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New Releases / Drive Part 27 added, 12/1/22
« Last post by Daen on December 01, 2022, 10:57:11 PM »
Drive Part 27 added, 12/1/22
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Drive (ongoing story) / Part 27: Still Alive
« Last post by Daen on December 01, 2022, 10:56:30 PM »
Consciousness remained in him. Somehow, beyond all reason and insanity, Moss was still alive!

Unfortunately, that was about all he was. He couldn't feel any physical sensations at all. His branches, if they were even still there, had been burned clean of leaves. That meant no oscilli and therefore no sight. His hollow had been seared completely; he knew that much. Not that there were any qars left to feed or care for anyway. If any of them were still alive, they knew enough to stay away for their own good.

Except for Grace. For some reason she'd run towards the danger instead of away. Moss vaguely remembered those good-luck charms, strung together in his branches, and the liquid that had come from them. Grace was certainly dead by now, but whatever that substance was, it had shielded him from the worst of the flames. Char had given it to him, and she'd probably instructed Grace on what to do with it. If anyone knew how to protect against heat, it would be a Combustor. Had Char predicted what would happen? If so, she'd saved him. Thanks to her, in time he'd grow new branches and leaves.

And roots. The network was completely silent now. Moss devoted some energy to try reconnecting, but it was doubtful there was anyone out there to hear him.

All of his friends were dead. Even the traitor Rax was on that list. How could Moss blame him for doing whatever it took to protect his family? Whatever idiotic, self-destructive actions were necessary. Despite all this loss, Moss had time now to consider strategy. He had to admit the trejuns' cleverness. They hadn't underestimated the treqars after all. They'd planned for the Arbormass and sent someone to keep tabs on it. It might mean the end of the Union, but at least they would be destroyed by a clever enemy, and not just a ruthless one.

He missed Aysa's gentle, authoritative tone, and the twins' constant bickering with each other. They'd kept it quiet for the most part, but it was as much a part of them as Char's reservedness was hers. Tobor had finally started accepting fringers as equals instead of looking down at them all the time, and Rax… Well, maybe Moss had never known the true Rax at all.

Moss couldn't tell how much time was passing. Without his leaves, he couldn't even feel the Core's light as it passed. Had it been minutes, or days? Then he could feel something! It wasn't sound, or heat. He was moving! Yes, he'd been uprooted and was now on his side! He focused all his attention on that motion. It was remarkably easy now that he had no other senses. He was on his side… and rocking back and forth slightly. There was no other explanation: he was being moved.

Union qars might have found him alive, and uprooted him to bring him north. No, qars wouldn't rock him back and forth like that. Was he on a cart? The only one in existence had been blasted into pieces, or so he'd been told. But then he'd been told a great many things that hadn't been true.

Suddenly an enzyme message appeared in his mind! It was attached to one of his surviving roots, in the least burned area of his former communications. Hurriedly, Moss opened it.

"Moss, it's all right." Char's voice began. "You're alive, and I'm getting you out of here. I can't connect to you until we stop this infernal rocking motion, so I just hope you're still in one piece on the inside. You were the only survivor, but that also means everyone thinks you're dead. No one will be looking for you."

She was one to talk! Having the gall to compliment him on being officially dead, after obviously faking her own death. Again, Moss was torn between anger at the action and admiration for its cleverness. He'd bought her little performance, as had the rest. But if the heartwood found in her place hadn't actually been hers, then who had died in her place?

"For reference, the rocking motion takes about five seconds to go full circle. We'll be in motion for another day or so, so I'll talk to you when we come to a stop."

Moss let out some gratitude that no one else could feel. Char knew that he couldn't feel anything but motion right now, and she'd given him a way to tell time.
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New Releases / New Fanfiction Short Story: Imposed (Harry Potter) added, 11/21/22
« Last post by Daen on November 20, 2022, 11:05:32 PM »
New Fanfiction Short Story: Imposed (Harry Potter) added, 11/21/22
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Imposed (Harry Potter) / Imposed discussion
« Last post by Daen on November 20, 2022, 10:49:38 PM »
I'm still working out the formatting of how to get full stories onto a forum, but for now, reply to this post if you have comments to make (good or bad), on the story.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Daen
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Imposed (Harry Potter) / Read this one first.
« Last post by Daen on November 20, 2022, 10:49:31 PM »
The HP series is pretty well-known, but if you haven't read at least the first four books of it, you'll be lost trying to read this story. If you are a fan, pay close attention to what you know about house-elves, time-turners, and indestructible artifacts.

As usual, I didn't include any of the main characters from the series, and only mentioned them in passing in several places. I did use one named character, but only near the end. I only read the books myself in college, and I didn't do so critically. Then, after watching https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1iaJWSwUZs I re-read them with a more open perspective, and was inspired to write this. Many thanks, Shaun, for opening my eyes!

Oh, and as usual, here's the downloadable version if you don't want to go through it piece by piece.
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Imposed (Harry Potter) / Chapter 1
« Last post by Daen on November 20, 2022, 10:49:24 PM »
Though late in the evening, the streets of London were still packed with Nomaj revelers. Brinks kept his hood up and his cloak carefully wrapped. The last thing he needed was for them to spot him and start asking questions. Fortunately they looked pretty sauced right now, and were too busy getting even drunker to notice anything but their own mugs.

Brinks ducked into an alley, now in sight of the red telephone booth. That was supposed to be the visitor’s entrance, but he wasn’t exactly a visitor. Carefully, almost fearfully, he whispered the name. “Tupper?”

There was a crack of displaced air, and the strange little creature was at his side! Brinks had to work hard not to jump, even after all this time. “Tupper is here, sir!” The squeaky little voice spoke out.

His companion was definitely not human. Far too short and stooped for that, he was instead a house-elf. Brinks had never actually seen an elf before meeting Tupper, but he’d heard of some of them back home. The little freak had powerful magic to be sure, but he was a little off-putting. Maybe it was all the ‘sir’, or ‘master’ stuff he was constantly spouting.

“You’re sure you can get us in without them finding out?” Brinks asked quietly, making shushing gestures as he did so.

“Oh, yes sir!” Tupper responded, thankfully a little more quietly. “The Ministry doesn’t consider elves to be important at all, so their defenses were not made with Tupper in mind!”

Brinks shrugged. This would be their most dangerous heist yet, but it had the greatest potential for profit, too. “All right, let’s go.”

He braced himself as Tupper grabbed the corner of his cloak, and they magicked themselves downwards. A second later they were in a dark corridor, laced with glittering black stone. They’d made it! “Good job, Tupper!” Brinks said after a moment. Somehow, he’d expected to be splinched the moment they tried this.

“Master is too kind, sir!” Tupper squeaked, looking back and forth down the passage. “But Master shouldn’t stay here long. Tupper has broken the spell to keep Master from Apparating away, but there are many wizards here. Tupper remembers patrols down this area, and Tupper can’t take Master any further down with magic.”

“Come on then,” Brinks led the way. Tupper had gotten a floor plan of the place about a week ago, and he’d been poring over it ever since. This was the beating heart of the British magical world right here. It was like he was knocking over the Smithsonian, or the MACUSA or something.

He still felt ridiculous just being here in England, even though he’d been here for more than a week. He’d barely even been out of Boston his whole life, and here he was an entire ocean away from home. Still, it was the right time for it. This place was in shambles right now, and it was the perfect time to rob it.

Some months ago, Brinks had been running from some angry wizard after stealing a gold-plated wand case, and suddenly this little creature had been there, running with him. Tupper had zipped them away safely, even recovering his wand in the process. Though he’d let go of the wand right away, as if it was painful to the touch. As Brinks had learned later, house-elves weren’t allowed to own wands, or even to touch one. The little guy had explained that he was between masters at the time, and he’d seen that Brinks was in trouble.

Tupper had proposed a criminal partnership, which Brinks had listened to in amazement. The idea of a criminal house-elf was almost unthinkable, but there that little critter was, calmly laying out floor plans and magical defenses for any number of banks, money-changers, museums and mansions. Obviously the little freak had been around the block a few times.

It had been a profitable partnership, certainly. Just like here, their targets back home weren’t built with elven magic in mind, so Tupper could just bypass most of it, bringing Brinks along. What defenses Tupper couldn’t handle, Brinks could, and then they got away with the loot! Tupper didn’t even care about the gold, either, which was a good thing for Brinks. He had… a lot of debts to pay back home.

One paranoid old Wall Street wizard had even chained up a Dementor in his vault. Brinks had never had to face one of those black-robed soul-suckers before, and the idea itself terrified him, but Tupper hadn’t been worried. He didn’t know the spell to ward off a Dementor either, but he was able to steal a book that described the process. After a few weeks of practice, Brinks had mastered the spell, and he and Tupper robbed that place as well.

Hopefully, this job would make all other jobs easier, even if Tupper moved on to his next master. “So this is the Department of Mysteries?” At the end of the blackened corridor, was a large open room, and it was a mess. Enormous bookshelves had been blasted aside by some kind of explosion—apparently a long time ago from all the mold growing on the cabinets. A strange purple light was emanating softly off to the right, drawing his eyes. It was around a corner for now, though.

“It is, sir. One of Tupper’s former masters brought Tupper here many times, running errands back and forth. Tupper remembers it well.”

“Quiet!” Brinks hissed, pushing the little elf down to the side, out of the way of the passage. He’d seen another light source, walking up behind them in the distance.

Fortunately, it seemed like whoever was following them had neither seen nor heard them. Brinks quickly picked up Tupper, who weighed little more than a large cat, and carried him behind one of the blasted bookcases.

Two people came up the corridor, with wands out, but they didn’t look that alert. Their wands were emitting light, as they walked into the open chamber and tossed the balls of light up in the air. In the increased light, the full devastation was fully visible. “Blimey, wha’ a mess,” one of them said, his eyes wide.

The other just shrugged. “Well, when the most powerful Dark Wizard in history is running the place for the better part of a year, you’d expect a few things to get knocked over. Come on, let’s get to the other side.”

“Yeh can say ‘is name now, yeh know,” the first one went on, as they started picking their way through the devastation. “’e’s been gone mor’n a month. That ‘arry Potter did him in, yeh know. The ‘ole world knows that!”

His taller companion grimaced. “I believe he’s gone, but old habits die hard. Why don’t you go first, Gor? Go on, say it. I won’t mind.”

Gor hesitated, on top of one of the piles of wood. “I call ‘im… Lord Vole!”

His companion gave a scornful laugh. “Lord Vole? Come on, you can do better than that.”

“What? It’s wha’ I call him, see?”

“How about something a little more colorful, like Lord… Moldy Wart. That sounds, good, doesn’t it?”

Gor laughed out loud. “Aye, it does. But wit’ a face like that… an’ ‘is skin? Where would yeh find any warts? How abou’… Lord Moldy Fart? Eh?”

His friend laughed in turn. “All right, that is better. I admit it.”

“Cuz ‘e coulda et anythin’, yeh see?”

“Yeah, I get it. Come on; we’re late already.”

They picked their way through the debris, and the lights above flew back down and attached themselves to the tips of their wands. A moment later they were gone through the passage on the far side, and Brinks let out a sigh of relief.

“Master is very stealthy,” Tupper put in, mercifully quietly.

“Years of practice,” Brinks said, peering over the bookcase again. “Was he really that bad; this… Lord Voldemort?”

