A week passed and Harry's scouts began to return. He gathered their language gems and began the process of integrating them. Once the gems were combined and he was ready to retire for the evening he stuck it to his forehead and went to bed. Using his now advanced occulmency skills he could process the information from the gem overnight. After doing this for a week he had a basic understanding of the common human tongue and the two Elven languages; Sindarin and Quenya. He'd be an obvious 'foreign speaker' until he spent time actually speaking the languages but he'd be understandable. Perhaps more importantly he'd be able to understand them.
Beyond his nighttime exercises he spent his days research sterility curses, fertility potions and the biology of reproduction in general. Some of the curses were quite gruesome but he hoped with the low levels of magic he had thus far observed that those particular curses had not been used. A more obvious source lay in the befouled lands to the East. He scryed there carefully since he felt someone searching for him once when he was observing the smoking mountain.
"That mountain is a volcano and it's not dormant. It is definitely pumping out some poisonous fumes. Who knows how sensitive your distant relatives are to such things?" Harry postulated to an attentive elf. Sometimes the loneliness got to him and they were always ready to play sounding board to 'their wizard'. The little grey elf nodded earnestly as Harry continued, "But it doesn't seem to be better in the Elven settlements further away, I mean there are just no children at all! We've all put way to much effort into this move for them to die off now!" Fuming Harry returned to his list.
Possible Causes of Elven Sterility
Atmospheric poison from active volcano
Racial Curse (should be readily apparent with diagnostic spells).
Choice (racial suicide? Maybe depression? Cheering charms perhaps?).
Environmental Change (Lack of needed nutrient? Have any plants/animals gone extinct recently).
Pollution (no industrialization so seems unlikely but worth looking into).
That was all he'd come up with and some on the list were less likely than others. He wouldn't really be able to narrow it down anymore until he met with the elves. 'I'm ready' he decided. He had done all he could to prepare, it was time to meet the neighbors! Which neighbors though? Perhaps the elves he'd helped with their patrol? What about the Elven Queen he'd waved at? Or that beautiful valley filled with the widest diversity of peoples he'd seen thus far in this world?
'I think the ones fighting the acromantulas would be best,' Harry decided. They seemed to face the most active opposition stemming from the foulness to their East. Of course being in active conflict they'd also be more suspicious of a powerful stranger, he ruminated. 'I'll bring gifts!' he exclaimed. Green eyes twinkling Harry resembled his long-past mentor more than a little as he dashed to his keep. Although gems and gold were a bit 'passé' it never hurt he decided. Healing potions would be more useful though. Counters to the spiders venom, general healing spells for wounds, skele-grow for broken bones and blood replenishing potions. He had hundreds of doses stored in stasis. A dozen each would not stress his stock at all. He had the ingredients to make many more if needed after all.
Now something to make an impression, gold, gems and potions weren't very dramatic he concluded. Thoughts circled back to his fourth year at Hogwarts, he'd been very impressed with the flying horses and gilded carriage. (He'd identified with Cinderella more than a little as a child and that was the closest the Wizarding world had come to matching the fairy tales he'd expected). He had a herd of the horses settled in a newly built paddock. He could hook a team of them to a carriage and travel in style. Now, where was his carriage?
A quick consult with his Head Elf and the carriage was found. His carriage very closely resembled the one from his childhood tale; gleaming white with gold gilding. He resisted the urge to transform mice; the transformation was easy physically but mentally they'd still be rodents. Instead he activated one of his golems. He'd made a hobby of creating the creatures for a few decades and used all manner of material. The ones he dedicated to his coach were obsidian golems. Their mirror black surface gleamed brilliantly and stood in start contrast to the bright coach. Their livery bore the Potter crest and very formal. They had enough sentience to handle the fractious mounts, follow directions and notify him if an aerial threat occurred.
A chest of gold & gems, the potions and supplies he'd need for the journey were quickly loaded. A few quick instructions to his elves to follow during his absence and he was off! He could apparate there with his coach but he didn't want to appear that suddenly; plus the effort would tire him out and he might need his magic when he arrived. Although he was hopeful of good relations it would be foolish indeed to count on it. If they reacted with hostility he would be ready.
'It was a peaceful journey; a bit boring really' Harry felt as they finally approached their destination. The coach was a small cottage inside, large enough that Harry dithered as he pondered his wardrobe. In the end he chose a rich green robe embroidered with golden snakes on the edges which he left open as a cloak. He wore straight lined black pants with a tight knit black shirt tucked in. It clung to his muscles and the thick golden pendant gleamed where it rested on his collarbone. The pendant was his own creation; thick gold links spelled with numerous protective enchantments. From its length hung the Potter Medallion, a direct communication link to his castle and elves. They relied upon him for protection and even though he expected no threats in their isolated location he left nothing to chance. It was also a permanent portkey that would return him at a moment's notice. He hated portkeys; he could never land standing up! Underneath his clothes he wore the finest and thinnest armor available on his old world. It was thinner than chainmail but much more comfortable. The armor protected against knife and sword wounds as well as low to mid level curses. A silk lining kept it comfortable.
