So here it finally is, the very first chapter of Carrow's next adventure...which has resulted in a surprising amount of research so far...
-Russian tanks of WWII
-Armored Personnel carriers used during the Yugoslavian conflict.
-Military radio call signs.
-Military radio procedure.
-British Police uniforms, mainly when did they starting having their names on velcro badges.
-British traffic police, which resulted in much watching of Road Wars.
-UK cars of the 90's.
This is just so far.
I would write a scene and then think, what would would they have, do, say in this situation? And it's always the little details that slip you up...
...well, I hope you enjoy this as much as I've enjoyed writing it. It will make all those strange looks I got while cackling with laughter to myself in Costa worth it.
The portrait woke from its doze with a start, gazing around in incomprehension as she took in her surroundings. Where in Merlin's name was she? Directly in front of the portrait frame was a stand filled with lit candles, and a brazier burning incense in a thick blue cloud. Nearby glints of gold caught her attention...only for her to come face to face with several dozen skulls, placed carefully on a rack specially designed for the purpose, most of them heavily decorated with gilded lettering and acanthus work, spelling out quotes in a strange form of Latin.
Across from her frame, she could clearly see a wide open space that could easily accommodate several hundred people, with an elaborately tiled floor, more gilded decoration on strong pillars, which flowed up to an arched and vaulted ceiling, lost in the gloom of the minimal illumination. On the other side of this space were more of the racks, partially filled with more of the decorated skulls; some of them looked as if they had been painted. Above them were dense paintings of...all sorts of things. It was too dark to really make out what was going on, but it looked repetitive...and violent.
Further over to the right, if she leaned forward as far as she could, she could just glimpse an altar raised up on a low dais, covered with a crisp white cloth, flowers and candles placed on it...and above, a heroic depiction of a man wearing heavy alien armour of a type she had never seen before...but it was the man's expression that sent chills down her spine...an expression of utter conviction that what he was doing was right.
She shivered with building apprehension as to where she was, to what had happened since she had died. "James," she hissed nudging her husband in the ribs, "wake up, you need to see this."
"Whuzat?" James muttered as he looked round blearily, quickly snapping awake as he took in their new home. "What the hell," he exclaimed, looking around in horror. "Lily, what's happened?" he asked. But Lily shushed him, pointing to the gigantic hooded figure that had entered this...whatever it was. Their surroundings became increasingly visible, as the light levels increased, light glinting off gilded statuary and decorated skulls, animated paintings of epic battles to the death, rivers of gore and the literal mountains of corpses...
James grimaced as the wall-painting directly opposite them was revealed to be a blue armoured monstrosity, who methodically disembowelled a tentacled horror with his bare hands, in a rush of sticky green gore...
"That is disgusting," James muttered, curling his lip in revulsion. Lily elbowed him in the ribs again, as the hooded figure came to a halt in front of them.
Any misgivings Lily had had were further reinforced as, for the next half hour or so, the darkly shrouded giant prayed in front of them in a deep and booming growl, a string of prayer beads running through his large and deft fingers, the light glinting off the ruby eyes of a particularly ugly skull ring. Lily couldn't help but notice how remarkably like knuckle bones the prayer beads looked. The giant finally left after renewing the incense and candles.
"We're in a chapel of some kind," Lily whispered to James, bewilderment colouring her voice. "Why? What on Earth has happened?"
James shrugged helplessly. "I must admit," he whispered back, pushing his glasses up his nose, "I thought Moldyshorts had won, and we were some sort of...trophy, but listening to that lunatic...my Latin's a little rusty, but I think we might be an object of veneration." He looked at his wife with an incredulous frown.
"I wish you wouldn't call him that," Lily muttered back.
"What?" James asked, bewildered.
"Moldyshorts!" she glared. "It's trivialising the whole war doing that...not to mention potentially dangerous."
James chuckled at the familiar argument, gently putting his arms around his beloved wife. "You know me," he grinned down at her, "got to put the "fun" into fundamentalist."
Lily harrumphed crossly at him, folding her arms.
"But you do agree with me about the veneration thing?" he asked, resting his chin gently on the top of her head, smiling as Lily leant into him.
"Yes, I do," she whispered, "I think we might be honoured ancestors...I wonder how much time had passed. This isn't the Wizarding World I remember, and some of those wall-paintings were using muggle style weapons that looked really high-tech...but really old at the same time..." she trailed off, as the sound of clicking footsteps trailed up the Chapel, the light levels increasing once again...but it wasn't the giant returning.