Tupper winced and grabbed for the scarf around his neck, lifting both ends of it to his ears. “Ah! Even now, it scares almost everyone just to hear the name, sir! Master wasn’t here during the Dark Lord’s reign, sir! He doesn’t remember what it was like, with people disappearing nearly every day, and skulls with snakes in the mouth appearing in the sky. Tupper was, and Tupper does not miss those days!” Hesitantly, he lowered the scarf again. It was his most treasured possession by far, so Brinks assumed it had been the item that had freed the little elf. Elves were only given clothes when their service was done, but after that, they could wear whatever they wanted. When not on the job, Tupper had a… flamboyant sense of fashion.

Brinks shook his head. He’d certainly heard stories, even as far away as he’d been, of the terrifying, unkillable wizard on this side of the ocean. It had always seemed unreal to him, though. The benefits of distance.

Once they were certain there would be no other visitors, they skirted the devastation, going around the large room towards the purple light he’d seen. According to Tupper, this destruction had been caused well before Lord Whatever took over here. There had been orbs containing prophecies here, and they’d all been shattered during a firefight down these halls. But they weren’t here for bits of broken glass and wood. They were here for something much more impressive.

The next room was the source of the purple light he’d seen earlier. Like the last room it was huge, expanding far up into the air despite the fact that they were inside some hidden chamber somewhere deep underneath London right now. Floating in the air in the middle of the room, was an undulating mass of energy. It was purple in color for the most part, but shifted in shades, becoming more red, or blue, or green or yellow, at times. The devices that had made this… thing, had all been destroyed a long time ago, and their energy had congealed together into this mass in front of him. More shattered glass lined the walls, having apparently been left here by wizards too afraid to get too close. Brinks was scared too, but the potential gain outweighed the immediate risk. By a lot.

This room was a remnant of another casualty of that battle: the time-turners. British magicians had developed a way to actually reverse time for a single person, and even used it for a while. Unfortunately such devices, while small and easily concealable, were also very fragile. The explosions going off in here had claimed all of the time-turners, or so the Brits had claimed. According to Tupper, a few of them had been away from here, being repaired by one of his former masters, when this had happened. They’d been brought back and hidden here after the fact, because the whole area had been deemed off-limits by the survivors of the battle. “Over here, sir!” Tupper squeaked at him.

There was a desk on the far side of the room. Carefully stepping away from the writhing mass of floating time magic, Brinks hugged the wall and came over to where Tupper was calling. There was a desk, but there were no drawers in it. Tupper was just sitting on top of the desk in his weird cardigan, smiling at Brinks.

“What is this? Where are the time-turners?”

Tupper just winked at him, and then pointed a finger. Brinks had a momentary premonition of danger, but it was too late. A light expanded from Tupper’s finger in the blink of an eye, blasting him away from the desk, and thudding him into the wall!

Sparks burst from behind his eyelids, swarming across his vision, and Brinks slumped to the ground. He couldn’t see anything for a moment. He heard a voice say the words, ‘at last’.

More words followed it: an incantation that Brinks didn’t recognize. It was hideously complicated from the sound of it, and all in Tupper’s voice! It wasn’t squeaky at all, though. It was moderate in tone, if very intense right now.

Brinks grimaced, and fought his way through the pain. His skull might have been fractured, and his stomach heaved from nausea. He probably had a concussion, but that would have to wait. Tupper, for whatever reason, had betrayed him. The Brits had probably sensed Tupper’s spell, and were already on the way. He had to get his wand and zip out of here, now! He just hoped that Tupper hadn’t been lying about removing the anti-teleportation spell. If he had been, Brinks was stuck here.

He stood up slowly, and when he could finally see again, Brinks made out the tiny form of Tupper, silhouetted against the purple light in front of him. The little freak was holding Brinks’ wand, waving it as he spoke the incantation! The light itself seemed to be shifting as well, in response to Tupper’s chant. It contracted a little, narrowing in shape and getting redder and redder!

Underneath his fear and desire for self-preservation, Brinks’ rage rose supreme. “You little rat!” He yelled, charging forward.

“Too late!” Tupper exclaimed and dropped the wand, jumping backwards into the light. In an instant he was gone, as if he’d zipped away, but there hadn’t been any crack of displaced air. Brinks’ outstretched arms passed through empty space. He grabbed for his wand, but his head was still spinning, and it skidded away from his clumsy grasp. Then he froze.

The light had stopped, dead. The patterns of color and shape were still and unchanging. It was almost like the light itself was staring at him. Then it expanded again at lightning speed, enveloping him, and the whole world went white.

-.-

Tupper felt like his insides were being squeezed by a huge hand. At once feeling like an ancient, decrepit old elf, and a newborn just opening his eyes for the first time, Tupper spun and twisted through time like a leaf in a windstorm! He caught glimpses through the roiling mess of light around him: images of what the times had been like. German bombers flattening parts of the city, Big Ben under construction, a fire sweeping through whole blocks filled with people, and bodies stacked up on top of each other during the Black Death. Each image from a different era of the city’s history.

Then, suddenly, it was over! Tupper smacked into the ground, facedown, and felt like his nose had been broken. But he was out of the light, and it was gone, too.

Jumping up to his feet, Tupper looked around nervously. He was surrounded by trees and tall grass, waving in the night breeze. He wasn’t actually in a city anymore, but that was to be expected. The city had been much smaller in this era, so he was now in farmland outside of it. He touched his nose tentatively, confirmed that it was still intact, and then tried to gauge his other surroundings. He seemed to be alone at least. That idiot wizard hadn’t been able to stop him from getting into the timelight.

It was dark—very dark. Even the Muggle lighting was gone, and Tupper didn’t dare make a light of his own, for fear the people here would see it. He had to remain hidden. You must not be seen was the mantra of every time-traveler in history.

Then he realized. It was the only voice in his head! The words were gone!

Hesitantly, unbelievably, Tupper closed his eyes and thought the words, but they didn’t stay! Was it real? He hadn’t expected this, but even so… was it a side effect of time travel? Or maybe because he’d come back so far?

What did it matter? He was free! Not just seen as free by others, but truly and incredibly, free in his mind as well! Tupper let out a tremendous shriek of joy, echoing out, before suddenly clapping his hands to his mouth again. His joy was undiminished, but he held tight, muffling more noises as he jumped up and down in elation! Free! Free! Free!
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Imposed (Harry Potter) / Chapter 2
« Last post by Daen on November 20, 2022, 10:49:19 PM »
His giddiness continued for hours after that, as Tupper made his way through the darkened fields. He couldn’t risk Apparating anywhere, in case someone saw him appear on the other end, but he could see well enough. Elves were often shut into dark spaces as punishment, when they weren’t forced to punish themselves, and had developed good vision. It wouldn’t be necessary for long, though. The sky was brightening in preparation for the coming dawn.

He still couldn’t believe it. For as long as he’d remembered, the phrase in his head had been rattling around, like a loose screw inside an otherwise-perfect pocketwatch. Now it was gone, and he couldn’t be happier! Despite the importance of his task, and the enormous responsibility he’d taken on by even travelling into the past, he felt like singing and dancing down the hill towards the city!

He’d been here a few times over the years, but that had all been during his own era. So much of this area was unoccupied in this time. Tupper could see the road at the bottom of the hill, snaking its way into the city. The Thames ran its lazy way through it as well, though it wouldn’t be called that for a long time yet. From his research, Tupper knew it was called the ‘Tamesis’, for now.

Tupper still couldn’t believe that it had worked, either. He’d half expected the timelight to tear him apart, despite his years of preparations. The incantation he’d invented had worked perfectly, though the landing could have been a bit smoother. He rubbed his nose gingerly, and was gratified to find it had stopped bleeding.

The rattling of a cart behind him caught his ears, and Tupper deftly stepped behind a large tree. A donkey, probably not even shoed, was pulling the cart on the cobblestone road, being led by a diminutive human. Elven Ancestors, he was barely taller than Tupper himself! He was hunched over, and his skin was mottled and pockmarked. What did these people eat, anyway? Tupper was afraid to consider what he might have to eat if he had to stay here a while.

Regardless, it was an opportunity, and Tupper wasn’t going to waste it. As soon as the cart had passed, Tupper sidled up behind it, and slipped over the latch on the back. He immediately regretted it, as the road was not smooth at all. At least the cart was full of oats from the feel of it, so Tupper wasn’t rattled around too much on the way. If this guy was going into town to sell his crop, Tupper should be able to sneak out at some point, and make his way to the local Tabularium.

It was the stink that he noticed first. The stench of human waste and unwashed flesh. He’d known it would be bad, but his sensitive nose was particularly vulnerable to the sheer odor wafting in through the cart’s hide covering. No wonder people in this era hadn’t lived longer than fifty or sixty years! Holding his nose tightly and trying desperately to guess when the cart had gone far enough, Tupper tried not to think about all the dirt and grime and filth getting into his lungs.

Then he felt the cart slowing down. Whether he was far enough or not, this was his stop. He peeked out the back of it, took a look around for any possible witnesses, and then dropped to the ground. He scurried out of sight as quickly as possible, grateful that his cardigan was a dull brown color. White clothes in the sixth century were almost unheard of. Shortly later, he was able to climb up on top of one of the wooden buildings, which still creaked warningly under his weight, and get a better look at the city.

Londinium. Originally a Roman colonial city, it had grown by leaps and bounds in the first few hundred years. The Romans had abandoned it a few centuries ago, but by now the Angles and Saxons were putting down roots. Based on the snippets of conversation Tupper could pick out, Old English was being spoken here. He let out a breath of relief, and then grimaced as the stink forced its way back into his nose. At least he’d studied for this. It shouldn’t take him too long to get an understanding of their language.

Aside from the language, there were really only two remnants left of the Roman colonization of this land: the church and the Tabularium. The pointed cross off in the distance was easy to spot, but from his research, Tupper knew that the Tabularium would be somewhere on the west side of the city. Actual cathedrals and abbeys wouldn’t be built for another fifty years or so, but widespread Catholic religion was well underway. In a few years, Pope Gregory I would be paying a visit to try and convert the Kingdom of Kent. Tupper had no intention of being around for that little Muggle ceremony.

People here couldn’t read at all, and libraries wouldn’t be a thing for hundreds of more years, but the Tabularium was as close to a public records office as this world could offer. The ruins of this one were in the London he knew, but of course all the records had been hauled off to museums a long time ago. These records were brand new. Tupper scurried from building to building, shadow to shadow. He grabbed a hide off a tanning rack, and wrapped it around himself. Hopefully, if people weren’t looking too closely, he could pass as a dog.

Finally, he’d reached his destination. Old columns, left over Roman architecture, stood watch over the building, but there were no guards present. Why would people try to steal the records anyway, if they couldn’t read them? Slipping inside, Tupper shed his fake dog costume and began running up the stone corridors, looking for the right records. They were written in Latin, of course. He checked the provincial records for this area, found the right dates, and then cast a translation spell. The Latin words didn’t change. They were supposed to shift around, temporarily, into English that he could read, but they didn’t!

Hurriedly, Tupper tried again. Briefly, he wished he’d taken that moron’s wand with him. Elf magic didn’t need a wand, but it definitely helped to have one. Again, nothing happened!

What was happening here? He had to be careful using magic in this era, but he had to use some. Was there some wizard around here suppressing his powers? Tupper couldn’t see anyone, though rumor had it that some Roman wizards had employed terrible spells in the conquest of their empire. But they were long gone, weren’t they?

