Descend into the Goblin Vaults, if you dare?
Acknowledgements - A big thanks out to the members of Alpha Fight Club for all the assistance on this chapter and FairyQilan's beta work.
Chapter 19 - Is It So Frightening to Have Me at Your Shoulder
September 4, 1996
It's been a busy past few days. I'm sorry I haven't really had a chance to write. We managed to clear the upstairs of the bank out. I discovered that the Necro Wards affect magical creatures as well. We ran into some stiff resistance from some reanimated Abraxan and yet another Dragon. Fortunately, it was already dead. I actually managed to Portkey chunks of it away and got lucky enough to get its head. Probably one of the best things I did all summer was have Thundercloud teach me how to make a Portkey. I'm rather pleased by my creative use for spells.
We spent most of yesterday mapping the wards that protect the entrance to the vaults and letting Bill recover from his injuries. We're going to try and breach them shortly. We couldn't find the master ledger detailing the contents of the vaults, but the copies that we located on the first floor show that most of the gold has been moved to the first five vaults.
I've started practicing basic Occlumency techniques to help me with the nightmares. Not that it's helping all that much, but it feels like I am making actual progress this time as opposed to time well spent with good old Snape. That's about the only upside to being entombed with the living dead - I don't have to see him. There's not much to do for entertainment here. Some of us go up to the balcony upstairs and take shots at the Inferi surrounding the building, kind of sad in a sick and twisted way. We've probably taken out close to 400 of the wretched buggers outside, but it almost seems like there is an endless supply.
Hopefully, the Goblins will get there transfer system working again soon. We need more Dreamless Sleep potions and other supplies. We've handled everything El Dorko Lordo has thrown our way so far.
I hope your first few days of class are going okay. OWLs might seem tough, but you'll be fine. You've stood up to Voldemort's goon squad, some fussy ministry officials will be a walk in the park for you.
I've got to go. Bill looks like he's ready to start. Time to go do what you said I do best and go find some trouble.
It's show time! Bill says it's where the wards meet the wands and curse breakers step up or get the hell out of the way. The three of you are tearing away at the wards. Okay, Maria and Bill are doing the heavy lifting; you're shielding them in the event of backlash. This whole damned city is thick with magical energy and it only makes sense that the Gobs would have staked out the choicest territory.
The bench you are levitating as a shield explodes in a burst of marble. The wards express their anger at being disturbed. Both Bill and Maria dive for cover from the crackling energy threatening them.
"Come on! Let's get back to it. We've got to be getting close. The first two are down." Maria said picking herself up and brushing the dust off of her.
"We need to swamp the remaining wards and bring them down. Harry, Thundercloud and Kwan - I want you to summon golems, have them carry benches for protection. Collins, cover us! I've had it with this shit. These wards are coming down!"
Everyone takes their positions as Kwan floats more benches into position. On Bill's cue, three golems rise out of the stone. The two full-fledged Curse Breakers launch into the dispelling chants. You command your golem to grab a bench and move forward. The crackle of energy attacks the three conjurations as they surge forward soaking up damage that would have easily charred Hack to a crisp. You sneak a peek with your magical glasses at the state of the wards. It's like a fireworks display of swirling magic. All three golems vanish in a particularly violent blast of magic that leaves you partially blinded.
With a stab of your wand you recast the golem conjuration and turn those bloody glasses off! It continues to soak up the damage inching ever close to where you saw the controller runes. Thundercloud has another golem following in the wake of yours, using it as a mobile shield. A meter from the controller runes it hits some kind of physical barrier. It strikes at the flaring wall of magic managing three solid blows before it is blasted into oblivion. Thundercloud's golem is now assaulting the barrier. The defenses are failing! Kwan has another construct moving into the area as Thundercloud's is destroyed. You decide to give it a hand.
