Chapter 34 : Wing It
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‘When you say “giant stone dragon”,’ said Rose, voice faint, ‘do you mean it’s a stone dragon that’s enormous by draconic proportions, or -’
‘It’s a flying stone dragon, Rose, what do you want from me?’ Scorpius barked, hopping off the wall.
Albus frowned at the draconic horizon. ‘Oh, God, I think it’s that dragon bridge we crossed earlier.’
‘Transfiguration,’ said Rose. ‘Which means magic, which means witches and wizards. I’d guess… eight of them, equipped with broomsticks.’
Scorpius looked at her, astonished. ‘What, so they can elevate themselves while transfiguring the bridge to fly - how can you calculate that?’
‘Because there are eight people on broomsticks over there.’
Scorpius’ head whipped around to see the darkened dots rising after the dragon from the woodlands, and there were indeed eight of them. They were some distance away, but he could already see the frantic flight patterns, hear the edges of shouting. They didn’t seem like they had this under control.
Though who would have a flying stone dragon under control?
‘The Council of Thorns.’ Albus’ lips cut a thin line through his determined face. Behind them, the confused murmuring of Muggles was turning into raised, worried voices as confusion and fear spread.
‘This has to be a distraction,’ said Rose. ‘They can’t have just come here to transfigure some random bridge.’
‘Cheap plan.’ Scorpius took a step back. ‘Except it’s coming this way and I, for one, am very distracted.’
‘We’ve got to take a closer look, take them down, and make sure that - that thing doesn’t hurt anyone,’ said Albus, straightening. ‘Rose, give me your bag.’
‘What’re we going to do?’ said Scorpius as she passed the bag over. ‘Book it to death?’
Albus gave him a look. ‘You’re not the only one who packed his broom, Scorp. Though you are the only one who broke his broom.’ And he pulled out his own Firestorm, the stout, professional-quality broom which had been put to shame only by Scorpius’ own, late Starfall-model. ‘Okay, you two go find the others, and -’
‘And what? Stand on the ground and flap our hands? No way. I’m going with you.’ Scorpius squared his shoulders.
‘You’re not -’
‘You’re not flying up there against eight others on your own. You’ll need a gunner. I don’t have flight goggles, but I’ll manage. We fly, we shoot, we steal another broom. Divide and conquer.’
Despite himself, Albus grinned as he swung his leg over his broom. ‘That’s not what divide and conquer means, mate. But, okay.’
Rose arched an eyebrow. ‘So what do I do?’
Scorpius shrugged. ‘Go find the others, then stand on the ground with them and flap your hands.’
‘We can’t fit three on a broom, so stay down here and be a genius.’ Scorpius hopped behind Albus onto the hovering Firestorm.
‘He means come up with a plan,’ said Albus helpfully. ‘One that’s better than, “let’s fly at the stone dragon”.’
Scorpius lifted his gaze. ‘Which is coming this way. Surrounded by people on brooms.’ And the first scream from down in the courtyard below came as the Muggles realised they should be afraid. ‘New plan, Rose - get those people to shelter.’
‘Great!’ she snapped, but the rest of her words were lost in the wind as Albus kicked the Firestorm to life and the two of them rocketed into the sky.
It wasn’t the usual surge of speed, because brooms weren’t designed to carry two, especially when one of those people was of Albus’ size and weight. But where Scorpius knew his skill in the air was in acrobatics and agility, Albus specialised in being an unstoppable juggernaut, and that meant he knew how to get the best acceleration out of his Firestorm.
From this high it was much easier to see what was going on. Trees had been knocked down and askew in the woodlands below where once had, indeed, sat that dragon-styled bridge. It wasn’t there any more, because it had taken winged form - the size of a house, and in every way the perfect replica of what Scorpius remembered from his one trip to a dragon breeding colony when he’d been a kid. Expansive stone wings sent gusts of wind with every flap and made the monstrosity fly faster and higher despite its weight, and the great carved head - its maw tall enough for even Albus to stand in - swept to and fro, as if searching.
