The last Dragonrider. by Zenzao
The last Dragonrider. by Zenzao
http://www.patronuscharm.net/s/583/1/

Crash landing into the next dimension on his trip, Harry find's himself in the middle of Alagaesia and a struggle much like several others in his time. This time around, however, he has the joy of raising a rowdy and all too eager Dragon while trying to figure out whose side of the stirring war he should pair up with, if either. And, of course, puzzling the ins and outs of the local magic system superseding his own, as is usual on a new world.

Published on August 02, 2013
Updated on December 02, 2013
Action/Adventure / Crossover
Rated PG-13
Work in Progress
11,324 words
2 chapters
Other Setting

Generated: January 19, 2018 at 12:52 PM The last Dragonrider. at PatronusCharm.Net
Chapter 1: Another journey begins

The last Dragonrider

Story Notes:

Harry Potter/Inheritence Cycle(Eragon) crossover.

Chapter 1

  The sound of horses trotting along a dirt path filled the quiet forest, easily the most detectable note while many of the other inhabitants slept and hibernated despite the balmy temperatures this Winter.

The riders slouched in their harnesses from fatigue after the long nights of continuous strain, too little rest available even in the scant hours allotted, but while the physical from was exhausted, the mind was still as sharp and clear as ever.

It was the crack of a twig breaking from several meters down that alerted the riders ahead of the trap; the soft sound that should not have been heard above that of the horses steps, and yet the three of them stiffened at once before grabbing the reigns firmly and tautly between their fingers.

A whispered command halted the beasts of burden, and out of the darkness ahead a shadowed figure appeared.

"You know your fates, little elves," the figure stated with a lilt of amusement within its tone.

At once the figure crouched to the ground and then sprang forward with a harsh flutter of wind, and the riders cried out and split off amid the trees surrounding their path.

The figure landed exactly where the third rider had been, sniffing at the air, before smiling and dashing off after her.

~hp~hp~hp~hp~hp~hp~

The three converged minutes after they had departed, due mostly to their ability to communicate at large distances, and the path that they had originally set out upon was soon once more underfoot.

What weariness had been present within them was gone; their bodies were pressed flat up against the neck and backs of the galloping steeds, heedless of the thrashing and near-wild, reckless speed that was required to out-pace the threat of a Shade.

It was in vain, nevertheless.

Though bred true and bred hardy, wards were set up in advance, and the dirt path drew and sapped upon the strength required to uphold the beasts of burden, so that within only a minute of setting hoof to the soil again they had begun to tire and slow.

The first Elf cried out in dismay as he scanned the mind of his trusted companion and found it exhausted beyond due reason. The others too realized the truth of their situation, and the second male flanked the female as he drew bow and nocked a swan feathered shaft to it.

The almost silent leaps of their hunter could not conceal the crushing of the grass in his wake, however, and the first arrow shot forth with a clarity of aim that would have amazed a mortal marksman.

It missed by inches as the Shade twisted in upon itself in mid-motion and landed far short of the intended position, and then charged forward again with that maddening grin in place.

No banter passed its lips this time, nor did the Elves waste any of their breath trying to argue against it. They pressed their minds together and shouted their assault against it as one, a determination that this mission not fail after a hundred years in the making.

The Shade merely displayed the teeth and laughed in silence as the magic of the King deflected their otherwise-fatal spells aside, and the strain began to display upon their features the closer it pushed through them, until less than a dozen feet separated they from it.

Then the noise of thunder filled the forest, and the fabric of the air bucked and folded in upon itself as if some kind of invisible creature were contained and stirring to life.

The result was not immediately noticed, given the raw strength behind the noise; such that it felled the Shade to one hand into a crouched position, blood leaking from its ears as much as the sensitive Elves' own.

After a tense moment the motion ceased, as a hole was forcibly ripped open within the sky, and the force that had gathered to do such and the energy that was propelling a shape forward emerged.

The aftermath of Harry Potter's arrival was one of blood and gore, and the deaths of all others present save one, and even its own innate shielding could do little more than fracture by the end.

~hp~hp~hp~hp~hp~hp~

With steam still rushing up from his clothing and hair, and frost coating his skin where there was nothing to conceal it, the muddy-green eyes of the wizard spread open and he glanced around the environment for a moment or ten.

His hands and boots were damp with something he thought he should recognize, and sure enough the crushed chest cavity and lower torso of some kind of human-like creature was apparently his landing pad in this dimension.

"Huh." Lifting up the hand that was currently soaking up a large degree of pale, blood-like fluid and the shredded remnants of what he took to be the heart, he sniffed the substance for a moment before whipping his head away and coughing harshly.

"Son of a bitch, what was this thing ruminating inside of?" He coughed again to clear the terrible stench from the back of his throat and hastily climbed out of it, making sure to grind the heel of his boot into its fanged-face in the process as he stripped off his gloves and dropped them into the hole.

The smoke by then had more or less faded as the frost dripped off of his skin, and he stood up properly a moment later to go over the scene once more; he was always a little fuzzy after a trip, due in no small part to that part of his brain that couldn't even conduct a damn floo trip without throwing him to the ground.

"Right; trees, atypical. Warm weather, the same. Ground-up pseudovampire, probably normal for this world. Oh. Flash-fried thestrals', and charred maybe-vampire's atop them."

Walking over to the bundle of cloth still clinging by a thread to the nearest of the deceased figures shoulder bones, he rummaged around and felt a large spherical shape, which upon removal was revealed to be an opaque ruby-coated jewel about the size of an ostrich egg.

He tossed it from hand to hand and was surprised when a faint tendril of emotion protested, coming namely from the object in his hands. He rapped a knuckle against the surface and heard it echo through before muffling against something within, sending a spiderweb of cracks along the surface rapidly.

"You alive in there?" He asked as the same tendril cried out slightly higher than before in alarm. "Huh. Great, finders-keepers. I could always use a little entertainment while I try to figure out where Voldemort's hiding in this world."

By the time he had finished his sentence, the numerable cracks converged and finally broke the entire shell apart, leaving a gooey coated, tiny red lizard with even smaller transparent wings clutching at his robes for purchase.

~hp~hp~hp~hp~hp~hp~

"What do I name you?" Harry pondered quietly a few days after initially hatching the ruby-coated lizard from his egg.

A flash of images from the tendril of thoughts in its mind tried to occur in order to suggest something, but he swatted them aside and pointed a warning finger at it disapprovingly.

