Chapter 13 : 13- A Meeting of Gold
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When Naomi and the others reappeared, she found herself in the presence of who had to be one of the most unattractive men she had ever seen. “Minister Molden, it’s a pleasure to meet you at last.” She said, offering her hand. Tyreece Molden was the replacement Scandinavian Minister for Magic after Dagfinn Boyson had been ousted as a traitor. He was a stick thin man with such large eyes, ears, nose and mouth it looked as though his head hadn’t quite grown enough to fit them all. The hairline for his bushy brown hair started halfway across his head so that it appeared as though he had a fluffy brown halo whenever you looked at him face front.
Minister Molden accepted Naomi’s gesture with a cold, bony hand that made Naomi shiver when he touched her before his thick lips curled into a smile his lime green eyes did not seem to agree with.
“I only vish it vas under better circumstances, Supreme Mugvump.” He replied just loud enough for Naomi to hear in a tired voice that would’ve suited someone twice his age. “But vith an enemy such as this, decisions must be made and actions taken for the greater good.”
Naomi returned his smile before finally allowing herself a look around the hall they were in. She knew that the buildings of the Norwegian, Swedish and Finish Ministries had been abandoned after the union of the three, though you wouldn’t have known to look at the room. Baby blue and cream walls surrounded them unscathed and decorated with what Naomi estimated to be nearly a hundred still portraits all encased in golden frames, a number of tall windows lining one side of the room in between them.
The large wooden round table the Confederation traditionally used for its meetings was placed directly in the centre though it took up barely any room at all.
“Vat do you think?” Tyreece asked her when she had taken it all in.
“It’s gorgeous.” She said quietly. “And it’s defences?” The Minister smiled before raising a wriggling bony finger in an indication to follow him. He led her towards one of the large windows and pointed outside.
There were at least thirty men and women surrounding the entrance and more still patrolling the woodland grounds.
“There are more vithin the rest of the building.” Tyreece smiled. “Ve vill not be disturbed.”
Naomi looked down at the guard. Their numbers certainly seemed formidable enough to stop others from entering. Or leaving, her trained instincts told her as the Scandinavian Minister stared curiously at her. “Is something the matter, Supreme Mugvump?”
Naomi glanced back at him and something she had read in one of her many reports floated to the surface of her mind. “It’s… It’s nothing, I suppose. It’ll be discussed during the Meeting.”
Tyreece raised an eyebrow. “I am more than happy to discuss it vith you now vhile we vait.” The Minister said.
“Okay then.” Naomi replied, her nerves beginning to spread like wildfire around her body. “Minister, after the British Ministry downfall, you ordered a shutdown on your borders, restricting both communication and travel within your boundaries. Many of the Ministers found this disconcerting, the Russian Minister especially, and think it is a sign of the Scandinavian Ministry trying to back out of this war.” Naomi forced herself to keep eye contact with Tyreece. “May I ask what the explanation is?”
“Of course.” The Minister replied calmly. “After the rather embarrassing outing of Dagfinn Boyson, I vas forced to prove to my people that they vere safe. And also, and I apologies if this is only being known to you now, I am in talks vith the Ministry of Denmark. I’m not sure if you remember but they vere very upset vith there exclusion from the Scandinavian Ministry back ven ve united together. Vell, shutting my borders and proving our security vas a requirement of the Danish Minister. However, I told them that, if they helped us in this var, they vill be suitably rewarded by us. If it is okay vith you, of course, Supreme Mugvump.” Tyreece finished with a slight bow of the head.
Naomi didn’t know what to say. “Oh, right.” She said quickly before the silence went on for too long. “Um, good. Yes, that’d be perfectly fine with me.”
Again Tyreece bowed his head as more popping sounds and bright blue lights filled the room from behind her indicating the arrival of the rest of the Confederation.
“Ah, if you vould excuse me.” The Scandinavian Minister said with another cold smile and he left to greet the other Ministers.
“Bit of a creep that one.” Naomi heard Tyrus say quietly as she joined Naomi in looking out at their guard. Naomi wanted to defend Tyreece though the thought of that dead-eyed smile he had stopped her from doing so. “Is it me,” She continued, surveying the patrol with narrowed eyes. “Or do they seem a little… Fresh to you.” Naomi looked back out. Although only a few of them seemed young, she saw what Tyrus meant. The guard around the entrance seemed fidgety and unable to stay still for long and the patrol searched through the wooded areas clumsily by hand as opposed to the use of the Human-Presence charm or anything like such.
