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The Fool, The Hermit and Death

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Chapter 1: A Mother's Belief

 

Magic, the one thing in the world that John Segundus ever truly desired. His mother, a woman who could see rays of light in the darkest of clouds, had always told him that he was to become a great magician; that he would one day bring magic to everyone of England. Surely, this mindset would not bode well with many of the people of England, especially the ones who dared call themselves magicians. For English magic was only meant for the talented, wealthy, or connected, each, a category John Segundus could not see himself belonging to. John Segundus was a child of curiosity, perhaps a little too much so for his own good, which his father would often feel the need to remind him of. He had always asked why he was not allowed to study or practice magic and would either be answered with laughter or simply become ignored, that was until he asked his mother.

“It is those greedy men, love. They lock their books of magic away in their private libraries, not letting a soul see them. Not giving the slightest chance to people who truly desire magic, the ones who truly are destined to become magicians. But it is your responsibility, if you truly wish to become a man of magic, to keep pursuing, never let anyone dissuade you. And to never stop asking questions,” she would say, wiping the tears from young John’s cheeks after a particularly grueling day of grammar school.

But, six months later there was no one to wipe away his tears, no hands to brush through his hair as he slept, no one to tell him to keep asking questions. He was left behind. He was alone. Orphaned at such a young age gained pity from his neighbors and anyone he would come to meet, something that a young Segundus was not in need of. Eventually, he stopped speaking of it, partially due to the sad glances he would yield, and partially because of how painful it became to mutter. Although his mouth forgot, his heart always remembered what his mother taught him. He always remembered to always pursue, never let anyone to dissuade him, and to never stop asking questions.

England 1806

The air was thin and cold, leaving many with red noses and chilled fingers as they desperately wrapped scarves around their necks. Frost crept along windows and up the cobblestone streets, not breaking until something was thrown upon it. Something such as John Segundus’ body.

“We’ve told you before! We keep telling you! But you still insist on coming back! Do not attempt to return again Mr. Segundus!” The old man said before slamming the door closed behind him, leaving Segundus outside laying on the cold and damp cobblestone streets.

“Oh! Mr. Segundus! Are you alright?” John heard a familiar and older voice ask as someone quickly scurried over to him.

“I am quite alright, Mr. Honeyfoot. Just a little bruising, thanks to these men WHO REFUSE ENGLAND IT'S MAGIC!” Segundus said, rising to a shout for the men inside the society to hear.

The older and shorter man quickly held his hand out to his younger and taller companion and helped him off of the street, with John adjusting his jacket as he stood. Honeyfoot was easily Segundus’ closest, and perhaps only friend; ever since they met at the ‘Society of York Magicians’, just before Segundus was thrown out for the first time of course. Honeyfoot heard Segundus’ argument and agreed that it was unfair, so much so that he refused his membership to the society and its magic until the rest of the country was allowed to study the same. This allowed him to assist the young Mr. Segundus on his journey to study magic, a journey he has yet to begin as it would seem.

“I admire your determination, Mr. Segundus, but this consistency of being thrown out is not getting you anywhere. Not to mention it being extremely dangerous, what if you were to hit your head?” Honeyfoot asked, dusting some frost off of Segundus’ shoulder.

“I know, I know. But one day, I will make them see,” Segundus began, looking up at the sign that hung above the ‘Society of York Magicians’ door. “One day they will have no choice but to accept every magician in England.”

Just as the two men turned around to walk back to their homes, something caught Segundus’ attention.

“Hello? Sir?” Segundus asked, creeping closer to something he saw in between two conjoined buildings, decorated with ivy. Just as he was about to reach his hand out, a shadow began to move, causing Segundus to jump back in surprise.

Both men watched as the once shadow evolved into a man, who kept his head down and stepped in front of the two men. The man was tall with long dark hair that was pulled back into a ponytail, but the loose strands did not hesitate to dangle in front of his face. As he positioned himself in front of the two men, slowly lifting his head, the brim his hat revealed his face from gruff chin to sprawled hairline. His eyes were the first thing that caught Segundus’ attention, not his irises, but instead the bags that surrounded them. They revealed to him a man who did not sleep often, nor regular, who may have seen more than most men will see in their entire lifetime. A man that never stayed in one place for too long.

“How did you do that!? You were but a shadow just moments earlier!” Honeyfoot asked, excitement filling his voice.

“You’re thrown out of that building nearly every week. But, still, you choose to come back. Why?” The mysterious man asked Segundus, ignoring that old man’s question.
Segundus was taken aback by both the man’s sudden question, and the deep growl of his voice. It was so polar to Segundus’ own light and small voice, where his could only be described as heavy and gravelly. The voice of a northerner.

“Excuse me?” Segundus asked, also wondering how this man would know that he came to the Society nearly every week.

“You ‘eard me,” the man said, in an almost threatening tone. Almost.

Segundus looked back at Mr. Honeyfoot who stood behind him, looking as if he were frightened of this man, this shadow. As he turned back around to face the man again, Segundus let out a small cough to clear his throat.

“Well,” he began, wringing his hands together as he attempted to formulate the right words, “my mother and I, we believe that magic is a right that everyone should possess. But there are certain people who disagree with our ideals, certain people who hold books of magic for themselves as they gorge on platters of pig and pineapple!”

Segundus paused, until he received a look from the man that showed he was listening, and resumed after a deep breath.

“My mother had told me that if I ever stopped pursuing, if I ever stopped asking questions; nothing would happen. And I cannot think of a crueler fate.”

The man was silent, only looking deep into Segundus, almost as if he were trying to see if his words were genuine. This perplexed Segundus, for he had nothing to hide from this man. Why would he lie to him?

“I am John Segundus, and this is my friend, Mr. Honeyfoot,” John quickly said, shooting his hand out in front of him towards the man, desperate to break the awkward silence.

There was another moment of silence as the man glanced down at Segundus’ hand before looking back up at his face, firmly gripping the man’s smaller bare hand. “Childermass. John Childermass.”

“Oh that is funny!” Honeyfoot interjected, having not said anything prior in the conversation.

Both men looked at the older man, one with embarrassment and the other impassiveness, before breaking from the handshake. John was a common name, but to have such contrasting people share it, gave great amusement to Mr. Honeyfoot.

The weather around the trio seemed to tense as John Childermass reached into his pocket and pulled out a small slip of paper, holding it out to Segundus between his glove covered fingers. Segundus warily took the slip of paper before unfolding it with his cold fingertips. Written on the slip was an address, a date and a time. The handwriting was so elegant that Segundus, for a moment, thought that someone else must have written it.

“What is this?” Segundus asked, looking up to find the man missing. Both men looked around them, but found no sign of John Childermass.

“What an odd fellow. What do you suppose that was all about?” Mr. Honeyfoot said, still glancing around half expecting to find the missing man.

“I haven’t the slightest idea, Mr. Honeyfoot. But I intend to find out.”