Chapter Thirteen: Kate and Jackie have fun
Copyright © 2017 by Brian Bixby
Katherine de Roet (or Swynford, if you prefer) was pleased with the dangerous and unpredictable reputation Royal Magicians had. Not that she thought of herself in those terms, no. She’d never been into physical torture, having been convinced long ago that it placed the torturer’s soul in peril. But the reputation made it easier for her to get what she wanted by psychologically terrorizing people. Frequently, just learning she was a Royal Magician would cause many of them to agree to just about anything rather than chance her wrath.
But some people never learned. She had contacted Marcus Satterthwaite and threatened him with a face-to-face confrontation with his daughter Guinevere, and thought the matter settled. Now she was finding out he was trying to get the English Council of Magicians and even the Government involved in dealing with the wyrm in Breydon Water. And that annoyed Kate (which is what she was calling herself these days). In her eyes, Geoff was to be the hero of this adventure, and Satterthwaite was interfering with that. He was going to have to be punished. But nothing so barbaric as torture, no.
Marcus had no idea he was flouting Kate’s wishes. She had ordered him to cooperate with MacAlpine to put the wyrms down, and as far as Marcus was concerned, the important part was putting down the wyrms. If Geoff thought otherwise, then tough. So, while he cursed the bureaucracy of the Government and the slowness with which his magician colleagues deliberated anything, he didn’t realize he was walking into a trap when he was directed to a “senior official in the Ministry of Defense who shall remain nameless.”
There was no name on the door, so Marcus simply opened the door, walked in, closed the door behind him, and walked directly up to the desk. The officer sitting behind the desk seemed completely engrossed in his paperwork, as he did not look up during this whole procedure. And yet Marcus knew the officer must be aware of his presence, since the officer was also a magician. In his most disdainful voice, Marcus addressed the man, “I understand you are the officer who deals with major unorthodox threats to the kingdom.”
Without looking up, the officer replied, “Talk to my assistant.” Immediately, Marcus could hear the door behind him open and someone step into the room.
Marcus was so outraged by such treatment that it barely registered in his mind that the officer behind the desk was female. He spun around, ready to unleash a tirade, first on the unhappy assistant behind him, and then on this arrogant officer.
Marcus might have been surprised to see that the “assistant” wasn’t wearing any clothes. Maybe he was, maybe in his anger the fact just slid by him. He looked the “assistant” square in the face, ready to unleash a barrage of curses that would satisfy his anger and frustration.
That was the last fully rational thought Marcus had. Maybe he realized at the last second that the face he was looking into was familiar; maybe he didn’t. It didn’t matter. He was looking squarely into his daughter’s face, and all rational thought fled from that sight. His mind was seized by horror and lust. And all he could do was stare. He couldn’t even think enough to look away.
Kate, sitting behind the desk in her military uniform, didn’t look up, herself. She had no desire to see Gwen’s face. She used a little magic to see how quickly the horror was destroying Marcus’s mind. Once his will had completely broken down and he was on the verge of losing any trace of sanity, she ordered Gwen to turn away.
What remained to be done hardly required any magic at all. Kate got up from behind her desk, circled around, and stood before Marcus. She took her time; she wasn’t afraid he’d move away or anything. At this point, Marcus was incapable of independent thought and couldn’t resist whatever suggestions he received. So Kate quietly explained to Marcus that she could bring back that horror he had just seen at any time, and that Marcus was never, ever again going to cross her in any way. She ordered him to forget about getting more help, to go back to Great Yarmouth, and to assist Geoff in every possible way. And then she dismissed him, whereupon he vacated her office will all deliberate speed.
Kate was pleased. She went back to her seat, took off her cap, shook out her long blond hair, and leaned back in her chair.
And then Gwen, who still had her back to Kate, spoke up. “What about me?”
Kate’s lips curled before she replied, “He’ll never try to hurt you again, Guinevere Satterthwaite. That is what you wanted, is it not?”
Gwen didn’t take the hint. “But you said you could cure me.”
Kate sighed. So she had. And it was just as well that this creature, Gwen, didn’t realize she’d just said that to get Gwen’s cooperation. In truth, Kate had no idea if Gwen’s condition could even be reversed, let alone how to do it. It annoyed her that Gwen would bring the matter up again. She would have to punish Gwen.
Unbidden, Tom Cromwell’s advice came to mind. “Why punish them when you can still make use of them?” Using people was so much more satisfying, and effective, too. Kate thought a moment or two, and then smiled. To Gwen she asked, “You mentioned you have some sisters?”
To Gwen this question came out of nowhere. “Yes, two. Why?”
“Oh, nothing.” Kate took a deep breath. “This is what you will do. You will also go to Great Yarmouth. See your lover there. Have a good time.” It will be your last with him, Kate added to herself. “And once this wyrm business is done, we’ll see about fixing you. Now go!”
Gwen’s happiness at being reunited with Geoff, and at Kate’s orders(!), made her willing to forget about her cure for now. With a light step, she left the room, carefully closing the door behind her.
Kate was happy to see her go. So long as that woman was in this room, I was in danger of being driven insane. And now she could take the next step. She examined the information she had plucked out of Gwen’s mind when asked about her sisters. Gwen’s mother, Calpurnia, had three daughters in total. All by different men. Kate frowned. She didn’t approve of easy divorces. But that was irrelevant to her purpose now. Guinevere she had already dealt with. The middle one, Bathsheba, was just a normal human, and of no interest at all. But the younger, Ursula, she was a cambion. Kate licked her lips. Cambions were so easy to manipulate. All she would have to do is cut the cambion off from any human contact for a few hours, and the creature would do anything to be set free. Anything.
