Warnings: May contain slash, gore, violence, crude language, spoilers for the Harry Potter series, spoilers for The Banned and the Banished book series, adult themes
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to JKR and associates, of which I am not one. The Banned and the Banished belongs to James Clemens (Jim Czajkowski) and associates, of which I am not one. In other words, this is not mine.
Maybe everyone in Hell had weird names. The one-armed man was "Er'ril" – not Errol as Harry had first thought – and the boy was named Len, which seemed like only half a name. Then there was Mogweed and his wolf, which he had called Fardale. From the looks given the young wizard, he assumed they found his name weird despite it being a "filthy common name" to use aunt Petunia's words – the fact that Len had thought his surname was Gryffindor even after he'd said it was Potter attested to that – so he thought better than to comment.
Instead he just went along with the conversation. He had been confused at the comments about dark mages, since he wasn't dressed at all like a Death Eater, but maybe most people didn't die in school uniforms... and then he wondered why he was wearing a school robe over his regular clothes, since he hadn't recalled wearing them. Or why they called him a "mage", a phrase that was only used to describe wizards in muggle fiction.
But no, he had already discerned that he wasn't dead by the presence of the Resurrection Stone in his cloak pocket the night before, hadn't he? So... where was he that they would call him a "mage"? And were they really ignorant of magic as he had originally guessed?
"I am going to talk to Er'ril and eh- Len for a moment," Mogweed said as he moved away from Harry. It sounded as though he was going to say something else, but Harry didn't really much care. "I will leave Fardale with you to keep you company." The wolf didn't seem to need any direction as it left the idle fingers of Len and wandered over to the only person in the small group who was not wandering off by the woods to conspire.
Perhaps conspire was a bit of a strong accusation, as they didn't seem to be doing anything more than having a friendly chat, but considering they were all dead and in Hell (maybe; there was a lot of evidence saying otherwise by now), an innocent chat like that was probably how best to make him into wolf-chow.
Still, Harry didn't mind and slumped back into the criss-cross position on the ground, watching the wolf (Fardale, he reminded himself) curiously. The eyes, he noted, were really identical to Mogweed's, and similar to Remus' in color, though he reasoned that the werewolf had more golden eyes than amber, and the slit pupil was definitely out. Still, it made sense, after a fashion.
A pack of wolves stand together. They all look different – here, Harry inferred that the wolves were a hodge-podge group rather than a regular pack, which the Circus of the Morning Star obviously was – but remain together. The wolves find a black wolf, young and injured – he recalled this image from the first time he'd looked into the wolf's eyes – and take it away from danger. This wolf looks much like the young cub.
Harry blinked, but the message stayed with him, even as he didn't get any more images from the weird demon-wolf-thing. It kind of... well, it made sense. All these people – even the three men (from the distance, he could tell that the Grawp-ish one wasn't really Grawp-ish at all, but the large man did look like a slightly scaled down Hagrid) at the cart – were a pack, a bunch of misfits who got together. He wasn't quite sure if there was any meaning behind him noting the similarity between the Harry-wolf and the Len-wolf, since it was probably his own mind being stupid, but he did notice it, and Len did look a bit like he had as a kid, but not quite as small (malnourished) and a bit more... soft, maybe? Girlish would be a bit of an insult if he said it to the boy's face, so he stuck with soft.
"You are a really weird wolf," Harry stated as he held out his hand to sniff. Even though he'd accidentally forgotten the canine/lupine honor system of offering a limb to sniff upon meeting this one a couple minutes before when he originally was "introduced" to the beast, he didn't want to forget now. Merlin only knew what it would do to him! Still, Fardale butted his hand in seeming acquiescence, and Harry scratched behind his ears, snorting likely. "I'm being completely serious here. Okay, so you're the first wolf-wolf rather than werewolf that I've ever met face to face, but I'm pretty sure they run smaller than you do," for it was a monstrous wolf, "and I've never heard of any race of magical wolves outside of werewolves," Fardale gave him a sidelong glance – how the bloody hell could a wolf do that, anyway? – but Harry refused to meet the wolf's eyes, lest he be assaulted by more images, "and you do that weird eye thing."
His hand migrated to under the wolf's chin where he scratched with vigor, but the wolf wuffed at him... well, that was the best verb Harry could come up with, but he was pretty sure it wasn't a real word. Hermione could have told him – he knew she carried a dictionary somewhere in that bottomless bag of hers – but she wasn't there. Which was a relief. It meant that his stupidity, selfishness, and hero-complex hadn't affected her enough that she would be sent... well, there. But just because he was relieved to find that none of his friends seemed to be about, it didn't mean that he had to be happy about it. He wanted to see them... just not in Hell. Which this might not be, in which case he would rather see Ron and Hermione here.
But not until after he had completely decided if this was Hell or not.
After a long moment he paused again. "You can understand me, can't you?" It sounded rhetorical even in his mind, never mind out loud. It was rather obvious, after all. But he wanted to figure out what the wolf was, if it wasn't some sort of Hell Hound as he had originally thought it might be. "Let's see... understands human speech, tame, deadly, even bigger than Remus' wolf-form... um... weird eye-legilimancy-thing that shows me your thoughts as pictures and vice a versa... and eyes that are kind of like Remus'."
Okay, so it wasn't a very in-depth list of things to go on. Still, he felt he had some sort of lead with the eyes being like Remus'. He vaguely remembered seeing Fenrir Greyback with the same gold/amber irises when he'd been close enough, and – when he thought back on it – he remembered seeing a werewolf around Christmas of fifth year. She'd had the same eyes. That link to werewolf eyes kept popping up, even when he tried to think of something else. But it was day time! There was no moon out... unless Fardale was a werewolf being punished in Hell for something? What worse punishment could there be for a werewolf than that? But then why did Mogweed have those eyes too?
