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Rise of the Champions

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Ianto glanced down at his carefully written notes, and sighed, ready for tomorrow. 

He thought of the man downstairs, in the storage room off his casting chamber, trapped within that Zero Cabinet, and prayed to the Gods that he and Phil would be successful in ridding him of the curses that had been forced upon him by Hydra, over centuries.  Sir James Barnes should never have had been subjected to that sort of torture, and Ianto wanted nothing more than to finally destroy Hydra once and for all.

The problem was, they were missing two members, and there hadn’t been any sign of Catherine and Ruby Hale to be found.

Which was why Jack was off with Toshiko and Clint, hoping to use the unofficial network of traveling shows to get the word out on their fugitive Hydra members.  Ianto wasn’t sure it would work, but every idea needed to be tried before they gave up…which, he was aware, was something Phil would never do.  Not with Daisy and now Crystal in unintentional harms’ way.  They’d tried for Daisy twice, and succeeded once, in kidnapping her, and Phil would not rest until both his girls were safe.  Because, it was just a matter of time before Crystal’s existence got out.  And that little girl deserved peace after what had been done to her.

Ianto knew that, once they had Sir James recovering, he would work on the curses laid on Dr. Banner next.  The magical theorist had assured him that he could wait, as long as the curses couldn’t be triggered by Thaddeus Ross.  He was still staying at Ferrous Castle, which meant Pepper would be there in case anything occurred, and she was very powerful in her own right.  Doctor Banner had been positive that Pepper could handle anything that would come up on that front. 

He could foresee being quite busy curse breaking for the next week, at least.  A Grand Master’s work was never done, it seemed.

That didn’t include his teaching Pietro Maximoff.  Now, that was a pleasure.  The young man could be sarcastic and abrasive at times, especially when he believed he was correct about something, but he was also willing to learn.  He had a quick mind, and even quicker hands, which had caused quite a bit of damage because his wand work was simply too fast.  He’d work on it with the young Wizard, but it would take time.

He stood up from his desk, stretching his back a little.  He hadn’t really been sitting long, not since he’d called Phil and told him about being ready to begin the curse breaking for Sir James tomorrow.  Phil had said he would let Steve know about it; the once-Paladin of the Western Lands would want to be there, even if he couldn’t be in the same room – although he had an idea about that – since they couldn’t risk the distraction his presence might cause Sir James.  The Winter Knight couldn’t remember his longtime friend, not until the curses were removed…and maybe not even then, but Ianto had faith in his abilities to get rid of them.  With Phil’s help, as the Void Grand Master would be invaluable in the rituals that Ianto had carefully drawn up.  He knew the Void better than Ianto ever could, and every single one of the curses was fueled by Void magic. 

Yes, there were times in the past where Ianto had been able to work with Void magic, but that had always been with a Void Wizard in control.  The first time he’d done it, he’d been with his old friend, Suzie Costello, who’d been a new Wizard at the time, and it had taken her rather shaky contact with the Void in order for it to work.  There certainly hadn’t been any finesse in it, they’d both been so very inexperienced, and Gods only knew how it had worked.

Just that morning, the Baroness Anwyn Williams from Torchwood Castle had finally gotten back with him, about his request for the one Artifact that he believed could help with the curse breaking.  Back when Gateway had been recreated, and the Wizard’s Tower recommissioned, Their Majesties had decreed that all magical Artifacts and documents that had been housed at Torchwood Castle be moved to Gateway.  The then-Baroness, Gwen Williams, had fought against the decision; after all, Torchwood Castle had long been the repository of magic in the United Kingdom, and she hadn’t wanted to give up the power that came with that position.  She’d transferred some of the Archive there, but not all, and had even faced Royal Censure for her actions.

Her son, the next Baron, had gone along with his mother’s wishes, and had hidden what was left away from prying eyes.  Ianto, of course, knew what was there, having been Master Archivist for Barony Cardiff before he’d discovered that he was an actual Wizard.  It meant he’d catalogued a lot of the Artifacts there, as well as many of the scrolls and books that had been discovered over the centuries.  So he’d known things were being held back, he simply couldn’t find the proof of it.

