Part 1 Edit
Can be found here.
Part 2 Edit
The wizard in a dark uniform leaned back, disappointment etched on every feature. “One. Go.”
Dumbledore felt a faint sting at the side of his neck, like a wasp had just landed, then torn away. He raised an eyebrow.
Grindelwald shrugged one shoulder, a lazy motion. “Simple first. Modified arrow charms?”
Dumbledore arose, wand dropping into his hand from the depths of his sleeve. His opponent remained seated, embodying an extreme lack of concern. “Strike at me, if you wish. It will not do you any good.”
Wand raised, Dumbledore sent his power surging into a new wordless incantation – then stopped. Grindelwald’s reaction hadn’t shifted an iota, even the smile had remained frozen in place. A deliberate action, he realized. And one that made for problems, many problems. “Homunuculus?”
The smile stretched into a wide parody of joy. “Ah. So close, but well done, I wondered how soon you would catch on. This is an advanced form of golem actually, an old Semitic recipe. That fool of a leader chose to exterminate far too many of magical blood – he makes the Pure-bloods in your home country look positively enlightened. Who knows how many secrets lie locked behind blood purity boundaries?” The pensive look shifted into one of anticipation. “No matter. I assure you I am enjoying this experience immensely. Two. Go.”
The artificial man’s hands clapped twice. At the sound, half a dozen people, dressed in long robes exited the chateau behind which Dumbledore stood. “Allow me to introduce the Order of Chrysanthemum, an exchange program if you will, something I hear is popular in the colonies. I sent a half-dozen of my best lieutenants to my colleagues in the Orient, and they have sent their elite; a special order with a muggle equivalent, I believe.”
The six spread across the grounds at a sedate pace. Their faces – what Dumbledore could see of them – were serene, placid. If it weren’t for the emblem proudly displayed on their robes, or the unique weapons they were wielding, he would have suspected individuals under the influence of a calming draught potion. Yet the whisper of magic he could detect failed to register any potion at all, other than an apparent need for the gentleman on the far right to counter a stomach problem. The ingredients were enough to make an eyebrow threaten to lift but not quite. Being an alchemist had its drawbacks, at times.
“This shall be interesting ….” Grindelwald’s simulacrum folded its hands beneath its chin, studying the scene intently.
Dumbledore extended a hand, closing it into a fist, sinew bulging along the length of his arm. A pulse of raw Magic rippled across the tea set. Living beings would feel disoriented, inanimate objects would feel nothing. Something in-between however, neither sentient nor senseless, suffered greatly.
The simulacrum shattered without warning, shards of clay firing across the open garden. Dumbledore had just enough time to see the golem’s eyes widen before the haze of runic signatures flared into fading color.
Anger resumed its place. “I have no time for this.”
The lead mage bowed, his motions echoed by his entourage. Expressionless, his hand laid upon the hilt of a blade resting at his side. “Sensei Doomble-dohr. I am vehy sahy, but you may not pass.”
A vein pulsed above Dumbledore’s right eyebrow.
As one, the six foreigners extended an arm, long wooden staves coming to a rest from some hidden pocket. He could see the trademark Seals, Oriental style magic, on segments of clothing – while Western magics focused on manipulating energy as it flowed, the Oriental fashion dictated preparation and sudden release. The society as a whole still kept their swordsmanship as well; disarming an opponent took a literal meaning with these folk.
“I have,” Dumbledore’s arm rose, a beckoning gesture. “No time.”
Fawkes hurtled from the sky, landing on Dumbledore’s arm. The firebird glared, flames sprouting from his wingtips, but made no move to attack.
Dumbledore gave his familiar a confused look. “Fawkes?”
Screeching, starting in normal hearing but ascending to heights that made dogs howl in pain, echoed from the sky. Dumbledore risked a glance skywards, where a second dot circled. Unlike Fawkes this bird had dark coloration, power billowing somewhere around its head. Clouds that had been nowhere in sight before were growing around its form, looming in darkening colors like the mountains he’d seen in the far West.
The screech repeated itself, growing in power, related to the clouds he realized. The Japanese mages appeared to reach the same understanding; one took out a seal, breaking it on the ground. A shield equal to Dumbledore’s own appeared, silver-hued but a matte color.
Fawkes hummed, and for a brief moment Dumbledore had the strangest feeling that the Phoenix had a satisfied look in his eye. Then he blinked orange-hued flame.
