"Brother, wake up! Wake up!"
Al… Just give me five more minutes…
"I see some lights in the castle! I think they came back!!!"
It's still early and I spent all night working… and I don't wanna… Wait, Al? And castle?!!
Ed reluctantly opened an eye then turned to see who was trying to wake him up. He was a boy, fourteen maybe… dark haired and innocent-looking but he was definitely not Al!
"Come now, let's go big brother," said the young boy as he hurriedly started packing.
Extremely confused, Ed looked around him. He was in the countryside somewhere in a large, grassy area with a few trees dotting the low hills. It was night and the full moon gave just enough light for Ed to see around him. Far in the distance rose the dark battlements of an ancient castle overlooking a sheer cliff. Tiny lights glittered through the windows indicating that the castle was currently inhabited. Ed then turned to his companion who was all but finished gathering the rest of their things.
Ed was still sleepy, very confused, and growing crankier by the second. Hey kid, who are you? Why am I here? Where is this place… Then Ed realized he wasn't actually speaking to the boy. He wasn't actually moving his own body; Ed was within the mind of this boy's older brother… Great, just great! Another one of those weird dreams...
"Ready to go?" asked the boy. Ed willed the word, "No!" but again nothing came out of his mouth. Quite against his will, Ed felt himself standing up, now ready to go to wherever these two brothers were going.
Even though they had not been walking for long, they arrived at the threshold of the faraway castle in what seemed like an instant. Even though Ed could not turn his head to look up at the battlements, he felt the castle shadowing him, along with some strange eyes peering at him as he entered the castle. They ended up in a grand entrance hall dimly lit by the moonlight coming in through the windows.
"I don't think they're here," said the boy, "I'd expected to be welcomed but they seem to be a bit shyer than I imagined. Guess we'll need to wake them up."
Hey just wait a sec kid, who exactly are "they?" Some friends of yours? But of course the kid didn't answer.
They then walked down the enormous hallway, explored a few corridors, and went up a few flights of stairs. Everywhere they went, every corridor, room, or stairway, was dark and unwelcoming. If it weren't for the light of the moon and the many windows along every area of the castle, the two (Or three) would have been in complete darkness. Ed then wondered what happened to the many lights he saw in the castle not too long ago… But then Ed quickly shook off the idea. It's a dream after all. It shouldn't be realistic! But though he kept reminding himself that this was just a dream, everything still felt so real: the damp cold of the castle, the echoing of their footsteps, and the growing fear of impending danger.
But one thing that continued to bother Ed was how like Al this boy was. The two seemed to be the same age for one thing; they both had the same young, innocent manner; and the way this boy totally trusted his elder brother was like how Al totally trusted him. There was a familiar warmth between these two brothers. It made Ed wish his own little brother was right by his side that moment.
As the two continued their search, a certain apprehensive feeling kept growing in the back of Ed's mind. Though every place they explored was empty, it felt like a presence would appear in the shadows every time Ed's or whoever's eyes moved on to focus on a different area. Or that an invisible hand was reaching out to grab him from behind though he saw that there was never anything there.
Though the sensation bothered him, Ed couldn't do anything about it. He couldn't speak or even move to warn his companion, so he decided to wait and see what would happen. But it was just a dream anyway. A very realistic dream, but still a dream nonetheless. Ed therefore decided to sit it out and see what happened next.
"I think we're at the master bedroom," said the boy as he neared the end of the upstairs corridor. Ed came by his side and examined the ornately carved wooden set of doors. The boy pushed on the doors and the heavy oak wood gave with a loud creak.
Unlike the other places, this room was completely dark. The narrow beam of light let in from the open door fell on a few stacks of leather-bound volumes. The boy entered the room and went to explore while the elder brother, whose body Ed was inhabiting, also joined him. Whoever lived in this room was surprisingly neat. Thought the room was filled with various trinkets, everything was dust-free and organized.
Once Ed came to examine a large portrait of a child picking apples from a tree, the sensation that had been bothering Ed ever since the brothers entered the castle suddenly intensified. Ed immediately became aware of a faint bumping noise coming from the hallway. The elder brother noticed it too and turned to face the boy. The younger brother had grown unexpectedly pale and was holding a glass cup filled with some dark liquid in his hand. He whispered the words, "Brother it's still warm," and Ed instantly understood what was in the cup.
The bumping noise came to a stop at the doorway and an eerie silence filled the room. Then all of a sudden, they heard a strange voice in their minds almost like a whisper, "It is very rude of you boys to invade another's private rooms without permission." The boy looked at Ed then nodded. From within his cloak, the elder brother revealed a long wand while the younger drew out a medallion with a strange design on it, a transmutation circle!!! He pressed it against the wall and made a door. The two then ran.