"Pello Hostis!" You banish the golem into the barrier. It hits like a thunderclap and the shield collapses. In what has been the most amazing display of accuracy you've seen in your short life, reductors from Maria, Bill, Kwan and Collins strike the area where the controller set used to be digging a small crater into the wall. You take a moment to get your breath while grabbing your shotgun and aiming at the darkness ahead of you. With the wards down, whatever had been held behind is now free.
Two long minutes pass and nothing comes out. "Harry, send a snake in there and have it scout."
You conjure a snake and compel it into the darkness. It lasts for five minutes before the spell runs its course. You really need to get some real snakes of your own! Although, sending real snakes to painful deaths isn't all that appealing. You couldn't do that to Hedwig. That's for damn sure.
Bill follows the snake with a Curious George to be certain. Snakes are careful by nature; monkeys are much less so. After it comes back out safely, Bill shrugs. "Okay, it looks like these are down and there is no immediate threat. Everyone take one hour and relax. Hack, keep an eye on this area. If anything comes out destroy it."
Collins sits down in a chair and rests his loaded AK-47 on the ground next to him. The rest disperse. You follow Bill over towards where the Gobs are working on the transfer system.
"How long before you have it functional?"
"We will be conducting a test shortly, Human. I will advise you whether it is successful or not." The lead Goblin replied curtly before returning to his work, essentially dismissing the two of you.
"How's the shoulder and ribs holding up?" Bill merely grunts at the mention of his injuries from two days ago. He'll be feeling the soreness for weeks to come, as there are limits to even magical healing.
He continues without answering your question. "There aren't any carts and I don't trust the rails anyway. They haven't been maintained in almost four decades. We'll move slowly on brooms. According to the maps we have available, there is a landing with the first row of vaults about two hundred meters along the first line. Without the missing master ledger, my gut instinct says go where the gold is. According to the ledgers we have in the lobby, there's a lot of gold in that first section. That's where we go first, Golden Rule 'Follow the Gold'. The Gobs were nice enough to help us sort through pile of keys behind the counter to find the right ones for those vaults."
You nod your head as he continues. "I'm worried about the creatures that were guarding the high security vaults. Fourfangs had a vague idea that they had a few dragons, but mostly used Jungle Trolls, because they are so numerous in this neck of the woods. Gringotts never uses Basilisks, but they're more common here as well."
"I can call out in Parsel every now and then. If one is down there it should respond."
"Good. As soon as the Transfer System is up and running, I am going to have them send us at least six roosters." Bill said before grinning wildly, "After all, you can never have enough cock at your disposal."
"You are so wrong, Bill, so very wrong." It's a feeble joke, but with hardly anyone getting any productive sleep, it's nice to see that Bill isn't just a pervert when he is rested and cheerful. Of the sleep deprived, Collins seems to be suffering the worst, followed by you even despite your animal form. Bill seems to be holding up the best out of everyone with the rest falling somewhere in the middle.
"Of course, I'm not worried. I've got a top shelf, grade A Basilisk killer with me. Anything goes down, you'll handle it, right?"
"Remind me to fire you when we're finished here. I think I'll hire Maria to run the Curse Breaking side of Phoenix Expeditions."
Bill gives you a look of mock horror as he fishes two cans of cola out of the cooler and hands you one. You put yours back and grab something without caffeine in it. "Man, you do like older women! I'll let you explain that to Fleur, firing her soon to be husband like that. I shudder to think what my girl would do to you, or what Maria could do for that matter. Gah! I even gross myself out sometimes!"
You can't let the implication of you and Sanchez slide. This calls for some special insults. "Already hiding behind your woman, that sounds so Weasley." You wonder if Molly makes Arthur wear the uncomfortable lingerie, before deciding to abandon that line of thought before it causes a cascading mental failure in your mind.
"Oh! That was low Harry! You will pay for that. Seriously, have you considered what happens, when we're done here?"
"Not really. I suppose I have to go back to England. Dumbledore is the only one with enough clues on the location of these trinkets. Those things I have Mr. Colastos doing for me should help me level the playing field and force him to treat me as an equal. Still, I don't picture me hanging out at an Order meeting tossing back a pint with Lupin and Snape while we talk about the good times. Not now and probably not ever."
