Chapter 14 : The Mystic
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A massive explosion had swallowed an entire block. There were a countless number of muggles and wizards trapped within - Harry could sense them. 'Wizards,' Harry paused - "The Ministry!"
Harry began to descend, but just then several other wizards suddenly apparated onto the scene: Four - Eight - Fifteen of them and more apparating all the while. Harry did not recognize any except for one, a one Sir Edward Byron.
Harry watched on as the new arrivals immediately went to work. Some put out the fires while others took to the perimeter to ward off the already gathering, curious spectators. Most worked with Byron though as they began to tunnel their way into the collapsed Ministry.
Harry was about to continue down to help when something else caught his attention. It was just a faint glimmer, a whisp, but something.... important? From his view he could see down several of the streets. It was utter chaos below, smoke, rubble, people fleeing widly, this way and that.
The whisper had been too small. Hundreds, if not thousands of muggles were running, panicking, every which way. It was impossible to tell where it had come from, but the feeling - it was distinct, and cold. Different. Not completely unlike a feeling he'd experienced before, but here?
In his search, Harry's eyes eventually settled on one man inparticular. He was moving down a narrow street. At first glance, there was no obvious reason he should stand out. He was just like all the rest, scurrinyg to flee, but there was something odd about him, something unnatural about his movements. He was hustling hurridly, but at an uneven pace, tripping over his own two feet. At first Harry thought that the man had been injured, or just plain drunk, but as Harry drew closer.. it was strange. The man was moving at an odd pace, as if he were being restrained and was desparate to break free... as if some invisible forcefield was holding back a rage and power Harry could not grasp.
Harry drew closer still and could see that the hunched man was wearing a long brown overcoat that hung to his ankles and a matching fedora pulled low over his eyes. This only deepened Harry's suspicions.
Harry drew ever closer to the man. He hovered over the very edges of the buildings, trying to get a good look at him, but the man was moving fast and had his coat's collar flipped up to leave his face in a shadow. But there was something odd... something off about this man. Something, was up.
Harry could see an alley-way ahead and decided to lower down there so that maybe he could get a good look as the guy walked by. He waited in the shadows. He waited and he waited, far longer than it would have taken the man to walk by four different times. Had he turned?
Harry edged out to sneak a peak, but just as he leaned forward, something grabbed him from behind.
Harry was shocked. One, that someone had managed to sneak up on him, but then two, whatever had ahold of him was strong. Really strong.
Harry had no time to react. He had no more than felt the man's grip then with a horrible snarl, his assailant lifted Harry over his head and hurled him back down, further into the alley - tossing him like a ragdoll. Harry had been tossed, forty meters, easily, before he collided with a large metal dumpster with a loud crash. Leaving a massive dent in the can's side, Harry then crumpled over onto the ground.
The blow had been harsh, but Harry was still aware enough that he knew that he had to get to his wand - and now. He wouldn't get the chance. While rolling onto his back, Harry witnessed the man leap from where he had thrown Harry, from the alley's mouth at the street - and just like that, he was on him.
If the man's walking had seemed unsteady and restrained, his bound was it's reverse with gracefulness. With the agility of a tiger, the man leapt and covered the distance with a single bound, coming right down on him.
But the man was not a man. A man did not posses such strength and did not screech such a terrible snarl. A man could not leap in such a way. Harry didn't have the time to react, he just threw his hands up, bracing for the impact...
Harry was cast back with a fury once more, destroying what was left of the dumpster, driving everything back into the brick wall. Everything cracked and went black. Harry was pretty sure he could feel a warm stream flowing down the back of his head and neck. He was sure he'd broken something. It was hard enough for him to keep his consciousness alone, but then in his hands...
Not in his hands, but he held him - he was holding, no - controlling him. Not a him. A it. A beast. It was thrashing about, madly, furious with rage. It was kicking and clawing and biting and spitting and snarling, eager to rip Harry limb from limb. And it was strong, really strong. Stronger than any man, but some how Harry had him. But then, how long could he hold him? The beast was fighting madly and Harry could feel his magical hold slipping. Harry'd be dead in a split second if he lost him.
He was strong. Much stronger than Harry - a hundred times stronger, but not magically - physically. Harry had to focus all his energy on the thing to hold it - and he didn't have much left to spare. There was no question about it, if it got it's hands on him...
It. Harry didn't know what "it" was. It was a hideous beast... of a man, or in the form of a man. A demon. As it screeched, in what appeared to be in pure agony, it spat a dark and foul spit on Harry. It's mouth was an eerie purple, as were it's veins, which he could see pulsing, right through it's pale, opaque white skin. It was practically transparent and there wasn't a hair on it's body. And it's eyes.. it's eyes were the worst. A cloudy blood red. And then it's teeth...
