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The Saga of James Stormcaller [Harry Potter AU]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Baked the Author, Nov 2, 2021.

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  1. Threadmarks: Book 1: Chapter 14 "The Gathering Storm"
    Baked the Author

    Baked the Author (Chaurus-rights activist) (fluff enthusiast)

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    Owls

    Much like with the division between Muggle and Magical, there is a similar division between normal and Magical owls. However, unlike the self-imposed schism that is the Statute, the boundary between the two types of owl in our world boils down to one defining trait: intelligence.

    The average Magical owl is extremely intelligent, to the point where they can understand body language, spoken words – not necessarily commands – and have been known to implement basic tools, such as using twigs to accomplish tasks.

    Why this has come about is, at present, unknown. The prevailing theory is put forth by the scholars of the Great Library; in their thesis, latent magic wafts off the planet's leyline network and…

    -excerpt from
    Magical Creatures and You: A Definitive Encyclopedia of Pets, Pests, and Monsters of the World
    2nd Edition
    by Newton Artemis Fido Scamander, 1958

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    Counterpoint to prevailing theory about owls:
    Examination of historic texts dating back to the Sumerian Middle Ages (c. 3000-2500 BCE) shows the perceived intelligence of assistant owls in clay artwork, particularly in one example depicting pre-City-State life in Mesopotamia (ref.: GN Dig 37-E). This puts the observed intelligence evolving in Magical owls long before the earliest Leyline Gate (Gate of Heaven, 1st Khmer Mage-Artisans, c. 800 BCE) and, therefore, this phenomenon cannot be a product of leyline mana leakage due to the construction of the Gates, as postulated by Arch-Curator M. Honda.
    Research into root cause is ongoing.

    As an aside, the idea that natural leakage is what causes an owl, or any familiar, to bond with a Magical being is ridiculous. The Bond has been around since time immemorial; it may even predate Atlantis, or was invented by those mysterious peoples.

    On the other hand, I can say from observing Hermione, Marissa, Jin, and James that it, the Bond, runs deeper than an owl spontaneously developing a paranormal sense of direction.

    -notes on paper, presumably a thesis rough draft
    found in a leather binder amongst other documents
    anonymously donated to Hogwarts School, 2003 CE
    SUBMITTED TO DEPARTMENT OF MYSTERIES

    DoM note: handwriting is a match to Glimmervale Journeyman Claude Sabat of Chad; check remaining donations for other examples

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    "With every year that passes, I am more and more convinced the Statute is the worst mistake we, humanity, have ever made."
    -Nicholas Flamel, August 1945 CE

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    "I am eternally convinced that the British are gluttons for punishment. Nowhere else do I see the logic in not killing Voldemort before he could rape their Isles. Thank the Flame Eternal a pair of them had the sense to use that cruelty against him."

    -Kefka, Satrap of Flame
    in conversation with
    Beauxbatons Headmistress Olympe Maxime
    Free City of Babylon, 1985

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    …then, on the fifteenth day of Summer, there came a triple horn blast from the city's walls. The earth trembled, horses and animals became nervous, and men shivered behind the shield walls. Great Alexander wisely called for the siege engines to be abandoned and those manning them to retreat; showing, once more, the vast wisdom in his noble mind.

    For naught less than Hades' own child ushered from the iron gates of Samarkand.

    Vast as a sea serpent, hide black as a starless night, her head that of a viper, she came: the death of nations and empires, a Basilisk whose age must've predated Babylon and Ur, that horror the Bactrians named in their tongue "Slithering Death". As she took to the field, all the terrified Host of Macedon were glad for the volcanic glass shielding their eyes, a suggestion from Cleitus after the scouts reported this monster within the walls, for only thin slips of obsidian could protect from a Basilisk's lethal gaze, a lesson hard-bought in the Egyptian desert.

    Yet this was a secondary worry, for this was a monster beyond mortal ken.

    Her scales were as granite, harder than the millstone's bottom, the fell monster laughing off arrow and javelin alike. With a single swing of her tail, and a black laugh from her lipless mouth, she shattered the engines Great Alexander brought to break this last bastion of Persia. Spells failed to harm her. Spears and blades could not mar her hide, the steel and bronze denting and breaking on impact no matter the strength of arm or enchantment. Horses, birds, and all manner of animal quailed at the sight of her, and either bolted for the horizon, or fell dead where they stood, their hearts stopped by the sight of this most terrible foe.

    All the Host quaked in their boots, their bladders weakening at the sight of this monster unheard of in legend or rumor outside the waste places of the world: a Basilisk unlike any ever seen, even in the legendary tombs of Old Egypt, laying waste to those too slow or frightened to flee.

    All the Host quailed in fear, as the Basilisk turned her sights on us with a hungry laugh.

    All quailed, save one.

    Red-plumed helm of gold, cape of royal purple dashing in the winds of ruin, astride dark and brave Bucephalus, the only Steed undaunted before the monster, Great Alexander rode before the Host and raised his spear in challenge.

    "Face me, foul serpent! I am Alexander, child of Zeus, and King of All!"

    The monster laughed mockingly, fangs dripping liquid death as she coiled to strike, and spoke in return:

    "King of All, King of Air, King of Dust, King of Nothing; child of rape, unloved son, conqueror of sheep, walking shadow soon to fade; despair, human, for I am Shiva, the First Basilisk, the Ruin of Atlantis, and Master of Herpo the Foul. Your kind has lived in fear of my works since they huddled in the painted caves and cowered before the sound of thunder. Now, come, bastard spawn of Zeus, whose screams turned to whimpers in my gullet. Come and die like your father."

    Legend was their battle, so violent and awful it seemed to shake the heavens; the hills were rent by the Serpent's adamantine coils, and the grasses burned around Pallas in Alexander's hand, and the mountains shook beneath the Steed's hooves, and I have no doubt there is a single Spirit or God, above or below, who did not hear their wrestling before Samarkand's walls.