Harry kept on petting his furry companion as he thought on it. Remus would have thought of no worse punishment than being stuck in his wolf-form for the rest of eternity, but there were werewolves who liked it, like Greyback. Maybe Mogweed was a werewolf who enjoyed being one and Fardale was like Remus? But... no, it still made no sense. Harry's hand disentangled itself from Fardale's fur and he slumped backwards over the lump that had been his cocoon. It was too damn complicated!
He glared at the pale blue sky. It was Hell; shouldn't there by raging storms, lightning perhaps? Fire falling from the semi-proverbial heavens? Shouldn't there at least be a cloud in the sky? Sans silver lining even! But no, the morning sky was simply a sheet of pale blue stretching over the seeming endless plain that was the sky, with an overgrown yellowish-white circle over the eastern horizon to represent the sun. He was sure he could even feel the sun's rays on him, but... well, that didn't make any sense. Why was the sky in Hell so un-Hellish?
Probably because it wasn't Hell, but then how could he explain anything?
"You are stuck, aren't you?" Harry asked the sky. He didn't know what made him say it as he glared at the cloudless abyss, but Fardale's reaction was immediate. The yip that came out could only be considered affirmative. Harry just shook his head. It was a wolf, wasn't it? Wolves didn't comprehend human speech any more than humans could understand them!
A face suddenly intruded on the view of sky. Er'ril was standing over him, hand resting on the pommel of his sword. Harry's thoughts paused. A sword? It seemed a terribly important thing, but he dismissed it. The only sword he'd ever seen was Gryffindor's, which had a gold pommel rather than silver, and the goblins had repossessed it. With that thought dismissed, he simply stared into the smoky eyes of the seeming crippled man. As Er'ril looked down on him, Harry couldn't help but to feel somehow inadequate under that gaze. The man held himself like a seasoned warrior, as if his lacking one of his arms did not hamper him in the least. Harry doubted that the thought could be at all inaccurate.
"Where were you heading to that landed you in those woods?" Er'ril asked. It was obvious that he didn't trust Harry at all, and why should he? Harry didn't really trust them either. He was still debating if this was Hell – in which case he had to wonder at why he still had Malfoy's wand and the Resurrection Stone in his pocket – or somewhere else, but where else could it be? Either way, the distrust was mutual.
"You mean that forest?" Harry jerked a thumb at the burnt out forest, though that was obviously what Er'ril meant. Still, he remained laying down for the moment. No need to get up. "I don't recall going in there at all. Last I remember I was in a fight at my school," which was true, sort of, "and then I... well, there was a hazy moment. I was very warm though, and something colder than ice touched me. Then again, that was probably part of some elaborate hallucination from my fever. So I don't know how I got into that forest." Because it certainly was not the Forbidden Forest. The trees weren't tall enough and they were completely the wrong breed of tree to begin with.
If anything, Er'ril seemed even more suspicious, but Harry couldn't bring himself to care. Even though he felt fully re-energized from his postmortem (though he was pretty sure at this point that he was alive) illness, despite a hollow feeling in his stomach and a rather stinging urge to relieve himself, Harry was quite content to just lay in the grass. Although Fardale had removed himself since the arrival of the swordsman.
"Where are you headed then?" Er'ril asked. Ah, a quick ploy to get Harry out of their hair. He could live with that; since he still had the moke-skin pouch that Hagrid had given him, he had a few spare set of clothes and a fair bit of gold stowed away in there (at Hermione's insistence). Provided gold was an acceptable currency that is. Hopefully it was; he had quite a few galleons, enough to last him a year even if he went shopping every week.
"Depends on where I am," Harry's reply was open-ended, because, really, he had no idea where he was. Hell, Heaven (ha!), Purgatory... this place could even be in Australia (1) so far as Harry knew.
"The Standi Plains; those are the Teeth just beyond the forest," as if calling a mountain range "Teeth" would help Harry at all! And "Standi" made no sense to him either. Where in the same of Merlin's smelly rainbow toe-socks was he?
"Hm, dunno then," Harry rolled up into a seated position to hide his surprised gaze. Right, so "Earth", or at least "Europe" was ruled out. He didn't recognize the accents as American; they sounded completely foreign so he'd never thought he was in the UK to begin with, but now he thought on it, he never even heard such accents on the telly. "I'm going to take a wild guess and say we're not too close to Scotland right about now."
"I've never heard of it." And any afterlife could officially be ruled out on that alone because, really, who hadn't heard of Great Britain? Which meant Harry was alive and all his anti-panicking efforts, from the times when he was certain that he was dead, were futile. Yet, somehow, where ever he was, Harry couldn't bring himself to care.
Harry straightened out into a standing position and turned to Er'ril with a totally fake smile. "I didn't expect you to," he lied. Len was standing just behind the one-armed swordsman, the boy staring at him expectantly with curiously colored eyes. Harry had never met anyone else with his eyes before, and yet...but Harry shook his head. So they both had bright green eyes; so what? It wasn't that uncommon, surely. "So, Mr Er'ril, is Len your younger brother or something?"
Len was too old to be Er'ril's child, that much Harry could tell. The swordsman didn't look a day over twenty-five, probably younger when he wasn't so obviously worn and ragged, and Len was at least thirteen, maybe even fourteen. And they did look enough alike to be related, but it was really only the hair and tanned skin that gave Harry the impression of their relation. Everything else was quite different.
"No, he's my son," the wary look on the swordsman's face said otherwise, though he was actually rather convincing... except that Harry had already drawn his own conclusions, and all things considered he was a good judge of age. Even if the man were a wizard – which he was not, probably – that didn't give more than three years leeway when he appeared that young.
Maybe it would make sense if this were hell, but Harry had finally decided it wasn't and he was sick of flip-flopping.