A shattering noise jolted Tupper out of his confusion, and he turned to look at its source. A little boy, maybe ten years old, was standing at the entrance to the Tabularium, staring at him. The remnants of a clay pot littered the ground in front of him. “Hellcniht!” He screamed, pointing at Tupper in terror.

Tupper winced under the noise. “I am not a demon,” he protested, covering his ears. “I’m just a little guy with long thin fingers, a pointed nose, leathery skin… and… batlike ears. You know what? Now that I say it aloud, yeah, I can see what you mean. But I’m no threat to you.” He paused for a moment, trying to remember the right words. “Uh, yfel uncýme êower nâwa bealu,” he said quickly, trying to assure the kid that he didn’t need to be afraid.

But the kid screamed again and again, calling him an imp, or a familiar, or a hellspawn, or any number of inventive Christian words for anything that the primitives didn’t understand. This would ordinarily be the point where Tupper just Apparated out of there with his prize, but apparently that wouldn’t work either! Clutching at the stone tablets and hoping fervently that they wouldn’t break the delicate vials he had under his shirt, Tupper ran back into the stone columns. There had to be a back exit here somewhere!

Other townsfolk had arrived, and dogs started barking in concert with their yells. Fortunately only the kid had seen him so far, and he was apparently having a hard time convincing the others that Satan himself was inside the records office.

Panting under the effort of running with those heavy tablets, Tupper barely got under cover outside the back entrance of the building, before more people came running. It was a good thing this whole city smelled like open sewage, because otherwise the dogs would probably have been able to smell him. The villagers gave a thorough search of the Tabularium, but then gave up. Tupper took the opportunity to climb back onto one of the roofs, out of sight of the short humans.

That had been close. Really, really close. He hoped the kid wouldn’t get into trouble for telling lies. If the villagers noticed the tablets were missing, they’d at least have some reason to believe the kid. As loud as he had been, he didn’t deserve to be punished just for seeing something beyond his understanding.

This no-magic thing seriously complicated Tupper’s task. He could get around unnoticed, if it was dark enough, but he had no idea if his potions would be affected by… whatever was causing this. He could translate the tablets in time, though his Latin was a bit rusty, but actually getting to his destination and finding the right person to talk to? Who knew if that was even possible without his magic?

Well, he had to try. Leaning up against the roof as best he could to avoid rolling off, Tupper sat down to wait out the day. With luck, he wouldn’t be noticed again until after nightfall.

-.-

A growing noise in the distance woke him, and Tupper jerked back from the edge with a start. With all the stresses of being chased, yelled at, trying to translate the tablets while staying hidden and, oh, time travelling, he must have dozed off. He’d nearly fallen off the roof in his slumber.

At least it was dark again. Torches had been lit along the roads, though too few and far between for his liking. He missed Muggle streetlights. The stink was still there, of course, but he was getting used to it a little. The noise was raised voices, but from a distance away. Curious, Tupper slid the stone tablets into the makeshift hide pouch he’d stolen, and slung it over his shoulder. Then he slid off the roof and skulked his way over to the crowd that was gathering to the south.

He wasn’t very concerned about being spotted—they were all focusing on the pyre in the town center. Tupper’s eyes widened though, as he saw who had been tied to the stake in the middle of that pyre. The man was big—far larger than any of the townsfolk—and practically hogtied to keep him from bursting free. He was also dressed strangely, at least to everyone here except for Tupper. It was Brinks!

What in the name of the Elven Ancestors was he doing here? How had he gotten here??

Tupper ducked back undercover as more villagers ran up to the crowd. They were chanting “beorht wægn hellcniht,” over and over. Burn the demon. Burn the demon. As they did so, one of the villagers lifted a road torch from its sconce, and set it to the base of the pyre. Without petrol or some other accelerant, the fire wouldn’t spread fast, but it would spread.

Brinks must have gotten into the timelight as well, somehow. The light would have spat him out somewhere else, probably within sight of the locals, and he’d been swarmed as a giant servant of Satan. He clearly didn’t speak a word of Old English, and as such couldn’t explain things to the superstitious mob. Without his magic, or his wand—Tupper couldn’t see it anywhere, either—Brinks wouldn’t have stood much of a chance.

By all rights, this was none of Tupper’s business. Brinks hadn’t been forced to follow him. Tupper had left him with an obvious escape—he could have just scooped up his wand and Apparated out of there. Instead he’d wandered, heedless of plan or purpose, into the damn sixth century!

But deep down, Tupper knew that this was his fault. The arrogant, self-indulgent sneak-thief might deserve a good thrashing, but he didn’t deserve to be burned alive. Still, what could Tupper do to help him, given his own current limitations?

Thinking quickly, Tupper thought back to the naturalist training he’d put himself through before coming to this time. He needed a distraction to get the eyes of the crowd away from their victim for just a few moments, and then an obfuscation to get Brinks out of there. The distraction was easy enough. Torches were everywhere, and were for now unattended, so he just needed to grab one. It was a good thing these people were so tiny compared to humans from his time—the sconces were much closer to the ground.

Newly acquired firebrand in hand, Tupper quickly lit fires on four or five adjoining structures, once he was sure they were close enough to the river. The threat of fires spreading was a major concern during this time, as it was well before Aguamenti, and whatever Muggles used to put out fires.

He scurried away from the new fires, and around the square where Brinks was about to be killed. Fortunately elm trees were abundant in this part of England, or what would soon be called the Kingdom of Essex. Villagers had chopped down a bunch of greenwood recently, including branches and sticks. Tupper looked up as he heard a noise down the way. The villagers had noticed the other fires, and an alarm had gone out.

Now was his time to act. Carefully, he pulled a vial out from its hiding place inside his cardigan, and painstakingly dripped a few drops from it onto the assembled elm branches. He’d brewed the potion himself, and getting the components to make it had not been easy, especially since he’d done it over in America. Sloths weren’t even native to most of that country, and their brains had been particularly rare. He’d had to raid a couple of zoos.

Fortunately, the potion also had specific instructions when brewed. Now that it was done, any more exposure to flames would set off a huge cloud of smoke that would linger for hours. Combined with the elm branches, it should be enough cover.

Watching the demon burn and watching their village burn wasn’t much of a contest, and the crowd was mostly gone by now. Those who remained were distracted, and didn’t notice the dog-shaped figure scurry over to the base of the pyre and toss more wood on it. The potion ingredient interacted with the flames immediately, and a cloud of smoke billowed outwards. Brinks had been yelling for them to let him go, apparently unable to comprehend that they didn’t understand him, but his yells immediately ceased.

Tupper jumped up as soon as the smoke rose, covering his nose and mouth against it. He circled the pyre, to where the flames hadn’t spread yet, and came up behind Brinks. For a moment he was tempted to just climb up and cut the man’s throat, but no. Without his magic, he needed Brinks alive. Pulling out the flint knife he’d pilfered earlier, Tupper climbed up the post from behind Brinks, and started sawing away at the ropes binding him.

“Who’s there?” Brinks said, his voice trembling.

Tupper spared a moment to thwack him on the back of the head. “Quiet, you idiot! Just let me finish this!” He kept on sawing.

Apparently the villagers had gotten the other fires under control, and were now coming back into the square. They couldn’t see a thing for now, but eventually the wind would disperse the smoke. Finally, Tupper cut the last rope, and felt Brinks step free. He immediately shrank back away from the advancing flames. “Now, cry out. You’re being burned alive, remember? Give your death cry, as loud as you can, and then come with me!”

Brinks shrieked as if he truly were aflame, and Tupper winced under the noise. Elves had always had sensitive hearing, so that they could better hear their master’s call. It was sickening, and in this case, annoying. Once the yells faded, Tupper dragged Brinks backwards off of the pyre and navigated by memory down one of the alleys. He remembered coming this way before. He thought he did, anyway. Tupper barely remembered to bring the ropes along. He couldn’t afford any of the villagers to find cut ropes left behind, and realize their victim hadn’t just exploded or vanished as demons do, but had escaped.

“Tupper, is that you?”

Tupper paused long enough to kick him in the shin. “Quiet! Do you want to end up on another pyre? Come on!”

The wind had picked up slightly, but it was blowing their direction, so the cloud seemed to be following them a little. That was good, because Tupper could fairly easily hide himself, but not Brinks as well. The man was a giant compared to the others, which made sense. Not that Tupper could see any significant difference between humans and giants back in his own time. They were both large, senseless, violent animals with no regard for the consequences of their actions.

With a great deal of luck, Tupper thought, they were able to get out of the city, with Brinks goggling at him nearly the whole way. It was a good thing Londinium was so much smaller than London, or they would have been spotted for sure.

Once they were into the tall grass outside the city, Tupper yanked on Brinks’ arm, hauling him down. “Stay down, and keep your voice low, but we should be able to talk now for a spell. I’ll hear any villagers coming, even if they are travelling this late.”

“Talk? Why should I believe a word you have to say?” Brinks demanded, thankfully quietly. “You knocked me out and stole my wand! And stranded us here, wherever here is. Who are those people, anyway, and what were they speaking?”

“Old English, idiot!” Tupper said severely. “You haven’t Apparated anywhere. You were sent back in time, to sixth-century London. Now, you’re coming with me. We should only travel at night, because hiding you during the day would be almost impossible.”

He grabbed for Brinks’ arm again, but Brinks pulled away. “I’m not going anywhere with you!”

Tupper lifted a finger menacingly. “You will if you know what’s good for you. I can blast you right back into that town square if I want to, and without your wand, you can’t do a thing to stop me. You left it back in the Department of Mysteries, remember?”

Brinks swallowed, looking nervously down at Tupper’s extended finger. Tupper kept his feet square on the ground, hoping that Brinks wouldn’t see he was bluffing. Eventually Brinks nodded, and they got moving again. They walked in silence for a while, heading roughly west into the foothills. Tupper stayed behind him, holding a finger warningly out, and Brinks looked back at him from time to time.

“Why did you kidnap me?” Brinks finally asked, in a louder voice, but it was sorted because they were far enough away now. “Why did you bring me into the past? I didn’t think anyone could even go this far back! The time-turners only take you back an hour, or were you lying about that, too?”

“Typical wizard,” Tupper grunted. “Thinking it’s all about you. I didn’t kidnap you—I didn’t even plan for you to be here! I just needed your wand to stabilize the time-turner energy. When I was gone, you were supposed to grab your wand and get out of there, but nooo,” he added sarcastically. “You had to follow me. Moron.”

Brinks stiffened slightly under yet another insult, but he kept walking. “All right, why are you here, then? What, are you going to steal the Mona Lisa right off the easel, and then jump back to our time with it?”

Tupper snorted. “Shows what you know. I’m not here to alter the past; I’m here to learn from it! The only reason I started those fires and cut you free was because your death in sixth-century Londinium would be a huge stick poked right into the eye of causality! I mean, imagine it! A modern-day, bog-standard idiot human, killed and then probably put on display, in what will one day be one of the most important cities in the world?

“By now, people are already starting to study human anatomy, and it wouldn’t take long for them to figure out that you’re very different. Your skull alone would probably become a national treasure, and spark debate for Muggles and wizards alike! The ripples from that event alone could tear our own time to shreds!” Tupper let out an exasperated sigh. He’d come here intending to leave as little impact on history as possible, but had already caused a major uproar without even meaning to!

“Ok, so you rescued me to keep your plan intact, whatever that is. Why haven’t you killed me, then? You need me for something.”