    There fell noble Bucephalus, knocking out a tooth to save his master from a deathblow, and there Great Alexander's screams echoed in the hills as Shiva's venom entered his veins…

    And there, in reply, Alexander put out the left eye of Slithering Death with his spear; screaming and thrashing in pain from the first telling injury she had ever been dealt, Shiva quit the field and retreated into the Hindu Kush. Behind her, the Host rushed to aid Alexander, who was weeping at brave Bucephalus' side, and the peoples of Samarkand threw down their arms and begged for mercy; they found none. For harboring such a black fiend, Cleitus and I led the sack and burning of the last mighty city in Persia…

    -handwritten account of the end of the siege of Samarkand, 329 BCE
    from the personal diary of Ptolemy I Soter
    Great Library Archives, Vaults
    document access restricted, 5 Curator signatures needed for viewing

    Curator's note: this is the only known document depicting the self-proclaimed Shiva, the First Basilisk. Indeed, other than His Eminence's account, there are no other written records of this fell beast; however, there are records of both Great Alexander and Bucephalus' post-mortem examinations by the physicians of the time. The Steed was felled by a crushed sternum, Shiva's blow smashing the Spirit-horse's lungs and heart against his spine; it is known that nothing short of a dragon could have harmed a True Steed, let alone a Pureblood Patriarch like Bucephalus, who was known to have weathered axe-blows and arrows alike. As for Alexander, it is well-known among the histories of Magical Man that he suffered from weakness and pain since the siege of Samarkand; after his death in Babylon, an examination by a team of physicians revealed that his alcoholism allowed the Basilisk venom to rot his body. Though it took a long period of time due to his demi-Spirit constitution, the death of Hephaestion worsened Alexander's drinking habits, already concerning after Bucephalus' death, allowing for the venom to do its dark work. High Dragon consultation has revealed that this beast is known, but is notoriously reclusive, to the point where even Master-level Divination cannot reveal its current location. – filed: 1612

    DoM file (dated September 12, 1777):
    To: ICW Defense Initiative, Board of Department Heads
    From: CLASSIFIED
    Topic: Verified 4-O Level Threat (DO NOT DISSEMINATE TO THE PUBLIC)
    Attached is a memory of a memory of a Library reading, and a Curator note. Relevant information is as follows. Humanity Prevails.

    Shiva: confirmed hyper-ancient Basilisk (~120,000 BP); likely pre-First Fall experiment; unknown progenitor/process of creation; current location unknown

    Threat Level: OOOO (EXTREME PHYSICAL, MORAL, AND SPIRITUAL THREAT)

    POSSIBLE CIVILIZATION KILLER
    DO NOT ATTEMPT TO NEGOTIATE OR ENGANGE IN CONVERSATION WITH THE ABOMINATION

    UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE ANY ORDINARY BEINGS TO ENGAGE THE ABOMINATION IN COMBAT WITHOUT THE ASSISTANCE OF AT LEAST ONE(1) CLASS-OOOO SPIRIT AND/OR HIGH DRAGON

    THE STATUTE OF SECRECY, CIVILIAN POPULATIONS, AND ANY NON-LEGACY SETTLEMENT MAY BE SEEN AS EXPENDABLE TO ENSURE THE ABOMINATION'S FINAL DEMISE

    INFORM GENEVA COMMAND IMMEDIATELY UPON CONFIRMED SIGHTING
    RESPONDING PERSONNEL: UNFORGIVABLE/DARK MAGIC RESTRICTIONS WAIVED; KILL ON SIGHT AND DESTROY CORPSE BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY

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    Chapter 14:
    The Gathering Storm


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    Spring broke over Walnut Manor in warm sunlight, and it was with the season's change that James noticed something else about the Faerie who lived there.

    They didn't like it when things changed too slowly; James couldn't think of another reason why the countless winged beings would swarm over the whole grounds, which they did as soon as the migratory birds, like swallows, started returning. Working as a large swarm under Sir Cookie's direction, the Faeries spent a good week melting the last of winter's snow and making sure all the footpaths were good and dried; even the trees were cared for and prepared for temporary habitation during the warmer months, though Yavanna took care of most of the hardest work, like knocking stubborn icicles off branches and ensuring the grass was dried.

    Of course, Vera had a different guess why the Fae Folk flew over the grounds so swiftly: they'd finally had their fill of her swimming through the snow, undetected, only to pop up when and where least expected. Her alignment with Water actually allowed her to become the snow drifts, allowing her greater mobility in the winter than any other time of year – though she admitted that she could do the same thing with ordinary bodies of water, just not as smoothly.

    So James' foxy sister, over the winter months, spent most of her time delivering messages between the Manor and those who made their home outside its walls, pranking virtually everyone in the Manor (except Gregory, Wyne and James)… or utterly dominating in snowball fights – even with most of Rivendell against her, Vera was near-unstoppable in the snow; that is, until either Landlady Melfina or Librarian Lisanna got involved.

    James mostly kept to himself and his studies, listening to stories from Uncle Remus' school days – a whole lot better than listening to another of Vernon's rugby tales… and being friends with Wyne, who helped Vera teach James how to breathe underwater. Honestly, he was so grateful to have her as a friend, despite the small hiccup around February.

    For some reason, his heart was starting to beat faster whenever she looked at him a certain way. Vera was no help figuring it out, and the Librarian just told him to ask Remus. So, James did.

    Quite a lot of meditative therapy was needed for James and Vera after getting that explanation; said meditation not only resulted in firmly establishing Wyne as a friend first and foremost, that time spent Listening to the world included speaking at greater length with Shaman Jander in the Fade, though, so it was a win-win all around.

    Wind was everywhere on Gaia; if her breath touched it, some song would come from it, carrying news of events mundane and grand away to far-off places, where those who could hear the tidings could listen. The tale of a cavern being touched by light for the first time, a bird's flight through the air, the story of a person's life, and the long slow breath of a mountain forest; in the Wind, all were heard, and all were equal.

