Chapter 1 : Beginning
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There is a place on the Norfolk Coast
Called merry Cromer town,
The home of dear old Glanmore Peakes,
And his battle well renowned.
-old wizarding folk song
To slay a sea serpent – eh, that’s a story.
Sea serpents are wild things, treacherous beasts of the darkest depths of the seas, born from frothing chaos and creeping storms. They linger in the calming shallows of the receding tide, nibble at the boards of the great ships until the wood has been gnawed and the pride of the English navy breaks apart like a child’s makeshift toy, so that the monster can pluck and taste the soldiers like a gluttonous queen at the Yuletide feast.
Worse than the sea beasts are the men who hunt them, and I am sorry to say that your own great, great, great, great, eh, your eight-times-great grandfather was one of them. Perhaps it is more, I have lost track through the centuries.
Children, let me take you back nearly three hundred years, to dark, simple times, when the powers of nature fought a raging war against the rise of the Hydra’s head of progress. This is a tale which blackens the lines of history. I cringe to remember it: I see them in my dreams, the great, dripping coils of the beast, entrails hanging from jagged teeth, the sublime majesty of it as the thing thudded from the water. When it beat the sea with its tail, the tea trembled in the teacups in London. Worse, the youth’s haggard, empty eyes, his bared teeth, his trembling legs, the lights from his wand flashing in deranged patterns on the shells of the rocky shore. Never since the time of David and Goliath was there such an unlikely victor, a lithe and young hero. Yet still, some nights when I hear the crashing of the sea from beyond the doors of this cottage, I recoil in my sleep at the thought of his wicked face.
I have lived far longer than I should: my body is long overdue for a very long sleep. I am far older than I look, but soon the wrinkles in my skin will consume my blood, my bones, my eyes will sink beneath those bushy white eyebrows which you so love to poke and giggle at, child. But if it will soothe the terror in your young eyes, if it will let you escape from the horrors of the world which attends us outside, then perhaps your old Grandfather can tell you the story. The story of Peakes and the Sea Serpent.
I had come to the village of Cromer in the year 1700 for the purposes of a place to hide. Since a disagreement with the Order of the Gentlemen Warlocks (a ridiculous lot, children, I feel blessed by the savior that they were disbanded by Queen Victoria) I had kept away from England for fear of procuring the wrath of the head Gentleman Warlock, a disagreeable sort called Cadmus Bode.
However, after an incident with the King of France I found it prudent to take refuge upon the island of my old haunts. Many of my friends had since died, and old Cadmus Bode was, by all accounts, punishing the poor Irish again, hunting for low-lying Jacobites and, I like to think, being tormented by the ghosts of those poor souls who died in that bloody battle near Drogheda and never found peace. I’ve heard they still walk the contours of the battlefield, clutching beads and crosses and warbling in Latin – now, now, children, do not be frightened. There is nothing be feared from a ghost after all. Why, they are far more frightened of you than you of them!
Though it is to be said, had it not been for Cadmus Bode, many of the magical soldiers would have still had their heads attached to their bodies!
I digress. Cromer at that time was a delightful little village on the sea in Norfolk, and a happy home to both Muggle and magical folk alike. As they often were in those days, the Muggles were peacefully ignorant of wizardkind, and were instead quite invested in tales of the wild forces of the sea. These are sea folk, mind: fishermen and sailors and mariners. They hunted the crabs, cod, fine delicacies for the lords’ tables. Understanding the strange moods of the sea were their livelihood.
This was why the sea serpent was posing such a problem.
Now, children, I beg you to understand that in no way are sea serpents naturally ferocious. I have lived a very long time – yes, you little rascal, that does give me the right to boast – and known many monsters, and the truth is that they are scarcely as fearful as they seem. Take the werewolf, for example – no, do not hide under the blanket, for there is nothing to fear from a werewolf on twenty-nine nights of the month. He is simply a man like any other. And the giants – well, they have been forced into isolation and their brutish natures are cultivated by many years of poverty and desperation. I once knew a giant slayer, and he was one of the vilest beasts known to man.
