Chapter 9 : I is for Ignotus
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I is for Ignotus
I long thought my brothers to be fools. Truly, they'd had no idea what they were getting themselves into. I loved them dearly, but there was nothing I could do to help them if they were so stubborn as to refuse my help. If one really expects to play death into his hands, precautions must be made, after all.
But did either of them truly understand the seal that they were making? Did I? My brothers and I, we were three inventors, each of us admittedly self-center in our intentions behind inventing. For years we worked together, each with our own hopes and ambitions. Antioch wanted power, to become known as important, strong, and intelligent. Cadmus, always the romantic, wanted to you his inventions to woo a lady he'd had his eyes on for ages. As for me, I see myself as the practical man among us. My goal was nothing more or less than to set myself up for a successful, productive life in which I could support myself and whatever family I would have in the future.
As it transpired, we all found what we were looking for through our inventions. Antioch found himself famous and well-respected, known to be capable of fantastic feats of magic. I settled down on the coast, alone for the time being and rich beyond my wildest dreams. The young woman whom Cadmus had been trailing found herself first in awe of his intelligence, then of his passion, dedication, and selflessness. After courting him for some time, she discovered herself to be quite as in love with my brother as he was with her. The pair of them married. In the life of the Peverell brothers, we inventors three, all was well.
But the desires of the human heart are fickle. It tells us repeatedly, “If you only had this one more thing, you’d be happy,” but the instant that is obtained, it turns to something else. Antioch’s heart once promised him that fame would bring him happiness. But fame is an invention of humanity and can never satisfy. He discovered he wanted more. Cadmus’ heart promised that his wife would gift him with true joy. But his wife was every bit as human as the rest of us and, like all other things of this world, was never destined to be permanent. To him, even in death she was beautiful. The only thing that drove him after that day was to bring her back to where he was. His heart promised him happiness if only he could bring her back.
I’ve always been an observer and that, I think is what, however temporarily, saved me from the same fate. I think she understood, Cadmus’ wife, better than any of us, which may well have been why her sister spoke those words at her funeral, those fateful words: The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death*. Those words sparked so much in us, we inventors three. They ignited a flame in our hearts that led Cadmus to choke out through his tears, “I’ll do it. I’ll defeat death and--and I’ll bring her back.” At the time, I didn’t understand and, foolishly, nodded my agreement when Antioch promised our brother than we would help him.
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death*.
Each of us understood this to mean different things. We understood a great many things differently from one another and had long ago realised that the best way for us to collaborate was to invent separately, then find a way for our inventions to work together. So that’s what we did. I don’t think any of us anticipated the results.
It was Antioch who first owled, promising that he’d found a way to put an end to death. As it transpired, he’d invented a wand. This wand was astoundingly powerful. Indeed, whoever possessed it could stave off even the strongest enemy, making him nigh invincible.
Cadmus tried to be happy for our brother, to hide his grief that this was no different from any other magic. It could not raise the dead. I, on the other hand, had eyes only for the target my dear brother Antioch had painted on his back.From that moment on, I had a new goal in mind. I wanted to save Antioch from death and this became more important to me than bringing back Cadmus’ wife ever had been.
In the time between then and when I next saw my brothers, I met a woman and found myself positively enamoured with her. Before the rest of the world heard news of Antioch’s remarkable wand, we were wed. By the time Cadmus owled to tell us that he’d made a breakthrough, we had a son named Asa together. The day I finished the invention always intended for him, Cadmus and I received word that Antioch had been killed in his sleep. At his funeral, we were informed that his wand was nowhere to be found. I saw that which my brother did not: death was not something to be bargained with. I set my eyes on certainty.
Cadmus set his eyes on his wife. It had been many years since he’d last done so by then. Indeed, I didn’t believe him at first, but then he handed me the stone and I saw her, too. My only response was to smile weakly and congratulate him. I wondered if he’d noticed, as I had, that she wasn’t fully there, that what he saw in front of him, however real she may be, was just a shadow of the woman he’d once known.
Eventually, he must have. Otherwise, how would he have been driven mad by it? His wife was no longer of this world but he himself was. He spent the rest of his life trying to serve both his wife and the living world; no one can serve two masters, for he will love on and hate the other**. My dear brother Cadmus could never despise his wife, so it became life itself that he hated. Eventually, he despised life so much that he took his own so as to be with the woman whom he had allowed to be master over him.
