Author Topic: Chapter 6  (Read 9372 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 6
« on: November 21, 2022, 12:48:57 AM »
The man raised his wand, and Tupper felt an invisible hand close around his throat. He couldn’t move at all, and from the muffled sounds to his left, Brinks was similarly impaired. Their captor stepped a little closer, and then looked past them to the entrance to the alley. “You will come with me. If you do so without protest, I will restore your voices when we have left the city. Nod if you understand.”

Suddenly, Tupper felt the invisible pressure ease slightly. Rage colored his vision for a moment—this had by far not been the first time he’d been manhandled by a wizard—but he had to play it smart for now. He nodded quickly, and apparently Brinks did the same.

“Good,” their captor said, lifting his wand slightly, and Tupper found he could move again. “We’ll go right out the main gate to the west. Make any sudden movements and I’ll crush you into dust. Now walk!” There was something strange in his voice, though. If Tupper didn’t know better, he would have thought it was surprise.

Tupper exchanged a harried glance with Brinks, who looked surprised and fearful. The man was using a spell to translate Old English to their own English, which was a simple enough incantation. Brinks had obviously caught on as well; not that either of them could do much about it. They started moving together, and the wizard urged them to slow down slightly, flicking his wand and giving them a brief magical choke as if a leash was being tugged. Looking just like any other local residents of Winchester, the three of them walked leisurely out onto the street, and turned right into the main thoroughfare. A few minutes later, they were within sight of Winchester’s western gates.

Who was this man? Why did he have any interest in them at all, and where was he taking them? Clearly, he wanted to stay hidden from the Muggles, as his wand was barely visible underneath his travelling cloak, but he had used magic in that alley. Anyone could have seen.

Tupper realized that this must have been before memory charms had been discovered. In this era, if someone discovered magic, they would have to be killed to make sure they never told anyone. He would have to convince this man, when his throat was working again, that he and Brinks were wizards, and that there would be no need to put them down.

As soon as they were out of the city, Tupper had expected the man to find some secluded place to talk, but their captor seemed interested only in taking them even further away. They walked down the road for another ten minutes at least, all the while with the hopes that the man might be willing to let them live growing fainter and fainter. Their throats were bound the whole time. Tupper could see Brinks casing the man as they walked, casting glances back at him every time they saw other travelers on the road, and was therefore distracted. Still, even if they could jump this wizard and take his wand, the spell on their throats wouldn’t dissipate. Removing a spell like that couldn’t be done nonverbally, and for all they knew, it could last for weeks!

Then, inexplicably, their captor prodded them to the left, off the road. There were bushes and trees downhill ahead of them, and he forced them right into the thick of it. Then, he waved his wand again and the pressure was gone! “Who are you? Why were you accosting Lord Kay’s servant?” He demanded suddenly.

Tupper fingered his throat briefly. It was still sore from the spell, and much larger than it should have been, but that was a different problem. “We asked him a few questions, and then left. I would hardly call that accosting. Besides, you were the one who forced us to come with you. I’d say we deserve to know who you are first.”

The man’s eyes flashed warningly, but then he seemed to change his mind. “Very well, if you will not answer, I will take you someplace more secure, and ask more directly.” He waved his wand again, and a long, sleekly carved broomstick rose out of the bushes. Another wave and Tupper and Brinks were moved around, back-to-back, with the rear of the broom between them. The wizard had effectively tied them to his broom. Wincing, Tupper knew what would come next.

He'd never been on a racing broom before, or any other kind of aerial travel. Even looking at Muggle planes made him feel queasy. Still, the trip was at least short. Their captor hauled them up behind him into the air, and then at about a forty-degree angle up into the sky. He leveled off after just a few seconds, speeding even further away from the road and the city. If any of the Muggles down there saw him, they might think he was a large bird at this distance.

Tupper spared a moment of admiration for the broom. He’d had no idea brooms existed this early on in wizarding history, much less ones that compared to the modern day. It wasn’t really a magical device, though. Their captor was using his wand to keep it in the air; it was just something they were either sitting on or connected to. The terrain changed below them, becoming rockier and steeper. They were moving west, into some of the mountains outside Winchester.

