Disclaimer: Usually I write out a very specific disclaimer explaining exactly what it is I don't own but I find myself not really interested in doing so this time as it is very tedious. Suffice it to say I own nothing that was created by anyone else and I am not making any money off of this story or any of the other stories I have written.

AN: This story is self-beta'd; so there may be occasional grammatical or spelling errors that crop up every now and then and for those I apologize in advance.


Chapter 63: Wards and Preparation

Taliesin was drawn from his sleep several hours before dawn by the persistent ringing of his cell phone. Dorothy let out a sleepy protest as he peeled himself away from her side in order to answer the phone. He blurrily glanced down at the small screen to see who it was calling him so early and felt the last traces of sleep vanish when he saw Dr. Winner's name splashed across the screen. Sliding out of bed so he wouldn't wake his wife, Taliesin quickly flipped the phone open to answer the call.

"I take it this isn't a social call, Dr. Winner?" Taliesin asked by way of greeting as he crossed the room to check on James.

"No, it's not. I need you to come down to the medical bay. It's not an emergency, per se, but the little boy to whom you gifted a magical core is upset and things are flying about and exploding and all of the younger children are frightened. I tried to calm him down but… well he's too upset and scared to listen to me."

"I'll be there in five minutes; just let me throw on some clothes."

"Thank you, Taliesin; come through my office – the other doors are currently blocked."

"What's wrong, Taliesin?" Dorothy sleepily asked from the bed.

"I'm needed in the Infirmary to calm down our newest wizard. I'll be back in a bit," Taliesin replied as he finished pulling on a pair of pants and slid his feet into the nearest pair of shoes.

"Okay."

The young king then grabbed one of his undershirts and pulled it on before he hurried out of his room. As he headed for the exit, he called the Command Center to let whoever was on duty know he was leaving his tower to deal with a minor magical emergency and that he'd be in the Infirmary until further notice. He gave the same message to the pair standing outside of his door before he transformed into Zero and took off at a ground eating lope. When he reached the main staircase, he jumped up and dropped down over the side of the banister to save time and let gravity pull him down.

Taliesin waited until the last minute to slow his downward plunge by opening his wings so that he landed lightly on the first floor landing. He was then off again as he scrambled down the stairs and ghosted through the darkened halls in the direction of Iria's office. Taliesin seamlessly transformed back to his human self the moment he reached her office so that he could knock on the door before entering. He found two of the medical aides that he'd hired a couple of months ago in the room and he watched as looks of pure relief crossed their faces the moment they looked up and saw him.

"Thank heavens you're here, your majesty," the younger, male aide breathed. "Dr. Winner is in the Medical Bay with the children trying to keep them all from panicking."

"Thank you, when my security detail arrives, please let them know I'm with the children," Taliesin replied as he crossed the small office and slipped into the Infirmary.

The moment he stepped into the hospital ward, Taliesin was greeted with complete chaos and a huge mess. There were overturned beds (several of them haphazardly stacked up in front of the main doors), scattered equipment, broken glass, spilled pitchers, and floating beds, tables, and pillows. All of the older children were huddled protectively in front of the younger children (who were crying in fright) in one corner while Iria was crouching near the center of the room trying to calm down the shivering bundle of blankets planted in the very center of the room.

The young mage took in everything in a single glance before he drew his wand and canceled all of the active spells in the room. The floating objects crashed loudly to the floor just seconds later and everyone else jumped or cringed. Another wave of his wand and a muttered spell had everything returning to its proper resting place while the broken glass trotted to the nearest trashcan. In less than five minutes, the Infirmary no longer looked like a battleground and seventeen sets of eyes were staring at Taliesin with wide eyes.

"You know, I think you lot just beat my old record," Taliesin announced with a trace of amusement. "I was in the castle at least a full week before I had my first adventure and here you are having one on your first night." A few of the older kids snickered in response to his teasing tone while the rest of the kids were still more than a little shocked by the sight of his pale wings and their recent scare.

"Thank you for arriving so quickly, Taliesin. I'll leave you to settle our little friend here while I get the others back into their beds."

Taliesin hummed in agreement as he made his way to the nest of blankets that was still shivering in the middle of the room. He quickly settled himself beside the small form hidden within the blankets and canted his head to one side as he listened to the soft whimpers, sniffles, and sobs that were issuing forth from the nest for a brief moment.