Still, all Harry did was quirk a single eyebrow – a skill he was quite proud of – and shrugged. It was none of his business; right now he had to figure out where he was and how to get from here to Hogwarts. True, Voldemort would have killed everyone by this point, but he had to do something, and staying here wouldn't help him any.
"Where are you headed then?" Mogweed spoke up, returning conversation back on track. "We could probably give you a lift, at least to the next town." He sent a look to Er'ril, who seemed disgruntled, but Harry wasn't much concerned by that as he was having his own dilemma that these people were certainly oblivious to.
Where was Harry headed? He was a bit caught up in the whole "I'm alive and where the hell is Standi?" thing. Where ever he did say he was going they wouldn't know anyway. So that's how he answered. "Well, to be fair you haven't even heard of the island I'm from so..."
"Oh, you're from the Archipelago?" Len interrupted. He then blushed and hid behind his "father" when Harry looked at him. Strange; boys that age usually weren't so shy about their curiosity.
"It's a bit further out than that," he stated finally. He had no idea what an "Archipelago" was to begin with. It sounded like a geographical term, but he really didn't know Geography very well anyway, not after seven years without any muggle lessons. But he couldn't say the statement was inaccurate either because, chances are, it truly was a bit further than this "Archipelago" place. "But England is near enough to the mainland, I suppose."
"I thought you said you were from Scotland?"
"Scotland and England are part of the United Kingdom. It's all the same island."
Of course, Harry had NO idea what was going on. He had discerned that he was, in fact, alive, and so probably were these people. Almost definitely in fact. He had the Resurrection Stone still for some reason, which he kept in his robe pocket with his – Malfoy's – wand. But other than that...
"Assuming it's near the Archipelago," Er'ril didn't sound much like he believed what Harry was saying, "then the Eastern Coast, Port Rawl is likely the best place for you to head to first, isn't it?" Harry nodded since Er'ril seemed to expect him to. "Do you have any skills?"
"Er... well, I can cook and stuff," Harry shuffled uneasily. He wasn't a half bad cook, and he could clean; the men laughed some and he was sure he heard Er'ril whisper "woman's work" under his breath, so he couldn't be sure. "I can help with setting up camp and stuff like that I suppose."
"Know anything about horses?"
"Er... well, I can ride, I guess," it couldn't bee too much different from riding a hippogriff or a thestral. "Well enough I won't fall off at any rate... not much else."
"Doesn't know anything about horses," Er'ril looked a bit dumbfounded. Harry figured he could add "lacking technology" to his list of discrepancies. "Hm. I think... Mogweed is right. We may take you as far as the next town; we'll see how it goes from there. We haven't got a set course from here," and gods was that a bold-faced lie, "but if you're useful we'll keep you on a bit longer."
Being completely lost as he was, Harry could do nothing but accept. He sent a sheepish smile to the three men confronting him, and suddenly Len grabbed him and started dragging him to where the colorful caravan was – and toward three large men.
Well, not entirely "large" really. One of them was actually rail thin, but he was easily taller than any of the Weasleys, at least a foot taller than Harry at any rate. The other two, however, were definitely "large". He had noticed earlier, but up close he had to say that one definitely looked like a slightly shorter Hagrid, while the third certainly resembled Grawp, though his balance was different, he was at least three feet shorter than the giant had been, and his structure was noticeably different. He looked sort of like a mix between a troll and a giant, on a smaller scale, and some spine curvature. Harry noted he had the same slitted amber eyes as Mogweed and the wolf, which killed the werewolf theory.
Harry only paused a moment to look at them before shrugging. He had seen far stranger things in his life, so this was really par for the course now that he was... wherever he was.
"Er, hi," he greeted the men. "I'm Harry. Er'ril said I could hitch a ride to the next town." He offered his hand to shake, but when none of the other men made any indication to reciprocate, he made it into more of a nervous gesture sort of thing.
He made a little mental catalog of what was wrong so far. The first was pretty obvious, in that Harry was not home, everyone he knew was probably dead by now, and there was nothing he could do about it. These people had never heard of the UK. Then there was the fact that they were almost definitely muggles... and yet Er'ril had called Harry a "mage" which he had heard as a term to refer to wizards in story books. Another added point to the not-quite-muggles theory was the giant-troll person.
So Harry was reevaluating how aware these people might be of magic rather than letting himself think about his dead friends. All three men didn't seem quite... human. The thin man, he noted, had an almost veela-like glow about him as the wind ruffled his silver hair; he also distinctly reminded Harry of Malfoy. The large man just looked like a slightly shorter Hagrid, though Harry supposed he might just be a regular muggle-giant. He'd pretty much determined that the third man wasn't human already.
Either way though, Harry would play dumb until he had some hint as to what was going on. No one had actually mentioned magic, so he wasn't going to either.
Somewhat ironically, Len changed that in an instant as he introduced Harry to the men, if only slightly.
The thin man was first. "This is Meric," Len introduced, completely oblivious to Harry's inner musings. "He's my... cousin, I guess? Has anyone mentioned that we're a circus? Meric is our magician; he does card tricks and things." The idea of calling card-tricks "magic" did allow Harry to ease up some.
"Kral's from the mountains," this was the large Hagrid-like man. "He's..." Len paused in thought, apparently trying to think of what he could say about the mountain man. "He acts as the guard for our sideshow and he's our barker, too."
Then he looked apologetically at the Grawpish one. "Tol-chuk is our sideshow, but he's really nice. So... well, I'm sure you can get along for a couple days..." he shifted nervously, eyes darting between Harry and the men. They all looked wary, but Harry tried to think much of it. He was a stranger; they were strangers. Wariness wasn't a bad idea.
