Hello everybody, I finally finished the next chapter of this story. I would like to thank everybody that wished me well while I was fighting cancer. I'm healed according to the doctors and the treatment is basically done and I'm going into reha next month before I can finally start getting back to work. Cancer sucks.
I will be working on my current stories' updates, but it can take a while for new chapters to be ready. I wasn't up to much writing while going through chemo therapy after all, so I didn't write that much during those six months.
Now I hope you enjoy the new chapter.
Curse Those Stupid Spells
Daphne and Christopher were eager to begin their task, but Daphne advised to not let go of their vigilance.
"We don't know anything about the set-up of this task. And while we have to go against the clock, caution is always better than regretting it afterwards. It could be that we overlook clues if we rush into things," Daphne pointed out.
"True. And we are from houses that are known to think what they do before doing so. Okay, standard detection spells will be our first action then, next to looking for clues. No matter what, it is impossible to collect five stars in fifteen minutes, not with whatever obstacles to be taken into consideration, which means, the organisers will have left clues where to find the stars in the task, otherwise we could look for ages without finding them. And Harry can only earn a limited number of jokers for us. And it wouldn't make any sense to create a task that couldn't be solved fully. The audience wouldn't like that," Christopher analysed.
"Correct. Going by that deduction, any clues should be placed at the beginning. Our first goal is finding those clues and then make good time in smart ways to find the stars and secure them for us. We don't know how the first team did, we only know that Harry is doing quite well in earning jokers and that some were used up in the first round. Which makes sense, as you said, it is impossible to find all stars in fifteen minutes," Daphne continued.
The two drew their wands when the door from their waiting room opened and carefully walked along the corridor, which was only sparely lit. Christopher saw it first.
"There is a map in the shape of Arabia on the wall," He told Daphne.
"That will be the clue we are looking for. Good work," Daphne complimented, "Now let's see."
Daphne tried to take the map from the wall, which didn't work.
"A permanent sticking charm," She frowned.
"Those are easy to unravel. Allow me," Christopher stepped forward and with a few wand movements while muttering some incantation and in the end tapping the four corners of the map, the piece of parchment came off the wall.
"How did you do that?" She asked.
"It was a project for Arithmancy in my fifth year. Each of us had to work out a counter to a spell we could choose," Christopher explained.
"Okay, let's see. We have a little time, as the timers haven't started counting down yet, probably they will do so once we leave the corridor and step into the arena," Daphne pondered.
"That's good. I think that the five smaller crosses on the map mark the stars we need to find. The two larger crosses could be something else, but which will be greatly important for the task," Christopher commented.
"Sounds likely. Perhaps something that will make it easier to solve the task or additional time jokers. Bigger ones than those that Harry is working on providing us with," Daphne suggested.
"Hm, if I would be in charge, I would use objects from the legends that we had to prepare for. It would only make sense," Christopher said.
"Hm, Arabia will probably revolve around the Warlock and the Flying Carpet and the Magical Lamp. Meaning, if you are right, we could be looking for a flying carpet and a magical lamp," Daphne realised.
"It would certainly help with all kinds of obstacles. Well, let's set up a route. We need to see if the large crosses really are helpful items, meaning this one to the left, the one closest to our starting position, will be our first target. After that we will continue to the two smaller crosses on the way to the second large cross here," Christopher pointed at the spots on the map, "and then on to the last three small crosses. I will also place a tracing charm onto the map to locate our position in relation to the marked spots. This way we can correct our course easily. If everything goes right, we should manage quite well."
"True. Then let's get going," Daphne agreed to the plan and they left the corridor, and once they stepped into the field that was resembling an oasis in the desert, a door closed behind them, locking them into their arena.
"Okay, first the logical thing. Accio stars," Daphne called out and predictably it wouldn't be that easy, but checking was always best.
"Okay, this way," Christopher pointed towards a path between two palm trees.
The audience watched how both the teams from Hogwarts and Beauxbatons noticed the maps early on this time and how the French team copied the map down with a nifty spell and the Hogwarts team actually managed to get it from the wall.
"Should that be possible, Moony?" Sirius asked.
"No idea, Padfoot. I thought they used permanent sticking charms. Those should only be dissolved by the caster, not somebody else," Remus answered, "but then again, Christopher is a very talented student. And I know he takes Arithmancy and the class includes a project in fifth year that entails developing a counter spell for a common spell."
