Things continue to get harder. Plus you get to meet a figure from your history texts.
Acknowledgements - FairyQilan for her rapid turn around time on the beta. All the members of Alpha Fight club for the continued input that forces me to write a better story. Fasten your safety belts...
Chapter 20 - Thunder and Lightning Couldn't be Bolder
September 5, 1996
The last few hours of guard duty have been pretty tough on you. You find yourself staring at Maria's empty cot and the trunk next to it. For some reason it reminds you of a dog waiting for it's mistress to return.
A low moan from Bill reminds you to recast your Patronus. The barely formed stag is a reflection of your own despair, but it should help alleviate their nightmares.
You return to your carving. You're stockpiling on charging and controller runes for now. For a moment, you thought you were running short on Dragon bone until you recalled the entire Necrodragon only a short broom flight away. After someone else gets up, you'll go collect some.
One of your best attributes is that you can lose yourself in meticulous and repetitive work. It helped out greatly during your indentured servitude at Number Four. Old Dudders often joked that you'd make someone a helluva wife someday. It's too bad you didn't hire Dobby. You wonder if house elf magic would allow them to breach the Fidelius and be an alternative to the Goblins. It's worth asking Bill about when he wakes back up.
The biggest problem facing the expedition is - where do you go from here? Is the gold still down in the vaults? You wish you would have been more forceful in your opinions about the location of the Horcrux. The practical side of your mind tells you that you still would have gone down there at some point and the Hit wizards say, 'The Deal would have gone just as dirty.'
The Goblins look even more mistrustful, as they continue working on the Bulk Transfer System. Relations have taken a definite turn for the worse after Collins did his rabid dog impression yesterday, complete with the foaming mouth and all. Their first test failed, which will probably only fuel the fire, when Collins wakes up.
After carving a few more runes, you start on some breakfast. You're not trying to impress anyone. It's just scrambled eggs and cheese with toast today. Ten minutes into it, Bill is awake. Yeah, he's a Weasley alright. You scoop some out onto a plate, grab a small jar of jam and take it to him.
"How are you feeling? I've already checked the wards twice and everything is still good."
Bill swallows a pain reducer and grabs some anti-infection balm. He stops and puts it back down. "If I put that on now, I'd be smelling that crap every time I took a bite. Mind grabbing me a cup of juice?"
"Sure give me a second." You might as well get one for yourself while you're at it.
"I don't remember too much of the ascent. Mind filling me in?"
"Collins thinks the Goblins are out to kill us. He might be on the verge of losing it. Kwan restrained him and Thundercloud force fed him a Dreamless Sleep."
Bill looks pretty dejected. You can't blame him. "Harry, I should've listened to you. You know Voldemort better than anyone else. I muffed it and Maria got a real estate deal."
It takes a minute for you to understand his allusion to 'buying the farm'. You're still surprisingly green when it comes to all of this. "Bill, don't start second guessing yourself. We'd have gone down there at some point anyway."
"I suppose. I've been on teams that lost someone before. She's just the first person that's been killed on a team that I'm responsible for. I should have checked for a fucking barrier before I tried dropping the ward."
"You could have set off a cascade like Collins did. We'll never know will we?"
"It probably would have set off something, but not nearly as bad as trying to use an AK to drop a ward. Probably would have only leveled half the cave. Of all the fucking stupid ass stunts... shit! Well, nothing left to do but go through Maria's stuff."
You can't believe he just said that! "What?"
"It's the Code of the Curse Breakers, Harry. She signed up to break this place and it broke her. Anything she has that can help us is ours to use for the rest of the mission."
"Bill! We just can't go digging through her stuff like that!"
"Yes, we can and yes, we will. While we're here, it's ours to use. When we leave, we can keep it, but the Code demands that we give her family 'fair restitution'. If it had been me dead down there, you and Maria would be having this conversation about my stuff right now."
"It just seems wrong."
"Harry, the nice ones call us 'tomb raiders'. The not so nice ones call us 'grave robbers'. There's a reason for that."
Faced with that logic, you concede. After a quick breakfast, he puts on his healing balm and directs you to bring over Maria's trunk. For the next hour, the two of you disarm the numerous wards she had placed on her trunk. Giving credit where credit was due, Maria Sanchez was no slouch in the Curse Breaking department.
Eventually, the trunk is opened. Both of you look at her worn and weathered copy of Golinards. "Harry, if we both copy her notes, we will both owe her family restitution."
"I'm fine with that. Beyond this, what are our plans?" You ask as both of you start diagramming 'Field of Screams' - might as well skip right to the best stuff.
"It'll be at least another seventy-two hours before I'm worth a damn. I want you to do an aerial sweep over the Ministry building. We need to figure out which location to move to next. Collins and Kwan will thin the mob outside. We don't need a crowd following us everywhere we go."
"I was probably going to cut up a bit of that dead Dragon and restock our supply of Dragon bone. We could use some more."
"Don't land unless you have to. Charlie told me that the ones that form the wings are the lightest and easiest to get to. Take a few slow passes over the site and make sure you are the only thing up in the sky. This isn't any time to get careless. Hell, if you spot a broom shop pick up a few. We lost most of ours down there and didn't think to bring extras. You and Kwan have the only ones left. Now, go ahead and get going. I'll go try and smooth things over with the Goblins."