While they were running in the hallway, the shadows seemed to follow their movements and try to grab hold of them. The older brother kept muttering some sort of spell and blasting the shadows with his wand to keep them off. The two then made it to the large entrance hall when the front doors slammed in their faces and the shadows surrounded them. The older brother fired as many spells as he could but still he couldn't keep all of them off. They were trapped!
A wicked laughter made from at least a dozen voices filled the hallway and echoed off the walls. The shadows gathered at the top of the stairs following the master of the castle as he slowly descended the main stairwell. Behind him, Ed heard the voices of many others sneering at them. The shadows obscured the master's figure somehow, hiding his true form though Ed knew for certain that he was coming to confront them.
The laughter came again then the same voice filled their minds, "It was very clever of you boys to defy me, but no mere mortal would ever stand a chance against our power."
The boy turned to his elder brother with a look of pure terror and hopelessness. He was sure that this would be their end. Filled with renewed courage, the older brother stepped forward and raised his wand, "It is not over yet! Purus aduro!!!" The room then filled with pure, blinding light. The shadows drew back while the master's underlings cowered in fear. With the shadows gone, the form of the master could be seen. He looked to be a man in his late twenties but this was obviously not the case. He was smiling, as if the brother's defiance was only amusing and not threatening.
The older brother could see that there was no way out for them both. They had gravely underestimated this enemy's power, both in numbers and in strength. It had been foolish of them to attack unprepared. There was then only one thing to do and it had to be done while they were still preoccupied.
"Run Daniel!" yelled the older brother.
"What do you mean brother?!! We can still fight!" the younger brother pleaded.
"I have to distract them while you escape! At least this way you can return and finish the job!!!"
"NO!!! I need you brother!!!"
"The spell is wearing off." And sure enough, the light went out plunging everything back into darkness. The master seized the opportunity and froze the two brothers so that they couldn't move. They stood there motionless as the master came up right beside them.
This time he spoke. "You foolishly entered our domain. The two of you will then pay with your lives. My companions are very hungry. It has been some time since they had last had fresh blood. They no doubt would be very pleased…" The others behind him stirred; even from there, Ed could feel their lust.
"However… If you don't wish to suffer that fate, I will give you a choice…" He then came to the older brother and whispered in his ear, "Join me, become my heir, and I will let your brother live. Otherwise you will both die here."
The older brother paused to consider the offer.
"If I agree, would you promise to let my brother go unharmed and never trouble him thereafter?"
"No, brother no!!!"
"Clever boy, but how would you trust my word?"
"I'll betray you if I sense any ill-intentions."
The master laughed. His voice rose in hysterics while the others echoed his maniac laughter. "I agree to your terms. You'll become a son unlike any I've ever had."
"Then we have a deal…"
"NO BROTHER!!! No!!! I would rather die! I would rather die than give you to them!!! Release me this instant you fiend!!! Release me and I'll send you all to hell where you belong!!!"
"Not tonight my young friend…" the master then waved his hand and they left in a cloud of smoke. The older brother cried once he saw the form of his brother disappear in the smoke. Inside he was terrified of what would happen next. He was afraid of what kind of monster he would become once these creatures had had their way with him. But still, deep inside, he was glad. He was glad for his brother who would have a second chance. He could grow up, become stronger, and reclaim their revenge.
If only he had known of the mistake he had made that day… The kind of being he would become and the kind of retched mess he would make of his brother…
Ed awoke when the sunlight came in through his bed curtains and fell on his eyes. Reluctantly, he looked around and hurriedly closed the gap in his curtains so that the rest of the people in Gryffindor tower would not see his automail. Good thing everyone else was still asleep.
Lucky bstards get to sleep as long as they like while I get up at the crack of dawn, even on a Saturday morning, to go to work… grumbled Ed.