"You've got a point. In your shoes, I'd be half tempted to pull a disappearing act, when this is over. If you decide that way, I'll help you plan. We'd have to figure out how to smuggle you back for the wedding. You'd probably have to do it under an assumed name. I know. You could be my good friend Zambrano Markowitz!"
Both of you laugh at the namesake of Bill's troublesome broom before you decide to try and get back to business. "What about Hack?"
"I hadn't planned on asking him to speak at the wedding. Why; is he your date?"
"No, idiot. Are we leaving him up here? Or do we float him down with us. If the rails are too unstable for us, it would be even worse for him."
"We'll leave him up here with the Gobs. If we get into a fight down there, it will probably be in close quarters. He'd be more of a liability there. Plus, I'm guessing the Gobs would feel more comfortable with him up here. Hey Harry, why don't you get some rest? You're looking a bit rough."
You finish drinking the can of ginger ale and take off your vest. The transformation is more difficult with the dragonhide on. Just one of the many little tricks you are learning about your animal form. The change into your animal form is barely noticeable these days, as you curl up on your sleeping bag and pair of blankets.
Old Thundercloud built himself a little nest up by the gargoyle statues. You watch as he flutters up there and settles in.
The dreams are usually the same. In your animal form, you're running away from all the Inferi, but they keep clawing away at you. No matter how fast you run, how far you jump, or how many you claw and bite they keep catching you. Bolting upright you are growling, except nothing is coming out - silencing charm. Someone must have gotten tired of listening to you. Collins gets the same treatment. You haven't asked him about his dreams, but you know he's usually screaming about 'The Eyes' when he wakes up.
To try and help, Bill and Kwan, who are awake when you and the rest are asleep, have taken to occasionally casting their Patronus. You do it for them as well. It seems to take more of the edge off. Prongs looks a bit less solid than he usually does. Perhaps you don't have as many happy memories anymore? Not that you're bitter or anything, right? Collins, can only do the formless mist, but he does it well. Kwan's Patronus is a Thestral of all things! You found out the hard way as you woke up to see a misty white Thestral staring you in the face. You pounced, naturally, only to pass right through it giving both Bill and Kwan a hearty laugh. Sanchez has some kind of burrowing rodent. You haven't bothered to ask what it is. Oddly enough, Thundercloud's Patronus is his eagle form.
You must have drifted off somewhere along the way. This time wasn't so bad. Collins looks like shit though. Lunch today was canned goods. Too much work to be done to do any cooking. You promise to make him something really special next time you get on the stove. Maybe if this first set of vaults is the right spot, it will be a round of dreamless sleep for everyone!
Bill gathers the troops. Everyone mounts their brooms. You still get a grin on your face every time you hear that ridiculous slogan. For a wedding gift, you should get the two of them brooms, or at least get Fleur a matching Hammer.
Everyone's ready. You still think Bill is wrong. Bill is thinking like a Curse Breaker and a Goblin. The idea is that Riddle would seal his Horcrux up in the deepest, darkest, most secure pit inside this place and surround it with wards and creatures. Bill would do that. Dumbledore would do that. Hell, Hermy F. Bags would do that. They're all logical people, not homicidal maniacs. Riddle wouldn't. He's got this whole larger than life thing going. It's probably on display in the Ministry Atrium. If you hadn't already been up in the cave, you thought he might have stuck it to the roof of the cave and put a fucking spotlight on it.
Bill goes first with Kwan flying just behind him. Sanchez is next with Collins on her six. You and Thundercloud are bringing up the rear. You could get off and walk faster than you're going, but Bill is setting the pace and he is being cautious and meticulous. It would be nice to have something to live for, wouldn't it? Maybe instead of going straight back to England, you can take a quick tour of North America and maybe spring Amy from that 'dreadful' all-girl boarding school in Toronto for a weekend or even accompany Thundercloud back home and see his buxom granddaughter again.
