A/N: I finally got around to starting this Founders' story, hurrah! I'm really not sure if I like this chapter, however, so feel free to be tough with your critique. I think I'm just utterly rubbish at writing emotional drama. Oh well, I really hope you like it. This takes place roughly in the year 978 AD (I drew up a Founders' Timeline – it's on Deviantart if anyone fancies a read). This works as a backstory to my present-day Harry Potter fic, "Twin Vice Paranormal Detectives", hence the title, but you don't have to have read that to understand this story.
Anyway, I hope you lot like mythology and folklore, because this story's rife with it!
A thousand years or more ago,
When I was newly sewn,
There lived four wizards of renown,
Whose names are still well known:
Bold Gryffindor, from wild moor,
Fair Ravenclaw, from glen,
Sweet Hufflepuff, from valley broad,
Shrewd Slytherin, from fen.
- Goblet of Fire
The fen and fell his fastness was,
The marsh his haunt
Winter. A night of frost and hard moon.
There was a long hand in the darkness and in it was a knife. The blade was clean and twitched in the hard moonlight, as though eager to carry out the purpose it had been created for. The man who held the knife was very tall and very dark. His narrow black eyes were accustomed to carrying out deeds in the dim night.
Tendrils of night-time fog slithered after him, hiding the patches of snow that covered the treacherous fens stretching between the River Temes to the East and the kingdom of Wessex in the west. The air was sharp and bitter, each breath a knife stroke in his chest. His fingers had become stiff around the slender bone hilt.
The man, Salazar, made no attempt at hiding himself as he crossed the fens towards the man he was going to kill.
The man in question was sitting on the trunk of an upturned tree, the same placid smile on his face that he had been born with. The simplicity of his dress irked his would-be killer. He wore a simple tunic and trousers, and carried only a small seax at his hip – no cloak, no sword and nothing to show his status of wizard. Everything about him was perfectly normal. In the silver light, he almost looked like a ghost.
He soon would be, thought Salazar without smiling. He stopped a few feet short of the rotten trunk and gazed unsympathetically.
"I thought you might show," the man greeted him, standing. "It's been a while since we last met. I like your beard. Makes you look like a villain from the old tales. Was it Uther who told you I'd be here?" He laughed. "That fiddle-pated old dunderhead. I knew he'd draw the knife from my back some day. Oh, well. Have you come to kill me then, brother?"
Salazar hesitated. He would not let Sol see him flinch, the man – his twin – whom he had shared a womb with. And he had promised himself he would not smile until it was finished. Instead, he gave a slight tilt of his head and remained silent.
"I thought as much," said Sol, sounding remarkably wistful. He turned and stared across the fens. The fog stifled everything, made the night look shadowy and treacherous. "I knew you would catch up to me eventually, but I had hoped to keep the Grawny Man off my shoulder a little longer. More's the pity."
He had that vague, but pleasant tone in his voice and Salazar hated it. Hated him for it. He lifted the arm that held the dagger so that the narrow blade pointed towards his brother's throat.
"You mock me, brother, even when you are facing death."
"Oh, no! I'm always serious about death," Sol protested in earnest. "Believe me, I'm quite terrified, only you see I'm suffering an abundance of fear right now. Once I've calmed down a little, I'll show you the dread you rightly deserve." He grinned.
"You are foolish," Salazar hissed vehemently, struggling to control the anger that shuddered through him. "You've always been foolish. You were born foolish and foolish you will die. You allowed lust to deceive you, to wrench you away from the Great Work and our family. Will lust make you slash a blade through every oath you have ever sworn while you smile benignly into Death's shroud?"
"It's not Death's shroud, Salazar," Sol replied, evenly, the grin waning. "It's your own. My fear for you outweighs my fear of the knife in your hand. I see it in your eye, brother. All your unhappiness to come, all the tears, all the heartbreak and the bloodshed. I may die tonight, but your death will last a great deal longer than mine."
A night creature bayed to the north, a howl like a dying soul. Salazar narrowed his eyes. He knew Maugrim was watching, their mother's slithery, sycophantic servant. He detested werewolves; their foul stench and mad taste for blood, fuelled by the worst of man and beast struggling inside them.
The howl, he realised, was a warning. The Norsemen were coming up the Temes, no doubt. The screaming was faint at first as the shock and terror began to catch like fire through the homes of whichever village was being raided this time. Soon those damned Barbarians would be here with their own wizards and their own magic. True, there were few witches and wizards among the Vikings and the Danes who could perform decent sorcery, and fewer still who measured up to a Slytherin's hand, but the Norsemen were relentless and had a penchant for using giants in their violent raids. Neither did they fear death; they relished in it. To die on the battlefield was an honour, not a tragedy.