"I see. Hopefully that will entice some younger students to go for the class as well," Sirius commented.
"It remains to be seen, but if the things that become possible with the knowledge are promoted better, it might happen," Remus nodded, "Ah, quite smart of them to notice that the time didn't start running until they entered the arena."
"I'm curious how far that will help them. Ah, now they have decided on a route and are on their way," Sirius noticed.
"And Harry has won three new jokers for his teammates since they restarted the job of the hostages," Remus looked over to the part of the monitors where the three hostages were solving tasks.
Sirius just nodded, mostly concentrated on the main team. While he was curious how his son fared, the main action was currently in the Arabia arena and as the Minister, he needed to concentrate on that, simply to be able to talk with guests after all three tasks were done. And thanks to the rearrangement of the whole tournament, he knew that Harry was safe.
Daphne and Christopher stood in front of a shimmering field, golden dust hovering around.
"Do you think this could be the 'Field of Illusions', which was mentioned in The Warlock and the Flying Carpet?" Christopher asked.
"It resembles the description in the book," Daphne agreed, "One way to find out."
She took her wand, drenched a bit of sand with water by using the aguamenti charm and hardened the mass into a small ball. Then she transfigured the ball into a small bird. The bird took flight into the field and soon after entering started flying bottoms up in circles.
"Definitely the Field of Illusions. The solution to this was turning off your sense of sight, as the illusions couldn't take hold without the person seeing them," Christopher remembered.
"The field seems to be about ten metres long and about eight wide," Daphne estimated it, "As this canyon leads to the treasure we want, we need to get across. I will first lead you with verbal instructions and then you can do the same for me from the other side."
Christopher nodded and Daphne instructed him around some small obstacles on the ground or from the sides of the canyon. One spot he needed to crawl forward with his elbows pulling him, as over him there were vines with sharp thorns on them, which swished back and forth to attempt grabbing him. And neither of them intended to get injured in this task. Once he was on the other side, he repeated the process for Daphne and they then continued their path. They had to get over a pit of scorpions, then an antlion trap and finally a mirage that tried to make them believe that the entrance to their destination was to the left, instead of to the right, but a look at the map told them the right path.
"Time?" Christopher asked once they reached the spot that was marked on their map.
"We have six minutes left," Daphne answered.
"Should work if we really get time bonuses for treasures," Christopher commented, "Now let's see about this defence."
He tapped a wall in front of him with his wand, only to have some square indentions appear, together with a box that held stone cubes with several runes on them.
"A puzzle. Those are clearly a mix between Arabian runes from the era of Sultan Agrappa intermixed with a few Egyptian Hieroglyphs," Daphne analysed, recognising the runes, "But the pattern doesn't make any sense."
"That's because we need to switch them around to make sense. This is the obstacle of the runes of Agrappa, from the Magical Lamp. The sultan feared for his precious treasure and came up with a whole new runic alphabet of his own to confuse thieves. And to make it more difficult, he also added that you had to work out the code phrase," Christopher recited the legend.
"Do you think they used the same phrase as in the legend?" Daphne asked, "After all, it would take too long to really work out a code phrase within the task's time limit."
"I wouldn't be too surprised. The puzzle in itself would take up enough time. Let's see, the sultan's code phrase was: I see the stars, they shine so bright, they lead the children in the night."
"Well, there is the rune for children, that one is for star and there the plural rune," Daphne pointed at the respective runes.
They puzzled out the sequence and indeed, once they had placed all the stones into the spots in the wall, the stone wall moved aside once the correct phrase was created. They went forward and found a metal chest sitting on a pedestal. A swift check told them that there wasn't any kind of trap around and then Christopher opened the chest. A small explosion went off over their heads, together with the sound of trumpets.
"Congratulations for finding the magical lamp. This lamp allows you to open portals to any kind of place you specify within the arena, exception are warded places. Time bonus ten minutes," A voice announced and on their bracelets the time they had left got the ten minutes added.
"This is great, like we thought the treasure would give us additional time," Christopher said very satisfied.
"This makes the game much more possible," Daphne agreed very happy, "Let's not waste time. Specifying places should mean we can use the coordinates from the map."
"Let's test it right away. The next small cross is at coordinates B3 on the map," Christopher stated.
"Lamp, take us to coordinates B3 on the map," Daphne clearly demanded and the lamp glowed orange for a short moment, before Daphne and Christopher were taken away from their spot.