The wizards on brooms swarmed around it like flies, and from the snippets of shouting, seemed in disarray. ‘It’s out of control!’ Scorpius shouted to Albus.
Indeed, the stone dragon had risen high, flapped in a circle, and was now making for the Castle of Tomar. Albus squinted ahead. ‘Who transfigures something and then loses control?’
‘Who the hell transfigures a stone dragon bridge?’
‘An international cabal of mad dark wizards?’ Albus shrugged. ‘Hopefully it’ll keep them distracted. I’m going to try to come in fast and sudden. I want you to undo the transfiguration of its wing.’
Scorpius hesitated, then tightened his grip on Albus shoulder as his friend didn’t wait for a response, just put on a fresh burst of speed to have them hurtling even quicker across the bright blue sky. ‘You should have brought Rose for this.’
But it was too late to argue, now. Albus had gone high to put the sun to their back, so if any of the Council wizards were paying attention to anything other than their rampaging stone dragon, the two men on one broom wouldn’t be easily spotted. This put them above the dragon and so they fell like a stone, a dead drop which would have them whipping past their enemies hard and fast. Albus didn’t need to explain the tactic to Scorpius. This would just be a fly-by, quick and sudden and letting him get off a good dose of magic at the dragon. Any strikes against the Council wizards would be a bonus.
They fell. The wind rushed past Scorpius’ ears and he didn’t hesitate to clamp one arm in an iron grip around Albus. Normally he was a fan of such aerial acrobatics, but normally he was in control of them, and the notion of falling with his fate in someone else’s hands meant he had to fight the urge to shut his eyes. He couldn’t afford to. There was work to do.
The huge shape of the dragon. Darting this way and that to avoid its form and the other fliers. A wing, reaching upward, and he gritted his teeth, summoned every recollection from transfiguration lessons, and stabbed his wand in its direction.
He wouldn’t have sworn blind he’d said the incantation correctly, and even if he did, he wouldn’t have sworn blind that he was good enough to undo this sort of massive transfiguration. But he knew enough to know that it wasn’t his lack of expertise which saw his spell hit the stone only for the magic to ripple across the surface, dissipating harmlessly.
Because he’d seen this before.
‘Oh, shit, Al,’ Scorpius hissed as Albus yanked the broom up from its dead drop. Above them came shouts from the wizards, who had not been so distracted as to miss their fly-by. So now they’d failed to stop the stone dragon and had the attention of eight enemy fliers. ‘It’s not been transfigured. It’s a goddamn golem.’
What the hell is that roar. Matt looked upward, but there was still magic in the air, and it wasn’t time to ask such questions. ‘Oh, no you don’t.’ He rose to his feet as Raskoph and his compatriot abandoned their cover and bolted for the far end of the chamber, where further passageways wound through the tombs. He lashed out with a Stun, but was unsurprised when a Shield spell rippled through the air to block it.
Lisa stepped into the open, expression creased in determination, and let loose three spells in quick succession with no regard for her own protection. She had accurately gauged that Raskoph would be more interested in retreating than retaliating, and as the colonel’s ally staggered, it looked like a full offensive would pay off.
Until Raskoph directed his wand at the masonry above and yanked his compatriot back by the scruff of the neck before stone and dust fell, the brickwork collapsing. Lisa’s spell zeroed in on them - but hit a falling brick, and then the entire passageway came crashing down, blocking the way, and Raskoph and the other wizard were gone in a dust cloud.
Selena stepped out, coughing vigorously, one hand blocking her face, the other pointing the wand outward. ‘So either they’re really dumb or there’s another way out.’
‘I’m going to bank on the former,’ said Lisa, scowling. ‘So much for staying dead.’
‘Never mind that.’ Matt stalked into the tomb, gaze sweeping across the chamber, at the now scuffled markings on the floor. ‘What the hell was that ritual?’