Then they were descending again, towards some kind of monastery or retreat built right into the side of the mountain. The wizard slowed as he descended, and then came to a hovering stop over a cobblestone courtyard. He snapped his fingers, and a pair of servants, barely within view given Tupper’s magical bindings, approached.

One of them spoke before Tupper’s captor could. “Archmage, the High King has called for you. When told that you were away, he insisted that you be brought to see him as soon as you returned.”

The wizard let out an exasperated sigh. “Very well.” He waved the wand and the magical bindings holding Tupper and Brinks disappeared. “Bind and gag them, and take them to my arcanum. Secure them on the racks inside, and do not speak to them under any circumstances. Understood?”

The servants bowed, practically falling over in subservience, and then immediately took hold of Tupper and Brinks. They were strong for ancient humans, and bound both prisoners easily. Tupper would have taken the opportunity to try to jump them, but the Archmage was still watching them, wand at the ready. When he seemed satisfied, he nodded at the servants, and they hauled Tupper and Brinks away.

-.-

Again, they weren’t waiting long. The servants had strapped them both against wooden frames; wrists and ankles in irons, and had left the gags on. The Archmage had called this room his ‘arcanum’, but it was clearly a prison. Maybe it was part of the larger building they’d been brought to. Tupper took the opportunity to test the restraints, and could see Brinks doing the same.

Spells that made metal indestructible wouldn’t be discovered for another few hundred years or so, but whatever metalworkers the Archmage had here knew what they were doing. Neither the clasps nor the chains budged an inch, and it looked like Brinks was having no better luck. Then he froze and gave a warning look to Tupper. He could hear it as well: footsteps approaching the door.

Someone unlatched it and stepped inside. The two servants led the way, followed by the Archmage and a black-haired man wearing a gold crown. It wasn’t jewel-encrusted like the ugly Muggle crowns used by their own royalty, but Tupper could see a single space above the forehead in the metal, where a gem was obviously supposed to be housed. The man practically bounded into the room, and immediately looked at them both with great interest. He waved a hand to dismiss the servants, who left and closed the door behind them. “I don’t see what all the fuss is about, Ambrosius. They don’t look that dangerous to me. Unbind them, would you?”

If Tupper’s mouth hadn’t been bound, it would have fallen open. Ambrosius??

The Archmage glowered. “Yes, my King,” he muttered, and waved his wand. Instantly, the irons opened and the gags loosened. Tupper hesitantly took his gag off and rubbed at his wrists, trying not to look as terrified as he felt. Then, in tradition of the time, he took a knee before the King, giving a warning look to Brinks. The man caught on quickly, and mimicked Tupper’s action perfectly.

“Rise,” the High King stated easily, almost genially, and they did so. “I apologize for the Archmage’s insistence on bringing you here. He takes his duties quite zealously, as I’m sure you know. I am the Pendragon, High King of these lands and protector of the secrets of magic. Who, pray tell, are you two?” The High King’s blue eyes practically bored into Tupper, who was afraid to say anything with the Archmage there. How could he warn Brinks about the danger they were both in??

“I am Alexander of the Brinks,” Brinks put in smoothly, and the King’s attention immediately switched over to him. “I’m a traveler from a distant land. This is Tupper, my servant. It is an honor to meet you, Highness,” he bowed low.

Despite their danger, Tupper had to give it to him. Brinks definitely knew how to improvise. The Archmage seemed to have focused on him as well, for now. Tupper tried not to breathe too loudly, looking down just like any good servant would do. It grated, but it was especially necessary right now.

The King turned to his advisor. “You’ve done something very grave here, my friend. Now that they are here, they must stay, or risk telling others what they have seen. Why would you do such a thing?”

The Archmage gave a tight smile. “They are practitioners, my King. Their language is beyond foreign, as I told you in the throne room. I needed a spell just to understand their words. Also, when I bound them, they were afraid but unsurprised. They have some experience of magic; I am sure of it.”

“Indeed?” The young King’s eyes fixated back on Brinks. “How marvelous! All this time we thought that only the men of this one land could harness these primal forces, and here we are, faced with foreigners who also know of the Art! Tell me, what strange land do you come from?”

