If there was anything that Ainz Ooal Gown missed the most about being Suzuki Satoru it would most likely be the ability to enjoy food. The undead racial trait of not needing food or sleep was a great boon back in Yggdrasil, but now in the New World he was really missing out on the magnificent sensation of taste and of a full belly. Still, it gave him a pleasant feeling seeing his ward/son enjoy a meal.
Having meals with Harry and Albedo had become a regular occurrence once the wizard started his education in earnest roughly seven years ago. To the members of the Tomb, it appeared that their lord was heavily interested in the young human's growth. In reality, he just wanted to never forget the feeling of family. Too many things were taken from Ainz after the shut down of Yggdrasil, but Harry helped him to retain a few things about being human.
Being an undead, Ainz didn't get to feel the same range of emotions that he used to. He felt no remorse when taking a life, he felt no sadness for the people of Carne village when he witnessed their losses after the Slaine Theocracy had ravaged their population, and any time he did feel a spike of emotion his racial trait would return him to a neutral status. True, an overwhelmingly strong feeling could take a while to bring down such as the rage he felt after discovering Shalltear had been mind wiped by a World level item and had turned against one real exception to his racial trait, were matters dealing with the dimensional displaced orphan.
Somehow, whenever he dealt with the young wizard, Ainz didn't feel his emotions close off. After all, he could have simply dumped Harry with a human family and been done with it, but Ainz chose that day nearly a decade ago to take the boy in and raise him well. A choice fueled not by the memory of his friends like what drove him to Carne village, but by feeling true mercy and compassion for the then toddler; the research benefits of the other world's magic notwithstanding, of course.
"Lord Ainz?" Albedo's voice cut in.
The Overlord returned from his thoughts to the present.
"Apologies Albedo. My mind was elsewhere. Please forgive me."
"It is to be expected, father." Harry interjected, "You are a king with vast holdings. Many thoughts must hold your mind."
The almost worshipful tone in Harry's voice was no surprise, considering the largest influences in his life up to this point had all been programmed with fanatical loyalty to Ainz and the other members of the guild.
"This is the time that I have set aside for you and your mother," Ainz didn't fail to notice the smile the succubus had at that descriptor, "As such, during this time my thoughts should be focused on the two of you."
"We were just discussing the time table for Harry's birthday festival tomorrow." Albedo explained to Ainz.
"Mother, please. Tomorrow is more than just about me. It is a celebration to show that father's goal of a united world and coexistence between the heteromorphic and humanoid races is more than just a fantasy. It is possible and will one day be a reality."
Harry fervently believed in the dream that Ainz once shared with the young boy. Hearing the conviction from his adopted son would have made Ainz smile, if he had lips to smile.
"Oh? And the fact that the festival happens each year on your birthday?" Albedo countered with a smile.
"Pure coincidence. You cannot prove otherwise."
Ainz let out a chuckle at the banter between mother and child. Further conversation was cut off when a familiar cherp came to Ainz's ear. Placing two fingers where his left ear would have been, Ainz received the incoming Message.
"Pardon the interruption of your evening my lord." The voice of Demiurge came over the link, "But the ones seeking young Harry have arrived."
"I see. What is their progress?"
"They arrived with a party of ten. Solution captured one at the Anchor point. They will soon be reaching the first of the Playmates."
"Good. Remind the Playmates that these people, while they are intruders, are not to be killed on sight. We require these people alive and in one piece."
"I shall convey your instructions my lord."
With that the message cut off. Ainz turned his attention to his family,
"It seems that Albus Dumbledore has come to Nazarick."
With a motion of his hand, the Mirror of Remote Viewing drifted from its place on the wall and hovered before the Overlord. With another gesture, the mirror displayed the rescue team as they cautiously made their way through the halls of the first floor. Albedo rose to join her beloved in watching the people from Harry's native world. The boy in question was about to join them when the succubus shot him a glance.
"Finish your dinner, Harry."
"But mother…" Harry started to protest.
"You are still a growing boy that actually needs food. Now eat." His mother reminded him with a firm voice.