They’d been Flame-Transported a fair distance off; he could see the town’s edges, but from a great height. His feet touched solid support, but it was the support of an ancient bell tower, one high enough to provide a vantage point across all of Valenciennes. Squinting brought the stubborn shield into sight, further than anticipated, but more to the point, much further than he’d expected in the first place. A simple Earth-Rendering analogue would have defeated the shield, followed by a Flame Whip for starters, and perhaps a short skirmish. Not to denigrate the skills of his opponents, but none could match his power.
The familiar eyes did not blink, focused on the non-reflective silver shield.
A third screech, this time loud enough to make the stone tremble, scorched the sky. Lightning bolts, each thicker than Dumbledore’s leg arced from the flying bird, hammering against the shield. First a single bolt struck, the characteristic ringing gong nearly drowned out by the thunder.
Then several bolts landed in quick succession, thunder rapid-fire detonations almost as disorienting as the bright flashes.
Dumbledore held a hand before his eyes, dropping a quick protective charm in place. When his hand lowered, he could see lightning fall again and again, pounding the silvery surface with furious impact. He could also see figures moving inside, vaguely setting up more shields, protective forces native to their land – powerful, but inflexible.
“Gorgeous, ain’t it?”
Whirling, Dumbledore almost brained a man he hadn’t realized stood behind. At the last second his modified hex twisted to one side, spiraling off into the sky.
“Much obliged,” the grizzled mage tugged a forelock at Dumbledore. “Warlock Adams, at your service. That’s Libby up there. ‘Ope you wouldn’t mind if we took a crack at those squinty-eyed bastards. Save your strength for the Big One.”
Ritual-enhanced brainpower sparked in Dumbledore’s mind. “American, the Warlock Adams? Of the Revolutionary fame?”
A faint smile shimmered across the old wizard’s face. “My squib brothers took care of politics. I handled the magic side ‘o things. Fought a Dumbledore at White Plains, fella nearly fried my ‘ead he did. That you?”
“I – spent a year in the Colonies,” Dumbledore admitted after a moment’s thought. “I left after White Plains, my father had died shortly before and – never mind.”
Adams almost smiled once more. “Well, always good to see an old foe become a new friend. Been running the military side ‘o things after Old Man Steubens popped his clogs. Was about to retire when this dust-up started. Figure,” he paused, watching a particularly bright bolt penetrate the shield before the defensive measure resumed. “Ah, what a sight. What was I saying? Oh yah. Figured I’ll be leaving things to the younger generation. Once you hit your second century, things start to move faster than you do, aye?”
“I expect so,” Dumbledore’s mind kept firing, calculating alternative actions, focusing on Grindelwald once more. “Is that a thunder bird?”
“Aye indeed,” Adam’s pride was obvious. He smiled a grin bright enough to reflect the lightning bolts now hurtling downwards in a constant stream. “Libby. National symbol she is; what, you think they’d use a fish eagle for a national bird? Carrion eater. No, thunder bird is the thing. Bald Eagle is just a cover-up. Damn Franklin was always too smart.”
An old sense returned to Dumbledore, one he hadn’t used in over a century. Fawkes picked up the change immediately, turning to look in the same direction.
Not noticing, Adams kept up his commentary. “Yeah, Libby and I have a bone to pick with these lads. Had friends in Pearl y’see –“
“Thank you.” Dumbledore fixed his eyes on a particular tower in the distance, one that throbbed with an old power. The power itself felt – expectant. Magic behaved like water, like stone; it held purpose and desired to complete that which it was designed to perform. Magic in the hands of Grindelwald always held a unique flavor, a sort of smoking umber smell, if proper names were necessary, or a strong fire raging beneath the seeming-dead nature of burned out trees. That was what he needed to prevent: a resurgence of the forest fire before it could rekindle. Another conflagration on a scale like this ‘World War’ …?
The firebird lifted off, hovered for an instant, encasing the both of them in flame. The flame died away, leaving Dumbledore to see the top of a hill, a tower set upon its pinnacle. Yet the dark-garbed figure was not on its peak as Dumbledore half-expected – instead he was near the tower’s base, laying down defensive wards.
“Gellert,” his wand sketched a preliminary offensive pattern. “Give up now.”
The Dark wizard flicked his own wand outwards, still uttering the final phrases of his previous spell. A wave of magenta light flowed outwards, building into a short wall that rose every second.
Dumbledore lowered his stance, opening his mind. Arithmantic equations flowed, evaluating probabilities, estimating his surroundings. The ground was old, older than the town itself; therefore it had to come from elsewhere. The fossils resonating to his senses within the earth weren’t native to France, or even Europe – they felt lost, torn from their home, further proof of the same. The tower itself needed closer examination.