“Perhaps most of them are new recruits.” Naomi guessed. “They did lose a large number of Aurors and Enforcers at the Battle of Nurmengard and more still at the British Ministry invasion.”
“Perhaps,” Tyrus said uncertainly.
More flashes of blue and poping sounds signalled the arrival of more of the Meeting’s attendance. Kingsley and Bernardine were in deep discussion as they walked over to take their place at the round table. Naomi wanted to follow and get things started though she knew better. She knew it would be expected of her as the new Supreme Mugwump to meet and greet each Confederation member.
There were thirty-five members of the International Confederation of Wizards – if Britain was still included – from all over the world but Naomi held strong and introduced herself to all of them as they approached.
As she had expected, most of the Ministers looked rather disappointed with their new and rather young Supreme Mugwump. The Italian and Indian Ministers, Alice Mulvenna and Jai Taha included, though they managed to at least fake a smile momentarily before leaving to take their seat.
Naomi was surprised though at how many seemed to be on her side. Although she had expected a warm welcome from Lance, it was a huge ego boost to learn that Abraham Blackburn, the Minister of America, was eager to hear more of her heroic distraction at Saint Mungo’s. And when she shook hands with the Russian Minister, Gavriil Milan, he had enclosed her hand tightly with both of his.
Although he was not a tall man – around the same height as Naomi – he still had a tough look about him with his square jaw, rough skinned face and shoulder length snow white hair. “Just so you know, you have de full might of de Russian Ministry behind you should you vant it. Dey vill pay for the lives of our Aurors and friends, mark my words.” Gavriil said proudly while his Head Auror – A brown bearded bulk of a man – nodded vigorously behind him.
Naomi smiled and bowed her head in appreciation before the Egyptian Minister, Narmer Tor joined in as he pushed his weedy looking translator in front of him with a man-sized golden staff, a pair of serpents bearing their fangs at the head of it.
“Minister Tor would like to say that if you’re half the person your mentor was, these… um… well, I’ll spare you what exactly he called them but they don’t stand a chance.” Naomi laughed for what felt like the first time in years while Minister Milan clapped the Egyptian Minister on the shoulder with a bark of laughter nearly knocking the man over.
And when it came to her encounter with the curious faced Minister Artan of Romania, she did as she was told and said, “Oh, by the way, the Ginger Dragon says hello.” The stumpy long haired man’s eyes widened.
“Oh, ha, so you are a friend of Charlie’s.” The man replied with a nervously forced laugh. “Yes, he’s a good man. Hates it when I call him that on my inspections of the Sanctuary though.” Artan stopped suddenly, as though what he had just said had made his breath leave him, before looking Naomi up and down like a mechanic inspecting for faults. The Minister then leaned in and said quietly “Um, Supreme Mugwump, from what I hear, you appear as… a woman of action.” Naomi returned his forced smile as he thought of what to say next. “Which is why I would… Um, like to discuss a certain matter with you. After the meeting of course. It’s nothing bad to worry about it’s just a… precaution I had my Ministry take that I’d like to talk over with you.”
Naomi stared at the Minister inquisitively. “Why can’t you bring it up at the meeting, or even talk to me right now?”
The Romanian Minister looked around at the other attendants before whispering “It’s not really the sort of thing the rest of the Confederation would agree with me on but I thought if I could talk with you about it first… I’m sure you’d understand.”
Naomi looked incredulously at the man. Before she had even headed her first meeting, he was asking her to discuss something the rest of the Confederation would be against. “Minister Artan, I don’t think-”
“Oh, please.” The Minister interrupted. “I’m sure you will understand when we talk and the rest of the Confederation will know at some point. To be honest, I don’t see how they can’t.” He finished, more to himself then to Naomi before the Jamaican Minister approached with open arms to greet Naomi. “We’ll talk more afterwards, Supreme Mugwump.” Artan said with a small bow when he noticed their soon to be interruption and he walked off before Naomi could respond.
Once she had met and greeted every one of the Ministers and most of their companions, she finally saw fit to take her seat.
In front of every space at the table was a small silver plaque with the representative’s name and country flag engraved into the metal. However, instead of the flag of the United Kingdom, as it was with Kingsley and Ron, her plaque displayed her name and the letters I. C. W enclosed in a simple circle where the flag would otherwise be. No favourites here, she reminded herself, I’m completely impartial to everyone. That thought gave her the odd feelings of both loneliness and power as she took out the Mugwump staff and placed its case beneath her seat.