Lily and James watched in horror as a hideous...thing strode up to the main altar. A curious hybrid of gilded filigree and old yellowing bones, blue glowing runes trailing along their lengths, it walked upright on backward jointed knees and taloned feet. The...thing paused in front of the main altar, crossing its hands across its chest and bowing its head, its glowing eyes flickering momentarily.
They watched as it dusted the altar, tended the candles, and refreshed the flowers. Stepping back, it hissed a series of prayers in the same garbled Latin as the giant...and then its horse's head turned towards them, its eye sockets filled with blue bale-fire. James and Lily cringed backwards as the creature approached.
"Oh Merlin, what the hell is that supposed to be?" James gasped as the gilded monstrosity brandished a feather duster at them.
Whistling happily to himself, a spring in his step, the God-Emperor of Mankind strode into the coffee shop, a folder stuffed with papers under his arm. Even the parchment letter tucked in among them couldn't dampen his good mood. What a fantastic holiday that had been, he'd actually got to see his pocket fusion engine in action...and it had worked perfectly.
Cappuccino in one hand, cinnamon bun in the other he went and found a seat nice and comfortably out of the way. Some people liked window seats where they could sit and watch the world go by but he much preferred a little quiet corner where he could contemplate and think and doodle...
Ah perfect...he sank back with a contented sigh stretching out his legs and sipping his coffee...the past week...oh, that had been incredible. He'd agreed to visit the research department at Aquila Industries at the invitation (more like pleading) of Mr Carrow's personal secretary. He'd been rather dubious at first but the more he thought about it...the letter had been requesting his assistance in testing a vehicle, apparently a surprise present for Mr Carrow.
Unsure as to what he was going to find, the God-Emperor had arrived at the non-descript building, Victorian industrial gothic if he was any judge, on the outskirts of a little town called Godric's Hollow...to be greeted with awe and excitement by the over enthusiastic and motley team of scientists, engineers and... wizards... witches...magical people who made up the research and development team of Aquila Industries...who had built several working models of his pocket fusion engine, had adapted and developed it further, and now had tasked to...driving a motorbike...and such a motorbike.
He had had several long and involved discussions with several of the engineers of the problems the suspension alone had caused them. The actual bike itself was heavy and bulky, built to withstand the brutal punishment only someone like Carrow could dish out. Carrow was also not exactly a light-weight, and when his armour became involved... The God-Emperor sighed wistfully; he really wanted to have a closer examination of that armour, just a little peek. Really, descriptions and pictures just didn't do it justice...
...and so the engineers had resorted to looking at systems used in extreme vehicles, 60 tonne super-lorries, dumper trucks used for open-cast mining, the transporter used to move the shuttle to its launch pad...the list went on and on, as they put together something that would survive Carrow. It wasn't pretty, but it worked...and then they miniaturized it...and that's before they even got on to the special tyres...the special alloy they had developed for the ball bearings used in the drive system...
...and then he got to test-drive it, he smirked to himself. It wasn't often he came across a vehicle that was actually capable of coping with his real physicality but this came very close. Blocky, ugly and as belligerent as the man it was designed for, it handled like a wild animal, as he test drove it, putting it through its paces, gave feed-back on its performance and assisted in any adjustments and fine-tuning...
...though it had been very amusing when the magical staff witnessed him using his pencil wand, he chuckled round a mouthful of cinnamon bun, yes, they'd got rather upset about that, as if it were against nature, but as he'd pointed out to them it worked perfectly well and it was always handy for the crossword...
...all concluding with the road-worthy testing for the DVLA. Testing the stopping distance had been particularly fun and really showed off the braking system Frank and his team had put so much effort into designing...
...it had been one of the best holidays he'd had in years, he'd made so many friends. Maybe he could order a bike for himself particularly if he offered one of his inventions as a form of payment, his anti-gravity device was coming along nicely...for surely a custom built motorcycle like that would cost a pretty penny...
He sighed heavily as he finished the last of the bun and pulled out the parchment letter that had been delivered only this morning by Fawkes. Waking up to a swan-sized phoenix attempting to snuggle into the crook of his neck had been disconcerting to say the least.
He eyed the address on the front with a heavy sigh. Mr God-Emperor, Geneva, Switzerland, written in iridescent rainbow coloured ink that shifted and changed as he watched. If purple ink had been the bearer of bad news, he dreaded what this eye watering stuff indicated. Maybe Carrow had managed to accidentally destroy the world while he wasn't looking. Gingerly, he opened it...