"It's nice to meet you," he nodded to each in turn, unsure of what he should do exactly. Since he was eleven, no one had really required an introduction because he was the Harry Potter. It was awkward, but kind of nice, too. He tried and failed to smile; he was keeping his mind away from depressing things, but his life had flipped a one-eighty and no one here had any clue, let alone him.
It seemed that Harry had met everyone and was enlisted to help Len make breakfast before they were to set out. While Harry had been camping much of the past year, there had been little opportunity to cook over a camp fire, though he had a few times. He made do, and there were no complaints about his ability to cook.
When Harry sat on top of a deep brown mare, following after the rest of the caravan, he couldn't help but think of how surreal his morning had been... and how utterly normal.
Three days had passed since the Vira'ni incident before they reached a town. Kral had declared Harry mostly trustworthy; as a member of the Clan of the Senta Flame, he had the ability to tell the truth in another's words. Apparently, Harry was quite truthful about many things he said to the group – Kral made Harry repeat some things that had been said to Er'ril – and Elena was relieved, though she did have to wonder about some of the half truths he'd told.
For example, the place he was from was really called England, but it seemed he was unsure as to the location from what Kral relayed later.
Still, Elena was pleased that they boy they had found in the woods was trustworthy, and had been nearly ecstatic when, the morning before they arrived in town, Er'ril had offered to keep the boy on for a while longer, which was as good as saying they would keep him until he wanted out. Tol'chuk was nearest her own age, being sixteen and a half winters, followed by and Meric, then Mogweed and Fardale, but none of them were quite the same. Harry was older than Tol'chuk – he claimed he was turning eighteen in three moons (months, he had said) even though he did appear young – but something about him had just... clicked.
Elena was only 13 winters, 14 soon, but she and Harry got along well. He was wise, impetuous, stubborn, and meek all at once, and had an air about him that made Elena feel like he was always watching her back. It was sort of like having Joach back; though she knew her brother was undoubtedly killed by the Dark Mage Greshym, and that Harry could never replace him, the reassurance was nice all the same.
He was a good reminder of what Elena had already lost and could lose again.
The set up the circus in town before the sun reached its highest point, and the as people passed through the town square they stopped to watch. Some stayed for the full performance, others only for an act, and many didn't stop at all, having grown bored of traveling circuses in general. While they performed, Er'ril told Harry to buy some supplies since they would be heading out the next day.
It wasn't until the end of Er'ril and Elena's show – as a "father and son" pair, the onlookers were both horrified and awed to watch Er'ril throw daggers at Elena, though the blindfold didn't actually obstruct his vision – that anyone realized that they had forgotten to give Harry any coppers to buy the supplies with. Elena was worried as soon as this came up; Harry was from someplace far away and didn't seem to know anything about Alasea. And the chances of him having any money on him were slim.
So, imagine the surprise of the troop when Harry came back with far more food than he was supposed to get, and a pouch of copper coins bouncing against his thigh.
"I didn't have any copper," Harry looked embarrassed as he set the satchels of food on the shelves of the caravan. "We use gold in England, but I thought silver would still be okay... but the coins I had on me were a lot bigger than the ones you guys wanted, so I ended up having to buy extra satchels to take care of all the food and so the shopkeeps would have enough change for me. I think it's supposed to be about two silver coins worth of copper coins, but it's just heavy."
Elena had never seen so much money at once as Harry had carried in his pocket to go shopping, and he said he'd only grabbed a few of his coins! It was more than their take would be that day, or for their entire time as a circus, that was certain.
Her parents had paid her three coppers a day for allowance and working on the farm, which added to about one silver every five months. She usually spent it on clothing that was more like that of the girls in her class rather than Joach's hand-me-downs, or sweets on her way home from school. Joach always made fun of her for that since he was saving his up; he'd had ten silver saved up in his room before this entire mess with her being a wit'ch had started up.
From the sound of it, Harry didn't think much on spending money at all, and his coins were of higher value than the standard; he was absolutely rich, and much be aware of it, and yet he didn't care at all! But if he called a fat gold coin and a few fat silvers "pocket change", then it probably had a lower value where he lived.
The fact that he traveled with their circus when he could easily buy safe passage back home was astounding, and made Er'ril suspicious all over again. He was also a bit aggravated over how much of the food would go bad, which may have had some impact.
Harry said it wouldn't go bad though. They would find out for a week that Harry was right, though how they would struggle to discern.
The food was stored and all arguments over by the time that Mogweed and Fardale had finished their act – Mogweed was Fardale's "tamer" and Fardale did a series of tricks to the awe of the audience – and Elena was instructed to clear out the pan before Meric took the stage. She stayed out for his act though; she had seen him practicing and wanted to see how an anonymous crowd would react.
The show started with Meric chasing after the dove that had escaped from the hide sleeves; the crowd laughed, thinking it a farce. Meric was indignant of course. He got indignant about a lot of things, and no prince likes to made a fool. Of course, the past few days he'd been stewing over Harry and the necessity of calling Elena "Len" and pretending she was a boy at all times so as not to tip their hand.
Meric failed at a few card tricks, and the crowd slowly came to realize that it wasn't a comedy act.
He was just a lousy magician.
When the assembled townsfolk started to meander off, Meric got to his finale. Intellectually, Elena knew it was his elemental gift that allowed Meric to raise himself off the stage and hover several feet in the air. It was still an awe inspiring act, and that was the reason why Er'ril had deemed Meric to be their finishing act. The audience agreed with this whole heartedly and dumped coppers into the once-empty tin until there had to be at least fifty of the coins.
The real surprise came when Harry slipped through the crowd and dropped one of his fat gold coins into the tin.
"I hadn't seen his act before," was Harry's defense for the action. "And it was great! I was laughing at first, and I felt kind of sympathetic, and then he was floating! I mean, I'm sure it was all mirrors and wires, but something like that... well, it was worth every knut."
