Chapter 1: Necrosteeds
Scraps of newspaper danced across the dusty roads, the only noise in the entire town other than that of signs banging against their shops due to wind. The dust on the dirt roads seemed thicker than usual, as if it had not been tread on for quite some time, and the silence in the air seemed remarkably forced; it was as if the community as a whole was unwilling to make a noise.
A heavy gust of wind blew the front page of a torn newspaper right through the open window of a small, dilapidated shack. A small squeal of terror emerged from the inside, followed by silence again.
The little girl of around six or seven smoothed the front page out. She cast a sideways glance towards a mirror, one of the few things in the dirty wooden room, and took in her appearance. She was frail, thin, and covered in soot. Just like the last time she had looked. She continued to smooth the paper out and tried to read the headline on it.
Two Head Aurors?
The girl was right about read what little she could from the actual article when she heard quiet, hurried footsteps just outside the window. Her older sister had told her not to look out the window, no matter what she may hear. But these footsteps seemed anxious. Perhaps this person needed help?
She crawled to the window and lifted her head up slowly, just in time to see a cloaked figure hurry by her, their legs moving as if they were trying to both run and walk at the same time. The cloaked figure had their hood up, but she knew that he was not one of them-the people that had taken over their town- because he was not wearing one of those frightening masks.
She made to call out to the man, but her throat could not complete such a task like yelling. It had been much too long since she'd had something to drink. So she instead crawled back across the dusty and dirty floor and picked up the paper again.
She was once more smoothing out the paper when the door at the edge of the room creaked open. She held her breath in fear-
"Shhh, it's me!" her older sister whispered, walking in slowly and then immediately ducking low so that she could not be seen from the window. Her hair too was dirty and matted, the thick blonde locks now resembling ash. Her face, however, appeared to be slightly burned.
"What happened to your face?" her little sister asked her.
"Small fire right around from 's home," she replied sadly. "I went poking around. Couldn't find him."
There was a small, uncomfortable silence before the little sister opened her mouth once more, and asked something in a raspy, quiet voice.
"Any sign of mum?"
The older of the two pursed her lips as if she were trying to think fast. "No," she finally said, and her younger sister hung her head. "But that's a good thing. It just means she found a good hiding place. When those- those things- leave for a bit she'll come ba-"
But she stopped mid-sentence. She had just noticed the scrap of newspaper held tightly in her sister's hand.
"Marie!" she hissed. "I told you not to go outside!"
"I didn't!" Marie argued back. "Honest! It just flew in!"
"I don't belie-"
Marie's older sister abandoned the sentence in the middle and forced her sister's head down even further. She then pushed her forward so that they were both directly under the window- so that anything peering inside wouldn't be able to see. "Don't make any noise" she told her younger sister through lips that were practically closed.
Marie nodded. She put her head down and closed her eyes tightly. Taking advantage of this, the older sister slowly picked her head up and stole a glance out the window.
It was one of those things. Trotting down the dusty road at a slow, ominous gait was a charcoal black horse, noticeably bigger than a normal one, with milky white eyes and crimson hooves that seemed to glow with every step. Its mane was just as red, giving off the impression that it was walking while ablaze. A disgusting, skeletal being was riding atop it, thin black ropes used as reigns.
The horse was walking straight, its eyes focused solely on the road ahead of it. But the slimy, near-skinless monster controlling it was pausing every few seconds to peer at the ruined homes and shops. She knew it to be examining them for signs of life that had escaped its wrath before- for new lives to eradicate.
With each fresh step a new cloud of dust was kicked up, rising high into the air and seeming to hang there until a forceful blast of wind sent it away. Marie moved closer to her older sister, who held her breath as she heard the horse near them. It stopped just outside their window, and she knew that the skeletal fiend was gazing at the empty space on the inside of their home.
She heard the whipping of the wind, and soon enough dust particles had been blown through the window. Marie looked up at the sound, then up at her sister, who gave her a furtive glance as if telling her not to inhale. But she did.