...and I fear greatly that Mr Carrow gained his new role within our government through nefarious means...
...pushing through legislation of a rather controversial nature...without consultation of the wider Wizengamot...
...furthered his personal agenda...
...and due to a steady number of articles in the Daily Prophet supporting and promoting his position and political views, I believe that he has somehow conspired to subvert the press to his will...
...insisting on all potential Ministry personnel sitting an entrance exam to ensure a high standard of applicants...
...Oh...no. Just infiltrating the British Wizarding Government and subverting and twisting it to his will. What mad idiot would give Allesandor Carrow a role like that?
"Hey Jon, fancy hiding in a corner like this," an overly cheerful voice loudly exclaimed as someone plonked themselves noisily down in front of him, "had a nice holiday? Topped up your tan? Met any nice birds?"
The God-Emperor looked up with a mental groan, trying discretely to hide Dumbledore's letter from view. Marvin, why did it have to be Marvin? He was just so brash and loud and...good at what he did, make no mistake, but if he were a fabric design, he'd be bright orange paisley; subtlety was not a word in the man's vocabulary.
"Ooh, bird trouble, eh?" Marvin loudly exclaimed, spying the letter.
"Err..." the God-Emperor began, but Marvin interrupted.
"Chocolates, that's what you need," Marvin nodded sagely, "girls love chocolates, the more expensive the better...or you could try flowers. A nice big bouquet of roses and all will be forgiven. Hold on, I can give you the number for this really brilliant florist!" Marvin fished around in the pockets of his coat.
The God-Emperor groaned.
It was late afternoon, as they carefully worked their way through what might have once been an olive grove. The gnarled and twisted trees looked ancient, casting long and eerie shadows across the ground. It was definitely the sort of place that should play host to at least one tree nymph, Timothy thought, as he carefully edged forward, Browning at the ready; you could practically see faces in the texture of the bark watching them, peering down at them from every tree... every branch...
He mentally gave his over active imagination a good kick; the last thing he needed at the moment was to be jumping at shadows.
"All right?" Wulfric murmured softly behind him. Timothy turned slightly to look at his sort-of-friend and second in command. Dressed in khakis and sludge green, Wulfric stood out amongst Carrow's retinue and their unrelieved black. How the werewolf had managed it, Timothy didn't know, considering Carrow's over-bearing tendencies; he suspected it might have something to do with a whole series of colour-changing pranks that had occurred not long after Wulfric's arrival, but he didn't want to pry, being reluctant to poke a potential ant's hill of trouble. There was only so much danger he wanted in his life.
The combat rifle Wulfric was carrying, tucked up close to his chest, was a potential new product for Aquila Industries; if it passed the field tests, of course. The Cadia IV was an ugly object, looking like the offspring of a Sten gun and an AK-47. So far it had performed well, not jamming, and even working when Wulfric (in a fit of utter stupidity) accidentally dropped his in a mud filled ditch.
Timothy grimaced in reply. "Surviving," he muttered back.
Glancing round, he checked the position of the others. The new people seemed to be coping reasonably well (but then the rotting corpse hadn't hit the fan yet); the ex-soldiers had been slightly surprised, and a little concerned as to the legality of what they were doing, but had taken to sloping around the war-torn Yugoslavian countryside like ducks to water. Having Carrow as a boss probably encouraged them too...
The possibly ex-SAS man (but he wasn't admitting to anything), who insisted everyone should call him Chuddy, had been a little reluctant about the ladies at first, and highly suspicious of Carrow, but Timothy had caught him teaching Juno and Athena, the two definitely ex-army ladies some particularly vicious knife tricks a few days ago, so hopefully he was getting used to them.
Juno and Athena were...well, getting on like a house on fire was a pretty good analogy. They seemed to take great delight in trying out any new equipment or prototypes the R&D department threw their way. Both were currently carrying prototype energy weapons as part of their equipment on this mission. The bulky combat rifles were currently displaying an irritating tendency to overheat, though the slugs of plasma they produced when working were devastatingly effective, melting through metal, plastic, people...even concrete to a degree.
All of them had been personally chosen by Carrow.
