A Bleeding Heart

Newt stood at the edge of the Baatara Gorge Waterfall and listened, eyes closed.

The roar of water tumbling over a cliff and falling two hundred feet to the bottom of the chasm was immense. It drummed a beat in Newt's heart until his entire body throbbed in time with the pounding of the water. A light spray misted across his face and dampened his clothing, a cool relief against the dry heat of the barren desert. It had been a walk of a couple hours from the closest town, not made any easier by the fact he'd not properly dressed for it.

He'd planned on riding a magic carpet, but unfortunately his recently acquired demiguise, Dougal, had claimed it for his nest. Newt couldn't have begrudged him that, or anything, really.

Opening his eyes, Newt peered into the gorge. Moss carpeted the three limestone bridges that arched across it at varying heights, like a patchwork of golden stone, dusky sediment and emerald green flora. A plunge pool at the bottom glittered aqua blue, still visible despite the murky depths.

It was beautiful.

The locals had warned him away, claiming that the cave system was haunted, and that none came back from a visit to the Baatara Waterfall. Newt had dined with ghosts, been taught by vampires and negotiated with goblins. A few stories weren't about to scare him off. This was a natural phenomenon of majesty; there was nothing to fear but tumbling off the edge of the cavern, and Newt wasn't close enough for that.

Of course, it was at that moment that he heard a shrill cry. A shriek bounced off the walls of the caves, the echoes drawing it out to an unnatural length. It was inhuman — almost certainly a creature, and one in pain.

That settled it for Newt. He unwrapped a loop of hemp rope from where he'd draped it over his body, and turned to his suitcase. Setting in a study spot upon the ground, he tapped it with his wand. The Featherweight Charm he'd re-applied last week disappeared with a pop and the sound of crumbling stone. Suddenly, the suitcase took on its true weight. He took it by the handle and yanked. It didn't move an inch.

Newt smiled and tied the end of the rope in a study knot around the handle. He tied the other half around his waist. It only stretched about twenty feet, but that was perfect. With another tap of his wand, the rope extended a foot. Newt walked to the edge of the cave, opposite the waterfall, and began the climb down.

The rock was slippery, and Newt had to stop periodically to remove his wand from between his teeth to extend his safety rope. By the time he'd descended from the top of the first bridge to the second, he was panting, sweat dripping down his brow.

Another screech sounded, and Newt tilted his head, trying to identify it. The closest creature he could picture was an Augurey, but an Augurey's pitch was lower, more melancholic.

He ran his wand over his fingers and palms, torn up from the rock. The skin healed pink and he knew he was just about to rip open the wounds again.

With a sigh, Newt began the second half of his climb.

The limestone grew far slippier, and several times Newt lost his grip. Eventually, he gave up, instead just extending the line as he abseiled down. His shoulders became well-accustomed to crashing into the rocky wall. He was bruised and sore by the time he made it to the bottom of the waterfall, having decided to power on rather than stop on the bottom bridge.

"Well, wasn't that an adventure," he muttered to himself, untying the rope.

A strange hissing noise caught his attention, and Newt crouched down, making himself as small a target as possible. It seemed to have originated from further within the caves. Without a second thought, Newt headed toward it, skirting the edge of the pool, wand gripped tightly in his fist.

As he walked deeper into the cavern, the hiss sounded again. Barely any daylight reached these depths, and he dared chance a soft Lumos.

"Hello," he said in a quiet, calm voice. "My name is Newt Scamander. Short for Newton Artemis Fido Scamander, in fact. I'm not here to hurt you, my dear, but I most sincerely would like to help you."

With each word he continued to step forward. All he could hear was the sound of his footsteps, and the occasional plink of water dripping from a stalactite. The rush of the waterfall was no longer thundering behind him, but a quiet rumble in the distance. He glanced about, trying to make out the flickering shadows in the darkness.

"My mother raises Hippogriffs, you see. I'm named after two of them. Magnificent creatures, with an eagle's plumage and the body of a thoroughbred horse. Almost as intelligent as a human, or so my mother would tell you."

Newt paused. Years of experience helped him tell when he was being watched, and the hair on the back of his neck prickled. He swiveled on one foot, and came face to face with an enormous eye several foot wide.

"Aren't you a beauty," Newt murmured, almost breathless with excitement.

The eye blinked.

Newt took a step back, and the creature moved forward almost seamlessly with him. However, Newt had seen enough to glimpse the indigo feathers and electric blue scales that marked the animal before him as an occamy, the plumage on the crest of her head indicating that she was female. Newt slowly raised his hand, offering it for her inspection, and met her gaze unblinkingly.

Sometimes, a little bit of trust was all that it took for a creature to give it in return.

The occamy's beak was warm, and Newt could feel snorting puffs of breath upon his face. He gently stroked, drinking in the sight of the beautiful creature before him.

"That's it, my darling. Easy now, easy."

The occamy groaned, a low noise that resonated deep inside Newt's bones. She chuffed, slithering back upon herself, winding her way through the maze of tunnels, hopefully having decided that Newt was not a threat. He followed her silently.