Harry was surprised when he checked the number of jokers that his team had available right now. So far, the second team didn't have to use one yet. He didn't know why it was, as he was cut off from the outside, but it could only be good for their team, if they had all the jokers available later on. Right now, he was working on a new challenge.
He was to break a ward, which reacted to music. He had never even heard of something like this. He had a xylophone to work with, at least nobody asked him to be competent in a more difficult instrument's use, and there were some clues to what the melody needed was meant to be. He had to figure out which note released a clue first, so he was busy hitting a bar on the xylophone at a time to see the pictures the note released. So far, he had seen a fox, a fish, a bear and a rifle, making him believe that it was the child's song 'A Hunting We Will Go' and he remembered hearing it at his primary school, which led him to trying to get the melody right on the xylophone.
After a few wrong attempts at getting the notes just right, he managed and the correct melody for one strophe got him full five stars. Well, this type of challenge needed more time after all, so getting one joker for each song he worked out and played was more than fair in his mind. The next song was set and he continued with his work. At least this challenge didn't exhaust him like others before. Only his brain and hearing got to work this time around.
Daphne and Christopher stood in front of a sandy field with black, blue, red and green stones in it. The lamp had deposited them just outside the wards of this obstacle. The star, they could see, sat inside a zero-magic field, which included the sandy field with the stones. There was clearly some kind of trick to be considered here.
"I don't remember this kind of obstacle from the stories," Christopher commented.
"It wasn't really an obstacle, it was a story that one of the travellers that the one searching for the lamp told," Daphne replied, "A field of stones that would have different reactions to being stepped on. You would have to read the oldest version of the tale, not the more common version that was published later on in the collection of tales from the region."
"Let me guess, Hermione insisted?" Christopher asked.
"Who else? Though Luna Lovegood was also quite convincing in her argument that it was silly to not read the full story if you read one at all. You could miss important and entertaining aspects," Daphne confirmed.
"Sounds like Luna. Well, what do the stones do?" Christopher asked.
"Black stones wobble when stepped on, which can be problematic when you have to deal with really hot sand, the kind that can burn through your shoes. And that was part of the traveller's story. Blue stones are freezing cold while red ones shoot stink sap at you. Green ones vary from doing nothing and growing vines that scream horribly when stepped on," Daphne recited.
"Hm, which ones would be safest then to use?" Christopher asked.
"The blue ones if we transfigure us some planks from normal stones and the like," Daphne decided, "The stones would freeze the planks as well, but this way, the burning hot sand couldn't torch them until we are past this field."
"Good idea. Let's do it. Thankfully that's an easy transfiguration," Christopher nodded and they were done in thirty seconds.
They levitated their planks to create a makeshift bridge between the blue stones and then hurried over them to the other side of the field. While doing so, they noticed that there were also some ant lions in the sand, which would have made falling in really nasty, as getting out of such a trap was very difficult and time-consuming. Even more so as magical ant lions loaded their magic into the sand around them and made it extra slippery and resistant against low level magic from those caught in the trap. Something as weak as s normal stunner wouldn't even tickle the ant lion. And once they bit you, they could suck magic from you. It wasn't a life threatening level, they were too small for that, but it was definitely noticeable.
Thankfully they were now reaching the zero-magic zone, where time only ran half as fast as outside it. Under the sign were instructions on how to reach the star. The star itself hang high over their heads and without a ladder there was no chance at getting it normally.
"Okay, it says that to get the star, we needed to hit enough water balloons with darts," Christopher read out, "The water will lower a large bucket that will pull against the weight that is securing the star up there."
"Then let's get to it."
Daphne took a handful of darts and started throwing them at the colourful balloons on a string, which was placed over a drip rail, leading to the bucket they needed to fill with water. Now they were very grateful for the time joker they had won, as this took them five minutes, even if their aim wasn't that terrible. And, as it was zero-magic zone, two and a half minutes were lost from their time. Still, they could grab the star after it was low enough to jump up and Daphne secured it in her bag.
As soon as the star was in the bag, a trap door in the floor opened, leading the way out of the zero-magic zone.
"Useful," Christopher stated.
"True. As soon as we are out of here, we can use the lamp again to get to the next star. Or we could directly aim for the second treasure. I mean, perhaps it would be truly useful in getting the other stars," Daphne pointed out.
"Considering that the lamp makes following a certain path unnecessary, we should attempt to get the treasure next," Christopher agreed, "Lamp, take us to coordinates G7."