I met with the only child he and his wife had together, a beautiful young woman who had been brought up by her aunt as her father allowed himself to go mad over the mere memory of her mother. We were to plan Cadmus’ funeral. I confess I had an ulterior motive behind meeting with her, for I had found myself in possession of a rather peculiar stone. This stone, this invention of her father’s, toyed with the very idea of death. But it could not know life, no matter how it could simulate it.
By this point, many had heard Cadmus speak of his wife: back to life, with him once more. Surely, some of those he’d informed simply thought him mad, but those who remembered the brilliant inventor he’d once been were stirred. Already, some townsfolk who had lost loved ones had begun to inquire about what, precisely, his secret was. I had to keep the secret from being outed. So, I sought the resurrection stone, reminding myself that even this magic could not truly bring my brothers back to me. I had to be stealthy so that the Ministry would not look into what I had taken. My own invention, the one with which I’d hoped to save Antioch, made this easy.
My plan had very few steps, the final of which involved Cadmus’ daughter. The next one, however, found me, hidden by the veil of my invention, at his wife’s grave. I was after one thing. I needed her wedding ring.
And there I was, sitting by a woman in her early twenties, planning her father’s funeral. It was not the right time yet. As I spoke with her, I felt an overwhelming rush of guilt at never having been present in my niece’s life. In our first meeting, she wept over never having known either of her parents and how much her father had suffered before he died. In our second meeting, we fumbled over writing a eulogy for a man who had been dead for decades before he took his own life. In our third meeting, the woman who raised her reminded me of what had taken control of us, we inventors three, for so long.
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death*.
My understanding began to slip. We'd all thought we knew what it meant. And we all thought it was something different. When I went home, my mind skirted about, trying to make sense of it all. To Antioch, it meant becoming more powerful than death, so he had invented a wand that could defeat anyone. To Cadmus, it meant having control over who should live on and who should not, so he invented a stone that could bring people back according to his choosing. To me, it meant that I could hide away, avoid death by becoming unnoticable myself. But was that really what I wanted, now that I'd loat both of my brothers? Did any one of us truly know how to destroy death?
As I let my thoughts out, all in a jumble, to my wife, I felt my heart sink into my stomach. To this point, I hadn't flagrantly played with death as Antioch and Cadmus had. But did I really think it was the right thing, or was I just a coward? Death, after all, was an enemy and deserved to be destroyed. I hadn't noticed Asa, who was now fifteen, enter the room as I asked my wife how I could master death if my brothers had been so wrong about it.
"Didn't you say that your inventions always worked best when you put them together? You and your brothers?"
I froze dead. My sin was absolutely right. Cadmus, Antioch, and myself always found ourselves at our most brilliant when we put our thoughts together. I could not destroy death by merely hiding from it. Antioch couldn't destroy it by battling it head-on. Cadmus couldn't defeat it by denying its existence. Cadmus lacked the power, Antioch lacked the stealth, and I lacked the courage. But our inventions were much greater than the sum of their parts.
My stomach was flipping about. I had two of the three necessary pieces. After all, I'd never fully followed through with ky plan for the resurrection stone. So I had both Cadmus' invention and my own. I needed only Antioch's. My former plan was meaningless. I attended Cadmus' funeral, his stone in pocket, and hoarded his wife"s wedding band as if it were my own.
As soon as the funeral ended, I was free to go. I was determined to give meaning to the deaths of my older brothers. It became an obsession. The wand...I had to find the wand. I tracked it the only way I could, across the trail of blood it had left in its wake. I was not as prepared as I'd anticipated when I found its end.
He looked so young, this man who had doubtless committed murder to gain possession of his wand. In fact, he was scarcely older than Asa. Could I bring myself to do it? I felt my very heart split in two. He had so much life left in him. But I had to destroy death, so that life would need to end prematurely.
I was not Antioch. I was a coward. But I had cunning and stealth on my side. Hiding under my own invention, I killed him without his ever even noticing my existence. I pulled his wand from his pocket, feeling an odd sort of elation. In spite of what it had cost, I had done it!
