Chapter 5- The Rose and Cross
@copyright Jean G. Hontz 2010
The Crimson Rose and Ansate Cross was a very exclusive, very private club. To all the world it looked like just another stuffy, exclusive, brandy snifting and cigar infested watering hole where men could hide away from the world, act out - or up - and know their secrets were safe.
Some of those descriptors fit, but there are more that need to be added to explain the Rose and Cross. For one thing, one had to be magical to become a member. For another, it was, unlike almost all other London clubs, desegregated. Membership was not based on sex, or lineage or even skin-color. The membership admired spell-craft, raw power, scholarship and intellect.
The Club was tucked away just off of Piccadilly Circus. The only indication at the front door as to its identity was a small brass plaque with a picture of a compass rose with an ansate cross placed over it.
Inside, should a visitor penetrate beyond the foyer, he or she would find rich furnishings, and decorations that looked as if they had been smuggled out of Egypt and other famous antiquarian hot spots. Bookshelves groaned with thick tomes, many of which were unique, others merely extremely rare. The really interesting books, though, were locked away behind both magical and mechanical locks, and shown only to a select few members. As were some of the more interesting artefacts the club had acquired from both legal and illegal sources. They represented a significant number of extraordinary pieces found at archeological sites around the world. What they could do, the power they could concentrate, only the members knew and they weren’t talking.
There were few formal meetings of the Rose and Cross, mostly members just came and went, spent time studying the artefacts and the books, and enjoying a dinner or lunch created (quite possibly with magical assistance) by one of the best chefs in London.
On this particular evening, Adrian Blakesley was comfortably settled in an overstuffed wing chair near the fireplace in one of the several intimate sitting rooms throughout the premises. He held a brandy in one hand, and was using the other to turn the pages in a tome he was studying, hoping it would give him some hint regarding the sort of power he’d felt in the alleyway in Bath.
His peace was disturbed by a soft knock on the closed door. When he called out ‘come’ the porter stepped into the room holding a card.
Blakesley studied it for a moment, then raised an eyebrow. He finally looked up and said, “Please show the gentleman in.”
Blakesley stood as Zakariyya Khan entered the room. He held out a hand. “I’m Adrian Blakesley,” he said.
Zakariayya Khan took Blakesley’s hand and murmured his name. “Kind of you to see me on short notice.”
“Oh not in the least,” Blakesley answered indicating a chair to Zak. “May I order you a brandy? Or something else perhaps?”
Zak settled comfortably and replied, “Nothing thank you. I won’t keep you long.”
“What can I do for you.. Mr...”
“Zak will do.”
“Zak then. How can I help?”
Blakesley settled back more comfortably, and sent a very tight-beamed magical probe at his visitor. Most mages would never sense such a delicate thing. He could only think of three people in England talented enough to sense the probe at all.
Zak sat still for a moment then said, “It would be more polite to ask, than to probe me, wouldn’t you say?”
Blakesley blinked, then said, “Forgive me. But your aura and your power are unfamiliar to me.”
The Persian replied after a moment, “I’m not surprised. We seldom mix with humans.”
“I see,” Blakesley said, although it was clear to both of them that he didn’t see at all.
“I’ve come requesting a favor. Not for myself, but for my .. Colleague. His kind are even more reclusive than mine.”
“Indeed,” Blakesley replied sipping his brandy, his mind awhirl as he raced through what he knew of the kinds and races of magical beings.
“Indeed,” Zak agreed. “You see, something extremely powerful was recently transported to England. It is imperative that my colleague find it and return it to its rightful place.”
“Just what is it you are looking for?” Blakesley asked, after a moment.
“A jewel. A moonstone. Not particularly valuable in and of itself.”
“But? Magical?” Blakesley asked.
“Let us say the stone is sacred, rather than magical. It is powerful, true, but anyone attempting to tap into its secrets would likely find it lethal.”
“Why was your colleague spying on Julian Vyse?” Blakesley asked. “And why do you come to me now, rather than him?”
“Mr Vyse has a certain reputation,” Zak replied. “When the jewel disappeared, well,” Zak shrugged. “Mr Vyse was near enough that my colleague quite understandably wondered if your friend might have been the one to take it.”
“And now? Does your colleague still suspect Vyse?”
Zak hesitated. “There are perhaps four practitioners here in England capable of interacting with the jewel. Two of you might, I emphasize, might survive it. However, the power of the jewel is unpredictable if activated incorrectly.”
“And it can be highly destructive?” Blakesley asked.
“So you traced it to England, and it arrived here about the time Julian Vyse did?”
“Yet, apparently, you can no longer trace it, or otherwise sense its location.”
“True,” Zak admitted. “Thus my colleague does not yet feel comfortable trusting that Vyse does not have the jewel.”
Blakesley sipped his brandy and considered the challenge. “And why should I assist you in finding this jewel? Particularly when it involves judging a, ahem, friend.”
“Because it would open up a dialogue with not one but two races you now know little to nothing about. You, Mr Blakesley, are for the most part driven by a thirst for knowledge, for understanding. As we read your character, you are not particularly interested in power in and of itself. Therefore, we offer a chance for you to learn the magicks of two reclusive races. That is what we offer you.”
Blakesley held the Persian’s eyes for a moment, then said, “Yet you might be pitting me against a mage far more powerful than I.”
“There is that,” Zak admitted. He got to his feet and regarded Blakesley who hadn’t moved from his chair. “My colleague is considering approaching Mr Vyse regarding this issue. What is your feeling regarding that?”
Blakesley gave it some thought. “I do not trust everything Julian Vyse says, and I understand why you think he might have taken this sacred object. But like me, Vyse is not driven to possess and use power merely for power’s sake. He has power in abundance and for the most part keeps his abilities well hidden. If he took your jewel he had a reason, and most likely a very complex one. Perhaps a chat with him regarding the nature of your concerns would not go unheeded.”
Zak nodded, gave Blakesley a very Persian sort of bow and said, “We’ll take that under advisement. Good evening, Mr Blakesley.”
With that the Persian’s eyes swirled sapphire and silver. Within the blink of an eye the man was gone leaving no trace he’d ever been there.
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