With the Death Wand within him he had no need for another wand or staff so simply shrunk his gifts into a small moleskin pouch placed on the belt at his waist. He'd grown his hair out; it now fell to his shoulders. The added length helped calm down its previous wildness so instead it was wavy, gleaming a rich black. He brushed it back and tucked his hair behind his ears but that was the most he would do. He wanted to make an impression but not resemble his old school rival Draco after all!
Observation spells allowed Harry to view outside his coach. He had his golem circle the clearing in front of the barred cave entrance to make sure the elves had time to notice him. He watched as another squad of bow wielding elves poured out from the cave and targeted his coach. He'd expected them to react with alarm. He wouldn't even be surprised if they attacked his coach after he landed. After the elves had settled down to wait the circling coach approached for landing. The elves backed out of the way as the flying horsed touched down and slowed. The golem calmed them automatically as they snorted in alarm at the strange beings surrounding them. Their spelled harnesses ensured their safety from Elven arrows but their natural instincts regarded them as threats. Harry let a few minutes pass as the elves argued amongst themselves and finally one of their people approached.
The golem at the foot of his carriage dismounted. Ignoring the elves he opened the coach door to allow his master exit. The wizard smiled as he faced one of the elves from the patrol he'd helped save from ambush.
Legolas cursed; it had been a horrible day. First they were ambushed by orcs and then that horrible creature escaped. Thranduil was a powerful king and an exacting father; he hated to disappoint him. He looked forward even less to report his failure at Rivendell. Those stuck-up elves always looked down upon his kin and admitting failure to them stung horribly. As he approached the cavern exit to begin his journey he found a squad of archers running past him.
'Why are they running? It couldn't be an attack here' the blond elf pondered. Speeding up a bit he exited moments after them to observe both the normal entrance guards and the bowmen who just arrived staring at the sky. He looked up.
"By the Valar what is that?" he exclaimed. His cry was lost amidst the others as all the elves stared at the strange site. A gleaming white coach was pulled by huge flying horses! A strange creature of gleaming black drove them and another rested at a small platform at the back of the coach. The horse, coach and drivers circled above them for a few minutes before it began to angle towards them. Quickly realizing it was landing the elves back out of the way. A loud thump sounded and the crash of the horse's hooves rang out as it landed. A few minutes later the coach was stopped. The strange driver calmed the horses in a foreign tongue.
"Legolas! You should be back in the cave, we don't know what trick of Sauron this may be!" the guard Captain yelled at him. The Captain had been in charge of the Inner security of their caves and royal family for decades; he could not risk the Prince.
Legolas growled, he took his patrols like every elf but still the Captain tried to keep him safe. "I've told you a thousand times Amlas I will not be wrapped in wool! Besides they aren't attacking. I'm going to approach them" he yelled back. Amlas was dear to him; he'd been one of the few elves that had played with him as a child but he couldn't remember that the Elven Prince was grown now!
Legalos followed his words with actions and approached the strange newcomers. He paused as the black humanoid at the rear dismounted. Caution kept his hand near his knives but the creature simply walked to the coach's door and pulled down a couple steps which then rested on the ground. Then he stood to the side as he opened the door. A strangely dressed human teenager exited the coach. A familiar stranger at that! Though it had been many days since the thwarted ambush he recognized the face of their strange savior. Legalos took a moment to observe him; he was dressed in fine clothes, clearly he was a noble of some sort. The elf approached and as he drew closer realized this was no human but one of the Istari! Just as with Gandalf the hum of power radiated out from the apparent teenager.
"I have not heard of a new Istari, welcome to our home. I am Legolas, Prince of Mirkwood. Thank you for alerting us to the ambush." Legalos greeted him cautiously. The stranger smiled and the strumming power faded a bit. The Elven Prince responded by loosening his tensed muscles and his posture change from battle readiness to merely 'at attention'.
"I not know the word 'Istari', apologies. My name is Harry Potter. I am a wizard from away. Glad to help ambush, I not like "~~"" A strange foreign word sounded which Legolas took to mean the spiders. Legolas nodded in agreement. It was obvious the wizard was still new to their language. Although he wondered who taught him since news of a new Istari should certainly have reached them at the latest when that occurred.
"Why are you here Wizard Harry Potter?" the Prince asked.
"I lived with men hundreds of years but they age, die. Need friends not die. Help elves live, bring gifts and friends?" Harry was frustrated, he thought he'd learned more of their language but knew he sounded foolish but only time speaking with those who knew the language would help. He'd just have to endure the embarrassment. He shrugged in apology at his poor wording. The blond haired elf smiled in apparent understanding.
"My father King Thranduil should meet you. Although you are a wizard, which is what Istari means, we do not know you. If you would please leave any weapons you have here I will take you to him," The Prince offered.