“It’s a great distance from here, my King; across endless waves and stormy seas,” Brinks said truthfully enough at least for himself. “Still, there are a few of us who learned to do incredible things. When I heard rumors of a… great power on this isle, I had to come and see for myself.”

The King’s eyes brightened, but Ambrosius snorted. “He lies, my King. When I first heard him and his ‘servant’ speaking, he asked the brown-haired one what to do next. What kind of lord queries his servant for such things?”

The King looked surprised, and then glanced over at Tupper. “Is this true?”

Tupper nodded. “Yes, my King,” he said as faintly as he could manage. The Archmage would be able to sense a lie quite easily, so he had to tell the truth.

Fortunately, Brinks adapted quickly to this as well. “Tupper, as I call him, is not from my homeland. He is native to this island. I took him into my service what seems like months ago, and he has served as my guide in a strange land. I would have been lost but for his knowledge. I understand why the Archmage brought us here, so as to keep knowledge of the… Art, from being known to the Nomaj—uh, the ordinary folk. I bear him no ill will for that. We keep such secrets in our own homeland, for much the same reason.” Again, Tupper had to admire his tapestry of words. Every statement he’d made was true, if not in the way he let on.

The King looked at the Archmage again, inquiringly, and after a few seconds, the other man shook his head. “I sense no lie within their words.”

“Splendid!” The King said brightly. “As you already know of the Art, and the need to keep it secret from the masses, I see no need to hold you here against your will. However I would invite you to stay here for at least a fortnight. I suspect there is much we could learn from each other, and it is such a pleasure to speak with foreigners who are not barbarians or animals at heart.”

“I would be honored, my King,” Brinks said smoothly. He must have realized that the High King’s ‘invitation’ was actually a command, and even to politely decline it would be to invite his anger.

The King clapped his hands loudly, and the door opened again. “Take Lord Brinks to the guest quarters in the east wing, and his servant will go below with the rest.” He made to move out of the room, but Brinks spoke up right off.

“With respect, Highness, I would prefer to keep Tupper close to me. There are still many things about this land I don’t understand, and I could use his experience.”

“Yes, yes, as you see fit,” the King said dismissively, and swept on out into the hallway, his cloak billowing behind him. “Come along, Ambrosius!”

Glowering at the both of them, the Archmage followed. Tupper could practically hear his teeth grinding as he passed. Afterwards, the servants led them out of this chamber, and back along the passage they’d been dragged through originally. They were the exact same ones holding Tupper and Brinks earlier, and completely at ease with the sudden change in circumstances. They led the two of them up a far corridor beyond the courtyard the Archmage had landed in, and then up a flight of stairs.

Tupper had to admit the view was beautiful. From up here, he could see half of the countryside, and the distant buildings of Winchester itself! The tiny blue line of the Itchen River ran its way through the city and out the other end, on its way to the sea. The wizards who lived here—because it couldn’t just be the Archmage himself—must have hauled food, water and building supplies up here magically over a long period of time.

“Evening meal will be served an hour before sundown,” one of the servants said tonelessly, before they both bowed and left, leaving Tupper and Brinks to the guest room.

Surreptitiously, Tupper checked the hallway back and forth. Invisibility wouldn’t be discovered for a few hundred years either, but there were rumors of some magical artifacts that predated the spell itself. Still, he was reasonably certain no one could overhear them. He nodded over at Brinks.

“What the hell is this place?” Brinks started up, angrily. “Who does that ‘Ambrosius’ prick think he is, hauling us up here like a bag of loot?” He paused for a moment. “And why does he look so familiar? I could have sworn I’ve seen him somewhere before.”

“Probably in schoolbooks,” Tupper said, extending his hands in a gesture of quiet. “His name in this time is Myrddin Emrys Ambrosius, but to us, he’s known as Merlin!”

Brinks gaped at him. “Merlin? As in the magical head cheese himself?”

“The one and only. I don’t understand how he could be here, though. I knew Merlin lived during this time, but from what I read, he lived most of his life in Wales! He’s not supposed to come this far east for another forty years!”

