Fun in town. Fun in the Jungle. Just plain fun all around, right?
Acknowledgements - Thanks as always to IP82, ChuckDaTruck, Nukular Winter, Sirius009 and Nonjon for their input. It wouldn't be near as good without all your input. I'd also like to thank the gang at Fanficauthors for allowing me to post on their site. It is truly an honor.
Chapter 14 - Well, That's All Right by Me
"James! James Black!"
Oh wait, that's you, idiot! You just came out of the local branch of Gringotts into the evening. Bill and the rest were still working with the head goblins. You're pretty much useless at the whole planning and strategy thing. You'd probably turn down quidditch captain even if the ruddy bastards had offered it to you. It's Katie's year anyway. You'd take it if it were Ron's, just so you could justify tossing his worthless arse from the team. Makes you wonder if Hermy Funbags will discover that his 'performance problems' aren't just limited to the quidditch pitch? Well instead of playing make believe and humiliating an imaginary Ron, you should find out who is calling you and what they want.
"I thought you didn't hear me for a second." Paulo Vangelder walks briskly up next to you. That answers the first question - now for the more important question.
"Oh sorry, it's been a long day. Hello, Paulo. How are you?" You try to make your banter sound casual. For a change it might be working.
"I've been looking for you. I'm a bit worried about Karina and her boy." Paulo says in hushed tones. The Brazilian law enforcement official is probably six feet tall and solidly built. He keeps his dark hair very short and has a friendly enough face.
Still a little unsure of your place in Karina's life or more importantly, hers in your's, you respond, "What have you been hearing?"
"My distant cousin Nina seems to be on a warpath. I am risking a bit just being seen with you, so we may need to start acting angry towards each other. She is becoming more obsessed with Karina. She might even come after you, if she thinks that she can get away with it."
"Why me? Even better, why do you care so much?" You're getting more and more suspicious these days.
"James, please do not insult me. Her neighbors are in Nina's pocket. They've been telling her about how much time you have been spending over there. They saw you and your friend ward her house. The magical community here is small. It's nowhere near the size of Sao Paulo or Brazilia. Gossip is just another form of currency around here. As for why I care, Karina is my friend. I don't like seeing things like this happen to my friends."
Okay, that's a bit annoying and a rather generic answer if you've ever heard one, "I can take care of myself."
"I never meant to imply that. I am concerned with Karina's safety. Have you seen her lately?"
"I haven't seen her since last weekend. Is there something wrong?"
"No, at least I don't think so. I stop by and see her morning. I figured you might have visited since then. Are you going to see her now?"
You hadn't planned on it. The attack is set for Saturday at dusk, but then again you can't just go blabbing to the small town police officer that you and your merry bunch of tomb raiders are teaming up with some goblins to go hunt down a group of rebels. Especially when said rebels are operating out of an area that you and the aforementioned tomb raiders are looking to pillage. You've got about fourteen hours to kill. The attack is just an excuse for you not really wanting to face up to an awkward situation with Karina. The irony isn't lost on you is it? The prospect of tunnels full of goblins and fierce fighting is less scary than a single mother and her five year old boy.
"I was considering it. Then again, it has been a rough week. Maybe I should wait until tomorrow."
Paulo looks you over. You wonder if he is jealous of your relationship with Karina. "James, go see her. She is scared, more than she let's on. She's barely leaving the house and never lets Chico out of her sight. If my cousin thought about it, she would let this go on for another few months and watch Karina go crazy. Fortunately she's not that smart."
"Isn't there something you can do?" Speaking of which, how does everything ultimately become your problem? Is there some kind of process? You half expect to see Vernon on the telly one day telling everyone that global warming and mad cow disease are all Harry Potter's fault. The only reason Vernon isn't higher on the must-kick-arse list is that Dumblecrap and Voldishit occupy the number one and two slots.
"There is too much money and influence involved. My hands are pretty much tied." Wow! Who would have guessed that answer? Isn't it amazing how jaded you are becoming? Still, Paulo is trying to help as best he can. You should give him a break.
"You're right. I should go see her."
"I'm glad. I know you are gone during the week, but how can I get in touch with you if something happens?"
You give the name of the hotel out in town you normally stay at to him and let him know that you are staying at the Dancing Dolphin right now. He gives you his floo address. For a few more minutes you make some small talk. He invites you to another Dodgespell tournament coming up in a few weeks. You can't really accept or decline. Two weeks in your life is a ways away. You need only look at where you were three weeks ago and see how different your life has been. You ask about Reese, Sheila and Amanda. Your former teammates are doing okay according to Paulo, though he doesn't expect Reese and Sheila to remain a couple much longer. With small talk wearing thin, you shake his hand and watch him apparate away.
With a crack you apparate to Karina's street and send an announcing charm to Karina's door. You see her face at the window and wave. She beckons you forward. You feel the slight tingle of the perimeter ward as you pass through it. Strange, you're keyed to it, so it doesn't matter. From what you read, she should have dropped it out of courtesy. You look to see if any of the other wards start to activate, but she opens the door.