"Will you come out and tell me what has you so frightened, little one?" Taliesin asked in a soft warm tone. The blankets stilled and fell silent before a small hand tentatively emerged followed by half a tear streaked face. "You don't need to be afraid to tell me what is wrong; you aren't in any trouble."

"Are you an angel?" the little boy asked in a tremulous voice the moment his eyes noticed the wings furled against Taliesin's back.

"No, I'm not an angel; my brothers will tell you that I'm far too much of a troublemaker to be anything as sweet and innocent as an angel," Taliesin replied with a soft laugh.

"Den why do ya have wings?" one of the other boys asked from his bed.

"I got into a bit of trouble a few years ago and I was so scared and angry that I wanted to fly away and so I did. I've had the wings ever since; though they weren't always as pretty as they are now. Although, between you and me, I think they're a little too girly now."

"That's a load of horseshit," one of the older teens snarked with a scowl.

"Is it? Most of you were born with a Talent; an ability to do things that most people can't. Abilities that allow you to hear what people are thinking, to feel their emotions, to make objects float or fly, or to control one of the elements. My wings aren't much different than your Talents."

"Then why ain't there other blokes flyin' around?" a familiar twelve year old demanded.

"Because I am not a mere Newtype, I am a wizard."

"No, you're an idiot," a girl retorted with a derisive snort. "Everyone knows there's no such thing as magic."

"Magic is very real and each and every Newtype out there carries a seed of magic in their soul; that is what allows them to use their Talent. The very castle you are currently sitting inside is filled with magic; hidden passageways, secret rooms, moving staircases, talking portraits, and countless numbers of magical creatures and mythical beings. The grounds and forests in Crystal Valley play home to centaurs, house elves, winged horses, unicorns, phoenixes, fairies, and hundreds of other creatures."

"I suppose next you'll say there're dragons and trolls too?" the older teen that had called him a liar earlier scathingly demanded.

"No, not yet; we've not yet established a safe reserve for the more dangerous creatures. There will be goblins by this time next year and once the lake has been cleaned up, we've plans to bring back the merfolk."

"Whatever it is dat yer smokin' must be sum good shit," an eleven year old girl wisecracked.

"I guess that means that a demonstration is in order," Taliesin mused thoughtfully as he drew out his wand.

The young monarch then proceeded to transfigure random objects into an assortment of mundane and magical creatures that frolicked through the room to the surprise of the children. It was easy to see that some of the older children were still skeptical though, so he conjured bubbles, sparks, and harmless bluebell flames. After that, he changed the colors of their sheets, made their pillows swell up like balloons, and made a few of the kids sprout rabbit, cat, and dog ears. Next, he resized his larder trunk and disappeared inside to grab Chocolate Frogs, Pepper Imps, Ice Mice, and a couple of other magical candies and treats that caused special effects (including some of the more harmless prank candies that Fred and George had developed – like the Canary Creams).

As soon as he stepped back out of the trunk, he passed out the candies to the children with a flick of his wand before he opened up a chocolate frog for himself. By the time the children had each eaten a piece or two of candy, not a single one of them doubted the existence of magic any longer. There was also not a single unhappy face in the room; all of the children laughing and giggling at each other whenever one of the special effects took hold of them. The very last thing Taliesin did was call on Dobby to bring the two phoenixes, some of the older kneazle kittens, a couple of newly weaned crups, a few puffskeins, and to ask a couple of the young centaurs if they would join him.

The animals were an immediate hit with the children, though the older boys pretended indifference (even as they cuddled with a kitten or puppy). The phoenixes and centaurs were met with wide eyed wonder when they arrived. The excited children were then sung back to sleep by a soft centaurian lullaby that was accompanied by the soothing trills of the twin phoenixes. The only child that didn't fall asleep right away was the young wizard sitting on the floor and that was only because he was fighting sleep as he watched Taliesin with troubled brown eyes.

"What is wrong, little one?" Taliesin asked as he retook his seat beside the five year old.

"I miss mummy."

"I am sorry, little one; I know how much it hurts to lose your parents," Taliesin murmured as he gently gathered the child in his arms. "My mum and dad died when I was just a baby and I still miss them very much."

"Can't you bring 'em back with magic?"

"No, magic can not bring back the dead. Our loved ones never really leave us though; they live in our hearts and in our memories and so long as we never forget them, then they will always be there with us."

