“Kill him?” Kyle’s eyes widened in horror. “Why?”
“Witch hunters live to kill us, delighting in the hunt. They often have powers too, but have been twisted to believe that their magic has been granted to them in order to destroy us.” Robert put his hand on his temple, feeling his head throb. “There are bounties on all our heads, but we’ve lived in relative safety for a while. I thought the Vatican had recalled all their hunters…”
“The Vatican?” Kyle asked. “These people work for the church?”
“Most witch hunters come from organized religious sects, but some are independent. Some folks discover they have powers and want to make a buck. A witch kill can be worth thousands of dollars to the right people. A witch’s body is often sold for medicinal purposes, our blood distilled into charms and potions that are considered to be lucky and healthful in some parts of the world.” Robert slumped down on a stool.
“That’s disgusting!’ Kyle’s stomach turned at the thought of human body parts being sold for money. “How do we find these people?”
“They’ve set us a little trap. They’re holding Dimitri ransom and are demanding money from the Coven. It’s a new tactic for them, but dangerous all the same. I know they’re after more than the money. We have a little surprise attack of our own planned. The Coven Master has asked if I will deliver the money.” Robert sighed. “I said yes.”
Kyle looked Robert square in the eyes and saw doubt and fear laid bare before him. “You can’t do it. You can’t put your life in danger like this!”
“I have to. Witch hunters are no joke, Kyle. They will kill Dimitri. Is that what you want?”
“No, of course not.” Kyle sighed, his shoulders sagging. “What can I do to help?”
“You can stay here at the house. This is no task for an apprentice. Don’t worry, I will have the Coven’s best at my back.”
“I won’t just stay here while you risk your life! There must be something I can do!”
“Against witch hunters? No. Even those of us with experience face mortal danger each time we face them. I had hoped to keep such danger away from you.” Robert stood and climbed the stairs with Kyle in tow. They went into a dusty back room where Robert started shoving equipment into a bag. He brushed past Kyle and walked into his bedroom, where he picked up his silver sword and inspected it.
“This should work.” Robert pulled the bag on his back and slipped the sword through his belt. He turned to Kyle and put his hands on the young man’s shoulders. He looked young with wide, fearful eyes and uncertainty in his expression. “Don’t leave the house, no matter what. While you are here you’re protected by the wards in this old building.”
“But–” Kyle protested, but Robert cut him off.
“No buts. No matter what you feel through our connection, I need you to stay here. This ugly business is not for you.” Robert looked into Kyle’s eyes, searching for assent. Finding it, he let go of Kyle and walked downstairs. Kyle followed, an unspoken question on his lips.
“I’ll be back by sunrise. If I don’t return, it’s probably best if you go back to your old life.” Robert headed for the front door, opening it wide. Kyle moved to follow but Robert melted into the night. The door closed behind him and Kyle sighed as emotions he could not name swelled within him. He sat down on the stairs and put his head in his hands as he thought about Robert going into danger alone.
* * *
Robert drove to the meeting place, a sigh on his lips. He was at war with himself as he drove, wondering if he should have brought Kyle along. No. He doesn’t need to see what happens to witch hunters. Bad enough that he knows I killed Vincent.
It started to rain in sheets and Robert turned his windshield wipers to full. They cast aside the water. He turned off the main road and started down a back road lined with fir trees. He was the only driver on the road and he started as a fork of lightning lit up the sky.
He pulled into the parking lot of the witches’ meeting place, magically disguised as an abandoned store so that they could go about their day-to-day business without scrutiny from the outside world. Robert parked the car and ran inside as another lightning bolt split the sky.
“Raven. Are you ready for the operation?” A tall African-American man stood before Robert. Dragons could be seen tattooed into his bald ebony head and he wore green robes that seemed out of place in the modern setting of the witches’s hall. Other witches were seated in the room behind him, discussing the matter of the witch hunters in hushed tones.
“I’m ready, Dragon.” Robert nodded, fighting away the lingering worries about what would happen to Kyle if he died.