Just a month previously, at Carrow's insistence Timothy had place an advert for "security personnel" preferably with military experience, in "Guns and Ammo" magazine. He'd weeded out the time wasters, the inexperienced, the ones likely to commit suicide from prolonged contact with Carrow, the ones who might instead go berserk. These were the absolute cream of a very motley bunch, though Timothy had thrown a few wild cards into the mix...just in case.
The two dozen prospective candidates had been rather suspicious, wary and more than a little puzzled when their follow-up interview turned out to be combat based...in a wood...with air rifles.
"Your task today is to find Mr Carrow," Timothy announced as he paced back and forth in front of them, leather great coat swirling around his ankles, "and," he grinned, his scars pulling oddly, "attempt to bring him down." He gestured to the wood behind him. "Mr Carrow is not armed, and he's very keen on seeing you all in action. Well...go and find him."
The interviewees stared at him as if he were mad.
"If you need medical attention, just make your way back here." He gave them a reassuring smile. Some of the more sensitive individuals winced. "I've got a first aid kit in the car."
Reluctantly, the interviewees began to make their way into the wood.
"Rich idiots," a short wiry man with a moustache muttered to himself as he went past shaking his head. Chuddy, Timothy thought he had said his name was.
"You know, that probably isn't the best way to have your first meeting with the Big Boss," Wulfric commented idly as they watched the innocents disappear among the trees.
Timothy hummed to himself. "What's the likelihood we'll have to take some of them to A&E?"
Wulfric just laughed.
And then Wulfric and Timothy were alone, with just the breeze in the trees and the chatter of birds for company. So now here they were sitting in the Hummer, drinking coffee and watching the woods for anything, any sign at all. It was both boring and nerve-wracking at the same time.
The Hummer...Timothy ground his teeth in frustration. All he'd wanted was a car, something small and unassuming, a run-around that wasn't too expensive to run or insure...and then Carrow had to stick his giant fingers in...Timothy hissed angrily to himself unaware of Wulfric's concerned looks...
Sudden movement among the trees caught their attention, as a small huddle of people slowly approached. Piling out of the Hummer Timothy and Wulfric went to meet them. Slung between the dark haired woman and the short wiry man with the moustache was a blond mouthy idiot who had told anyone who would listen that he was ex-SAS; both of them were struggling to conceal their amusement at their fellow interviewee's current state, semi-conscious, mud down the front of the man's previously pristine fatigues.
"Tripped over a tree-root," the wiry man explained with a grin.
Closely shadowing them was Hermione Granger, toting a man-portable mini gun of all things, her demeanour focused and serious. He'd actually had an argument with Carrow over her presence in the mission; a war-zone was no place for a fourteen year old girl, but Carrow had calmly pointed out that he'd been even younger, only twelve when he'd first encountered war, and killed in combat, so he really couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Timothy had backed down in the end; getting Carrow to change his mind was an act in futility, and so he carefully watched after Ms Granger, looked out for her, helped her with her training so she would be as prepared as possible. Heck, he liked the girl, she was like the little sister he'd always wanted, the person he felt closest to by far among Carrow's merry band of misfits, and he was blowed if he was going to allow any harm to come to her.
The last member of his little band...Timothy sighed heavily, closing his eyes in exasperation. Nigel Bradely certainly knew his way round a radio and could practically talk in Morse code (much to Carrow's delight), a form of communication that Carrow claimed was virtually sacred to the "Mechanicus" that he sometimes violently ranted about. But the gangly youth was just so...irritating, and the nasty case of hero worship wasn't helping either.
Timothy grimaced in annoyance as they sidled round some abandoned farm buildings. Solidly built in stone, they appeared to be empty, but appearances could be so deceiving. Bradley's audible "ouch" as he stubbed his toe really didn't do anything for his nerves.
The outhouses turned out to be part of a complex of buildings including a farmhouse, a barn full of arcane farming equipment, a hay loft, an empty stables...all of it deserted, the only sign of life the sad corpse of a dog chained up and unable to escape, now nothing more than a bag of bones. But there were no signs of panic or of a quick and frantic exit, nor were there signs of violence, of blood, of executions...of disturbed ground.
Timothy could feel the hairs on the back of his neck rising, his stomach churning with anxiety. Something was very wrong here...but what. He exchanged looks with Hermione; young as she was, she could sense it too...
"We aren't staying here a moment longer...take nothing, not even water," he announced to his people. Chuddy and the ladies gave him strange looks, but accepted it with minimal fuss.
"Why no water?" Chuddy asked him, as they carried on down the rocky hillside. "Do you think the occupants were...poisoned, or something?"