Collins wakes up as you are preparing to leave. Even with the Dreamless Sleep, he looks haggard.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Where's my damn wand?" His voice is quiet and slightly detached.
"I think Kwan has it. Check with him. There are scrambled eggs and toast still warm on the stove."
You make a slow patrol of the cave. Thankfully, nothing comes up into the air to join you. Hovering over the Ministry Building, you cast some detection charms and activate your Curse Breaker glasses. There are only the faintest traces of residual magic on the building. The close inspection allows you to see the gaping holes in the structure, which tell the story of a building that was besieged. A vicious battle was fought here.
The building itself has a European and slightly Gothic look to it. You glide closer to the open windows looking for any indications of Inferi or anything of note in the few areas that are visible from your position. You see one shamble out onto a terrace. One quick reducto later and there are no more long-dead Ministry officials annoying you.
Of course just being out seems to be drawing a slight crowd from the street. It's going to be slow and methodical work, but the streets will have to be cleared before the expedition can move to the Ministry. There are just too many holes to plug. It's depressing news.
With a sigh, you head over towards where the Dragon crashed. It hit what you'll call the South End of the building - as if you have a finely developed sense of direction. If the building had any wards left on it, the Dragon would have set them off. It's a good bet that the building is every bit as dead as the Dragon that crashed into it.
You cut away at a section of the wing, trying to remove as much bone as possible and leaving the dead flesh there. For the next thirty minutes you cut away at the wing and harvest the long and light bones stacking them in a fairly neat bundle. When you have collected sufficient quantities to keep you occupied for the next few days, you conjure three lengths of rope, individually animating them and commanding them to bind the bones. Finally, you levitate the mass and slowly float back to the Bank.
"Nice bit of Dragon bone there, Cookie. Tell me some good news."
"You're looking at the good news; Dragon bone and lots of it. That Ministry building is riddled with holes, so we'd better get rid of our little fan club outside before we go there. The outside of the building was pretty much barren as far as wards. The preservation charms aren't even powered. I don't know if it is a good site to continue our search. What do you think?"
Bill shakes his head. "Well we could lay out some of these wards we've been carving like a trap, conjure a bit of live bait and have ourselves a Curse Breaking bake off. He that fries the most walking dead wins. I'll show you 'Fun with Severing Charms'. It slices, it dices, and it even makes julienne fries!"
"Yes Puny Ja - Puny Harry?"
"Want to help us clean off this Dragon bone so we can use it for warding?"
The troll looks at the stack of bones somewhat greedily. "Hack wants rune carved Dragon spear. Good for killing. Girl Trolls like Trolls with Spear. Never make enough to buy one. Hack clean bones. You make spear for Hack?"
You look at Bill who nods. "You got yourself a deal buddy. Just pick out whichever one is the right length and we'll fix it up for you."
Hack pulls out his 'tiny' knife - you'd call it a machete and begins to gleefully shave the remaining flesh from the bones. Once cleaned, they need to be boiled in a simple potion and that's pretty much all there is to it. The carcass out there is probably worth more than Arthur Weasley has made in the past three years.
"Have you ever made a troll weapon before?"
Bill just shrugs. "I've seen a few before. One of the trolls I met in Calcutta had a club carved from the hind legbone of a Ukrainian Ironbelly. It had a bludgeoning curse embedded in it. He claimed to have killed a Giant with it. Mostly they're, unbreakable charms, self-sharpening charms, things that make them cause more damage, nothing really fantastic. We can even get clever and make the tip ignite or embed a severing charm in it. Maybe it'll give him a real crowd pleaser. Just remember always put the unbreakable charm on last. Otherwise, you're trying to carve into something that is unbreakable. It's a mistake you only ever make once. Think about it."
You have to concede that simple bit of advice is rather brilliant and pocket that bit of information as you grab some of the purchased bone.
While you and Bill start carving, Kwan grabs a rifle and heads for the balcony to start removing some of the problems outside. Bill has you shaping some bone into a crescent shape. The severing charm will be applied to the crescent and it will be mounted on top of piece of wood at about the correct height to remove heads. Bill explains his thinking behind one of his favorite schemes.
"Typically, I'll make three; one at head level, one for waist level and the last one at knee level. Trigger the head one first followed by the knees and finally the waist. In this case, we go for only head and chest level with no need to get fancy with timing runes. A fully activated charging rune typically powers about enough for four severing charms. The most I have ever linked to an individual controller run is five. How many charging runes have you got stockpiled my devious apprentice?"
"Seven, as well as three controllers."
"Good. Maria had five in her stash. So, we've got a dozen at our disposal. You want to try duplicating that scheme from the first set of ruins? Nice time to try out Purple Armageddon, when we have an adequate supply of test subjects?"
"Sure, why not."
The two of you stare at the sketchbook from the first set of ruins. Bill even takes a moment to compliment you on your attention to detail. You were so green back then that you jotted damn near everything down! What is ironic is back then was only slightly over a month ago.
"Is Collins behaving?" You ask, watching the Hit wizard head upstairs to join Kwan.
"There haven't been any repeats of yesterday. He's been kind of quiet. Might be a bit of shock? All of us are keeping an eye on him."