Doing his best not to grumble or roll his eyes, but obviously annoyed that he wasn't able to watch, Harry went back to finish his meal as quickly as he could. This was an important moment for him, and he didn't want to miss a single moment.
Severus Snape for the hundredth time questioned why he was here. He didn't want to be a part of this retrieval effort to get the Potter boy. There were better ways to spend his summer than delving into some dank, undead infested tomb to rescue the son of his worst enemy. Still, Albus had made it clear that the potion master's presence was "required."
Severus was smart enough to know he had made many enemies during his tenure as a teacher. Yes, his Slytherins loved him for making their lives easier; but the rest of the Hogwarts student population either hated him or had their dream jobs shattered because of his standards for the high level potion classes. In other words, he would have a hard time surviving if his position as a teacher suddenly ended. Severus knew that displeasing Dumbledore, the old man who could fire him, would not be in his best interests.
Now he was charging headlong into a vampire's den, possibly full of undead, like a dunderhead Gryffindor. The whole thing was not sitting well with the spy. Both the mission, and where it had led him. This tomb was too clean for being unoccupied for so long. There was not an errant cobweb, pile of rubble, or cloud of dust that characteristically accumulated in places that were unoccupied long enough to become a den to a vampire.
His studies into vampires seemed to indicate that while they liked places with a connection to death, the older ones prefered to dwell in places that they could truss up into a sort of royal court. Items such as tapestries, drapes, heraldry, and other such finery were used to demonstrate that they had been around for a long time and held power. Showmanship was an important part of the vampire hierarchy. This tomb did not fit any of that. The only thing that could count was probably that banner that hung over the stairs before they descended into the mausoleum.
"Does anyone else feel like we walked into the dragon's den?" Kingsley asked as he played the light of his wand over the walls of the tomb.
"Technically, we've walked into the vampire's nest, Shacklebolt." Moody interjected, his magic eye darting in every possible direction, "And we all had better remember that."
Severus decided to break his silence,
"Actually, it doesn't quite feel like it. Nothing fits traditional vampire behavior-"
He was about to start his explanation when the werewolf noticed something on the ground.
"Everyone wait." Lupin commanded from his spot in the forefront of the party, "Look."
Remus pointed his wand to the ground in front of the party and there they were met with a gruesome sight. A humanoid figure lay spread eagle on the stonework. Strewn on the ground next to the figure was what appeared to be a staff with a fist-sized crystal embedded into the top. It wasn't the sight of the body that was disturbing in and of itself; the sight that really disturbed the rescue party was a number of sizable roaches feasting on the corpse.
There were at least a dozen of them and each was the size of a house cat. The insects were so content in their meal that they didn't seem to even notice the humans as they feasted on the body. The disturbing sound of flesh ripping finally hit the ears of the wizards. Flitwick was the first to respond by sending out an unspoken spell that successfully scattered the offending bugs. The roaches scurried away, chattering in panic as they disappeared into the darkness of the tomb.
With the bugs gone, the younger party members moved forward to examine the body while the others kept watch. Remus and Kingsly had to bite back the bile that threatened to expel itself at the sight of a partly eaten corpse while Severus was desensitized after seeing what the Dark Lord was capable of doing when he was feeling particularly vindictive. Eventually, Severus voiced his opinion,
"We are not dealing with a typical vampire. This, " Gesturing to the body, ''was a woman. Female vampires are known to drag their female victims back to their dens alive to attempt to turn them. This body was left to be food for the bugs."
"There is also a noticeable lack of blood on the floor. Also, none on her clothes," Remus added.
"Poor girl was probably drained completely by a vampire and dumped here."
Clap! Clap! Clap!
The party were suddenly on alert when the slow applause reached their ears. Out of the shadows came a figure in dull gray full plate armor. A sword hung at their side and a shield fastened to their arm. Their face was obscured with a helmet with its visor down. From his shoulders hung a tattered black cape. All in all, the one before the rescue party could have blended in perfectly with the suits of armor that lined the halls of Hogwarts.
"Well, well, well, you do have some brains among you. After you left that man at the Anchor we were uncertain if any of you were intelligent. Now, it is apparent! There is at least a third of a mind among the youngest among you!"