Timothy eyed him a moment. "I'm not certain...but I do know whatever happened to them was probably unpleasant in a ...numinous sort of way. It could have come from anywhere, been introduced via numerous ways, so best not to disturb anything."
Chuddy eyed him thoughtfully, though his unease at the situation was clear to see. Chuddy had not been happy to find out about the existence of magic. It wasn't the magic itself per se, it was more the idea that others could use it against him and he wouldn't be able to fight back against it. Timothy felt rather sympathetic towards him, and so their code to skirt around this rather sensitive subject had been...numinous.
"You'll be fine," Timothy reassured him, "most wizards are horrifically unfit, and they never consider the killing capabilities of non-magical weapons."
"So I'm supposed to rely on their innate arrogance, laziness, and complete lack of imagination," Chuddy muttered dubiously.
"Pray you don't meet a muggle-born like me; we tend to be more... resourceful." Timothy smirked at him, giving his cavalry sabre a comforting pat.
Chuddy snorted sarcastically at him.
And that was when they heard the gun fire, a rattling crack-crack-crack followed by another, and a small explosion. Timothy slowed their approach, signalling for the utmost caution as they made their way down the steep hillside, working their way from tree to tree, rocky outcrop to rocky outcrop, the sounds of combat ever louder, accompanied by the sounds of engines and increasingly shouts, angry...pained...
Just past a sharp bend on the road, pinned between the steep rocky hillside and a precipitous drop was an armoured personnel carrier, most likely an FV432, skewed slightly across the road. In front of it lay a battered and smoking wreck of a vehicle. It might once have been another personnel carrier, but life had not been kind to it. Currently, it was being used as cover by a rag-tag group of men in broken-down uniform, soldiers turned bandits.
The passengers of the ambushed vehicle were making these bandits pay for their temerity with their blood, and, despite the bandits' greater number, would have succeeded had it not been for the rust bucket of a tank that had snuck up behind them. Only a madman or someone with nothing to lose would try to get such an unwieldy vehicle along such a twisting, treacherous road.
Timothy scanned the furious fire-fight with his binoculars, trying to assess the situation as quickly as he could, taking in the battered vehicles, the dead bodies strewn on the road, some surprisingly familiar faces. He frowned distractedly; where had he seen them before? And then a heart stopping moment...Matthew...his brother...this was his brother's squad fighting for their lives. Well, there was really only one thing he could do given the circumstances.
"Wulfric, take Juno and Athena, and take out that tank...with extreme prejudice. Wait for the signal," Timothy commanded, his expression grim, "Chuddy, Granger, Bradley...you're with me..."
He led them further down the slope, behind the bandits' APC, and then carefully down onto the edge of the road, sheltering behind fallen debris that hadn't been cleared in the normal way; there was too much chaos for anyone to care about moving fallen boulders from a country road. Timothy quickly outlined his plan to the others, who readied themselves for the fight to come, Bradely looking pale, checking his rifle once again, Granger gripping the mini-gun, her expression determined and grim, Chuddy..."I don't like this, they're UN peace keepers, we're just civvies who shouldn't even be here," he muttered, clearly unhappy, Cadia IV clutched to his chest, bayonet already in place. Timothy stared at him from behind his stony expressionless mask.
"Your objections are duly noted," he muttered back stiffly, "now get into place."
As they quickly crept across the road and took their places, Timothy drew his sword and clicked the speak button on the Tandy walkie-talkie twice. The blue of warp-fyre began to play around his fingers; it was the only type of psykery that he'd managed to master so far...but so useful. The whine-zap-crackle of the energy rifles quickly followed after.
"Now," he hissed to Granger. Bracing herself, the girl opened fire into the backs of the bandits who had taken shelter behind the damaged APC. Taken by surprise, they were cut in half, staggering, falling, blood and gore splattering up the vehicles, across the road, over their stunned and reeling brothers-in-arms who turned desperately, trying to bring their weapons to bear...
Granger fell back, and as they came forward, he threw the warp-fyre with a flick of his wrist, quickly gathering more, the crackle of the others' rifles around him followed by more quick controlled bursts of the mini-gun...