"What did I tell you about banging around inside my skull with a thousand fiery images of mayhem and doom?" He chastised the Dragon.

A wave of irritable apology followed from him as the Dragon nipped his finger sharply enough to draw blood.

"Right. Names- either Avada Kedavra, just to freak the hell out of Voldemort when he hears me say the name and then
you come hurtling out of a subspace portal directly above his head, thus inciting the single best death I could render against him, or..." Harry trailed off in thought.

"Ferrovax, after that bastard in the last world. You look like a Ferrovax, actually. Huh." Looking closer, he
could make out certain similarities between the Drakon and his own Dragon, and if the way it wormed into his mind so easily was any indication, allowing it to learn any Name magic could be highly bothersome.

~hp~hp~hp~hp~hp~hp~

Only a couple of weeks after winding up on this world, where Dragons did not attempt to eat you, where magic did not respond as it should when chanted aloud, and where he had twice-now encountered something to give a troll a run for its money in the ugliness department, and Harry Potter was finding himself very much unhappy about his general sense of affairs.

Normally when he made a jump, it tossed him out at a point where either A, he could acquire something to make his job easier, or B, Voldemort had already arisen or else otherwise shown up and settled in nicely.

He had yet to have one with the other, and for that reason he could confirm that this was the former, and that his newly acquired weapon of mass intimidation and spit-firing was the reason he had been spun out here.

The downside was that it was growing, and how.

Already as long as he was tall, Ferrovax was hunting and snatching up all manner of squirrel, rabbit, and it had lead him into the troll-esque creatures while chasing after a deer more than once, as previously noted.

That was when he had discovered that magic does not respond like it should have.

It was also when his dominate arm was snapped in half by one of its enormous hands, and he was forced to drive a pillar of flame straight through one eye and out the back of its thick skull with one of his lesser-preferred flavor of magics acquired on a previous trip- blood magic.

Regardless, he killed the creature, set and sealed his arm in place until he was any surer that he wouldn't end up lopping it off by mistake while trying to heal it, and promptly chewed the Dragon's ears off for two minutes for nearly getting itself killed.

He himself wasn't exactly unduly concerned about getting shuffled off of the mortal coil, blood magic being one of those very firm reasons, but the over grown lizard couldn't exactly say the same.

Then it happened again a few days later, as if on purpose.

He followed that up by muzzling the Dragon and binding the legs together in heavy rope he happened to have within his pockets, and left it next to the fire until his own bleeding had ceased and the deer meat they had acquired for it was promptly cooked.

"You do that one more time, and I'm taking a chance on transfiguring a bloody chain to hold you. You leave the perimeter when I'm pissing again and I'll let you fight your own way past the beast, got it?" He warned it once the meat was done.

A shaky tendril pressed against his thoughts and he grimaced. "Right. But it came
this close to cutting my johnson off with those talons since I had to respond immediately to your cry of concern," he responded to its message, then loosened the main knot and drug the silver and silken rope free.

Ferrovax rolled loose and keened in a mixture of rough apology, hunger, irritation, and what might have been a threat in return.

Harry barked a laugh and offered the leg of meat out. "That's more like it. No 'sorry' while we're together." He answered even as he brought up his own strips of deer.

~hp~hp~hp~hp~hp~hp~

Few sensations in all of creation could keep apace to the simple rush of wind through your hair and the whistling in your ears that came with it, held aloft by a thin shaft of wood only a tenth wide and sometimes longer and sometimes shorter than your own body was.

Physical pleasure could near and, on the occasion, surpass it for a few intense moments at a time- an actual battle where lives were at stake and the consequences of losing were too incalculable to mention, the next nearest and more common in its own ways.

But a sixteen foot long Dragon from tip to blazing tip, with a wing span almost to match, rushing and diving and spiraling about with not so much as a bloody saddle strapped to its back and just your own natural grip, however tight that may be?

Yes, after a Firebolt, Harry Potter could place riding a Dragon commando, completely unaided by magic of any sort, to be the greatest sensation he had ever felt.

His heart was rapping out a heavy staccato beat within his chest, and he could hardly hear over the blood thundering through his eardrums, eyes squinting against the fierce gusts and torrents that tore and dragged at his thick battle robes as easily as his hair.

And when they entered free fall together?

There was nothing like it.

Chasing a snitch at a dead-set course for the ground didn't even compare, not when he was lifted free and left hanging by his fingertips dug deep beneath a set of trenches in between the scales around the neck.

A few long, joyous moments passed like that before, in a twirl of natural talent, they were righted again scant feet above the ground and directly over the small herd of deer.

Ferrovax snapped up a good sized doe with a flick of the neck and slammed it against the truck of a passing tree to kill it, and with the added weight began to quickly slow down as the wings adjusted their rhythm and settled the hind-feet down first several seconds later.

Harry slid off the scaly side and landed with a muffled thump by comparison to the thud of his walking siege engine, and together they began to trot over the well-known paths toward the camp some distance ahead where flying was not possible.

~hp~hp~hp~hp~hp~hp~

Ferrovax stirred and spread his maw wide, revealing the rows of growing fangs already two and a quarter inches deep by half as much across. Dried blood caked the surface and around the rough lips and snout where he had gorged himself on the plump and enlarged doe just a few hours ago, and a few left over strings of muscle were caught up in between the natural-ivory edges where they had curved inward.

On the edge of the perimeter a hulking shape lumbered into view- easily eight feet tall, with curling rams horns spiraling away from either end of the massive head.

The arms were at least as wide around as the Dragon's own torso, and the wide jaw and angular fangs looked to be capable of opening large enough to bite straight through his own wings in three or so attempts.

The wards around the edge of their camp within the Spine should have alerted his Rider as they usually did whenever one of the dark skinned and vastly dangerous beasts lumbered toward it, but on that morning his breathing did not change, and his mind when felt toward was blank and empty.

It was for that reason that Ferrovax had awoken in the first place, having heard the relatively-quiet crunch of branches and twigs giving way before the giant of an opponent.

The fell thing squatted down by the edge of their camp and examined Ferrovax in turn with eyes that were neither beady nor cumbersomely slow, as the previous and smaller two had been.

It had a gaze that was strong, bright, and intelligent beyond reason, show casing an underlying wit in that it had not stepped over the border and awoken the Rider even if it did the Dragon.

Ferrovax knew the wards would not stop it.