"If you can't bring my mummy back, who will take care of me?"

"I will, little one," Taliesin promised as he tucked the child back into bed. "You need not ever fear being left alone again for you will always have a home here in Hogwarts; even if I am not here. Now, close your eyes and go sleep, little one; you need to let your core rest after your busy night."

"Will you be here when I wake up?"

"Probably not because I have a lot of work to catch up on in the morning but Dr. Winner will be here and she can call me after you eat breakfast and I will come and visit for a little while."

"What if I have another scary dream?"

"You won't; I'll leave Spero and Spera here and phoenixes are very good at chasing away nightmares with their songs. They will watch over you while you sleep."

"You promise?"

"I promise."

"Okay."

"Sweet dreams, little wizard."

"I'm not a wizard. I don't have magic," the child sleepily protested.

"Yes, you do, little one; Lady Ceridwen gifted you with magic the day we met."

"Really…?"

"Yes, really; I will show you tomorrow. Now, go to sleep."

"Okay."

"Goodnight, little one."

"G'night."

"Watching you play and perform never gets old but watching a child's face light up in wonder as they watch you, is something truly special," Iria commented in a low voice as she moved to stand beside Taliesin. "That was the first time I saw any of these children genuinely smile since you escorted them to my office yesterday afternoon."

"I hope to give them a hundred more reasons to smile and laugh," Taliesin murmured as he reached out to gently run his fingers through the sleeping child's mousy brown hair.

"I'm sure you will do just fine; you are a natural when it comes to handling children."

Taliesin let out a soft snort of amusement as the two of them began making their way back towards Iria's office now that all of the children were sleeping soundly once more. When the doctor turned to him with a questioning glance, he wryly explained, "It's rather strange and ironic to hear someone say I'm a natural with children when I have so little experience in dealing with children outside of what I've learned in the last year."

"And yet you just calmed down eighteen children and convinced several skeptical teens that magic was real."

"That's because I have an unfair advantage as a wizard," Taliesin quipped, drawing a laugh from the older woman. "And I can't take credit for calming them down after I wound them up a second time; Stella, Caleo, and the phoenixes were the ones that got them back to bed."

"That may be true, but I never would have thought to call for any of the centaurs or the phoenixes to help coax the children back to sleep. Nor would I have considered allowing animals into the medical bay to give the children friendly companionship to help keep their fears and the nightmares at bay."

"I'm sure you would have come up with something else; like large needles and tranquilizers."

"You are such a brat sometimes," Iria barked with a laugh as she flicked him on the ear. "Go back to bed before you steal away any more of my sanity. I'll call you after the children have all eaten their breakfast."

"Yes, ma'am," Taliesin replied briskly as he cheekily saluted the doctor and her response was to throw him out of her office much to the amusement of his waiting bodyguards.

Twenty-three minutes later, Taliesin shucked off his clothes and slipped back beneath the covers to curl up with his wife once more. He briefly nuzzled her neck and breathed deeply of her scent before he closed his eyes and let himself be pulled back into the arms of Morpheus. All too soon the rising sun pulled him back out of his dreams and for once he wished he could just roll over and go back to sleep. It was only the knowledge that he had a week's worth of paperwork waiting for him in office that had him dragging himself back out of bed; he knew there was no use putting off going through everything because the piles would only grow larger.

He was seated at his desk just fifteen minutes later. Taliesin sighed at the large piles of paperwork before he grabbed a quill and ink pot from the drawer even as he reached for the report sitting on top of the nearest stack. He then spent the next hour diligently skimming through each item before filing away the old reports, signing off on those items that had his approval (such as the workmen's wages), rejecting those items he deemed unsafe or unneeded (such as the request to use steroids to boost the growth of various creatures or plants), and providing suggestions and comments as needed. His breakfast (delivered via elf some ten minutes after he sat down) was eaten one bite at a time between signatures.

Taliesin had only managed to get through about a quarter of the paperwork on his desk when he got the call from Iria announcing that the children were all awake and currently eating their breakfast. He thanked her for the heads up and took a moment to finish the item he'd been perusing before he cleaned up his desk and set the finished work off to one side so that it wouldn't get mixed up in the unfinished paperwork. He then notified the guards that he would be heading down to the Infirmary in ten minutes and asked them to notify the Command Center for an escort while he grabbed a few things from his rooms and asked Dorothy if she wished to meet the children.