Or maybe you can get your damn head back on straight before Collins curses you for bumping him again? Quit your damn daydreaming Potter! This isn't the time!
It takes thirty minutes to make those two hundred meters to the first landing, probably the slowest broom trip on record. When the passageway opens up, you are given a gruesome reminder of why caution is the catch phase of an old curse breaker.
The Goblins made their final stand here. It looks like they lost, badly. There are no intact bodies, just bones and broken weapons. Strike that. You see one skeleton pinned with a trio of spears buried into the rock with magical force in some mocking crucifixion. Shuddering, you wonder if they were 'picked clean' at some point. No one says a word for a full minute as the entire group stares at the bone yard. It must have been horrible! You feel a profound sense of loss and despair just hovering a few meters above it all.
The cavern is only about five meters high, seven or eight meters across and roughly fifty meters long. The glow from your wands provides a faint illumination.
Everyone does a quick detection for wards and nothing is found. Bill mutters while lighting a few of the torches still present in their holders, "Let's check the vaults and get out of here."
He takes the key to the first vault and places it against the vault. To your horror the glow of runes illuminates the area.
"Shit! Trap! Trap! Trap!" Bill screams. You start scanning around waiting for what is coming next. For a brief shining second nothing happens, until an avalanche of rubble descends closing both ends of the cavern. Your exits are cut off. What's the game here? Asphyxiation? Starvation? Something else?
A voice you hoped you wouldn't be hearing for a long time fills the cavern with a deafening roar. "Fools! Did you really think I would make it so easy for you? Did you honestly believe that Lord Voldemort would stack his gold in neat little piles here for you worthless maggots? Perish knowing that these tunnels are empty and that I led you here with forged ledgers and that you carried the keys to your destruction with you." It fades off into mocking laughter as a howling wind swirls through the cavern.
The wind forms a small dust devil in the center of the bone yard. The bones of the fallen Goblins begin to lift off the ground, swept upwards by the unnatural vortex.
To your horror the bones begin connecting and forming some kind of construct. It stands four meters tall. Kwan reacts the fastest firing a pair of blasting curses while everyone else slowly begins hurling spells at it. You join in with blasting curses and bone crushers. It curls its claw like hand made from the spines of the dead and slashes wickedly at Kwan who narrowly jerks his broom out of the way. Spells slam into it, but as the bones are destroyed more simply rise from the ground and take their place!
Thundercloud conjures a Golem that feebly tries to wrestle with the nightmarish horror in front of you. It's about as effective as either of the Creevey brothers trying to wrestle Hagrid! You conjure one as well - might as well have both Creeveys trying to slow it down. It weakens your spells trying to keep the golem moving, but anything to slow it down!
"Vanish the rest of the bones before they can join with the creature!" Sanchez screams using her wand to disintegrate a nearby pile. It's a good plan and she's clearing an area when one of the conjured golems is pushed backwards violently towards her. She maneuvers her broom out of the way of the stumbling mass of earth only to be impaled by the claws of Voldemort's beast. Two of its claws stick right through her stomach and lift her off her broom. She screams in agony and blasts away at it, trying in vain to free herself.
Collins snaps of a spell he calls the Bonesaw, while your golem pounds away at the midsection of the creature. The cutter frees Sanchez and she lands painfully on the spot she had just cleared. You try and provide cover fire while Thundercloud rushes to her aid. In the unholy light from the runes you can see her spitting blood from her mouth as the Indian tries to seal her wounds.
Thundercloud's golem collapses as he tries to save Maria, leaving your conjuration as the only thing impeding its progress. It won't hold for long. The creature turns its attention to your golem crushing it and brushing the remains aside like it was a gnat. Blasting, cutting and vanishing spells buffet the creature as it surges forward. You dive with your broom trying to get between it and your two companions on the ground. You duck the slashing claw and circle around its backside cursing it constantly, while narrowly avoiding a bone shattering spell from Kwan.
