Hi, here is the next chapter with the first two challenges. Enjoy.

Challenge of Earth / Challenge of Water

Cedric looked around the waiting room that he had been led to. The room was small, perhaps four square metres large. There were no windows, only two doors. One was the one he had entered the room through; the other was a large gate leading to the arena. It had to be similar to how gladiators in ancient Rome had walked into the arena of the original Colosseum. The only thing he had heard from behind the gate had been that his challenge was Earth. He was startled when a red number appeared in front of him. It showed the number ten and then changed to nine, then to eight. A countdown.

Once the numbers hit zero the gate opened and Cedric stepped out of the room. He found himself in a varied area with a small hill, littered with rock on one side, a sandy pit in another part and some bizarre stone formation in another. Okay, he had to face the challenge of Earth; that could include a lot of things. He saw that none of the stars was openly visible. It made sense. What he could see was that there were three different magical creatures. One was a niffler, why it was here he didn't know yet, but it wasn't dangerous at least, then a badger, that one was tricky, but if he didn't anger it he would probably not have too many problems, and the last one was desert fox. He would have to look out for pitfalls then. Desert foxes were known to love tricking people and making them fall into holes that they had created. The most probably places were where the fox was sitting.

He decided to first check if he could summon the stars. It was always good to cover the obvious solution.

"Accio golden stars," Cedric called out.

To his surprise one star flew at him from behind a formation of rocks. Really, they had not protected all stars? Okay, good for him. He secured the star in the black bag he had got. He then started looking for a place that could be another hiding place and found a strangely square rock at the side of the arena. He walked over, careful to not overlook any traps. Inside the square rock was a box that he couldn't lift if he tried. There were several runes on the box. He recognised them as Egyptian Runes. So that meant he needed to solve the rune puzzle to get the star that was probably hidden in the box. He kept an eye out for the fox and the badger. Nifflers weren't aggressive after all.

He recognised three of the five runes. One stood for water, one for fire and one for air. That would make it logical that one was earth and the last one in the middle somehow connected them. He tried remembering all things the research teams had looked up about runes that could be used in elemental tests. Then it hit him. The old Egyptians had liked to trap chambers in the pyramids with runes that required him to activate each of them with the element that was indicated by the rune.

You only had one attempt to get it right or the chamber would lock itself up for an hour at least. So he grabbed a handful of earth and placed it on the Earth rune that lit up. Then he conjured water for the water rune and fire for the fire rune. He blew at the air rune and all four were now glowing softly. The last part was activating the middle rune. He drew lines with his wand from each activated rune to the middle and after the line from the air rune to the middle rune was drawn it lit up and the box fell apart to the left and right. Cedric could grab the star inside and put it away.

He walked over to the area where he could see the desert fox watching him. It now lay on a strangely formed slab of rock. That meant he needed to get to the fox without falling prey to traps. He carefully tested the ground before continuing to walk forward. The fox never left him out of his eyes. Then Cedric felt the ground shaking and he jumped to the right, only to find it breaking apart again. Even solid looking rocks suddenly crumbled under his weight. He knew that he couldn't stay in one place. Desert foxes didn't need to dig with their paws to create holes in the ground. In a certain area around them they could use their inborn magic to make them. That meant as long as he was close to the fox it could make him fall whenever it wanted.

He raced from one spot to another with the fox laughing its ass off. Jerk. The ground was riddled with holes of all kinds. Some as deep as Cedric; others only reaching his hips. No matter what, falling in there wasn't a good idea and therefore Cedric had to keep moving without losing his balance. He didn't manage it completely, but he avoided any injuries besides a few small scratches from rolling on the ground when he jumped towards the slab and missed it by a little. Finally he reached the slab the fox lay on and he saw that there was a handle on it. Now he only needed to lift the slab off the ground. He pushed the fox aside gently, as he didn't want to have it attack him with its teeth, and tried to lift the slab, but it didn't budge a bit. And to top it all off, the fox was laughing again.

He pondered how to solve this problem. He tried levitating the slab, but that didn't work. Okay, he needed to do this differently. There was no lock around the slab, so he didn't need to find a key and there weren't any runes either. Now the fox was hopping up and down on the slab as if to mock him for being clueless. Cedric decided to see if he could get to the star that had to be under the slab from the side. There was only one side that wasn't protected by rocks, so he used a weak exploding hex to tear the ground away. It worked and Cedric tore more earth away to get to the star. After two minutes he could see it, but he couldn't reach it. Summoning didn't work either, so how could he get the star? Finally he transfigured a rock into a stick with a hook at the end to draw the star from under the slab. It worked and after a while he had the third star.

He knew that he didn't have much time left. This had taken too long. He knew that the probability of the badger protecting another star was big and he really didn't know what the niffler would do. Professor Kettleburn had only briefly mentioned them and he had quit the class after his OWLs. When he came closer to the badger he found himself confronted with the badger using his strong paws to throw rocks at him. Great, this wasn't a normal badger; it had to be a sniping badger, a rare subspecies that lived in the mountains contrary to the woods where you could find normal badgers. As a Hufflepuff he should have been aware of that. Their house mascot was a badger after all. So now he was dodging and shielding against the onslaught of rocks from the badger.

