couldn’t quite hear holding the body of his dead brother. My mother was staring off into space and I didn’t want to interrupt. So I walked into the hallway in search of one of Galohond’s squad leaders. I found two guards wearing Galohond’s colors guarding an unconscious Siofra. For a second I thought about saying something since she had helped me in my fight with Arangalad and had in all likelihood been the one who’d destroyed the chair.

Instead I said “Sir Galohond’s brother is dead. Who is his second in command?”

The taller of the two guards replied, “Lieutenant Randgos, my lady.”

“Do you have a way to contact Lieutenant Randgos?”

“Yes, my lady.”

“Then ask him to meet myself and Sir Galohond here and provide a status report.”

“Aye, Aye my lady,” the guard said snapping a crisp salute.

“I’ll be taking this one for questioning.” I said pointing to Siofra and used a levitation spell to lift her before the guard could protest.

Instead of going back into the room that had held the chair I walked through the hole I’d blasted in the wall. On the other side was a room that had been a bunk room for several guards. The room had two large holes and a door along with several bunk beds. I dropped Siofra onto the floor in the middle of the room. The bag tied to her belt obviously looked like it didn’t belong so I pulled it open and when I saw the Mask knew I was right. I grabbed a stool and sat down placing the Mask on the floor and then cast a spell to wake Siofra.

As Siofra started to come around I took a close look at her. Her face looked gaunt like she hadn’t eaten well in quite some time. She had dark circles under her eyes and her clothes were spattered with blood. When her eyes came open she looked at me and then they darted around like a wild animal that had been caged.

“What is your true name?” I asked looking down at her trying not to seem too threatening.

“You already know.” She replied looking defeated.

“I still need to hear it from you.”

“Maximilian Dionissis” he said. “You’re Morgana Livingstone, although you were once Alastar Donegal.”

“How do you know that?” I asked feeling chilled.

“Arangalad interrogated your mother with the chair, he told Arangalad everything.” Max said. I felt my cheeks flush with a fresh rage and took a deep breath to calm myself.

“How did you know my name?” Max asked.

“I’ve been investigating the theft of the Mask. I examined your body and reviewed your record, but something about the case didn’t add up. After successfully taking the Mask from Max why would Siofra run from her own people. Then when I saw you in my mother’s house you didn’t look happy to be there. In fact it looked like you would have run away if you’d been able. Then you attacked Arangalad and claimed that your name was Max. There was only one person, involved in this affair whose name was ‘Max’ so I guessed that it was you.” I watched Max as I talked and when I saw her nod I continued.

“So why don’t we start at the beginning and you tell me what happened?”

Max seemed to consider for a second and then launched into her tale. I listened at times surprised and others horrified at what Max had been through. It made her actions in killing Arangalad much more understandable. I stopped her when she tried to gloss over what had been done to my mother and made her tell me in detail. Besides messing with his mind, Arangalad had implanted several layers of compulsion. The plan had been to either allow Evaline to be rescued or to release him. Once he was home he would become an agent for the separatists in the Guild. There had been a secondary mission to capture me and turn me over to Arangalad. The third layer had been to kill me if the situation became compromised. When Evaline saw me in the room with the chair and Arangalad on the floor dying he must have decided the situation fit the condition which required him to kill me.

Max finished her story by explaining that destroying the chair was the only way that she could think of to end its power. I agreed that most of the time this was the quickest way to end the power of an artifact. However, it was also risky, there were some artifacts whose spells survived their destruction. I pointed this out to Max and she admitted that it had been a guess. About this time the guard I’d talked to earlier walked into the room followed by Lieutenant Randgos.

“Lieutenant, do you have a status report?” I asked.

“Ma’am, I do, but where is Sir Galohond?

“He’s mourning his brother let’s not disturb him for the moment.”

“Very good Ma’am. The castle is secure. We have taken 32 prisoners. We have 84 E-KIA, (Enemy Killed In Action), 11 E-WIA (Enemy Wounded In Action) we suffered 8 KIA, and 17 WIA and have already administered Battle Field Healing to the wounded. I recommend that we begin preparations to part the veil and return to Summer.”

I nodded at his report. “I agree please begin making your preparations.” I turned to Siofra, “you can come with me under your own power or I can bind you and bring you.”

“I’ll walk,” she said.

With that I returned to the room with the chair. By this time mother had moved to the hole in the wall and was looking out over the courtyard. Galohond was still sitting next to his dead brother chanting softly. I walked over to my mother and cleared my throat. He turned to face me and I could tell that he’d been crying.

“Are you okay?” I asked feeling like it was a stupid question. This was my mother Evaline Donegal, always strong, always in control. I didn’t know how to handle this situation.

His eyes had a haunted look but he met mine. “I’m a long way from okay, but I’ll survive.”

“We need to report this to the Guild, but the St. Louis Guild Hall Grand Master was subordinated with the chair. In theory he is no longer under the influence, but is it wise to call him?”