Harry slipped. The beast swiped and sliced Harry's robe in four clean cuts, right to his skin. Harry had to act, and act fast. Harry pushed, he thrust his arms outward, casting out a fierce eruption of enegry between them which sent the creature hurdling backwards with a terrible screech.
Immediately he scrambled to his feet, wand aready, but the beast was already on his too and moving towards Harry and fast. Harry loosed a bright red blast at it that took out half the alley's left wall but the beast was already to the right. Harry cast again but missed - and then it was too late, the beast too fast. Unnatrually fast.
Harry apparated. It saved him, but the beast was just too fast. Harry couldn't imagine such speed, but before he could even reform and spin around, it was on him again.
"Protego!" Harry threw up in defence. It wasn't much, the two of them toppling over and over each other, but it was enough for the moment. The creature then kicked, catching Harry in the gut and sent him flying.
Harry landed hard and rolled to a stop, lying in a still slump. A low purr echoed down the alley. Hunched to one side, the beast creeped forward, writhing his claw like hands over and over before him. There was a clicking and snarling sound. The creature's teeth. Harry had seen them.. fangs.
Struggling for breath, Harry finally managed to spin over. The beast leapt. Harry fired and missed again. The beast bounced off the adjacent wall and leapt high into the air. Harry jumped up and released a broad blast of red energy. The beast is caught by it, stunned, but torpedoes forward at him like a rock nonetheless.
Harry only just managed to leap aside but it still caught in the explosion of the crash. He loses his wand and just as he suspected, the beast had already shooken off the curse and was getting back to it's feet. It leapt again and Harry could do nothing more but throw his hands up. Harry caught him again. The mass of thrashing, pale white flesh. But it was close to being over. Harry was drained. It was only a matter of seconds. The beast was slipping, slipping...
A bright light shown from behind the creature - Harry hardly had time to move. The blast was powerful, a stunning spell strong enough to kill. It struck with an explosion, followed by an implosion of the alley's two brick walls.
Harry was shaken, only half concious, buried in the rubble. He knew he had to get to his feet, if he didn't he was dead, but at the same, he could hardly move. He was spent. Pausing to catch his breath, Harry slowly began to push the loose brick off himself. When he had one hand free, he summoned his wand and the rest was that.
The beast could take him at any moment. And whoever had cast that spell, that was no average wizard, but neither, no one was there. Harry was all alone in the dark, destroyed alley.
Harry fell back to his knees, weak with exhaustion. Muggle sirens could be heard growing louder. They'd be on him soon. He had to move. What was this beast? Who was the wizard. Things were spiraling out of control. Kaan had regained the Key, he had Hermione, and the Ministry.. it had been destroyed, no telling how many innocent killed and mamed. And then this beast, and this unkown wizard. Harry cursed himself and his feable plan. He was a fool!
Time was running out and Harry had no answers, he had no help. His savior, the one with all the answers - Kaan had taken her. Harry needed answers. He gripped at the hard, round ring secured within his pocket, his one small victory in this disaster of a plan. Harry had gotten the ring, Circe's Seal. He had overcome the odds. He could find his answers there. And with a loud crack, Harry was gone.
. . . .
Harry had come a long way in these short couple of years, from his time at Hogwarts and Triwizard Cups and facing off with Death Eaters and Voldemort. Oh how he still relished the idea of knowing then what he knew now, but he now had new challenges before him, more daunting challenges, if that were even possible.
Even after all he had learned, from his travels and from his time in the Trials, chasing the Scrolls, apparating over long distances was no easy feat, especially when you were as drained as Harry currently was. But, as he had learned from an old wizard in Latvia, there were easier ways to cover long distances. Harry termed it "Leap Frogging." At one moment Harry was knelt in the alley in London, the next on the banks of the English Channel. Then, across the channel in France. To the outskirts of Dijon. In a valley amidst the Alps near Bern. On the Steppe in Slovenia. In the forest in Serbia. And then finally, Greece.
Harry stood on the ground with his head tilted back, staring far up the cliff face. It was now late into the night, pressing morning. He looked tired and worn, but there was still so much to do.
His feet lifted off the ground and Harry began to wobble before he caught himself. He was weak and this was dangerous, but he had to act. Time was of the essence. Steading himself, Harry began to ascend at an ever quickening pace. Finally he crested the plateau's edge and looked upon the ancient ruins of the site. It was the remains of an old Greek acropolis.
Piles of brick laid testimony to long ago towers. Paths of stone wove between empty shells of fallen buildings. And at the heart of it all, two massive stubs of once tall and grand doric columns stood at the peak of a wide staircase. They were the gateway to the temple within.