That was what he himself and his Rider were for, and his Rider seemed to be away from his body as was wont to occur so often these since their encounter with that old mage down in the town and the hard lesson learned there that day.

For a long time the creature stared without flinching or showing any sign that it recognized the threat of the Dragon, and no sense that it was wary could be felt at all toward the Rider either.

Then his Rider's chest heaved and the creature was yanked forward and up into the air by invisible chains, as the human rolled up right and pointed his shaft of too-smooth wood at it and examined it with those tainted, unhappy green eyes.

"I finally figured out what you things are called, Urgal," he said neutrally, examining the increased bulk of it after another moment and waving the shaft again so that it was brought closer into their camp.

For the most part the now-named Urgal did not struggle or respond, though it bared the fangs just a little more and squinted the eyes as if truly seeing him for the first time.

Ferrovax rose up onto his own hind legs and approached without caution, having never seen his Rider lose control once magic was wrought with the stick.

"You're a different breed, though, now aren't you?" He asked.

Harry relented after a moment more, drawing his foot away and nimbly stepping back and out of its range, and with a glance and a flicker of a thought to Ferrovax, he turned away entirely and returned to his cot and drew up his robes again.

The great Urgal snarled lightly at the Dragon as Ferrovax approached, but the eyes for the most part returned to his Rider as the nostrils flared, scenting the air.

"Well? For what reason do you come here and intrude upon our camp, Urgal?" Harry asked again without emotion clouding his tone or vision.

What he had learned down in the village reminded him of the same crap that had surrounded any of the old races in his natural world- a bitter stigma surrounding Trolls, Giants, Gnomes, Goblins, and House Elves.

Urgals were apparently afforded no respect or the like for any reason, though by all accounts they weren't reasonable creatures and hardly more intelligent than the average bull, bear, and beast of burden.

This one proved the exception to their rules, which meant that there were others alike within this region and therefore the world.

"Either spit out your explanation or I'll kill you like I had to do the other two. At least
you show intelligence within your eyes, and you haven't tried to fight my control either, which means you had an idea of what I'm capable of before approaching. Seriously, I have better things to do than stand around speaking with you, Urgal." Harry stated with a hint of irritation cropping up at its silence.

"I am no mere
Urgralgra, human," the lumbering creature spoke up at last in a voice that rumbled akin to gravel along the ground, like something swept up in a mudslide.

"I am of the high
Kull of our race, just as you are of the Riders of your own. I come to barter your service, if it will please you to hear it; many of your men march along these paths of late and we are two less with your hand at fault- but that is what you are wont to do, just as we are wont to violence and fighting." He explained with his head lowered slightly to better meet Harry's gaze.

Harry scoffed. "That isn't exactly what your kind are renowned for- bartering with my own. But you're mistaken if you believe I'm going to just slaughter a group of humans for no reason. What have they done to you and yours to mark them for death?" He asked.

The Kull-urgal returned his gesture, baring the fangs now. "You would want these men dead,
Rider, or are you in league with the mad king as well? Will our lands never know peace at the rule of you and your dragons?" He demanded.

Harry looked over to Ferrovax and felt the Dragon's tendril of thought weave into his own.

I have flashes of memory, of another Rider and Dragon, Harry-kin-slayer-partner-of-mine, Ferrovax answered.

It was impossible to keep the growing winged lizard out of his mind and Ferrovax had eventually started drudging up memories of other worlds, of other fights and the like, and it knew enough to know that he had fought numerable dragons and Drakons and slain those that were in his way.

For the time, Ferrovax was accepting of it, if only as past transgressions that had little to do with the present, and the fact that their bond had never felt much true malice.

Ferrovax continued his thought after a moment, adding,
Emotions are dim-dark-cold, where they dwell.

Harry nodded and looked back to the Kull-urgal. "Say I believe you. Say I wanted them dead- what do you get out of having these men slain and gone?" He asked curiously.

"I've got enough blood on my hands to make me question your intentions. Do you desire to make up for your lost hunters with our addition, as it be, or is it something more than that? I've heard enough of your own kind recently to make it seem all to easy for you to attack the moment my guard is down." He said.

The Kull-urgal let out a noise of protest, but it at least reclined its head so that the neck was bare, as was tradition among their kind to show not only respect but that they trusted the other not to readily kill them or attack too soon.

"I am a
Kull, Rider; by my honor and my ancestors I would not harm you by intent, save in the heat of battle and the cloud of bloodlust and other factors disguising your form from my eyes." He answered.

"These servants of the traitor I would kill readily in the open field if that were possible; but they are traveling quickly, and journey through our territory without heed of the warnings, few as they are, that we have set out for humans. They are marked for death, but so too will we die without the kin you have taken from us, were we to charge in now." He explained further.

Harry looked into the Kull's eyes and flicked up against the surprisingly ready shielding he found there.

After a moment he looked away and slashed his wand through the air, and the Kull dropped to his knees a few feet down, crashing almost against the dull fire and the remains of the deer carcass.

"'Mad king', 'Traitor', these names are not given lightly. I wasn't aware this...
area, had a King. But I am more than willing to find out what another dragon rider is capable of. Give us a few minutes and then lead us toward these men you want slain, and after the fact point us toward his direction. In another few weeks I'm quite sure we will be able to fly there." Harry responded and sat back down where he had been laying.

The Kull pushed up and dragged the carcass with him, eying the left over meat and marrow there.

"You are rough and powerful,
Rider. But our agreement is not set so easily; if you are to walk our path now, and to be believed in full, I must see that your strength is not by magic alone." He said, snapping off a section of the ribs and bringing it up to his jaws to crunch down on noisily.

Harry stowed his wand away and looked at the Kull-urgal with irritation.

"You are quite a degree taller than I am, let alone physically stronger. What exactly did you have in mind?" He asked.

Swallowing thickly, the Kull looked at him. "If you can stay my movement for a minute, that will be enough."

Harry leaned back and shed his heavy battle robes, standing up. As he rose he was shaking his head slowly, as if in dismay, but he flexed his arms and cracked his shoulders once or twice in preparation.

"You're mistaken if you take me for another simple human, even as a
Rider. I've lived long enough and trained hard enough that magic is just a byproduct by this point. I may not be able to throw you very far, but I could stop you for a minute most definitely."

At those words the Kull's throat rumbled in satisfaction of the bold statement, and he rose quickly before thrusting his hands out and toward Harry's own.