About an hour of carving goes by before Bill has you engorge a cauldron and fill it with water. Hack merrily puts the bones into it and you hover the whole thing over a hastily arranged fire pit.
Bill hobbles up next to you and hands you a vial. "I've got a few more doses of the preparation potion in my trunk. Get it up to a boil and add this. You can use magical fire to help it along, but I'm going to go watch the next Goblin test. Hopefully, this one's a winner."
Kwan and Collins return while you are boiling the bone. Collins looks over at the Goblins fiddling with the crystalline structure that controls the transfer system. "We're running low on ammo. We probably need to conserve what we have left until we get some more supplies."
Thundercloud comes down from his perch and joins everyone watching the Goblins set a box filled with rocks on the platform. The lead Goblin gestures to the one at the structure who moves some gemstones over the waist-high crystal pillar. The box glows. You remember being outlined in a halo of light just before you appeared here. You make the critical error of getting your hopes up.
Managing to cast a shield, you block the shrapnel from the exploding box. One of the Goblins is hurt! You're closest. He's got rock chips buried into his skin on his arms and chest. You immobilize him to stop his loud and incomprehensible screams. Thundercloud joins you and the two of you begin cleaning and closing the injured Goblin's wounds.
You spare a glance at Collins wondering what his reaction is. He's just standing there, expressionless staring at the platform. That's not a good sign. Deciding the injured Gob deserves your immediate attention, you return to the task in front of you. At least you're getting better at this first aid stuff! Merlin knows you get enough practice.
Hours later, the injured Goblin is resting. The other three are still inspecting the crystal pillar for damage from the explosion. They seem understandably agitated. You're on your second batch of Dragon bone, having just added the bleaching potion. Hack can handle it from here. You need some rest. The first bit is laid out to dry and then it will be ready. Hack eagerly eyes the nearly three meter long piece, which will be shaped into his spear.
"Puny Harry bring back more Dragon bone? Next batch cost you a club. Breast bone make best shield. Hack needs good shield too. Hack's shield shit. Glurg's shield worse than shit!"
It's hard not to smile as you silently conclude that Trolls who work around Goblins have the potential to become quite greedy themselves. Still, it's a small price to pay if you don't want to clean all this crap yourself and quite honestly the dead flesh kind of gives you the willies. You vanish a sizeable pile of it.
You walk over to Thundercloud and Kwan. "Hack's going to finish up the bones. Do you all mind if I try and get some sleep?"
Kwan looks up. "Go ahead. The dreams are not so bad this time. Maybe, you get some good sleep? Maybe you wake up and feel refreshed? Maybe you feel like cook something other than Dragon bone? You make good stir fry. You should make that again."
Thundercloud suppresses a chortle and nods his approval. "William asked me if I would help him with something later. I don't have any objections."
You shake your head at the laughing Korean for a moment before asking a more serious question. "Kwan? Is Collins okay? Where is he?"
The mirth vanishes, "Went back upstairs. Not handling things well. Saw him staring out over the city. Never seen him miss that much with his guns. He's okay for now. If I see him get worse, I let Bill know. We may need to send him back."
That's some sobering food for thought. You head over to Bill. "I'm going to go get some sleep."
"You want to take a crack at the Order? I'm at a loss for what to say to them."
"Sure, hand it over. I'm sure I can come up with a few things to tell them. Do you mind if I tell them about your injuries? I won't exaggerate them or anything." He nods in approval
It's me Harry, reporting in for the injured Bill Weasley. His legs got chewed up pretty badly. He's healing. Tell Fleur that she might not want to see his legs in shorts until the scars heal, but it doesn't look that bad. After all, any cascading ward failure you mostly walk away from is one more than you should have.
Of course all of us didn't walk away; we lost our other Curse Breaker down in the tunnels. We were treated to a nice prerecorded taunt from Riddle before the trap sprang. Bill's handling Curse Breaking duties now. I'm pitching in where I can.
I'm assuming that since our little revelation that I've been with Bill from the get go that this little book is now in your hands Mr. Dumbledore. If it isn't, please get it to him now so that my anger can be properly directed. I have nothing against the Order or most of its members. I reserve that for your leader. The one glaring exception to that being Arthur and Molly. Three members of your family owe me a life debt and only Bill is honoring it. Because your one non-idiot child is my closest friend now, I will warn you to stay away from me. You have wronged me in a way that makes me question your fitness as parents and generally as human beings.
So, how have you been Albus? You might want to imagine how angry I am with you right now. You've kept me in the dark about so much that I doubt I can trust anything you say now. You've used my money to fund your projects without even bothering to ask me. Picture my surprise when I find out who is really funding the Order and Phoenix Expeditions. Not a pretty sight is it?
If I get out of this alive, no thanks to you, we will have a reckoning. I will have questions and you will give me answers. If I don't like what you are saying, I'll get help from someone else! I won't delude myself into thinking I can beat him alone, but that doesn't mean we have to be best mates. Just remember that I won't be buying the kind old Grandfather act anymore.
Maybe it's time you stop waiting for a teenager to fight your battles for you? Hell up until last year, I'd have done damn near anything for you. How do you pay me back? By turning my friends against me? You're so smooth it probably didn't hit them until I escaped. You certainly haven't trained me worth a damn. I've been on a month and a half crash course on what life is like in the real world and I can say how poorly Hogwarts has prepared me for what I've been experiencing as of late. I hope you have managed to get a decent teacher for your students this year.