It was now a few months since Ed had destroyed that centuries old research journal. He had been working for a while now at the Hogwarts library to pay off his debt. Two more months and he would be done. After that he could create some ingenious form of revenge to get back at that library hag. Ed reveled in the idea of it…
Ed did send a letter to the Colonel demanding enough wizard money to pay off his debt (Leaving out the details for why he needed the money). Of course the Colonel was no help at all, writing that they had yet to find where to acquire the wizard money. If they had known where, Ed would have already gotten the money. Ed suspected that the Colonel was being his usual lazy self and was probably still laughing at him for getting this ridiculous assignment. Someday… Someday I'll get back at him and pound his face into the wall…
So then Ed had no choice but to accept this idiotic part-time job. After pulling himself out of bed, Ed got dressed and left Gryffindor tower for the library. Once he got there, he saw that the library was empty as usual. He then went about his regular duties of re-stacking the bookshelves, cleaning the tables, cataloging the books, and so on…
During these several hours that he worked, Ed reflected on his work last night on the research journal. These past months, Ed had been relatively successful in breaking the "code" of the journal, though it wasn't really a type of code. It was more of a difficult wording used by religious fanatics (Which is probably why Ed had such difficultly working with the text). The writer was obviously a very religious man and probably felt that anyone "godly" enough to understand his wording would be worthy enough to know his research.
Ed had needed to do a lot of reading up on religious texts in order to get this far. Though the religious research was necessary, Ed was in no way interested in what the had to say. He found everything dry and quite ridiculous, but it was for furthering his goals so he did what he had to.
It was a slow process in deciphering the material. For fear of being discovered, Ed worked only during the early hours of the morning when the Gryffindor common room was empty. So far Ed got that some immortal and powerful being was needed as sacrifice for the creation of the philosopher's stone. The unlimited years that such a being could have lived would be equal, or more than equal to, the lives of infinitely many normal humans. The research material then detailed a lengthy process using both magic and alchemy to draw out the power of this being and use it in the alchemic reaction.
Ed understood this, but he doubted that both magic and alchemy could be combined in order to accomplish this result. He doubted further that such a being existed, a being whose immortal life would equal the lives of many many people… Ed was beginning to believe that this method was no longer the better in creating the philosopher's stone. Though it would be quite horrible to sacrifice countless human lives to create the stone, it would at least be more plausible then finding some obscure "immortal" being that might not even exist. Still, this method might have its uses so Ed decided to finish his reading. He might still be able to bring something worthwhile back to his brother.
Brother… brother… There was something about brothers and the strange dream he had last night. Some dream about shadows attacking these two idiotic brothers and one sacrificing himself for the other. Ed smirked. He never thought of himself as the imaginative type, but being a genius, maybe a wild imagination came natural to him…
Still, that dream was a little too realistic for an ordinary dream… And everything felt so oddly familiar to him. It was not only the younger brother (What was his name?) that reminded him of Al, but the older brother reminded him of himself. Of course he did not have the same arrogance that Ed had… But the way he would sacrifice himself for his brother, Ed would have done the same thing. Actually, he almost did do the same thing not too long ago. Ed sighed.
Okay… Magic Wands and Their Uses goes on shelf fifty-three along with The Mysterious Brickhim Trolls and…
Ed paused to look to his side. He thought he saw Sederway entering the library wearing the wildest pair of sunglasses he had ever seen. And why wear sunglasses? Ed had always thought of the library as a dark and gloomy place, even during the day… Ed shook his head. He probably just thinks he looks cool in them…
So then Ed continued working. He saw Vincent come up to the bookshelves to find a few volumes but he didn't really mind him. After some time, he finally completed his shift and was leaving to take a good long nap. On the way to the exit, he passed by Vincent's table and saw he had a pile of alchemy books, among other things. Ed stared at the other book subjects: raising the dead, zombies, necromancy, voodoo... Ed had always thought Sederway was strange but never anything like this.
Vincent looked over the book he had been reading. He had noticed Ed peering at his collection of volumes. Ed gave a little nervous grin and turned to leave. But Vincent called him back: "Ed, you're an alchemy expert right? I want to ask some questions."
Ed made a little shrug (He had nothing better to do, right?) and came back to sit down. The glasses looked even weirder up close. Vincent also had his hood up over his face, adding to the strangeness of his appearance. Ed sighed... "So you want to ask me some questions?"
Vincent nodded, "I'm reading about a method in alchemy used to revive the dead…"
Ed immediately tensed. Bad memories filled his mind. Surely Vincent wasn't accusing him of something?
"… This book says the alchemist recreates the body using basic materials such as carbon, water, salt, iron, etc. Then once the body has been recreated, he calls back the soul of the deceased to reanimate the body. But is it true that there has never been a successful case of reviving the dead?"
Ed breathed out to calm himself, "That is true. After all, the fundamentals of alchemy are based on equal exchange and there is nothing equal in worth to a person's life."
"Is it true that the alchemist must carry out the transmutation only at midday wearing only his underwear in order to better summon the soul of the dead?"