“And I’ll tell you what that is, when you need to know. Right now, you don’t,” Tupper maintained stubbornly. He wished Brinks would just shut up. The man was edging dangerously close to figuring out the truth. Besides, without magic to Apparate around and turn himself invisible at will, Tupper needed someone who at least sounded like they belonged. If the ancient Brits didn’t look too closely, Brinks might fit in as just an abnormally healthy local.

As he thought about it, he realized that would never work. Once again, Tupper considered just killing him and burying his body somewhere in the wilderness. No one would be looking out here, and it should have a minimal impact on history.

No, aside from the practical concerns—Brinks was a lot bigger than Tupper, and once he realized Tupper was also magicless, he’d put up a fight—there was also right and wrong to consider. Brinks was a wizard, and just as guilty as the rest of their wretched kind, but he didn’t deserve to just be killed. Maimed, maybe, or horribly mutilated, but nothing more.

“Just so you know,” Brinks went on as they continued walking into the night, “I didn’t choose to come here. That time-turner energy stuff reached out and grabbed me. The next thing I knew, I was facedown in an alley in… Londinium, I guess. Those guys caught me shortly after that. I’m a lot stronger than they are, but there were a lot more of them than me.”

Tupper blinked. “That, uh, wasn’t supposed to happen. My spell was supposed to keep the timelight stable and unmoving for at least a minute. I must have underestimated some aspect of the magical flow somewhere in the incantation. Wait, what exactly did you do once you arrived? Did you hurt or kill any of them? That could have just as bad an effect on history!”

“Nothing! I was still sore as hell from you knocking me out.” Brinks put a hand to the back of his head. “I’m still not sure you didn’t break any bones. Anyway, I tried to run, but they swarmed all over me, trussed me up like a turkey, and tried to have their own Thanksgiving cookout.”

“Good,” Tupper said with some relief. It was looking more and more likely that he’d be able to return to a relatively undamaged timeline. Provided he could keep Brinks under control. “You must have arrived a few hours after I did. Probably because we entered the timelight at different times. You’re lucky, you know. If the spell had worn off any sooner, you might have ended up in prehistory!”

“Yeah, lucky me,” Brinks grumbled. “You don’t have anything to eat at all, do you? Unlike you, I didn’t exactly plan for this trip.”

“Just keep walking. This area had plenty of forageable plants at this time, and we should be able to find wild berries on the way.”

Brinks came to a stop. “You know what? No. I’m not going any further. You don’t have any magic at all, do you?”

Tupper made his best threatening glare. “You want to test that, wizard?” He lifted his finger.

“Actually I do. If you really had powers, you could have zipped us out here instantly, instead of walking. You could have conjured up food for yourself—that’s right, I heard your stomach growling. I don’t know how you made that smoke cloud back there in the city, but it wasn’t with magic, or at least not the normal kind. You’ve got nothing, and I could probably kick you as far as a football right now.” Strangely, Tupper could detect no gloating in Brinks’ voice—just confidence.

Tupper pulled out his flint knife. “Try it, and you’ll be hopping the rest of the way. Bully for you; you figured it out. But it doesn’t change anything. I have a plan to get back to my own time, and you don’t know what it is!”

“Let me guess. You’ll find some isolated cave somewhere. You’ve done research, and you know it won’t be dug up for a thousand years at least. You’ve got petrification potions on you, and plan to basically sleep until our time shows up again.”

Despite himself, Tupper felt his eyes widen. Perhaps Brinks wasn’t as idiotic as he looked. “Lucky guess. How did you know I had the potions?”

“I heard them clinking inside your cardigan. Elves aren’t the only ones with good ears, you know.”

Tupper shrugged. “Still doesn’t change anything. As you said, I did my research. I know which caves and tors and hollows will be safe, and which ones aren’t. Even if you can take my potions from me without shattering them first, you have no idea where to hide. If you put yourself to sleep, you could wake up in a cage, or on display in some Muggle museum, or most likely a Muggle lab before the potion wears off. You need me, if you ever plan to get home. I don’t need you.”

Brinks shook his head. “I’m not going to take anything from you, Tupper. I didn’t bring you here, remember? I’m just trying to figure out how to get home.” He paused for a few seconds. “If, and I stress if, you’re willing to help me, do you have enough potion for both of us?”

“Of course. I didn’t know if my plan would work. For all I knew, I’d end up thousands of years into the past, so I brought much more potion than I needed.”

Brinks raised an eyebrow. “And how do I know you’re telling the truth? If you only have enough for yourself, you’ve got every reason to lie about it.”

Tupper let out an exasperated noise. “See for yourself!” He lifted the cord underneath his cardigan, pulling out four large vials of the potion. A fifth smaller one, empty, rattled next to them. “Each vial holds enough to suspend a person for a thousand years. The last one is exactly how much I need to return to the year before I left. I can measure more precisely once I have magic again. I assume,” he admitted begrudgingly, “that we don’t have magic because this time is before magic was in common use. Once we’re at least near our own time, we should be ourselves again.” For a moment, Tupper considered that maybe he didn’t want to go back. He was free in this time, probably for the same reason he couldn’t use magic. Not having the words in his head was still, even a day after his arrival, the most wondrous feeling he’d ever had!

No, he wasn’t doing this for himself. He had to go back.

After a moment, Brinks nodded. “All right. After you complete your task, which I guess is none of my beeswax, we’ll both sleep until we’re in our own time again. Sound fair?”

“Only if I keep the potions with me until we drink them, and you drink yours first,” Tupper insisted.

Brinks threw up his hands. “Fine! Whatever! I don’t think you’re a bad guy, Tupper, but I’m not either!”

“You’re a wizard,” Tupper pointed out. “That’s close enough.”

“What??”

The look on Brinks’ face was so bewildered, and so flustered, that Tupper couldn’t resist. “You really have no idea, do you? You haven’t got a bloody clue! You just sail through life, never thinking about the people who are drowning underneath you. None of you do. None of you ever have, since long before you or I were even born!”

“Tupper, what are you talking about?”

But the moment had passed. Tupper’s anger was under control again, and he just gave Brinks a cold look. “You wouldn’t understand, so there’s no point explaining. Look, my task is to the west, a couple of days’ walk at least. You can stay here, or you can come with me, but I’m not giving you a drop of potion or telling you where to drink it until I’m done. If you come with me, we’ll have to travel at night, because you’re too big to hide. Either way, I’m going.”

Brinks was just staring at him, if possible, with eyes even wider than just after the rescue. Eventually though, he started moving again. “I guess we both are, then.”
8
Imposed (Harry Potter) / Chapter 3
« Last post by Daen on November 20, 2022, 10:49:14 PM »
They took a few rests during the night, before planning to come to a stop at daybreak. It was slow going travelling through the wilderness without magical light, but at least the moon was mostly full. Brinks could see more clearly from up there than Tupper could, and steered them around some obstructions. Still, Tupper kept a wary eye, in case the wizard tried to rush him and grab the potions.

Brinks was quiet for most of the night, still apparently adapting to being in the past. Eventually though, he started talking again. Tupper was tempted to just tell him to shut it, but in a weird way it was a relief to have someone to talk to. Even a wizard.

“So, all of that ‘Tupper follows Master’s orders’ stuff; that was all fake? You always talk like you do now? Saying ‘I’ instead of your name, and stuff like that?” He asked offhandedly, once they reached a stream and had a drink. This far into the past, it was safe to do so without using a purification spell first.

Tupper grimaced. “Most elves talk like that, but it’s more indoctrination than anything else. It’s habit. I was raised to do the same by my father, but I learned a better way after he died. I learned a lot of things,” he added more for his own benefit. “Especially once I was freed.”

“When were you freed? You never said, back when we were working together.”

“Just over six years ago,” Tupper said, again feeling that strange sense of conversation. He rarely talked to anyone like this. Just other elves, and they shunned him for even having clothes of his own. As they were raised to do. “Or I should say I will be freed in fourteen hundred and ninety-four years or so.”

“If you don’t want to talk about it, I understand,” Brinks said surprisingly. “With a wizard, I mean.”

Tupper gave him a suspicious glance in the darkness. He could detect no mocking in the man’s tone, but that might just mean he was good at hiding it. Eventually, Tupper shrugged. “There’s not much else to do,” he admitted. “I was in service to an old wizarding patriarch, in Sussex. He was in his last days, and before the end, he gave me this scarf,” he fingered the ends of the fabric. “I kept serving him by habit until he was dead, and then I went out on my own. Or tried to.”

“He must have been a kind man, to give you your freedom like that,” Brinks said, but Tupper only snorted in response.

“He was a greedy, selfish old bastard. He only gave me clothes so that his son wouldn’t inherit me along with the rest of the estate. They’d had a row only days before. I got lucky they didn’t patch things up before the old man died, or I would probably still be serving his brat of a son.”

There was a tense silence after that, but Brinks didn’t let it last long.

“So after that you were on your own?” he prompted. Again, Tupper was careful to listen for any signs of scorn, but he seemed genuinely curious.

“I served various witches and wizards who would have me. People who were down on their luck for the most part. The really wealthy ones wanted nothing to do with a freed elf, and a Muggle would have probably thought I was an imp or something. Actually, one just did,” he realized, remembering that terrified child.

“Eventually I ended up at Hogwarts. That’s a wizarding school,” he clarified for Brinks, who probably didn’t know that. “A bunch of elves work there, tending to the students year-round. Everyone said Albus Dumbledore was a great man to work for, but I didn’t see any difference between him and most of my other masters. One of the students was nice to me, though, and there were other freed elves there who I could talk to.”

“Really? I thought that freed elves were very rare. Like, rolling seven sixes in a row without magic rare.”

Tupper didn’t know what that meant, but he nodded anyway. “There were two. A kid named Dobby, and an older elf called Winky. Dobby was very endearing, at least while I was there in the castle. He had some promise, but he hero-worshipped people like Dumbledore and Potter, so we didn’t have much in common,” he reflected darkly. Dobby really had been a good egg, but a stupid one. “As for Winky, I wasn’t sure at first, but eventually I could tell that she’s… bipolar.”

Brinks winced, visibly even in the darkness. “Ouch.”

“Yeah. She drank because of it. A lot, in fact. She worked in the kitchens with the rest of the elves, when she wasn’t sleeping off her latest trip to the pub. Dobby and I tried to help her. I went to St. Mungo’s—that’s a treatment center—to ask if there was some cure for her, but the wizards just laughed at me. ‘Treat an elf?’ They said. ‘Only humans can be bipolar. She’s just a layabout. Get her back to work, and she’ll be fine!’” Even now, the memory tightened his hands into fists.

“That’s horrible!” Brinks said, his voice noticeably softer. “I have a friend who’s bipolar. He told me there’s no spell that can cure it, or any other mental illness. There is Nomaj medicine for it, though. He gets it with a fake ID, and it keeps him from going off the deep end from time to time.”

“Yeah, I know about it. I stole some from a Muggle shop once, and brought it back to the castle for Winky. I had no idea if it would help, but I had to try something. I never found out though. She wouldn’t even try it.”

“Why the hell not? My friend jumped at the chance, when he found out there was medication.”

Tupper’s voice trembled a bit at the memory. “She felt it was a problem with herself, not anyone else. That the only solution was to just keep working, and hoping that maybe her former master would take her back someday. She probably still feels that way, if she’s still alive. Riddle and his people attacked the castle last month, and I don’t know if either Dobby or Winky survived.”

“Who’s Riddle?”

