Notice

Close
Toggle paper mode ----
Review




THE YEAR OF THEIR WAR

Part I: Summer’s Shadows

Prologue: An Act of Violence

Unplottable Location, West Scotland, January 1942

The old man stood motionless by the window and looked at the setting sun. The red fractals of light bathed the floor behind him, eerie shadows stretching at the corners of the bare little room. He did not appear to be concerned, merely thoughtful. The small door to his right continued to warp and splinter, the wood blackening slowly, with little sound, as if some invisible force was trying to force it open against another that tried to keep it in place. The old man didn’t glance at it, almost as if he sought to deliberately avoid the sight. A little sigh escaped him, and he took out a thin wooden stick from under the simple black robes he wore, gripping it firmly in his hand as he slowly turned to face the door. The dying sunlight illuminated half his face now, and the corners of his mouth quirked upwards, as if he was amused by some private thought.

The door continued to splinter, and streaks of violet sparks were now being emitted from the slowly yielding wood. The old man leveled his stick at the door with calm deliberation and spoke a word.

The wood dissolved, vanishing in a swirl of dense blue smoke. Another figure stepped through the empty doorframe, a tall bearded man with broad shoulders, clad in dark red velvet robes that melted in the red light of the setting sun. He looked as if he was in the prime of his life, but his eyes spoke of age and experience. He too had a stick in his hand, a feet and a half in length and with an ornate handle. The tip was glowing with a spark of blue-green fire, its light revealing the hard lines of his face.

“Lynus Potter.” The figure spoke with only a hint of a thick Austrian accent. His tone betrayed nothing, a flat statement.

“Grindelwald. Gellert.” The old man answered in a calm voice, his accent perfectly British. “It has been a long time.”

“And such hard work it was, to arrange this encounter,” The German informed him. “One could almost think you were trying to avoid it. You know why I am here. Bear with me now, Lynus, and you will not make us both regret meeting here. Where is it?

“Where is what?” Lynus spoke calmly.

The German let out a sigh of impatience. “You want me to spell it out? Your family’s treasure, Lynus. Ignotus Peverell’s gift.”

“Peverell?” The old man asked. “An old name, Gellert. Old as magic, and as dangerous.”

“A Peverell was your ancestor, Lynus. I assume you’d know best.” The German smiled. “I know you have it. I know it’s been in your family in the last millennium. Do you deny this? Do you deny that you have the last of the Deathly Hallows?”

“You are on a path that may only lead to ruin, Gellert.” The old man said calmly, emphasizing each of his words. “Do not mistake me. This quest – this foolish ambition to unite the Hallows have driven men mad before us. Take some care, Gellert, or this will destroy you!”

“Destroy me?” The man laughed. “Look at me! You’re younger than me, Lynus, and look at me now, both of us nearly past what is a wizard’s prime – look! I have beaten time, Lynus. I have beaten age. It is only a matter of time before I finally beat death itself!”

“Listen to yourself!” There was a tone to the old man’s voice, almost pleading. “This is insanity! Your quest for immortality brings nothing but death with it, Gellert – please! There is still time – ”

“Time?” The laugh was harsher this time, crueler. “Europe burns. The whole world burns, Lynus… say instead that it is time at last. The muggles have started their war to end all wars, and now is the time for us to finally rise, rise and teach them who are their righteous masters!”

“Rise up under you, of course!” The old man spat. “All this for power, Gellert? All this blood – fire and smoke and blood, for what? Greed, Gellert, greed… it’s not our freedom you want, but a throne – ”

The German spread his hands wide, his wand held in a casual way yet still pointed at the man who was called Lynus. “Who else to lead them? I am the greatest wizard that lives in this world, Lynus, and I intend to remain so till the stars burn out!”

“Insanity, Gellert! Pure madness! All you shall bring to the wizards is death! You involve us in the muggles’ petty war – ”

“Ah, but this is our opportunity! I once thought like you, Lynus – believe me or not, I did not involve myself with the previous war just because I thought it prudent not to interfere in muggle affairs.” The man laughed self-deprecatingly. “But I am older now, in age if not in appearance, and hopefully a little wiser. The changes the war brought, Lynus! The opportunities! And I saw exactly how I would orchestrate my rise to ultimate power. The muggles help me, Lynus – the Reich helps me, knowingly or otherwise, and it will help me seize my dominion over the wizarding nations. Nothing stands in my path. Nothing!”

“Someone does,” the old man retorted through clenched teeth. “Someone we both used to know, you perhaps more intimately than me.”