The lamp flashed orange again and they were deposited outside a field with wind causing sand tornadoes.
The audience was treated by the quick minds of the Hogwarts team, with the Beauxbatons team being on nearly the same level. Both teams were making great progress. The Beauxbatons team had gone to the opposite side of the field as the Hogwarts team, so the tasks both teams were going through were different, making it very interesting to watch. The Durmstrang team had so far found one star, thanks to a clever location charm that worked similar to a four-point spell. It let the two direct their steps towards the locations of the stars without having to waste too much time. It wasn't clear if they realised that there were items that worked as jokers and helped in getting the job done easier.
Right now, the score was two stars for Beauxbatons and them being close to the treasure that Daphne and Christopher hadn't found, one star for Durmstrang and them being close to gaining the second one, and one star and the lamp for Hogwarts. Each time a team succeeded there was much cheering and applause from the team's supporters in the audience. Many were snacking on different things that were sold at the stalls all over the stadium. It was a great set-up. The visitors got to watch the progress of the three teams on the monitors and during the breaks they could buy things to eat and drink.
There had been suggestions for letting the Hogwarts house elves perform a delivery service while the tasks were going on, but, in the end, it had been skipped. It would have been impractical, as the elves were also tasked with preparing the food for the after-task party again and setting up the facilities.
Dumbledore was happy with how his school's students performed in their task. While he didn't like how this event promoted the Ministry, and therefore Sirius, in the end, it was Hogwarts that earned the glory if the students won. And that would shine on his reign as headmaster. And, he had decided, the tournament did a lot to train Harry for a future confrontation with Voldemort, without him having to manipulate things. While the tasks weren't as dangerous as he preferred them to be for a real test, they offered enough incentive for Harry to develop his abilities. And, while he knew that Harry would have to die for Voldemort to be defeated, if Harry didn't die by Voldemort's hand, after all the prophecy said so, but one of his minions, it would be bad. Either must die by the hand of the other, that was the crux.
Otherwise he would have been able to gain the glory for getting rid of Voldemort before Harry was even born. But, as that wasn't meant to be, he had set for controlling the one that had said power. If not for the horcrux in Harry's scar, he would have chosen a different way. He would have taken the role that Merlin had held for Arthur Pendragon. He would have trained Harry as his protegee and everybody would have known that even if Harry was the one to deal the final blow to the enemy, it was only thanks to Albus Dumbledore's teachings. It would have immortalised him for sure.
Fate could be a cruel mistress indeed. But the alchemic potion would soon show the first effects. It was slow acting after all and the gradual effectiveness would make it all the sweeter in the long run. Nobody would think he had done anything to bring the situation about.
He perked up when he saw the newest obstacle that was placed in front of his students. This would be entertaining to watch.
Daphne and Christopher had found the boundaries of the next obstacle. And this was promised to be tricky.
"Birds," Daphne deadpanned.
"Not just any birds," Christopher sighed, "Arabic mirage birds."
"I don't think I remember them being part of the COMC curriculum. And they aren't part of any of the legends," Daphne pointed out.
"No, I just know about them from my cousin, who travelled to Egypt and Saudi Arabia for her job and encountered them there. These birds are capable of casting two different spells each. One is always illusion based, thus the name. None of those spells are in any way life threatening, but they can give you huge trouble, if they decide to target you. According to the stories my cousin told me, they are seen as harmless pests. And distracting them with one common method doesn't really work, as they all like different things. I think I remember that the blue and violet ones like music, while the red and orange ones despise it. The yellow and pink ones like sweet things, be it fruits or other treats, but the indigo and light blue ones like only sour things," Christopher listed.
"So, how do we get past them?" Daphne asked.
"Trying to not be noticed by them, otherwise run like hell to the finish line, which seems to be warded against them," Christopher answered.
"This doesn't sound like a good plan," Daphne commented.
"Any better ideas?" He asked.
"A localised ward against them?" Daphne suggested, thinking back to her Runes lessons and what her father had taught her about the family business.
"We don't have the materials or the time for that, Daphne. To make a ward capable of creating a notice-me-not field that prevents all those birds from realising that we are there, we would need a powerful warding crystal and engrave it with a complicated array of runes. And that normally takes about an hour, as you can't mess around with runic arrays, or they will blow up on you. Not to mention that things on that level are best left to those that have at least journeyman status in the art," Christopher pointed out.