Finally he got close enough to levitate the badger over to one of the deeper holes of the desert fox. It wouldn't hold for long, but long enough to get the star. Thankfully the fox found it funnier that the sniping badger was now trapped in his hole than Cedric running around his previous holes and not falling inside. Cedric had feared that it would make more holes again. He ran back to the place the badger had been at and found a slab with three holes in it. Over each hole was a number and a strange sign.

He didn't know what the sign was for, but he suspected it was something about size or weight. He collected a few rocks from around and placed five on the hole with the number five over it. There was no reaction. So perhaps a stone five centimetres in diameter? He tried again after shaping a stone that way, but again no success. Then he tried a stone weighing five kilogram, again wrong. He was running out of time and ideas. His last attempt was putting five equally large stones into the hole and it worked in lighting the number up. He quickly repeated the process for the three and the seven. The slab disappeared between the holes and Cedric could take the star our just before the signal for the end of the round sounded.

Well, four out of five without getting injured wasn't bad for a start.

"That was a great start. All our champions performed well and avoided injuries," Ludo Bagman, who had been allowed to commentate if he refrained from gambling on the tasks, called out.

His additional pay for this job directly went into paying his debts with the goblins.

"Now let's see what our judges say to their performance," He said and looked over to the judges.

Each of them had three spheres in front of them. One blue for Beauxbatons, one red for Durmstrang and one black for Hogwarts. They only needed to tap each one with their wands and the points would be displayed at the big screen over them under the picture of the respective champion.

"There we have the first points from Madame Maxime, the headmistress of Beauxbatons. A very fair judgement." Bagman said, seeing the points.

The others followed and then a total of the points was given for each champion with the stars they had collected in a separate line.

"A great start into this task. In total Mr Diggory got twenty two points and four stars. Mr Sanjoir got twenty with three stars and Miss Pinter got nineteen with three stars as well. All still very close together. Now let's change the setting."

The creatures were caught and brought back to their cages. It wasn't sure if they would be needed again after all.

"That was quite good for the start, but none of them recognised the joker in the task," Remus commented.

"True, but from what I know Professor Kettleburn only briefly mentioned nifflers and I don't know in how far Durmstrang or Beauxbatons would cover such a docile creature in their curriculum. So I would guess that none of the champions knew that a niffler is perfect to hunt for treasures once it knows how the treasure looks like. And the ones that we put in there are trained," Sirius told Remus.

He had after all been briefed on the task yesterday. There was a joker in each of the challenges. In the Earth challenge it was the niffler that would get you all the stars except for the one that had to be summoned. Which here only Cedric Diggory had done. Wizards really forgot to use the obvious way too often. If you recognised the joker and got the creature to help you, it was easy to collect all stars within the ten minutes.

"What did you think about how they went about the digging the star out from under the slab?" Sirius asked his best friend.

"I think none of them was really prepared for that. I had to laugh at the antics of the foxes. The one with Diggory even gave him the easiest solution, even if he didn't find it," Remus commented. "I mean, the fox hopped up and down on the slab, for Merlin's sake. It's funny that none of the champions thought of hammering the handle into the slab after lifting it didn't work for none of them."

"True. I wonder if we'll see the Earth challenge again. It was done quite nicely. Challenging while not posing too much danger for the champions. I mean, the only parts where they could have got hurt were the pitfall field and that would have caused sprained ankles at most with a few scratches and if they didn't prevent being hit by the boulders of the sniping badger," Sirius stated. "I like this one a lot better than the original idea for the first task when they planned it as a Triwizard Tournament," Sirius shuddered.

"What was that task?" Remus asked.

"Stealing a golden egg that held the clue for the second task from a nesting mother dragon," Sirius answered.

"Are they crazy? That's not a proper task for a tournament between three schools!" Remus cried out.

"Why do you think I had a team completely overhaul the thing? I would never allow students to be placed in mortal danger intentionally," Sirius replied.

"A good thing that you became Minister," Remus said, not wanting to imagine what catastrophe this tournament could have become.

The next group, consisting of Fred Weasley, Annabelle Poitier and Stefanie Gruber, was ready in their respective small waiting rooms. The spectators were just waiting for the element that the three would have to face to be announced. They saw how the Minister drew the next element, which was water. Then the sphere was thrown into the again empty arena and set up the fields for them. They had to wait until the creatures for the task were in place and then their gates opened and let the champions inside.

Fred walked forward carefully. He saw that there was a swamp field covered by mist, a pond under a waterfall and a deep rift around the whole field. He had to cross a bridge to get into the middle, which he did. The bridge fell apart as soon as he was on the other side. He had a look around. He couldn't see any of the creatures yet. That meant they had to be hidden in the water. On the right side was a tree with some blue-orange fruits on it. Fred wracked his brains what they were when he suddenly remembered a tale that his Mum had told him and George as a child. Blue-orange fruits were called soothe-grapes. They could help you calm down any kind of fire and water creature and make it obey you for an hour as long as you were nice to it.