Their fingers crashed together and the gripping strength of the Kull was revealed.

Harry spread his legs and locked his knees, but with a rotation of his waist up to his shoulder he shifted the weight being pressed in against his body and skewered it, so that the Kull stumbled suddenly as the right arm surged forward ahead of the left.

Harry used the creatures heavy mass against it and bent down, so that his shoulder was beneath its wide set, broad chest, and lunged upward with a degree of strength that had served him well in his time wielding a blade alone against similar, fiercer creatures among the worlds he had journeyed through in all the myriad dimensions.

As a result of all of the factors, Harry lifted the Kull off of its feet and threw it head first toward the tree behind himself, rotating at the waist again when it did not release his left hand from its own, and following through on the motion to avoid snapping his bones apart.

A great thud echoed about the camp and a fierce creak of shattered wood followed it instantaneously, crashing the large oak to the ground with an ever louder noise.

Yanking his hand free from its temporarily slackened grip, Harry pressed a foot atop the head and in between the horns as he stared down at the Kull.

"Magic isn't the only wellspring within my body, Kull. I've fought almost a thousand creatures like your own in my lifetime with naught but steel clasped within my grip since the age of twelve. All you have is intelligence, bulk, and strength within those sinewy muscles. You don't possess scales a thousand years old, fangs as sharp as diamond, a glare that will kill the moment a gaze is met; and that was but the first in a long line of beasts I have slain." He stated firmly and more than a little proudly.

The Kull snorted and blew blood out of its shattered nose as the eyes focused, and it raised one hand limply beneath it and tried to rise.

Harry adjusted his posture and pressed down all the harder against its forehead. "And in my lifetime, I have learned a remarkable amount about overcoming the advantage of raw physical force. In fact, the martial art for it was one I have become well acquainted with a very long time ago, along with the measure of a mans life by the chakra system that supports his being as easily as the blood rushing through the veins."

The system he spoke of was rather more than one, but for the sake of convenience he narrowed it back considerably.

After one minute of struggling and even swiping at his leg at the end, the Kull had still failed to remove Harry from the humiliating position. His throat rumbled in a terrible growl, but at length he said, "I concede this defeat,
Rider. Let me up!"

The Kull rumbled again heavily as it tried to rise and found one arm would most definitely not support his weight any longer, snapped as it was from the initial change of pressure and crash that followed.

Harry drew his wand and made to repair the damage, but after a moment he halted himself and decided to ask permission first.

"Do you want that fixed or will you allow it to recover as it will?" He asked shortly.

The Kull shook its head twice, eyes half-lidded in pain, and forced the legs underneath it to rise slowly until it was once more standing upright.

"Nay, Rider, I will keep this wound and any scarring as a sign of our agreement, and as proof further that you are worthy to the rest of my clan and kindred to fight beside us. Long has it been since a man could halt an Urgralgra, and never before one of my stature in such a manner without aide of many others and weaponry in their hands. It is an honor to be the first man, Rider, where none before have tread." He responded to Harry's question with a long ramble.

Harry nodded once- as he had expected after learning what he had about the creature and its race.

"As I said, then, give me five minutes to make my preparations and then guide us toward these men that should be slain. I'll have a good time finding out what I need from them, and just as I've shown that I am capable of competing with you, so too will I show that I am capable of competing with they as well." He said.

The Kull grunted and lumbered several feet past the ward of the camp, and then further still until its heavy footfalls could no longer be heard.

Then Harry reached into his robes armory and picked from it one of his lesser replacement wands, placing his nearest-original safely in the concealed space, and after locking the spare in around his wrist, he also drew forth a single blade to aide him.

Slytherin's Bane, the sword that had betrayed the man in combat against Gryffindor's Sword at that fateful meeting so long before, cast from it a dull silver and copper tone.

Notched into the hilt dwelt a tiny dagger from which Slytherin had made his recovery, but it was for naught, save to give one last parting blow before he himself was slain at the end.

As was to be expected of the man, the ivory and silver hilt depicted a pair of king cobras, and at the front and bottom of the blade the maw of a basilisk was set, as if the blade was merely emerging from the jowls of the legendary beast.

The unseen runes, long recovered, translated, and rewritten, made sure that it would never again betray the wielder by choice.

End Chapter One.

End Notes:

       Heads up, here; this is In media res, or in the middle of. This is a part of a wider, grander-themed Dimension Hopping!Harry Potter story, set a few hundred years or so after he first started out. I don't have the rest of it yet compiled in a straight-forward passage, just little segments here and there that I've wrote on for a few days over the past two years, so I chose to really settle down and start writing one of the dimensions of his journey that struck my interest and this is the initial result.

If I ever get the rest of them done I'll likely post it separately, as this story is meant to be something of a stand-alone - it's rather hard to bring a fully developed Dragon through the dimensions.   It is also a long ways off from approaching the end of the journey, so Harry may be here for a good, long time. We'll see as we go. Thank you for reading.

Chapter 2: Allying with Urgals.

With Ferrovax trotting along slightly behind him, Harry followed the Kull's heavy footprints in the dirt and soon caught sight of it in the dim moonlight piercing the foliage ahead. The large figure eyed him in return and offered a single nod, then turned away and continued to pace back toward its own camp. In time they met together once more, just before the noises of its brethren began filtering through the distance.

Quiet rumbling, the crackling of an active fire and the occasional sharp snap of dripping fat being seared away, and the muffled thud of an axe driving into wood in an uneven pattern all bespoke the activity of the creatures so late into the night - or early into the morning, as it may be.

The densely packed trees separating them thinned out further as they walked in companionable silence. Eventually only a few large trunks stood in between them all, and immediately after the last such tree it opened up into a rough hollow twenty feet across by half that high. Smoke swirled from a long and smouldering fire pit.

In the center of the camp, sitting on overturned stumps or simply resting on the cold earthen floor lounged the majority of the Kull's people.

A few were practicing their skills with the aforementioned axes as they chopped down misshapen human analogies fashioned from wood and marked with ash to give them bitter, accusatory features. The heavy-headed blades whistled through the air and hacked through one limb at a time before the final gut-shot finished the job off, but it was clear that they lacked any proper coordination as another faux-man was lifted from a pile and attacked again - their strikes, while quick in delivery, were never in the same position and often missed each other by inches. Half a dozen more such analogies laid unfinished in a corner of the camp, where the smallest and youngest looking of the Urgals were responsible for cleaning the wood and whittling away at the surface with hunting knives. Another was mending the severed pieces of previous targets back onto the main body with fumbling knots of rope.

