Charles Weaver sat at the desk in his study, his head bowed over the ledger, his hand writing the reports from the week’s activities in his beautiful slanted script. The Welsh prisoner had yielded nothing of note, but there was time yet for him to break. At his side was a tray bearing his choice of sustenance: bread, cheeses and a few slices of home-cured meat. The simple repast would serve him well enough. A bottle of wine was uncorked and stood before him. But Charles Weaver neither ate nor drank. To do either required the removal of his mask, and until his personal servants retired for the night, he would not take it off. Even then, he had become strangely reluctant to do so.
The reports came in on a regular basis and not all were pertinent. Here there was an account of possible evidence of magic use in a distant English backwater village. There, details of attempts by magicians to receive the support of the Church. So many of these ended without the intervention of the Inquisition, overly-dramatic scenes of self-martyrdom by the desperate and unofficial elevation to sainthood in the eyes of their faithful followers. All these Charles Weaver read, and more. Wherever there was a hint of unusual activity, the Inquisition would follow up the leads.
So many reports. Weaver growled quietly as he read. A plague upon the people of this country. Nothing seemed to get through to them. Threats that were made and carried out served as little more than a temporary bump in the unholy road they persisted along.
‘My lord?’ There was a tapping at the study door and Weaver raised his head.
‘Enter.’ He set down the quill and leaned back in the heavy oak chair. One of the staff he had brought from his country estate to work in the Tower as his personal servants entered the claustrophobic office.
‘Forgive the disturbance, my lord, but this arrived moments ago. The bearer stressed its importance.’ The servant, a faceless serf whose name Weaver had never bothered to learn, held out an ivory scroll case. Rising to his feet, Weaver moved the bulk of his huge body round to the front of the desk. He took the scroll case, recognising the seal instantly.
‘It’s from the King, isn’t it, my lord?’ It was presumptuous of the servant to speak without cause, and as the metal face turned on him and he saw the glint in the eyes beneath, he wished he’d remained silent.
‘You may leave now,’ the Lord Inquisitor replied stonily. He watched the servant scuttle out of the room, taking a quiet satisfaction in the obvious discomfort he had caused. When the door shut, he stepped across to it and turned the key in the lock. He would not be disturbed again.
He opened the scroll case, slid out the parchment within and unfurled it. He leaned against the desk, holding the paper taut as he read the missive from King Richard. It did not take long. There were several lines that discussed the logistics of what was to come, but Weaver’s eyes were drawn to the words at the very bottom, above the flourish of Richard’s signature.
We will go to war.
You will lead them in my name.
Beneath the mask, Weaver began to laugh, a sound entirely devoid of humour.
Finally, it was going to happen. Finally, the moment he had been waiting for had arrived. He would sweep across France, then Italy. Spain and Portugal. All the countries who wore the badge of magic on their breasts would be crushed. Magic would be driven from the shores of the continent and a new British Empire would be born in the twin lights of science and reason.
‘We will go to war,’ Weaver repeated aloud.