Mother shook his head, “no and we’re across state lines anyway, right? This is a Chicago Guild Hall problem. Call Grand Master Samantha Christenson she is an old friend and will be able to contain the site and take care of the media. It would probably be best of all of the Elves weren’t here when she arrives.”

I felt better, mother was starting to function he was thinking about political implications and making sound recommendations. I now turned to look at Galohond after a moment I walked over and knelt beside him placing one hand over his.

“Galohond, I know you’re grieving but we have to talk.”

“Have you ever lost a sibling Lady Morgana?

“No but my father passed away several years ago. I know this is hard but you’ve got a job to do.”

Slowly Galohond climbed to his feet. “Where is Randgos? I need to get a report.”

“I’ve already got it. The castle is secure and Lt Randgos is preparing your War Band to return to Summer. Before you go we need to agree on a couple of things.”

When Galohond nodded I continued “first this is not your cousin Siofra” I said gesturing to Max. “She can tell you the full story but the real Siofra is dead. What should we do with her? Also I have the Mask” at this point I held up the bag containing the Mask.

“We will take the woman and the Mask and return to Queen Isilidhrindal she shall judge their fate.”

I looked at Galohond and then at Max. On the one hand Max had been a victim. Of both Siofra and Arangalad on the other she had been a thief and had been the cause of her own downfall. Still she had helped me and I felt like I owed her a debt.

“At her trial I would like an opportunity to speak on her behalf. If not for her today would have been bloodier.” I said.

“Agreed.”

“Arangalad indicated that there was another person, a woman who had enslaved him. Do you have any idea who that might be?”
Now Galohond frowned thinking, “no, but I will make sure the Queen knows. It appears we have a plot within a plot. The real threat has yet to step onto the battle field.”

“I need to call in the Guild, it would be best if your people were gone before they arrive.” I said.

Galohond nodded and headed out of the room shouting for his guards.

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I stood before the ruined gates to the castle leaning against the Charger. My mother was in the back seat of the car trying to rest. Mark, who I’d completely forgotten about once the battle had been fully joined, hopped up on the trunk and sat waiting, with me, for the Guild Special Agents to arrive. Edgar was perched possessively on my shoulder apparently his ego had been hurt when I’d blasted my way into the castle without him.

Behind us the castle was now empty, even the bodies of the dead Elves had been removed. The Guild Special Agents would secure the site until a team from Chicago could come down to inspect it more fully. Mother had provided me the direct line to Grand Master Christenson and once I’d explained who I was and what had happened she had been only too happy to send a team down. She had explained to me how it would be in the best interest of the Guild, and the Magical Community as a whole, to keep this quite since those involved had been mostly Elves.

Tomorrow the Guild Council of Elders would travel once again to St. Louis and meet with mother and me to go over the events of today. At that meeting they would decide what to do. She had also wanted to know if I needed a guard. I’d declined her offer and was only too happy to see the first of the Guild Special Agents arrive on scene.

The drive to St. Louis was extremely quiet. Mother had spent most of the trip stretched out in the back sleeping. I asked Mark to drive since I was exhausted both physically and magically and spent the first few minutes staring out the window lost in thought. I trying not to think about what sort of hell my mother had just gone through. I may have dosed off for a few minutes but I never really got any restful sleep. It was very late when we arrived at the Donegal estate. I asked Mark to spend the night and we all settled into our rooms just before the sun crested the horizon.

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The Council of Elders started arriving just before lunch. I figured this was a good sign since it meant that we would be feeding them and no one has ever said anything bad after a lunch made by Chelsea. Mother greeted each guest and I played the gracious ‘Goddaughter’ for them. We introduced Mark and then moved into the formal dining hall for lunch. All told there were 13 Elders who’d made the trip. After lunch we moved the meeting to the atrium where the Chairman of the Council of Elders called the meeting to order. The Chairman of the Council of Elders was a small female Master Magic-User Corine Lyons with white hair and wrinkled skin that made her look grandmotherly. Her bright blue eyes and sharp wit quickly removed any doubt about her ability to lead.

“Magic-User, Master, Morgana Livingstone, will you tell us what has transpired?”

Her questions seemed simple enough but with all the Elders sitting in chairs in a semi-circle and me, mother, and Mark in three chairs in the middle it felt like we were on trial. I got to my feet and started my tale.

“Ma’am it all started when I got a call to come down to the Guild Hall and help Inspector Lee look into the theft of an Elven artifact.”

For the most part they let me talk without interruption. Then the questions started. It seemed to go on and on. Then it was Mark’s turn. I sat listening and wondered what it was that these powerful individuals were trying to discover. Lastly they asked mother to tell her story. There was a noticeable difference when he talked. Far fewer questions and all phrased more respectfully. When the three of us were done the Elders asked Mark and I to leave so that they could continue talking with mother alone.

Out in the hall Mark leaned against one side. “Is it always like that?”

“Like what?” I asked smiling since I could guess what he was thinking.

“Like we are being interrogated, like I’m a child and they just caught me trying to steal a cookie.”