So let's summarize for a moment shall we? You've kept me penned up with the Dursley's for my own good. You haven't really lifted a finger to help me prepare for the fight I am destined for. You managed to get my friends and some of the few adults I thought I could trust to betray me. Exactly how was the constant Obliviations and love potions supposed to help me anyway? Did you sleep at night confident that I was blissfully enjoying some kind of lie, that happy childhood that never existed?
When I come back, you are going to give me assurances. If you try and cross me again, you might get a taste of the power the Dark Lord knows not.
I'm not sure whether you are my enemy, but I know one thing for damn sure. You are not my friend.
You hand it back to Bill, who looks it over. "That's subtle Harry. You are as smooth as a bludgeoning curse. A little harsh towards Mum and Dad, but I don't plan on letting them forget about it anytime soon either. I only wish I could see the look on their face when Fleur gave them the business. She's already said that she's not going to let Mum help with the wedding at all. That should go over real well. Hopefully, she saves it for the pensieve."
The two of you laugh at the imagery before he continues, "You might not want to back Dumbledore into so much of a corner. See how he responds before pushing him further. He might have justified what was done to you as 'the greater good', but if you push him more, he might resort to doing things simply because he has no other options."
"He hasn't exactly given me lots of options either, but you've got a point. I'm going to try and get some rest. Kwan said the dreams weren't so bad this time."
You were half expecting the dreams to be worse than ever. Kwan brings out your paranoid side quite well doesn't he? At least in this case he wasn't yanking your wand. You actually manage a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. It's a nice change of pace.
Unfortunately, a nice lie in doesn't improve the stark and dreary lobby. It doesn't do anything about the horde of Inferi surrounding the bank. On the other hand, it is a bit better than waking up in a cold sweat and wanting to scream. You should be more appreciative of the simpler things in life.
Kwan's catching up on his sleep. Collins must be upstairs. Bill and Thundercloud are eating some sandwiches. The American Indian gestures to one as you walk up.
"Have a sandwich, Harry. Apparently, you should have stocked more peanut butter and jelly and less bologna." In hindsight, selecting a luncheon meat that no one in the party really knows what animal it comes from was not your best idea. The biggest problem with the 'mystery meat' is that it has the same general complexion as the Inferi. Peanut butter is a much safer choice - and it has chunky nuts too!
"I finally got some decent sleep. I wonder why things have gotten better, any ideas?"
Thundercloud sets his lunch down and takes a drink from his cup. "It's tough to say. Perhaps the serenity wards the two of you have set up are finally overcoming the innate evil of this city? Maybe the disposal of much of the horde outside is starting to have a positive effect on the city. It is difficult to say. For the moment I say we enjoy the brief respite we have been afforded."
Bill smiles and taps his cup to Thundercloud's. "I'll drink to that. Harry, we've got three 'Fun with Severing Charms' and one 'Purple Armageddon' ready. Once Kwan gets up, we'll put Collins to bed and get some sleep ourselves. Why don't you go pickup another load of Dragon bone and check out the Magical School. After that prepare three more charging runes and I think we'll be able to have some good old fashioned Inferi blasting."
After three passes over the Ziggurat style school, you still only spot a few windows and no movement. Not exactly the most scenic place to learn. Still the building looks like it is fairly intact. You can bring Bill by here soon and see if he believes that it is a better choice for the next building to investigate.
It still looks ominous in the perpetual twilight permeating the cave. You drift over the eerie wreckage of other buildings towards the Ministry building. The bleak scene looks like one of those disaster movies Dudders was always watching. Crumbled stonework and rotted beams of timber are silent reminders of the horror that took place here.
The one winged, headless dragon corpse isn't very frightening anymore. It's just a chore now. You start work on one of the legs. Hack needs a new club after all. You'll need to look into enchanting objects. You should make yourself some nice things.
Every now and then, you have to stop what you are doing and get rid of an Inferi or two. They've been reduced to a nuisance now, haven't they? Still, you can't afford to be overconfident as you line up your shot and cast a Tonare. The blasting curse blows another one away. Too bad there are probably still a couple of thousand to go.
There's a group of three, no make that four approaching. One of them looks like it is carrying its own arm. How bloody disgusting is that! Wait a second. It just walked up behind one of the others and hit it with its detached arm. The other two turn towards the one wielding the limb. Bone collecting can wait. This warrants further investigation.
The Dragonfly responds to you commands. You've become more comfortable with it, but still would rather have your Firebolt. The one Inferius is dodging the other two and swinging its arm like a club.
After four days of watching 'Lifestyles of the Eternally Damned', you are certain of one thing - Inferi do not dodge. They just walk right into it. Whatever this is, it isn't one of them. Of course you should probably give it a hand, oh that's a bad pun, otherwise you might not find out what it is.
"Lacero! Reducto!" Your spells take care of one and its crude club crushes the other. On closer inspection, it appears to be a statue of a man. He, might as well give it a sex, wears what looks like a carved breastplate and helmet - like some kind of soldier from the middle ages.
It's saying something in Portuguese. Wait now it sounds more like Spanish. You've met talking paintings, so why not a talking statue.
"Do you speak English?"
"Yes. That was my next choice. How did you manage to get into the city?"