    But it was also dangerous: to Listen to the Winds was to use magic like the very first Shamans among humanity, who lived in an age long before Lost Atlantis was even a glimmer of an idea in human consciousness. In a way, Listening was magic at its most quintessential, as it allowed the soul to communicate with the world around it in ways that the physical body never could; in fact, Listening was the basis behind the invention of the first magical foci, like wands and staffs.

    And it was still one of the most dangerous forms of magic… because, to Listen to the world, a Shaman would need more than the blessing of Gaia; even with it, the risk of losing ones' mind on opening it to everything was very real.

    After all, one only needed to look at the night sky to understand that there was a whole lot of stuff making up everything.

    Until being instructed by Jander, both James and Vera had been using their ability to Listen at a very small scale; they both knew trying to listen to everything was both really distracting and kinda painful – the headaches definitely weren't worth the effort involved.

    After Jander the Sky-Sailor taught them, the Shaman and kitsune knew how to aim their Listening, how to Listen for specific notes out of the cacophony that was nature and focus on them. They could hear Melfina and Sir Vileclaw talking about old, happy stories from their past over tea, and they could hear Wyne admitting her happiness to Shepherd in the seal-like language of the Selkies.

    They could feel the breath of Mother Earth, deep and loving even with all the pollution and dust of Mundane Man, exhaling slowly further south and inhaling further north, as had been the case since time immemorial.

    And, deep under the Manor, there was the hissing breath of all-consuming thirst, clawing at their senses with each raspy, rattling noise.

    With a shudder and a lot of blinking, James came back to himself and shook off the last fuzziness of his meditation; next to him, Vera yawned and smacked her chops and stretched out before glaring at a point in the middle distance. Next to her, James stood up, picking up his staff and coming upright with a grunt and a frown.

    From their vantage atop one of the Manor's roofs, they had a great view of Rivendell in the full bloom of spring. Gleaming emerald trees as far as the eye could see, only broken by a pillar of white smoke where Sir Vileclaw's hill was, the scents of Faerie-tended flowers on the wind accompanied by the fresh scent of the nearby Merrow Pond, and a lightly smoky smell from the kitchens; to the pair's noses, it'd likely be fish and salad for lunch. Even in the light of day, there was a silver gleam just beyond the library tower, in the center of the Gardens where the Sapling grew; and not far, the Willow had a small stream of light smoke, from a fire made of dried leaves in its small oven – currently making a loaf of Egyptian honey bread – the breeze carrying the white wisps North toward the Thestral Glade with its dark evergreens. And then, of course, there was the Great Walnut in the middle of the Manor, and the colossal forest surrounding the hidden, magical valley.

    James completed his turn, and frowned in frustration, eyes narrowed as he stared at the light plume rising from the trees, marking where Sir Vileclaw's house was.

    Vera scratched a claw behind an ear and grumbled, "Ya think she knows about it?"

    Knowing she was talking about the thirst far under the Manor, James replied, "I can't see why she wouldn't be able to hear it. This is her house, after all."

    "I'm actually surprised I can only hear it while Listening with you," Vera admitted with a huff, turning around and bounding over to a hole in the roof; joining her, James stared into the dark waters three floors below. Vera clicked her tongue, "I mean, I'm Water. If anything's down there, I should be able to Sense it easily."

    Crouching at the brim, James thought furiously, recalling all the lessons on dangerous magical creatures, both from Uncle Remus and Lady Lisanna, and then applying what he knew about Shaman magic to it. "We know a few things. It has magic and life, otherwise it wouldn't stand out like that. And while it isn't poison to the land like the revenant, it's still not something anyone should try to mess with."

    Vera kicked briefly at her ear, and asked, "So, tell Landlady?"

    James nodded solemnly, standing up and tapping his staff to summon Yavanna, "Yup, tell Landlady."

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    When James and Vera – plus the Triplets – got to the hill-home out on the grounds, Lady Melfina and Sir Vileclaw were, respectively, painting and carving a vase in the Goblin's home. The same vase. It looked like it was coming along well, but James was on a mission.

    On relating what he and Vera felt under the Manor, Melfina just smiled a little, "Sense that, do you? Don't worry about it, James; I know what it is."

    Sir Vileclaw grunted and grumbled, without looking up from his carving, a relief of the Great Walnut, "Ancient vampire, that; we found out it was there not long after I arrived. The Merrow could only unearth so much rubble, and while they're great swimmers, they're not so great diggers; plus, part of the Roman villa the Manor was built on was still airtight, so Lisa forbade anyone from digging into its walls. Nobody wanted it flooded by accident."

    "Once Vile showed up, we made a concentrated effort, with the Griffon's help, to move some of the rubble and unblock a few rooms; mostly bedrooms, but a couple rooms here and in Lisa's tower have some of the artifacts we found," Melfina reported with a small, wry smile as she painted some Faeries around an image of Walnut Manor's East Tower. "But then we found out what was lurking underneath; we slapped plenty of wards on the access point and haven't been back down since."

    "An ancient vampire, though?" Vera asked, really confused, "I mean, have you tried talking to him?"

    "Not that easy, once they've been starved of blood for long enough," Vile grumbled; clearing his throat, he went on, "See, a blood-starved vampire's one thing; they're feral, like a Werewolf on the full moon only worse. Generally, Werewolves hate bright lights and noise; s'why they don't go after the Muggles. Blood-starved vamps, though, they don't care; they'll do anything to slake their thirst.

    "Leave it for long enough, though, starve the vamp long enough, and they become something else entirely, a being that knows nothing, feels nothing, but the need to feed. Curse-Breakers call those types a Hunger; I just call 'em nightmare fuel." Sir Vileclaw, who James heard sometimes sparred with the Griffons – when he was younger, but still – shivered, mouth twisting in disgust.