Thirty-five minutes later, the young monarch entered the Infirmary with his young wife on his arm to find the children just finishing up their breakfasts. The heads of all eighteen children swiveled towards them the moment they entered the room and Taliesin had to fight back a smirk when he noticed a few mouths gaping in surprise the moment they got a good look at the crowns that he and Dorothy were wearing. Apparently, the boy he'd captured the day he'd saved the little five year old hadn't told the rest about Taliesin's status as the ruler and king of their current country of residence.

"Good morning, children," Taliesin greeted warmly once he'd allowed them a moment to collect themselves. "I trust everyone is well rested after last night's adventure?" Most of the children hesitantly nodded an affirmative. "I'm glad to hear it. Did everyone get enough to eat?" Again there were several nods and one bold headshake that saw the individual in question being offered an apple. "Now, I'm certain most of you are wondering what is going to happen to you now that you are here and part of the reason I am here this morning is to explain how things work here and to answer any questions you have. If everyone will please gather around, I will begin with a proper introduction."

There was a brief scrambling as the children crossed the Infirmary to gather on a trio of beds as Taliesin pulled over a chair for Dorothy to sit in. Once they were all ready, Taliesin stood behind Dorothy and announced, "For those of you who do not have any idea who I am, I am King Taliesin Bard the First, the Goddess of Magic's sworn Mage of Chaos, and the first reigning monarch of the newly established nation of New Avalon. With me is my lovely wife, Queen Dorothy Bard. Each and every one of you was brought here as a newly instated ward of the Crown; which basically means that you are now our responsibility."

"What that means for you, is that my husband and I are now your official guardians," Dorothy explained when a few of the younger children looked confused. "We will provide you with everything that you need; whether it be food, clothes, a home, or a proper education. We will also answer your questions as best we can, offer suggestions and advice when you need help, and do our best to protect you from any threats."

"As wards of the Crown, there will also be rules that you are required to follow; since you will inevitably fall under the scrutiny of the public as our charges," Taliesin continued seamlessly. "I'll cover the three most important ones now. The first rule is; no stealing. If there is something you need or want, then all you need to do is ask and we will either procure the item for you or set up a way for you to earn the money to purchase it yourself. The only provision we will place on your requests is that they are both age appropriate and that you actually have the training to use it. So please don't ask for ask for weapons or mobile suits and expected us to hand them to you."

"The second rule is; no bullying. Everyone is to be treated equally and with proper respect regardless of their job title, country of origin, their magical heritage or lack thereof, or their species; since not everyone you meet will be human. And the third rule is; do not abuse your Talent. Meaning, you are not allowed to use your abilities to purposefully harm any one or any thing or use it to commit a crime. Your Talent is a gift from the Goddess of Magic and those who abuse their gifts will one day find themselves bereft of said gift as the Goddess can just as easily take away the gift with which you were born."

"That said, you need not fear being punished for using your gift to help or protect others nor will you punished if an accident happens. Here, you will not be persecuted for being born with a Talent nor will you be used by others seeking to utilize your abilities for personal gain. I will personally arrange for each of you who have a Talent to train with someone that has the same or similar ability as yours so that you can better control your ability. Those of you who were not born with a Talent need not fear persecution either; all of you are considered equal in our eyes and as such all of you will be expected to follow the same rules and earn the same punishments or rewards for your behavior."

"How do we know ya ain't just pullin' our legs?" one of the boys demanded.

"Right now, you don't," Dorothy answered bluntly. "However, it will become obvious over time as you experience first hand the truth in our words."

"We don't expect all of you to just immediately accept our words at face value nor do we expect you to automatically trust us because we are now your guardians," Taliesin continued as he briefly met each child's gaze. "What we do expect is for you to make an effort to follow the rules and at least try to keep an open mind. It won't always be easy and there will be times when you will be frustrated or discouraged but it won't all be hard work and tears."

"There will also be times when it feels like we are ignoring you, and I will tell you now, that won't be the case. My husband and I are very busy people though and you are not our only wards. Running a nation takes a tremendous amount of time and work. Right now, my pregnancy prevents me from doing a lot of busy work but that will change after our child is born. Taliesin doesn't have the luxury of health restrictions to increase his leisure time, so there will be days when you won't see him at all. All we ask is that you have patience and if you really need to see one of us for something, don't be afraid to approach us or ask someone to fetch us; even if we are busy."

