Author Topic: Chapter 4  (Read 9443 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 4
« on: November 21, 2022, 12:49:09 AM »
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.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2022, 12:59:43 AM by Daen »