    Landlady took over before he could start ranting, concluding lightly, "Essentially, it's a magic-resistant humanoid with half-meter-long claws that cause necrosis, and is extremely fast, especially in close quarters; it has night vision, skin that can turn aside enchanted weapons but not Goblin steel, is about as physically strong as the average revenant, and can drain a full-grown man dry in less than three seconds. About its only weaknesses are high-tier light-creating spells – ask Remus about those – and the fact that it is about as intelligent as a moth; in other words, as long as it doesn't smell blood, it won't move at all.

    "So there it sits," Melfina concluded, gesturing in the direction of the Manor, "and will sit, for at most another hundred years. Eventually, without anything to feed upon, it'll simply crumble to dust; a quiet, and most importantly bloodless, end."

    Taking all that information in, James hummed and, seeing Landlady's expectant gaze, nodded, "Okay, so we just leave it alone."

    She nodded, "Leave it alone. Even Hungers eventually die; according to this stump-face," Sir Vile just grinned fondly at Landlady's cheeky remark, "none have been discovered that're over 1700 years old."

    "Hmm; if they never get fed, they just turn to dust. And trust me, it's easier to leave it be than just kill it," Vileclaw nodded curtly and returned to his carving.

    "It's in a lot of pain, though," Vera kicked the floor of the workshop with a paw, James nodding along with her; the thirst the Hunger felt was… unique. The closest comparison from any of his past lives – what few he could commune with – was dehydration; but even that was a pale shadow before what a Hunger felt.

    "The same pain of the revenant?" Landlady asked with a raised eyebrow, paused in the act of painting; at James and Vera's eventual head-shakes, Melfina nodded sharply, "Then we leave it be, James. There is no soul in it but what it feeds on, and while it can't walk in the Sun, I don't want to take the chance of it harming Rivendell; in a fight, it's actually more dangerous than the revenant was. It was only because Vile here noticed the claw marks on the wall that we didn't run into it; so, until that happy day when you're ready, stay clear."

    "I will, Landlady," when his sister didn't reply, James nudged her with his foot.

    Huffing, she flicked her tails dismissively, "I'll stay out too; not like there's any water down there, anyway."

    "Focus on something else, young'uns. Like learnin' about magic, or history… ah, now there's an idea," Vileclaw grumbled, before pointing in a direction behind James, but further under the hill, "Here, if you're going to be in my house, make yourselves useful: there's some Late-Akkadian clay tablets over in Room 12; see if you can decipher some of em."

    And off the pair went, with eager grins on their faces. Shaman Khepri knew just about every language ever written, as she'd once studied at the Great Library; even better, there were Akkadian tablets! James knew, from his learning of history, that the Akkadian Empire once held Babylon as a protectorate city-state; maybe they'd find something about the Arborists!

    Back with Melfina and Vileclaw, the Landlady watched them go and smiled at her partner, "That was nice of you."

    Vile huffed, but smiled slightly nonetheless as he focused on smoothing out a section of bark on his tree carving, "It's best they're kept busy. And it isn't like Lisa knows how to read Cuneiform."

    "As if you can," Mel riposted.

    Vileclaw chuckled under his breath, "Why do ya think I had the lad do it? Better him figure out what they are, then send em to Lisa's Library, than lettin' em rot in my tomb forever."

    "Oh, so I'm building you a tomb when you cark it?"

    "Would be mighty fine if ya did," Goblins rarely gave members of other races warm looks, but Vile loved Mel, so he gave her the warmest he could

    She blushed and laughed lightly, "I will have to draw up some plans, but later. Now, come; I want Cookie's present ready before his party."

    With a pleased hum, they returned to their work… for all of ten minutes, which was when James returned at a run, making them both look up from their work. James managed to stop before slamming into Vileclaw, however, and, with a face that clearly showed he was trying not to burst into tears… bowed.

    Then he hugged Vileclaw and said, in a heartfelt voice, "Thank you," before releasing him and saying to Melfina, who was blinking confusedly at the exchange; the lad was just about vibrating with energy, "May I borrow some paper, Landlady?"

    "Lisa should have some; but- James!" she called after him as he whirled around and sprinted from the room, "What was on the tablets?!"

    "They're a record of Babylon's founding and the first Arborists!" he yelled back, voice dopplering at the end as Yavanna's presence departed back toward the manor.

    "Huh," Melfina clicked her tongue and turned a suspicious gaze on Vile, who looked fairly poleaxed by the information, "What an improbable coincidence."

    "Nothing more, I assure you; those tablets came from a dredging operation at the Tigris' headwaters. They were too worn and cracked for the Ministry to want to keep 'em, so I spent some time restoring 'em between jobs," sighing, Vileclaw returned to his work, though there was a definite straightening of his back and twinkle in his eyes. "How about that… old, useless Vileclaw uncovering a bit of the eldest history; some of my relatives would just hate that."

    "A pleasing mental image, I take it?"

    "Ah, just the best."

    Grinning just as wide, showing off her gleaming, sharp teeth, Melfina returned to her painting, paying especial attention to detailing the robes Cookie, front and center, was wearing.

    In her heart, however, she let her mind wander toward other ideas… if she sent a letter to old Dumbles through Remus – who wasn't as clever as he thought he was – would she be able to rent a column in one of the local papers? Ah yes, a section on gardening, written by a Faerie, would certainly liven up the dull and uninteresting lives of the British Wizarding World.

    And, even better, it was a way for Dumbledore to pay the Walnut Court for raising Harry Potter…

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    Far from Walnut Manor, in a house whose residents knew nothing of Rivendell or the Walnut Manor's existence, the girl who was known to that vale's residents as 'Jean' paid the owl on her windowsill for the paper. It smartly flew off, and for good reason: the owl in her room was giving the fleeing barn owl one hard glare for daring to intrude on her territory, nevermind try to fraternize with her human.