Marie gave the smallest of coughs, just as the horse had taken another step away. Her older sister blinked her eyes in relief. The tiny cough had been masked by the movement-
But then she looked up. The horse had stuck its head through the window, and was now glancing down at them. The beast riding the horse gave a roar, and the horse snorted maliciously, billowing thick black smoke from its nostrils. The two girls screamed just as the milky white eyes of the steed turned dark red. It opened its mouth, and through the smoke they saw a flash of orange-
Fango Wilde stopped and turned on his heel from the sound of matching, childish screams. He watched as a home that he had just passed a few moments ago erupted into flames, the yells of the children inside eventually silenced. He shook his head as he watched the flames dance in the air, then turned back and continued down the road.
He turned at odd intervals, making his way down the cobbled streets and finally finding himself on a pathway that led to the biggest home of the small wizarding town they had invaded. He roughly pushed aside the small fence, an easy task considering it was almost completely off its hinges, and strode briskly to the large wooden door, where paint was peeling. He stepped back and took a good look at the house.
The windows were boarded, and pieces of the roof blown off from the initial takeover. Still, it was of considerable size. He could at least see why it had been selected for a base of operations, at least for the time being. He gently pushed the door open and entered.
The inside could not look more dissimilar from the exterior. The rooms had been magically transformed so that the floors were highly polished in a manor-like way. Brilliant chandeliers hung ostentatiously from the ceiling, and the neat furniture of the sitting room, though entirely unused, was placed just as one would if expecting auspicious visitors. A peculiar sight caught Fango's eye however. Leading into the next room was a straight carpet of brilliant deep purple.
He rolled his eyes and followed the carpet into the next room, where sure enough, he was greeted with a picture of false royalty. Sitting on a golden throne was a man with tangled blonde hair and a steely, malicious smirk. One of his hands was sipping a smoky substance that couldn't have possibly been tea. The other was gripped firmly around a magnificent golden wand with a dark, fanglike handle.
Fango Wilde knocked back his hood, revealing his bored, pale face. Completely void of expression, he ran his hand through his short black hair and allowed his piercing brown eyes to narrow on his new "leader."
"Fango!" Sebastian Darvy crooned sweetly, taking another sip. "Where is your mask?"
"Blew away," Fango lied with a dry expression. "It's windy."
Darvy narrowed his own eyes, but kept his ravenous glare. "Well I do hope you find it," he said. "What information do you have for me?"
"None," Fango replied, striding forward. Without invitation he waved his own wand, and a small chair appeared directly across from the throne. He sat down in it briskly. "Nothing new, anyway."
Darvy kept his gaze, but then shrugged as if not perturbed. "Interesting. I thought for sure you'd have contacts in the Department. Or are you completely disgraced?"
Fango blinked before speaking. "The Department of Magical Transportation has very little to do with the Department of Mysteries. Not that it should matter," he added.
Darvy leaned forward at this. "Excuse me?" he said sourly. "And why should it not matter?"
"You say that the Wand obeys you anyway," Fango said, almost offhandedly- though he wore the tiniest of smirks as he said it. "What could you possibly need?"
Darvy's face went blank, though he recovered quickly. "The Wand does obey me," he said fiercely. "Or have you not seen the ruin outside? All on my orders."
"Strange," Fango said immediately. "I thought that you told them to stop."
Darvy shrugged this statement away. "They are merely enthusiastic. And besides, they are becoming accustomed to their new pets. Far be it from me to not let them experiment a bit. And they've worked hard. Let's let the grunts do the grunt work."
Fango stared blankly now. He had almost forgotten that he, and all the other members of Ares' alliance, were now to be referred to solely as grunts.
"But shouldn't they be magically bound to you?" Fango asked curtly. "Regardless of what they want?"
Darvy's mouth twitched. "I am still adapting to the finer points of the Wand," he said. "It has many mysteries."
"Are the answers not immediately available?" Fango asked, his tone still the same.