“Yes, of course. Albus.” Gellert spoke softly. “Albus. He was a fool. He refused me, refused to share my vision over a small family grievance. A fool.”

“He is wiser by far compared to you,” Lynus shot back. “He knows what life means, Gellert, and chooses to nurture it; instead of becoming like you and inflicting nothing but death and destruction on the world.”

“He too will die, in his turn,” Grindelwald said with unmarred confidence. “None can oppose me, Lynus. I am unbeatable.” He brandished his wand, his touch on it almost a lover’s caress. “No doubt you recognize it, yes?”

“I know what it is, and what it has achieved, and what it had helped its owners gain over the centuries.” Lynus sneered. “A bloody death, Gellert. Always and only a bloody death.”

“Ah, but I will not die, Lynus.” Gellert smiled, a smile that quickly faded into stoic determination. “The Deathstick is a great tool, but it does not yield death’s secrets. I need the other Hallows, Lynus. I need the Resurrection Stone, aye, an army of Inferi shall greatly help my campaign. But I need your cloak most of all. The cloak that protects its true owner from all eyes, even death’s own gaze. I need it, Lynus. You must give it to me.

“I cannot.” Lynus visibly braced himself, his breaths coming faster. Grindelwald continued to appraise him for a moment, smiling.

“But we have known each other for so long, Lynus. I shall regret putting an end to you, after all this time. Why do you force me?”

“I told you, Gellert, I-”

“IMPERIO!” Lynus was interrupted as the Dark Lord’s wand suddenly exploded into motion, jabbing forward as the Unforgivable burst forth. Lynus crumpled to his knees, almost choking as the curse tried to rip his will away. He forced it back, inch by inch, asserting his mind against the furious mental onslaught. The pressure increased then, until he thought his head would burst, and he couldn’t breathe-

“Bring me the Cloak, Lynus.” The Dark Lord intoned, the voice resonating and building in his ears. It whispered to him, compelling, seductive. Bring me the cloak, Lynus. Bring me the cloak. Bring me-

“GET OUT OF MY MIND!” He managed to shout, finally succeeding to shield his mind against the pressure that fought to suppress his very identity. The assault ceased suddenly, leaving him gasping and disoriented on the floor. He scooped up the wand he had dropped on the floor, as quickly as he could, fearful of another attack. Yet when he looked up, he found his attacker watching him motionlessly.

“You will never get your hands on that. Albus won’t allow it.” He tried to speak with confidence, but it came out as a croak.

“So… you do not have it. Who does? Albus?” The violet eyes narrowed, flared red in the shadowy room. “But you couldn’t have… the third Hallow can only be given to descendants or won in battle. That is the legend.”

“I gave it to him, to keep it in trust until you are defeated.” Lynus stood up slowly, his eyes on the Elder wand all the while as it shifted in the dark Lord’s hand to track his path.

“You know better than that, Lynus.” Grindelwald spoke softly. “You are a good occlumens, but you are no match for me. You never were…Crucio.

“PROTEGO!” Lynus shouted, attempting a hasty block as the blood red curse exploded from the Deathstick, a silver mist pouring forth from the tip of his wand and starting to coalesce. But the curse was too near and too fast, and the half-formed shield offered little resistance, fracturing into little silver shards that dissolved into smoke as the curse passed through them.

Pain.

It was all Lynus knew then, as the blood red coursed through him, picking out nerves and burning its way from end to end of his aged body with hideous force. He tried to clamp his jaws so hard he thought they would shatter, tried not to scream but the pain was too much and it had forced his mouth open and oh god oh god oh god he was screaming and his lungs were burning as he choked on bile and blood –

The flood of agony stopped as suddenly as it had come, and for a moment that absence shattered his nerves more than the curse itself could have. He whimpered, quietly, sure that he wouldn’t be able to utter a word again. He saw Grindelwald step towards him through the misty fog that surrounded his vision.

He staggered up on his knees, trying to ignore the agony burning through his body. The wand in the Dark Lord’s hand flashed again in the corner of his vision, and the beam of iridescent blue that shot forth struck his abdomen with a staggering impact. He found himself on the floor, blinking blood from his eyes.

The wand was somehow still in his hand, and he poured forth all his skill into the next shield, his magic coalescing the air into thick azure as a scarlet arc of lightning struck, and the curse shattered into harmless red sparks.

The Dark Lord sighed. “You know this annoys me, Lynus,” he said resignedly. “Annoys and… saddens, to do this.”