Harry slowed to a stop behind their guide and did a quick headcount. Sixteen... no, seventeen of the lesser Urgals, a few looking to be children, and only two more like this one. He shook his head dismally. I'd rather this not turn to bloodshed, for their sake.

He out a hand to caution Ferrovax to a halt as well, earning a quizzical tilting of the head before the dragon caught scent of the roasted deer and something else, something much more pungent and delectable. He rolled his muzzle around as if an itch had grown beneath the scales around his nostrils, sniffing and now scraping his tongue over his teeth to try and find another last scrap of muscle from their meal hours ago that he could sate his renewing hunger upon for a moment.

The Kull leading them slowed as well and glanced back at the silence he heard from their footsteps, but Harry nodded toward him to continue and placed Slytherin's Bane tip-first into the soil, leaning upon it idly.

Understanding seemed to come to the large Urgal's eyes and he turned around, continuing alone. His steps tramped down more powerfully and he rumbled loudly in the back of his throat in some kind of greeting, alerting his return to every one of his brethren. Immediately the eyes of the rest of the camp turned to meet his, and the axes were dropped, the scraping slowed. A few of the Urgals tried imitating his greeting unsuccessfully, but the noise was only properly picked up by the other two Kull, one still licking the grease off of a femur.

"Garzhvog!" the nearest Kull exclaimed eagerly and rose to his feet. Their now-named guide stepped out of the opening and sat down on a nearby stump, his broken arm hanging limply the whole while and grazing the dirt as Garzhvog leaned forward and snatched a rib dripping with fat off of the fire with his good hand. A rough answer met the other two around that first hasty bite. "Khagra. Otvek."

Khagra's eyes honed in on the arm and he crossed the distance in several vast steps, reaching out to grip the shoulder as if in disbelief. Garzhvog did not winch, only bit down harder upon the bone and meat between his lips and chewed loudly until the other Kull got the message and let go. Just as he was about to speak up a sudden glint of crimson-red light appeared in the same opening that Garzhvog had come through, and beside it a deeper black shadow with etches of copper catching the firelight randomly.

Dragon and Rider entered the camp together just moments later, alerting the rest of the Urgals to their presence. Ferrovax was still twitching his nose in curious hunger over what they had found to roast with so much succulence, but Harry was paying attention to the situation as a whole - that had been the point of stopping, so that he could observe long enough to cast a judgment on walking amongst so many potential enemies.

"The Rider, as we agreed," Garzhvog said rather needlessly, having swallowed. "They come to decide for themselves if they are to aid our battle."

Harry measured Khagra up as they entered the camp proper and found the new Kull lacking. Despite similar height and bulk, Khagra had none of Garzhvog's... stature, his presence. It would have been easy to overlook him as just an overgrown Urgal rather than one of their elite soldiers; he didn't reflect the intelligence and willingness to work with Harry that the original fellow had displayed when they locked gazes. No, if anything, this one looked at him the same way that the nameless Urgals' he had slain before had looked at him, the way several of those nearby seemed to be eyeballing him even now when he glanced around and looked back.

They looked at him like a threat, and one that they were eager to dismember.

"Yes," Khagra uttered lowly. "As we agreed." His tone seemed to indicate he had not willingly agreed to any such thing, not in good intentions.

Perhaps to lure me in to slay, more likely, Harry thought, remembering what Garzhvog had said about 'never knowing peace at the rule of you and your dragons'. Khagra's pitted gaze turned away from him and lingered particularly long upon the sharp red scales of Ferrovax. Abruptly he turned away without raising his head or lowering it, neither honoring or directly threatening either of them, and returned to his own stump in silence.

If we go through with this, Ferrovax, keep your distance from him in the battle. I have the feeling he's more of a strike-now apologize-later type.

The second Kull, having finished off his leg bone, picked a few shards of ivory from his teeth and rose in Khagra's place. Harry met his gaze next and found the same clear, steady shields in place to protect it from outside invasion when he tried to perform Legilimency. He bared his fangs the same as Garzhvog had at the attempt, but that aside he neither displayed Khagra's dislike or Garzhvog's interest, a carefully reserved neutrality standing out the most.

Otvek broke gazes with Harry and reclined his head in respect to their guide, saying, "Nar Garzhvog. We have eaten well and hardy of your mighty kill this night, but the honor of the heart is still yours." He pointed to the edge of the fire pit, where a small cap of mangled silver rested atop an equally mangled shield. The young Urgal that had been fumbling with the rope earlier hastened over to lift it up with little sign of the heat and carried the whole thing to Garzhvog, reclining his head despite the lack of horns, and again tried to repeat the ululating rumble.

Garzhvog smiled widely and answered the sound, lifting the cap away to reveal the steaming muscle concealed beneath, dry-roasted within its container. With little compunction he dropped the useless metal and snatched up the heart, taking a large chunk away on the first bite, and chewed the tough morsel slowly to savor its texture and flavors.

Ferrovax keened low and deep in the back of his own throat at the smell of it. I am hungry again, Harry-kinslayer-partner-of-mine, the dragon told him and the rest of the immediate camp with unshielded minds, unintendedly projecting the thought wide. Most of the lesser Urgals flinched back at the invasion, but the noise coming from him was not missed by the rest, either, nor the way his head bobbed idly with fixation upon the muscle.

Khagra rose again in fury, but Garzhvog surprised them all by leaning over and offering an edge to the dragon. After swallowing the Kull said, "Eat of my victory this night and ascension to place of honored leadership, then, dragon." His eyes swiveled to Harry's and he added, "Rider."

With permission granted and understanding the slip up on his part, Ferrovax pushed such thoughts aside for later consideration and lunged forward to take most of what was available whole.

Harry beat him to it with a concentrated thought and gesture with his wand-dominant arm.

Arresto Momentum.

The spell pressed against the dragon's body and Ferrovax slowed to a crawl almost before he had even surged forward, allowing Harry to bring up Slytherin's Bane and snip off two thin strips from the heart in the next moment. Don't be greedy, he admonished just as silently to his partner. Narrowed eyes honed in on him, but rather than risk speaking to everyone again, the dragon held back his opinion of that.