“Holy hell,” Brinks breathed in and out slowly. “We’re in trouble, aren’t we?”

“Definitely. According to every history I dug up, Merlin was the most powerful wizard who ever lived. Compared to him, Riddle and Dumbledore were both like common street illusionists! He’s already suspicious of us, and I wouldn’t put it past him to try and interrogate us despite what his King says. How’s your Occlumency these days?”

Brinks gave a bit of a smile at that. “I’m used to Aurors trying to read my mind. I can pull up enough crazy to keep him distracted if he tries anything with me. What about you, though?”

That was more problematic. “I’m not sure,” Tupper admitted. “Most wizards barely acknowledged my existence, much less tried to pry into my mind. Still, I’m mostly barmy right now. This body is sheer insanity, so I think that can keep him out for now. Besides, I’m not sure he’s that experienced at magic yet. Powerful, to be sure, but new at it.”

“Yeah, I got that,” Brinks put in. “Was this when wands were first being created? Merlin was one of the first wandmakers, right?”

Tupper nodded. “That wand he was carrying might be the first one ever created.”

Brinks whistled softly. “So if that was Merlin, then the High King Pendragon is…”

“Arthur, most likely,” Tupper confirmed. “He’ll be involved with multiple battles against the Saxons for at least the next three years. I thought he was a Muggle, though. According to the histories I read, Merlin manipulated him from the shadows, supporting his troops with magic. The whole goal was to create a unified country without the Muggles ever knowing who was really responsible for it!”

“I guess the histories got that wrong too,” Brinks said softly, and then glanced out the window down on the courtyard. “So this place is what, Camelot?”

“Either that or Avalon. Neither place is actually Plottable, so the history books could never say exactly where either was. The Round Table is probably here though, along with most of Arthur’s knights.”

Brinks’ eyes were widening again. “We’re in way over our heads here, Tupper. Suppo had no idea what you were talking about, or that you and he were the same. We can’t exactly jump ship here either, if the damn High King himself wants us to stay. What do we do?”

Tupper looked down, feeling defeated. “For now, nothing. The spell that puts the words in all elves’ heads hasn’t been cast yet. In a way, this is an opportunity. I was hoping to do research on the spell, in this time. But if I can actually witness it being cast, I can learn enough about it to end it, in my own time! It just happens later than I thought it did.”

“We don’t know where the spell is cast, or who does it,” Brinks objected. “We don’t even know if we’re on the right continent!”

“There are more elves in England than everywhere else in the world put together,” Tupper said firmly. “It’s reasonable to assume that we started here. Even if we were once… humans,” he put in grimly, clenching his fat fists again. “I feel dirty just saying that, but the evidence is starting to pile up. No offense.”

Brinks spread his hands, smiling. “Hey, none taken. I’d probably feel the same as you. Who do you think will cast it, though? Merlin?”

“Probably on Arthur’s orders. You saw how he deferred to his King back there. My guess is they’re both wizards, and so are most of the knights of the round table. With magic, and wands made by Merlin himself, they could easily establish the mythology I read about. We have to stay close to them, and earn their trust if we can.”

“There’s no way we’re getting through to Merlin. I’ve seen his type before,” Brinks shook his head. “They trust no one and nothing, and only answer to others when they have to.”

“Agreed. Let’s focus on the King himself. He seemed to like you. If we present the image of a foreign lord and his, ugh, servant, convincingly enough, he may let us into his plans.”

Brinks nodded. “Yeah, sorry about that. I was playing it by ear, and I figured ‘Ambrosius’ would be able to sniff out a lie like a Doberman.”

“No, you did the right thing, and you did it well,” Tupper admitted. “We just need to be very careful about how we interact with these people, especially Merlin himself. We know a lot more than they do, but they have a lot more power. We can impress them with ‘foreign’ magics, enough at least to get them to keep us around. Come on; let’s plan out what we can and can’t tell them about what we know.”

Grinning despite the danger, Brinks sat cross legged next to him on the floor. He was eager, and that might be useful. Or it might just get them both killed.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2022, 01:00:55 AM by Daen »