Humans are often the monsters, children. Creatures do not know any better. They are spurred by hunger and fear and panic. They survive. Humans destroy. Why, as you know, at this very moment there is a terrible wizard doing terrible things in the world.
The sea serpent of Cromer was a majestic beast. I had come by boat from France – for they were quite strict about transport in those days due to the tensions between the two Ministries and the threat of war. When I arrived via the coach from London I was quite thrilled to see it, there upon the crashing waves, dark against the coming storm. The seamen were already beginning to haul back the nets, and one boat jerked terribly as the serpent seized the day’s catch in its mouth and tugged – nearly as if it were trying to play.
But the pull was too great, and in a moment the fishing boat was inches from capsizing. Well, what was I to do, children? There, standing on the pier, my nose filled with the stench of fish. Aye, yes, it was quite horrible, but things smelled worse in those days – the people, the latrines, the streets – oh, I could tell you of smells which would turn your stomachs, children! And so I pulled out my wand and Levitated the boat and the fishermen from the water and placed them safely on the rocks of the beach.
This was a mighty feat of magic, children, but understand that age has its costs and benefits. Now, I am hardly good for a Summoning charm, my magic has long ago trickled away. But then, I was old enough to be experienced, yet still spritely enough to pull off great feats which an ordinary man could not hope to accomplish.
As I tucked my wand away and marched down to introduce myself to the shocked young fishermen I could not help but admire the great serpent. I will describe the thing to you – it had a head like a dragon, but with slippery, soft scales, as you might find on a fish. The head was crowned by large, intelligent eyes, and very sharp teeth. The body was long and fluid, and had small fins which protruded and allowed it to swim very quickly. Some of this description, of course, comes from after the thing was killed, and your ancestor Glanmore Peakes beheaded the creature and paraded his grisly trophy through the village, to much excitement and praise.
It was very rare that a Muggle would see a sea serpent and live to tell the tale, but the creature that guarded the shores of Cromer was reckless that way. Some legends say that the sea serpents are more inclined to attack Muggles than wizards, as if they know that the poor non-magical folk are less capable of defending themselves. The poor fishermen were shaken, babbling in their odd local dialect. I served them each a Calming Draft which I had in among my possessions – the English have always been terribly inadequate in their Potion brewing – and sent them off to the pub to have something which might relax them even further.
It was at that point when I first saw him. He was standing on the edge of the pier, his wand clutched in his hand, his shoulders straight and his stance wide. He was staring out to sea, determination and fervor emanating from him like a strong stench. He wore a leather jerkin strapped across his thin chest. He was the sort of man whom did not seem very threatening at first appearance, but there was something dark and unknown in his eyes which set me on my guard from the moment we met.
The only other important detail, children, is that while I was watching that dreadful slayer down on the docks, there was somebody watching me from the shadows. Had I turned to look, I would have seen a small boy, clad in a dark cloak and wearing shoes, unlike so many of the other urchins about the town. He kept in his pocket a wand, a quill and a bit of parchment, upon which he could often be seen scribbling, and he came from another town a little ways down the coast, which was one of Cromer’s rivals and there were many disputes between the two communities over fishing rights. That is all you need to know for now.
I was soon found and welcomed by my lovely Aliuna – we all called her Yuna as a girl. She found me in the square and greeted me warmly, calling me Grandfather as we had discussed. Now, children, Yuna was one of the best, most virtuous girls of that age, and I do not only say so because I am biased. She was pretty, quite like yourself, sweetling, with pale hair that she kept tucked neatly beneath a clean, white bonnet. She had a very earnest face, but she was a wonderful witch, and one of the kindest young ladies that Cromer had to offer, that gathering of sea-hardy men and their wenches. Apologies – and their wives. She had your Nana Nellie’s inquisitive nature, and something about her gentle smile reminds me a little of your father, children.