"Each of you will be assigned a mentor as well; one of our employees who will take care of the little things that you that need help with while leaving us to deal with the big things," Taliesin added once Dorothy had fallen quiet. "We will make it a point to meet with you as frequently as our schedules allow and once you've settled in, you will most often see us both at various mealtimes where we will be available to talk, if you need to speak with us. We will never intentionally ignore you."

"You're the king, can't you just make someone else do all of the work?" one of the older girls asked.

"It doesn't quite work that way," Taliesin replied with a soft snort. "I hire people to do specific jobs for me and I have a number of people that help me run things smoothly, but ultimately, I have to do my own share of the work or everything would fall apart because my people would grow angry at me for not doing my job. I have to make certain there are jobs available for the people who live in New Avalon, I have to hire people to do those jobs I am not qualified to do myself, I need to sign the orders that insures that everyone who works for the Crown are paid on time, and I have to make certain that everyone is doing their jobs properly."

"It is also my job to protect all of New Avalon from outside and inside threats. That means I have to meet with the leaders of other nations to negotiate treaties, settle disputes, and write out trade agreements that will allow us to import those items we can't yet make ourselves and sell those items we make in excess to generate an income for the entire nation. There are also some things that only I can do because I am the only adult wizard currently in all of New Avalon; such as destroy ancient curses, locate lost magical sites of interest, and track the scattered magical creatures that are currently living outside of New Avalon's borders."

"Are there other wizards or are you the only one?" a little girl asked curiously.

"There are several children who are wizards or, as all magical little girls are called, witches. My son, Prince James, was the first wizard born. My unborn son or daughter will also be a witch or wizard. On top of that, there were sixteen other children who were born with magical cores over the past eight months. Then there are all of the people who were born with Talents; each of them born with a small spark of magic inside of them. That means that most of you are carrying a seed of magic in your souls and if you live here, in New Avalon, once you grown up and get married, then your children will more than likely be born with a fully functioning core due to the constant exposure to the high levels of magic here."

"What about me?" the little five year old boy he rescued asked. "Last night you told me that I was a wizard now too."

"I did and you are," Taliesin agreed with a nod.

"Little Benji didn't have any Talents though," the boy Taliesin had caught bullying the child interjected with a frown.

"No, he didn't. However, Magic Herself chose to Bless him with Her Gift in order to save his life," Taliesin explained and he noted the disbelieving looks he was getting from some of the children. "I can see that some of you are skeptical, so how about we do a little test?" Taliesin pulled a solid crystal ball about the size of a cricket ball out of his pocket and held it up for everyone to see. "This is a Light Sphere; it uses a person's magic to activate the magic woven into it to create light. The larger your magical core, the brighter the sphere glows."

Taliesin concentrated a moment and the crystal globe immediately began glowing bright white as he stated, "If you do not have any magic at all, then it will not glow." Taliesin passed the globe to Dorothy and the moment his fingers let go, the globe went dark. "As you can see, my queen has not a drop of magic." Taliesin then took the globe back and handed it to the twelve year old he'd caught. "Here, you try next; you just need to hold the Light Sphere in your hands and focus on your Talent."

The pre-teen took the globe warily and after a full minute, the globe began glowing with a dim blue light as he uttered out a quiet, "Cool."

"Now, pass the globe to Benji, was it? Is that your full name or is that a nickname?"

"Mummy always called me Benji but Nana and Papa always called me Benjamin before they went to heaven."

"What name would you prefer me to call you?"

"Benji."

"Alright then, Benji; go ahead and take the globe and think about making the globe glow."

It took several minutes before a bright, medium blue light began pouring forth from the Light Sphere and the five year old's eyes lit up with excitement as he clutched the crystal ball in his hands. Benji now had solid proof that he too was a wizard.

"Very good, Benji; once you turn eleven years old, it will be easier for you to make the globe glow and the color produced will most likely be paler and brighter. Does anyone else want to try?"

The crystal would make the rounds to each and every child present, with the three children that were born without a Talent growing more than a little sad when they couldn't get the globe to light up. Taliesin did his best to cheer them up by telling them that just because they didn't have any magic of their own that it didn't mean they would be left out. He also didn't bring up the possibility of the two younger children being Blessed by Lady Ceridwen; it wouldn't do to give them false hopes and it wouldn't do to let the Talentless teen feel completely left out.