She looked up to see that most of the meeting attendants had not yet seated and were still chatting amongst themselves. It wasn’t until Kingsley gave her a soft kick from her right and inclined his head towards the crowd that she realised why. Felling her face flush and her stomach flutter at her early ignorance, she stood up and said “If we could all be seated, we will begin” in a carrying voice she had practiced in privet.
To her relief, everyone heard and began taking their own marked seats as she sat herself back down to receive a quick wink of approval from Kingsley.
Tyrus and Dawlish also took their place as security and stood behind Ron and Kingsley. She saw Lance and the American Minister take their seats to the far right side of the table beside Bernardine and her Head of Law, their own Aurors gazing around the room. Tyreece Molden sat on the opposite side of the table to Naomi with the Russian Minister next to him.
“Well,” She said, looking through the papers that had been put out for her as the rest of the Confederation sat down and rested their eyes upon her. To her annoyance, she noticed her hand was shaking against her will as she flipped through the sheets of parchment and her mouth had become unbearably dry. “Firstly, regarding the topic of the war against… uh, this united band of Dark Wizards-”
“I’m sorry,” Said a high pitched Italian accent quickly. “But I would like it on the record that the Italian Ministry has had no such conflict with these people.” Minister Mulvenna was wearing a stern look on her face that dampened her beauty significantly, wrinkling her otherwise smooth pale face.
Naomi wouldn’t have believed she could have felt so many things in such a short amount of time. Firstly, a stunned numbness that froze her where she was, staring at her papers. Secondly, humiliation at that before she had even started, one of the Ministers had already contradicted her information. Then, as she looked up at the model-like Minister and her nervous looking Aurors, came the anger.
No you haven’t been in conflict with these people, have you, she thought furiously and images of the battle flashed before her eyes; the charge of the two opposing armies, the sight of wizards and witches on both sides falling from great heights to crumple to the road below, Marius Yvault slashing at her with a poisoned knife.
Naomi felt a vain of rage pulse through her as she put on a fake smile.
“Minister Mulvenna,” She said a calm voice that even surprised herself. “As I’m new to this position, I’m sure you’ll forgive me for forgetting, but the Italian Ministry, it is a part of the International Confederation of Wizards, isn’t it?”
The Italian Minister narrowed her chocolate coloured eyes nervously. “Of course it is.” She replied.
“And you get the news?”
“The…” The Minister’s voice trailed away as she looked at Naomi.
“The news, yes. An update on what’s happening in the rest of the world.”
Anger dominated the Italian Minister’s face. “Of course we-”
“Well then,” Naomi interrupted. “I am sure you are aware then that Mosby Elfrin has declared war on the entire Confederation and has unquestionably proved it by murdering my predecessor and your Supreme Mugwump and invading a member of the said Confederation that you claim to be a part of. So, Minister Mulvenna, may I ask that you explain to me and the rest of your fellow Confederation members for why you should be exempt?”
Naomi’s heart seemed to lift as Alice Mulvenna’s porcelain like face reddened quickly. She heard Lance give a snort of laughter and saw the Russian Minister smile impressively at her.
“N-No, m-my apologies, Supreme Mugwump.” It was as though a tight rubber band had released its grip on Naomi’s stomach. The rebuff of the Italian Minister seemed to have won her confidence.
“Good,” Naomi continued, re-straightening her papers with her now stable hands. “If there are no more objections, I will continue. Firstly, I would like to take a moment to give my condolences to the Ministers of the Ministries who lost Aurors during the British Ministry assault. Many brave man and women fought and lost their lives fighting the Dark Wizards and I want you all to know that none of them will be forgotten and that their deaths will be repaid to our enemy a hundred fold.”
All of the Ministers were staring at Naomi now, some of them nervously and others slightly downcast at their lack of input towards the Ministry battle. The majority however were looking at her with an air of pride and awe in their eyes as they looked on at her.
“Now, I have it noted that the Ministries of America, Egypt and Russia have new information regarding this war on Mosby’s regime. As you all know, he has now taken control of the British Ministry and of Selwyn’s army and, along with a number of foreign allies has shown aggression towards the rest of the Confederation. Therefor I suggest we waste no more time.” As she said this, she saw the Italian Minister slump in her chair as her faced reddened even further. “Minister Blackburn, would you mind starting us off?”
The portly Minister nodded at her and stood from his chair. “Supreme Mugwump, I thank you for your condolences.” He said consolingly. “Well, as you know, during the British Ministry invasion the American Ministry was also attacked by Arable Ambrose and her forces. Fortunately the host the Confederation had sent was with us at the time and she took a real beating before being forced to retreat. Although our sources tell us that the British downfall has inspired some to join her, she still doesn’t have half the number she had when she attacked. Also, I am pleased to announce that we have successfully placed a spy within Mosby’s community. Although our spy has yet to join his Ministry officially, he has placed himself perfectly within a crew of people who have recently been made Aurors. We’re sure his next update will be very fruitful.”