Yuna had inherited the local inn when her parents died so tragically – he in the wars, and she from disease, or, as some say, heartbreak. Something I have often thought about our family was how very dearly we commit ourselves to those we love, and how difficult it is to keep on living when they are taken from us. There was a very terrible time for me during the French Revolution when I thought your Nana Nellie had been killed in the food riots of Paris – I shudder to think of it. Your father - well, eh, back to Cromer and Yuna.
Yuna put me up comfortably in one of the finest rooms in the inn – it had a fine fireplace and a chamber pot made of lovely china and hand-painted with purple flowers. Do not wrinkle your nose at me – in those days, the sort of plumbing which existed was only for the rich. Besides, having in my possession a wand, I was able to promptly Vanish any unsavory contents. Pity the poor peasants who for generations squatted outside among the livestock!
My room at the inn overlooked the square and the pier, and as I looked out that night I saw a man walking back up through the sunset. His gait was lumbering, for he had been born with one leg too short. I watched him, and then changed from my traveling robes into my dinner ones, and went downstairs to visit with my dear Yuna.
In those days, the rich customers could arrange to dine in their chambers, but most of the guests ate in the dining room. There were candles dripping wax on the walls and the smell of roast chicken wafted through the air as the maids darted here and about. Now, often the women would not be permitted to dine among the men, but as Yuna was the proprietor of the inn she had her own table to share with me and to smile pleasantly at the inhabitants of the inn, many of whom had complaints or praises to shower upon the blessed child.
“Grandfather” – as we had decided she would call me – “Grandfather, I really am desperately pleased to see you at last. I hope that your experience earlier with the men and the monster was not too jarring.”
“Not at all, ma chere Yuna,” I said cheerfully. “Zere is no need to apologize, for I did not zink zere would be such excitement ‘ere at your charmante village. I ‘ope ze men ‘ave recovered from zere ordeal.” You see, at this time, I still had quite a heavy French accent with posh overtones which I had perfected during my stay long years ago at Beauxbatons.
Yuna smiled sadly. “Ah, Grandfather, I am sorry to say that was no horrific, surprising catastrophe. For the sea serpent has haunted our shores for the better part of the past five years. The poor fishermen have been absolutely tormented.”
I was intrigued. “Can zey not make an appeal with ze poor beast? I do not believe ze sea serpents to be naturally vicious nor carnivorous when it comes to something other than fish.”
“I fear there is no use,” Yuna said, biting her lip. She looked down at the table and pushed her chicken around on her plate. “The town council has decided the only solution is to kill the creature, but none of the sailors are brave enough to risk invoking the beast’s anger.”
I thought for a moment. In France, there was a specific branch of the government – funded and sponsored by the King from whom I had seen it prudent to flee – which took care of the regulation and control of magical creatures. If a sea serpent began to stalk the seas of Calais or Brittany, then surely there would be trained wizards prepared to confront the problem and deal with it fairly and efficiently.
I was about to ask Yuna about the state of magical affairs in Britain – due to my long absence, I had not bothered to keep on tab with the political affairs of that wretched little isle – pardon me, children, but it was quite petty and vicious at the time, not that France would fare much better in the coming century. However, this stream of thought was rudely interrupted by the sound of the door to the inn creaking open and slamming shut. All eyes turned to look. He brought the chill of the salted air in with him.
He stood, framed by candlelight, his heavy leather jerkin sticking to his slim, uneven body, one small hand clutching a very long and thin wand. Now, children, there is an old joke which says wizards whose wands choose them and are particularly large are… erm, shall we say compensating for – eh, I forget how young you are, you shall not find it amusing. Your Nana Nellie will scold me. Perhaps when you are older, if I am still around. Now, don’t make that pouting face, your old Grandfather is not going anywhere.
