Chapter Six – Lightning People
Harry watched Ginny's eyelids flutter closed and in the rising moonlight saw her chest rise and fall with the deepening rhythm of sleep. His apprehension about their attackers did not diminish, but as she slept in his arms a powerfully protective feeling for this girl surged within him. Despite the potential dangers that surrounded them, she had placed her care firmly and literally in his hands and the realisation of this fact sent Harry's senses reeling.
He placed a gentle kiss on her forehead, where a crinkle of worry had appeared, and she snuggled closer to him, resting her head in the crook of his arm.
Ron's face appeared from around the corner of one of the walls. He did not tease Harry or make any gesture of disapproval, but simply nodded as if to say, "If she trusts you, then I guess I do." They both stared at Ginny for a moment and they silently agreed that no one was going to hurt either of the two girls while they still had breath.
"You reckon we should stay up in shifts?" Ron whispered as his eyes found one of the larger holes in the wall.
Harry considered this for a moment. "Yeah," he said after thinking about how long a day everyone had had and how curious it was that they hadn't been run through with spears yet. He gave a half-shrug, careful not disturb Ginny. "You take the first one?"
Ron nodded. "I'll wake you up in a few hours." Then, with a significant glance at his sister, he crawled silently back to the wicker sofa and out of sight.
Harry opened his eyes and in a moment of disorientation wondered briefly where he was. The blurry wooden floor in front of him was lit from the sun streaming through a hole in one of the walls and it wasn't until he tried to replace his glasses that he remembered the night before. His arms didn't move and he realised it was because Ginny was laying with her back to him and had his arms pinned in hers. She was snoring softly, and aside from the sound of the waves, it was the only thing he heard. With a start, he also remembered that he was supposed to relieve Ron on watch after a couple of hours.
"Ginny," he whispered and shook her gently with his still-pinned hands. "Wake up, Ginny."
She stirred and then stiffened, as she seemed to be going through the same realisations, and then relaxed, resting her head against his collar bone. "Where's Ron and Hermione?" she said softly. She turned in his arms and her eyes met his.
"They should be in the next room. Let's go check on them."
She nodded and they disentangled themselves from each other. "Do you think the people who attacked us are still there?"
He answered her with a shrug and they crawled quietly into the main 'room' of the hut. Hermione and Ron were wrapped in each other's arms at the foot of the wicker sofa, covered in a dirty and tattered blanket. Harry looked askance at Ginny and she returned his look with a small smile. "I guess they worked something out last night," she said.
They crawled over to the sleeping teens and Ginny began to shake her brother's shoulder. "Wake up, Ron."
He grunted but instead of waking up, only clung to Hermione more tightly. Ginny smirked for a second and then leaned down and cupped her hand over his ear and gave a stifled cry, "Spiders!"
The effect was immediate. Ron shot up, nearly smashing his head into Ginny, but she had been expecting this and moved quickly back next to Harry. Hermione, however, was not as fortunate. She gave a small squeak as Ron dumped her unceremoniously onto the floor of the hut and began to brush at imaginary arachnids on his shirt. "Wha – where – Get 'em off me!" As soon as his panic subsided, he noticed that there weren't any spiders on him and his arms stilled. "Nice," he said to Ginny, who was turning red from holding in her laughter.
"I'll say," Hermione said grumpily from her position on the floor. "It's nice to know that my boyfriend is ready to dump me at the first sign of a spider."
Ron paled and stared down at Hermione. "No, that's not..."
Hermione giggled. "Oh relax, Ron, and help me up." She held up her hands and he pulled her to a sitting position. Harry glanced at Ginny and, as they locked eyes, he knew she was just as surprised by Hermione's statement as he was. Something did happen last night and all Harry could think was, finally.
After brushing the sand off their clothes, they ate a meagre breakfast of the fruit they'd taken the previous evening and then drank the last of the coconut milk to wash it down. Knowing that they'd have to face the inevitable, they stood and opened the door of the hut.
In a flash, a dozen spears were pointed in Harry's face. One of the men indicated with his spear that he should step down onto the now dry sand. It appeared that they either didn't speak English, or they didn't care to speak. Knowing that he, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny couldn't stay cloistered in the hut forever, Harry walked tentatively down the three stairs, his friends following behind him. The spear-wielding men immediately surrounded them.
"Wait," Hermione pleaded. "We didn't do anything wrong."
They did not respond, but began to herd them back toward the jungle, prodding them with the butt-end of their weapons when they lagged.