You didn't buy them enough time! Fuck! The creature is on top of Sanchez and Thundercloud. Bill summons both of them out of the way. The Animagus makes it. Sanchez doesn't. As her body begins to move the creature's foot descends pinning her lower half and making her scream louder than ever. The anger coursing thorough your soul isn't the same as watching Sirius die in the Department of Mysteries. That was a crushing despair that paralyzed you. This is a burning rage to save a friend who fought beside you. Thundercloud barely transforms in time to escape the same fate Sanchez suffered, but loses his wand in the process.
"No!" You howl in tangible rage. The beast within you feeds your anger. "Tonare! Reducto! Lacero! Tonare!" The spell chain comes out in a wave of energy gouging large chunks out of the nightmare. The second blasting curse has enough energy in it to stop its forward progress. A slashing arc of your wand disintegrates the entire left arm probably saving Kwan's life. His spells joining force with yours to push the monstrosity backwards. Its clawed foot drags the flailing Curse Breaker with it. A bloodied Collins rejoins the fight. You don't even know when he got hit. It's surprising that he's even standing.
"Keep it back while I find the fucking anchor!" Bill yells above the din of explosions, while guiding his broom to the other side of the cavern, searching for the source of the energy animating the construct. You almost hope that you could push it into the vault and seal it, but just keeping it from coming forward is taking everything out of you.
It isn't about rapidly casting spells. It's about pushing as much energy as you can muster into each spell forcing the unholy creation to keep drawing on its dwindling supply of bones. Each thunderous blast is you screaming your outrage at an uncaring world. Still, the beast keeps coming ambling forward lifting Sanchez into the air with each step.
Precious moments pass as the three of you begin to give ground to the monster in front of you. "There! I've found it!" Bill yells firing a bludgeoner at the skeleton pinned to the wall. The bludgeoner rebounds off of an undetected shield tossing him from his broom and back onto the ground.
Collins screams at the top of his lungs, "No fucking shield can stop this! /Avada Kedavra/!" You cast a summoning spell at Bill. Curse Breakers don't use the killing curse to get past shields. There's a reason. That reason becomes apparent as the ward anchor detonates in a massive wave of energy that releases the pent up power in the shield, the killing curse and the still active ward - instantly. It occurs to you that, you're witnessing your first Cascading Ward failure. Instinctively, everyone dives into the one opened vault as the explosion rips the door off its hinges.
The sound of more rubble collapsing outside of the vault last for a few seconds and then silence descends. Kwan's already in motion tending to his injured partner. Thundercloud returns to human form and helps you with Bill. His legs are in a bad way with shards of bone embedded in his legs. They look like he had been sprayed with buckshot from a shotgun. Thundercloud takes Bill's spare wand and starts healing him. You help to the best of your meager healing skills. After a minute, you start towards the rubble filled entrance.
"Maria's still out there! We've got to get her!" Collins begins screaming and pushing Kwan aside.
"It's too late for her. She's gone. She couldn't have survived. You know that." Kwan says slowly.
"No! She could still ... She's not ..." his protests trails off. Even you know that the Mexican is gone.
After a few minutes, both Bill and Collins are out of danger. You and Kwan still have your brooms. Thundercloud floats the unconscious Bill and all of you move towards the entranceway and begin clearing the rubble.
On the ascent, Collins kept looking around, listening for noises and calling out, even using Sonorous charm on several occasions. This only served to make everyone feel worse. Kwan had to calm him down on several occasions. It was bad enough trying to dig out of the cave in without someone going round the twist. It finally ended when Bill woke up long enough to call off the search for Maria.
After the first hour, everyone started wearing bubblehead charms as the air thinned. The second hour was spent recovering from a secondary cave in as the party inched forward through the blocked passageway. It was almost into the fourth hour, when you finally broke through into the undamaged tunnel. Whatever might have been left of Maria's body would remain down there, buried beneath tons of earth. If there was any power above listening to your prayers, you hoped she didn't suffer.
Two minutes after clearing the rubble, the party floated into the lobby covered in dust, bruises and scrapes.