“If we get through this, I would have you bring your young apprentice to me.” Dragon looked at Robert with a dark, piercing gaze. “Tempest has told me much already about the boy.”
“He’s not a boy. He’s nineteen. His name’s Kyle.”
“Tempest told me about the incident with the charm potion. Sounds like a boy to me. We shall see if he is truly a man when I can divine his spirit.”
“As you wish.” Robert looked through the windows at the storm outside. Candles lit the room, their flickering flames dancing to a draught Robert could not feel. “We have to survive this night first. What do we know about these hunters?”
“Very little.” The Coven Master paced the room in measured steps. “We believe they are independents, or at least the Vatican is denying any responsibility and claims our agreement is still intact.”
“Do we have any idea of their motives, their numbers, anything?” Robert felt exasperation and dread in equal measure. He hated going in blind against an unknown foe. Tempest might already be dead. The thought made his intestines curl in knots.
“We know very little, only that they’re waiting at a warehouse on Lake Street.” The Dragon glided into the main room and took a metal briefcase from the table. He strode over to Robert and presented it as if it were a gift. “You will take this money to the warehouse and make the deal. We will be waiting outside. As soon as the hunters emerge, we will decide whether to engage them or leave them be.”
“What if they decide to renege on the deal?” Robert asked.
“That’s the problem, isn’t it? I sent a scout out to the building and he told me it has been magically sealed. You will not be able to use magic inside, but neither will the hunters.”
“The hunters don’t need magic. They may have guns. All I have is this.” Robert gestured to the sword hanging fro his belt.
“My hope is that it does not come to blows. This may be a new tactic from them, to weed us out by taking our financial assets.”
“How much did they ask for?” Robert eyed the Coven Master with suspicion.
“One million dollars.” The Dragon’s voice was calm and even. “Tempest’s life is worth more than the coven’s assets. You must do whatever it takes to save him, Raven.”
“Why do I feel like you’re not telling me everything?” The briefcase suddenly felt heavy in Robert’s hand.
“Some things are better left unknown.” A woman stood up from the table. Long, crimson hair fell to her waist and she was dressed in a black, lacy dress and long leather boots.
“Simone, I need to know what’s going on. I’m risking my life for this. Don’t I deserve to know the truth?”
“That’s Nymph to you, my friend. You may prefer the real world, but I am all witch.” Nymph sighed. “Look, Tempest is important to us. I know you’ve had your differences in the past, but he binds this coven together. If something were to happen to him–”
Robert looked back at the Coven Master. “I get it. You have him in mind as your successor.” He avoided looking away, knowing it would reveal his jealousy. Once upon a time that position would have been mine to take. Now I feel forced out of a world that I love. Is this because of Vincent?
“Astute as usual, Raven. Don’t be offended by it. A Coven Master has to think ahead about what would be best if he was to die tomorrow. Right now, Tempest is the best choice.” Dragon sighed.
“This is about Vincent – Red – isn’t it?” Robert tried to disguise the hurt in his eyes but he knew it was on display for all to see.
“Amongst other things, yes. You no longer seem to have the same dedication to the witching world that you once had. It’s good to see you’ve taken an apprentice, but the stories I’ve heard from Tempest have been alarming at best. Red’s spirit coming through from the Other Side, your attempted suicide, and the general unruliness of the boy you’ve chosen to inherit your power.”
Nymph played with the sleeves of her dress. “It is what it is, Raven. We have more important things at stake right now.”
“Why do I feel like I’m being hung out to dry?” Robert asked. “This plan is insane. You know hunters are never in this for the money. Besides, why would you give away our future? It makes no sense.”
“Open the briefcase.” Dragon remained calm as Robert knelt down on the floor and unclasped the metal briefcase. Sure enough, a million dollars worth of crisp one-hundred dollar bills were bundled in stacks. Robert reached out and touched one, felt the grain of the paper and the security features built in. He felt something else, too, an energy that seemed to radiate from the case.