“Right, you wouldn’t know. That Voldemort person those guys were talking about in the Ministry? That’s him. His real name was Tom Riddle, at least according to the Quibbler. That’s a British newspaper I nicked out of a bin when we got back to London. I never really cared what his name was. He was just another wizard, as far as I’m concerned.”

Brinks’ head turned towards him sharply. “You’re kidding. I know you don’t like wizards, but he’s supposed to be the worst one who ever lived! Even across the sea, people were afraid of him!”

Tupper shrugged. “Wizards treat elves mostly the same, whether they’re dark wizards or just slightly-less-dark wizards. You probably would have done the same if you’d been born rich, and inherited an elf.”

“No I wouldn’t!”

Tupper scoffed. He’d heard much the same from young wizards in many houses he’d served over the years. Always telling themselves that they would be better, and never actually believing it to be true. “Yeah. You keep telling yourself that.”

-.-

Dawn rose brilliantly, and Tupper could enjoy it, despite his ravenous hunger and staggering tiredness. Even Brinks looked knackered, yawning repeatedly. Thankfully there were some berries they could forage for, now that they could see them. One of Tupper’s former mistresses had been something of a naturalist, and had insisted on camping as often as not. She’d had a wand and collapsible furniture to bring along, though. She’d never foraged a day in her life.

Brinks found a relatively clear area in an oak copse, and immediately dozed off between the trees. Tupper eyed him warily, but he couldn’t stay awake forever. Making sure that he was out of sight, he carefully removed the potion vials and buried them in loose soil. He made sure to cover the ground again, and make it look as though no one had been here. There. He could get some sleep now, knowing that Brinks could manhandle him all he wanted, and it wouldn’t get him a thing.

Strangely, he’d actually enjoyed their conversations. A little. It actually wasn’t that surprising, he mused, as he tried to find a comfortable place in the copse to lie down. The only people he could have spoken to were either elves who looked down on him for being free, wizards who ordered him around as if he was nothing, or Muggles who would be terrified by the very sight of him. For all his many, many flaws, Brinks was an exception.

It felt like only a few hours, but Tupper woke well into the afternoon. A fly had landed right on his closed eyelid, and he twitched as he came back from his dream. Ah, right. It had been a good one, too. He’d returned to his own time, having uncovered the secret he was seeking, and broadcast it to the world. He was a hero to elves everywhere and they had their own city, of which he was the first mayor.

Bah. Foolish dreams and nothing more. As long as he found out the truth and got it out to the world, nothing else mattered.

Brinks was nowhere to be seen. In a momentary panic, Tupper glanced over at the place he’d buried the potions, but there were no footprints in that direction. Someone as heavy as Brinks definitely would have left some marks if he’d been there.

“Good, you’re awake,” a familiar voice said from behind him, and Brinks came into view. “Have some breakfast, late as it is.” He gestured to one side of the copse, where Tupper’s scarf had fallen. He must have taken it off this morning before going to sleep.

Curious, Tupper went over and carefully lifted it. Inside was maybe half a kilo of those same wildberries they’d picked earlier! He must have been gathering for hours!

“Uh, thanks,” Tupper said after a moment, and tucked in.

“No problem,” Brinks said easily. “It’s weird, you know, not having magic to do all this stuff. With a wand, I could have picked all those berries with just a wave. You probably could have done the same by tapping on your nose or something.”

“Nof exafly,” Tupper said, his mouth still full. He chewed for a moment, and then swallowed. “I shadowed a Muggle wilderness survival group for several weeks before I went to America. I learned a few things about how to survive out in the wild, but it was too dark to use them last night. We shouldn’t move on until dusk, but that gives us some time to get some real food. Not that this isn’t great, mind you,” he added sarcastically. Brinks just gave him a wry smile in response.

After sating his hunger for a bit, Tupper pulled out the flint knife and eyed some of the oak branches searchingly. After selecting some good prospects, Tupper cut them free, and began shaving bark from them. He’d realized his powerlessness yesterday in the city, and had chosen to steal the right materials then. Of course, that had been before he’d known Brinks was here too.

In short order, a bow had formed from the oak branch and the sinew he pulled out of the deer hide. A few arrows followed it, and then Tupper tested the bowstring. Brinks’ eyebrows were raised, either with incredulity or because he was impressed. Tupper couldn’t tell.

“Rabbits should be plentiful around here. I think I saw some hopping around last night, but I was too busy watching you.”

“Right,” Brinks said, amusement clear in his tone, as Tupper stepped out of the copse and began looking around for the right prey. “I don’t suppose you know how to start a fire without magic, or do you plan on eating your food raw?”

“That won’t be a problem,” Tupper said dismissively. There. He saw one of the little fluffers hopping around a little down the way. Nocking the arrow, he aimed it carefully, and then released! The arrow sunk into the ground, and the terrified rabbit vanished down a hole. “Gah. Bloody fast, aren’t they?”

He fished out another arrow from the bundle, and then tried again. It took a few more minutes, but the second shot missed as well. And the third. “Bugger!”

“Let me,” Brinks said, after a moment.

“The bow is too small for—” Tupper began, but Brinks wasn’t reaching for it. Instead he walked right past him, and leaned down overlooking the apparent rabbit warren that was in this area. In his right hand, palmed up against his wrist, was the flint knife Tupper had taken yesterday.

Brinks hesitated just a moment, and then flicked his wrist. There was a squeal a few dozen feet away, and a rabbit was pinned to the ground by the knife!

“How did you do that??” Tupper stared at him. As he watched, Brinks moved over to the poor animal, looked a bit squeamish, and then pulled the knife out and finished it off.

“There was a bar in south Boston that I used to go to. A bunch of Nomajs would show up every night, drunk as hell already, and play some very fun games. When I was hiding from the authorities, I would sometimes pretend to be one of them. One of those games… was knife throwing. I used magic at first to pretend I was good at it, but eventually I could do it even without cheating. This was before I got locked up the first time,” he added a bit soberly. “By the time I was out, that bar had been closed down. I never did find out what happened to PJ and the other Nomajs.”

“Well you’re very good,” Tupper commented, uncomfortably aware that he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with his bow, and that his adversary was armed again. He reminded himself that the potions were safely hidden.

“Thanks,” Brinks said. “Trouble is, I don’t know how to skin or cook this. I barely know how to kill them humanely.”

“That I can do,” Tupper said confidently. “Go kill another, and I’ll get started on this one.”

Brinks obliged, and they eventually gathered a total of four dead rabbits. In the meantime, Tupper showed him how to make the skinning go faster, which sinews to cut to make the joints easier, that sort of thing. His hands were all bloody, but there was a stream nearby: probably the reason the rabbits had dug their warren here. He insisted that they keep the furs, though. Without magic, they might need money, and rabbit fur had some value here. They had to pass the knife back and forth, and it would get dull eventually, but Tupper was reasonably certain he could make another blade or steal one before that happened.

Starting the fire was easy, like he said. He pulled out the Muggle device and aimed it carefully. Brinks only smiled. He’d apparently seen magnifying glasses before, despite his patchy history with academia. Tupper had brought it along to make his translation of ancient writing easier, but now it had a second purpose. Tupper focused the sun’s rays, and then piled on the kindling when the flame started. After a short span they had a fire going, and Tupper cut branches to make a frame to spit the rabbits.

The meal was the most delicious thing he felt he’d eaten in months. American food wasn’t bad, actually, but it was nothing like the fish and chips, or bangers and mash, he’d prepared and sometimes eaten in secret, for his former masters. “Maybe time travel makes people hungry. Elves and humans alike,” he said over another mouthful.

Brinks nodded. “They say anticipation is half the experience, and we’ve been waiting what, fifteen hundred years for a meal like this? Not that we knew it at the time, of course.”

By the time the sun’s rays faded over the horizon, they’d eaten and stored some leftovers. The deer hide bag would do for now to carry the food, but Tupper resolved to steal something more sanitary later on. From what he’d read, ancient Britons had sometimes used sheep’s stomachs as containers. By the time they were ready to leave the copse, in the fading light, he was confident that they would be able to reach his destination without any major problems. He made sure to retrieve the vials before leaving, but he couldn’t do so secretly. Brinks had just smiled and shook his head upon seeing that. Then, they were off.

The bow and arrows were left behind, forgotten.
9
Imposed (Harry Potter) / Chapter 4
« Last post by Daen on November 20, 2022, 10:49:09 PM »
Tupper was able to finally decipher the Tabularium records the next day. It turned out his destination was nearer than he’d expected, but at least a two week’s walk away. Three, if they avoided roads and settlements. Speaking of, he snuck into one of those and stole some supplies for their journey. A better knife, for one.

He tried teaching conversational Old English to Brinks, but it was a bit like explaining dinosaurs to an iguana. There was a spell that allowed for translation of spoken languages, but Tupper hadn’t been able to cast it without a wand. Given that an elf even carrying a wand was illegal, he hadn’t made it a priority, and had instead learned to speak the old language himself, from books he’d stolen from a former master’s study.

Brinks said he did know that spell, and used it when he needed to speak French or Spanish, but wanted to learn to speak Old English anyway. They’d tested a drop of potion on a rabbit he’d been able to catch alive, and it worked. The animal had gone still and stiff as a stone, and would probably stay that way for years. It was impermeable though in that state, so it should be fine when it eventually woke up. Still, if they were unable to return to their own time for some other reason, Brinks would be stuck here for the rest of his life, and he wanted to at least be able to communicate with someone who didn’t hate him. He said that last part jokingly, but it was still mostly true. Tupper did hate him still.

It was hard to stop hating someone. He conversed with, and taught, and even joked with the man, but always in the back of Tupper’s mind, the simple knowledge that Brinks was a wizard was there. It was like there was a prison guard standing watch over them at all times. A constant reminder that Brinks was the enemy. Because he was. Tupper had saved him because Tupper was better than him. He didn’t condemn people to death or suffering just because it suited him, and Brinks was the kind of person who did.

It didn’t matter that Tupper had never actually seen Brinks do anything cruel or inhumane. It was irrelevant that he seemed like a nice enough fellow. Nor was it important that his friend had been ill, and could relate to Tupper’s friend Winky. All wizards and witches were the enemy, and always had been. He would remember that; no matter what happened.

But he didn’t need to hate someone in order to be on guard with them, he slowly realized as their journey continued. Brinks was the enemy, sure, but they could at least be cordial with each other. There wasn’t anyone else Tupper could talk to, after all.

Brinks seemed to sense those feelings. He was surprisingly intuitive, for one of those people. “Have you never had even a single wizarding friend? Not once in your entire life? No wonder you hate us. I’d probably feel that way about most Nomajs, if I hadn’t spent time with them, and gotten to know them. They didn’t know I was different, but we could at least drink together.”

“I had one wizarding friend,” Tupper admitted, in a rush. “It was that schoolgirl I told you about, in Hogwarts. She would come down to the kitchens sometimes, and talk with us. She wasn’t nosy, or pushy, like one of the other visitors we got. I got the impression she was lonely, and that the other kids didn’t treat her right.”

Brinks was silent, which was good, because Tupper felt good letting this out. He hadn’t thought about his friend in a long time, but she’d been an important part of his life. “She was odd, to the other children. She believed strange things that they didn’t. She taught me a strange language that she claimed was the native writing of the Cornish Aeolas. They’re some kind of dimension-shifting spirits, from what she said. She showed me a tablet that she and her father had recovered from an archaeology dig in Sussex that she claimed had the language written on it. Not that I believed her, either. I was just glad to have a friend.”