Before Elena could ask what a "knut" was, Er'ril was telling Harry to help clean up the stage and Tol'chuk's tent while Elena had her lessons since Harry would be distracted. Elena joined Er'ril in the inn room that they had rented before set-up; they were assured that Harry would be distracted for the rest of the evening and she could practice her magick without interruption.
To be honest, Elena wouldn't mind if Harry knew about her. Or, at least, if he knew about her being a girl. It would make things a lot easier in the long run. Still, she liked the foreigner; everything about him was strange from his accent to his clothing (though he had done away with the dark robe, he still wore strange garb), and he was often staring off with a rather forlorn look.
"Remember Elena, you have to focus..." Er'ril's quiet, yet sharp, words shattered Elena's reverie, and she scowled ever so slightly. After so much practice while they were in the Teeth, she knew what she was doing.
The Wit'ch's dagger was drawn swiftly from her belt to bite into the meat of her thumb.
Magick sang in Elena's blood, and everything was forgotten in Wit'ch Fire.
Harry wiped a bead of sweat from his brow using the sleeve of his t-shirt as he labored in the sticky heat of early summer on the Standi Plains. He had been with the circus for over a month now – everyone else said moon, but Harry didn't see the point in changing his speech patterns – and had fallen into a routine of sorts.
Since he didn't have an act with the Circus of the Morning Star, Harry worked for his keep. He usually made breakfast and dinner for the troop, unless they were in a town, and lunch was usually forgone for time's sake, though Mogweed always made sure that Len and Harry both ate that meal with him anyway, since they were both still growing.
While traveling, Harry's only duty was to cook and deal with the fires every morning and evening. Len sometimes helped, but usually he helped his father with the horses. When in a town, Harry would help set up for the shows and clean up after. It had been decided that he wasn't to buy their supplies any more, so he didn't leave the staging area during performances.
Every day Len had lessons after noon with his father; once, when the caravan jostled, he had apparently knocked over the candlestick that had been his light while writing and set the side of it on fire.
Today was... special though. They were not in a town, but they were still giving a performance. Journeying as they were to the next town, still two days' ride away, they had come across a large platoon of soldiers; each wore a uniform of black dyed leathers and bore swords at their sides – none so magnificent as Er'ril's, though Harry hadn't seen that since meeting the man – and were a rather rowdy lot. The sergeant had seen they were a circus and asked for a performance.
It didn't take much to figure out that Er'ril didn't want to do this. His teeth were gritted slightly as he stood talking to the sergeant and some of the men, and his laugh at something they had said was hollow. But Harry said nothing.
He hadn't much liked the auror force after all. Some aurors, sure, but not the force itself.
Er'ril usually didn't do much by way of helping to set up since the stage took multiple people with two hands to set up, as well as the thick planks that were used for the knife show. The only thing he could really set-up for on his own was the first act of each performance – the solo juggling act that Er'ril had, apparently, been doing before Len was old enough to contribute to the circus – since absolutely everything else did require an extra hand. So he was relegated the duty of making merry with the men.
The young wizard felt kind of bad for the older man, since he obviously hated the men who were commissioning their services for the evening, but he wouldn't ask why. Maybe Er'ril had been in the military and that was how he lost his arm?
Still, seeing these men struck another nail in the coffin of Harry's hope to get home. They wore clothing that was primitive, wielded swords rather than guns, and they traveled on foot. Not that Harry had seen any different in towns; anyone who wasn't walking had a horse and, on occasion, a buggy that the horse dragged behind. No one had guns, very few people were armed at all unless they were going out late and worried about being mugged.
There had been no torrent of emotions, much to Harry's surprise. He was far removed from where he ought to be, his friends were all dead or worse, there was next to no hope of returning home... and he accepted that. He didn't rally against the forces of nature, he just continued following along with the circus.
Maybe latching on to the first group of people he met wasn't very smart, but Harry was lost. Mogweed had showed him a map of Alasea, and it didn't look like any of the continents from his geography course. But he also had no idea as to the state of affairs here, and dropping a stranger randomly in a small town would be suspect, surely.
So Harry stayed with the circus, continued to work for his keep – he wasn't paid for the work, partly because he was, by their measure, obscenely rich, and partly because the work he did was only really worth his food and a bedroll with them – and tried to get a grasp of the backwards continent he had landed himself in.
All the while, the urge to use the Resurrection Stone grew greater and greater. After the first few times his fingers had brushed the old Gaunt ring in his mokeskin pouch, he had relocated it to the satchel he had bought back in the first town (it still smelled of fresh bread, strangely enough). He wanted to see his friends again, but at what cost?
Harry shook himself of the thought when Len bumped into him and spilled the box containing Meric's tricks. Harry quickly set the knife table on the stage and helped Len pick up the scattered cards and such.
"You can be so clumsy some times," Harry snickered good-naturedly. Len turned a bit red, obviously remembering the candle incident; Harry teased him about it on occasion, but it was all in good fun. Harry didn't know how old everyone in the group was (he was still positive that Er'ril was too young to be Len's father), but he seemed closest to Len's age. He'd never really socialized with anyone much younger than him, but he did know that interaction was important at that age.
Maybe that was why Harry's personality wasn't normal? Well, on top of his childhood, that is.
The clatter of fallen objects had attracted the attention of the sergeant and the small group of men who Er'ril continued to entertain. Harry thought to ignore them, but the comments were certainly attention grabbing, to him at least.
"Those boys of yours are close, I see," this was the sergeant's gruff tone. Er'ril's noncommittal "hm" was barely audible from the distance that Harry and Len were at, but Harry could make it out. "The older one looks out for the younger, I expect."
"When I can't," Er'ril said this quietly. His tone was a bit hesitant, and it only took Harry a moment to figure out why.