Many of the other Ministers looked impressively at Blackburn and Lance while their Aurors nodded behind him with a smile.
“Well done.” Naomi said as Bernardine nodded approvingly at Lance. “And next Minister Tor.”
The Egyptian Minister rose from his seat, his long braided black hair dangling in front of him as he spoke, his scrawny translator right beside him. “Minister Tor would also like to thank the Supreme Mugwump for her condolences. The Egyptian Ministry has lost many brave man and women in this conflict and the Minister shares your hope of bringing justice to these…” The translator’s face reddened suddenly and his eyes flicked towards his Minister before continuing. “People.”
The Russian Minister and his Head Auror both gave a snort of laughter as it was clear that the word ‘People’ was not the one used by Narmer Tor.
“Unfortunately,” The translator continued. “The information we bring is not one of comfort. After much investigation, we were able to locate what was the headquarters of The Hunters before they left to join Selwyn. Although the place was deserted there were a number of clues left behind that show they had gathered up their spoils from their tomb-thieving days and took with them some very valuable and… powerful artefacts.”
The American Minister raised his head sharply from his notes. “What kind of artefacts?”
After the translator had interpreted Blackburn’s question to his Minister, Narmer Tor continued, his translator shortly after. “The clues in question were a number of gold coins of which there are very few of in the world. The one’s that exist do so within the tomb of the first Egyptian Minister, Adio Khalfani. Or at least they did before Bomani Haden and his guild broke into the tomb and… robbed it of all its valuables.”
At this point, Naomi noticed the Egyptian Minister’s eyes begin to water, his translator’s voice cracking and even his Aurors grew stony faced.
“The burglary was swift. We estimate that it took place just before the Mekti-Dommen was hijacked. They used the Gemino charm to make copies of everything they took which is why the thievery went unnoticed until last night. But along with the gold of the first Minister they also took two very powerful relics which Adio himself had created.”
The Egyptian Minister then pulled out two pieces of parchment, tapped them with his wand and sent copies to those who sat at the round table.
When Naomi received her copy, she saw two drawings. One was of a necklace with a slanted eye at the centre, the other a bracelet encrusted with a fist sized silver sphere.
“The Eye of Edio,” The translator explained. “Named after the first Minister’s father, it grants protection to the wearer from most jinxes, hexes and curses.”
“And the bracelet?” Naomi asked surveying the drawings.
“The Malachite Neck-brace,” The translator answered. “It allows the wearer to camouflage into any natural background. So it would hide you perfectly in a wood or desert but not in, say, a building or city. Nothing man-made.”
When the translator stopped, Naomi noticed the Polish Minister, Albyn Sellistean, raise his hand. “Minister Sellistean?” Naomi addressed and the Minister rose from his chair.
“Would the neck-brace, by any chance, also give the power to hide one’s colleagues?” He asked rushed voice.
The translator consulted with his Minister before answering “If there is physical contact, yes.” The Polish Minister slapped his pale hand across the wood of the table.
“So that’s where Meng Jour got to! My Aurors lost track of him in the middle of a wood. He hadn’t fled at all, he’s just got this brace thing.”
“Wait!” Lance intervened. “You mean to say that you think Meng Jour, one of the most blood-thirsty wizards out there, was invisible around your Aurors and didn’t take advantage. I find that hard to believe.”
“It takes concentration to use the Neck-brace. The use of magic would’ve relieved both him and his men of its protection.” The translator answered, beside him the Chinese Head of Law gave a gruff chuckle.
“I have had the pleasure of being in Meng Jour’s company. He is not a man of concentration. No, it is more likely that one of the cronies he’s got is using it for him.”
“Thank you Lei, Lance.” Naomi said to settle the two Heads. “Minister Tor, is there any way to disable these items?”
Naomi didn’t need his translator to interpret the Egyptian Minister’s answer as he nodded his sad face. “Very well then.” Naomi said, downhearted. “If no one has any further questions, Minister Milan, if you would, please.”
The Russian Minister bowed his white haired head. “Thank you, Supreme Mugwump. I too would like to add my condolences to my fellow Ministers who lost Aurors. It vas tragic dat so many have had to lose their lives.” Although Milan sounded saddened, Naomi couldn’t help but hear the slant at the Ministers who had not sent people to the invasion.
