He was fourteen. No one paid attention to a thin, socially-awkward boy, especially in crowds of muggles. It had taken the full extent of his powers to reach Cork, Ireland. From there it was a simple matter to walk eight miles, slip through the lines, and enter Caisleán na Blarnan. To the common eye, he was just another sightseer, a passenger allowing tide and time to buffet him about, desperately trying to gather direction from an uncaring Fate. Insignificant, like them.
Tom leaned back, studying the walls in a way he doubted any other wizard had done in centuries. As he pondered, a passing ghost caught his attention. Faded, even by ghostly standards, it drifted on its self-appointed mission, sagging chain mail and torn cloak obeying a twisted form of gravity. It glided over the rough stone cobbles, ignoring the crowds, floating across the outer garden beyond the castle’s walls in the most direct route possible. Tom watched it vanish into the opposite wall, a faint ripple giving a hint to its departure.
That prompted more thought, who else could see such a thing, even amongst wizards? Among the elite even, whom would memorize the ghost’s path, deduce its purpose, and the object of its undying passion? Such mental gymnastics required a unique blend, of belief and skill. That was the sum and total behind Magic; if you believed, and had skill, nothing was beyond reach. Carefully, he closed his eyes. Wandless magic, even by a prodigy such as himself, required careful focus.
Tom was the youngest individual in five centuries to master Mage Sight, a simple spell that required a complex mind. What’s more, he’d managed to incorporate it wandlessly; not as showy a display as a reducto perhaps, but an incredible tool in the right hands. Its utility was particularly sweet for a young man forbidden the use of his wand, due to underage laws created by hidebound Lords, restricting Magic to their own Lines.
Irritation simmered beneath Occlumancy shields. Tom had mastered its first two ranks by age twelve; who wouldn’t cherish a wandless magic that rendered Legilmancy impotent? It was fortunate that young lordling had mentioned it during his first Sorting; the Sorting Hat had been most helpful – its attempts to guide him away from the art gave the clues needed to find sufficient reference material. Convincing the librarian to allow him access to the Restricted Section hadn’t worked, which had lead to Muggle materials, secretly written by the ancient wizard Simonides of Ceos. That had lead him to the Memory Palace concept, and a few clues scattered throughout Hogwarts. A delightful challenge, were it not for the condescending attitudes driving him to seek solitude.
The Room had been useful as well, Tom knew that full well. It just hadn’t been essential. Even now he tried to limit his usage of the place. It promoted lazy thinking – but he had only five years left. Access to everything he needed, everything crucial to making informed decisions about his future could not be ignored, and the Room did not possess everything in the Restricted section. Some curses – or wards – prevented materials from being copied. Or transferred. Or whatever it was the Room did. Once Tom knew more, he would give an entire month to study the Room. If only he could acquire one of the legendary Time Turners!
Nodding to himself, Tom began. Touching the side of his face, a harmless gesture to Muggles, he activated his Mage Sight. The ancient castle he now observed, was a structure of middling age – by his standards. Hogwarts had stood for centuries before this place had been built, yet this place held secrets of its own. He could sense it, see the patterns through Mage Sight. No builder would arrange a three-fold curtain wall, cross-filtering an optical illusion based in Futhark for nothing.
Vague memories guided Tom through the paths unseen by Muggles, from an ill-fated field trip by the orphanage when he’d been six. Over half of the Castle was well-hidden from their non-magical, uncaring eyes; the Stone had been too much a part of legend to erase fully, efforts by the powerful had elected to devote their energies elsewhere; a mystery for another time. The Stone should have been moved to a safer location, but history and obstinate Light members had ensured it remain. Moreover, curses had been deeply entangled within the Stone, laid down by the Druids, before the Romans had brought their wand-based powers to bear. Curses made without wands were a marvel in-and-of themselves, worthy of his attention without the promised benefits.
Tom let himself be carried with a crowd of magicals, loud, flamboyant people with no vision. The chattered loudly about inconsequential things, inviting him to join the discussion – which held no appeal. That was his problem, and his presence was the solution.
What had been made could be broken; what was raised, brought down. Tom had known that truth since his earliest days at the orphanage. Nothing stood forever, except what was absolute, and extraordinary. He would perform the impossible, and live doing it.
Tom took a moment to examine the Muggle filled grounds through an enchanted wall. It was easy, since the muggle grounds actually encompassed the castle wall. None questioned why the paths looped on themselves, the tourists merely chattered like monkeys, pushing themselves on pre-ordained roads set by their superiors. Of course they would deny such a thing, but therein lay the beauty of it all: hidden directives, disguised decisions, and what they perceived as ‘free will’ more often became ‘because.’ Lower minds claimed to be free, yet followed each other like sheep, making the same decisions others did – and when those decisions were helped along with a touch of judicious magic, it ceased to be chaotic and became something wonderful.
Tom had wondered at that, in his more naïve days. Then he’d witnessed the Oblivators at work, removing memories for the ‘greater good.’ The smirks they wore, their attentiveness to an attractive young muggle still confused under the effects of their , he knew what that meant. Similar looks had been on the faces of his tormentors back in the orphanage. Their actions, their lack of what others called empathy proved something: power allowed one to ignore so-called rules.
That was why he was here.
“Are you lost young man?” a matronly lady smiled down at him.