    But Hermione Jean Granger, with her overbite, bushy amber hair, and brown, freckled face all full of wistful wonder, didn't notice; she was too busy checking headlines, becoming more excited for her regular columns, and remembering the day she found magic…

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    Blinking at the people in odd robes going into a pub, Hermione read the sign and asked her Mum, who was driving, "Mum? What kind of pub's the Leaky Cauldron?"

    "The what?" Dad asked, looking back at Hermione.

    She pointed over her shoulder, "The pub we just passed, with all the people outside it. So colorful, I dunno how you missed it."

    Her parents exchanged a glance, and Mum pulled over, "Can't see it, even in the rearview mirror."

    Dad sighed and unbuckled himself, "Hope they're nice as that little town in Lorraine."

    It wasn't the first time Hermione had seen something her parents couldn't, having bicycled through a town her parents had trouble remembering, last year while on holiday in France, but it was the first time they'd seen such an oddity in London; if they hadn't been for their driving home from a visit to the British Museum, odds are they might've never coasted by the magical pub – at least, not for a few years.

    But that day, the Granger family found the Leaky Cauldron, and, after a rather unexpected shopping trip, they learned three things.

    First was that magic was quite alive and more-or-less well in Britain, as well as the rest of the world. So the bookshop suggested; however, the Grangers didn't have the local currency.

    Second was that Goblins were as excellent at negotiation as they were at discreetly banking with "Muggles"; an extension was set up from Grangers bank account to a vault designated for their daughter, all without paying too many fees, while Hermione admired the halberds, armors, banners, and exquisitely unique architecture of Gringotts Bank, with its bas-reliefs and frescoes of battle, mining, and banking.

    Thirdly was that Hermione generated magic naturally, and was therefore a Witch, a human who could perform magic; furthermore, as a "Muggleborn" Witch, she was automatically enrolled at a private magic-focused school in Scotland, the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

    While this peeved Hermione somewhat – as there was no mention of mundane classes – the opening door of an entire separate world's worth of history and magic, complete with her new favorite shopping center, ensured this disappointment was short-lived. Extremely so, seeing as she used her life savings to buy an owl – her snowy owl, who was named Hedwig – as soon as she could convert the money to Galleons.

    Because MAGIC WAS REAL, and she was going to learn everything about it!

    .

    Nearly a year later, Hermione, having just turned 11, already had a subscription to both of Britain's magical newspapers, The Quibbler and The Daily Prophet. The Prophet was useful for local and international news, but mostly focused on sports and politics.

    The Quibbler, Hermione mostly read for the Rune Puzzles by Pandora Lovegood, the Gardening section by Melfina Millsbury, and the Weekly Bestiary of Rare Creatures by Xenophilius Lovegood; they were certainly a better expenditure of Hermione's time than reading about Quidditch matches, or the near-defunct magical elements of the Ottoman Empire trying to push other nations around.

    And wasn't that quite the coup! Hermione never thought the "official" paper would be more mind-numbing than the "joke" publication; at least the Quibbler did its best to not editorialize when it went on about the news.

    Around the young girl, her room reflected her studious nature; bookshelves packed almost to overflowing with books – alphabetized, and ordered by subject – notebooks and reference texts neatly arranged on a desk against one wall, and a big comfy bed that was half-surrounded by stacks of books, most of which came from Flourish and Blott's, the magical bookstore on Diagon Alley. And lastly…

    A bark shook Hermione from her reading about acquiring, planting, and caring for Dawn Lotuses. Looking up, she saw Hedwig, her snowy owl, giving her an expectant look.

    "…oh! I'm sorry for forgetting, Hedwig," Hermione scrambled back out of bed and ran for her desk, and the mini fridge under one side of it. "The paper just got here, and you know how much I like Ms. Milsbury's gardening column."

    Hedwig replied with an even screech, then rustled her feathers and stooped on her perch, getting ready to lunge as Hermione set a plate on an empty part of her desk, and filled it with shredded raw bacon.

    Hermione rolled her eyes with a huff, "Once I've got some saved up, yes of course I'll be starting a gardening bed. Most Magical plants are too dangerous to keep around, but Ms. Milsbury knows of a few… I wish she posted her contact info though, honestly." Shaking her head, she gestured at the plate and got out of her owl's way, "Have at it, Hedwig."

    As Hedwig lunged and began tearing mercilessly into her helpless prey, Hermione opened a window so Hedwig could "go walkies" after dinner. She'd worried, those first weeks, that Hedwig might not come back if left to roam on her own, but that worry had been needless. Hedwig had come right back to perch on Hermione's arm, nibble her ear, and generally just be a fluffy friend…

    The bushy-haired soon-to-be Witch blew out a breath from her nose, and pulled at the cord around her neck, tugging out the attached hemp-wrapped stone so she could fiddle with it.

    It was a pathetic thing to think that Hedwig was only the second real friend Hermione ever had.

    Her first friend was the one who'd shown her that adventures weren't just things that happened in books. They could be real, and scary, and fun, like when they went on that day trip to South Downs, and fought the Black Badger of Buster Hill for the Eye of St. George's Dragon…

    The Eye, which was what hung from Hermione's neck, rubbed even more smooth by her fingers, than the stream they found it in had done for centuries. An orb of natural black-gold gneiss, it had seemed so much bigger, five years past; it was still a large example, big as her eye, and was an exquisite color according to a mineralogist her dad knew…

    'But I'd trade it, and all my books, and never go to school again,' Hermione thought, pressing the stone to her face and wishing, with all her heart, 'I'd give everything, everything, just to tell James about magic.'

    Oh, the Magic laws said she wasn't supposed to, but that was one thing; her first friend ever, James, was in a different category, and if they were still around each other…

    She wouldn't be so lonely, but what else? They hadn't known each other long at all; her councilor pointed that out a lot, after she changed schools and became melancholy for losing her only friend. And surely she'd make other friends, and move on with life.

    But she hadn't. Made friends, that is. Or moved on; discovering magic, the odd things that happened when she got cross, those only emboldened Hermione's adventurous side, made her realize that the world was bigger and more impressive than she or – most – anyone else knew.