Taliesin and Dorothy would stay with the children for another half an hour before they left so that Taliesin could get back to work. As they slipped into the shortcut that would take them back up to the seventh floor (Dorothy tiring easily these days and stairs a bit much for her to tackle at this point), the young queen asked a question that had obviously been bothering her for some time.

"Taliesin, why did you make such a big deal out of the three rules you gave the children? Couldn't you have given them time to settle in before you started giving them a bunch of rules they needed to follow?"

"Those rules were actually Duo's suggestion and he advised me to pass them on to the children at the earliest possible opportunity," Taliesin explained as they traversed the ramps leading up to the seventh floor. "I had originally planned to wait a bit but he told me that would be a bad idea. Those children have been living on the streets and they were ordered to follow a very strict set of rules or they found themselves in a world of hurt. According to Duo, they needed those new rules in order to help them figure out where they stood with us. He also gave me a list of very specific punishments that will be assigned to those that break those rules."

"I would not have expected Duo to be the one to come up with those rules."

"Who better to create new rules for a bunch of street rats than a former street rat?" Taliesin rhetorically countered with a small smirk as they exited the shortcut.

"True, I just find it hard to see Duo taking something so serious when he goofs around so much," Dorothy pointed out with a soft laugh.

"You have a point but Duo has a huge soft spot when it comes to children; especially those that have been forced to survive on the streets for one reason or another. We would not have been able to break up and catch the entire gang cell that the dirty politician was running without Duo and Heero working together. We probably would have lost most of the children without Duo's efforts."

The conversation was dropped at that point as the young couple stepped inside of the Wizard's Roost. Taliesin then left his wife to make herself comfortable on the couch with a laptop (the young queen planning to make arrangements for a tailor, a seamstress, and a cobbler to come to castle in order to arrange for their new wards to be properly outfitted with a full wardrobe. Meanwhile, Taliesin returned to his office to tackle the remaining paperwork; which had multiplied while he'd been gone.

As he sat down at his desk, Taliesin reminded himself to hire a secretary to help him maintain order in his office; if only to make it easier to prioritize his paperwork so that he could address the urgent matters first before dealing with the rest of it. After thinking about it a moment, he figured he'd need to hire at last five administrative aides to help him keep track of everything; one person to schedule and keep track of his appointments, two people to organize, maintain, and file all of his completed paperwork in a proper records department, and two people to run errands for him when he didn't have the time to do them himself.

He made a mental note to ask Wufei if they had anyone qualified for such a position currently in the castle or if they had applications from people looking for administrative work. That settled, Taliesin refocused his attention on the stacks of reports, invoices, and requests on his desk. He wouldn't even make it through a quarter of the piles before he was interrupted again; this time by Heero and Trowa.

"Taliesin, when do you plan to go down to the holding cells and start testing the adults we picked up this week?" Heero inquired just as soon as he stepped into the office.

"Tomorrow, at the earliest," Taliesin replied with a grimace as he briefly glanced up from the report he was perusing. "I need to catch up on all of the work I missed while we were gone first. That should give you plenty of time to interrogate those that were brought here."

"We've already begun questioning them in regards to their activities, their outside contacts, and potential members that we might have missed picking up during the initial sweeps. I would have thought that you'd want to deal with them as soon as possible, though."

"I do but I also need to make certain that I am level headed when I face them and that my mind is not distracted with other problems. I don't want to risk making a mistake when I weigh and judge those men and women."

"For most of them, it won't be an issue to wait on dealing with them," Trowa stated from behind Heero. "Unfortunately, you aren't going to have that luxury when it comes to Randolph Reginald Timpson and his son Randolph Roderick Timpson; Timpson was powerful enough that keeping him indefinitely could cause problems with the current Prime Minister of New London, since the man was a member of the Minister's cabinet."

"Ah, the corrupt politician that was running the entire show," Taliesin remarked as his lip curled up in disgust. "I had hoped to deal with him last but I suppose I can question them and their motives later this afternoon. Whether or not they pass the tests, they will both be held until we ascertain the full scope of their guilt. That means that they will need to stay until all of the evidence regarding their involvement has been properly collected and documented. If the Prime Minister starts threatening us, remind him that the matter is being dealt with by the U.P.F. and that it would reflect badly upon him if he forced us to let a criminal walk free when said criminal was a member of his cabinet."