"James, please come inside."
Karina looks frazzled. Like she hasn't been sleeping well. Given your vast experience in sleep disorders, you are well trained to recognize them in others. You step into her home and she closes the door and sags into it momentarily before recovering her composure.
"Why didn't you drop the perimeter ward?"
"Paulo said I shouldn't. People could be using glamours or polyjuice, but they can't fake your magical signature. Since you didn't set off the perimeter ward, I know it's you." Damn! She is freaking out isn't she? Paulo's right. A few weeks of this and she'll turn into Moody with a nice bum.
"Oh. That makes sense. Are you okay?"
No sooner do you squeeze those words out than she is in your arms sobbing. Hey, it's the return of Cho! Then again, Karina has real problems. The biggest one Cho ever had is a bloke she was hung up on was in the wrong place at the wrong damn time. You do the time honored 'guy with crying girl hugs her and pats her on the back'. Over her shoulder you see Chico standing in his doorframe. The poor kid doesn't understand. Not that you have much of a clue either, but your heart goes out to him. He gives you a sad smile and a tiny wave. You motion for him to go back into his room and he nods with a look of 'make my mama stop crying or else'.
"Calm down. Do you want to talk about it?" You cast a silencing spell at Chico's door. She sees what you are doing.
"Calm down! Calm Down! I can't live like this! People are watching me. I've seen them. My neighbors keep having people over. I think I've seen them before with the Colastos family. It's like they are torturing me, but you walk right in and say calm down! You have no idea!"
You could come back at her. It's not like you haven't lived the past few years under a fucking microscope or something with people intent on causing you a ridiculous amount of bodily harm. She's had a couple weeks of this treatment. You almost want to scream at her, but you bite it back. "Karina, get a hold of yourself. If you keep doing this, they've already won. Going around the twist isn't going to help. If they come you activate Bill's wards. You get Chico out of here. It's that simple."
"And go where?"
"I don't know. Don't you have relatives you can go see?"
She clutches you even harder. "I have no one except for my Chico. I would leave and never come back, could you help me? I'm not too proud to beg. James, please help me!"
The crappy thing is that you and Bill have had a discussion after the recent splurging on pre-made wards for the camp. Remus had been writing in the Bill's journal and wondering about all the recent drafts against the Phoenix Expedition funds. Bill had to do some fancy writing to justify the amount of your money he has been spending lately. The two of you agreed that you should limit spending to limit the amount of questions.
"Karina, I can only draw so much against my trust funds. How much do you need?"
"I would need to leave the country. I would need papers, a portkey and a place to go. The papers are expensive. It would cost around a hundred galleons for both of us. I don't know about the rest. Paulo said he might be able to use his connections to get me the papers quietly, but it might cost more. If she heard that I was leaving I know she would tell them to kill us."
You know Bill wouldn't go for it. After the five hundred for the animagus ritual, the fines from warding this place, all the extra wards and equipment, and the extra money most of the team demanded after learning your identity there was no way!
"Karina, it's too much. I can't access that money right now."
Her demeanor shifts quickly, "Can't or won't?" She does have a quick temper doesn't she?
"Can't. I'm only allowed to access so much money."
"Take us with you."
That's a rather stunning statement. "Karina, the jungle is no place for a kid like Chico."
"I'll cook. I'll clean. If I stay here, they will kill both of us. I'd rather take our chances with you out in the jungle." Parts of her argument sound familiar to your conversation with Bill to let you come on this little adventure.
You stop to think this over. Kwan would call you 'stupid' for even considering it. Still, it wouldn't be too many more mouths to feed. Thundercloud would be okay with it. Collins and Sanchez would probably demand more money for childcare services or some such shit! Still the only person whose opinion matters right now is Bill. Bill's a family guy. It's really big to him, even if you don't much care for his family at the moment.
"I'll speak to Bill. He's leading the expedition. We're headed out tomorrow, and I know he won't go for immediately. I'll have to convince him, but he I think he understands. We're not due to head back to England until October. Even then there might be some problems, but if he agrees we can try to get you out of the country and settled somewhere else. I can't make any promises other than I will try."
She sees the sincerity in your eyes. You don't mention bringing her to England and you really hope that she isn't assuming that. With some luck, you can speak with Thundercloud and see if he can take her back to South Dakota. You are willing to bet Karina would trade places with Lauren in a heartbeat. 'Hmm, Karina and Lauren - no you idiot, don't even go there!'
"Forgive me James! I am expecting you to solve all my problems! I have no right to do this to you!" Damn! She's blubbering all over you again. You ease back against the wall and support her weight letting her collapse into you, which she does readily.
You give her a couple of minutes to get a good cry in while working your hands in small circles on her back. "Karina, I'll do my best with Bill. He's a good man."