    So, Hermione was excited to go to Hogwarts, to learn more about Magic, maybe even make friends…

    Yet, after reading the columns, washing up, and nuzzling Hedwig goodnight, she still wished James was there, so she could tell him about magic and, maybe, go on one last adventure with him…

    .
    [..|..]
    .

    Sitting in the glade where, more than a year ago, he'd brought Yavanna into the world, 10-year-old James Stormcaller sat cross-legged at the edge of the bowl-shaped depression, running his fingers over his Shaman's Rattle and… contemplating the past year.

    Autumn was only just beginning to set in, heralded with slightly cooler breezes and different pitches of birdsong. The leaves of Rivendell's trees were only starting to yellow and brown; already, in his moments of meditation, James could hear the Wind singing the beautiful and sharp opera of the approaching Winter, snows already falling in Scotland's most northern reaches.

    A warm smile spread across James' face. After the past year, he knew the coming Winter would be filled with music, warmth, and happiness for all of Rivendell and Walnut Manor.

    In the Spring, with Lisanna and Cookie's help, he, Vera and Yavanna had covered most of the remaining holes in the Manor's roof with living vines and trees. Seeds, songs, and willpower; those were what, according to Gregory the Occamy Gardener, what the Arborists of Babylon used to ensure the beauty of the Hanging Gardens. Together, with Landlady, they spread their work all over the grounds of Rivendell, from the cattails around the Merrow Pond to the glades where the Griffons spent most of the year.

    While he was proud of their work, and marveled at the Gardens of Walnut Manor, James knew in his heart and head that Babylon's legendary city-wide gardens would put this little corner of the world to shame. But he still took pride in his work, shaping some of the yew, walnut and oak trees growing from the roof of the Manor into the silhouettes of animals – much to the trees' delight – and walking through the copse of evergreen trees where the Thestrals lived, helping flowers and mushrooms bloom as he walked with Yavanna.

    James had also – under Vera's expert instruction – become rather good at manipulating water; he couldn't quite make ice spears like she could yet, but as long as he was near a stream or small body of water, anyone trying to mess with him would get a rude awakening in the form of snowballs, water-whips, and blasts of hailstones. A jerk of the staff, and a tone in his throat, and he could manipulate water almost as well as Vera – in his eyes, anyway; his foxy sister still thought he was a novice.

    In truth, James' skill with artifice, Listening, and Herbology were miles ahead of his Water manipulation, but he and Vera both figured that was because he hadn't communed with the Shaman of Water in the Fade yet. Despite their promises, James wasn't able to contact the Shamans of Earth or Water yet, both Khepri – Fire – and Jander – Wind – telling him and Vera that they weren't ready; of course, James and Vera asked why.

    Khepri replied, "You are yet young, your minds fleeting from one subject to the next. Yes, you are both quite focused in your duties regardless, but some lessons taught by we Shamans are not for children. Be patient, for neither Shamans of Earth or Water are swift to trust or speak; in their own time, and in your own growth, you will know them one day."

    Jander's response was, "Fire and Wind, while everlasting, are the more forgetful of the Elements; from land to land, volcano to hurricane, they seldom stay in one place long, always finding a new curiosity to hold their attention. Earth is slow to move, slow to trust, and slow to forget; there is little the Earth, the Soil of Life, has forgotten in its many layers. And while you are of Water, Vera, tell me truthfully… are not the deepest depths frightening to you? The Ocean is almost as old as Gaia, the Soul of the World herself; it is the Eternal Witness, for there is nowhere in this world Water has not touched. Learn of both, the world and its waters, do so patiently, and you will know the final two Shamans."

    They both spoke wisdom, reiterating in James' thoughts just how small he really was, even as a Shaman.

    The world was at his fingertips, but he alone couldn't hold the whole of it; no one could, and the memories of most Shamans – those not aligned with Water or Earth – whispered that trying to comprehend the entire world, all of Gaia…

    Well, he didn't want to hurt himself again.

    James fidgeted, and resisted the urge to mess with the small objects sitting on a square piece of faded blue brocade.

    Instead, he looked more closely at the pool of water in the bowl where Yavanna was born, and worried.

    "Calm, James," Melfina, sitting cross-legged nearby with her eyes closed, told him in a serene voice, "Keep your thoughts on the task at hand."

    He nodded, taking deep, slow breaths to calm himself, and focused on the pool of water.

    One might think, with so shallow a divot and the Sun high in the sky, James would be able to see the pool's grassy bottom, but that wasn't the case; minutes ago, he'd sang at its edges with Vera, Melfina lending her fiddle and Yavanna her tails.

    Water ever flowing, fathoms unseen,
    deep-to-deep, pool-to-pool,
    lake-to-lake, stream-to-stream,
    sea-to-sea, a toll of blue!


    An aquamarine, part of Sir Vileclaw's collection, had been tossed in the then-shallow pool.

    It didn't touch the bottom.

    Land-to-land, glade-to-glade,
    knoll-to-barrow, isle-to-bay,
    height-to-edge, we swim to thee!
    Toll is paid, show us the way!


    And then the shallow pool of water deepened in the center, plunging down, down, into a blackness that chilled James' heart, but made Vera whoop with laughter at their success; they'd succeeded in using a type of magic only Water kitsune and various types of Fae were known to use. The art of League Swimming.

    When used properly, it allowed a being to swim from one body of water to another, anywhere in the world; the catch – because, as Melfina made sure he knew, "Magic always has a catch" – was that the art was useless to anyone who didn't have a strong Water alignment. James' alignment, Vera assured him, was very strong.

    Which made a sort of sense, as he'd been able to bring small rain showers on occasion; there was a few weeks, during the Summer, where it didn't rain. A quick song and dance fixed that right up, though.

