Author Topic: Chapter 3  (Read 10380 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 3
« on: November 21, 2022, 12:49:14 AM »
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.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2022, 12:59:04 AM by Daen »