...and then they were on them, and his sword leapt forward, impaling a surprised youth with a rusty AK-47 clutched in his hands. He kicked the boy's body away, threw fire into the stubbly unwashed face of another man, slashed across the stomach of a third who screamed a horrible bubbling sound that would haunt Timothy's dreams for months, ducked under a rifle butt, stabbing another in the throat as he tried to lunge past...a vague impression of Chuddy stabbing someone in the stomach with his bayonet, shooting him in the head as the bandit went down, clutching the gushing wound...another bandit, furious, bad teeth, screaming incoherently, trying to club him with his rifle...he ran him through...a ballet of slash and lunge and blue fire death, the stench of blood and gore and fear, screams and shouts and distant explosions, one so large that it shook the ground, and then...
...and then, it was all over. He looked around for the next enemy, circling on the spot, but only his people were standing, Granger kicking corpses, checking their...status, Chuddy with a glazed looking grin on his face, Bradley limping slightly, dazed...he breathed a sigh of relief...at least he hadn't got any of them killed...now to check on Wulfric and the others.
Timothy slowly and carefully made his way around the wrecked APC, carefully drawing the Browning as he did so, conscious of the fact that there were still-living muggle soldiers on the other side...hopefully...
...right into the face of a surprised and terrified man, broken down uniform, bad teeth...he shot him in the face, and then ran the one behind through with his sabre...but the next ones were ready, their guns in place, snarling in anger for their fallen friends...he twisted in space, a whirl of magic and he apparated behind them, one arm already bringing up the Browning for the kill shot, the man's face disintegrating in a wash of bone splinters and brain pulp...his sword found the other, dismembering him, running him through...he twisted and turned in space again, impaling another, a young one, terrified and pleading...a sharp pain as he brought the Browning round for the shot. The gun skittered off into space, and he turned, bellowing his fury, "Ave Imperator!" Wrenching his sword free, gathering warp-fyre around his fingers, he slashed across the screaming man's arms, and threw the fyre into his shocked face...which, enveloped with the unnatural fire, disintegrated in a wash of burning flesh and bone, the man's last terrible scream fading away...he turned on the spot looking for the next attacker, but...
Chuddy pulled his bayonet out of a prone body, and Granger joined in, checking the fallen for signs of life, and shooting anything that twitched, Bradely hanging back, Cadia IV at the ready, in case of trouble...
Timothy turned towards the UN vehicle, dreading what he would see, his frigid mask tightly in place. The soldiers of his brother's squad stood there, battered and bruised, but watchful, weapons at the ready. His brother stood among them, a graze down the side of his face, his expression unreadable.
"Oh look," one of the soldiers piped up sarcastically, "it's Timmy the Civvie."
Ignoring the stupid comment, Timothy strode forward, his face utterly rigid but his eyes blazing with worry, anger...
"You bloody idiot," he snarled at Matthew, "what the hell are you doing here? Do you know how dangerous this area is?" His face was pale with fury, blood slowly dripping off his still unsheathed sabre.
Matthew stared at him, mouth opening and closing rather like a goldfish. "Dangerous," he spluttered, "you're a bunch of civilians; just what the fuck do you think you're doing wandering around a war-zone?"
"I'm working, you fool," Timothy shouted back, "what the hell are you doing?"
Wulfric worked his way round the smoking remains of the tank, Juno and Athena close behind, his ears pricking up at the sound of shouting...but it didn't sound like fighting. He stared incredulously as he caught sight of the normally stoic and stony faced Tim red-faced and shouting at one of the soldiers, who was busily giving back as good as he got. But as he listened to the two, things became clearer; this was Timothy's older brother, Matthew the soldier...oh dear.
He sidled past Matthew the soldier's army colleagues, who stared at him and the ladies with varying levels of wariness and curiosity. Juno and Athena's proto-plasma rifles certainly garnered a certain level of interest as they sidled up to the shouting match, just as it started to get out of hand, Tim shouting something incoherent into his brother's face, while poking him in the chest. Matthew, wide-eyed and furious, didn't look as if he was going to take whatever the insult was lying down (something about irresponsible older brothers), and came back with fighting talk, "Just you wait till I tell mum!" he shouted back.
Wulfric sighed heavily; time to break this pair up, before they really embarrassed themselves. One of the soldiers obviously had similar ideas and so they approached the squabbling pair before they could do something really stupid.
"Tim...Timothy," he raised his voice over the shouting with little effect. Sighing heavily again, he met the eyes of his opposite number, a look of mutual understanding and exasperation passing between them. "INTERROGATOR FAULKS," he bellowed.
Finally Timothy jerked round, his eyes burning with fury and worry. "Your sword," Wulfric pointed out, "it needs cleaning."