The water works gradually fade away as you continue to hold her. After a few minutes, other emotions start to take over. "James, I know you will. You are a good man. I am sorry I got angry with you. Let me make it up to you." Her kisses are wet and slightly salty. You can smell her scent. You shouldn't be doing this right now. It's wrong, but it feels right. After a minute of passionate kisses and roaming hands, she steps back and performs the contraception charm and a second silencing charm on Chico's door. "Take me."
Suffice to say, a little over an hour later you are kicking yourself in your arse. There is a naked, exhausted Karina Machado sleeping in you arms. Sleeping with her was probably the last thing you should have done at this point! As you look back at your actions, you begin to realize that you need to speak with Thundercloud about the animal side 'bleeding over' to your human side. From the moment she said 'Take me!' you were out of control. Intense is probably the only way to describe what happened. The problem is, you know it shouldn't have happened. Not only have you paid this woman for sex, but you basically just took advantage of her at her weakest!
You ease her off of you and grab all your hastily shed clothing and clean yourself up in the bathroom. As you dress, you flinch a bit at the claw marks on your back. Apparently, she picked up on the intensity as well. Sitting at the kitchen table with accusing eyes is Chico. You cast a silencing spell around Karina and apply the translation spell since you know Chico wants something.
"Hey Chico. Your mama is sleeping. Do you need something?"
"Can I have a glass of water?" Well at least it isn't the 'are you going to be my daddy' question and it's easily enough solved.
"Here you go."
"Thank you, Mr. Black. Mama's been really mad lately. She cries a lot. She thinks that bad men are going to come and take me."
"She's worried. Here let me give you something." You take Thundercloud's little rope anklet off of your foot and put it on his wrist where it shrinks to fit. "Chico this has a tracking charm on it. If somebody comes and takes you, I can use my wand to find you. Just don't tell anyone about it, okay? This will be our little secret. Now you need to be a good boy and be strong for your Mum. She's counting on you. Can you do that for me?" You cast the charm to set the tracking spell to your wand as he watches on.
The little boy nods eagerly and stares at his new little rope bracelet. Thundercloud can make a new one for you. You shoo him back to his room. Life shouldn't be this complicated should it? You stare at the peacefully resting form of Karina. 'Shit, Harry! What in the hell are you doing? To make matters worse, you didn't let anyone know where you went off too. Bill's gonna be ticked.'
You decide to wake her up before you go. You feel guilty, but leaving a note felt wrong on so many levels. Giving her a gentle shake, "Karina, I have to go. Karina."
She comes to, a bit wonky at first. 'Nothing like a bit of an ego boost for your improving skills you miserable sack of shit!' "James? What is it?"
"I'm sorry. I have to go. We are headed back into the jungle tomorrow, well actually today and I have to get back."
"When are you coming back?"
That's a really good question. "Bill hasn't said if we will come back before next Friday. As soon as we come back, I'll bring Bill over and we'll talk it over. Try to get some rest."
She manages a weak smile, nods and gives you a kiss that generates a nice pang of guilt. You walk to the edge of the road and apparate away feeling lower than dirt. You arrive about fifty meters from the Dancing Dolphin. When you get to your room, there's a note on the door.
Since you can't seem to follow verbal instructions, I'll try written. I'll even use small and easy to understand words. When you decide to go somewhere, MAKE DAMN SURE YOU TELL SOMEONE! Now come over to my room so I can chew you out in person.
Expedition Leader (In case you had forgotten)
With a sigh you head over to Bill's room for the reaming you deserve.
"Good morning, Cookie." Bill says setting aside his chisel, hammer and the runes he was carving. He looks a bit angry as he wipes some dust off his face. He's been hard at work, apparently.
"Hello Bill. You're letter mentioned something about coming over."
"Indeed it did. So should I just lay in to you, or wait for a suitable explanation?" Well, at least he is giving you options.
"Karina's in trouble. I ran into Paulo. He says that people have been harassing her. She thinks that crazy bitch is going to come after her and Chico. You all were still in with the goblins and I didn't think to come back here and leave a note."
Bill mulls this over. "So what's she going to do?"
Taking a deep breath, "She's scared, Bill. She wants us to take her and Chico on the expedition, or give her money to get out of the country. I told her that I am limited at how much I can withdraw from my trust funds. I don't want to push things with Dumbledore's crowd any more than we have already."
"And what did you promise her?"
"Nothing. Only that I would talk to you about it. I'm not keen on taking a five year old into the jungle. Hell, you had your doubts about me. Still, I was thinking, we could surround the clearing with an age line and it would keep him from getting out beyond the wards. Karina said she'd take over cleaning and cooking."
"It could work, but Harry, my gut says this is a very bad idea. I'll think about it. When did you say you'd give her an answer?"
"Next time we came back into town. I didn't mention the whole hunting goblins thing. If we don't get rid of them, the whole thing is moot anyway."