He sighed. “She was kind to me, and I appreciated it, but she left. She went back to her father, and other wizards and witches like her. After talking with her, and with Dobby and Winky, I decided to do this. Not travel to the past exactly, but that’s when it started. I figured out the details later.”

“Do I get to hear why we’re here now?” Brinks asked offhandedly, clearly expecting the answer to be no.

Tupper opened his mouth to say no, but then paused. His companion looked at him briefly, and then did a double-take. “Wait, you’re actually considering it?” He asked incredulously. “I thought you’d die before telling anyone. Especially a wizard like me!”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Tupper instructed angrily. “I won’t tell you anything important. Just the basics. Understood?”

Brinks nodded excitedly, and despite himself, Tupper felt a brief flash of affection for him. Where to begin, though? He’d never written any kind of memoir, for fear a wizard might find and read it. As such, he’d never arranged his motivations even in his own mind. Eventually, he decided to start with Brinks’ motivations instead. Maybe he was capable of being something other than a blundering, oppressive idiot like the rest. And he had asked to know, after all. “You said you’d never even seen an elf before meeting me. What, if anything, do you know about my people’s origins?”

“Not much, as you said. A few American families have them, but I’ve never met any. I just know that they’re servants mostly, and have been for as long as there have been wizarding families.”

“What about me, then? After spending time with the real me, not the act I put on for you at first, what do you think my life is like in our own time?”

Brinks looked uncomfortable. “I’d say you’ve been kicked around a lot. Which makes my earlier threat to kick you a lot meaner, now that I think about it. Sorry about that.”

Tupper just waved a hand dismissively. “All right. Now, what about another elf, who isn’t me, but has also been freed? Try to put yourself in that elf’s shoes. Think about what he goes through, day by day. What do you think his life would be like?”

He could see Brinks’ gears turning. “Uh, not great, obviously. I was in dire straits when I agreed to be your master. I needed the help, but I can’t see any rich wizarding families like the Cargills or the MacMillans wanting the help of some freed house-elf. How do other elves view you? Ones that don’t have clothes, I mean.”

“Not great,” Tupper said, and Brinks gave a pained smirk in response. “We’re viewed as defective somehow. As if just being freed on its own makes us wrong in some way. I think that’s most of why Winky was so depressed, and her illness made it even worse.”

“All right, so everyone you meet either wants to use you, doesn’t have time to even consider you, or looks down on you. Figuratively, not just literally.”

“But it’s so much worse than that!” Tupper said severely, and Brinks leaned back away from him, alarmed. Tupper tried to moderate his tone a little. “If an ordinary elf walks down any wizarding street, witches and wizards don’t even see them. Muggles can’t even see them, which is a good thing. The elf is just doing whatever task their master set to them, and that’s that. If an elf with clothes walks down the street though, we get stares. Glares. We’re abnormal. Defective. We’re elves who couldn’t keep a master, somehow! Winky certainly felt that way, after she was clothed as a punishment! I mean, how terrible must a servant be to get sacked by their master, if their work is literally free??

“Tell me Brinks, honestly. What was the first thing you thought, when you saw me for the first time?” Not that Tupper cared much about the answer, but Brinks’ response could be valuable to himself, anyway.

“Honestly? All I saw was the cardigan, at first. It drags at the eye, and I’m not even the kind of guy who usually even notices fashion!”

Tupper stared at him for a moment, and then they both started laughing. Tension bled out of the air, replaced by mirth for a little while. Tupper did nod in observance of that statement. “All right, I admit, when I first got clothes, I went a little overboard. I dressed down during our heists, but I like looking like some kind of bizarre painting. Still, my appearance—all freed elves’ appearances—are a part of the whole point,” he went on implacably, and Brinks nodded as his own mirth faded as well.

“We’re dangerous, radical renegades, swimming upstream and sitting when we’re told to jump. If we’re carrying anything other than clothing, any wizard who sees us will assume that we stole it! Winky told me that she was one of the victims of a Death Eater attack a few years ago,” Tupper said, giving some context for Brinks.

“This was before the school was attacked, and it was more of a prank than anything else: the Death Eaters were just trying to scare people. Death Eaters were Riddle’s guys, so you know. Anyway, one of them set off that Mark thing they do in the sky, and she was blamed for it! She couldn’t possibly have known the spell—only wizards are taught it—but those Ministry freaks blamed her anyway!

“And I can understand why they thought that, because most wizards have been told that anything different than what they know must be bad in some way! What could be more different than a born servant, serving someone in that obviously bad a way, like Winky? Or not serving anyone at all, like me??”

He left off there for a moment, and Brinks just looked contemplative. Eventually, he sighed. “I never thought about how elves must live. I just assumed that I had it bad because I was always looking over my shoulder for Burch or some other loan shark sniffing around for gold. I never thought about people who have it even worse than me. I guess… I don’t have to be rich to be privileged.”

“Exactly! You are starting to get it. Now, why do you think it is that all elves have this need to serve wizards and witches, wherever they happen to be in the world? Do you think it’s just fate—that whatever god or goddess created this world simply wanted it to be that way? Who could be that cruel, to make an entire race of people into willing and eager servants for others? No, it’s much more reasonable to conclude that the elves were changed in some way. That someone did this to us, in order to make us want to serve wizards and witches.”

Brinks shook his head. “Some dark wizard, like Voldemort, you think?”

“I do think. I think that this was intentional. I think that some wizard altered us. Some kind of spell, of incredible power, that affected not just the first elves, but every elf born to them, down throughout history!”

“That’s why you came into the past, isn’t it?” Brinks said excitedly. “To find out who did it, and how! You said you were here to learn about the past, not to alter it. So, you want to figure out who tampered with the first elves, and then sleep back to your own time, and tell everyone!”

“Not exactly. People won’t believe an elf, especially if I start spouting ludicrous claims about ancient spells and time travel. But maybe my fellow elves will believe me. After all, they have the words too.”

“The words?”

Tupper went dead still. He’d let himself get carried away in his explanation, and said more than he’d meant to. Only elves knew about the words, as far as he could tell, and most of them wouldn’t even admit that they knew! Dobby had spoken of them only reluctantly, and Winky only while thoroughly drunk. Finding out that he wasn’t insane had been the main reason Tupper had gone on this journey to begin with!

He reminded himself that he had all the power here. He carried the potions, and could shatter them in an instant if necessary. He knew where to hide for their return trip through time, and he could speak the local language, while Brinks couldn’t. Even so, could he risk telling him?

Finally, he nodded. Brinks had let him wrestle it out in peace, pretending not to stare. He’d been polite, which was more than Tupper had expected. “All right. But this, especially, stays between us. If my task succeeds, and word gets out, then everyone will know. The only reason I’m telling you, is because if I fail, we’ll both be dead anyway, and the secret will die with us.”

“I understand,” Brinks said immediately. He didn’t, really. He couldn’t, but at least he was willing to pretend.

“I have a voice inside my head, or I did,” Tupper began slowly. “It’s my own voice, actually. From what I can tell, every elf hears their own voice in this way. All of us hear the same three words, over and over again. For our entire lives! Find, and serve. Find and serve. Find and serve. Every moment, of every day, of every year, we hear that in our heads. We even dream those words, sometimes.”

“You all hear the exact same thing? Other elves have told you this?”

Tupper nodded. “That’s why I’m certain this is some kind of spell. It’s too specific to just be a trait of elvenkind. We have to find a wizard or witch, and serve them. If we don’t, we start to feel ill in the stomach or depressed, like Winky. The worst parts of my life were when I was between masters! I could barely move, because every time I did, I felt like retching. The voice was louder then, hammering away at my brain like a spike driven into my head every few seconds. I couldn’t sleep, I could barely eat. All I could do was wander, and try to find some wizard who would engage me.”

For once Brinks didn’t seem to have any response, and Tupper was grateful. Even thinking about it made him feel ill again, and he gulped hard to keep his undercooked breakfast from coming back up.

“Anyway, I was only able to start working on this plan after I found work. Since no one paid me, I had to steal things, or money to buy the things. That’s why I fit in with you, when we first met.”

“Even though you were just using me?” Brinks said, his voice not angry or wry, but just a little sad.

“I don’t apologise for that,” Tupper said defiantly. “I’m fighting for my people, in the only way I can. I won’t try to excuse the means. That said, I am sorry you were hauled into the past. If I’d known that could happen, I would have Apparated you out of there before getting started. Just because you’re all oppressive, selfish louts, doesn’t mean you deserve to be nearly burned to death.”

“Oh, it wasn’t so bad,” Brinks responded, his usual good humor back. “At least I don’t have to worry about Burch tracking me down here. It doesn’t compare to having a spike hammered into your brain over and over, but it gets old fast, believe me. And while we’re being all pleasant with each other, thank you for saving me. I know you said it was because of the timeline, but it would have been easier for you to dispose of my body after I died. Instead, you risked saving me while I was still alive. I just wanted you to know I’m grateful.”

Tupper didn’t know what to say for a moment. Brinks was perfectly right; it would have been easier. “Yes, well, the voice disappeared the moment I got to this time. I’ve been free of it for days now, and it has been delightful! Those first few hours, I felt like I could fly! It was so quiet and peaceful that I could barely concentrate on why I came here in the first place. That was before I found out you’d been brought along.”

“Congratulations! And sorry to impose on the silence. If you’re tired of talking—”

Tupper waved a hand. “It’s fine. It’s enough that I don’t feel like sicking up anymore. We’ve only got a few hours of daylight left, though. Do you want to get back to language lessons?”

Brinks grinned. “Count me in, teach.”

-.-

The days stretched into weeks as they made their way across the rugged terrain. They couldn’t always find game to hunt, but the animals they did come across weren’t as skittish as Tupper remembered from his own time. That made sense, really. Most of these critters hadn’t seen any aeroplanes, or heard a car, or smelled any people in their entire lives! This was before all that.

He could smell them both, more and more as they traveled. Showering was out, and bathing was a rare luxury, as streams were few and far between. Also they had no soap, and Tupper had no charcoal to make even the primitive paste he’d learned to mix up. He could make some in time, but he still wasn’t sure exactly what year this was. They had to hurry and reach the tor. He would make some charcoal and then soap, when they got there.

Tupper had overshot, he explained to Brinks as they continued their journey. His goal had been five-sixty-two AD, but from the Tabularium records they’d since discarded, he’d guessed the year was currently five-ten or so. They would have to drink some of the potion, in very carefully measured doses, and then wake up again to check the date.

“Why that year specifically?” Brinks asked.

By now, Tupper had basically given up on warning him off of asking questions. He would anyway, regardless of discouragement. It was laudable in a way: how relentless he could be. “That’s the first known record of elf existence. In 562, an elf name Soppa recorded, or is going to record, the memoirs of his master, Lord Keigh O’Cleef. Kay of the Cliffs, as he was known in the tablets. It’s been translated at least a dozen times, but it was definitely an elf who recorded it. He even put in a footnote, probably at the direction of his master.”

“There are no other records of elves that are older than that?” Brinks looked troubled.

“Don’t be surprised,” Tupper said darkly. “Wizards destroyed almost all evidence of elven society through the years. We’ve been bound to them so tightly we might as well be a bangle on their arms or an organ in their bodies. I was lucky even finding the scrap of paper I did that pointed me here and now. The next oldest record won’t be made for another two hundred years!”

“Right. So you plan to ask this Soppa if he hears the voice like you do?”

“Among other things, yeah. If I can get close without being noticed. If we can get to the right time, and if I even got the date right! I did my research, but there’s so much missing information, I’m bound to have gummed up something or other. Wait, I think we’re here!”