I hid myself away, still using my invention as my disguise. I held the wand in my right hand, Cadmus' stone in my left, and my invention over myself. Heart glittering, I turned the stone over three times in the tips of my fingers. And there they were. They seemed neither fully dead nor fully alive. I shoved the thought that they didn't belong there to the back of my mind. It didn't matter. Surrounding my in that moment were my two brothers and, to my surprise and delight, they could not see me even in death. So I had truly succeeded. I was hidden from death itself with my invention.
I lowered the hood from my head, allowing them to see it floating in the air. Antioch looked steadily at me, seemingly unable to speak, looking at once horrified, excited, and deeply remourseful. I tried desperately to read his expression. Cadmus was not meeting my eyes. At long last, I found my voice. "Antioch, Cadmus, I've done it. I-I figured out how to destroy death!"
Cadmus took a deep breath and lifted his gaze to meet my own, "Ignotus..." His voice was gentle, quiet.
"Look! Cadmus--Cadmus, your atone! It brought the two of you back...and Antioch! Now you're both back, this unbeatable wand can--"
"Ignotus," Cadmus' voice was almost pleading, but I would have none of it.
"It can make you belong here! Don't you see? And if death comes back to find you, you can just hide under my cloak, my invisibility cloak, it's--"
"Ignotus!" By now Cadmus was desperate. "Ignotus, please stop."
I froze, my voice caught in my throat. Why would he want me to stop. Didn't he want me to be here, live his life out, by my side, his brother's side as, together, we destroyed death? We could do it. I had everything we needed! I was standing in front of him, the Master of Death. Didn't he understand?
Cadmus stepped forward and pulled the cloak from my shoulders so that my whole body was visible. "Ignotus, you need to stop hiding from the truth. Death may be defeated, but not by you. You are a mortal man with selfish intentions. Only the one who sacrifices himself for the sake of others could ever become the Master of Death. That is not you."
"Ignotus! You became a killer! And for what? Us? No, for your own happiness!" Antioch's shouting caught me off guard. His voice was cracking badly, the entirity of his body shaking.
"I want you back--" I began, my face growing hot.
"But what of us? What about what we want?" Antioch shot back.
"You don't understand," by now, I was panicking. What were my brothers thinking? "I've learned how to beat death!"
"Do you really believe that?" Cadmus asked, voice still full of compassion. "Ignotus, don't you think that we who've experienced it would understand death better than you would? Perhaps death can be defeated, but not by you. But that's alright because you don't need to. It isn't your job. Cadmus and I thought we could master death and look where it got us. Trust me, trying to beat death will only bring you to it sooner."
I felt a creeping sensation on the back of my neck. The tips of my fingers were tingling. My mind was swimming.
"We don’t belong here, Ignotus. Send us home."
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death*.
I hadnt the slightest what it meant I should do with my life. But I, now advanced in years, understood that it dis not mean I could destroy death. The wedding ring Cadmus gave to his wife weighed down my pocket. I was veiled underneath my invention, my infallible invisibility cloak, Anrioch's unbeatable wand in hand. My assailant's back was to me. But I couldn't make a move, not this time. Never again would I take a life for my own selfish gain.
This man had been trailing me for years. He wanted it. The death stick. The wand in my hand. I'd had it for ten years now and this man had been after me for nine of them. I was growing weary. It was not difficult, avoiding death, but I was growing old and wanted it to come. It almost sounded like a relief, death. Why would I want to fight it?
I turned on the spot and, with a crack like a whip, I was gone.
I left them with Asa. O told him what they were and instructed him not to keep the ring. The cloak was his, that he might live a long, full life in spite of my mistakes. The ring, with an odd stone now in place of what was once a diamond, was to go to Cadmus' daughter. I knew Asa would do it. He was a far more righteous man than I had ever been.
The wand was in my pocket. Never again would I raise it. I would stand by and allow the man to take my life. I would die, but it would be in my own time, on my own terms.
I could not destroy death. I no longer wanted to.
I stepped out to face my assailant. At long last, I greeted death. I was not, as I once desired, his superior, but his equal. And, together, we tread into eternity.
*Quoted from Deathly Hallows page 328 (American hardcover publication), which quoted it from 1 Corinthians 15:26 of the Bible
**Quoted from Matthew 6:24 of the Bible
A/N: Written with the idea in mind that the three brothers were actually inventors, as theorised by Dumbledore in Tales of Beedle the Bard.
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