A stress mark popped out on Ed's forehead, "No…" Those dmn wizard idiots…
"I see…" said Vincent. He then sat back, deep in thought. "So would such an act then be impossible using alchemy?"
"Not necessarily. Using something called the philosopher's stone, any alchemic reaction could be completed. The stone allows the alchemist to bypass the law of equivalent exchange making anything possible."
Vincent went quiet for a second. It was as if he remembered something painful though Ed had no idea what. "Hey Vincent, do you know something about the philosopher's stone?" asked Ed.
"Nothing of significance, I was hoping you could tell me more."
Ed shrugged, "I know that it might not exist. There have been some theories on how to create it, but none have worked out so far. Other than that, I know almost nothing about it."
Vincent nodded and again went back to reading his book. Ed thought he was finished asking questions. He was getting up to leave when Vincent again looked up.
"Ed, what about a homunculus?"
"What do you mean 'What about a homunculus'"?
"This book says 'A homunculus is a doll fashioned in the likeness of a person and then controlled by the alchemist who created it. It says that though the homunculus may be human-like in its manner, it is in no way human and may possess powers beyond the scope of a human's abilities…' Would creating such a thing be possible?"
Ed gritted his teeth. He was beginning to lose his patience, "You have asked me enough questions. Now it's my turn. Why do you want to know these things?"
Vincent shrugged, "Personal interest."
"Oh really? Then you've got some strange tastes. Necromancy, voodoo, and now reviving the dead using alchemy… Did you know that's strictly forbidden? That attempting to revive the dead has serious consequences that will take more than a lifetime to repay?!!"
"You talk as if you were speaking from experience."
Ed was fuming mad. He knew that there was something off about this guy. Ever since that day when he and the others caught him roaming around at night, Ed knew. Ed had always known! Vincent might even be that mass murderer he was supposed to track down here in Hogwarts!!!
"Ed calm down. I'm sorry…"
"What did you say?"
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that," Vincent breathed out then looked back at Ed, "I know that these things are forbidden. I know that I should just leave them alone, especially me. But there is something that I have to confirm, something that I absolutely must know."
Ed sat back down and spent a few minutes clearing his head. Once he felt calm enough to not want to pound Vincent's head into the table, Ed asked again, "So why do you want to know these things? What is it that you have to confirm?"
Vincent sighed, "It's complicated."
"Well then enlighten me. I have nothing better to do."
Vincent sat quiet for a second then nodded, "Long ago, I had someone close to me who should have died. I was sure of it. It happened right in front of me. But then, just recently, I've been seeing this person again… alive and unchanged."
"Though this person doesn't seem to remember me, there is no mistake. He has the same walk, the same smile, the same laugh… No coincidence like this ever happens."
Ed shrugged, "Maybe he was reincarnated?" Ed doubted it though. He didn't believe in reincarnation to begin with. It was a silly suggestion…
Vincent shook his head, "Before coming here, I heard that his grave had been disturbed, something dug up. And then I see him here and start to wonder if some foul deed had been done."
Ed understood. It was what he would have suspected in Vincent's situation after all. He then had a right to know. Ed sighed…
"It is possible to create a homunculus using alchemy. Great skill and sacrifice would be needed, but it is still possible. As you've suspected, a homunculus would look exactly like the person it was fashioned after, maybe even have the same personality traits. But this homunculus would not be the same person. It would not even be human."
Vincent nodded, "Is there some kind of test that could be done in order to be sure?"
Ed thought about that for a second, "If you have a piece of the dead body… A homunculus shows weakness when close to the real thing."
"I don't think I can manage that…"
"Well it's the only way."
Vincent sighed, "I'll just figure something else out then."
Ed nodded… A homunculus, huh? Ed doubted one would come so far away from Amestris. After all, what sort of business would it have here? Their goal was to acquire the philosopher's stone, and last he heard, that sort of thing couldn't be accomplished using magic. But you never know. That homunculus might even be the criminal that Ed was after…
"Hey Vincent, could you tell me who this person is? So I could possibly keep an eye on him too?"
"No… I'm sorry Ed, but I've bothered you enough," Vincent then picked up a book and continued reading.
Ed shrugged… So he wants me to mind my own business. Fine! I'll eventually figure out who it is anyway…
Ed sighed. It looked like their conversation was finished here. He then stood up to leave…
"Wait Ed, "called Vincent, "Is it true you have a younger brother?"
Ed looked back at him, "Yeah… one year younger than me."
Vincent smiled, "Take care of him. There's nothing like having family, especially a younger brother."
Ed raised an eyebrow, but responded nonetheless, "Of course, I always do."