    As to why he and Vera were performing a League Swimming pool… well…

    James felt his Bond start to swell, along with a feeling of delight. His lips curled into a small smile as he watched the water, saying aloud, "Vera's coming back. I think she found it."

    It was very slight, but he noticed Melfina's shoulders droop minutely as she relaxed, "Good. I'm glad it was a success."

    "And that you don't have to go rescue her?" James grinned, feeling more of Vera coming closer and closer, and with her, her mischievous nature.

    Melfina barked out a single laugh, seafoam eyes glinting with mirth, "More that I don't have to do her job for her… but yes," her gaze softened as the water in the pool began to look less shallow, "I am glad she's alright."

    'Me too,' James thought with a squirm of discomfort; it was the longest he and Vera had been parted since they Bonded in the River Yew Circle.

    Barely a second later, his world was squirming white fur and giggling as Vera glomped him, "You missed me, you missed me! Ha-ha-ha! My Shaman missed his kitsune!"

    "I missed my sister," James corrected, hugging Vera tight, getting a three-tailed hug and wet-nosed nuzzle of affection in return. Holding her at arm's length – and ignoring Landlady's grin – James asked, "Did you get it?"

    "Yep!" Vera yipped, her tails twisting just so, and out popped a thick twig, long as James' forearm, smelling strongly of resin. The butt of the twig revealed the interior: a yellow bordering on gold.

    Vera puffed her chest out proudly as another item, a cone, popped out of thin air to balance on a tail, much to Landlady's interest.

    "One branch of Lebanese cedar, and one cone, both freshly fallen from one of the older trees," Vera chuckled lowly while tossing the cone to Landlady, adding, "And boy, do the wood golems in that forest mean business."

    "Wood golems… Vera," James looked up from the twig, a cold feeling dripping down his back, "did you take these from a forest surrounded by inscribed stones?"

    "Eh, maybe?" Vera shrugged, squinting at nothing before blinking in realization. "Ooooh… I think I might've come out in a pond near Mount Lebanon."

    Melfina's jaw was hanging open, the Landlady of the Walnut Court looking between kitsune and evergreen cone in disbelief, and with good reason, "You… took these… from the Kadisha Cedars?!"

    The Kadisha Valley, near Mount Lebanon, was home to the oldest remaining cedars as described in the oldest stories, spoken of in both The Epic of Gilgamesh and Torah. The 'wood of the gods' to that ancient people, seeds were taken and preserved in Babylon, while the forests in Lebanon were cut by nobles who wished for their palaces to be made from the golden wood. In modern times, the Kadisha Cedars were the oldest surviving examples, with half protected rigorously by the Muggle government of Lebanon, while the Magical half was patrolled by golems and wizards, with a Goblin outpost nearby.

    To think Vera snuck into the Magical half, and got away with a branch and a cone…

    "Well, James said the oldest cedars near Water the spell could find, and I wound up there!" Vera protested as James felt his respect for her grow, if that was even possible! His sister was so awesome.

    "It's… fine, Vera," James told her truthfully, caressing the precious and rare wood in his hands, feeling the echo of Life and Age thrum deep within its rings. "You took them from the ground, which makes them freely-given gifts from Gaia."

    "So it's good?" Vera asked, looking between her Shaman and the Landlady, who still seemed stunned by the seed cone held in her green-tipped claws.

    "…yes." Melfina said at last, softly, gently caressing the cone like the precious gift it was, before shaking herself from her stupor. "Yes, this is… beyond all expectations, Vera. Once you and James are done here, we'll bring this to Gregory," her Fae grin was back, "I'm sure he'll be overjoyed, and the other Gardeners will likely fight over the privilege of aiding him in its growth."

    Bumping a fist with Vera, James turned to the cloth lying next to him, and the reason he needed a branch of cedar: he was making a wand.

    On the cloth was everything he needed: the cedar twig, a polished, round sea-green opal from the Manor Gardens, the knife Dudley threw out all those years ago, a stone bowl, a small jar of special wood stain Remus sent him via owl, and James' Rattle.

    James steadied his breathing, in through his nose, out through his mouth, and picked up the knife and twig.

    He'd studied the books, made some mock-up wands under Landlady and Librarian's attention. Cookie, the third Scribe, traded the opal for a few threads of cloth dipped in James' blood – so he could be tied into the wards of Rivendell, and so totems could be made if he brought friends over… if he made friends, at Hogwarts.

    Most important of all was the core, one of Gregory the Occamy's feathers.

    "You're ready, James, Harry," Melfina said softly, a hundred miles away as James bent all his attention on the twig in his hands, feeling the desire within it, the need to not stagnate, to become something more.

    Nodding as he saw the item take shape in his mind – and smirking as Vera licked his cheek in affection – James set the knife against the wood, and began to carve.

    .
    [..|..]
    .

    Far from Britain and the happenings there, in the deep dark of a jungle valley where no man dared tread, soil and grass shifted as something stirred.

    For miles around, birds and beasts fled like mad, a primal instinct at the back of their minds screaming for them to fly, fly and save yourselves!

    The stirring beast paid them no heed; long had it slept, as mortals counted the years, for though it was older than any calendar in use, time passed no more quick or slow for it than any other sapient being.

    A hiss came from a knoll where no trees ever grew, deep in the valley where little light touched, moss and soil sloughing off reptilian scales the size of compact cars. The owner of the scales shook itself, sending an avalanche of soil and stone to the jungle floor, and flicked a forked tongue at the air.

    And yet, it did not taste the air. Rather, it tasted magic, flowing along the leylines beneath the world, the ancient-beyond-ancient rails on which every continent moved.

    Flick-flick went the tongue again, followed by a deep, hissing hum of amusement.

    Another flick, this one snapping at the air, and the monstrosity spoke.