"No at liberty to say. I would have come over sooner, but I thought you were one of them."
"Would you be so kind, young Wizard to levitate myself back up to the Ministry building? We can talk more there in relative safety. I am not as indestructible as I once was and the Inferi are capable of damaging me."
You comply and bring him to the terrace where you destroyed the Inferi yesterday. The office inside was once very luxurious, but it had long since been ransacked.
You set the heavy statue down, but stay floating above him. It's nice to have someone else to talk to, but you're not exactly willing to get within arms reach of the construct. He looks at the remains of the Inferius on the terrace and shakes his head almost sadly. "The former Minister, he too failed to recognize the danger until it was upon him."
Your curiosity gets the best of you. "Who are you?"
It bows as well as a one armed statue can. "I am the living echo of Hernando de Soto known to the world as a Conquistador."
You haven't had any history classes that didn't fixate on Goblin revolutions since you were ten. De Soto doesn't ring any bells. Balboa and Cortez do, but you're not exactly talking to them are you, "Who?"
"Has my legend already faded? That is so very sad."
"Sorry, history isn't my specialty. I'm sure there are plenty of people who know who you are. So what exactly is a statue of a Spanish Conquistador doing in a hidden city in Brazil?"
"It is a long story, but you will find it useful nonetheless. If I could trouble first, would you to reattach my arm? It would remove a great burden."
You cast a quick reparo and the arm reattaches itself to the statue. It responds by flexing its fingers and making a fist. "Gracias, that is much better. The history books do not do my escapades justice. Initially, I was lured here like so many others for the promise of gold. I befriended Atahualpa, the Priest King of the Incas. It was through his friendship that I discovered their magical society of this land. Their magic was mostly based in Runes and Rituals. Though he ransomed himself with a room of gold and two of silver, Pizarro planned to execute him. I was able to help him fake his death and escape to here."
"But, weren't you trying to conquer them?"
"The foolish young man I was, had long since grown up. I had watched a man who could not even write his own name slaughter thousands. All because he had a dozen of us trained wizards at his command and a friar whispering the words of the Church in his ear. My countrymen's actions sickened me. I took my blood money and returned to Spain. When I returned to the New World, I brought European magic and wands with me. I led a disastrous expedition hoping that a few more ill-fated adventures would turn Spain's eyes away from here. Supposedly, I was buried in the Mississippi River, but I returned here to help teach European magic to these people."
He paused gesturing with open arms encompassing the cavern and the ruins before continuing. "When my time on this world neared its end, I commissioned a statue instead of creating a painting. I was created by the renowned Bernini. Do you not like? Ah, I see the name has no meaning to you. No Art, no History - at least you obviously know your spells?"
Speaking of obvious things, Hernando de Soto was clearly a man that liked the sound of his own voice. "I probably wouldn't be here otherwise. How about we skip to something a little more current?"
"For over four hundred years I have given advice and counsel to the leaders of this city. I helped to found our Academy de Magia. Until my death, I served as a teacher, a scholar, and I occasionally dabbled in politics. After my death, my statue continued to serve as an advisor to leaders and occasionally as a teacher."
"How did Riddle destroy this city?"
"Ah, so you know one of the two villains. I figured most would blame Chilotha."
You have never heard the name before. "Who is Chilotha?"
"He was a vile Wizard - Grindelwald's supporter in this part of the world and before him Xerus. He ascended to High Priest of the Cult of the Winged Serpent. His power and influence sheltered him from the ICW. He dreamed of a return to the ancient days of ritual blood sacrifices and cabals of near immortal priest kings ruling over all. With the Englishman's help, the Cult grew into a danger unimaginable."
"Nearly immortal? What do you know of that?"
The statue beckoned you closer as his deep baritone drops to a near whisper, "Why do you want to know? Would you follow their dark path?"
You weigh your answer carefully. "No. I'm trying to stop that bastard Riddle. He has a Horcrux hidden here. I mean to find it and destroy it."
"Bah! You are a mere boy. The Englishman was extraordinarily powerful decades ago. What hope do you have against him?"
"I've fought him in one way or another five times. I am his equal, whether I want to be or not."
The statue of De Soto laughs at you. "You certainly have a swagger to you, I'll give you that. For your sake, I hope you can back up your bold and thunderous statements. However, you have a more pressing problem?"
"What is that?"
"Not what, 'who'. That 'who' is Chilotha. Your Englishman isn't the only one with a Horcrux here. Betrayed by your countryman, Chilotha's disembodied spirit haunts this city bound by the magic that helps hide this place. He will come for you. He is a master of possession and he wants revenge on Riddle for the betrayal of the pact they made."
"What? Chilotha is still here?"
"Yes. I haven't spoken to the thing in a decade, but I know his foul presence still lingers, though his sanity, if he ever was sane, is now even more in doubt."
The other important fact recently imparted hits you like the Hogwarts Express. "Did you just say Possession?"
"Si. He will come for you in your dreams and take control of you."
"Everyone has been having bad dreams, but they stopped today. So we're fine right?"
"Oh no, I am afraid not my young friend. Chilotha wouldn't stop trying to pick at your defenses unless he already has one of you under his thumb. You are in grave danger. He will cement his grasp on his pawn and then most likely kill you all. Have you noticed a change in one of your friends?"