The red glow of burning thatch lit the sky to the East. For a moment, he watched the reflected glimmer on the blade of his dagger, highlighting its goblin craftsmanship: a serpent forming an "S" with an apple in its mouth, its body pierced by an arrow. The Slytherin crest. The blade itself was so sharp that you might not notice if it cut you, not at first.
The screams grew louder.
"Poor souls," said Sol, pityingly, his gaze shifting towards the East.
"They're only Muggles. No more than animals." Salazar sneered. "You care for them so much? You must do, to desire marrying one and shaming your kin."
"I see no difference between us."
"Then you are bloody blind," he spat, venomously.
His brother gave an indifferent shrug. Salazar grunted, a sound of frustration, the only emotion he allowed his brother to see. They were nothing alike, his twin and he. Sol was bright, sociable; a frivolous man who enjoyed plentiful feasts and loved the old stories. He was everything about life that made it worth living and Salazar loved and hated him for it. When Salazar entered a room, people were uncomfortable, or troubled, or found their voices unaccountably lost. There was something about the dark man that felt not quite right. He was like a serpent wearing a thin disguise, a borrowed human skin.
But tonight, it was Salazar who was troubled. He had killed numerous men and women. He had even killed children. But he had never killed a brother.
He lowered his voice, spoke in hurried, low tones. "I will ask you once and once only. Go on your knees. Beg for your life and renounce your ways. Leave your wife. Drown your child. Go to Hybernia, it's the only land she fears. If you do not-"
"I am not our mother, Salazar," Sol cut him off sharply. "I do not order the death of my children."
"She grieves you."
"She grieves herself!" he yelled, and for the first time Salazar could feel his twin's anger bubble. "You know what our mother is. Grief will not melt her tears as they do mortal men. It will harden her. And she will destroy you."
The hollow cries and sounds of battle cut between them as men and women lost their lives to the Vikings' brutality. Another warning call from Maugrim sounded, this time at a higher, uneasy pitch.
Salazar stepped closer. "Then you've made your decision. You choose death."
Sol shook his head. "That was not my choice to make. The Norns have already made their decision, and I was but their instrument. Just one more branch on the Yggdrasill. The decision to spill my blood is all yours, Salazar. All yours."
"You will not fight me then?" asked Salazar, his voice dripping with venom. "You will willingly lie down and rot?"
"Oh," Sol began, with a small smile, "I don't know about that." And he drew the small seax from his belt.
The action incensed Salazar, made the pure blood in his veins boil with anger. He should have guessed his brother would not use magic. Sol had to have known the only chance he had of winning against his brother was by using magic and still, with that knowledge, refused to take up his wand.
"One last request, brother," said Sol, weighing the seax in his hand. His eyes sparked in the dim glow of the eastern fires. "Will you grieve me after I am dead?"
But he had no reply. And Salazar moved through the night like a snake and raising his right hand, the hand holding the serpent knife, took him in the throat, drawing out life like a poison. He did not feel the tip of the knife tear flesh and pierce muscle. Only saw the blood; its dark contrast against the crisp snow.
Sol's body felt limp against his brother's chest, silent and choking as blood filled his windpipe. The hand that held the seax began to loosen, but Salazar closed it tight around the blade, for then Sol would find Odin's hall, the feasting hall of the dead where all the warriors of the world went. And he rocked the body in his arms long after the eastern fires burned out, and the screaming died and Maugrim stopped howling.
And he did not smile when it was over.
Notes for this Chapter
Ouroboros: the symbol of the tail-devouring snake, forming a perfect circle
River Temes: River Thames in London
Wessex: Mediaeval South-West England
Seax: A short knife/cutting tool
Fens: Low-lying country, often swampy marshlands
The Slytherin Crest: The serpent eating an apple and pierced by an arrow is the 'Serpent Seal' or the mysterious 'Seal of Cagliostro. It has links to the Great Work i.e. the philosopher's stone, the quest for eternal life.
Hybernia: Mediaeval Ireland
The Norns: The 3 Norse Fates, Urd, Verdandi and Skuld
Yggdrasill: The World Tree
Odin's Hall: Better known as 'Valhalla'
I really hope you liked the first chapter. Please review and let me know what you think; all critique is welcomed!