"Fair enough. We kill goblins first and sort this rubbish out later."
"Thanks Bill. Sorry about not leaving a note."
"Harry, remember you're part of a team. This isn't like being a seeker. You know people are after you. Just because we've fooled the Headmaster, it doesn't mean that whoever sent those bounty hunters after you will be so easily tricked. You need to stay on the top of your game at all times. If Moody were here, he'd be shouting all that 'Constant Vigilance' and whatnot. We don't need problems with the locals. If it wasn't for Remus looking really hard at what we're spending, I'd just say give her the money and let her get out of the country on her own."
"I understand. We'll sort it out after the goblins are dead."
"So are you tired?"
"Good, grab your carving kit and at least five pieces of bone. If I can get you to carve the charging and controlling runes for this, I can move on to the next scheme. I'll show Sanchez exactly where she can stick those man-eating plants. Teach her to try to show me up."
You shake your head and start back to your room. "I really didn't need that imagery."
His fanatical look has returned. This has really gotten to him hasn't it? You might want to reconsider Harry Potter the Animagus Cursebreaker thing. You could end up like Bill, obsessing and muttering about some equally crazy Mexihag.
A quick trip back to the room and you're back with you kit. "Alright, come here and look at this! I haven't named it yet, but this part creates a big rock, this part banishes it, this part makes it chase you, and this part - I still haven't decided what it's going to do, but it'll be great! Should I make it grow spikes? Nah, that'd slow it down. Fire! Fire always makes it better! Or an age line! You mentioned that. Maybe have an age line pop up set to two hundred years old, so they can't run away."
You quickly realize that it is going to be a long night of carving.
With the setting sun as the backdrop, the assault force moves through the jungle. The Portkeys dropped you off about a kilometer away from the tunnel entrance. The rest of the group is waiting on Thunderclouds report. You move up to Collins, noticing he has a machine gun in his hands.
"What's with the gun?"
"Goblins don't have an answer for it. Unless they have a wizard down there who is casting bulletproof charms on their armor. An AK-47 will drop one just as effectively as an AK from my wand. Tunnel fighting is messy and dirty. I've even got a little silencing charm and a reloader on this baby, that I can toggle on and off."
One of the first witches to ever receive a unanimous Order of Merlin from the male dominated ICW was Ariel Cloudrider. In the late 1700's, after losing her husband and family to what Arthur Weasley called 'firelegs', she set to the task of crafting the first set of bullet repellant charms. Over the years her work has been refined as the non-magical worlds weapons have improved. You doubt they'll ever come close to something that would stop a nuclear bomb, but a relatively simple applied to runes sewn into clothing or carved into armor can stop most handheld pistols and even some rifles.
"Why would you want to take the silencing charm off?"
"This is an assault rifle. It makes a loud and terrifying sound. If you want them scared shitless, this will do nicely."
"Oh, that makes sense. I just was surprised to see a wizard with a rifle. Will it stop a troll?"
Collins looks at the weapon critically. "It has in the past. Took most of clip to do it, before you ask, it won't hurt a giant or a dragon unless you are really lucky where you hit it. I wouldn't even bother. Ya wanna learn how to shoot? Kwan's already showing you all our nasty spellchains, but I'm better with a gun."
"Sure, why not?" In your mind, you create and savor the mental image of Voldishit riding in the limo, while you play Lee Harvey Oswald. "That reminds me, you're from Texas right?"
"Born American - Texan by the grace of Gawd!" His drawl becomes almost intolerable for some reason.
"Did the American Minister of Magic really order Kennedy's death, because he was going to reveal the magical world?"
He just smiles at you. "No one will ever say, but the Norms kept talking about a 'magic bullet'. Makes ya wonder don't it?"
You nod at the Hitwizard and make your way over to the others. Bill is with the lead goblin. You consider most of them to be grizzled looking. Fourfangs is a particularly ancient and grizzled specimen. He might even be the 'Mad Eye' of the goblin nation! The plan is for the wizards to clear away the traps and such and leave the majority of the fighting to the goblins and trolls. The plan suits you just fine and dandy. From what little information you have about these rebels is that their leader is a female. According to Binns, the goblins treat their females like dirt. It's surprising that one has risen to become a clan leader. You may be helping to kill the goblin equivalent of Joan of Arc.
The funny thing is you used to get all those bouts of nerves waiting for a quidditch match to start. It all seems so small and childish in comparison. That was just some game. In a few minutes from now, the killing begins. This is what you meant, when you told Luna that you hope she never understands. It's one thing to defend yourself, your home, or your campsite; but it is another thing altogether to go somewhere with the sole purpose of killing your enemy. You pace nervously. A hand touches your shoulder and stops you.
"Wasting energy is stupid! Save energy for killing goblins." Kwan's really cutting down on his use of the word stupid isn't he? Does that mean that you are getting smarter or he's just getting bored?