"I didn't expect you to willingly play cutthroat politics," Heero mused with more than a little surprised.

"I'll do whatever it takes to protect my country and fulfill my oath to the Lady of the Lake; providing that it doesn't go against my morals or taint my soul with the blood of innocents. If, per chance, the man is found innocent, he will be compensated for the time he was imprisoned and a formal apology will be issued."

"That won't be an issue, both the man and his son have already spilled their guts; they are guilty of terrorizing New London."

"Then there won't be any issues; we have their confession on record," Taliesin firmly stated before he glanced up and pointed towards the door. "Now, shoo; I have paperwork to do. Unless you are going to volunteer to do it for me…?"

"We'll come and get you around four-thirty this afternoon to take you to meet with the Timpsons," Heero quickly replied as he pulled Trowa towards the door.

Taliesin snickered over how quickly the pair vanished the moment he threatened them with his paperwork. Not that he blamed them one bit; he wished he could disappear as easily when paperwork was mentioned. Shaking his head, Taliesin returned to the document in hand and finished skimming it before he made a couple of notes on it and signed his name and the date at the bottom.

The rest of the morning would pass by in a blur of black and white as Taliesin steadily waded through the piles of paperwork on his desk. Lunch would be eaten in the same fashion as breakfast; bite by bite in between reports and signatures. Once he'd whittled the stack down to a reasonable size, he turned his attention to his laptop in order to work his way through the electronic paperwork and correspondence that was waiting for him; which thankfully was no where near as backlogged as his hard copy paperwork since he'd taken his laptop with him to New London.

Heero and Trowa would then return for him as promised at a quarter after four (the pair arriving fifteen minutes early in order to give the young monarch plenty of time to finish whatever he was currently working on). Taliesin made a quick stop by his room to grab his sword (which he hadn't worn to see the children) before he allowed his brothers to escort him down to the holding cells.

The moment he stepped into the room with the corpulent politician, the man snarled and sneered at Taliesin as he spat out, "You have no right to hold me and you lack the authority to keep me here against me will. You are breaking at least a dozen laws…"

"Be silent," Taliesin ordered in a commanding voice laced thickly with his magic as he interrupted the man. "If you had bothered to actually pay attention to the world around you, you would have already known that I have more than enough authority to hold you indefinitely. However, I have no plans to hold you any longer than necessary and then you will face the courts to determine your sentence for the crimes that you have perpetrated. Before arrangements can be made for you to stand trial though, there is one matter that needs to be addressed."

Taliesin took in the man's now pasty white face for a moment before he commanded, "Randolph Reginald Timpson, I have three questions to ask you and you will answer them promptly and truthfully."

Just like the day when he'd weighed Cordelia Shafter's soul, the magic behind the command latched onto the tiny thread of magic that lived inside of Mr. Timpson in order to compel him to obey. At that point, Taliesin once more cut off all of his emotions so that he wouldn't allow his feelings to affect his judgment; he may not like or enjoy manipulating another's magic into turning against them but it was necessary in order to get the answers he needed to determine if they were truly abusing their abilities.

"First question; are you aware of the full extent of your abilities as an empathetic Newtype?"

"Yes."

"Second question; have you willingly and purposefully used your empathetic abilities to manipulate the emotions of others with the sole intent of forcing people to comply with your wishes to gain an advantage?"

"Yes."

"Final question; if you are released from custody, will you continue to abuse your empathetic abilities to force the people you come into contact with to comply with your wishes even if you are ordered to cease using your abilities in such a way?"

"Yes."

Sitting back as the magic tying him to the man slipped free and returned to his core, Taliesin waited for the man to look up and meet his emotionless gaze before he intoned, "Randolph Reginald Timpson; you have been judged guilty of abusing the gift that Mother Earth bestowed upon you at birth without remorse. In light of your transgressions against Magic and all that She stands for, I, King Taliesin Bard the First and her Ladyship's sworn Mage of Chaos, do hereby sentence your soul to banishment from the wizarding nation of New Avalon. In three days time, you will be stripped of your Talent and cast out from Magic's sacred realm to walk forever more in the cold and silent shadows of the void. So I have spoken and so shall it be."

A near identical scene would play out with Randolph Timpson's son, Randolph Roderick Timpson, just ten minutes later.