He felt himself moving, the partition allocated to closing distance with the barrier guiding his body in that task. Another partitioned segment, focused on assessing varying threat levels, maneuvered defensive spells from Occlumancy-enhanced memory. Never the same spell twice, always tailored to the attacks weakest point. Tertiary dividers further delegated situations as they arose, giving him more and more time to react.
The tower looked foreign-built. Construction methods appeared of French origin, but it was French in the same way that a Krup looked like a dog. There were miniscule variations throughout the lines, like the builders followed directions in exacting detail, but did not precisely retain the proper feel. The last time he’d encountered such discernment was at a museum, arguing the provenance of claimed Atlantean artifacts. He’d been right, and the con artist had been forced to reveal his secrets, but to perform such a facilitation on a scale this grand? Only a wizard on par of himself or Grindelwald could have done it.
Had done it.
This tower was no French relic, it was a failsafe.
Logic concluded, Dumbledore re-focused. The glowing wall had reached head-height, rising higher. An old cantrip, developed in the Druid fight against the Romans in what would become Frankish territory sprang to mind. He cast it, feeling the power flow.
An instant later he rose into the air, leaping over the wall like a gazelle. His off-hand swept a dispelling aura, knocking aside wardings like cobwebs. Several snapped, writhing deadly forces in unpredictable circuits – but from patterns Dumbledore had memorized what felt like a lifetime ago. The dormant memory division flared to life in his mind, recalling the wards creation, countering them all with a single complicated pulse. Entertaining, almost. Any other wizard would have needed to split his focus between surviving the wards, or surviving the fall.
Grindelwald’s mask cracked. Civility had been his shield, Dumbledore knew that, but it only controlled the beast within. “You ruin everything, Albus! Everything!”
The Ritual-enhanced mental partitions joined forces, devoting greater brain-power to the task at hand. New subdivisions formed, watching the walls, the ground, examining each rune and scratch for hidden traps. A secondary division, newly created, activated his half-glasses, enchantments allowing perception through obscuring magics. Multiple traps, more subtle than the Egyptian famed curses but less powerful for that fact, revealed themselves. Instantly the mind directed more resources to identification.
“You ruined yourself!” Dumbledore’s wand spat the dracincendi curse at his former friend. Its heat, second only to fyndefyre and dragon’s breath, warped the stones shape. As soon as the curse’s fury passed, the stonework reformed. New curses sprang to mind, and he used them all; Nordic, Greek, Abyssnian, altering their cadence with every breath. “You had a chance. No more.”
Black magic radiated from Grindelwald’s hands, penetrating the ground within the light-purple walls. Skeletal hands reached from widening cracks, pulling hard bodies free. While perfectly silent, the sound of calcified remains clicking on stone filled the air with a ghastly chorus, a hollow sound, the flesh of the damned rending itself into service one more time.
“Do you know how many magic-related casualties have occurred in this blasted war?” Grindelwald shouted over the din. The rage seemed to have passed, bordering on civility once more – another quirk Dumbledore recalled to his regret. “Those muggles have mastered killing, they’ve practically turned it into a science!” Another burst of ghost-transparent magic hissed along the ground, spurring on the bony figures. “I daresay less than thirty percent were from magical cause. I’ve spent years burying them here. Years Albus. Those poor souls down in the camps, trenches filled with the bodies from the last Great War, the potential is nigh endless!”
Dumbledore cast an encircling charm, withering sunlight vaporizing the remains. Transfiguring the dust into more objects was child’s play for his expertise, and a touch of Alchemy lent them additional stopping power.
Grindelwald met the charge of a dozen pseudo-horses with concentrated blasts from the Elder Wand. Ordinary Transfigurations would have smashed against the power, but Alchemy triggered a secondary reaction: the horses crumbling forms released a green-tinted gas, the wind blowing it towards the Dark wizard.
The gas failed to phase the Dark wizard, who dispelled it with a negligent gesture. That gesture turned into another attack, blending the action of one incantation into another, itself woven into three separate chants that could be understood multiple ways, if one listened to the wrong point. That had been his forte, Dumbledore remembered. Always a deceptively simple way of performing the complex; the reduced difficulty was matched by decreased power, but Grindelwald had never lacked power.
Neither did he.