At first the rock and stone appeared just as they should - weathered and worn. But as he came forward and touched down upon the sacred ground, the images rippled. The site was blanketed by magic.
Harry began down the path of the Sacred Way. As he moved, the ruins warped and phased back into their original ancient, mystic beauty. The site was completely abandoned, all but for himself... and one other. He could feel her up ahead. He cringed and his stomach knotted at the thought of her. He should not face her like this, weak, but he had won her prize, her cost to his answers.
Harry hesitated up the steps to the temple. This was not his first time here, but the grandeur of it still caused him to pause and admire the structure. Harry clenched his fist tighter about the object in his hand - tighter until his knuckles went white. He wished Hermione was here with him, he needed her courage. But she was not here. She was being held captive, in the hands of one of the darkest brutes in all of history. Harry swallowed with resolve and finished the last few steps to continue on into the temple.
Old torches came to life as he entered but it was still very dark. He could not see her. Each step echoed sharply across the marbled floors and walls. You could - how does the saying go - hear a pin drop. But she did not make a sound - not one single sound.
"Έχετε έφερε το δαχτυλίδι? (Have you brought me the ring?)" an old and high voice echoed aloud in greek, catching Harry off guard and causing him to come up short. It was booming. Harry paused and clenched at his head.
"Ναι (Yes)," Harry answered before she struck him again.
Every sound seemed to be amplified ten fold in this slick marbled structure. His breath, his heart beat, his foot steps. He felt vulnerable, but still, he could sense her dead ahead. Harry pressed forward.
The marble gave to rock, then, "Whoa!" Harry slipped, pebbles rolling beneath his feet. The room was darkest yet, here at the middle. Harry had nearly missed it. A wide fissure ran before Harry, disappearing off into the shadows both right and left.
"Αγαπημένη οδηγός μου (My dearest wizard)," she cooed. Her sensual voice was smoothe and flowed like honey. It was the perfect weapon to entrap you in. "Ήξερα ότι δεν θα με απογοητεύσει (I knew that you would not fail me)!"she was excited. She laughed a high, chilling laugh, overcome with glee. A tingle was sent down Harry's spine.
"Γεια σας, Πυθία (Hello, Pythia)," he offered as calmly as he could. Pythia. The Priestess of this temple.
"Ελάτε τώρα, δεν πειράζει να με κακό μάγο! Επιτρέψτε μου να το δω, επιτρέψτε μου να δούμε το δαχτυλίδι (Come now, you naughty wizard! Let me see it, let me see the ring)!" her voice flirted with him, hooking him in, but at the same time, there was a dark undertone.
Harry would have done anything for that voice. But this was, afterall, what he came here to do. The ring was already in his hand, clenched it tight within his right fist.
"Your ring," Harry held it out. Immediately, some kind of spirit - nothing he could fend off - fell down upon him and retreived the ring.
"Ah, hehe!" she exclaimed in glee. Again, Harry could not see her, but he could sense her slip the ring onto a would be hand. A shockwave rippled forward, knocking Harry onto his back. He hit his head - a blast of light - Harry had to shield his eyes. A strong draft swept the room, followed by a cloud of mist.
Lost in this confusion, the ground seemed to tilt and Harry began to slip towards the fissure.
He knew it. He knew it didn't make any sense, the ground could not just tilt, this was just another of her illusions, but as Harry slipped and flailed about, try all he may, he could not get a grip on the rock beneath him.
His eyes shot open just in time to see his feet slipping into the fissure. Harry scrambled - but just as his feet should have fallen, they caught hold somehow and then Harry was bolted upright. Harry was a bit shocked, but nevertheless she was there, just before him.
She glew bright. Light seemed to radiate right from her. Harry had to lift his hands to shield his eyes. She was floating, hovering a few feet off the ground, just on the other side of the fissure. Her presence was overwhelming. The ring had brought on a new power about her.
Harry peeked through a small crack between his fingers as he held both his hands out before his eyes. The Pythia was stunning. Her skin itself seemed to be glowing. A fine, thin white toga billowed back behind her, as did her bright red hair. She held out her hand, allowing Harry to admire the beautiful ring fit upon her middle finger. A sparkle straffed across her eyes.
Harry was blown back a step again as a geyser of hot steam erupted from the fissure. Harry fell back a few more cautionary steps as it continued to billow out a cloud of steam. It did not phase the Pythia, not at all. On the contrary, her ruby red lips curled into an even greater, deviant smile as she floated forward into the cloud.