Timothy flushed pink for forgetting something so basic, and stalked away a few paces, his great coat swirling around his legs, pulling a cloth from his utility belt and seeing to his blade.
"Corporal," the other second muttered, "what now?"
Matthew drew a shuddering breath as he watched his little brother, outlandishly dressed, looking like some mad left-over Prussian commissar, sheath his sword and accept his pistol back from one of his... team... colleagues... he didn't know what to call them...and what sort of title or rank was "Interrogator" any way?
"Who are you people?" he demanded furiously.
Wulfric grinned broadly. "We're the Inquisition! Nobody expects the Inq..."
"Shut up, Wulfric," Timothy snapped, straightening his dolman and adjusting his peaked cap. Back rigid, he glared at his brother and his squad, his stony mask carefully in place. "All you need to know is that we work for Mr Carrow, and we are currently completing a...task for our employer."
Matthew watched him with narrowed eyes, glaring at the members of his group, one by one. The obvious ex-military personnel, the man, wiry with a moustache, and the two women, cradling the strangest guns he'd ever seen...the lanky freckled youth...the grinning blonde idiot, who was strangely predatory...and a girl, a young girl carrying a...mini-gun...all but one of them in battered black fatigues and body armour and coal scuttle style helmets, that were obviously new but battered and scarred... and dpm bashas as cloaks..."And who are these people?" he finally asked.
"My entourage," Timothy replied stiffly. "Wulfric, my second. Juno. Athena. Bradley. Tho..." The wiry man with the moustache cleared his throat meaningfully. "...Chuddy. Granger. They work closely with me," Timothy finished.
They eyed one another silently for a moment...and then the rapid tapping of Morse-code stuttered over the radios...all of them. Bradely quickly pulled out a notebook, rapidly writing down the message before tripping over to Timothy. "Sir," he gasped, "Interrogator Faulks, sir, a message from Mr Carrow, sir." He breathlessly handed the slip of paper over.
"Thank you, Bradely," Timothy replied stiffly, ignoring the stares of the soldiers, and examining the message carefully, before destroying it in a small burst of warp-fyre. "Right," he looked round the others, before striding over to his brother again, "we'll remove the...blockage for you, and then we'll be on our way. Wulfric, if you would," he said flicking his wand out.
Matthew grabbed his arm. "Do you think that I'm going to let you toddle off in this area? Absolutely not! You, all of you," he pointed at Timothy's motley crew of hangers-on, "are leaving this area right now!"
"Absolutely not," Timothy snarled back, his hand on the hilt of his sword.
The two brothers glared at one another.
Matthew lunged forward but Timothy, honed by months of sparring vampires easily dodged him, pulling his Browning out and putting the muzzle to his brother's jaw. "Your mistake," his smile was a ghastly caricature, "and I think I've changed my mind. You...and your men, are coming with us."
Wulfric did a double-take, his expression increasingly horrified, "Tim...wait, Tim, what are you doing?" he hissed.
"Stop fussing Wulfric, they've got a vehicle and extra guns. I have a suspicion we're going to need both by the end of this."
Barty Crouch looked around nervously, as he stuck his head round the door (or was that a hatch, he was unfamiliar with boat nomenclature) that led on to the deck of the ferry, the Dark Lord Voldemort, or what passed for him these days, firmly strapped to his chest in a baby carrier, the matching nappy bag bumping his hip. He shuddered as he felt the contact of the box the Dark Lord had made him retrieve, filthy, dirty...he felt contaminated by it. What the Dark Lord wanted with the contents, he shuddered to think...it would be terrible, but great, of that he was certain. The Magical authorities appeared to be increasingly jumpy these days, and so he daren't risk the usual transport methods; International Floo was completely out, considering how well guarded it now was. He daren't try apparating across the Channel; he was a little rusty having not done so for so many years and side-along apparition with something as magical as the Dark-Lord's temporary golem body, the possibilities for splinching...it just didn't bear thinking about.
And so he had come up with a cunning plan.
They would travel to England the muggle way, on one of those ferry things to be exact, with the Dark Lord disguised (and here he mentally winced, what had he been thinking) as a baby.