    §Tom…oh, Tommy… I senssse you have returned.§

    A long moment passed, before an answering hiss, high and cold, replied from thin air, §My lady, it isss an honor to hear your voicsse.§

    §Ssspare me the platitudesss. Have you a body of your own? §

    §Nay, my lady. I have possssessssed a weak-willed Wizard. He knowsss, my lady: the Philosopher's Stone, it will be at Hogwartsss.§

    The monstrosity laughed, and had any mortal Man been within hearing distance of it, they would surely have lost control of their bladder, so terrible and purely evil was the laugh.

    §Foolisssh boy! Flamel would never let it out of hisss sssight; nay. It isss bait, for the child who sssurvived you returnsss to the fold.§

    §Potter.§ the servant of the Dark's hiss made several nearby flowers wilt and die. §He will be the catylissst for my resssurrection-§

    §No.§

    Silence followed the "lady's" refusal. No bird sang, no animal called, no insect so much as moved.

    §…no? My lady… he isss a child

    §Do you doubt my wisdom, child? Do you doubt Death, little flying sssnake of mine?§

    §…what ssshall I do, then? Thisss body will not lassst long enough, and hasss not the connectionsss, to grant me new flesssh.§

    The monstrosity grinned, teeth dripping liquid death that turned the soil grey.

    §Go to Hogwartsss. Obssserve the child, Harry Potter. Your current ssskin, ssshed it once itsss usssefulnesss isss at an end.§

    §And if I can kill the child?§

    §Do not do ssso openly, and you will not incur my wrath, little Tommy. Now, go. Do your lady'sss bidding.§

    The monstrosity's tail tip snapped in the air like a whip. Motes of grey light burst from an invisible point, but the creature paid them no heed.

    Instead, its fell maw opened wide as it snapped out and bit into a nearby tree; with a horrible sucking sound – and a scream, unheard by mortal ears, as the tree's life was drained – the beast drained the life from the old tree, which rotted and cracked miserably as it died.

    Around the edges of the clearing, deep in the dark valley where little sunlight ever touched, other trees, just as dead, creaked in the rare breeze that touched the clearing.

    Its meal finished, the monster chuckled and returned to its coiled state, preparing to sleep once more, its lone eye, yellow like nothing else in the world, opening in a delighted slit.

    'Soon,' thought Shiva, the First Basilisk, 'Soon…'

    [..\|/..]

    .

    .

    .

    End of Book 1

    .

    .

    .
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2021 at 8:24 PM
    HearthBorn, Sid G, @non and 28 others like this.
  2. Wentley

    Wentley I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    I had to come and see after I saw this on FF. A thread on the SFW board? FASCINATING.
     
  3. Max01010

    Max01010 Getting some practice in, huh?

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    marvelous work
     
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  4. Blackenedthorn

    Blackenedthorn Too many ideas, so little time

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    You know when Shiva was introduced, I was hoping she'd be a Snake James was pampering on the sly but this is also good. Shiva is the one with the Idiot stick ready to bonk Tom when needed
     
  5. Vallan.Mandrake

    Vallan.Mandrake Know what you're doing yet?

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    Shiva might also be evil - I think so.

    Still fantastic work. I didn't thinkt the history bit at the chapter beginning would be relevant (except for background worldbuilding). Nice Suprise.
     
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  6. 2001smj

    2001smj Know what you're doing yet?

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    Thanks for the chapter ^_^
    Loved it!
    I really like those tidbits of history you write at the start of the fic.
     
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  7. AmaiKotori

    AmaiKotori Pure and innocent.

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    Took the excuse of the crosspost to reread, came across a few things that stood out.

    虫 would be more appropriate; バグ generally refers to software bugs.

    Missing words, I think?

    preservation?

    Just a thought, but I feel this is a bit much? I think the callback's funnier if you're not explicitly pointing it out. Especially now that the whole book is released, so there's less concern of readers forgetting the first instance while waiting.

    Perenelle

    It's not wrong, but it sounds weirdly formal for the character and context. Maybe a more casual phrasing? あなたたちはすごくかわいい or somesuch? Also, you can probably drop the (effectively superfluous) あなたに in the second sentence.

    Really, they're both quite silly to think anything of the sort could be decided either way at that age... :3 (Yes, I know, the author's notes and the next chapter say otherwise.)

    It does not appear to be aforementioned anywhere in that passage.

    counsellor (one who offers counsel, rather than one who sits on a council)

    performing (Also 'performing a pool' sounds odd, maybe drop the 'pool' or use a different verb?)

    On the whole, the story holds up well on a complete reread. It does a pretty good job setting up the mythic feel, creating the expectation that this will be something closer to the epics of antiquity than to its source material. I did sometimes find the inner monologues of the Manor's other inhabitants teetered on the line of being a little too fawning, however impressive James might be, but the apparent genre does help to, hm, create the expectation of a certain degree of that? The worldbuilding, on the other hand, is solid all 'round, and I love the various historical documents you preface the chapters with. Quite looking forward to the next arc and his reintroduction to 'Jean'.
     
  8. @non

    @non Shoggoth Maids Best Maids

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    What a interesting read.
    my biggest question is why so many books on shamanism seem to be banned
     
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  9. Baked the Author

    Baked the Author (Chaurus-rights activist) (fluff enthusiast)

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    It's explained later, but it's not just books on Shamanism. Most of the banned books in the historic entries contain information that Dark Lords have, in the past, exploited to their own advantage.

    For instance: The Great Explorer's Handbook gives the locations of several places that have since become corrupted, either due to certain unsavory rituals being conducted, or because of the types of beasts that can be found in those places. As for Walking With Spirits, I must remind everyone reading that not every spirit is benevolent; in fact, at least half of all kitsune regard humanity in the same way a cat might regard a toy mouse (obviously, Vera is not one of these). Some spirits see most living beings as food, and nothing more. Dementors are even less than that, and are essentially leeches on reality.

    But, yes, there's something going on behind the scenes with some of these banned books, but that won't be detailed till much later. And speaking of updates...

    Next chapter is at 2k words and growing.

    Lastly, thanks AmaiKotori for finding the remaining errors. Have some digital cookies!
     
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