"Who are you?" Hermione persisted, ignoring a pointed look from Ron that told her to leave it alone. "Where are you taking us? We need to get..." but Ginny stepped on her foot and she stumbled. When Hermione looked up at Ginny, the younger girl hissed a warning and Hermione seemed to get the hint.
When they crossed into the trees, the path forced their captors to form a single file. They seemed to anticipate this, however, and two men took hold of each prisoner, one in back and one in front, their spears pointed at them in a constant reminder that they were to follow without incident.
It was a long walk through the jungle, and the thick trees obscured their vision of the coastline so that Harry soon had no hope of knowing what direction they were going or where they had come from.
After an indeterminable length of time, the trees thinned and opened into a large clearing. As they passed from the jungle to the clearing, Harry heard a distinctive buzzing sound, but brushed it off as a strange jungle animal.
The clearing was wide and round, with jungle completely walling in the space before them. Only the trail behind them and a similar opening on the opposite side of the clearing seemed to allow passage into or out of this space. The clearing itself was filled with structures that looked primitive upon first glance, but Harry noticed that underneath the thatched roofs there appeared to be metal flashing and rain gutters. Underneath the bamboo walls were the unmistakeable presence of cement footings and as his captors led him through the maze of houses, he saw what could only be a television aerial.
He turned to catch Hermione's eye, but was shoved in the back by the nearest guard.
Soon, they were guided to the largest building in the clearing. It was built upon a small rise, but was itself a multi-story structure, and didn't even pretend to be made of native materials. It was brick and stucco, with magnificently-crafted wood timbers supporting a tile roof. Four of the guards broke away from the main group and approached the open front doors, where two men stood at attention. After a short conversation that Harry couldn't hear, the door guards nodded and Harry and company were pushed up the brick steps and through the superbly-carved doors.
The first thing Harry noticed upon entering the building was that it was unnaturally cool. After spending the last day and night in tropical heat, it was like walking into a refrigerator. They walked down a dim hall and into a wide, brightly lit room whose edges were lined with potted plants and sizeable tapestries, and was dominated on the opposite wall from them with a finely-gilded throne. Above the throne, however, was a large sculpted representation of a lightning bolt.
They were unexpectedly forced to their knees and Ginny gave a startled grunt beside him. Harry watched as four guards pointed spears at them while four more pulled their hands behind their backs and tied them together. Ron muttered something that Harry couldn't hear, but that made Hermione smile.
As soon as they were tied, the guards retreated to the entrance. A tall, fit man appeared from somewhere behind the throne. He wore a crown that consisted of long green leaves alternating with bright red feathers. The man regarded each of them as he sat in his throne and despite being bound and held captive, Harry felt inexplicably calm in the presence of this man.
The king, for that was how Harry thought of him, motioned to one of the guards and they engaged in a long, whispered conversation. They pointed their fingers at Harry as they spoke, drawing worried glances from Hermione and Ginny. The king smacked his fist into his palm and the guard's head dipped low in obeisance. Whatever it was they were talking about had obviously been decided.
The guards took Harry by the arms and force-marched him to the king. A heavy hand pushed him to his knees once again and the guard on his left pulled back Harry's head. Harry braced himself, ready to react if either guard showed signs of violence. The guard on his right placed his hand palm down on Harry's forehead and moved it up, pushing the messy fringe away to reveal the scar he'd carried from the time he'd been a toddler.
There was a murmur from the guard and the king came forward in inspect Harry, a light in his eyes. He touched Harry's scar, almost reverently, and then did something unexpected. He spoke in English.
"Who are you?" was the heavily-accented question. "Why have you come here?"
Harry swallowed and the guards released his head. "I – I'm Harry. Harry Potter."
The king's eye widened and then he slunk back to his throne, falling heavily onto the golden seat. "Release them," he said with the wave of a hand.
"Your highness," exclaimed the nearest guard. "They have eaten the fruit, they must be punished."
"No!" the king replied with equal ferocity. "He is the one and his companions are exempt from the punishment."
There was a moment where the guard pressed his lips together and then reluctantly nodded. "As you wish, your majesty."
There was a swishing sound and Harry's arms fell loose, the cords that held them in place cut in one stroke by the nearest guard. Three other swishes and he knew that Hermione, Ron, and Ginny were similarly free.
Harry gathered his courage as the guards retreated. "Why do you have a picture of my scar above your throne?"
The king looked at Harry for a long moment before he answered. "That question requires much explanation. Perhaps you and your friends would like something to eat first?"
Catching Ginny's eye, Harry shrugged and the four of them followed the king. He led them through a small door behind the throne, presumably the door he had entered from, and into a long, straight hallway that had doors spaced evenly on the right and left. Harry counted the number of doors on the right and when he got to twelve, they turned left, into a lavishly decorated dining room.