Harry was, in the conversation, being taken as Er'ril's son. If anything, Harry did look a bit similar to Len, but aside from both having black hair he looked nothing like Er'ril. Maybe it seemed an easy mistake to make, but... Harry had been an orphan as long as he could remember and almost instinctively moved to deny any relation.
Len stopped him with a hand on his arm. "It's easier to let them think we're brothers, don't you think?" Len sounded a bit hesitant, but forged on. "I mean, it's... the law is that you can't travel without your parents until you've reached twenty winters unless you join the army. They'd have to take you to a garrison and then... well, if Er'ril hasn't heard of your home..."
Another strange thing about Len was that he always referred to his "father" as Er'ril rather than his supposed position. Even so, Len made a good point.
"I suppose so," Harry replied after a moment. He finished repacking the box and hoisted it over the edge of the stage. With a good shove it slid over to a corner where it banged loudly against the planks. Meric glared at him, but said nothing.
The entire company was a bit leery of Harry – well, not Fardale, but the wolf seemed to like everyone well enough – but none more so than Meric. Most times when Harry and Len were alone, Meric would intercede and glare at Harry, his eyes loaded with wrath. He was a very prideful man and took exception to any perceived slight. It was understandable, probably, but after more than a month the man's suspicions had not abated at all. Even Er'ril treated him alright most of the time.
Mogweed had, time and again, assured Harry that Meric was just a jealous person. He had only found Len toward the end of fall; apparently Len was the last of his family on the continent, and he wanted to take him home to where the rest of the family lived. He had fewer troubles with Er'ril, but Meric wouldn't let anyone come between him and his duty to his cousin.
Kral was always giving him strange looks, and Harry found him to be similar to Hagrid, but far more brash. Tol'chuk was... interesting. Sometimes he walked with his back straight, like any person, though it seemed to embarrass him, and others he walked like a gorilla; he said it was because he was half og're, whatever an og're was. Yet he had a keen intellect, even if his grasp on the English language wasn't perfect. He also always called Mogweed and Fardale his "brothers" which was... well, very strange. Aside from the eyes, all slitted amber, there was nothing similar between them.
And now Harry was, apparently, Len's pretend brother, or else he'd be kidnapped by the army.
It only took another ten minutes for everything to finish setting up and the platoon was seated in the long grass enjoying whatever their chef had made. The sergeant insisted on sharing with the circus, but Harry didn't quite trust the murky soup or the dark bread. One hundred men waited patiently as Er'ril took the stage and started juggling. First knives – which the platoon had seen Mogweed sharpen – which accidentally "slipped" only to land end on end on the stage, then unlit torches, then lit torches that burned a red, green, and blue and each tumbled seamlessly into the bucket of water behind Er'ril.
The soldiers roared their approval and some threw coppers towards the stage. The one-armed juggler always did well, though the most successful acts were Mogweed and Fardale, and Meric.
Len came onto the stage then and tied a strategically slitted blind-fold over his father's eyes before standing in front of a board of wood. Er'ril picked up the teetering tower of knives, placed them on the table they originated from, and started throwing. Each landed with a solid "thunk" less than an inch from Len's flesh and sank a good inch into the wood, if not more.
Those were always a bitch to pull out, too.
Harry rushed on stage to grab the supplies and took them around back so the stage would be mostly clear for Mogweed and Fardale. He heard some of the men jeer at him; his "little brother" had a "dangerous" act, and Harry just acted as a stage hand after all. Ignoring them was easy.
Well, until it was five minutes into the "Wolf Tamer" act. Harry saw something small and black on the stage... and it was slithered toward Mogweed, who was entirely unaware.
He didn't know if it was poisonous or not, but Harry rushed on to the stage and picked up the small snake's tail. It hissed (though, to Harry, it was saying "What just grabbed me?!") and coiled around in the air to look at him, ready to strike.
"Don't attack," Harry hissed under his breath, too quiet to be heard. "Please don't attack." And it didn't. Instead it eased up the twist it had itself in and observed him before using its captured tail as leverage to wind around his wrist. Of course, then some of the soldiers whooped and Harry realized he was on stage and had just usurped the spotlight of Mogweed's show.
"Can you get it to do anything?" Mogweed murmured.
"What do you mean?" Harry murmured back, keeping his eyes off to snake so his vocabulary would be understandable.
"They think it's part of the act, so go with it," Mogweed stepped away from Harry and towards Fardale, leaving the wizard an snake at center stage.
Harry darted his gaze back to the small serpent. "Could you... er..." The serpent got the idea. Or something. It unwound from Harry's wrist and coiled up his arm to his shoulders and wrapped tightly around his neck. Harry itched to remove it, but didn't. The soldiers seemed to enjoy his "fearlessness" and some more coppers were thrown at the stage, one of which hit Harry straight in the shin at high velocity. He swore and clutched the limb, and the soldiers laughed.
Faintly blushing from sheer embarrassment, Harry rushed off the stage.
Several startled gazes among the circus members met his, but Harry only ducked his head and went around the back of the stage to hide out for a moment.
"Could you let go?" Harry asked the snake. He couldn't see it, but he knew it was there and could feel his adam's apple being pressed firmly against by the thin yet strong body. He offered his hand as alternate lodging, and the serpent agreed.
Now that he could see it, properly in candle light, the snake was about two centimeters thick and at least fifteen centimeters long. It was definitely young, but he could also make out from the shape of it's head that it was venomous rather than a constrictor. A pit viper of some sort.
It didn't seem to care about him now that it had it's own run rather than being a prisoner and didn't speak anymore. Harry gnawed his lip before laying his hand on the grass and asking it not to bite any of the people (or wolves or og'res) to which it merely nodded.
"I kind of figured snakes would be a bit more... surprised to have a person speak your tongue," Harry mentioned, bemused, as it slithered off toward the grass.