“Enough!” A chaining sequence launched, Transfigurations combining Alchemy and charms in the off hand, Dark and Light curses emanating from the wand. Grindelwald batted them aside, levitating the odd skeleton into his path, quick enough to continue his own offensive despite the oncoming attack. Dumbledore increased the tempo, adding flame whips to encircle their battleground, a field growing increasingly small as the magenta walls drew closer.
“Albie?” A soft voice pierced the din of sickly groans and harsh lights. “Albie, play with me Albie.”
Despite himself, Dumbledore turned – and beheld true terror.
A girl, less than four feet tall, holding a large stuffed dragon smiled at him hopefully. Light radiated from her features, infusing his heart with a joy he’d not felt in years. “Play with me Albie! Make the bubbles, you know? Bubbles!”
“Ariana ….” Dumbledore stumbled. Pausing for one heart-breaking moment.
The cherubic face morphed into hatred. “I hate you! Go away! I hate you!”
Pain erupted from his chest, driving Dumbledore to his knees. The short girl drew back, loathing in her eyes. “You’re never here! Mommy’s tired, and Abby says you’re off with that man again. Why do you hate us? I hate you!”
Lightning coursed through Dumbledore’s veins. He couldn’t breathe; all his attention focused itself on one last attempt. To make her see, to ask – no. Beg forgiveness. “I – I’m sorry. I didn’t mean….”
“It doesn’t matter!” the girl’s face shone a different light, no longer hopeful. Faint, wet tracks traced the outer edge of her eyes down past her cheeks. Hair, caught in the wetness, grew dark, sticking to her face. “You only think about yourself. You don’t love me. You don’t love mommy. You hate us. I hate you!”
Something – was off. Dumbledore looked down. Metal, a dark gray material stuck out of his chest, a little left of the sternum. Hrefner, his mind helpfully identified. A dwarven-forged metal, equal to goblin-steel, but far more receptive to runes. But the pain emanating from its tip was nothing compared to the pain caused by the sorrow in his mind.
Slow thoughts trickled through, concrete thickness but colder than ice. Where was his logic? Arianna hadn’t spoken like that. Her condition prevented all but Aberforth from eliciting more than monosyllabic sentences. It had been a trick. A deception Gellert would pay for if ….
He looked down again. The blade tip was melting. Heavily cursed materials faded after their intended purpose had been accomplished. Dumbledore’s eyes tore themselves away, looking for the wizard responsible.
Grindelwald stood in the doorway of the tower, touching a rune-set with his wand, a vicious snarl on his face. “You took everything from me. Not again. Never again. I’ll start again, but not from bare bone beginnings, oh no. I have an empire I can call upon now. Enjoy your time with family. It’s what you betrayed me for, isn’t it?”
Rage flickered in Dumbledore’s heart, weakly beating against the walls of his mind. But he felt so tired – so exhausted. A glance at Arianna’s shade, her face still offered comfort even when so twisted, but she was gone once more.
That broke him.
He’d been through Hel, searching for magics to aid his fight. Dumbledore had waded through demonic morasses, filled with the fire of vengeance. Magical creatures ranging from dragons to harpies, Dark Wizards and their minions couldn’t bring him down. A full decade had been spent eradicating necromancy in a valley five square miles wide, a place teeming with flowers that spoke honeyed lies – they’d merely made him laugh at each attempt. The strange arcane knowledge from shaman expanded his mind, taught by kindly men in places no sane wizard would dare to walk.
But this ….
Another burst of pain ripped into his heart. Dimly, he realized his right shoulder now lay in mud, skeletal hands wrapping around armored robes, sharpened tips digging deep.
Norway had been hard; sub-zero temperatures mixed with forge heat, where Queen Hel had reigned. While Dark, she’d been pleasant enough, teaching all that came what they desired to know of her realm. It was from there Durmstrang had obtained their charter, long ages past.
Dumbledore felt that same chill beginning to regain its hold. His fingertips couldn’t sense the ground any more, a biting cold that spread up his arm.
“Albie,” cool mist brushed across his forehead. Arianna’s face peered back at him. But this time she was translucent, every tear gone, but a pale imitation of what she’d once been. “It’s okay, Albie. I’m waiting for you. Mommy’s waiting. Daddy’s waiting. Come home Albie … don’t you love us?”
“Gellert – damn – you ….” Dumbledore ground out. A fel light, magic at its most basic, the most primal realm of existence, flared. Some termed it Accidental Magic, that mysterious subject understanding desire and interpreting it as best it could. Broken glass sliced at his throat, futile attempts to make his body hurt more than his heart.
To be continued ….
Part 3 Edit
Can be found here.
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