The hill was innocuous at first appearance, but Tupper looked around, trying to judge their location by distant mountains. This was probably it, but there was only one way to be sure. “Come on.”

Tupper led the way around the hill, and then let out a relieved sigh. “Ancient druids—long before our current time—used to practise their religion here. They died out or moved away a long time ago. It won’t be discovered until the 1400s at least. It definitely won’t be safe all the way up to our own time though, just in case you were planning on stealing the potions from me,” he added to Brinks warningly.

Brinks only scoffed. “Tupper, like it or not, we’re in this mess together. I’ve got no reason to stab you in the back, and eventually you’ll realize you can trust me too.”

After a moment, Tupper gave him a suspicious nod. As long as he knew who was in charge, it would work out. But he did not trust Brinks. He’d only told him about the task because it didn’t matter if he found out or not. He reached out to the entrance to the tunnel he’d read about, but Brinks beat him to it. The wizard leaned down and brushed aside the bushes and vines growing on this end of the hill. At Tupper’s surprised look, he grinned again. “Hey, I’m a thief like you. I know a thing or two about hiding an entrance. This is really the only place you could do it, where the vines are thick enough. The druids must have known it too, or it just grew over the entrance after they left.

“Hm,” Tupper let out significantly, and let the wizard clear off the entrance. Behind it, layered in Gaelic script, was the circular entrance to the tor. It was really nothing more than a large cave dug out under the hill, but it would do for a hiding place. Pulling out the magnifying lens, Tupper lit up a torch, and followed him into the cave.

More druid text had been carved into the stone walls, but it was surprisingly dust-free, considering. A stone plinth stood on one end, with a basin carved into it, probably for water. Or blood, if these druids had been of the sacrificing variety. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like any of the druids had slept in here; there were no beds or cots on the edges of the cave. It was a good thing the potion made the body impermeable as well as petrified, or they would wake up very, very sore.

With extreme care, Tupper started by measuring drops of one potion into one of his empty vials. Unlike Muggle medications or alcohol, magic potions didn’t care about a person’s weight, so he tried to put the exact same amount in both. It seemed that Brinks was familiar with this potion for some reason. When asked, he just shrugged. “I had a few drops once when I was running from some cops. Uh, Nomaj aurors, I guess you’d call them. They had a dog with them, and I knew the potion would make me scentless as well, so I drank it to throw them off. I woke up a few hours later with a splitting headache, but I wasn’t in a jail, so it worked. It wasn’t as concentrated as your potion, though. I knew that potion dealer watered his stuff down.”

“Why didn’t you just Apparate away?”

Brinks shuffled his feet. “My, uh, wand was confiscated at the time. It was a total misunderstanding. They had the wrong guy.”

Tupper smirked. “Of course.”

When he was ready, he handed one dose over, that should hold them for about fifty years. He insisted that Brinks drink it first, though, and Brinks just rolled his eyes and tossed it back. “Cheers to you too,” he said a little cynically. A moment later, he thudded on the stone floor.

Tupper poked him with the non-burning end of the torch, and sure enough, the torch couldn’t actually touch his skin. He’d actually drunk it, and Tupper was now alone! He checked the vial anyway, to make sure Brinks had downed it all.

It was pretty much guaranteed that one of them would wake before the other, but they’d planned for it. Tupper was getting pretty good with the thrown knife, and he’d taught Brinks how to clean and cook food. There looked to be plenty of forageables in the area as well, so either of them should be able to cope alone. Still, he carefully buried the potions under some rocks and soil outside the tor just in case.

Feeling a little trepidation, as he’d never actually been out for more than a few days, Tupper covered the entrance again and laid down on the ground a few feet from Brinks. Closing his eyes, he knocked back the potion, and felt the world go dim.
10
Imposed (Harry Potter) / Chapter 5
« Last post by Daen on November 20, 2022, 10:49:02 PM »
When Tupper woke up, the first thing he noticed was how cold it was! Brr! His eyes weren’t clear yet, but he grabbed at his clothing and tried to pull his cardigan tighter around his chest. Instead, rough hides greeted his fingers. What the hell?

He was naked! Covered in deer hides, sure, but his clothing was gone! Tupper jumped up, wobbling under the disorientation of the long sleep, and blinked around in the darkness. A large stone had been dragged in front of the entrance, blocking most of the light, but some of it filtered through. Grabbing some of the hides to cover himself, Tupper shuffled over to the entrance, and saw snow on the ground through the crack in the improvised door. No wonder he’d been shivering the moment he woke up. He also had a strange impression that the cave had shrunk somehow, though that must be just another side effect.

Brinks was gone, of course. He must have woken earlier, and he couldn’t exactly hunt in here. Tupper supposed the naked thing was some kind of prank. Tupper growled. It was juvenile, but then he shouldn’t have expected anything else from his companion.

At least Brinks seemed to still be living here. There was a tanning rack on one end of the cave, and more hides stacked up next to it. The knife was here, too. Apparently, Brinks had tried his hand at sewing, without much success. Some of the hides had been stitched together with the same kind of sinew Tupper had used to make the bow, and the basin at the far end of the room had shimmering water in it from the nearby stream. Now that Tupper’s eyes were adjusting, he moved in that direction. He splashed his face, still feeling discombobulated, and then drank a little of it. Fortunately it hadn’t frozen over. There was a firepit in the middle of the room, but it was down to embers by now.

Huddled next to the basin of water, Tupper clutched the hides close, and tried not to shiver. As he turned to get closer to the fire, he caught a glimpse of his reflection. A human looked back out at him!

Tupper twitched, not quite comprehending it at first, and then slowly looked back into the now-still water. A… human, with narrow cheekbones, dirty-brown hair, and tanned, leathery skin, looked back at him! Feeling like he was going insane, Tupper lifted his hand to his face, and watched the stranger on the other end do the same. His fingers were thick and fat, unlike any elf’s.

What. Was. Happening??

Tupper heard a noise at the entrance and spun around, terrified. In came Brinks, covered in heavy hides as well, and carrying an armful of twigs and sticks. He froze at the sight of Tupper, who immediately put out one hand. “Brinks? It’s me. Tupper, I mean. I think. I know I don’t look like me, but it’s me.”

“Yeah, I know,” Brinks said after a moment, and lowered his bundle to the ground. “I just didn’t expect you to be awake.”

Again, shocked beyond reason, Tupper nearly let the hides fall, and then grabbed at them desperately with his ham-hands. How did humans use these things, anyway? So clumsy! “You… know it’s me? How the hell did this happen? Did some wizard Transfigure me? I know that potion wasn’t Polyjuice, and those kinds of potions don’t work on elves anyway!”

Brinks just shrugged helplessly. “You got me. I woke up just over a week ago, and you were, uh,” he gestured towards Tupper. “Looking like that. Your clothes had ripped and torn as you apparently grew, but they were on the ground around you. I covered you up as best I could, and then tried to make something you could wear. It wasn’t easy getting firewood, but at least you didn’t feel the cold while you were under.”

Tupper felt like the world was shrinking in around him, and it wasn’t just because he was taller now! How could this have happened? Petrification potions didn’t Transfigure people! They were entirely different orders of magic!

“I think I have a theory, though,” Brinks said after a moment. “I thought you were looking taller and taller during our walk out here, but I couldn’t be sure. I think that whatever spell made you elves into servants also changed your bodies. Without magic, that change was wearing off, slowly. Fifty years was more than enough time for the spell to wear off entirely! I think, actually, that elves were originally humans.”

“That’s impossible,” Tupper spluttered. “We’re nothing like you! Humans, I mean. Our magic is different in every way!”

Brinks just lifted his hands. “If you’ve got another explanation, I’m all ears. Uh, no disrespect intended.”

Instinctively, Tupper’s fat hands went to his ears. They were round! This was a nightmare!

Brinks obviously could tell he was upset, because he turned towards the tanning rack. “Here, try this on. I finished it two days ago, and it’s like the one I’m wearing. It’s not great, but it’s better than going out there naked.” He tossed over a primitive garment, and Tupper barely even noticed, letting it hit the floor. After a moment, Tupper reached down with his ugly, ugly arms, and scooped it up. He was hideous!

All his life he’d hated humans. Not Muggles specifically, because they’d known nothing about him, but every single time a wizard or witch had looked down on, judged, dismissed or denigrated him, it had been a human doing it! Now… he was one! He hadn’t been the most attractive elf, granted, but at least he hadn’t been deformed!

But the scholar in his mind railed against that description. What if Brinks was right? What if the reason there had been no elven history prior to this point was because elves had started off as humans?? Sure, he was hideous right now, but maybe it was the elven body that was the deformity!

He found himself speaking, staring into the dying embers of the fire, as if they were his very soul. “For years now, I’ve thought that we elves were our own race, separate and powerful in our own right. I saw us as oppressed and crushed under the wizarding boot, and we are… that’s why I hated you. But if you’re right, I am the very thing I hate most of all!” Suddenly, Tupper was feeling short of breath.

“No!” Brinks said harshly, coming over despite Tupper’s current state of undress. He grabbed Tupper by the shoulders and shook him. “You saved my life, and got me out of that city. You taught me how to skin and clean and cook an animal. You even started teaching me how to speak Old English. You don’t hate me, and you don’t have to hate other humans. You definitely don’t have to hate yourself.”

He looked a little awkward at the situation, but he didn’t let go until after Tupper had blinked a few times and nodded. “You’re right. I don’t know if I really am human after all, or just the victim of some horrible spell, but it doesn’t matter right now. The potion worked, and I have to figure this out on my own time. For now, we need to find out the exact year.” He fitted the garment over his head, wincing at the roughness and missing his cardigan. “Where are my clothes, anyway?”

“I put them over there,” Brinks pointed to the other side of the darkened room. Then he noticed the fire and began piling sticks onto it. Tupper followed his gesture, and found what was left of his things on one of the stone outcroppings the druids had carved. His shoes were intact, though they didn’t fit him anymore. As was his scarf, thank God. The cardigan and trousers though… were unrecoverable. His body had swollen like an overripe pumpkin and ripped them apart.

No time to worry about that, he decided, trying not to think about it. He wrapped the scarf around his neck and tried to stretch his ridiculous arms and legs a bit. It was like someone had pulled his spine out and put it back in upside down!

“I take it you saw the road outside the tor, during your week alone?”

Brinks nodded. “I even followed it a couple of times, and it leads to a town. I would have tried stealing some decent clothes from them, but the last time I showed up in an ancient Brit town, I nearly got burned alive. I figure you can speak the language, and explain things. Maybe we can even trade for what we need, if you can speak to them.”

“Probably wise,” Tupper admitted. “How long until nightfall?”

“Two hours, maybe?”

“Good. Once it gets dark, I’ll go in and steal what we need for our trip to Winchester. I should be back in a few hours, hopefully with an idea of what year it is.”

We’ll go in,” Brinks put in firmly. “When I woke up, I was pretty loopy for the first day, and you’ve got that whole new body to deal with. You’ll need a partner on this job. It won’t be as hard as you might think, though. They’ve been celebrating every night for the past 3 nights!”

“Saturnalia,” Tupper whispered. Brinks gave him a curious glance, and he shook his head. “Christmas. They celebrated Christmas for twelve full days in this era. It should make for a good distraction, at least.”

“Sounds good,” Brinks said amiably. “Maybe we can steal some beer or something too, because you could probably use a good distraction as well.”