"Please sit down," the king offered graciously and indicated the side of a large table that held four seats and four place settings. He walked to the other side, where a larger, more comfortable looking chair awaited him.
Harry sat first, followed by Ron and the girls. A fat, roasted pig lay in the centre of the table, complete with a large red apple stuffed into its mouth. Something told Harry that he should wait before taking any of the offered food.
"Now, I think it is proper that we become introduced," the king said graciously. "I am King Parihaka of the Lightning People." He looked expectantly at the four teens and Harry was the first to speak.
"I am Harry Potter of... er, England."
King Parihaka turned to look at Ginny, seated to Harry's right. "I'm Ginny Weasley, also of England."
"Ron Weasley, Ginny's brother," said Ron with pink ears.
When King Parihaka's eyes landed on the last person at the table, she coughed into her hand and said clearly, "Hermione Granger. London, England."
"Very good," Parihaka said cheerfully. "As to your question about our symbology, let us eat while we converse."
Harry was slightly taken aback by his seemingly educated demeanour, but still felt as though he could be trusted. But all questions were swept from his mind as the king clapped his hands and ten servants appeared, five with plates of vegetables, fruits, and other side dishes, while the others began to carve the enormous pig into thin slices. Soon, they were all pleasantly full and the questions returned.
"King Parihaka?" asked Hermione timidly. "What did you mean by calling Harry, 'the one'?"
Parihaka took a drink from his goblet and eyed her carefully. "Many years ago, our people came to this island searching for a refuge from the great evil that has swept this world. Despite our efforts to remain separate, evil has found us here. Fifty years ago, we were attacked by an unknown tribe on a neighbouring island."
A light seemed to go on in Hermione's eyes. "That was who attacked us yesterday!"
"Indeed they were," Parihaka nodded. "We fought them off and my guards surrounded your dwelling until this morning. The dark tribe has not always been successful enough to operate unhindered on our territory. That is, until eighteen years ago. That was when we learned of the power of lightning."
Harry shifted in his seat and his hand reflexively pushed down the hair covering his scar.
"A man came from your country," he continued, looking pointedly at Hermione, "professing to be able to bring us an advantage over our adversaries. He brought us the lightning and devices that use its power and he told us of a prophecy concerning the other power of the lightning." King Parihaka stared meaningfully at Harry and then continued. "For a time, we were victorious against the dark tribe. Soon, however, we discovered that this man also brought an unspeakable evil with him and placed it in the belly of the volcano. Since that time, our battles have gone poorly, there has been little lightning, and the rain has been scarcer."
There was only one thing that could have been brought to the island that could be described as 'unspeakable evil'. Harry felt Ginny's leg press up against his and he offered a smile in response. "King Parihaka," he said, catching the older man's eyes. "We know what this evil is and we are here to destroy it. Can you help us find it?"
Parihaka looked warily at the four teens and then leaned back in his chair. "What makes you think you can destroy it? We have sent many strong warriors into the volcano for this purpose and none have returned. A boy and his children-friends are no match for so great a power – no matter what a prophecy says."
Harry squirmed uncomfortably under his scrutiny. He really didn't know why he thought he could destroy the Horcruxes when it only took two to kill the greatest wizard that ever lived. He only knew that he had to try because if he didn't, all the people he loved would suffer under the cruel hand of the most powerful Dark Lord in a century.
"I don't know if we can destroy it, King Parihaka, but I know that we must try."
The old king nodded slowly. "I can see that you speak the truth, young Harry Potter. I will assist you in this task, but first, I will show you our little village and then you will rest."
He clapped his hands and the servants returned, clearing away the table with swift efficiency. Then, the king stood and motioned for them to follow him.
They toured the rest of the palace first, including his surprisingly modest suite of personal rooms. They were led outside where he showed them the ring of trees in which the village was contained. He pushed into the trees and carefully used a long stick to move aside the dangling leaves of a drooping tree. As the light was able to penetrate the dense foliage, Harry saw a familiar sight. A tall chain-link fence rose up to the top of the tree line, separated from the vibrant jungle by more than six feet on either side of it. He was confused as to why this was important enough for the king to show this to them.
"Wait," Parihaka said, as if reading Harry's mind. Then, he picked up another branch and hurled it at the fence. Before the limb had a chance to touch the metal links, a blinding flash lit up the jungle and the buzz of an electrical charge echoed back into the village. The limb was gone, but in the light of the sun, Harry thought he saw a small pile of ash on the floor of the jungle.