Her body began to flow, moving with the steam - until gradually her movements turned into a more graceful dance. Her lean body rocked back and forth. Her arms and legs swayed and stepped through the air. Her head rolled and bobbed. Harry was so entranced he could even hear the song of her dance.
Finally the geyser abated and her dance slowed. Harry shook off the trance. Pythia fell back and began to sweep to the right.
She remained hovering above the fissure in the ground. Fumes erupted from the fracture, shrowding her in its haze. The Pythia inhaled deeply, taking in the essence of the vapor's qualities. When she finally spoke once more, her voice was booming and enchanting. She did not necessarily speak out loud, but Harry could hear her all the same, as a voice ringing in his head - as all that was in his head.
"Ahh," her voice soothed, "you no longer seek the Scrolls, you fox, you!"
"No," Harry responded.
"This was not part of the bargain."
"I have brought you the Ring."
"Yes," she swayed in the mist, "my brave wizard. And at a great price! Well then, what is it that the mighty Peverell wishes to know now?"
Harry had not noticed it at first, but she was no longer speaking greek, nor was he. He could never catch it right at first, only the slight hiss ever gave it away.
Harry, never one for history, had gone to great lengths however to learn her story. It is said that the Pythia derives her foresight from the monstrous serpent Python, who was long ago slain by the mighty wizard Apollo and left to rot deep within the chasm, and who's magic is delivered up within the vapors of the fissure. In ancient times, only a rare few of the High Priests could interpret the Pythia's gibberish. Parsel tongue. Harry forced a smile at the thought of the gift he'd received from Voldemort.
"...how to defeat him?" the Pythia cackled loudly. "You? Defeat the great Kaan?" She laughed madly at this. "I am afraid you cannot defeat him. It is not you're fate."
Harry grimaced, he would not accept this.
She laughed wilder still. "Oh, my dear boy, not all is lost. There is still one, one who may defeat the Beast."
"Tell me who!" Harry demanded.
"I sense desperation from you, dear boy. A loss.. and a longing.. for the one you love?" her smile widened. "Oh to be young and in love.." she trailed off.
"Tell me how to save her!" Harry again shouted in Parsel. "I have done as you have commanded of me..." Harry bowed before the Pythia. She laughed aloud once more.
"Noble. Courageous. Honorable, you are. Pain. Defeat. Destruction, is the path you are on, young magus..."
Harry snapped back up at her with anger and fury in his eyes. This is not what he was wanting to hear. This is not why he had sacrficed for the ring. She laughed even harder in light of his response.
"Born into the struggle, you have proven yourself worthy, son of Merlin. Powerful you are...but young in age and wisdom. You cannot defeat Him."
Harry hissed back at her.
"Blinded by rage, one cannot see their enemy; misled in hate, one cannot find their adversary; stunted by fear, one cannot face their foe," the Pythia chortled. She hesistated for a moment, drawing out the longing suspense in Harry's heart. He could only see her face, and the Pythia could see it too, through him. Her face...Hermione's face. Failure was not an option.
"You seek to overstep your purpose, young magus. There is only one..." the Pythia finally went on, "only one to fall the Beast and only one to thwart His high servant. To save your love, you must embark on another journey, son of Peverell. You must seek the King of the Magi. Only by blood. Blood of blood to defeat the hellion."
None of this made any sense to Harry, she was speaking in riddles. He dared the unthinkable. He tried to push into her thoughts. Harry was immediately struck. All went black...then to white...he could hear her voice.
"He will not face his Bane willingly, son of Potter. The brute of your arm nor the power of your wand will deliver you. You must seek the only quality that is acheivable by all but seeked the least. You must pursue the most obvious but uncertain guidance. You must follow the clearest, most unheeded voice. Once you have faced all that is to come, when it is done, when all the blood has been let, when fire has consumed all that it may and there is nothing left but ash and brimstone, when He has returned and The prophecy has been fulfilled, then you will know you have saved her and may rest finally at peace...or have joined her in damnation..."
Harry stirred atop the stone. He felt drunk - hungover. The morning light was only just beginning to break the night's darkness, but Harry was no closer to his goal. Harry rubbed at his temples, then at his eyes. His head ached. He had just awoken from the strangest of dreams. Harry sat up and looked around. He was sitting in the midst of some ancient Greeks ruins. He was furious with himself, he had already lost so much time.
"Εσύ εκεί! (Hey, you there!)" someone yelled at him in greek from afar. Harry looked to where the voice had come from. It was a security guard. The guard disappeared behind a stone structure in his pursuit of the trespasser. The gaurd would spend the next thirty minutes trying to find the young man amongst the ruin, but he would not spot a trace of him. He would never know that the trespasser was already thousands of kilometers away, back in Great Britain.
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