However, Baroness Anwyn seemed to be amenable to finally making that transfer.  However, she’d been extremely busy with Baronial business, and the negotiations between Ianto and the Baroness had had to be postponed for a time.  It certainly helped that Baroness Cardiff’s younger child was a Wizard, and she could see the importance of having that central Archive and not hiding things away.  Besides, she could get no one to curate the collection for her, as no self-respecting Wizard would go against the Guild.  All of that history, hidden and possibly fading away.  It broke Ianto’s heart to even think about it.

Baroness Anwyn had managed to locate what Ianto had been searching for, and had had a courier bring it to him, wrapped up against sort of damage in transit.  It had been a pleasant surprise, although, if Ianto was being honest with himself, he would have wished to go and fetch it himself.  However, the Baroness had also been informed that the Grand Master was also busy, and had considered it a favor to him to get it to him herself.  Ianto appreciated the thought.

The Artifact had also come accompanied by a letter, letting Ianto know that she was ready to reopen the negotiations whenever he was available.  That, in itself, gave him hope that the rest of the Archives would soon be where they belonged.

At the moment, he was alone in the house; Jack was, of course, out with Toshiko and Clint. Eirlys had come to lunch, but had left again; after all, she had her own home to go to, and her children, grandchildren, and husband waiting for her.  And, as he’d teased her on her way out, she certainly didn’t have time to humor lonely old men.

His daughter had laughed at that.  As had her dragon, Corona.

Myfanwy lifted her head from the sofa, cooing at him questioningly.  “I don’t know about you,” he told her, “but I think I need a cup of coffee.  How about a snack?”

That had Myfanwy perking up immediately, and the fervent agreement to that idea flooded Ianto’s mind, making him chuckle.  ‘Yes, I thought you might like that idea.  Come along, milady.  Let’s go.”

The Grand Master headed out to the kitchen, accompanied by his dragon.  He got a chicken leg out of the cold box for Myfanwy first, then settled into making himself a cup of coffee.  The brewer itself was magic; he’d worked out the enchantments himself so, when someone asked if he’d used magic to brew the perfect cup, he could actually admit that yes, he had. 

Jack teased him about his ‘magic coffee’, but his husband certainly reaped the rewards of Ianto’s spellcasting.

He’d managed to get his cup made – the perfect temperature, thank you – and was going to sit down in the kitchen nook in order to enjoy it along with the scones that Eirlys had brought with her, when the ping of someone Teleporting into his casting chamber caught his attention.

There were only a handful of people with standing invitations to do so.  He extended his senses out, recognizing Stephen Strange’s magical signature easily.  The other Great Wizard with him was most likely the reason he’d gone into the casting chamber instead of the front door, as he was wont to do when he was showing up without calling first.

It must have been vitally important if he was breaching his own visiting protocol.

That…was worrying.

Ianto left his coffee on the table in order to go and greet his visitors.  He was halfway down the stairs when he met Stephen on his way up, Agamotto draped around his shoulders and Cloak of Levitation floating about his legs jauntily; one end waved hello to Ianto as it noticed him standing there.  He was accompanied by an older looking gentleman, with pale thinning hair and pale blue eyes, his dragon a dark blue, almost velvet black.

“Ianto,” Stephen said in greeting, “I’m sorry for just showing up without warning.”

“I figured it was urgent.”  Ianto turned and headed back up, leading the way to his study.  Myfanwy, waiting in the hallway, greeted Agamotto profusely, and then welcomed the strange dragon just was gladly. 

“This is Master Erik Selvig,” Stephen did the introductions, “and his dragon, Polaris.”

“Welcome to my home, Master Erik,” Ianto said.  “The dragon pile will be in the front room, as I’m sure Agamotto already knows.  If you don’t mind Polaris joining in, Myfanwy can show him where to go.”