You look at the Korean Hitwizard. He's probably in his late forties or early fifties. "Never really sat around waiting to kill something before. It takes some getting used to. How do you do it?" No wonder most of the Death Eaters are fucking whack jobs!
"Clear your mind. Focus on the task at hand. Remind yourself, that if you are slow and stupid, that you will never see your friends and family again. Never underestimate opponents. Be fast. Be smart. Hope you are lucky. Keep yourself alive first. Kill enemies second. Help allies third."
You don't really have an answer for that, but it makes you wonder. "But if that's the case, why did you tell Bill to get on my broom in the ruins first?"
Kwan smiles at you. It's probably the first real 'warm' smile, you've seen from him. "Even I am stupid and foolish occasionally."
"Any advice for fighting in the tunnels?"
"Stay on the sides. Never move in the center of the tunnel at first. Goblins trap center of tunnel. Later on they trap sides of tunnel. Use cover wherever you can find it. Keep a bezoar in your mouth. If you feel like you've been hit, swallow bezoar. Don't bother trying to figure out if it was or was not poisoned. Blasting spells cause tunnel to collapse. No tree splitters! Use cutters and piercing spells. If tunnel is really dark, throw your big stunner. Bright red light will hurt their eyes. Don't look at your own spells. Move as soon as you throw one. Bright light might hurt them, but it also tells them where you are. Time to go now."
Sure enough you watch Thundercloud land and smoothly transform back into his human form. Your mental exercises have brought you closer to clarity, but you're still not there yet. He enchanted another bracelet so he could track you in the event your animal takes you on a walkabout. You watch as he reports to Bill and the ancient goblin.
"Kwan, you and Collins are going to take down the three guards at the entrance. There are probably at least one or two a few meters back into the corridor. They'll sound the alarm if they aren't killed quick enough. Kill them if you can, but don't risk going into the mouth of the cave until I figure out what wards they have. Fourfangs says this group uses a lot of golems and siege engines, so their tunnels and caves will be bigger. Hold at the entrance, while Sanchez and I drop the wards."
Bill stops and looks at you and all the creatures around you, "James, you're back here for the moment. If I signal you, bring that Sapper up, float it up. No, scratch that, keep a troll and five goblins back with you. They might have a concealed ambush hole. I need you to watch our backs. Thundercloud, you're with me and Sanchez. As soon as the wards go down, the goblins and trolls are heading in. Each of the goblins are carrying Worg, but it's got a pigment in it to make them glow red. If it doesn't glow red, make it dead. Understand?"
You're a little miffed that your role is that of leading the rearguard, but you can deal with it. The five goblins don't seem to like it. Without their little suits on and with armor and axes, they look slightly more menacing. Call them bankers with attitude. Naturally, your five goblins look like the five that the others decided to leave behind.
The battle starts Kwan and Collins wipe out the ones at the front, but the ones down the tunnel set off some kind of alarm. Bill signals for the Sapper. You and Hack bring it up. You watch the Sapper activate. It's kind of a weird feeling having that many charging runes activate at once. It feels like the magic is being sucked right out of the air. Bill and Sanchez start their chants designed at bringing the outer wards down. You see a few of the schemes light up. You actually recognize the basic perimeter wards and intruder alarms. Feeling proud, you join in with your only anti-ward chant that Bill has taught you so far. It basically forces your energy against the energy of the wards until the controller rune fails. It's useful against wards that don't fight back like alarms, but there's always the danger of cascade activation if the intruder wards are connected to something larger.
The wards appear to be rather amateurish. That is to say that you could've done them. The witch or wizard the goblins employed clearly wasn't topshelf. The amount of ambient power in the area is what is keeping them up. The Sapper interrupts that chain and within a minute the perimeter alarms and first series of wards, which were mostly pain and nausea inducers fall. A few crossbow bolts fly out the cave's entrance. Collins answers with a full clip of his AK-47 with the silencing charm turned off. Oddly enough, no further crossbow bolts come out of the cave.
The first group of ten goblins and two trolls enters followed by Bill, Kwan, Collins and two trolls. Fifteen goblins enter next with Sanchez and the other troll. Soon it is just you, five angry looking goblin runts and Hack standing near the entrance of the cave, while the sounds of battle reach your ears. If you thought waiting for the battle to start was nerve-wracking, it has been quickly replaced with no knowing what is going on. The ground shakes beneath you and there is rumbling noise. You hope that is intentional.
For five long minutes you wait with nothing to do. You drum your wand against the palm of your hand while listening to the goblins converse in their language. One of them starts pointing madly as other goblins begin emerging from the brush. About ten of them are in their normal form and probably ten more are in worg form with half of those being bears. As they fire their crossbows, you cast a quick counter.
"Vertexicis!" A strong gust of wind sends the crossbow bolts off their mark. It was strong enough to send several goblins and smaller worgs back into the underbrush. Note to self - Make more food that Thundercloud likes. Bribe him to teach more elemental magic.
