Author Topic: Chapter 10  (Read 110 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 10
« on: November 20, 2022, 10:48:31 PM »
The trip to Winchester happened that afternoon as planned, and Brinks made his excuses, feigning illness once they were sure Merlin would be going along. He’d learned that none of these wizards had figured out how to heal injuries or cure sickness just yet, so it made for a good reason to skive off. Once they were underway, Tupper and Brinks got to work.

Brinks had overheard Galahad telling another knight that he left his wand in his room, so retrieving it wasn’t that difficult. Tupper had told him it wouldn’t be necessary to have one, and stealing it would be a big risk, but he was secretly glad Brinks had done so. They had no way of knowing what kind of defenses Merlin had put in place to protect his sanctum, and Brinks was effectively useless against them without a wand.

While he retrieved it, Tupper Apparated out to take care of another task. Finding the tablets again was easy enough, but using magic to change their color and words in the right way was a lot trickier. As was locating the right place to bury them. It took longer than he’d expected, and Brinks was waiting for him by the time he Apparated back into their room.

“Where were you?” Brinks asked mildly, looking at the dirt on Tupper’s hands and arms.

Tupper smiled tightly. “Just setting up a backup plan in case this fails. You have the wand?”

“Yeah, but it’s weird,” Brinks responded, turning it over and over in his hands. “Most wands have a special core, right? A unicorn hair or something? This is solid wood, end to end. There’s nothing inside.”

“That is strange,” Tupper admitted. “But then, so is their magic. From what I could find, healing spells were among the first ones discovered in history, but these people don’t have a clue about that. Galahad’s weapon spell was all over the place, and devastating. Maybe it’s because his wand didn’t have a core, but I have to assume it’s the same for all the others too.”

Brinks shrugged. “Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.”

Sunset came early at this time of year, and it started getting dark shortly after Arthur and his company had left. Tupper and Brinks took advantage of that to get down to the passageway unseen, or so he hoped. Once inside, he carefully pressed the bricks in the order the queen had demonstrated. He’d seen one of his masters do much the same at the entrance to the wizarding market in London, and unsurprisingly, these bricks shifted in place as soon as he was done. Stone stacked up next to stone, revealing a narrow passageway ahead of them.

Secret doors like this one opened the exact same way from the inside, he’d learned from experience. It sealed up behind them, and Tupper took the lead down the slight incline. Torch in one hand and wand in the other, Brinks followed him.

By now Tupper was finally bald again, and he’d noticed a drop in weight as well. He took it as a good sign he was getting back to normal. Although… human was technically normal for him, he realized. Then he paused. Something was off about the chamber ahead. Lifting a hand, he tried to remember the revealing charm he’d learned years ago.

Ahead of them, blue light slowly illuminated a series of dots on the walls and ceiling and floor of the passage. “Those are flame traps. Or ice traps; I can’t really tell from here. They’re so tiny they’re practically invisible. That’s pretty clever.”

“I learned how to disarm a bunch of different traps back in the States,” Brinks offered. “Should I try?”

Tupper shook his head. “No, just grab my arm.”

As soon as Brinks did so, Tupper Apparated them both to the other end of the traps, and revealed the area ahead of them again. “Looks clear.”

There were several more traps: deadly and unbeatable in current times, but mostly child’s play for people with their experience and magical knowledge. After Tupper and Brinks had bypassed most of them, Brinks looked a little disappointed. “I would have thought Merlin would have some kind of magical beastie down here to terrorize intruders.”

“Yeah, I wondered that myself,” Tupper admitted. “I’ve seen no trace of any magical creatures since coming to this time, and the histories don’t really focus on when they first came about. Muggle histories would, but wizards keep wiping their memories, so they don’t even know about dragons or pixies or everything in between.”

“Another mystery to add to the pile,” Brinks commented.

Finally they reached the end of the long passage, and were probably a fair distance into the mountain by now. The brick had been replaced with rough stone, probably cut by Merlin himself. Up ahead, lights flickered from torches. Without a steady supply of air down here, they were probably enchanted to burn without consuming oxygen. The illuminated room was perfectly spherical as far as he could tell, and they’d entered at the very bottom of it. Together, they looked up in wonder.