"Beast speakers aren't that rare," was all Harry heard before it was gone.
He blinked, but said nothing about it when anyone mentioned the affair. Mogweed was highly grateful for the rescue and promised to continue to not mention how Harry had fixed his glasses. Meric gave him a wider berth and Kral's glances grew more speculative.
Life continued with the circus.
Harry had been eighteen for a week when the circus reached Shadowbrook; Er'ril said this was as far as the circus could take Harry with them, since they had their own itinerary. Harry opted to stay on with them until they were going to leave the large town – it wasn't exactly city-sized, but compared to the little villages they had stopped in before, it was pretty big – though Er'ril didn't say how long that would be.
After the revelation of him not being allowed by the law to travel alone yet, Harry was a bit iffy on catching a boat out to the coast... and, as it was, he knew than England wasn't actually out that way, so catching said boat would be a dumb idea anyway. He'd only be more lost.
On the third day of the circus' stay in Shadowbrook, Harry saw perhaps the most intimidating woman he had ever met. More so than Molly Weasley in a rage, and this woman didn't look like she was trying to be intimidating either.
She was six feet tall and of a sturdy build. Her blond hair was tied into twin pigtails, as if to match the two swords that crossed over her back.
Harry thought she looked like a viking.
The woman went over to Tol'chuk's tent and talked to Kral – he wasn't overly pleased – before going in. Harry pinched his lips but turned away to go back stage. Len's act had finished a few minutes ago, and he wanted to give the boy a parting gift before they had to part ways. He thought some new clothes – or gloves, since the he wore the exact same pair at all times and they were getting rather worn – would be a nice gift.
He didn't notice Mogweed rushing by him, and so when he saw Len in the tent with his "father" his right hand looking like it was covered in blood and a vine-like plant wrapped around his other hand, Harry blanched.
"Len! What happened?!" he rushed forward and examined Len's hands. Len's face bleached white when he saw Harry, but Harry was busy looking over the boy to notice. There weren't any wounds, but Len's right hand was still a brilliant crimson color. The plant was wrapped around Len's left hand and twining over the wrist and a few inches of arm. It wasn't wrapped tight, nor was attached to anything, but it refused to give.
Then something struck Harry in back the head, and he knew no more.
Elena was still so shocked at the vines that had wrapped around her hand that she hadn't noticed Harry entering the area behind the stage, though she heard him.
And he had seen her wit'ch mark. Elena felt all the blood drain from her face as Harry took her hands in his and looked them both over meticulously. Yet he didn't seem shocked by her hand being red... only scared for her. But Elena wanted to hit herself for thinking that; no one remembered about mages anymore, so he wouldn't know what her right hand, filled to the brim with magick as it was, would mean.
She was so caught up in worrying about Harry and fretting that she didn't notice Meric and Fardale had come around until Meric had knocked Harry out cold on the cobblestones.
"Meric!" Elena snapped in shock. "He wasn't... he didn't... he was just worried!"
"As am I, milady," Meric's lips thinned. "But you have to understand. He could easily be one of the Dark Lord's without us knowing. Show me your hand." He switched gears quickly, from being harsh about Harry to being soft about her. Meric was obsessed with pampering Elena, and while a little pampering would be nice – as the only woman in a troop of so many men, it was trying – Meric, she knew, would go overboard.
"I know, I just –" but Elena cut herself off as more of the troop came up. Kral, Mogweed, Tol'chuk... and a head of blond hair that Elena knew all too well.
Harry's injustice left Elena's mind completely as she embraced a new reminder of home and what might be the last of her family.
Author's Note: It's been six months since I posted this story; obviously, it is not my main project. I just write it when I feel like it. I'm sorry if that displeases you, but I have a bazillion bunnies eating at my gray matter, and this one isn't quite as persistent as the rest of them. I'm just doing this for kicks, not for any actual recognition like my other stories.
And, to be honest, I originally wrote the first chapter and a small chunk of this chapter a year ago. So, yeah. Hardly even touching it... that might change now I'm on vacation though.
Should I write more, I should get the rest of part three in this chapter, have a synopsis of what bits of three won't be in it, a synopsis for part 4, and have started on part 5. I'm covering ground quickly, mk?
No offense to Aussies, I just like to make fun of that country/continent... and the Netherlands.
New characters: Includes those actually introduced and those who are only mentioned in the plot synopsis (below)
Mycelle Yarnosh – age... somewhere between 40 and 50 I think, a settled si'lura (a shape shifter who allowed her body to settle into one shape) in the form of what amounts of a blonde Viking woman. She is Tol'chuk's mother and Elena's honorary aunt through association with Elena's real aunt (Fila). She has the elemental ability of seeking, which allows her to feel magic. She travels the continent giving phials of poison to elementals who do not wish to join the Dark Lord of Gul'gotha.
Sy-wen – age 14-ish, a young mer'ai (mermaid) who has yet to bond to a seadragon. She is very fond of her mother's dragon, Conch, and is fascinated with the world above. Her father was banished to walk the earth when she was still a child. Very curious, independent, and rebellious, she fights using a stunner (starfish) and a knife made of a rockshark's tooth.
Kast – age somewhere between 25 and 30 (I can't be arsed to check), he is the eldest son of the leader of the Dre'rendi (Bloodriders; a tribe of men who ride the seas at all times, only setting foot on land for trade). His weapon of choice is a spear, but when Sy-wen touches his tribal tattoo, he is sent into a fit of pique and may do only her bidding. He is highly independent, generally stoic, and views himself above his fellow crewmates, though he'll do whatever work is required of him.