You sight the first bear and unleash /Tonare, Lacerus /and /Impactus /on it with devastating results. Hack steps in front of you and eats a cutter with his shield. The troll shrugs off the spell like it was nothing. Their wizard must be out here! Your goblins rush forward and engage. Damnation! You frantically try to cover them. No wonder the others left these five out here! They're idiots! Hack is the smallest of the trolls, but what really bugs you is that your expedition left you out here. What does that say about you?
As you cast another cutter in defense of one your out numbered goblins and summon a snake. Ducking away from a blasting curse that sends a wave of dirt into the air. You direct the snake, /"Kill the animals!/"
You begin hurling a stream of spells at all the goblins. Once again, you hate the fact that you don't have a snake of your own. The creature store in town had two Bushmasters for sale, but Bill's spending freeze got in the way! With your luck, if you told it to kill the goblins it would attack the ones with you. Naturally, this brings up another point as you snap a shield up deflecting a bludgeoning curse from the wizard in the underbrush - exactly which goblins are your goblins? You concentrate on the worgs coming at you. Hack is fighting against three bears. You fire a gout of fire at the two boars and a jackal charging you. One boar makes it through and you banish the shit out of it. You have to admit Collins' joke about pigs flying is a bit humorous.
Your good humor is interrupted by a bludgeoner, which makes it past the shield you were trying to cast. Like a solid thunk to the gut with a cricket bat, it doubles you over and slams you into the earthen walls surrounding the cave. Ow! No dragon hide protecting your bum! You see stars from the whiplash as the back of your head hits a split second after your arse. You roll around on the ground, trying to clear your head and make less of a Harry sized target. Well you probably needed to swallow that bezoar anyway. A pair of cutters digs into the rock behind you and that damn piggy you sent flying is coming back angry.
Sensing that fate has once again provided you the tools you require, "Wingardium Leviosa!" As Fleur would say, 'Voila, bouclier de cochon.' Using your floating pig shield, you block the next two curses while eliminating an enemy. It gives you time to shake off the effects of being bludgeoned. Feeling sufficiently ready to deal out some damage, you banish the worg carcass into one of the two bears still fighting Hack. Hack uses the distraction to club it with his rather crude looking spiked club.
It's a good thing you now feel up to it, because there are two goblins charging you. The one on the left has an axe. His counterpart has a sword. You dodge right and use the severing charm. Your aim was off. All it does is splash on his armor and slow him down for a second. The goblins sword smacks painfully into your Vipertooth armor. It doesn't give way, but you know there will be bruising. Making Dudders proud of you, goblin number one is rewarded with a crushing left handed uppercut backed by your dragonhide gauntlet. TKO for Potter! The armored midget spins to the ground. That punch over extended you and you pay the price as the other goblin's axe grazes your flesh slicing your left arm open.
Blood fuels your anger and you stab your wand in his face /"Reducto!" /The little sodding bastard's head pretty much disintegrates.
"Episkey!" The basic first aid spell closes the bleeding wound. Blood isn't flowing anymore, mostly it is just oozing now. Hack is in trouble! The last bear is on his chest swiping at his face and he's taken some spell damage from the wizard.
You charge at the bear and scream, /"Lacero!" /The severing charm gets the bear's attention cutting into its furry leg. Hack feebly swats at the bear, but it's enough to knock it off his chest. A bone shattering spell slams into Hack's shoulder making the troll scream in agony, but barely missing his head. Hack struggles to rise, but then falls.
"Abrumpo per Incendia!" It's time for a fire whip. You lash it across its front legs. The bear rears howling in anger and you bring the whip across its chest. It staggers and you manage a lucky shot wrapping the whip around the creature's neck. Death claims it quickly.
Something, a reductor, a bludgeoner, or a blaster slams into your right side. You barely hold on to your wand as you are spun off your feet. It hurts. On a scale of one to ten, you would have to say 'very much so'. You suck in a breath. It doesn't feel like your lung inflated all the way and some of the ribs don't feel like they are where they should be. You switch your wand to your left hand and manage a /protego, /which stops the next spell. The wizard is advancing on you. He smells the kill. You block a second spell. This is a really bad situation you've got yourself into here isn't it? You need something to stop him in his tracks. You need something he can't block. You need something ... unforgivable.
"Crucio!" Thanks to Kwan, it's the one you have the most experience with and though good old Bella once told you that righteous anger isn't enough, you've had a chance to stockpile some additional hatred and anger in the interim. On this day, in this moment, against this foe, it is more than enough.
The wizard collapses in agony as you pour energy into the spell. You see Hack moving out of the corner of your eye. He's crawling towards the wizard. You struggle to maintain the spell long enough for Hack to drag his sixty or seventy stone frame over to the writhing wizard. As you release the spell, Hack brings his meaty paw down into the man's chest with a wet crack. He convulses once and then stops moving.