A couple of confundus charms had allowed him to walk away from a "Mother and Baby" shop with the Dark Lord's disguise. The hard bit had been getting him into it; the death threats he had received had been of epic proportions. A few more confundus charms had got them past the muggle authorities, and their "customs", whatever that was, and onto the ferry thing itself. He'd hidden in one of the cabins while they left the land behind, but now...the constant rolling motion was starting to make him feel queasy, and so he was braving a walk around the deck. Maybe some fresh air would make him feel better. The day was bright and sunny, with small clouds scudding across the sky in the stiff breeze, the air fresh and crisp as he walked along, the cute bunny ears of the Dark Lord's novelty baby-gro flapping in the wind, accompanied by much dark and evil muttering from the carefully glamoured Voldemort.
Barty winced when he looked down at his precious cargo carefully strapped to his chest in the baby carrier. It had been what he could get his hands on at the time, and was as far from "wanted dark wizard" as it was possible to get, with its adorable bunny print on a pale blue background; even the nappy bag matched. But he knew that at some point in the future when the Dark Lord was able to arrange it, that he was going to pay for this, probably with parts of his anatomy. He shivered at the thought, though that could just have been the evil box banging his hip.
"Oh, isn't he adorable," an elderly female voice twittered happily by his left elbow. To Barty's utter horror, the elderly lady reached forward and tickled the Dark Lord's cheek. "Cootchy cootchy coo," she simpered. The Dark Lord Voldemort was so shocked by such treatment, that he actually fell into a stunned silence.
"How old is he?" the elderly lady asked, peering up at Barty through thick glasses. "I'm Gladys, by the way. Are you going to Dover too?"
Barty gave her a sickly smile as he realised the shivering of the Dark Lord wasn't due to cold, but pent up rage. Frantically looking round for a quick escape...he saw a nearby couple give him indulgent smiles, a little girl ran past, the hood of her coat bouncing with her movement...and there were absolutely no escape routes. When the Dark Lord finally regained his body, he was going to be so dead.
"I'm err...I'm Barty," he said, as he tried to sidle past Gladys, who had manoeuvred herself to block the way, "and ermm this is...Cecil...he's six months old..." he finished, smiling desperately, trying to ignore the funny gravelly noise, as the Dark Lord ground his teeth in rage.
"How lovely," Gladys simpered. "Hasn't he got an adorable pouty face," she cooed at top volume, going back to tickling the Dark Lord's cheek. Barty looked round frantically, as the Dark Lord began to mutter evil threats under his breath; maybe he could get away with cursing the old bat. The nearby couple grinned at him, before moving on. The young family of the little girl parked themselves nearby, their youngest in his push chair screaming at the top of his lungs.
"Is he a bit colicky?" she asked. "My Andrew had the colic something shocking when he was a baby. Poor little man...made him so uncomfortable, you know."
Barty grimaced in a way he hoped conveyed sympathy, though he suspected he just looked constipated.
"Oh yes," Gladys continued, blissfully unaware how close she was to having her fingers bitten off by an enraged Dark Lord, "Gripe water, that's what he needs. A big table spoon in his next bottle, and he'll feel much more the thing...won't you, little man," she cooed.
"I've got to, ermm...go now," he said, his mind frantically scrambling for a suitable excuse, "Cecil...ermm...needs his err...nappy changing." His chuckle sounded slightly desperate, even to his ears. The Dark Lord went rigid with fury so intense, Barty was surprised the cute bunny ears didn't spontaneously combust.
Gladys nodded understandingly. "Has ickle baby done a poo-poo?" she simpered, giving the Dark Lord's cheek a final pinch. Barty gave her a last sickly grin, and fled back the way they'd come, diving for the safety of the door and the maze of passages and cabins. Back in their cabin, he leant against the door with a huge sigh of relief.
"Cecil? CECIL!?" the Dark Lord shouted, in an awful shrieking hiss. "Was that the best you could come up with?" he screamed, as he thrashed in the baby carrier. "Get me out of this thing, I've had enough, do you hear, enough!"
The resulting struggle as the Dark Lord tried to thrash his way out of the harness, fighting Barty's efforts to free him, was both nasty and short leaving Barty with deep scratches on the back of a hand, and a patch of bleeding scalp where Voldemort had succeeded in pulling a clump of hair out by the roots.
Sucking the back of his hand, he watched the Dark Lord warily as he sat in the middle of the narrow bunk-bed, sipping his potion from a spouty cup, an unpleasant combination of snake venom and human blood. Still furious, the Dark Lord's red eyes blazed with anger. "We are never going to speak of this again," he hissed, taking another sip from the spouty cup, "understood?" He glared, narrowing his eyes dangerously. Barty nodded frantically.