“It’s a glamour.” Robert said. “Interesting.” The bill he had picked up disappeared into dust, crumbling through his fingers. “That’s the best I’ve ever seen.”
“Don’t doubt that I have our future in mind, Raven. Yours as well. I’m not hanging you out to dry. I’m sending you because you’re the best amongst us at physical weapon usage. Our magic is useless in that warehouse, but you amongst us stand a chance at saving Tempest.”
“Okay.” Robert fastened the briefcase. “I’ll do it. But we’re having a talk when I get back. I won’t let your judge my apprentice without meeting him first.”
“Fair enough.” The Coven Master waved his hands and the other witches stood. “Let’s go.”
* * *
Kyle looked down at the Penumbra. If there was a time to take a look, it was now. Robert wasn’t home and the house was silent, with no danger of interruption from Tempest. All he had to do was concentrate and the whole affair would be over before he knew it.
He turned the page with shaking hands to the section on sex magic. He laughed nervously at himself. There were a dozen porno magazines under my bed at home, not to mention Internet porn. Why do I feel like I’m looking at something I shouldn’t? Drawings covered the page depicting various sexual positions. Men and women, women on women and men with men were drawn in graphic detail across dozens of pages.
Sex magic is extremely powerful. Two people in coitus binds their powers as one almighty being. Sex magic is recommended for any powerful rituals such as opening dimensional gates, traversing planes of existence or powerful healing magicks. Even amateurs can be masters if bound with another. The bond is even more powerful between master and apprentice and can amplify magical effects up to ten times. A master and apprentice should always be sexually compatible and should consider having sex as often as possible in order to amplify their power.
Kyle swallowed the lump of embarrassment in his throat and read on.
Group sex between masters and their apprentices can yield even stronger effects, but this depends on the relationships involved. Negative bonds with people including jealousy and dislike can actually reduce the power formed. The greater number of people involved in sex magic, the greater chance that such negative consequences will arise.
Kyle turned the page and a photo fell out. He picked it up and looked at the black and white image, heat spreading across his face as he realized what was depicted. A younger Robert was naked, his face contorted in pleasure as he was penetrated by a man that seemed somehow familiar.
Of course. Vincent. Despite only seeing his shade, Kyle could recognize the man in the photo. He looked about the age Robert was now, with a look of passion and desire painted on his face. The way he looked at Robert as they made love took Kyle’s breath away to look at it. His mouth was suddenly dry as he looked at Robert’s erect cock, Vincent’s hand clasped around it. He bit his lip to fight his arousal but there was no denying to himself that Robert was a handsome man.
Kyle leaned back in the chair, taking a good look at the photo as he reclined. He felt guilt flood through his veins for looking at Robert’s personal property but he couldn’t deny the arousal now prominent in his pants. He unbuckled his belt and slid his hand down his jeans, gripping his hard cock and stroking as he thought about what it might be like to have Robert fuck him. Or maybe he could make Robert look like he did in the photo, his face the picture of a man about to come hard.
Hands around his shaft, he jerked himself off until he thrashed in the chair and came. His guilt suddenly flooding back, he wiped himself clean and zipped up his jeans, suddenly feeling like the whole world would know what he had done. He slipped the photo back into the Penumbra and turned the book to a non-incriminating page before leaving the library.
Kyle shed his clothes and headed to the shower, dousing himself with hot water and washing away his private moment. A sudden feeling of dread gripped him as he lathered up and all thoughts rushed to Robert and the safety of his mission. Kyle turned the water off and hurried to his room, hurriedly dressing in jeans and a plain t-shirt.
There was a knock at the door. Kyle shivered as he ran downstairs barefoot to answer it. The feeling of dread was growing and he was certain Robert was in terrible danger. All thoughts of the photo were a million miles away as he tripped on a rug and righted himself.
Robert needed him. Robert was in danger. He could feel it in the bond between master and apprentice. Whoever was at the door was either here to kill him or here to help.
Kyle reached for the large wooden door and opened it.