“That’s perfectly fine,” Master Erik answered.  He had a faint accent, one that Ianto couldn’t quite identify, although he thought it might be from one of the northern countries on the Eastern Continent, somewhere in the Middle Kingdoms.

Myfanwy chattered happily, allowing Agamotto to wrap around her as she headed toward the front room, where the biggest patch of sunlight in the entire house would be.  Polaris followed eagerly.

“Can I get you coffee?  I just made a fresh pot.”

“That would be lovely, Ianto,” Stephen accepted, although he usually took tea, the Cardinal Wizard knew that his friend would only drink the coffee that Ianto himself made. 

Master Erik nodded.  “Thanks, Grand Master.”

“Head on into the study and I’ll be there in a moment. Stephen knows where it is.”

“If I don’t by now, there’s something wrong with me.”  Stephen was laughing.  He motioned with his hand, and the Cloak floated off his shoulders, hanging itself on the hook by the front door.  And, while Ianto felt a little odd anthropomorphizing a garment, he knew the Cloak, and it seemed as if it was a little disappointed that Jack’s own cloak wasn’t already hanging there, collar drooping.

Not that he blamed it.  Jack’s cloak smelt wonderful.  But then, his husband did, as well, with the natural pheromones his people had once had, a thousand years ago.

Ianto went to fetch the coffee, pouring the rest into a ceramic carafe that Ianto had enchanted to keep the beverage warm even long past its time in the machine’s heater.  He added two more cups – grabbing his off the table – and then adding the cream and sugar to the tray that was kept there for that purpose.  He also put some of Jack’s favorite chocolate biscuits on a plate, then headed into the study where his guests were waiting.

Stephen had taken the chair in front of the desk, while Master Erik had decided on the sofa where Myfanwy usually stayed when Ianto was working.  He served his visitors, and then himself, taking his seat behind the desk.

“Now,” he said, “what brings the two of you here?”

Stephen looked grave.  “Erik came to me this morning with some news that will most certainly affect Phil, and I wasn’t certain how to approach him.  I thought we might do it together.”

“That bad?”  This wasn’t good at all.  Stephen was a forthright sort of person, and he would usually have been comfortable going straight to Phil himself.  For him to have brought the news to Ianto first, and then want the two of them to convey whatever it was…it meant he thought he needed support in what he was about to impart upon their newest Grand Master.

“Yes, Ianto.  That bad.  I’ll let Erik explain.”

The Cardinal Wizard turned to the second of his guests.  Master Erik didn’t look happy about being put on the spot.  He took a sip of his coffee, blinked in surprise and stared down at his cup, as if he couldn’t believe what he’d just tasted.  Ianto mentally preened at that, but on the outside he simply raised an eyebrow in the Master’s direction.

“I’ve been a friend of Queen Frigga of Asgard for many years,” Master Erik began.  “We met because of Prince Thor having a certain infatuation for my ward, Jane; don’t ask me how they met, it’s a long story and it’s not really mine to tell.”

Ianto didn’t think he needed to.  While there wasn’t a lot of people who knew about King Odin’s punishment of his older son and his subsequent banishment, Ianto did, because it had been of some concern to the Grand Masters at the time.   He was willing to bet that this was when Prince Thor had met Master Erik’s ward.

Of course, he also knew about the Queen’s other son, the mad Wizard, Loki. 

“Queen Frigga and I have kept in touch,” Master Erik went on.  “So, when she contacted me, I really didn’t think much of it.  After all, I like to think we’ve become friends, and I’ve actually been trying to get Asgardian Wizards to join up with the Guild, so I keep her apprised of things that might be of interest to her.”

That was…slightly worrying.  Ianto glanced over at Stephen, who gave him a faint nod; he would trust the Great Grand Master to his own housekeeping on this subject, then.

“And what did the Queen of Asgard have to say?” Ianto asked.

Master Erik took a deep breath.  “She wanted to warn us that Loki has escaped.”