“You were always such a fool, Gellert.” Lynus forced the words out, even as exhaustion tried to creep up on him, his body too old and battered to sustain the ancient magic that shielded him from his opponent’s wrath. “Always, always, such a fool. You thought just because you had mastered some petty spells that can maim and murder, you were fit for the mantle of a Dark Lord, of all things… such a proud, little, egotistical fool. You are a psychopath, Gellert, not nearly the avatar of darkness you would like all of us to believe – and in all your vaunted power, you can’t even master energy enough to breach this old man’s shield – ”

Another wave of power struck his shield, a cone of magenta that burned the air as it traveled its path. The old man smiled with all the arrogance he could muster behind his shield, knowing that even the opaque curtain of energy would not keep him from his enemy’s vision.

Yet the green death he had expected did not come, and his apprehension grew with each passing moment, as he felt his reserves slowly and inexorably burning their way to nothing. The rush of battle would soon fade, he knew. And then… and then would be a reckoning.

“You are so determined to die, Lynus,” came a chuckle that had no humour in it, and Lynus grew afraid.

“You thought to make me kill yourself, Lynus?” The dark Lord asked mildly as he gave a grand flourish with his wand, and a thin beam of almost invisible light shot forward, connecting with the center of his shield. “But alas, I am not so irascible now as I had been in my youth. And to kill you first – why, that would be a sorry deed, my friend, while all the information I need lies within your mind. I am afraid that I would have to decline your offer.”

Lynus poured all he had into his shield, calculating furiously in his mind. The pale beam wasn’t costing him to deflect, almost as if the Dark Lord did not wish to break his shield. He considered dropping the shield putting his wand to his own throat. Even suicide would be better than laying his mind open to his enemy. But he wasn’t so sure of his chances, not with the superhuman speed he had seen a minute before.

Potter’s luck, he thought grimly. Potter’s luck. It turns bad once, and then you die.

Then even suicide became out of the question.

The German gave a twist with his wand, and his shield unravelled, the thin beam of energy suddenly leeching the energies of the shield into itself. He could only watch, amazed, as the azure colour of his shield faded away into nothing. The beam turned pale bronze, then flickered, finally turning the colour his shield had been before. He felt his power slowly draining away, and with a horrified shout he jerked his wand away.

Another curse struck his hand, and the snapping of bones was loud in his ears.

He watched as the burly man came forward and pointed the slender wand at his heart, trying not to scream. And then he could no longer stop himself.

“I regret it.” He heard the soft words as he struggled through the black pain that was drowning him. The curse had stopped, but the pain still throbbed through his old and frayed nerves. “This was the quickest way for me to read you. Pain always is.”

There was no sorrow in that voice. Nothing at all.

“Gellert – please -” The rasping words stuck in the old man’s injured throat. He began to cough.

Legillimens.”

It was seconds perhaps, or hours, when the rush of images finally stopped – Lynus no longer knew. The Dark Lord sat in his heels beside his prone body, his features pensive.

“So you really have no idea where I might find the Stone. It’s a pity, Lynus. You never were of any great use. You could have been one of my faithful, could have joined in the war to bring the Magical Kind all their former glory. But you refused to see the light.”

“I choose – freedom – Gellert – peace…” The hacking cough was back, and it was getting worse. Black spots had begun to swim in Lynus’ vision, flitting in and out.

“There can be no peace without freedom, Lynus. And there can be no freedom without blood.” Grindelwald leaned forward so Lynus could see him better, his eyes blazing crimson. “I will take the Hallow from your son. I must. It is my destiny.”

“Don’t – hurt – him -”

“I shall give him a chance,” said the Dark Lord coldly. “If he chooses to follow his father’s path – then he shall follow you unto death, Lynus, and no protection will ever be enough for him.”

The shadows lengthened in the room for some moments, the silence only interrupted by Lynus’ occasional coughing. Then the Dark Lord sighed, and touched his wand to the injured wizard’s neck.

“You – will – not –win, Gellert, nothing can – come – of – this – war…” Lynus tried to speak coherently, for what he knew would be the last time in his life. Gellert smiled sadly.

“Only nothing can come of nothing, old friend. For anything worthwhile, blood always needs to be shed. Sleep gently, Lynus… we will not see each other again.”

Death arrived swift and silent and painlessly precise, and as his world burned from green to endless black, Lynus found himself rather absurdly grateful for that.

"The Year of Their War", posted on June 27, 2008 at 12:17 am
Quick Review