"The Russian irks me," Darvy said, looking away. "He seems to think I am unworthy of his creation-"
"I was speaking of your brother," Fango said, and at this he smiled, for a vein had bulged in Darvy's head. "Surely, you have some way of contacting him? He would most likely know the answers that-"
"Reginald Ares knows NOTHING!" Darvy spat before Wilde could even finish his sentence. He rose from his throne, his chest now pounding heavily, his hair looking as though it were close to falling out. "Where was Reginald Ares when I was digging through garbage for scraps of food! Eating at his banquets! Where was Reginald Ares when I stealing my first wand? Purchasing his with a fat pound of gold from his fake mummy and daddy! Where was Reginald Ares before he needed my help! NOT CARING WHETHER I EXIST, THAT'S WHERE!"
Darvy ended his tangent there, his eye now twitching awkwardly. Wilde said nothing, but kept his slight smile. It was as if he'd purposefully provoked him. At the mention of contacting the dead, however, Fango allowed his eyes to scan the room. In the corner he saw it; the Foulest Book. It was laying on the floor uselessly, a sharp contrast to the pedestal it had been placed on under Ares' care.
"Perhaps it would be wise to at least discover what progress he made with the boy-" Wilde pressed.
Darvy batted this away, still fuming. "My brother went soft. Made no progress. I saw the situation. He had the opportunity. Got cold feet I expect. I will kill the boy on sight. No...for now, I will focus on more important things. Like my army."
Even as he said it, light trotting could be heard outside of the large house. Both men stopped the conversation to listen. The noise stopped for a single moment, before a loud scream followed it. The sounds of crackling flames were heard a little way off, and then the trotting continued.
Darvy smiled maliciously as if the noise of destruction was beautiful music, but Wilde looked faint. Darvy noticed.
"What's wrong Fango?" he said, and he sounded as if he were in a better mood now. "You don't like the Necrosteeds, do you?"
Wilde didn't comment, he simply tried to backtrack. "You mentioned your army. Is the Wand not a sufficient tool for manufacturing?"
"The Wand has limits," Darvy said. "I will need a more powerful object to truly control the dead. I was rather hoping you could have supplied me with answers, but alas, it seems to you've failed me." He did not attempt to mask the displeasure in his voice.
"The Veil was moved months ago," Fango said. "We know that much. To learn who has it now will require more than interrogating a few Ministry representatives. It will take time to pinpoint its location."
Darvy heaved a sigh. He then resumed sitting in his throne. "Away with you," he said, flapping his hand. "Return when you have actual information."
Wilde made no acknowledgement of his dismissal other than turning on his heel and beginning his stride out. Darvy stopped him with an icy question however.
"You don't like me, do you Fango?" he said.
Wilde said nothing. He did not turn around however. He was not going to bother making eye contact.
"You are undoubtedly wondering why I've not yet killed you," Darvy continued, giving his widest smile thus far. "I will not keep you in suspense. You're still alive because I know you to be an efficient worker. And because I owe you a great deal."
At this, Wilde could not help but turn around curiously, his eyes once again narrowed.
"Or have you already forgotten?" he added, flipping the Dragonfang Wand in between his fingers. "It was you, after all, who first gave me the location of this wand, was it not? All in exchange for the murder of a single Muggle woman, correct? What was her name? Cynthia, or Sarah-"
"Samantha," Wilde said, speaking for the first time since turning around, and his voice sounded uncharacteristically hoarse. "Her name was Samantha."
"Ah, yes," Darvy said. "I'd forgotten. Well, in any case, I must really thank the both of you. Had it not been for your intense infatuation with her I may have never been able to collect this wand for my dear brother...and its ownership may never have passed to me. Funny how that works isn't it? I do hope they can see us in the afterlife. I'm sure she'd be pleased to know what came from her death..."
It was now Wilde's turn to breathe heavily. His cheeks looked flushed; he appeared to be on the verge of vomiting. Without saying a word he turned back and briskly left the room, and then the house; the cold wind of the mangled village slapping against his face as if it were insulting him.
He peered at the ruins. The flaming buildings, the empty streets. Had he done this? Was there anyone that could stop this?