Despite his physical failings, he was nevertheless an impressive man. His face wore that steely expression of pure fire and dedication – he was far stronger and more terrible than he appeared. His face was pale and drawn despite the sting of the sea-air, and his mouth was drawn in a thin line like a slit. His body was slight and, as I have said, crooked, as his bad leg made one shoulder appear far higher than the other and gave him the appearance of a hunchback with a crooked spine. Perhaps I was the only man there to see it, but I believed the ugly exterior reflected the hardened interior of the soul. There was something in his eyes which spoke of death.
My immediate judgment of the vile man was quelled when lovely little Yuna sprang to her feet with a delicate cry and glided across the inn to offer the man her hand for a kiss. He accepted it, and she led him to our own table.
“Grandfather, this is my betrothed, Mr. Glanmore Peakes,” Yuna said, her eyes shining. She released his hand so that I might shake it: I suppose I could have shaken his left hand, but a long habit extending from the medieval ages has urged me to shy from shaking left hands due to their unsavory use before hand-washing became as regular a habit.
“Eet is a pleasure,” I said formally, shaking Peakes’ cold, scaly hand. It felt like a dead thing in my own, and I carefully controlled my face from showing my disgust. He smiled at me, the calculating look of a snake. “I ‘ave come from France to visit with my darling granddaughter, and meeting any acquaintance of ‘ers is a great ‘onour.”
Oh, children, do not look so disappointed in my falsity. I do dare to say I could play the courtier far better in French, but my courtly manners were always on hand, even in that lowly little village. Yuna and Peakes were certainly a change from the silver-tongued noblemen of the King’s court and their alchemists and astronomers and pet wizards who pestered me for my secrets.
The maid brought over some ale and a plate heaped with fine vegetables plucked from the inn’s herb garden. Against all expectations, Peakes was an ardent herbivore: he insisted that meat made him ill.
“I believe I saw you earlier on ze pier,” I said, casually taking a large sip of ale. My mind had grown quite weary from the long day of traveling and dealing with the English, and I missed your Nana Nellie most dearly, though I knew she would be quite safe. I was also plagued by the nagging notion I had forgotten to put the necessary protective enchantments around my precious metals and materials which I had left in my chamber at the inn – indeed, had the wondrous things I had brought from France been stolen, much of the trouble would have been for naught.
Peakes gazed at me shrewdly through his dead eyes. “Aye, sire, I was examining the beast of the sea. I ‘ave made a careful study of the monster-”
“Glanmore plans to slay the monster!” Yuna cut in excitedly, her cheeks turning pink. She clung to his arm with proud, almost slavish dedication. It quite repulsed me: even Nellie at her most merry would not look at me in such a way.
I could not help but raise my bushy gray eyebrows and cough into my handkerchief. Around us, the closest few tables had turned silent, their broad-shouldered, beefy occupants rotating their ruddy faces towards us.
“Go on, tell Grandfather, dearest,” Yuna urged. She turned a little pinker.
Peakes blinked nonchalantly, his thin, small fingers twirling round one another on the table, twisting the large, black ring which sat on his hands like a gaudy tumor. This ring, I was to learn later, had been a gift from a lord to whom Peakes had done a service: I was disgusted to hear this service involved enchanting the daughter of a local baron to fall in a deep, trancelike infatuation with the rich aristocrat, after which he had promptly stolen the girl’s virtue, ruined and abandoned her. Society at the time was not kind to the fallen.
The ring was obsidian, brought back from a faraway land, and was meant to have restorative properties of strength and fortitude. Peakes was never seen without it, in hopes it would improve his crippled body.
“Aye, I plan to slay the filthy creature which ruins our nets and tormets the people of Cromer,” he said quietly, so that the tables of the nearby dinners set down their cloth napkins and strained to listen. “I will find the greatest weapon in the land, forged by goblins, and I shall drive the blade into its heart. I shall cut off the head and parade it through the town for all to see. Let me assure you, old man, the village of Cromer shall not easily forget the name of Glanmore Peakes.”