After that, Taliesin gave the order to cordon off a section of the lake, construct a pair of cedar stretchers (using no metals), and for both father and son to be fitted with a black cotton gowns that were close fitting but shapeless and non-constricting, with deep hoods and both the bottom hem and sleeves sewn shut. He then wearily returned to his tower for supper after stopping by to briefly check on the eighteen children that were still in the Infirmary (all of them being extensively screened to insure that they'd received their childhood immunizations and that they weren't suffering from any injuries, illnesses, or substance abuse).

Over the course of the next ten days (and after he'd removed the cores of the Timpsons), twenty-two of the remaining twenty-five adults would be tested, judged, and striped of their Talents and cores. The remaining three adults would sign contracts agreeing not to abuse their gifts before they were sentenced to three years in prison for the petty crimes they had committed. After they had served their time, they'd be free to either return to New London or apply for citizenship within New Avalon. The rest of the adults were shipped back to New London to stand trial.

Once the matter of the Talent abusers had been dealt with, Taliesin turned his attention back to the pressing matter of finding and destroying Nagini, the trapped dementors, and whatever remained of Riddle, Dumbledore, and Grindelwald.

He ended up warding half a dozen aquatic mobile suits as part of the preparations; the Star Suits and the Gundam Suits not really suited to under water exploration or fights. Three of the suits that he warded were former OZ-08MMS Cancer Suits while the other three were OZ-09MMS Pisces Suits. All six of them would be extensively tested in the Black Lake once they had been warded so that any bugs could be dealt with prior to the actual mission.

The next item Taliesin took care of was digging through all of his potion supplies in search of the Mandrake Restorative Draught (hoping that there had been a few doses amongst the potions his godfather had stolen from Madam Pomfrey and Snape). He wanted to have the potion on hand in case anyone was petrified during the mission to the sunken Azkaban Island (the young mage not wishing anyone to lose months of their life as frozen statues). He did find a precious few doses of the Restorative but he sincerely doubted it would be enough and so set about determining if he had enough ingredients on hand to brew a large batch.

Between the supplies stolen from Snape back in ninety-five and all of the ingredients that had been stored in Gringotts after Diagon Alley had been evacuated, Taliesin managed to find enough ingredients to brew two dozen doses of the Restorative. He would then spend a full week locked inside of his potions lab carefully brewing the Draught; locking out everyone so that he wouldn't be disturbed at a crucial point in the brewing and ruin the entire thing. Once he finished brewing the potion, those twenty-four doses plus the original four would hopefully be more than enough to restore anyone that was petrified while facing the basilisk.

The rest of the preparations involved gathering equipment and munitions, mapping the ocean floor in the immediate area surrounding the sunken magical prison (with the help of satellite imaging), and training those individuals that would be going on the mission. When Taliesin wasn't actively helping with the preparations, he spent time working with his new wards; making certain that they were settling into the castle well enough and that their needs were being met. That would include assigning them rooms (those under the age of nine being moved into the Wizard's Roost with the other children), setting up their class schedules, and making certain that they all had new clothes.

Winter would be long over by the time preparations for the coming battle slash mission had been finished.


AN: You know, I honestly thought I had posted this chapter months ago but I guess it slipped through the cracks while I was hijacked by real life and plot bunnies. I also didn't want to look at this story for a few months because I was angry at my muse for abandoning my mid-chapter while I was trying to write a battle. I hate writer's block; especially when I was so close to finishing this story. I really hate being stuck writing a sentence here and a word there when I'm so used to sitting down and writing between 5000-10,000 a day. So, no guarantees when the next chapter will be up.

Anywho, hopefully this chapter will tide you over for a bit while I am trying to wrap up the final chapter and the epilogue. I have also uploaded several chapters for a number of other stories that I will be posting, including Stubborn Shadow. I originally wasn't going to post more than one new story but with the way my muses are playing havoc with my writing schedule, I need something to purge my mind of overcrowded plot bunnies. To that end, I will be posting 2-3 chapters per day on an assortment of stories; all of them crossovers. I have one old non-crossover HP short that I am trying to finish up as well but that muse has been rather difficult to raise from the dead so I doubt I'll be posting it any time soon.

As always, thank you for all of the reviews and words of encouragement, I will try to answer them when I can. For those of you who PM'd me questions over the past 6-7 months; I apologize for not responding, I've not spent a whole lot of time on this site during that time. I will send you replies soon though. ~ Jenn