With that done the wizard exhaled and allowed the bent-spell from his home system to diminish until its effects had faded altogether. That was the thing he had figured out at last over the past couple of months - outside of blood magic, the only way to introduce some of his old magic to this new world was solely through silent casting. He had to really focus his mind to make sure he had all of the intended effects there, but once he was sure of his spell, and of his intention, it almost always manifested thereafter. The problem was that none of them seemed to last on their own and would falter without his attention devoted to them, especially wards.

Ferrovax had already begrudgingly dug his claws into the dirt for traction by the time Harry let go of his concentration, so that the abrupt lurch back into motion was stopped only inches from where it had begun, and he turned to settle on his haunches while Harry flicked the first strip into the air from the tip of his sword.

This time Ferrovax's maw shot up and enclosed around it in mid-air with no issues. He swallowed and snorted quietly, promising vengeance for the denial of more of the tasty treat when it had been so freely offered.

Harry ignored the well-understood message directed at him through that snort and reluctantly peeled off his own strip and chewed it with as little effort at tasting as he could manage. He swallowed the lump quickly and grit his teeth into a rough smile, nodding again to Garzhvog in appreciation for them both.

"Thank you," Harry intoned through his teeth to the first Kull. As soon as he could he'd be scrubbing his tongue clean of the unpleasant taste.

Garzhvog reclined his head again. "You will eat your fill when we celebrate our victory, dragon, should we proceed together from here." He took another large bite from the heart and then offered it out to Otvek, who did the same with what he could and finally shared the meal with Khagra, who ate barely more than Harry and Ferrovax had - there was simply too little left over for him.

The camp watched the entire exchange in a mixture of moods; mostly unsettled, uneasy, and eager to get away. With their leader doing nothing to expel the intruders from their midst, the lesser Urgals settled for uneasily returning to their prior tasks. They would not soon forget the presence of another alien mind in their heads.

Otvek eventually returned his eyes to Harry and strode forward with a slight limp in his step, dragging one ankle as he crossed. It didn't seem to impair him unduly while he stood still, but the leg shuddered each time weight tried to settle upon it in movement, proving at last why they had even bothered sending Garzhvog out to meet him - a large enough opposing militia would indeed slaughter them all as they were. With almost half of their people either crippled in some way or else too young to warrant training, the decision was practically made for Harry - he couldn't just walk away and leave them to the slaughter. It would gnaw on his admittedly thin conscience and be an itch on the back of his mind the whole time he was off investigating this country more, this world.

If he followed them to the 'mad-king's' soldiers and found the other humans not needing to be executed, he'd just find a means of binding the Urgals and Kull until the chance to attack had passed.

There goes that old saving people complex again, he thought ruefully.

Despite their temporary disagreement, Ferrovax still cocked his head to the site and sent a questioning emotion through their connection, focused to be certain it did stay solely between them.

Harry answered it after a moment with brief flashes of memory from a couple of occasions through his long life - performing less directly-lethal charms and curses to confound and befuddle the Death Eaters using human meat shields and would-be-victims at hostage point rather than just blow them all to hell and be done with it in a few moments. He never chose the easy option when it came to innocent human lives.

The most recent memory of such an occasion, however, from the world directly prior to this one, burst to the surface before he could stifle it - silencing the vicious cry within his soul to answer the call of the wyldfae storming across Chicago, resisting the urge to join the hundred black hounds following in their leader's wake as they wreaked havoc and chaos one Halloween night, and crafting blood magic from the long incision down one arm for the sword he wielded against the leather and mail-clad giant of a man in charge of that deathly anarchy until the hour was done- and the dragon exhaled and coiled down to rest, satisfied with the answer.

Otvek had reached him during the exchange of memories and spoke up after apparently recognizing the mental communication was winding down. He met Harry's eyes again. "Nar Garzhvog gives you much honor and respect this night, Rider. He would not accept you easily-" a look was spared for the broken arm of his leader, "and you see for yourself the state of our camp. What say you? Yea or nay?"

Harry shrugged his shoulders back and rolled them lightly, stretching the muscles and cracking the bones. "We'll see when we get there, Kull. Lead me to them and I'll judge for myself if I dip my hands in mortal blood again."

 ~hp~hp~hp~hp~hp~hp~

As the first pale rays of sunrise spread haphazardly across the Spine that morning beneath an overcast sky, hundreds of wavering footsteps trampled through the underbrush, the uneven cacophony of leather-soled boots breaking across crunchy leaves and crackling sticks. They marched with enough noise to rouse a cave bear from its hibernation, and they did so with little fear of the predatory beasts native to the Spine for fear instead of their very own companions - two moderately tall, dark-cloaked, hunch-backed 'men' rasping and clicking with noises that would have better fit an avian monster than a human being.

For three weeks now the intruders to their midst had come with the dusk and departed shortly after dawn, always with a verbal warning of what awaited any who deviated from the path or lingered too far behind in their absence. They vanished into the gray twilight and reappeared like shadows in the same, so that one moment the left flank was clear and empty, the next... their unwelcome overseers had filled it in, clucking in that unnerving tongue that no human throat could reproduce. Individually these traits would have been enough to frighten the troops, but piled together with the continually diminishing number of soldiers from the day beforehand, such had long since broken their morale down into an abject paranoia of being alone, and most of the men slept five to a tent in the vain hope of not being dragged away in the silent night.

It mattered little; one to two soldiers were always missing when the rest awoke. Sleep was not pleasant. Waking nightmares lurked among them. It was the promise of far worse being performed upon them at the dark rituals of Helgrind that had kept the men from turning about and fleeing back across the open plains toward Gil'ead while that had still been an option, and now that they had entered the mountainous terrain, where escape and concealment might have become viable, the responsibility fell upon the backs of the magicians seeded throughout their rank and file instead to ensure the soldiers remained obedient.

Any hope that the magicians were there for the soldiers' benefit had long since dried up. They banded together and provided only for themselves, kowtowing to the will of the two unnatural beings, and struck down any soldier that showed the slightest hint of mutiny or rebellion.

Thus they arose exhausted and fearful for yet another early march, each man terrified of what would happen to them when next they closed their eyes for rest in the night, and envisioning the horror that would befall them if they were chosen to sate the hunger of their watchers. The blood stains were thick and clear upon those robes, and no attempt was made to deny the accusation when it had been launched long days ago.

They stomped and they trampled and they tried their very best to get through their ghastly journey and reach the far-side of the Spine, believing their lives were fodder spent simply to prove to the rest of the citizens of the Empire that they had naught to fear of the dreaded land, to clear away the fog of superstition and myth that had enshrouded the Spine for decades.