Selena stepped up beside him. ‘It’s not Eridanos,’ she said, voice tight. ‘Unless the Eridanos ritual is enormously different to the Phlegethon one, and the Phlegethon ritual wasn’t intrinsic to the illness - it was just a Mesoamerican amplification ritual, to take the germ of a spell and project it across a wide area. This doesn’t look remotely like that.’
Matt blinked at her - then remembered how she’d worked closely with Methuselah Jones, and shut his mouth.
‘We could study it. Or we could go straight to the source.’ Lisa turned on the Council wizard she’d dropped and stalked over. He was Stunned, and she kicked his wand from his hand before planting a boot on his shoulder. ‘Ennervate.’
The wizard coughed, dust lodged in his throat, before beady eyes locked on Lisa. ‘You. You’re supposed to be -’
Then her boot moved to his throat. ‘Dead, yes, I know,’ said Lisa. ‘Tell me something I don’t know.’
Selena cocked her head. ‘You know, they talk better when you don’t stomp on their necks.’
‘I’m not stomping. I’m giving him a chance to think very carefully about what he’s going to say when I move my foot. What was this ritual?’
She waited a heartbeat, gaze locked on the wizard, and Matt took advantage of the moment to pad over to the central tomb. It was a sarcophagus not dissimilar to the one in Paris, though it had no name upon it, and the intricate markings in stone across the main plinth looked like some sort of semi-permanent protection magics bound into the masonry. Either they had fallen into disuse, or the Council had undone them before starting here. But once he was close, he could see the lid had been pushed a little to the side, and he reached out for it.
Lisa moved her boot, and the Council wizard coughed again. ‘…something you’ll regret interrupting. Because now a lot of people are going to die, and it’ll be your own fault.’
Selena looked down at him. ‘Eridanos?’
Lisa stuck her wand in the man’s face. ‘Less posturing. More answers. You might have been briefed you were dealing with schoolkids. I’m not a schookid.’
The wizard went cross-eyed, gaze flickering from the tip of her wand to her eyes, and he seemed to see something there that made him falter. ‘In this tomb was the control stone for a Templar guardian of the city. A golem - a dragon golem. We were awakening it so we could take control of it. But you’ve just interrupted that, so now there’s an uncontrolled golem flying up there.’
Matt whirled around, forgetting the sarcophagus. ‘A dragon golem - the guardian of - oh, bloody hell.’ Pieces fell into place, a mixture of historical questions answered and horrible prospects in the future looming ahead. ‘That’s what Raskoph came here for?’
‘Yeah, funnily enough we thought it was going to be a useful powerful weapon.’ The wizard grimaced. ‘Now it’s unleashed and is probably going to try to kill everyone.’
‘I can stop this!’ Matt turned to Selena, grabbing her by the shoulder. ‘I can stop that thing.’
She raised an eyebrow, though her eyes were wide and worried under the cynicism. ‘What, with the magic sword?’
‘No, though that’ll help. You can - you two stay here, find out what this control stone is, get this ritual out of him, finish it if you can. But if you can’t, I think I know what to do.’
Then he turned and bolted for the stairs, ignoring the shout behind him from Selena of, ‘Get eaten by a golem dragon?’
‘New plan!’ shouted Albus, and swerved upward to slam into the Council wizard bearing down on them. ‘Take these guys out!’
Scorpius clung on tight, but lashed out with his wand to Stun the wizard they tackled, sending him spinning to the ground. He couldn’t stop himself from taking that extra half-second for a levitation charm, even though they weren’t too high up. He didn’t want two long drops on his conscience.
‘Then what?’ he hollered in Albus’ ear.
‘Then I was thinking you’d have one of your crazy schemes!’
‘Great leadership there, mate!’
‘I’m using the resources I’ve got!’
Scorpius looked around. One Council wizard down, one golem dragon in the sky, and seven wizards now with split attention. ‘Get us close to another. I want his broom.’