You take a deep calming breath. Panic is not very productive. "Shit! It must be Collins. He's been acting strange for the last couple of days, last I saw him he seemed normal enough. I've got to get back there and warn them!"
"Wait! You must know what to look for! Chilotha's remaining Horcrux is a rod topped with the visage of a Couatl. He will have it near him to help him fully control your friend. You need to destroy it first."
"How do I do that?"
"Can you cast the Avada Kedarva? It should remove the soul fragment from the item."
"Yes, though not very well."
The statue arched a marble eyebrow at you. "Then senor, for your sake, I suggest you get better at it quickly."
You start to leave, but he shouts at you again, "Stop! Before you go you must learn something. There is a dead man down the hall locked in the bathroom. He has something to tell you."
"What?" You have no time for this.
"The Inferius is Chilotha. He has a series of runes inscribed on his deformed bodies. They are written in Toltec. Up on the roof, I have a tome of Toltec Runes and Rituals. The runes will tell you the secret of this place. Do you understand what I am implying?"
"I don't have time for this! I've got to get back there."
"Then you will die a fool rushing into a situation you are not prepared for. Chilotha was almost three hundred years old. Is he remarkably powerful? I've seen only a few more powerful than him, but he survived mainly by guile. You'll need every edge you can get. He won't be expecting you to be able to Apparate. If you know the secret, you will be able to as well. It may already be too late for your friends."
The statue did not know how close that comment hit home. Odd time to be thinking about Sirius, isn't it? Last time you rushed in and someone paid the price. This time, what do you do? Chilotha would be able to Apparate. You'd be at a disadvantage. If you know the secret, you would have an edge he won't expect. He also doesn't know you've met De Soto, and he hasn't made his move yet."
You make your decision and hope it's the right one. Landing next to De Soto, you mutter, "Fine! Where's the fucking dead guy? We need to hurry."
"The bathroom is down the hall - the third door on the left. It is the one that is blocked by the furniture. Now that I have both my arms again, I can restrain him, while you copy the runes you need."
When the biographers write about the hopefully long and happy life of Harry James Potter, you hope they are able to skip the part about you and the statue of Hernando de Soto, in a bathroom wrestling with a frail, but surprisingly strong dead thing that looked as much snake as it did man. It has all the makings of some outrageous joke. The purpose of this ridiculous task is that you could copy ancient runes from its withered, decayed and naked flesh. It's not shaping up to be one of your finest moments. You can't even imagine what Rita would write about this!
You bind it with ropes as the statue puts its foot down on the creature's chest. You craft a quick lighting ward that allows you to see better. The bathroom is in surprisingly good shape, carved marble sinks, decorative inlays on the stall doors, bronze or copper fixtures, a long mirror covering half wall and of course, a thrashing dead thing in the middle of the floor.
"Where are the Runes?"
"They are on both arms and the back."
"So we don't need the legs, right?"
"No, we do not."
"Lacero! Lacero! There that's better. Now pin its arms down on the ground. There that's it. I'll start on his left arm."
"If I may be so bold, Toltec is one of the few runic languages that one reads from right to left."
"Thanks. I guess I'll start with the right arm then. Let's flip him onto his stomach now," staring at his arse is only marginally preferable to the sight in front of you. "Give me a minute, I want to put a temporary alarm on the doorway. I'd hate for some of his dead buddies to wander up here."
"So, what is your name Englishman?" Again, not really a situation you had ever imagined, idle chat with a statue holding down half a naked Inferius in an elegant bathroom once used by the Ministers of Brazil. If you weren't so pressed for time, you'd probably get a good laugh.
You answer as you set up a simplistic flashing light alarm. "Harry Potter."
"It is nice to meet you, Harry Potter. Though I wish it were under better circumstances."
"You and me both, you and me both. So you know how to read Toltec right?"
"Si, but I have found I cannot read this sentence aloud because of the magic bound to this place."
"Say I wrote one rune at a time on different sheets of parchment."
"I do not know if that would work; we can try."
It takes fifteen minutes more to get the pieces of parchment arranged to form the sentence. "I still cannot say it. The magic must be preventing me from saying it. Do you have any other ideas?"
For a moment you toy with the idea of trying Legilimency on a statue, but that doesn't sound possible, plus you've only ever done accidental Legilimency. You'd probably end up with rocks for brains. "No, I guess I need to get the book upstairs. Hold his hands up and let me bind them. We'll go back to the Minister's office and I will levitate you to the roof."
You stand and stretch your muscles and walk away from the dead thing thrashing about on the floor.
In the corner of the roof, under a tarp, Hernando shows you his stash. He's got all kinds of things that he has salvaged from the city up here. When asked about the tarp, he mentioned that until recently, there were flying Inferi and they were attracted to shiny things and movement. "Early on, I managed to use my knowledge of the city to elude the Inferi. My preservation charm failed about ten years ago. Now, I am as vulnerable as any other piece of stonework."
He pulls aside a pensieve and sifts through a wooden crate containing a cracked foe glasses, a handful of wands and numerous books. He pulls one book out of the pile and hands it to you - Toltec to Spanish. It's never easy is it?
"Start translating and I will go back downstairs and find one of the English to Spanish dictionaries."