The voice coming from the armor was male, but it sounded off for some reason. The party was stunned for a moment at the appearance of this individual, allowing him to continue speaking.
"Your deduction is correct. This intruder was drained of every last drop of blood and left here for the roaches when she refused my lady's gracious offer of becoming one of her brides. Such a foolish young woman. She could have held onto her youth and lived forever in lavish comfort. Yet she refused! Insisting that she would rather die as a human before living as a monster. Oh, how it ached me to hold her still while lady Shaltear executed her. Such a waste. Such a waste."
The stranger then drew his sword and leveled it at the party,
"My name is Sir Daniel Fortisque. I am charged with protecting this tomb from intruders by my lord. However, instruction from my master compels me to allow all but one of you to pass. Make your choice now and be quick about it, lest I grow impatient and strike all you down here and now!"
The knight emphasized his declaration by driving the tip of his sword into the floor. Silence greeted the challenge for a brief moment before the most battered member of the group hobbled to the forefront,
"All but one of us, eh? I'll take you up on that."
"Alastor?" Dumbledore questioned.
"You need speed for this mission Albus. I'm only slowing you down right now. Go on ahead, I'll double back and rejoin Croaker when I'm done here." Moody said to the headmaster.
Solemnly Albus nodded before motioning to the remainder of the rescue party. Cautiously, the group moved around the mysterious knight and further into the tomb. With the rest of the group safely away, Mad-Eye Moody spoke up.
"Now then, you wish for a bow or do we just jump into our little bout?"
Fortisque pointed his blade at Moody in response,
"You carry the scars of many battles, old man. You should already know my answer."
"I would not claim to understand the mind of a pile of bones."
This statement made the knight pause. After a moment the helmet was engulfed in a flash of blue flame. When the flames cleared the helmet had vanished, leaving behind a clear view of the Fortisque's visage.
A skull of bleached white bone now exposed to the world greeted Moody's real eye. The lower jaw was missing, giving the skeletal knight an almost comedic look. The look was offset by a pair of green lights glowing within the otherwise empty eye sockets.
"Interesting. I am curious how you found that out. Tell me, is it that odd eye of yours? A magic item that allows you to see through solid objects, perhaps?"
Alastor Moody didn't respond with a word, rather with a slash of his wand. An angry jet of fire shot at the undead knight. The defender of the tomb dodged out of the path of the flames, equipping his helm as the fight began.
The undead warrior was fast, but years of dealing with dark wizards ambushing him made Alastor Moody quick to react and already had a follow-up spell leaving his wand. A nebulous blast of sickly green and yellow energy shot from Moody's wand and was on a direct course to hit Fortisque. Moody thought the spell would make contact, but then the skeletal knight's body radiated a black aura as Fortisque yelled,
The spell splashed against the dark aura. Fortisque let out a grunt of effort when he felt the spell trying to take on him.
"I see. That spell carried a status effect. The pain I felt in my body must mean that it was meant to shatter my bones. A status effect I am not familiar with, but will admit would have been successful were it not for my fortification. Will continue to monitor."
Moody was somewhat amazed by the skeleton being able to shrug off the bone breaker curse in such a way. The wizard didn't get to contemplate this or the odd statement the skeleton made when he saw an emerald colored glow cover the undead's blade.
"Wind Slash!" Fortisque called out, bringing his blade across in a wide sweeping motion.
Alastor cast a shield charm on instinct and that well trained reflex saved him from being eviscerated by a green beam of energy that shot from the undead's blade.
'Intelligent undead that can use some form of magic? Albus, just what did you lead us into?'
Hello everyone and welcome back to It Takes a Tomb. I apologize for my disappearance from the writing scene but I have too much buzzing around in my brain between work and discovering new fandoms to explore. I really need to make a junk file to empty out these ideas to and then adopt them out. Anyways, with any luck my life won't prevent me from knocking out the next chapter soon and I can provide more entertainment for you all. Until next time, remember to Read, Review, and Redistribute!
Next Time: The Playmates of Nazarick