What the general troops did not know and few of the magicians had been told, however, was that the true purpose of their journey was to find and eliminate the last Dragon Rider outside of the Forsworn to have survived the Fall, one who had been a multi-pronged thorn in the Empire's foot ever since that day, and one who had finally paid the price of exposure in order to slay the Shade, Durza, in months past.

Only the two human-masqueraders were aware of that information, and they waited with eagerness for the chance to sip of the Rider's well-aged blood and dine upon his mottled flesh at long last.

A set of rapid clicks and clacks echoed from them as they spoke to one another near the back of the march, and then one called out in a loud chirrup of barely recognizable noise to the men, "Halt."

At once the magicians slowed to a stop and the rest of the army did so reluctantly, staring straight ahead so as not to have to look back upon their unwilling-companions. The taller of the two cocked its shaded-head to one side and stared outward from the deep hood across its brow and toward the widening line of trees, searching the faint darkness with as much ease as if the sun sat illuminated mere feet above the treetops.

A glint of bloody-red appeared for a moment some wide distance away, vanishing behind the trunk of a large pine only to reappear again moments later and repeat the process several more times before it settled down out of view. A slow and curved smile lit up the creature's angled face as it sighted in upon the dragon, now hatched from the lost egg, and it spoke as such to its partner in their own clicking tongue once more.

Their rapid exchange of noise drove at least a handful of soldiers to their knees, pressing hands to their ears and heads to the dirt while whispering for the darkness to leave them be at last. They were given no thought by their own allies or otherwise.

Around the bend in the hills far ahead and slightly diagonally to the right from their position a mass of ungainly Urgals plodded into view. Some shuffled, some collided against each other in their brutal race's ever-eager contesting for strength, but none of them seemed in a hurry to chase down the dragon. That alone said enough - that Durza was indeed smote and his control over them destroyed. It was only more news to report to the king when they brought in their prey's corpse and his second-chosen dragon.

After watching for a few minutes, however, it became apparent that Brom Holcombsson was not trekking nearby. Wherever the old human Rider was, he was not with his dragon - a tactic more likely to be guile and deceit than truth. It was uncharacteristic of him to risk another around the vicious Urgals, but that he might already be in wait ahead of them - perhaps having spotted the contingent of warriors while scouting or even hunting through the Spine - could be believed.

Perhaps he had not even noticed Galbatorix's soldiers while waiting to ambush the Urgals; and even if he had, it would be too late for him to change his plans before things played out against him.

Turning from their soon-to-be victims, the taller of the two relayed the information to its fellow, who in turn delivered it to the rest. "Gather yourselves, soldiers. We feast upon dragon-flesh tonight!" the shorter of the two shrieked its message, making the majority of the men winch and unconsciously shudder as the noise wormed through their ear canals.

Confusion over exactly what that meant faded as the Urgals, no doubt having heard the noise echoing off of the trees, shouted back in undulating war cries. A primal sort of fear was roused alongside the soldiers' fear of their companions when something far louder and far more vicious roared above the others with enough strength to rattle the pebbles beneath their feet and shake the very leaves free.

Throwing back their hoods in response, the vaguely bird-like, almost skeletal features of the two 'men' were revealed. "Kill the dragon and we fell its' Rider no matter his position!" the shorter creature ordered them more clearly, then surged over the moss-and-grain-strewn ground and whipped out to one side to try and flank the mighty-lizard from one side.

With a rough click of frustration at its partner's impatience, the taller creature sank back into the trees and glanced toward the flickers of golden-red light piercing the cloudy sky overhead; it hissed and shivered, desiring to be departing by now rather than rushing into a battle, but this was an opportunity that could not be ignored. With little choice, it followed after its mate and rushed to take the dragon from the other side.

While the troops were still rooted in place by the draconian roar, the magicians recovered and sought out their targets, ordering the men into rough formations even as they readied their spells.

Within minutes, the hitherto-simmering war between the Empire and Harry Potter entered the first stage in full.

 ~hp~hp~hp~hp~hp~hp~

Walking alongside Ferrovax's back-right hip, Harry had tied his blade by the hilt to the edge of his war-robes with a strip of leather jutting from the loops therein. The tip danced alongside his right ankle without ever quite nearing the vulnerable flesh, and he could draw it again in a moment's notice with little more than a quick tug on the knot, but he had given up on encountering another human being in the immediate-future after an hour of trekking through the dim moonlight and then into the rising twilight of dawn. He expected to hear the humans at their camp well before reaching them, the same as with Garzhvog's people, or barring that the stomp of their feet upon the ground.

With that decided, his attention was focused more upon the thought of enemy wizards and witches and how he could combat them when, rather than if, he stumbled upon another one. It was a common thought he occupied himself with, having been humiliated once already by his ignorance. He trusted his dragon to pipe up while they walked if he sensed something that Harry himself had not.

It it comes down to another contest of wills like it was the first time, I'd better have my repertoire prepared ahead of time. A split-second's delay can mean all the difference - and if they all have the same ungodly reserves of energy to back them up as that old man, Avada Kedavra might come in a hell of a lot more helpful than anything else I've got on quick-draw. He stepped over a large root and ran a countdown of how many spells he had acclimatized to the conditions needed to bring them to life here - and rounded off at just over thirteen. A paltry drop in the bucket compared to how many he had memorized throughout his lifetime, but he had spent a decent while just sussing those few down to the finest detail, to be utterly certain they would work as he knew they should.

Transfiguration is a bloody sinkhole and isn't worth a quarter of the hassle involved, though if I could get the needed oomph out for even a crude effort in just a few seconds to surprise one of the other bastards, I suppose it could prove useful in a pinch. He considered what was involved in just changing dirt to mud to water and shook his head, dismissing it. Haven't had one time that held up when my back was turned, so that field is more-or-less out of the question. Not much involved in charms, either, though that downy-pillow was a nice effect while it lasted.

Flickers of fine blood-red light shone down through the leaves every now and again. As they neared the top of a hill, Garzhvog made a deep rutting sound in the back of his throat and spoke, "Wait, Rider."

Harry turned around in mid-step and Ferrovax paused as well, flicking his head around and snuffling as if detecting an unknown scent on the downdraft of wind.