By habit, Tupper glared at him, but it was a look without any real force behind it. The man was probably right.

-.-

The heist was just as easy as Brinks had predicted, and they managed to get in and out of Ditchling, the nearby town, without incident. It wasn’t called that yet, of course, but it would be in a thousand years or so. Tupper had been able to read some of the Saxon records. They were right on time, he’d learned gratefully. The year was 562 as planned.

There were some advantages to his horrific condition, it turned out. He could carry much more and move a lot faster. In addition, if this was the elves’ true form, all he had to do was break the spell when they got back, and the elves would slowly turn into humans. Then they’d be visually indistinguishable from witches and wizards, and could hide easily. They could even carve fake wands and pretend to be the people they’d used to serve. That brought up another concern: Tupper would have to arrange papers for them, or fake IDs as Brinks might say.

They rested for the remainder of the night, and then set off in the morning. Tupper left the potions where they were, as they would be of no use anywhere else. Brinks didn’t ask, and probably didn’t know. The snow around the place he’d buried them had been undisturbed.

They made good time, and Tupper kept tutoring Brinks on spoken Old English on the way. They could travel on the road now. They were just two tradesmen with hides to sell and rough clothing like everyone else. At this speed, they’d make it out of Sussex entirely and into Jute territory in a few days. Soppa had lived in Winchester, or did live in Winchester, and he was their best bet at finding answers.

A lot had changed in fifty years. The cobblestone road was now frequented by carts and the occasional horse and rider. Even in the dead of winter, people travelled in large numbers for some errand or other. Muggles, as best he could tell, as he’d seen no signs of a wand anywhere. Every town they passed through had high palisade walls now, as Sussex was at war with most of its neighbors. The Saxons hadn’t gotten along with many of the other Germanic settlers of the era. Despite his current condition, Tupper found the view fascinating as they passed through. He’d only studied these settlements in history books, as part of his task. Now he was actually seeing them with his own eyes! Or someone’s eyes, anyway.

One final village lay outside Winchester, which they reached late at night. Tupper agreed that they should stay inside the town, as Brinks hadn’t liked the look of the approaching storm clouds. A few hours later a snowstorm had begun, and the whole town was buffeted under the wind and heavy sheets of snow.

Fortunately by now they’d managed to steal or trade for most of the stuff they needed. They could afford rooms at the inn, or winaern, as it was known, for one night. Brinks even tried out his language skills, with mixed results.

“One thing I don’t get,” Brinks said slowly, as they both listened to the blowing wind and snow outside the window. “If elves really are humans, originally, then why aren’t there a bunch more of you? I mean at least in America, parents have plenty of kids, and those kids eventually move away and branch out in all directions. Wouldn’t elves do the same?”

“Humans don’t have the words in your heads,” Tupper reminded him grimly. “For us, service is everything. One time I asked my father much the same as you just did. He told me that parenting is a distraction from work. For he-elves and she-elves alike, taking care of a child would just get in the way. That’s why elves don’t have offspring until they feel their own ends coming, and why we only have one or two at most. Twins happen, but they’re rare. I’ve never heard of triplets or more. My father had me, trained me for a year or so, and then died. I never met my mother, but I heard she died before I was ever given clothes. I probably have a sibling out there somewhere. She would have made sure to have another child before she passed away.”

As usual when Tupper gave him some insight into elf ways, Brinks looked horrified. “The words are really that powerful? So much so that you can’t even have kids unless you’re reaching the end of your life?”

Tupper nodded. “Hogwarts is much the same, though at least we can talk to many other elves there. It broadly expands the number of potential mates available, but still we have the thoughts in our heads that tell us, ‘find and serve’. And spending more time than necessary getting acquainted with some attractive elf and arranging a family would cut into the ‘serve’ part of those words. In a way, it’s a good thing, though.”

“How could it possibly be good?” Brinks asked, aghast.

“Because if we bred like humans, or rather like we used to,” Tupper admitted, feeling his own fat, thick hands again, “in a few generations, there would be many more elves per household than before. Especially given that elves live longer than humans. Now, you’re the businessman, if in a less legal sense than most. You tell me what would happen, if you inherited, say, twelve house-elves from your father. Your estate certainly doesn’t need more than two, in this situation. What do you do?”

Brinks looked uncomfortable, and Tupper added pointedly, “and don’t say you’d give the extra elves clothing! In this example you and I have never met, so you know nothing about how the elf mind works, nor do you really care that much about us.” Tupper realized that he’d added that last bit by reflex. Brinks really did care, or as much as any wizard could, about him. Very, very strange.

“I suppose… I would try and find homes for them,” Brinks finally responded.

“No you bloody well wouldn’t!” Tupper exclaimed. “We’re not kittens, Brinks! We’re elves. Now, say it again, like I’m not a child this time.”

“If I’d never met you, and I didn’t care about elves,” he sighed. “I’d probably trade the extra elves. Sell them, really, for gold.”

“Precisely,” Tupper said with satisfaction. “We would be a resource to invest in, like a cow or a chicken. Elves are traded in our own era, but it’s extremely rare. Sometimes when a she-elf is reaching the end of her life, and has twins, she’s unable to contact her mate, or he has another offspring already. Then when she dies, her master has two elves instead of one. Usually, he accepts them both into his service, and one ends up having a child while the other dies childless. Sometimes, he gives clothes to the less effective servant, and then arranges for another wizard to take in the clothed elf. When that clothed elf eventually has offspring of their own, the offspring will belong to the second wizard. I’ve only ever heard of that happening twice, in the 1900s, and both times the wizard was paid handsomely for clothing one of his elves.”

“Jesus. Every time I learn something new about your society, it’s more horrible than the last thing. You’re right—it’s a good thing that elves don’t have many kids. I mean why raise kids if they’re gonna be nothing more than servants their whole lives? Most parents want their kids to be teachers, or lawyers or something!”

Tupper smiled reflexively at the thought of Brinks in front of a classroom full of kids. “Well, that’s why I’m here, remember? If I’m successful, I can break the cycle. Then all elves will be able to do whatever they want. Other than look pretty, that is,” he reflected sadly, looking down at his hands.

“Hey,” Brinks said quickly. “You’re fine-looking enough for a human. Besides, if new elves are born after the spell is broken, they’d be born looking human, right? They wouldn’t know they’re ugly, unless someone like you tells them!”

“You… may have a point,” Tupper admitted quietly. He certainly wouldn’t tell them, assuming he even had kids of his own someday. He leaned back and listened to the wind again. Brinks seemed to have his own thoughts to worry about, and lapsed into silence as well. Before long, they’d both drifted off.

The storm passed in the night, and by morning they were getting ready to go again. There was some kind of commotion out in the square, though, that they both could hear. “It’s not me this time,” Brinks said hastily.

“I know,” Tupper responded, peeking out the window. This was before colorless glass would be put into use, so it was just bars behind a wooden hatch for now. He’d seen his reflection in the water this morning though, and he was kind of getting used to his swollen, misshapen features.

Horsemen had come charging into the village square, armored and armed with swords and bucklers. Some had bows. Tupper didn’t recognize their livery, but they shouted orders, in Roman accents.

“What are they saying?”

“I’m not sure. The leader is making some kind of announcement. He’s saying… that Caerwynt, or Winchester, is now under the authority of the High King and Bretwalda, and that the heathens have been driven out.” Tupper felt a strange knot in his strange stomach. “This isn’t in the history books. Winchester was supposed to become a Jute colony. I don’t remember anything about a High King, and the first Bretwalda isn’t supposed to come to power for another three centuries!”

“Maybe your Nomaj historians got things wrong,” Brinks put in. “Wizards could have wiped the peoples’ memories after this, so that no one really knew what happened.”

“Yeah, that’s probably it. Wait. He’s saying that the oppressors have been killed and will be displayed within all corners of the kingdom for a full day before being disposed of.” Brinks moved up next to him, as the soldiers out there brought out three men. Bodies, really, dressed in black and each one stabbed through the heart. As one, the soldiers strung them up on posts in the town square.

They gave each other a grim look. Some of the villages they’d passed through had been the sites of a barbaric execution, now and then. In the last one, a man dressed like these corpses had, with the authority of the Saxon leaders, beheaded a soldier who had deserted, in public in front of the crowd. Then in a grisly display, he had positioned the head back up to its neck again, and given it a ritual kiss right on the mouth. Apparently that kind of ritual was common in this kingdom. Tupper’s own research was incomplete on how they treated their criminals. Most of that had been lost to history.

“Well, I could do without the body displaying, but I can’t say I’m sorry those executioners are dead,” Brinks said softly, and Tupper nodded.

“And we’re not even in the Dark Ages yet. Things get much worse before they get any better. At least for Muggles.”

They left town quickly, on their way west. Tupper overheard some of the soldiers saying that the bodies would be tossed into a swamp at the end of their display time. Again, by order of this High King. They saw those very same soldiers riding past them on the road, apparently also heading to Winchester.

-.-

The city itself was about what he expected. Tupper and Brinks navigated slowly, avoiding more patrols, though most of the people didn’t give them a second glance. When he finally found someone who knew where Lord O’Cleef lived, Tupper waved Brinks over and they got going.

When they finally got to the squat building, which was still more elaborate than the rest of the city, Tupper knocked on the wooden door. After a moment, a disheveled-looking young man opened it. “Yes?” He said in Old English, blinking in the afternoon light.

“I’m here to see Suppo? In service to Lord Kay of the Cliffs?”

“Ah, yes,” the man nodded. “Come in.”

He waited until they were inside and closed the door. He rattled the handle to make sure it was sealed. “I’m afraid my Lord is not here at the moment, but I am Suppo. What can I do for you?”

Tupper blinked at him, and then looked over at Brinks. The other man had learned enough Old English to pick up the gist of it, and seemed just as surprised. “Uh, is it true that you can write Latin, Suppo?”

“Yes, yes,” he nodded vigorously. “I am one of the few learned servants within the city. The Lord can write with great precision of course, but the years have robbed him of patience, I’m afraid. He dictates his words to me, and I write them down.”

This man was clearly human as well. More support for Brinks’ theory. “Tell me, Suppo. Have you ever heard of a house-elf before? Or perhaps just an elf?”

Suppo’s eyes narrowed a bit. “Do you mean the myth? The Saxons have tales of faerie creatures called elves, but they’re just songs to entertain children. My lord doesn’t hold with such nonsense.”

“Of course not,” Tupper said hastily. “I beg your pardon for intruding, but have you heard the phrase ‘find and serve’ anywhere?”

“Of service, yes. Lord Kay has many servants. But we have little need to find anything. I’m afraid I’ve never heard ‘find and serve’, that I can recall.”

“Thank you, Suppo, for your time,” Tupper went on. “May you find fortune,” he said ceremonially, and then he and Brinks excused themselves right back out onto the street. Tupper nodded at an alley, and led the way there. “That was definitely him,” he said quickly, once they had a little privacy. “Same servant, same lord, same memoirs, but he’s a Muggle. I saw nothing in there that might show that Lord Kay is a wizard, or that Suppo is an elf. History has definitely been rewritten.”

“So what do we do now?” Brinks asked softly.

For the first time in weeks, Tupper was at a loss. “I don’t know.”

“You come with me,” a man’s voice said clearly, in English! Both Tupper and Brinks jumped like they’d been scalded, and looked down the alley.

Not five feet away, an elderly, white-bearded man was looking at them curiously. In his right hand, unmistakably, was a wizard’s wand.
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