Forty-five minutes later, the third time is the charm. It helps that Hernando is able to find the right pages in the book for you, but not able to say the runes aloud.
The Enchanted City is located in Pico da Nablina.
Satisfyingly, the slips of parchment burst into flames. You know a secret. You know a secret. "Hernando, now that I have read it we should be able to say it since no one else can hear us. Where are we?"
"We are in the Enchanted City inside the mountain of Pico da Nablina." Oddly, this location is further North from the areas you had been searching.
"I need to go. If I am lucky, he hasn't made his move and I can get the drop on him. Do you have any last minute advice on fighting Chilotha? Is there any way I can get him out and save Collins?" You're grasping at straws, but you have to ask.
"Do not believe what he offers. He may try and play. He is a silver tongued devil. There is a chance that destroying the Horcrux will allow your friend the opportunity to expel him, but if your friend cannot evict the possessing spirit, there is nothing you can do for him." That is not really comforting; knowing what Dumbledore probably would have had to do if you hadn't kicked the fucker out of you.
You feel around in his pile of wands for a spare that gives you any response. Only two out of the seven do anything, but a spare wand is a necessity. You borrow the one that feels the best. De Soto tries to reassure you, "Your friend, he is already gone. I am sorry. When you see him next, look upon him as the enemy that he truly is and not the man you once knew. Do not be deceived, if he is still hiding his true nature; warn your friends and incapacitate him. Then you must find his unholy relic and destroy it."
"Do you want me to make you a Portkey out of here?" You take a hunk of rope and make one back here, since the rest will need to duplicate your escapades in the restroom. It's a shame that amongst the pile of equipment Hernando has amassed there are no Wizarding cameras, but there is that pensieve!
"I do not think one would work for only me. I will pack my belongings and start making my way towards the exit. With most of them surrounding the bank, I should be able to make it to the exit with little trouble. Should you fail, I must warn the people of this land that Chilotha has risen again. If you vanquish Chilotha, fly to the top of the cavern and light your wand. I will head towards your signal or back here. Then, I will tell you what little I know of where Riddle has placed his Horcrux. Vaya Con Dios, Harry Potter."
You grab the few Dragon bones you had managed to harvest before meeting Hernando. If nothing else they can serve as something to banish at Chilotha.
Your nerves are acting up on the broom ride back over the desolate landscape. How do you tell Kwan his partner has been taken over by one of the two Wizards responsible for the destruction of this place? How do you go back and attack someone that you have cooked for, dined with and fought alongside?
With no life-changing revelations forthcoming other than because you have no other choice, you bring the Dragonfly in for a landing on the second floor balcony. Walking into the empty office you feel a slight tingle. You just tripped a ward!
Jumping back you mount your broom and turn your glasses on. You recognize the basic scheme of an intruder alert ward. It doesn't link to any other runes. Hopefully, Bill set it, but being raised to expect the worst, you don't get your hopes up.
Trying to look as natural as possible, you land again and float the Dragon bone in front of you. You keep your glasses on and proceed cautiously.
There on the landing, it's a second ward. You don't recognize the pattern, but if you had to guess it is some kind of stunning or incapacitation. You walk back up and head across the building towards the other set of stairs. Meanwhile, you do a quick inventory of anything else you have. You have one fletcher's ward and one flaming spears of doom. You'd need the opportunity to point them at Chilotha and he's not likely to provide you the time. Too bad wards aren't mobile.
Then again, snakes are mobile and they can open their jaws rather wide, can't they? The fact you can order them around helps too, doesn't it?
You conjure two snakes and give them their orders and wedge the rune stones into their mouths. They slither into the pile of bones to conceal their presence, as you levitate the bone pile.
No wards on this landing. Nice to know the bad guy doesn't have every angle covered. You start walking down the steps and see that someone has been busy.
The teller's counter is gone. All of the team's equipment is pushed up against the wall. In the far corner there is a cage with four dogs in it. They are jumping up and down wildly and barking, but making no sounds - obviously silenced.
Over towards the entrance to the vaults, you see that steps and a platform topped with a throne have been created. You suppose that is what happened to the long counter. The Bulk Transfer platform is destroyed, but where are the Goblins? The answer is on the other side of the lobby, pinned to the wall. The scene is much like the one in the vaults below.
Collins is sitting on the throne. "Greetings, Harry Potter." His voice sounds different. He is wearing a decorative robe and has some kind of headdress on.
"Jake, what the hell is going on? What are you doing?" You decide to play it cool and not give anything away setting the bone pile against the wall and knowing that the snakes will keep their mouths pointed at the 'yellow haired man'. You keep your wand in your hand, but don't directly point it at him.
He rises and you see the serpent tipped rod in some kind of holder next to his throne. "I have had to borrow your friend's body for the moment. Allow me to introduce myself properly, I am Chilotha, once the Priest King of this city. I need your help."
"You have a funny way of asking." You gesture to the dead Goblins and the kennelled dogs which must be the rest of the party.
"You're a powerful, but young wizard. This body's memories tell me that. Your friends will guarantee your cooperation. The Goblins, well, I was doing you a favor. They were going to betray you, as soon as you located the treasures, despicable loathsome creatures. The irony is that they couldn't get the platform working." The wizard had a raspy laugh that sounded bizarre coming from Collins' body.