I did laugh at that, “yeah that’s about how it always feels. Come one let’s go to the kitchen. We can get a cup of coffee and a real cookie and wait. They’ll probably be talking for a while.”

I was surprised when after only 30 minutes we were called back into the atrium. Mother was standing to one side looking thoughtful. Magic-User Grand Master Lyons looked at Mark and me as we stood nervously next to each other.

“Morgana I have received a message from Queen Isilidhrindal and she tells me that you have done the throne a service.” Chairwoman Lyons said. She paused to let this information sink in before she continued “from what I can tell you’ve done the Guild a service as well. Based on what you uncovered we will be testing several Guild members here in St. Louis and a few of the other Midwest Guild Halls. There is no telling how many members fell under the influence of this group. Well done!”

With that she stood up and started clapping. For a second it was just her but then all 13 Elders joined in. I felt my face flush but decided it would be best to say nothing.

Grand Master Christenson, a tall thin woman of African descent now focused on Mark clearing her throat in order to speak. “Mark, we understand you’re a victim here and we will do everything in our power to change you back but if this is impossible I’d like to offer you a place at the Chicago Academy of Magic. You have a talent that must be trained and paying for your education is the least the Guild can do after all that you’ve suffered.”

Mark looked stunned and unable to speak she simply nodded her head.

“Morgana we would like you to take up a full time position as an Inspector within the St. Louis Guild Hall. In addition as a Master Magic-User and a full Guild member you’d sit on the St. Louis Council and receive a full salary from the Guild.” Grand Master Lyons said.

“Grand Master Lyons, thank you. I don’t mean to be rude but I’d like to think about it.” I said.

Chairwoman of the Council of Elders looked disappointed but nodded.

“Don’t think to long my dear the Guild needs young powerful women like you.”

As if by silent agreement this ended the meeting and the Elders got up and began to filter out.

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Later that evening it was just me and my mother sitting on the back patio eating a light dinner. The stars were out and a light breeze took the edge off the humidity of a summer night in St. Louis. I took a sip of my Chardonnay and felt my body start to unwind. I looked over at my mother who was also drinking a glass of wine.

“Alastar your brother arrives in the morning.” Mother said looking up at the stars.

“I know I texted him that I could pick him up but he said he’d prefer to have Steven do it.”

“I talked to the Elder’s and they agree we can let Anthony know about your secret. Officially you are my ‘Goddaughter’ but Anthony will know the truth.”

I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. On the one hand it would be nice not to have to lie to Anthony but it would be incredibly embarrassing for me to meet him.

Mother broke into my thoughts, “Alastar I need you to do something for me.”

I looked over at my mother noticing how serious he looked. “Anything.”

“I must retire.” I tried to interrupt but he held up a hand. “Please, this whole situation has made it clear I’m not suited to lead House Donegal. Anthony is my heir but he isn’t ready to move back to St. Louis. Even though he’s ten years older than you he’s not ready. He only finished his course work last year and his thesis this spring. He’s scheduled to defend it in a little over a month. If all goes well he’ll have his Ph.D. by this fall. But he’s procrastinated on taking the trials and becoming certified as a Magic-User Master Class. He’s enjoyed the ten years he’s spent in the UK and now I intend to light a fire under him to get him to finish up and come home. However, until he’s certified a Magic-User Master Class, I’ll need you to handle the family’s affairs here in St. Louis.”

For a second I was speechless. “Mother I can’t run the estate. I don’t know enough magic.”

“Morgana, no, Alastar you’re ready. Let’s be honest Morgana Livingstone was a young woman from a rich family with more power and natural talent than ambition. She never really studied hard, she never pushed herself. Since you’ve taken her body you’ve already surpassed Master Class Magic-User’s far more experienced. Because of your handicap you’ve always been disciplined and driven. Your knowledge, skill, and drive when combined with Morgana’s body’s raw talent have made you in a very short time one of the top Masters in the United States.”

I had to look away from my mother since my vision started to wavier. “So what is it you want me to do?”

“First move into the estate. There are objects in the vault that are powerful and have been in the family for generations. You used three of them today very effectively. There are other objects we are charged to keep out of the hands of those who would misuse them. Second take my seat on the St. Louis Guild Hall Council. I’m no longer qualified to hold it.” At this I tried to protest but he raised his hand.

“Thank you for your loyalty but it’s the truth. I don’t have the power to hold the position.”

“Mother, what will you do?”

“Your father and I have property in Washington, in the Puget Sound I plan to retire there. It’s a nice house with everything I need.” At this mother sat his glass down and reached over to catch my hand and look into my eyes. “Alastar I need you to do this for me. That chair and the fact that I couldn’t defend Susan or myself has taught me a great deal, I need time. I need to work on building up my power and time to heal please try to understand.”

I felt my eyes tearing up. Instead of trying to explain I reached over and gave him a hug. “Mother I’m always ready to do whatever I can to help.” Surprisingly I meant it.


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The End
of
“The Consultant and The Mask”
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