You manage to croak out, "Nice job, Hack! Crawl on over her!"
When the troll makes his way over to you, you make liberal use of epsikey and several other spells Kwan has shown you. You succeed in patching Hack's worst wounds. It's very tiring. You're cold and could use a nap right now. He helps you get your dragonhide off. The entire right side of your chest looks like Crabbe and Goyle decided to skip hitting bludgeoners at you and just decided to use their bats. What the fuck did that bastard hit you with?
"Puny James need to stay awake. Don't fall asleep!" To emphasize his point he pinches your leg. That'll bruise.
"Ow! Damn! Okay stay awake, I can do that. Still glad you came along?"
"Hack glad to fight with Puny James. We crush skulls together. Can't Puny James fix self with magic like he fix Hack?"
"Don't know the right spells." You mumble as you begin to shiver. Hack takes his damaged and blood soaked shirt off and covers you with it. It's a fantastic gesture, even if it smells like troll sweat, blood and old cheese. "Thanks, Hack."
"Stay warm Puny James. Hack will go for help. Get other wizards to fix Puny James. Stay awake!"
Hack runs off. You crawl over to the other wizard to check for a blood replenishing potion. You notice the wizard's eyes open. He gags and spits up blood. "I hate humans." You're pretty sure you heard that right. At least he doesn't have his wand anymore. It's about three meters away and neither of you look like your in any condition to go get it.
"So that's why you work for some 'down on her luck' renegade goblin bitch?"
"The only reason the clans didn't rise up was I wasn't a male!" The wizard hissed as he coughed up more blood. "I'll not die in this wretched body!"
You watch in fascination as the body shifts and turns into a female goblin. You've never seen one before. She's roughly the same size as a make. The features are softer and more feminine. That said, she's still ugly as sin. What hair she has is stringy and the eyes are a strange yellow color. "One day my kind will rise up. The matriarchy will free my kind from your oppression!"
"So, the goblin council didn't go for it because you are a female?" What an odd conversation this is. You're leaning on a rock draped in a troll's shirt having some parting words with a dying goblin anarchist.
She hacks out some more blood. "... slaves to your damn money. The centaurs understand. They know the truth. We're tolerated as long as we have use to you. Until we learn to be something more, we will always be your lapdogs."
You can actually identify with her. You mutter, "Sounds like the story of my life, sister. Keep up the good fight!" The two of you lock eyes. Hers open slightly in surprise as she dies. You wonder what universal truth she saw in her last seconds?
You do your best to stay awake. You recite at least twenty of Bill's 'Golden Rules of Cursebreaking" in your head. Closing your eyes would really be nice now. How long has Hack been gone? A minute? Ten?
A soft thumping can be heard. Is something coming? Is it just your heart ringing in your ears?
"Put me down!" You hear a voice scream and it breaks into a series of Spanish curses.
"Puny James hurt. Pretty witch fix Puny James. Puny James save Hack. Fix Puny James, NOW!"
You want to chuckle. Hack just called Sanchez pretty. Now that's funny, too funny. Does that mean Sanchez is pretty for a troll? You wouldn't have even given her that much credit. You drift off with that amusing thought on your mind as she forces some awful substance down your throat.
You come to on a cot in the tent. It's dark outside. Thundercloud is sitting by you sleeping lightly. You're not dead. Well, if you are then soreness incurred on the living side carries over to the next. If that's the case you hope Voldecrap and Dumbleshit both die of flaming pokers up the arse.
Gingerly, you reach out and touch the Indian's hand. His eyes open up. "Welcome back, Harry. You were badly injured, when your troll friend dragged Sanchez back to you."
"Is everyone else okay? Where's my wand?" You don't really plan on casting spells, but you've got this possessive thing about your wand. Someone once told you that you could do 'great and terrible things' with such a wand.
"Relax. No one on the expedition sustained any lasting injuries. The worst was my concussion when the renegades tried to collapse part of the tunnel. It was you that fought and killed their leader."
"She looked like a wizard and was able to cast spells. How did she do that?"
"She wore an ancient armband of perhaps Mayan or even Atlantean make. Bill and Sanchez are studying it. It allows someone to assume another's shape and some of their abilities. Such bands were once used by Wizards to make magical folk into normal people and bestow the stolen magic on their minions. The effect was either temporary or could be made permanent through a ritual sacrifice of the victim."
Maybe because you were just waking up, but that didn't make any sense. "What do you mean?"
"The armband allowed the Goblin Chieftain to assume the form of a wizard that she captured and bound his power into the band by killing him. This was how she was able to cast spells."
"I'm surprised the goblins didn't want it back. It sounds dead useful." Well now you know who did the amateur warding job.
The old man smiled at you. "Bill's agreement with them was for one quarter of the gold and any artifacts that were recovered. The goblins offered much of their share in exchange for it. Bill politely refused, but did allow them to purchase several other minor objects that were recovered as a gesture of solidarity.