Joach Morin'stal – age 15/16, Elena's older brother, he grew up with her on their farm. While fleeing from a skal'tum that attacked him and his sister in Winter's Eyrie, he was kidnapped by the Dark Mage Greshym and made into his slave. He is strong-willed, stubborn, playful, dependable, and values his family and freedom above all things. No weapons as of yet.
Greshym – age over 550 years, he was Shorkan's teacher and a good friend of Er'ril. Made the prophecy concerning Elena, the Dark Lord, and the Blood Diary. He has continued to age over the centuries and looks all his 500-plus years, and is jealous of Shorkan for his eternal youth. He is selfish, forward-thinking, traitorous, and forever striving for his far-gone youth, but he isn't as black-and-white evil as Shorkan because he saw shades of gray before the Diary was forged. Uses black magic to fight.
Shorkan – age over 500, though he appear less than thirty, Er'ril's elder brother and an ex-mage. He is now an un-aging Dark Mage in the service of the Gul'gothal Lord, and is the Proctor of the Edifice at A'loa Glen; the head of the White Order, those who are against the Gul'gothal Lord. He is now the exact opposite of the optimistic and energetic mage he had been, and is dark, stoic, and cynical. Fights using black magic.
Synopsis of Wit'ch Storm, Part 2 (just so you can keep up with the other plotlines)
Part 1 was covered last chapter (Wit'ch Storm is a 5 part book), and this chapter spans the difference of parts 1 and 3 since in part 2 the focus switches to Sy-wen, Kast, and Joach, Elena's older brother. In part 3 (which started toward the end of this chapter), it goes back to Elena's group.
Starts off with Joach, who is trapped inside his own head. Greshym is now his body's master and uses him as his slave (mostly just to get him food). Joach requires orders to the point of how to get dressed, when to go to the loo, and to sleep at night, or his body just won't do it. Greshym meets with the head of the Order at A'loa Glen, and Joach with him, where we find that the Blood Diary is on the island and Joach finds out that his sister is alive. When they leave the tower, they find the tree on the island, a symbol of magic, is in bloom for the first time in centuries. The pure Chyric magic of that blossom frees Joach from the mind control, but he pretends it did not.
Sy-wen is having fun breaking the rules of her people by going out with Conch (her mother's bonded seadragon, a jade) to look at the Archipelago, when Conch is captured by a fishing ship. Dragon blood is worth a lot of silver, so they decide to keep him alive. Sy-wen tries to free her mother's dragon, but is captured by the crew. Kast saves her from the lechers on board the ship and, when she touches his Falcon tattoo, ancient magic forces him to get her off the ship. One of the older crew members helps them escape and starts leading them to A'loa Glen where the members of his Order, the Hi'fai, will help heal Conch if they get there in time.
Meanwhile, Joach has been slowly mapping out the Edifice while he's getting meals and continues to play the fool. However, two of the brothers of a mysterious Order catch on to his ruse and believe that he has been playing Greshym for the fool instead ('cause no one knows Greshym is the original Greshym of 500 years before). However, he overhears the pair talking about "Ragnar'k" which, at the end of the section, is revealed to be a dragon of some sort.
Yeah, that's that entire section of the book...
More things you ought to know:
By my system, 1 silver is worth about 230 coppers. 1 gold is 50 silvers. This is a rough guesstimate. Sickles are roughly the size of five silvers stacked on top of one another, and gold coins are half the size of the silvers, so one galleon is about the same as ten gold.
Since the Dark Lord of Gul'gotha has ruled Alasea for 500 years, he's spread propaganda so no one realizes that it's a bad thing (in schools it is taught that he 'liberated them from the barbarian mages blahblahblah').
A si'lura may keep one form for 18 months before they are stuck for good. The longer they wait, the more their mind changes into that of their current form and the harder it is to change forms after.
The mer'ai live in leviathan's under the sea (think really big whales).
Mer'ai look like humans with webbed hands and hair the color of seaweed. They don't wear tops, only sharkskin britches.
When mer'ai hit puberty, they attract dragons of the opposite gender, and they pick one to bond with (no, not in a mating way). The colors of these seadragons are (in ascending rarity) White, Red, Blue, Green, and Black. They are (usually) 30-36 feet in length (described as "six men long" so I'm estimating), have finned feet, and they have wings to help them swim (no flying). They also have foot holds for their bonded and an air hole on their neck to share air.
The mer'ai need regular air to live; when they are at sea, they usually rely on their bonded dragon for air, or a type of seaweed that has natural air pockets.
A'loa Glen was once full of mages, but after the loss of Chi it contains only scholars.
It is hidden behind a great ward, and only three objects exist that can get through that ward, and only at certain points (Er'ril possesses one of these, in the shape of a metal fist which acts as a phantom arm for him in battle).
At A'loa Glen, there are many sects, all of whom do different things. The sect that suspects Joach is called the Hi'fai; they are elementals with the ability of Sight through dreams. They were kicked out of A'loa Glen before the loss of Chi; Greshym was one of their members.
A'loa Glen is full of orphans and sold children from the Archipelago who act as maids, cooks, etc, so Joach acting as Greshym's retarded personal slave isn't weird at all.
In this Chapter:
The bit with the soldiers actually did happen... or, rather, it was mentioned in the first section of Part 3 of Wit'ch Storm. They were paid a silver for it (which to Harry doesn't seem like much, but it's quite a lot for the sergeant to have paid them for the performance).
Mkay, so Shadowbrook is this big trade center blahblahblah. The group is stopping there to get money so they can afford the fare to go on a barge that'll get them to the coast, because that's where Er'ril is supposed to meet one of the men from A'loa Glen. Mycelle has been tracking them, and catches up with them at the same time that a wit'ch (not a blood wit'ch, but an elemental wit'ch since Elena is the only blood wit'ch) manages to bewit'ch Elena. That's what the moss is; with that moss on her left arm, Elena can't use magic or it'll grow.