"Puny James! Hack was worried! Wait! Where's pretty witch?"
You shake your head and look sadly at him. Dejectedly, you manage, "She didn't make it, sorry mate." Kwan and Thundercloud begin rummaging through the potion locker for various healing draughts. You slouch down onto a bench both physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. Hack looks uncertain about what to do or say and settles for patting your back. You feel awful.
Your eyes close for a second - or perhaps it was five minutes? "Greedy useless fuckers! You were trying to get us killed, weren't you? I'll fucking kill you!"
The words are enough to get the adrenaline pumping again and your eyes flutter open. Collins is being physically restrained by Kwan. The Texan is on the verge of killing several of the Goblins.
"Calm down Jacob!"
"They haven't fixed the damn way to get our supplies, yet! They found the keys and the fake ledgers! The filthy bastards set us up! They're gonna kill us, but not if I fucking kill them first!"
In the end it requires immobilization followed by a forced dose of Dreamless sleep to stop him from killing the four Goblins. His statements put you a little on edge. You don't want to consider the possibility that the Goblins would betray you. Now you can't avoid the seed of suspicion that Collins just planted.
Thundercloud takes a dual dose of Pepper Up potion, fishes out a replacement wand from his trunk, and volunteers to stay awake for guard duty along with Hack. He asks you to set an alarm ward at the entrance to the vaults.
For a moment, you stare stupidly at him before you realize that you're the only other Curse Breaker. After taking probably twice as long as it should have, you set a simple 'Shriek and Blink' alarm. You don't even bother to clean yourself up as you transform and collapse onto your makeshift lair.
The dreams are even more frightening and now include Maria's body rising from the earth and joining in with the faceless masses chasing you. Her empty eye sockets cast blame at you. The arms encircle you. They're closing in! You slash out with your claws, but it's no use! They've got you!
You bolt upright, panting and thrashing madly. It takes a moment to calm down before you return to your human form, even longer to stop trembling. You're only slightly less dirty than when you went to sleep. For a few minutes, you use your wand to clean the clothes you are wearing before giving up and just digging out a fresh set of clothes.
You get something to eat and sit down motioning for Thundercloud to go get some rest. You pull out your journal, a few other books and your carving kit to pass the time.
I can't sleep anymore. The nightmares are too awful. The vaults were just one big trap. The ledgers were fakes and the keys were the trigger to the trap! We fell for it like a bunch of fucking idiots! We lost Maria down there. She died horribly and in pain. I don't really want to go into it. I'm tempted to ask for a dose of Dreamless next time.
I know you're probably saying right now, 'Bloody hell Harry, why mention it if you don't want to talk about it?'
I don't have an answer. Hell, I'm rereading my last letter where I sound all cocky and arrogant. I guess it's easy to sound that way, when you're not getting your arse handed to you.
When I lost Sirius, it was different. He just was hit and fell into the Veil. No body, and no sense of it really being over. They aren't even really sure what that Veil actually is! For all we know, Sirius could still be alive. Probably not, but it's a nice dream.
On the other hand, I know exactly where Maria's body is. I'd probably have to spend days digging to find it and the only solace I can find in her death is the knowledge that the Necro wards probably couldn't get to her.
Collins isn't handling it well at all. As far as I can tell, he is probably having the worst nightmares of us all. I'm worried about him. He almost killed the Goblins, when we got back. He thinks they betrayed us. I don't think so, but I can't dismiss it either and that really bothers me.
Bill's legs are in bad shape. It'll probably be a few days before he can walk again. I'm okay. Mostly, I got by with a few cuts and scrapes from digging ourselves out.
Losing someone reminded me of how trivial it was for me to be angry with you. If you need me to say it again, then I will. I'm sorry I hurt you Luna. I hope one day we can be friends again.
I'll write more later. I need to do some studying, carving, and meditation. Bill's going to need every bit of Curse Breaking help I can give him. We can't afford any more mistakes.
Author's notes - As you can see things have gotten tougher for Harry and his not so Merry Men.