"Why me? Bill's a much better Curse Breaker. Kwan's better in a fight. Thundercloud has more experience to draw from."
"All true, but we have a common enemy Harry Potter. When he first arrived here, he called himself Tom Riddle. When he left, he shed that skin and called himself Lord Voldemort. He came here claiming to be a seeker of knowledge, and many fell prey to his charm. When he had partaken of all this city had to offer, he and his followers became the destroyers. I tried to stop him, but he bested me. You see the results outside."
Even in this situation some sarcasm bubbles to the surface, "So you're the spirit of a powerful wizard and you want to strike back against Riddle. He has quite a few enemies; some of them have even formed a club."
He ignores you, much like a boorish and pompous Dark Wizard would. "You told the others that you came for gold and glory, but I know different. You know about his Horcrux here and you seek to destroy it. I would have my revenge on Riddle as well for destroying the city I loved. We can destroy the seer glass together."
"That still doesn't answer my question. What do you want from me?" That's it, keep him talking and milk what information you can from him.
"You are too powerful for me to unwillingly possess. Willingly is another matter. With your power and my knowledge, we will bring vengeance to the pathetic worm who calls himself Voldemort. Join with me and we won't need your friends. I know how to banish the Daemon that Riddle summoned as the guardian of his Horcrux. I know how to beat the wards that surround the place he has it stored. Your friend is a mere neophyte compared to my knowledge of warding."
Did he just say Daemon? "There's a Daemon here?"
"Oh yes, and it is not one of the 'summon and allow to roam free' type of Daemons, like the one Grindlewald unleashed - the one that required Albus Dumbledore, Nicolas Flammel and Odysseus Bones to destroy. This one is a far more powerful one shackled inside layers of binding circles. If freed, it would ravage the land for hundreds of miles and take dozens of wizards to vanquish."
Holy shit! Never mind that, right now! Stick to the Dark Lord wannabe in front of you, "Say we destroy Riddle, then what?"
"Oh there are a few ancient Mayan rituals I know, that can possibly return me to my flesh. Our union would not be permanent. I merely wish to vanquish him and return here to rebuild this ancient and noble city. You have a thirst to learn and I am a willing teacher..."
Does he seriously expect you to believe that crap? He is just another in a long line of people wanting to use you. It's time to end this charade now isn't it? "That ritual wouldn't happen to involve 'Bones of the Father, Flesh of the Servant and Blood of the Enemy', would it?"
His eyes narrow, "Among other things, yes."
"You weren't his enemy, you were his partner. You're only mad because he betrayed you first. You know the warding protecting his treasure because you did it. If I had come down the other stairs and hit that ward, we wouldn't be having this conversation would be. I'd already be on an altar or something wouldn't I?"
"Ah more perceptive than Collins gave you credit for, perhaps you require more coercion - Avada Kedarva!" You instinctively dodge, but the green jet of lethal energy streaks towards the cage and strikes one of the barking dogs. It collapses. "Pity, I don't remember which one that was. Save your remaining friends boy. Your raw power will never beat me."
You're pretty sure you can cast that killing curse now. You trigger your concealed wards and will the snakes to attack. Concentrating on the other side you Apparate, "Avada Kedarva!" Your bellowed cry sends a bolt of power directly into the rod. It explodes in a shuddering blast and a blinding flash of energy.
Chilotha screams as you Apparate into the cage collapsing in a heap amongst the dogs. You try to shake off the wave of nausea passing through you and pull the rope out of your pocket. "Portkey! Everyone bite the rope. Activate!"
The pull of the Portkey yanks the four of you away back to the roof of the Ministry building. You're still shaking from casting the killing curse.
With a trembling voice you say, "There are wands in a crate under the tarp. I thought I saw a few brooms in there too. Let me see if I can dispel this transfiguration. Finite Incantatem!" The first dog collapses to the ground and grows expanding to troll size. The next one turns into Kwan who scrambles towards the tarp.
You swallow the growing lump in your throat and make one final wave of your wand. Seconds later you are staring into the sad eyes of Lone Thundercloud. He opens his mouth to say something, but you are blinded and deafened by rage.
You scream in fury and grab the Portkey! Shock and raw hatred course through your veins. Thundercloud lunges to stop you, but he is too slow. "Not Bill! Not Bill! Not Bill! Activate!"
Reappearing in the cage you immediately Apparate out of it as a curse you couldn't even identify slams into the bars. You reappear by the bone pile and near the two scorch marks where your snakes once were and magically hurl the entire pile at him.
Chilotha's venom laden voice mocks you as your barrage of spells are knocked aside like twigs, "You insignificant maggot, do you know what you have done? In the few moments you have left, consider what words you want on your tombstone." He's limping slightly; one of your wards must have drawn some blood. You're planning on drawing more - a lot more.
Fleur's tear streaked face flashes before your imagination. The anguished and accusing looks on the Weasley's faces join hers in condemning you. Your best friend is dead and this motherfucker is going to pay!
Author's notes - Well there you go, the pace is picking up and things are certainly getting harder. The horde of Inferi seems like such an annoyance right about now compared to a would-be Dark Lord and a Daemon waiting in the wings. Join me on DLP and FFA for discussion of this story. I chose De Soto over Pizarro because he seemed more interesting. Vaya Con Dios until next time...