"This keeps our enemies from attacking the village directly," the king explained as he dropped his arm and the jungle covered the fence once more. He began to walk toward the village and they followed. "The dark tribe first attacked us shortly after the fence was installed. It was a nasty surprise for them and they lost many men. We were not attacked for ten months after that and they have never taken the village."
"How do they attack you then?" asked Ron, speaking for the first time since lunch.
Parihaka smirked. "We cannot live within the village exclusively. Our crops and herds must be tended to and they frequently attack those places. Most of my men are tasked with guarding them from attack."
"Why don't you install a fence around the crops and herds?" asked Ginny.
"You saw how the jungle does not grow near the fence. Living things do not like the buzz of electricity. Our crops do not grow and our herds do not get fat if they are contained in such a fence."
Hermione frowned at this answer, but she did not continue questioning him.
"There's one more thing I need to show you, and then you will be taken to your rooms."
Still thinking about the fence, they walked toward an insignificant-looking building in the middle of the village. Harry stole a glance behind him and saw that Hermione and Ron were in a deep, whispered conversation. She was pointing to several towers arrayed among the houses that Harry hadn't noticed before. Behind them, he noticed the four guards that were their palace escorts lurking as the king continued to lead them on.
"This," Parihaka said with a smile, "is our great secret. It is the source of our power."
He produced a key from inside his belt and inserted it into a padlock. It clicked open and they were soon inside a dim, very small, but clean room. Just as the door closed, Harry noticed the four guards surround the small hut as if to keep any unwanted visitors from entering.
Parihaka pressed a small button in the wall and Harry felt his stomach drop to his toes as the room they were in seemed to fall away from their feet. After a few disorienting minutes, the lift stopped and the wall that held the button opened. Parihaka led them through a few twisty hallways until they faced another blank wall. The king manipulated several levers and knobs and, as with the previous wall, it opened to reveal something behind it. This time, however, they were presented with a much different view.
A gaping, brightly-lit cavern stretched in front of them as far as they could see. Row upon row of tall metal cylinders dominated the huge expanse. Each cylinder had a pair of wires running to it from the one beside it and another pair travelling to the one on the opposite side. Along the top of the cavern, giant cables the size of a Basilisk snaked their way out of sight and connected with the smaller wires that led from the cylinders. Hermione gasped beside him.
"I can't believe it," she said as Parihaka smiled at them. "I've heard of using capacitors to store large amounts of electricity before, but this..." She trailed off in awe, her fingers twitching as she fumbled with the hem of her shirt. "This is unbelievable."
"It is what is required when attempting to harness the power of the gods," explained the king.
Harry could tell his friend was bursting to ask a million questions, but only one came out.
"How?" she said, her eyes still wide in disbelief. "How could one person bring all of this here?"
King Parihaka smiled. "It took many months. This cavern was opened centuries ago when the mountain still spit fire. Now, we use it to store the fire of a different sort." Then the king's smile faded. He pointed to a set of analogue dial gages attached to a panel in front of him. "There is very little power left. We have not had good lightning since the rainy season and it will be gone soon." His head drooped a little as he said this. "If the power fails, there will be nothing to stop the dark tribe from overcoming our defences. Their forces have grown too strong to defeat without the power of the lightning."
Harry thought of the fence and knew exactly what he was referring to.
Ron was staring past the rows of capacitors. "We're going to do it, King Parihaka. We're going to destroy the Hor... er, evil," he said as Hermione surreptitiously pressed her heel into Ron's toe. "Then you'll be able to defend yourself from the dark tribe."
Hermione, Harry, and Ginny nodded in agreement.
"I hope you are correct," answered the king. "Tomorrow, you will leave with my guards and attempt to ascend the mountain. For now, we must rest."
Later that evening, Ginny sat on her bed in one of the rooms off the main hall of the palace. She and Hermione had stayed up late discussing the machinations of Regulus Black and why he had placed the locket here, of all places. They were left with many more questions than answers, but Ginny was confident that they would work themselves out as their time on the island progressed. What bothered her most was how Hermione seemed to be pre-occupied with something she wasn't ready to share with anyone. Judging by the way the older girl kept staring out their window at the lightning rods dotting the village skyline, Ginny knew that the puzzle had something to do with the strange marriage of Muggle technology and primitive culture on Black Island. Ginny would have to wait for the answer to that question, however, as she felt sleep creep into her mind and claim her.
A/N: My pre-beta was Kokopelli and my beta was Sherry, both of whom rendered their services to the betterment of this chapter. Any remaining mistakes are mine.