“But it saddens me further to say dat those vithin the Confederation are not alone in losing something in this war. Last night our friend and ally, Minister Chingis of Mongolia had his daughter taken from him.” An uneasy silence reverberated through the air as the Russian Minister said this. “The details are very shaky. Ve would not have known had Minister Chingis himself had not sent a very sketchy message. He has now shut off his borders to us and has yet to reply to our attempts to get more information.”
The Russian Head Auror then pulled out a small piece of parchment and, like the Egyptian Minister, duplicated it and sent copies around the table.
As Naomi looked at the translated note on the parchment, she realised that calling the message ‘sketchy’ was an understatement.
My friend, Bonnie has been taken. Understand that I must stop at nothing to ensure her safety. Tell only the Confederation. Good luck.
“Understand that I must stop at nothing.” Naomi murmured before catching Kingsley’s eye.
“Gavriil, was this all you received?” Kinsley asked indicating the parchment and the Russian Minister nodded.
“Minister Milan,” Naomi started, a dreadful thought creeping into her mind. “Is it possible that this is a warning?” Many of the Ministers were looking left and right now between Naomi and the Russian Minister, some of them muttering to one another.
“A warning?” Gavril Milan said startled. “Supreme Mugwump, with the utmost respect, I know you are new to the position but the Mongolian Ministry and its Minister has always been a stern friend of the Confederation and a friend to me. Dey are a bridge between us and those outside of the Confederation.”
“Minister Milan!” Naomi intervened, fear and anger now mixing together to fuel her. “It is exactly those reasons why I asked! Would it not make sense for Mosby to arrange this kidnap to control the Mongolian Ministry?” Many of the Ministers began muttering more loudly and before Milan could reply, the notion Naomi had carried with her since the Ministry downfall exploded in her mind. “Ministers of the Confederation, Heads, Aurors and translators, I’m sorry if I’m interrupting any questions or notions but this must be decided and decided now. Mosby and his army has moved against us so we must do the same. We must band together, all of us,” She added glancing at the Italian Minister. “Because if we don’t, Mosby will have his war and people will die. Innocent people will die, the people you swore to protect when you became Ministers. Now I know it is an old saying but is the Confederation slogan not ‘To Protect with all our Strength’?”
Some of the Ministers nodded their heads in agreement while others continued to watch her, Tyreece Molden being the only one who stared curiously at her.
“Only some of you have suffered losses in this war, the British Ministry above all, but all of you will suffer as we have if we do nothing and soon. I say that if Mosby wants a war, we give him one and show him what it means to draw wands on the International Confederation of Wizards.”
For one shining moment, it looked as though the Ministers were about to applaud her, that they were all in an agreement and that she had succeeded in her task in uniting them.
But, before any of the Ministers could back her speech, flashes of gold illuminated the room from all directions, half blinding the Confederation.
What must have been a hundred golden figures appeared in front of where still portraits once hung. Before any of the Aurors or Ministers caught on to what was happening, jets of red a green lights began to fly.
It was as though the attack was happening in slow motion to allow Naomi to watch it happen. Inaudible screams and yells filled the once calm room as she saw the Aurors around them fall as they succumbed to the large number of hexes and curses that had caught them unawares. She watched as the French Auror Armel deflected two curses only to be struck down by the third to the chest.
Ron had barely stood up to assist Dawlish when the two of them were blasted off of their feet by a flash of white light and lay unmoving on the floor.
Blood splattered the pale blue walls, though whose Naomi did not know.
Many of the Ministers attempted to rise to help their Aurors, but were forced back down into their seats by their attackers before the medallion wearing men and women moved on to deal with the Heads that sat beside the Ministers.
Kingsley had at least been able to draw his wand and curse a man that had been about to kill an unconscious Australian Auror when another from behind him punched him hard in the place where he had been cursed by Mosby. Kingsley recoiled and was thrown back into his chair as he coughed and grabbed his side tightly.
“No!” Minister Blackburn shouted as Lance was thrown from his seat. The American Minister had just drawn his wand when something silver flew past Naomi’s ear and struck Blackburn in the arm. The injured man was forced back into his seat, the now blood covered knife still sticking out of his arm.
Naomi could not recall when she had drawn her wand, but although she had it ready in hand, she could not think on how to use it. When she noticed Blackburn gawping at his knife-throwing attacker, she attempted to turn when she felt the point of another’s wand dig into her back.
“Madam Pryce,” Said a smooth spine tingling French accent that made Naomi’s heart freeze. “I too would like to know what ‘appens when I draw a wand on you.”
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