Despite its reputation for being a country with few guns, there are firing ranges in England. Getting exclusive access to one at a moment’s notice, and with a covert military weapon that was illegal for civilians to have in their possession, was a bit trickier, but Geoff had pulled some strings, and Jacintha got to spend an hour early that afternoon trying out the magical AK-47 under controlled conditions.
Jacintha was happy. Blowing away targets was a cinch with this gun. And since she wasn’t trying to avoid being killed by a wyrm, she could actually explore the weapon’s capabilities. Its ability to magically communicate with her turned out to be a two-way street; within limits, she could actually tell it what she wanted to do, and it would help.
Col. Angela Watts, meanwhile, was having a nervous fit, and dearly wanted a smoke. She was a genuine military officer as well as a magician, and had been shocked to find out that Jacintha’s gun even existed, let alone that it had found its way into the hands of a Scots magician who had turned it over to an American civilian! It broke so many rules and regulations that Angie’s head swan with dread at the number of reports she would have to fill out. And so here she was, standing ten feet behind this American, watching her waste possibly the most expensive ammunition in the country. But Angie had her orders: give the American an hour’s worth of practice and escort her back to Great Yarmouth. Oh, and if she tried anything suspicious, Angie and the three soldiers at the range under her command were supposed to kill Jacintha. Or at least lose their lives trying.
It probably would not have comforted Angie at all to know that Jacintha’s conversations with her rifle included a plan to take down Angie and her soldiers if they made any hostile moves.
Calpurnia had a theory about reality, that it could never be more miserable than things she could imagine. Considering she’d just spent years of her life recovering from an attack that had shattered her mind and body, this was an amazingly optimistic attitude. Either that, or it bespoke a remarkable imagination.
She had just finished off a phone conversation with Bathsheba about walking out to the old fort in a few days when her doorbell rang. Calpurnia got up and went to the door. And stopped. There was something wrong on the other side. She could tell. Her magical defenses were a shambles from the way people had been popping in and out of her flat, but she still kept a foot-long magical dagger in a cabinet drawer by the door. She usually just waved it at religious fanatics going door to door when she wanted a good laugh. This time, she got it out thinking she might actually have to use it.
Taking a deep breath, she flung open the door.
There, standing, or perhaps better described as leaning a bit, was Marcus. He looked to Calpurnia as if he’d just spent a week high on drugs at a loud goth metal concert. (It wasn’t so much the drugs; Marcus hated goths and metal bands.) Marcus staggered into her apartment, and then into Calpurnia’s arms as his legs gave out underneath him. Calpurnia was so surprised, she almost forget to drop the dagger. But she did, and proceeded to drag a limp Marcus into her living room and onto a couch. He had passed out. Calpurnia checked his vitals, looked for malevolent magic, and then did the best she could to make him comfortable.
Once she’d gotten a pillow behind his head, shoes off, and a blanket over him, Calpurnia stepped back and contemplated the state of her ex-husband. Her first thought was that he looked like far too many of his own victims. He was ragged: ragged in mind, ragged in his magical field, and even his pulse and breathing were irregular. To Calpurnia, it looked as if someone had pummeled him out of shape, and then pummeled him back into shape, without noticing how much damage they’d caused in the meantime.
Suddenly an ear-splitting shriek shook the room. Calpurnia spun around, just in time to see her daughter Ursula appear. Ursula dropping in unexpectedly was to be expected. But not like this! She appeared to be her 12-year-old version, but she was wearing clothes that might best be described as Eurotrash-one-night-stand, and her hair had fallen out. Calpurnia had seen Ursula wear some extreme appearances before, but she sincerely doubted her daughter had just come from looking for an Eastern European sugar daddy with a fetish for bald Lolitas. Worse, Ursula’s cambion powers seemed to be out of control, as if she wanted to seduce everyone in the room with her. This, Calpurnia decided firmly, would not do! Ursula had been taught never to do this. And besides, there was Marcus in the room.
Before she could act, Ursula stepped forward, dropped into Calpurnia’s arms, and began crying. Calpurnia steeled herself from Ursula’s influence, which since she was Ursula’s mother meant she was feeling an intense urge to nurse her child. Ursula had not wanted to be weaned, and it had been a battle royal at the time. Not wanting a repeat, Calpurnia used her hard voice to command, “Pull in your field, Ursula.” And when that didn’t work, she used magic to make her voice even harder. “Pull in your field. Now.”
Ursula might be an emotional wreck, but she knew better than to disobey her mother in one of those moods. With a sob, she managed to pull in her sexual influence. And then she just dropped to the floor, wailing and clinging to her mother’s legs.
With some effort, Calpurnia freed herself from Ursula’s grasp long enough to sit down on the floor and take her daughter’s head in her lap. Ursula had always liked having her head stroked, and as Calpurnia fondly tried to comfort her daughter, Ursula relaxed, her hair started to grow back (in fuchsia and chartreuse), and she fell asleep.
Calpurnia sat there, glancing back and forth between her ex-husband and her youngest daughter. What the hell had happened to them? More importantly, what was she going to do about it? And she really didn’t need this right now, not with the wyrms out there. Cautiously, without disturbing Ursula, she tried to pick her phone out of her pocket. At least she thought, it can’t get any worse.
And then an explosion blew in her front door.
What?? I don’t think wyrms use explosives, although I suppose one of their fireballs might do the trick. Or is this some other enemy, crawling in to complicate the plot? I tell you, Calpurnia could probably really use Jackie and her magical rifle about now. And Geoff might get off his arse, or whatever else he’s been doing. We’ll see if any of these people shape up in the next chapter.