Khagra walked a short ways behind them, Garzhvog beside him and Otvek bringing up the rear. The rest of the combat-ready Urgals followed in their wake, eagerly butting shoulders and jostling one another, shaking the axes they carried with a rising blood lust. Their leader nodded his head toward the top of the hill and approached a bit closer, his slack arm wrapped about the side, ribs, and belly to keep it from interfering in the battle to come.

"We have scouted this army for many days before coming to you for aid, Rider. It is not unlikely they will be passing through beyond these hills even as we speak, for their stride is great even when weary, and they cover a league on most occasions. Go; examine our foes, and make your decision quickly."

Harry nodded once and noticed Ferrovax's antics. What is it? He asked across their connection. A hint of distress seemed to permute the senses bleeding through to him, and the dragon exhaled heavily through his nostrils before answering.

Something... familiar, of the dim-dark-cold. Something painful.

Hn. Flicking his eyes along the rolling slope several feet up, he slowly sat down on the ground, mindful of the sword still strapped to his own hip. Something of your days trapped in that egg, then. Alright. He closed his eyes and began to slow his breathing, emptying out his unnecessary thoughts, and all-in-all working to enter the proper state of mind required for meditation and, by association, Astral Projection.

Few means trumped scouting-by-soul.

He could wander down a short ways and take a good listen to the soldiers first-hand and determine if there was just cause to execute them, and it might also offer him the chance to find out if they had any magic-abled within their company.

He centered his attention around the ethereal disconnect involved in wandering about as a naked spirit and distanced the time between each inhalation and following exhalation of his lungs. When the gap yawned across almost a minute between breaths and his heartbeat had dropped deceptively low, his body went completely slack and a faint haze in the air gathered just beside it- at least insofar as the Urgals saw.

Ferrovax detected a faint bending of the light and a distant shadow-imitation of his Rider before it rose and vanished across the hilltop. Knowing what would happen and how long it could take when he was being particularly thorough, the dragon settled down and rested his head across his front legs. The sight of the two of them seemingly ignoring the army ahead drew a snarl from Khagra's lips.

"This is what we have waited for?" the Kull demanded of his brethren, turning about to face the rest of the Urgals. "So much for our trust in another Rider, Nar Garzhvog. Let us march as we were meant to and be done!"

Garzhvog examined the two without answering immediately. He recognized their posture as being the same as that when he had approached them before, and just as he had then, he suspected there was more going on then what was apparent. "No, Khagra," he refuted steadily. "We wait. Something-" the other Kull cut across him while gesturing furiously with his own chipped axe head.

"You are strong of body and strong of heart, Garzhvog, and you give them too much faith. Humans have never favored us and it is foolish to believe in them now," he turned to Otvek, who reluctantly nodded in agreement. "Let us kill this Rider now before he rises up as the mad-king has and burns all of our lands to the ashes!"

Ferrovax turned his head to stare at the warmonger and exhaled a dark growl at the threat, reverberating off of the nearby tree trunks and shaking the metal and mail the Urgals wore in its pitch. Khagra spun around to face him and lifted the axe overhead, preparing to put action to word, when Harry's chest heaved for the second time in several hours, returning to his body again just in time to hear the noise emanating from his dragon. The menacing noise only died down after half a minute, and Harry sent him a note of appreciation as much as pride.

With that, Harry stood up slowly and kept a hand on Slytherin's Bane as he did. "I haven't chosen to ignore them, you black-hearted wretch. I chose to investigate them by my own means of magic to do exactly as I said I would; make up my own bloody mind on the matter!" He unwound the knot around the hilt and drew the sword to his hand again, watching for the sudden tense of muscles that would telegraph Khagra's lunge downward. It did not come, but the yellow eyes flicked between sword and dragon as if trying to weigh the advantages and coming up short.

Keeping the ancient blade posed between himself and the Kull, Harry continued. "I don't know what lurks down there, but a chill slithered over my non-corporal spine when I listened to the pair of them speaking to each other at the back of the procession. The men themselves looked half-mad with fear, and what I gathered spoke volumes."

Khagra watched him with narrowed eyes, clenching the hilt of his axe tighter.

"We aren't going to kill them," he paused and noted how the Urgals seemed to shift toward more aggressive posture as a whole, even the original Kull, who looked disheartened about it. "We're going to kill whatever those things are that are in charge of the invasion of your lands."

Garzhvog frowned heavily and stepped forward past Khagra, obstructing the line of motion between each of them. "That is not in our nature, Rider. They are marked for death."

Harry met his eyes and stabbed Slytherin's Bane into the soil between them. "And I said that they were driven here by an outside force. I recognize unwilling subservience when I see it, Garzhvog, and they are not here because they intended to trespass upon your land. I won't murder without due cause."

A sullen silence held out between them, unbroken except for the rough sounds of breathing. Eventually Otvek shuffled forward on his injured leg. "What would you have us do, Rider?"

Harry kept his eyes on Garzhvog and Khagra as he answered. "Get as close to them as possible while I cut around and flank their exposed backside. If I can eliminate the leaders swiftly enough, the others should be thrown into anarchy and easy round up. From there-" whatever else he intended to say fell away as one of the unnatural voices he had heard down below spoke.

"Gather yourselves, soldiers. We feast upon dragon-flesh tonight!"

The shriek echoed all the way up from the hundreds of feet separating the two groups. Harry snatched up his sword again and cursed the timing. "I suppose my point just became moot, Garzhvog. I'll fight across from you if not exactly beside you as intended, and we'll discuss this later. Defend you and yours and we'll play catch up and distribution of blame in the aftermath."

Garzhvog's expression lightened and he raised his own weapon of massacre, reclining his head and saying, "Aye, Rider. That we will," and then he belted out a truly potent battle cry. Otvek matched it, and even Khagra contributed, even if he desired to cut the human before him in twain when his back was turned.

Stay here and help keep them alive. I saw crossbows and arrows below, Ferrovax; be wary of flight. The thought across their connection while he began to rush through the underbrush to execute his plan earned a response that Harry hadn't intended; while the lesser Urgals chipped in with fainter ululations to the Kull's booming noise, they were all put to shame by the roar of primal challenge that erupted from his dragon's maw. Ferrovax lifted his front legs and slammed them down upon the crest of the hill, extended his neck, and from the very depths of his lungs released a small glimpse of the fury contained within his being.

A fierce smile broke across his Rider's lips; that sounded like utter victory.

Chapter Two concluded.