Orontes watched as the Bels-bastons champion slipped the German's wand into his belt and scooped up the Triwizard Cup.
George whispered "Mobilicorpus," and Rudiger's half-conscious body slipped off his shoulder and began to float beside him. The tarasque bellowed once more. Levitating the Durmstrang champion in front of him, George edged around the side of the clearing while Orontes waved his arms frantically and moved in the opposite direction.
The creature charged at Orontes, who somehow got out of its way and let it crash headlong into the crest of the ridge. The Sleeping Powder had at least slowed it down, but it was still dangerous. Orontes shot a blaze of multicolored sparks into the creature's face, all the while backing toward the entrance to the clearing.
Still guiding Rudiger along with his wand, George exited the clearing and didn't look back. Orontes sighed.
Now what? he thought.
The tarasque pawed the ground again.
Orontes reached inside his cloak for his one remaining Rune Charm.
"Do I look tasty, you ugly beast?" he taunted.
He touched his wand to the slip of wood and ignited it with a Fire Charm.
Around him erupted two, four, eight—a full dozen replicas of the Hoggewartes champion. Each had drawn its sword and stood ready to fight. Thirteen Hoggewarters circled around the clearing, obviously confusing the tarasque.
The real Orontes ducked behind one of his doubles, pulled on his Invisibility Cloak, and skulked toward the entrance to the clearing.
The tarasque plowed into three or four of the doppelgangers, which evaporated on contact with a flash of light. The creature roared and spun to strike another target.
As quickly as he could, Orontes made his way to the path.
The earth shook. The tarasque had made short work of Orontes's doubles and now seemed to have figured out that its real quarry had returned the same way he had come. Worse, it seemed to be shaking off the effects of the Sleeping Powder. He didn't know if it was his scent or the sound of his footsteps that gave him away, but it was certain the creature was heading in his direction.
He made it back to the spot where he and George had fought the biasd bheulach. He studied the ground by wand-light. This was definitely the place.
He had convinced George to sow the dragon's teeth in case they needed one last diversion. Now it was apparent they did.
Orontes had no trouble finding the places where the ground had been disturbed. With the tarasque thundering his way, he pulled his wand arm from underneath his Cloak and said, "Aguamenti." A jet of water streamed out of the tip of his wand, watering the ground where the dragon's teeth had been planted.
"Hurry up!" he hissed, pulling off the Cloak. But he didn't have to wait long. In a matter of seconds, the ground in front of him began to shift and turn, disturbed from underneath by half a dozen moon-white forms that now began to emerge from the earth like frightful alien plants.
They were warriors—human-shaped but chalky white like the dragon's teeth they used to be. Armed with helmets, shields, and swords, they were little more than animated skeletons wrapped in shimmering, translucent flesh. Unspeaking, they turned toward Orontes. They might have been staring at him, but in truth the Hoggewartes champion discerned no hint of awareness in their vacant, silver eyes.
"That way!" he called, pointing the way he came. "A creature is headed this way. You've got to stop it. Understand?"
The dragon's-teeth warriors neither nodded nor registered comprehension of any sort, but they turned their backs to Orontes and closed ranks.
He didn't wait to see what happened next. Hopefully, the trick bought him a few extra minutes. He had no intention of wasting a single second. Feeling was starting to return to his broken leg. He limped down the path as quickly as he could.
It wasn't long until he caught up with the Bels-bastons champion. Levitating the German and keeping him from drifting into trees along the way proved as time-consuming as trying to run with a broken leg. Rudiger was by that time beginning to stir in earnest—which made it almost impossible to control him with the Levitation Charm. With Orontes's arrival, George released the charm, and the two champions carried the third between them.
The Durmstrang champion was nearly awake and walking on his own by the time they came to the final fork in the path, but even with another application of George's Healing Charm, he looked pale and in deep agony. Orontes suspected he had more than one broken rib and probably some internal damage a proper Healer would have to attend to. Rudiger mumbled to himself in German. The three of them stumbled toward the edge of the forest.
Orontes's jaw dropped as they limped into the clearing.