He glared at the listeners, big, strong men who had resembled those villagers who had grown up on the seas and whose cruel taunts and proud accomplishments had defeated Peakes’ spirit over the years. He was the sort of man whose revenge was mighty and terrible. Perhaps there is something to be pitied in how he longed for fame and recognition above those who had always been better than himself. Perhaps he had an imbalance in the humors which led him to think so ruthlessly.
“And which weapon do you plan to find?” I asked mildly, taking a large sip of ale which coated my moustache in froth like sea foam.
“Oh, do tell him!” Yuna pleaded. She was quite thrilled by the whole romance of it. She fancied herself like a maiden in a tale, and Peakes was her knight errant who would slay the dragon who held her kingdom hostage. She was a girl of grand thoughts and fantastic ideas, but perhaps she is not to blame for that. She had lived a difficult life: she could not even read the fairytales and romances she so craved.
“Why, the sword of Gryffindor, of course,” Peakes said. There were murmured gasps from the other tables. I could not help an amused smirk weaving across my face at his boldness.
“I suppose zat would do ze trick,” I said generously. Yuna beamed.
Peakes was already feeling the jagged rip as the sword struck through to the sea serpent’s heart. His hands gripped his wand in excitement, as if the hilt of the bloody sword were in his hands, ready to be hoisted above his head in triumph. He bared his teeth in a grimace of a smile.
“It was most fortunate of your chosen time to visit, Grandfather,” he said mockingly. “For you may keep my Yuna occupied whilst I am ‘unting the sword which shall end this wretched pestilence. I set out on my quest in the morrow.” The inn was hushed, moved by this promise. I gritted my teeth.
Soon after, I excused myself and wished Peakes a half-hearted promise of goodwill on his adventure. I trusted that the occupants of the inn were enough to chaperone dear Yuna and her slimy consort. Garbed in my nightdress, the cold night air nipping at my bare ankles from my reluctance to light a fire, I took my nightly dosage of my special cordial and put a protective spell about it, and set down at the desk with my wand lit to write a letter to Nellie, for sending in the morning.
However, my vigil was interrupted by a tapping at the window, and I pried it open to reveal a large tawny owl hooting importantly. The letter was addressed to “The Aged Stranger, the largest chamber, Olive Inn, Cromer-upon-the-sea.” Puzzled, though grateful that my true name and thus my whereabouts were not known, I slit open the letter and held it before my wand.
It has come to our attention that you cast a powerful Levitation charm today in the presence of Muggles, to the effect of Levitating a small vessel and two Muggle fishermen out of the English Channel. In accordance with the regulations of the International Statute of Secrecy, Obliviators and Aurors shall arrive in the morning to assess the damage. Please be ready to testify to the Ministry representatives.
Department of Breaches of Secrecy and Magical Misconduct
Ministry of Magic
I am weary to admit it, children, but upon seeing my old adversary’s name, the name of that tyrannous wretch Cadmus Bode, I swore in a very violent and ungentlemanly way. Had Nellie been present at the time, she would have given me a stern lecture. As it were, I was alone, and facing the necessity of covering my tracks, I decided there was no use in running and that I was subject to see how the situation played out. It was with a weary heart and a great longing for Nellie’s sage advice that I drifted into a restless sleep.
Author's Note: Welcome to my new short story! This will be three chapters total. I hope you enjoy, as this is a new style of narration for me and I'm quite excited about it. Any guesses on who the narrator is (it's not too secretive) - I promise he's not a total misanthrope, he just is a suspicious person. Thanks to MargaretLane for issuing the History of the Wizarding World Challenge and to any readers.
The poem at the beginning is written by me. Credit for the idea of the sea serpent of Cromer (and everything HP related) is credited to JKR. I found the inspiration for the story on the hp lexicon's mention of Glanmore Peakes.
Ma chere Yuna - my dear Yuna
charmante - charming
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