What he hadn't noticed before were the vicious gashes in the occamy's neck and torso. She was moving slowly, and her wings dragged behind her. They'd been ripped to shreds.

Newt couldn't hold back his pained gasp.

"Why?" he whispered, and then shook his head. He knew why; occamy eggs were made of pure silver, and prized beyond reason. He just didn't understand what would drive a person to treasure them above the occamies themselves.

The crunch of footsteps on dirt made Newt jump.

He was standing on limestone smoothed with years of water erosion — his feet hadn't made a sound.

"Who's there?" he called. The occamy had gone, slipping into a crevasse that there was no way Newt would be able to fit down. He'd take the time to marvel over their choranaptyxic abilities later. Instead, he turned, wand raised.

A soft chuckle echoed around the cave. "And I thought I'd be the only one with balls enough to come down here."

Newt narrowed his eyes, trying to determine the source of the voice.

"Is that, er, is that so?" he answered, eyes darting about.

There was a dark shadow propped up against a corner of the cave. Newt acted without a thought, sending a silent Stupefy toward the mystery man.

Quicker than Newt thought possible, the man deflected the attack.

"Feisty, ey?"

"Sometimes," Newt replied. He shifted behind a rock formation, and cursed his bad luck. Still — better that it was he facing off against the poacher rather than the already-injured occamy.

"Help me kill the beast, and we can split the eggs?" the man offered.

Newt kept stubbornly silent. Perhaps someone like Theseus could have bluffed his way through it, but Newt was a terrible liar. He rather thought it was one of his better qualities.

Moments later, the man chuckled again. "Oh, so you're one of those freaks; a bleedin' heart, and probably a bleedin' coward too."

Newt snarled, spinning out from behind the rock to met the man head-on. The caves lit up with the flash of spellfire, deflected curses scorching the walls.

"I'm going to smash the eggs to pieces, and melt down the shells," the man hissed, his face contorted into a cruel grimace. "Crucio!"

With a moan, Newt collapsed to the floor. It felt as if fire was coursing through his veins, burning alive from the inside. He screamed, writhing on the floor.

There was a fierce shriek and suddenly the pain stopped. He gasped for breath, pushing himself to his feet.

The occamy had attacked the poacher, sending him tumbling to the floor. She'd grown to full size, and was swaying before him.

"Expulso!" the poacher growled, tearing a chunk of flesh from the occamy's side.

"No!" Newt cried, even as the occamy lunged forward with a defiant screech. She snapped her beak shut around the poacher's upper torso. Newt could hear the bones snap, and blood stained the dirt. The occamy tossed her head side to side, shaking him as a cat would a rat, eventually throwing the man to the floor. He was dead. Newt couldn't regret it.

The occamy chirruped, and shrank rapidly down to the size of an anaconda. She curled in upon herself, occasionally emitting pathetic warbles.

"Oh, you gorgeous, brave beast," Newt said, slowly approaching. She blinked up at him but didn't seem to object. He carefully sat on the floor beside her, and tentatively stroked her plumage. Blood trickled from the gash in her side; Newt was not skilled enough to heal her. His gaze skittered away from the injury.

From a crevasse in the wall, a pair of luminous eyes peered.

"Dougal?" Newt said, with half a sob and half a laugh. Dougal hopped down, changing from invisibility to visibility in a heartbeat. He curled around the occamy and began purring.

The occamy curled its tail around Dougal's wrist and closed her eyes. Her turquoise scales faded to a dull blue and the minute twitching of her body stopped.

Newt blinked back tears. "It's not fair," he whispered. "I know that fairness doesn't govern life or death, but sometimes, I wish it would."

Dougal crawled onto him, wrapping his neck in a soft, fluffy imitation of a hug. Newt buried his face in Dougal's fur, and allowed it to soak up the tears that fell.

Dougal let him for a moment, and then gently tugged on Newt's ear to ask to be released. He pointed toward the entrance to the cave.

Freddie was snuffling along the ground. Dougal lolloped over and caught him by the scruff. Freddie wiggled, glaring angrily at the both of them, as much as a Niffler could.

"What mischief have you been up to, you rascal?" Newt said, his voice thick with sorrow even as he tried to smile. He turned Freddie upside down, and began to tickle him. A few coins tinkled out, and then Dougal's eyes flashed blue. He bounded forward, catching the last few objects.

In his paws sat five shining eggs. They gleamed like the moon; they looked like hope.

They were what the occamy had been protecting.

Newt gently caressed one. The surface was rough, like that of a chicken's egg, speckled electric blue.

"Aren't you a wonder?" he said.

He would protect them in the occamy's stead, be the mother they no longer had.

"Mummy's here," he whispered, holding the eggs close to his body. "Mummy's here for you now."

Word Count: 1960

QLFC Round 1 Keeper Prompt: Write about a magical creature I've never written about before.

Character Appreciation 8. (word) First

Book Club The Blue Man (colour) blue, (dialogue) "Fairness does not govern life and death", (word) freak

Showtime 2. (colour) silver

Lyric Alley 13. The only solution was to stand and fight

365 Prompts Challenge 77. Occamy

Insane House Challenge 308. (spell) Crucio

Crafty Cocktail Corner Butter (word) slippy