As she entered the Shop Around the Corner, I centered myself, knowing that this interview could run awry. A great deal of my future plans depended upon this woman and her assessment of me, and at some small level, it galled me that I needed her help. But I drove the voice of my other self back into the corners of my mind, smiled my best smile, and rose to greet her properly. Everything by the numbers.
“Thank you for joining me, Warden Alexis. May I get you anything? Coffee? A chocolate chip croissant, perhaps?” (My previous inquiries had revealed that these were her favorite). We spent perhaps the next five minutes dancing the verbal dance, and I will admit that I enjoyed sparring with her; she possessed a keen mind, even if it was merely human. But soon enough, I steered us back to business.
“So tell me Melissa, (she had insisted on the familiar address) when was the last time you saw your Mentor, Warden Fisher?”
“About three days ago. Why do you ask?”
From my briefcase, I withdrew a photo I’d had printed out of the Hellmouth. “I trust that you are familiar with this location?” At her nod of affirmation, I withdrew a second photo, this one focusing on the standing sarcophagus where her mentor’s soul was currently imprisoned.
His features were grainy, but could be clearly seen. “This photo was taken on the 13th. What you are seeing is the ‘soul’ of your mentor, currently trapped in the sarcophagus of one of the members of the Hendrickson Scourge. The force currently animating your mentor is that of the Black Court vampire that should be residing in that same sarcophagus.”
“From what we’ve been able to divine, using your mentor’s body allows the Scourge to operate like a daywalker, and even gives it access to your mentor’s other abilities, as well. My associates and I have already defeated two members of the Scourge who were employing this body-switching trick, but we fear that we must have all of those so affected to return the souls to their proper receptacles. We have also elicited the aide of Hel, the Norse goddess of Death, to watch over the Hellmouth and keep the Black Court from interfering with the trapped souls; should you wish to visit the site to see for yourself, bear this in mind.”
“Your mentor has thereby been compromised, in a matter that for you and yours on the White Council, is understandably quite delicate. Should Warden Marten learn of this, I believe we both know that she would be unable to restrain herself. Which brings me to the other reason I asked to see you this morning.”
“I find that I must ask a boon of you, for I find myself in a perilous position, personally, and as it were, professionally. For the past several weeks, I have been training myself as a Wizard. However, what I have been privately referring to as my “final exam” requires another to complete, and as it is my wish to formally join your organization, I can think of no-one I would rather administer my exam."
Where Melissa had sat a few moments ago, it was now clearly Warden Alexis who looked back at me now. “Training as a Wizard generally takes more than a few weeks, Noonien. To hear you say that you are ready to complete your apprenticeship in so short a time is very hard to believe. And to have trained yourself, without a mentor? Almost unheard of, especially in so short a time. I’m going to assume that you have been training with your associate, Mr. Grougal? Why not simply complete your training there?”
“No, I have not been taking my lessons from my friend, Alex. As you are no doubt aware, the White Council does not speak for every magical tradition in the world, even though you enforce your Laws upon them all. I came upon the materials I have been studying from by chance, and kept my own council about them. Being that I possess exceptional mental skills, I felt quite capable to master the intricacies on my own.”
“So, how complete is your training, that you feel you are ready to advance to full Wizard?”
“Well, I have mastered the arts of Ritual, and I have been channeling Kinetomancy for most of my apprenticeship. It was simple enough to open myself to the other elements. The only step left untaken is the special Sight that Wizards enjoy. I have been told that it is easy enough to unlock, but it is my desire to have it awoken by an emissary of the White Council, so that you may know my heart, and know that I shall be an asset to your Council.”
“When did you wish this to happen?” She asked, eying me appraisingly.
“As soon as possible. My associates and I will likely be throwing ourselves against the Scourge in short order. I feel that our chances for success will be vastly improved if I am at my fullest potential.”
“Very well, then, meet me at this address”, she paused, scribbling down the address on a slip of paper, which she passed to me “at 8 PM tonight, and I will assess your capabilities, and if I agree that you are ready, I will help you open your Sight.” With that, she left the Shop, and left me to prepare myself for the trials to come.
I arrived at the address 5 minutes early, and waited until 8 to finally enter. Both Melissa and Jack were present, as was another Wizard, male from his bearing wearing a deep hooded cowl that obscured
his identity. Despite this deception, I recognized him anyway. I was pleased, despite myself.
For the next several hours, Wardens Alexis and Wilder put me through my paces, testing me in Ritual and Evocation, and grilling me as to my knowledge of the Laws of Magic. I prepared veils and wards, opened
a portal into the Nevernever, and even summoned one of the wild fae. Finally, at the stroke of midnight, I took the one test that I most feared to lose.
As Warden Alexis knelt before me, I could feel the first touch of her Soulgaze. As it swelled into fullness, I could feel the power of it take hold, but I held my own mind in check, rigidly so, determinedly so.
I did not fear for myself; let her see the depths of my soul, see the man I truly was, and even the man I aspired to be. I unashamedly allowed her to witness my ambition to rise high within the Council, to one day stand as it’s leader, and to drive the forces of darkness once more into the deepest shadows.
I even let her see my love for Miranda, and my current state of grief and worry over what had befallen her. But I held locked away any inkling that she in fact had trained me, deftly allowing Warden Alexis’
probing mind’s eye to slide past the blind alley where that truth lie, or that she, herself, was a Wizard. Eventually, after what felt like hours (but had actually been less than 20 seconds), she withdrew, and as
she did so I knew that the ability to do this, as well as open my Wizard’s Sight were now open to me as well.
“Congratulations, Wizard Singh. Allow me to introduce Wizard Firewalker, a member of the Senior Council. As you may have surmised, he agreed to be present to witness your Tests, and now will take your oath to the council, and brief you on the responsibilities of being a member.” With that, the two junior Warden’s left the room, leaving me alone with the man I already knew.
It was nearly 5 AM by the time Wizard Firewalker and I arrived at the Redeemer Lutheran, and were admitted to see Miranda. We both sat with her quietly until she awakened at 6, but she became violent and hurled invective at us both, so we left her to her caretakers, who administered a dose of something they assured us would calm her. Each of us already having said all there was to say to one another on the trip there, went our separate ways, he back to Scotland and I to my apartment.