The torches were spaced evenly, with five of them at the equator of this hollowed-out sphere. There were some magical implements on a wooden table, which had been specially carved so as not to slide down into the middle of the room, but the real attraction was right in the center. Hanging from the top of the sphere, by a long metal strut, was a massive pendulum. It was swinging back and forth from what looked like an enchanted chain at the very top of the sphere. Like the pendulums Tupper had seen in the modern day, this had a pointed tip which could have easily impaled them if the chain broke and it fell. From the size of it, the pendulum would probably bring this whole cavern down if the chain broke.

“Ok, not what I expected,” Brinks murmured, staring wide-eyed at it. “Is that the artifact?”

“Has to be,” Tupper answered. “As long as it’s swinging, the words will be in my head. I can’t risk stopping it, though. Not without upsetting history itself. Here, I’ll make myself weightless. That way I can Apparate up there and hold onto it without changing its swing.”

The pendulum seemed to be made of gold, or at least gold-plated. Its swing was perfectly steady, crossing the entire room in about ten seconds before coming to a stop and swinging back. It had probably been enchanted to come within a hair’s breadth of the walls before stopping, and to swing eternally unless forcibly stopped. Tupper willed the weight right out of his body, and then felt himself float a little off the ground. It was a good thing there was no wind in here, or he’d be blown away like a feather. Looking up, he Apparated just to the side of the rod, and reached out to grab hold of it.

“Wait!” Brinks called out: his voice panicky.

Tupper hesitated, looking down at him. He withdrew his arm, though, and let the pendulum swing past him. “There are artifacts back home that respond to touch,” Brinks clarified, looking relieved. “Not the pipe, but others that can stick to you permanently until you die, or sink right into your skin and merge with your bones. There are some pretty nasty curses on these things, and this artifact here is like a thousand times more powerful than anything I’ve heard of. Merlin would be stupid not to make it react to touch.”

“Good point,” Tupper admitted. “The rod holding the pendulum isn’t enchanted—I can tell that much from up here. “I’ll tether myself to it so that I can get close enough to the pendulum without actually touching it.”

That was harder than it sounded to actually do, but after a minute or so, Tupper was swinging in tandem with it, upside down. “Good catch,” he called down to Brinks. “This thing is enchanted to set off an explosion if touched. Big enough to fill the room and blast its way up the passageways. A wizard could ward off most of the blast, if they were expecting it, but it would have killed both of us if you hadn’t called out!” Brinks didn’t respond, but Tupper was grateful to have another skilled thief along.

Now that he was close enough, Tupper could see symbols carved into the side of the pointed gold mass. They must have been carved before Merlin enchanted any of this, or the explosion would have gone off. As he was upside down, Tupper had a hard time recognizing them at first, but when he did, his eyes widened. “Good God!”

“What is it?”

Tupper’s mind spun with the possibilities here. The sheer scope of Merlin’s plan was so much bigger than he’d thought! He quickly scanned the other symbols, and thought he recognized a few more.

“Tupper, what’s going on?” Brinks insisted, and Tupper tried to focus.

“There are symbols inscribed on the metal up here,” he reported. “They’re in the style of crests, like in Muggle nations. There’s the one I was looking for,” he pointed to his left. “It’s a rolling pin, crossed with a frying pan. The ancient symbol of the house-elves.”

“So this is the artifact, then!” Brinks responded happily. “You can mark it, and we can get out of here.”

“No, you don’t understand. The house-elf symbol is only one of dozens up here! Next to it is a bag of gold. That’s the symbol for goblins. On the other side is a bow and arrow, with a horseshoe behind them. That’s the symbol for centaurs! This device didn’t just create my people…”

“It created all of them,” Brinks finished for him, his elation fading rapidly. “Are you saying that every single magical race out there used to be ordinary humans??”

Tupper was silent for a long pause, with only the sound of air moving past him for accompaniment. His thoughts were still scrambled. “Apparently so.” He continued moving slowly around the circle of the pendulum, careful to make sure that its swing didn’t smash him into one of the walls. “I see a wolf’s head silhouetted in front of a full moon. That’s werewolves. A pair of fangs in front of a drop of blood. That’s vampires, I assume. A wooden club, followed by a stone boulder. Trolls and giants, respectively. So many more!” He caught sight of another symbol: a scythe, and his blood chilled. He remembered that sign as well.