"How long have I been out?"
"Hey! Cookie! We sure have missed you. None of us are worth a damn in the kitchen." Bill's voice booms. Collins mutters something about there being nothing wrong with his chili.
"Hey Bill! Next time leave a few more goblins with me, m'kay?"
"I'll think about it. You got beat up pretty bad, considering it's Monday night. The goblins arranged for a healer to be portkeyed out here to check on you. We obliviated him before he went back. You're stuck in bed until Wednesday. Sanchez and I are working on the ruins. You're troll buddy Hack asked to stay on. He's outside on guard duty. I believe his exact words were 'Hack not leave til James says so.' Should I send out the wedding invites?"
"Bill, do me a favor - fuck off!"
"No can do, but I do have a present for you. Part of our haul included this. As your mentor and Cursebreaking guru extraordinaire, I am proud to bestow upon you your very own copy of 'The Book'!"
Bill summons a copy of Golinard's Field Cursebreaking Manual. "Sorry, I've already copied some of good schemes and notes the Breaker who had it before the goblin got her hands on it, but I'll let you copy some of my notes out of mine sometime in return. Consider it the cost of your tuition. I let Sanchez take a look at it and picked up some of her schemes for both of us in return. We picked up more than enough gold to make that little problem you have go away."
You smile as you look at the tome. The book has plenty of schemes in it, but the beauty is in all the extra pages where cursebreakers can add their notes and custom schemes. It's mainly why most Breakers are so protective of their copies. You've seen Bill and Maria haggle over trading a few schemes from each other. You suspect he is trying to get his hands on 'Field of Screams'.
They help you into a sitting position and chat with you. Thundercloud wants you to practice your meditation, but makes you promise not to transform until Thursday at the earliest. The others stop by and say hello, even Hack's 'pretty witch'. Hack also is very glad to see you. He pats you on your head like a pet and grabs the pot filled with leftover and mostly uneaten chili. Greedily spooning it into his mouth, Hack stops to burp, thump his chest and break wind directly into your face before heading back outside.
You grab your journal and use it to fan away the Hack's unpleasant little gift before scanning Luna's three letters, all very concerned about your health.
I'm okay. I'm sorry I worried you so much. The battle was awful. I don't want to really talk about it right now. It's one thing to be caught in a fight and have to kill someone or something. It's another thing altogether to go looking for a fight and knowing that you're going to have to kill.
I was left with a small group of goblins and my new buddy Hack. He's the same troll I helped with his love life problems a ways back. Collins jokes that the Normals have these laws of combat. One of them goes something like this - the diversionary attack you are ignoring is probably their main force. Well that about summed it up. They came out of some holes and attacked us. We were outnumbered and only Hack and I made it out.
The goblins were led by this female goblin, who wanted her people to abandon the Wizarding world. She had this magical item that let her cast spells like us. We fought. She hurt me pretty bad, while I was killing the Worgs on Hack. I killed her. I'm stuck in bed for the next few days until I heal up, so I will be writing more.
My work on my disposable rune is coming along nicely since I last mentioned it. I got one more scheme working and I now have my own copy of Golinard's. I'm almost a real cursebreaker.
I'm glad that I've gotten to know you better. I could've used a friend like you a long time ago. Are you considering letting some others in on the joke? I think it's everybody's loss that they don't get to know the real Luna.
If only I had been quick enough to change into my bowtruckle animagus form, I would have been able to slip away unnoticed!
Well, I have to go now.
You close the journal as Kwan sits down next to you, "Still trying to get out of my lessons?"
"No, sir. I just keep getting into fights. At least I won." You answer with a smile.
"I can teach other things. Today we learn how to cast spells without saying stupid words. Words help focus spell and make stronger, but not completely necessary. Words don't even have to be in stupid Latin. Magic doesn't care about words. Only us stupid humans care about words. Kwan has three-day stupid cook proof method of teaching you."
Oh shit! This doesn't sound good, not good at all. He pulls out a piece of washcloth and a roll of duct tape. Now it doesn't look good.
"Are you sure this is going to work?"
"Of course! Day one, I stick nice clean washcloth into mouth and tape mouth shut. You learn to cast spells by not making words."
"Wait! What happens if I don't get it on day one?"
He gets an evil grin on his face, "Oh, day two we use Collins' dirty sock instead of nice clean washcloth."
You gulp. You've heard Kwan call Collins 'Stinky Feet' on more than one occasion. You don't want to ask. You have to ask. In a weak voice you ask, "What happens on day three?"
The grin gets even bigger. He leans forward and whispers with a menacing voice, "Day three is Mexican cursebreaker's used underwear. Don't get to day three! Even Kwan scared to touch. Now open mouth. Not much of day one left!"
Now would be a good time to panic.
Author's notes - Okay so maybe Kwan has some objectionable teaching methods. You gotta admit he knows how to motivate, doesn't he?