Daphne accepted that, knowing from her father, who had a warding business, that it was idiotic and dangerous to mess around with wards when you didn't have the training for it.
"So, we use any kind of spell that disables a sense of the birds?" Daphne asked.
"That's our best bet. Next to creating some distraction for the birds, which will hopefully let them target the bait and not us," Christopher confirmed.
The two quickly applied charms that made them invisible, erased their scent, silenced them, prevented heat being noticed from the outside and they would have to attempt to not be hit by any bird. Then Christopher transfigured a small bush that grew at the beginning of the field into a coyote and let it run to the left of the field, to hopefully draw the attention of the birds there, so that they had a path where they could sneak through.
That plan had sounded good to them at first, but the birds seemed to have another sense that involved detecting people in their territory. While a good number of them indeed decided to 'play' with the coyote, the others turned their attention to their invisible guests. Daphne and Christopher were treated to having to wade through a blizzard, fully illusionary, but knowing that didn't help dispelling the illusion really, at one moment, then dodging something like stinging hexes from another bird, the third one liked to make trip wires, also illusions, but still somehow tangible, and one played merry hell with their bodies' colorations.
Daphne was very close to snapping and hexing all the birds into oblivion, sadly Christopher called that a very bad idea, as there were too many birds and their illusions could turn really nasty if they were attacked beyond anything defensive. Thankfully the illusions didn't leave any real injuries on them, but working through the mess for five minutes forced them to activate a joker to not run out of time. That would have been embarrassing after all. They only had one star and one treasure so far.
It was a good thing that the birds didn't follow them beyond a certain point and that their illusionary magic didn't last much longer either. But they had got through the field of birds.
"Curse those spells. But it shows that I need to do some more research into illusionary magic. Could prove useful in the future," Daphne pondered.
"Well, let's concentrate on the present. We only have one more obstacle if I see this correctly to get the second treasure. And there are still four more stars to find and collect," Christopher reminded her.
"Definitely. Okay, let's see what this is," Daphne nodded and they ran towards the sign about a hundred metres away from their position.
"Great, instructions in a different language and alphabet that isn't runic," Christopher groaned when he saw the sign from close up, "Do you know this one?"
"No, but I know how to make it readable," Daphne stated, "This is a puzzle again. Look, the signs repeat and there are four of each."
"So, like that card game Top Trumps, just with a sign. Well, then we probably have to touch the four symbols at the same time to get this sign to reveal what we need to do," Christopher nodded.
While Daphne didn't know the card game, it was a muggle game after all and in Slytherin such things were basically totally shunned, as long as JWT hadn't created a wizarding version already, she got the idea of what they would do.
"Let's start with this symbol that looks like a deformed letter P," Daphne decided and soon the two were coordinating the activation of the signs. They needed to by in sync for that they had noticed, but with counting down from three each time, it worked out. Then the instruction appeared as the riddle disappeared and the writing under it appeared.
"You will find the treasure if you walk three steps to the left from this sign and then turn eighty degrees to the right and move forward six steps. Dig for the treasure there and find this task becoming easier," Christopher read out, "Well, there is a shovel and we better get to it."
He took the shovel that had appeared next to the sign, how it worked in zero-magic zones he didn't know, but he didn't have time to investigate right now either, so he walked according to the instructions, getting the eighty degrees' angle right was the main challenge, and then started digging in the ground. Thankfully he didn't have to dig deeply, as it was clear that the organisers didn't want to make this too difficult and time-consuming. Just a real challenge. He found a long rectangular box and pulled it from the ground. Once he opened it, he was surprised by a carpet shooting into the air.
The carpet worked perfectly, despite it being a zero-magic zone. The now familiar sound of trumpets announced their success.
"Congratulations, you found the flying carpet. This carpet can operate in all kinds of surroundings and seat up to eight persons at a time. Magic limitations don't include it. Time bonus plus fifteen minutes," The voice announced and they found the additional minutes on their bracelets.
"That's seriously cool," Christopher grinned, "This means we should be able to fly over most obstacles now, cutting down the time we need for them. With both treasures, we will have a much easier time in this task."
"Very true. Come on, let's take our magical carpet and then get to a place where we can activate the lamp. We don't have a way out of here after all and nothing appeared, unlike the last time," Daphne commented.
Christopher nodded and they both climbed onto the carpet and had to hold on, as they hadn't expected the speed with which the carpet took off with them, seemingly knowing where to go without them telling it.
That's it for this chapter. Until next time.