Looking away from it, he glanced back at Brinks. “I just came here to break the spell on my own people. Do we have the right to do it on all the others as well?? I can’t speak for the goblins or centaurs or giants! No one can but them!” Not that wizards hadn’t been speaking for them for hundreds of years already, from his perspective. Just because they’d done it didn’t make it right, though.

“You didn’t come here to break the spell,” Brinks called up at him. “You’re just supposed to put a Tracer on it and then we can get out of here. We can return to our own time and talk about the morals of what’s right and wrong when we’re not trespassing in the lair of one of the most dangerous men who ever lived!”

“Right,” Tupper said quickly, and tried to concentrate. Brinks was correct, of course. They could discuss what to do when they were out of danger. He should be able to place the mark without touching the pendulum itself, but he’d have to be careful. When Tupper tried, though, his mark didn’t take! He tried again with the same result. He hadn’t marked anything else in years, and he’d removed the ones he’d placed. Sighing, he looked at Brinks again. “Someone else has already marked it. Merlin, I assume. My mark won’t stick.”

“Damn. Can you find it and remove it?”

“No, but if I can see what it looks like, I might be able to find it in our own time. Use his own spell against him, as it were. But it could be anywhere on this thing!”

Brinks was silent for a moment, apparently thinking. “Here, come around to just below the point. Merlin’s traps were tiny, right? It makes sense his mark would be just as small. Maybe it’s on the very tip of this pendulum.”

It was as good a guess as any, so Tupper altered his tether to move him further downwards. He was getting a little heated now, as all the blood had been rushing into his head for a few minutes. He didn’t know how to rotate himself using his tether, so he’d just have to deal with it for now. By the time he was looking at the spike at the bottom of the pendulum, he was feeling a little queasy as well.

There. Right there on the tip of the spike, was a tiny inscribed rune, just as Brinks had guessed. Tupper peered at it, and then felt his jaw drop. He recognized it, as well! “It’s Dumbledore’s??”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve seen this rune before, at Hogwarts!” Tupper said, aghast. “Clear as day, on a basin in his study! This is Dumbledore’s personal mark; I’m sure of it!”

He cut the tether, and drifted apart from the pendulum for a few seconds. Then, slowly, he returned his body weight to normal, and sank back to the ground. It was a pity his mind was without a similar anchor right now, though.

Tupper stared up at Brinks. His body was mostly back to normal now: he was only a few centimeters taller than he should be. They stood in silence as he thought it over. Slowly, he reasoned it out aloud. “It’s possible that Dumbledore came back in time just like we did. If so, he would have been drawn to the magic of this place. If he put his mark on it, it would last into the present day, but why would he do that?”

Brinks shrugged. “Maybe he wanted to use it as a weapon against Riddle or something.”

“There is another explanation. The mark I saw in his study wasn’t actually his. Not originally anyway. It was just a mark he inherited, powerful wizard to powerful wizard, down through the years. It’s originally Merlin’s just like we thought, but it ended up being Dumbledore’s. But that would mean that he knew, during his lifetime. He knew what this thing was, and all the harm it was doing, and he didn’t stop it.”

“What an ass!” Brinks exclaimed, and Tupper was surprised to see him angry. He’d been sorrowful before, during Tupper’s explanations about elven life, but this was the first time he’d had any rage about it. “So much for the idea of him being this great, noble wizard. I get why you hate us, Tupper. I mean, people used to think Riddle was a great guy once too, right? Every time you scratch the surface on one of these popular guys, you end up realizing they’re monsters underneath! All of us have been practically stomping on the other races for centuries now!”

“Not all of you,” Tupper said softly, and Brinks looked at him in surprise. Then, his eyes widening, he looked a little embarrassed at the compliment.

“What have we here?” A voice called out, and an invisible hand seized Tupper and Brinks, lifting both of them off the ground! Merlin walked in from the tunnel, with Arthur right behind him.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2022, 11:03:26 PM by Daen »