The spectators were in the midst of an all-out brawl. Several Hoggesmeders and younger students had taken to simple fisticuffs, while most of the remainder had obviously been trying for some time to jinx and hex each other to oblivion.
To one side, young Cadwgan was shouting, "For Hoggewartes! For Gryphon-d'Or" as he blasted a handful of Durmstrangers twice his size with ineffectual Stunning Spells.
Across the way, two older witches had managed to transfigure each other's faces to look, respectively, like a pig and a cross-eyed boarhound.
Headmistress Custance and Headmaster Ydevert tried desperately to gain control of the situation by firing wand-sparks and Impediment Jinxes. Highmaster van Durmstrang and his deputy raised their hands toward their charges, advising—though not precisely demanding—that they stand down.
The stands were a jumble of splintered wood—some of which was still on fire. Witches and wizards wallowed on the ground, smarting from all manner of magical insults. By the light of the elevated fire baskets, it seemed the entire grounds were pock-marked by errant curses and strewn with debris.
In the middle of the melee, the fat friar's appeals for calm and forbearance went utterly unheeded.
No one even noticed the three champions' return.
"D'you reckon we should say something?" Orontes said.
"Best we just get the German to the hospital wing. From the look of things, there's going to be a line."
Orontes shrugged. "This way, Rudiger," he said, pointing the still half-dazed Durmstrang champion toward the castle.
George raised his hand to steady the German's wobbly lurch forward.
He let the Triwizard Cup drop to the ground.
"Forgive the interruption, Your Majesty," Roger said as soon as he stepped out of the emerald fire at Windsor Castle. Edward Longshanks was already on his feet, dagger drawn, eyes afire.
"I'm merely here to follow up on my previous visit," he continued. He wanted get through everything he had to say as quickly as possible and be gone.
The King said nothing.
"Well, erm, I simply came to report that the dangerous creatures I spoke to you about…the ones we were importing for the…the tournament…have now been safely returned. No need to worry—not that there ever w-was, of course, but—"
"Your tournament has concluded, has it?" The king growled.
"Th-that's right," Roger said. He debated saying more, but chose not to. How would he ever explain to the king that no one was entirely sure who had won? That, based on this uncertainty, the declared winner of the first Triwizard Tournament was a Jew, banished from England, competing under the banner of a French wizarding school?
Edward sheathed his dagger as he approached Roger. "This school you mentioned. Hagge-wartes?"
"Hoggewartes, Your Majesty."
"Hoggewartes. Whatever. You said it's in Scotland, eh? So what happens if Scotland tries to give me trouble?" His gaze nearly burned a hole in Roger's forehead. "I've heard rumors that's possible, you know. Where will you lot stand?"
"I…I can only tell Your Majesty that I devoutly hope that such never happens. We are loyal Englishmen…but…Scottish wizards will, I'm sure, prove to be loyal Scots. War with Scotland would be very, very bad for the wizarding community, Your Majesty. Of that much I am confident."
King Edward scowled. He was obviously unsatisfied with what Roger had told him.
"But I will say this," Roger added, "recent events have…dampened the enthusiasm of many in our community for political engagement. I hope that, should the worst come to pass, at least we wizards will have the good sense to stay out of the way."
The King crossed his arms. "Is that all you have to say?"
"Yes, Your Majesty. I believe so. By your leave I'll…erm…bid you good night…."
"Good night, Roger Weaselly."
Roger blushed. He knew other wizards called him that behind his back. Hearing it from his king was another matter entirely. He attempted a pleasant smile. When the king nodded, he bowed his way back to the fireplace, administered a dash of Floo Powder, and vanished, hoping this was the last royal audience he would ever have to endure.
• Windsor Castle was built by William the Conqueror and served as a royal residence beginning in the time of Henry I (1100–1135).
• The First War of Scottish Independence began in March 1296 and lasted until 1328, although de facto Scottish independence was achieved after the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
• A truce between France and England was finally signed on 7 October, 1297—less than a month after William Wallace's victory over English forces at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.