Fred ran over to the tree and collected a good number of the fruits. Then he decided to see if he could get a star by summoning it.

"Accio golden stars." He called out and while he could see some movement and shimmer behind the waterfall, no star appeared. Well, that would have been too easy anyway.

He walked over to the waterfall only to be stopped by a kappa that dwelled in the pond below it.

"Hey, would you like to have a soothe-grape?" Fred asked kindly.

The kappa looked at the grape eagerly and nodded. Fred handed it to him and the kappa ate it quickly. Fred patted it on the head.

"Would you be able to help me find the five stars that are hidden around here? I think one is behind the waterfall," Fred asked and got an eager nod and a plea for more grapes.

Fred handed another grape to the kappa, who then dived into the pond and returned after half a minute with two golden stars. Fred happily took them. Then the kappa waddled over to the channel and dove in there as well. He handed Fred another golden star. Then he pointed at the swamp and dove back into his pond.

"Thank you for your help," Fred called after the kappa.

This had made the task a lot easier. Barely two minutes were gone. He carefully looked at the swamp and conjured stepping stones to not sink down. He suddenly saw a light hopping in front of him. A hinkypunk he realised. He knew that he had to ignore the directions of that creature, so he set his stones another way. He reached a small dry island in the swamp and found a tablet with a series of runes and numbers on it. He could tell that the runes were from Atlantis and thanks to the research he had done, he knew that each rune had to be connected with a certain number to activate. He connected five of them easily as he remembered the combinations, but for the last five he needed to think hard.

Finally he was done. One with the rune for light, two with thunder, three with strength, four with gold, five with snake, six with ruby, seven with purity, eight with ice, nine with dragon and ten with cloud. The tablet opened a small compartment in which a golden star was. He took the star and put it into the bag with the other three which he already had. He went back via his stepping stones and then pondered where he hadn't looked yet. He came across a hole in the ground that was suspiciously dry compared to the rest of the field. As this was the challenge of water it stood to reason that he would have to fill the hole with water.

"Aguamenti," Fred said and shot a constant stream of water into the hole.

It seemed to suck all the water inside and it took about two minutes until it finally started to fill. When the hole was about to flow over, a rumbling could be heard and a golden star was shot into the air from the hole before the water disappeared completely. Fred caught the star and put it away into his bag. He grinned. He had collected all the five stars without any injury and what he would bet was the fastest time.

The Hogwarts students that watched cheered when Fred caught the last star. They had been astonished how he got the kappa to help him get his task done easier. The other two champions had dismissed the kappa and knocked him out. That allowed them to get past the waterfall to get the star there and then dive into the pond. Both girls had used the bubblehead charm, but Stefanie Gruber had had a lot of problems with the four grindylows in the pond and had got some nasty scratches on her arms.

None of them had found the star in the channel around their field yet and Annabelle was having trouble getting the runes and numbers connected correctly. Stefanie had followed the hinkypunk and hadn't reached the island yet. Fred meanwhile had three minutes left to go and spent them throwing more of the grapes at the kappa and the grindylows that had surfaced from his pond.

When the time was up, only Fred was uninjured.

"Now that was an interesting task," Ludo Bagman called out. "Our two ladies both got injured in dealing with the challenges, Miss Gruber by the grindylows and Miss Poitier by the hinkypunk. Only Mr Weasley managed to avoid injury next to getting all five stars. Miss Gruber collected three stars and Miss Poitier two."

He waited for the applause and cheering to stop.

"Now let's see the points our judges will award." Bagman shouted.

Fred had clearly won this round. The girls both lost points for their injuries and the highest number of points was three for each of them from any judge. Fred got a total of twenty seven points, which was incredible as the most he could get from a task was thirty. Annabelle ended with fifteen points and Stefanie got seventeen. This round was a clear victory for Hogwarts.

"Trust a prankster to find the joker," Sirius laughed.

"The grapes?" Remus asked.

"Well, they in combination with the kappa. It wouldn't have worked with the grindylows. The most the grapes would have done with them was making them refrain from attacking him if he had gone down into the pond himself. But the kappa was able to get to three stars if he liked the champion enough, which was ensured by the grapes," Sirius explained.

"Don't soothe-grapes make all water or fire creatures listen to you?" Remus asked, thinking about his information about that fruit.

"Not all of them. It will calm all of them down, but only certain ones will listen to you and if you're nice do your bidding. Grindylows are nasty by nature and attack instinctively. Kappas only do that if they're threatened. So if you show the kappa that you are nice and reward them with some of their favourite treats, they will willingly help you," Sirius pointed out.

"Nice. This task was a bit more difficult than the last one I think. But still, the most that happened to any champion that ran afoul one of the creatures was bruises and scratches. I like that a lot more than the alternative," Remus commented.

"Me too. And it makes really good entertainment for the guests. It combines the right amount of excitement and risk to the champions with the knowledge that nothing really bad will happen to the children. I also hope that seeing how versatile the runes are will make more students choose the subject in the future," Sirius stated.

And that's the first two challenges done. Till next time.