Harry smiled; this was going better than he feared! "Magic is my weapon, not need bow or sword. I want to meet King Thranduil, thank you for greeting. Sorry I speak not well, learning." The wizard concluded.
"Well, Istari cannot be separated from their magic so that I think we will have to live with," the elf joked; he smiled to show he meant no insult. Harry returned his smile and followed the Prince into the underground cavern.
Harry was impressed at the Elven home, it was underground which could have made it dismal but instead it was decorated with murals and artwork scrolled over every doorway. It was a twisting route to the throne room and the wizard wondered if that was intentional on the Prince's part so he couldn't find his way out without assistance. He smiled at the thought; although transportation magics were his biggest weakness as a wizard he could still apparate out whenever he felt the need. 'Although hopefully it won't be needed,' he pondered.
At last the Prince led him into a large throne-room with a mature elf sitting on his elevated throne. He looked to be a stern elf; his manner vaguely reminded the wizard of the long since dead Lucius Malfoy. 'That doesn't bode well', the nervous wizard thought. He could see recognition in the startled elf's eyes as he approached behind the Prince.
Legolas bowed solemnly to his father and introduced Harry, "Father this is the Istari Harry Potter who aided us against the spiders. He arrived in a flying carriage drawn by horses the likes of which I've never seen or heard of driven by strange servants. He is learning our language so his speech is not the best but he mentioned wanting to be friends with our people and bringing gifts." He knew his father well and smirked inwardly when his father perked up at the mention of gifts. He wasn't sure if the Istari knew his father as well but if not he had made a lucky guess that a wizard's gift would be much desired.
Thranduil nodded and motioned the wizard forward. "Greetings Istari, we have not heard of your appearance before. Why did the council not send word?" he questioned the wizard. The King looked around the wizard and concluded either his gifts were small or perhaps still in this 'flying carriage'.
"I not in council here. Not know other wizards or elves. I from far away land, settle in far north, come here make friends? I give gifts now?" Harry explained. At the King's agreement he pulled out the shrunken chest and set it on the ground. Deciding drama was called for he slowly pulled out his wand and dramatically called out, "Finite Incantum!" Adding a mental command to increase the show he made golden sparks flow from his wand to encircle the rapidly enlarging chest. A minute later the glow faded and a large chest rested upon the ground. It was four feet long, three feet wide and three feet deep. It was made of metal and intricately decorated with precious gems and scroll work. He was quite pleased with it himself.
Harry suppressed his smirk at the Elven King's astonishment as he leapt from his throne to investigate the chest. With a flourish Harry opened the chest and displayed the glittering contents within. Pulling forth four pouches he opened each to show a bottled potion. "These are magical potions fix spiders venom, heal wounds, mend broke bones and make blood more. Make for humans first. Need to cast spell on elf to see safe." He explained. He could see Legolas's wonder at the potions but noticed the King was a bit distracted by the gems and gold. "Cast spell ok?" he again asked.
Startled the Elven King jerked to attention, "Of course, you may cast your spell upon the guards," he motioned and a couple of guards approached. They looked a bit worried at a wizard casting a spell on them but obediently stood still while Harry waved his wand. Several minutes of strange incantations and sparkling lights passed before the wizard put away his wand.
"Bone potion bad but others ok. Can use on humans not elves or hurt ok," he explained. Legolas nodded and made note of what each potion looked like. He did not recognize the strange script but the drawn image of a spider, bone, blood and strange smiley face were hard to miss. "Spider for venom, bone for humans, blood for blood and smile for wound better." Harry clarified.
Thranduil was torn. He wanted to count his gold and examine the gems but the Istari was standing there wanting his attention. "Legolas, why don't you show our friend to a room for him to rest? You can give him a tour of our home and introduce him to people." He instructed.
"I'd be happy to father but you wanted me to make haste to Rivendell and the journey will take many days?" Legolas reminded his distracted father. Thranduil frowned.
"What Rivendell?" The wizard interrupted.
"Rivendell is the Elven settlement to our West ruled by Elrond, the Last Homely House he calls it. I have news I must bring them though I'm not looking forward to it." The Prince explained.
"I help? Fly to Rivendell? Make friends Elrond too? Fly fast!" Harry offered.
Legolas was intrigued. To fly in a wizard's carriage drawn by such fantastical beasts? Did he dare? "Father?" the Prince asked.
"Yes, yes fly to Rivendell," the King muttered as he began separating the gems and coins. Uncertain if his father truly understood what he was agreeing to the Prince was none-the-less excited at the prospect of flying and quickly led the wizard back to the surface.
Harry chuckled at the King's distraction and Prince's excitement. He'd made a good foot in the door at least. Perhaps this Legolas could explain his people's reproductive problems on the journey. He looked forward to the Prince's reaction to the enlarged interior of his carriage. As introductions go this one had gone well. Hopefully the journey would improve his speech and gain him more knowledge before they reached this 'Homely Place'.