Tom stretched his memory, trying to remember how one should act outside his normal situation. That was his problem: everyone lacked intelligence, by his standards. How could he be lost in a place with so many tour guides? Or did she mean lost without parents? The variables involved grew exponential at each mental iteration, building off factors as he thought. In the end, he gave the woman a look he hoped meant everything was fine, and slipped away.
He needed to improve. That was why he was here.
[Caisleán na Blarnan, Observatory]
He’d been right. A castle as old as this held many secrets, and one of them was reserved for an individual as unique as himself alone. It’d been a crooked bit of masonry that had tipped him off, an etched snake. A member of the Family had set it there, only visible to one sufficiently gifted.
“Open,” he tried. The ebony snake twitched, looking smug.
Tom frowned; a different password seemed necessary. “Ssspeak to me, Ssservant of Ssslytherin!”
It flicked its tail dismissively.
The snake gave him an incredulous look. Somewhat self-conscious, Tom gave a return shrug. There had been no time to fully explore Slytherin’s Chamber of Secrets, there had barely been enough time to discuss Hogwart’s state of affairs with the Basilisk. It had been un-intelligent at best, obsessed with following commands and literal interpretations. Every rule was quoted ad nauseum, to be followed without question.
“What command do you ssseek?”
The tiny snake gave an approving nod. Its tail made a sinuous line, looping around to the mouth in twin repeating loops.
He understood. “Ssshow me infinity.”
It flattened, widening as it did. Dark shadows faded into view, widening the flat oval in rapid motions. In seconds a dark opening loomed before Tom, short enough to be mistaken for a shadow cast by a nearby sconce, yet tall enough for a diminutive man to enter.
For a change, Tom was glad of his youth. His growth spurt was just beginning, but had not pushed him upwards, yet. The dark opening raised more questions, but he set them aside in a mental bookshelf. It joined other questions in his Memory Palace, practically a library by itself. Why so small a tunnel? Why not a door? Arithmancy had discovered the concept of infinity long before Muggles, dating back to Archimedes; that solved the question of why the symbol had been used – someone had been a scholar of Archimedes.
The tunnel was short, less than five steps long. It opened to a square room, corners of equal length on each side. In the center sat a rounded Ritual stone, surrounded by pillars embedded within the walls. At the very top left side, to the west if his memory held, the runes encircled an older stone. That, was why he was here.
Legends had spoken of the Stone, tales from before the Romans. When the Muggle William the Conqueror had brought invading Muggle armies to Britain, he’d also brought crack Battle Wizards from the North; matching Alfred the Saxon’s own allies. The Stone had been William’s secret weapon, a tool to inspire troops and demoralize enemies at the wielder’s discretion. Entire armies had fallen to their knees before the Stone’s power, shaken to their core, too terrified to fight, or for the boldest, hampered by their weaker-minded allies.
How such a tool had escaped general notice merely confirmed the idiocy inherent within the wizarding world. Treasures more valuable than a hundred advisors lay hidden like gemstone dice, to be played with when in the right mood.
It made him sick. But that was why he’d come, in case the Wizarding world had proven as imbecilic as it seemed.
Tom reached into his pouch, a mokeskin. He’d read of the Stone’s power, and suspected. Mage Sight revealed ancient wards, deactivated for a time by a Speaker with the correct password; he’d be safe inside the ward schematic.
The power of the Stone though, that drew him. No mere enchantment, this legendary artifact had been created by Druids, using constructs less elegant than wands. They’d used staves and rituals to create this masterpiece, given a piece of themselves to ensure their descendants survival. It had worked, for a long time; even now, it gathered attention to the power stored within its depths.
Carefully, Tom used a brush to paint the runes on his own body. Transfer Rituals were tricky, but simple for a prodigy like himself. Thirteen year-olds completed more difficult rituals; not as powerful, but more difficult. He’d read of many, choosing some to retain for later, discarding others for the useless bits of garbage they were; who needed legs like a satyr? Music was a great gift, but trading an entire portion of one’s lower anatomy for a bit of pipe? Pan-based nature magics could be an additional bonus, but there were Druidic rituals that worked far better. Norse rituals would perform even better, primal things that granted command over air, water, or fire. It had been no wonder the Vikings had terrorized all Europe for centuries.
Preparations finished, Tom sat himself upon the Ritual stone, scanning every square inch. Its runes, directives left by the last user, indicated his suspicions had been correct. On this, his fifteenth birthday, the power would transfer far more efficiently. That ability to communicate, the gift of conveying enthusiasm to others, would be his. An inspiring presence, power to enthrall others, all the powers the greatest leaders in the past had possessed were a mere handful of hours away from being his own.
Tom rose to his feet, arms raised forty-five degrees, channeling wandless power in the same way ancient Druids used to do. His face turned to the artefact, facing west that the power flow would expand clockwise, co-currently around the Ritual ring. “Cloch na Blarnan. Tabhair dom an bronntanas!” The ancient construct glowed to life, responding to the old Irish incantation. No doubt some Muggle fool currently kissing the Stone would receive an inadvertent power boost that would kill him. Every gift had a price. Fools would be fools without help.
He would become charismatic. Inspiring. Incorporate the Gift to his body, ensure it remained there for every future version of himself that would remain; empires would tremble at his power, kings and potentates would leap to do his bidding. Such was the power of the Blarney Stone.
[ v ]Miscellanoeus
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