Albus glanced over his shoulder and gave a flash of a grin. ‘That’s your crazy scheme?’
‘My crazy schemes will work best if I’m not hugging yo- Protego!’ At the last second he spotted a flash of light coming from the right, and his shield burst from his wand just in time to block the spell aimed for them both. ‘That bugger. Get that one.’
There was only one advantage, Scorpius reflected, on it being just them versus seven wizards and a dragon: target-rich environment. The wizard who’d sent a spell at them hadn’t expected Albus to then hurtle at him - most wizards didn’t expect fights to turn physical, even on brooms. But Scorpius knew what Albus was doing, because he’d seen his tackles happen in enough Quidditch games over the years.
Move, or Al Potter would make you move.
The wizard hesitated, which was the worst thing he could have done. A quick swerve would have him out of the way; a quick spell would force Albus and Scorpius to dodge or block. The hesitation meant that when he did yank his broom to the side, it was a narrow miss.
‘Don’t let me fall,’ Scorpius breathed in Albus’ air - then he jumped. While he could protect Albus from his back, they were also slow and cumbersome, and while he didn’t rate their chances against Council wizards in a straight wand fight, especially when outnumbered, he did rate their chances in out-flying anyone.
But to fly, he needed a broom.
Air rushed around him, and for a moment his heart lunged into his throat, not just at how damned high he was. That memory from Ager Sanguinis, the one he’d tried to not think about, came racing back to him. Flailing hands and legs, bubbling fear, blackness surging up to meet him…
Except he’d judged it properly, and landed on the Council wizard’s broom. His legs wrapped around the handle, his free arm wrapped around the pilot’s shoulder, and he shoved his wand in his kidneys. ‘A Silver Arrow? Really? My grandfather used to fly these, and they’re not cool and vintage.’
But the Council wizard didn’t get a chance to defend his choice of broom, because then he was catapulted into thin air and sent rocking to the ground under the gentle care of a levitation charm.
Six Council wizards. Two of them. The odds were improving.
Scorpius wrestled his broom under control, dragging the nose up. It was not a cutting-edge model, but this was promising, in its way. It suggested the Council were using civilian brooms, casual brooms for casual use, rather than top-end performance models. Which suggested that these weren’t expert fliers.
Looking up, he could see Albus had barely waited to make sure he was secure before making his next move. He’d barged into another Council wizard, and though this one was still aloft, they were furiously exchanging blasts of wand-fire. Everything had happened so quickly that the Council had not all turned on the sudden broom-riding interlopers, and Scorpius knew they had to take advantage of the confusion to drop as many of them as they could. He raised his wand.
Then there was another low, booming roar, that scraping of stone on stone, and he realised just how close to the castle the dragon golem had got. The Council wizards had been trying to throw spells at it, trying to deflect it, but it had risen to the air and gone straight for the nearest target.
Somewhere in Scorpius’ mind, he’d wondered if a golem dragon could breathe fire. He’d gone on to wonder two things: there was no way of knowing, and there was nothing he could do about it. At last he had an answer, and the result was mixed.
When the dragon came bearing down on the walls of the Castle of Tomar, its great maw opening, it did not breathe fire. But even from here he could feel the buffeting of the gust of wind, a high-powered burst of force which cracked masonry and sent loose stone flying. The air rippled before the dragon’s mouth, and Scorpius swore as he realised this wasn’t just a powerful torrent of air being burst from the golem, but a wave of magical force, too.
Which shouldn’t have surprised him, as it was a magical flying rock dragon, but it made the day worse.
And then he heard the screaming from the castle grounds.
Scorpius yanked his broom up, just as Albus flew into the wizard he’d been fighting with an impact of booted foot and magical Stun. Five council wizards. Two of them. One golem dragon.
‘I’ve got my crazy plan!’ he shouted as he shot past. ‘You handle the five of them! I’ll handle the dragon!’
‘Oh,’ said Albus, whirling around to look up where the dragon and the rest of the Council wizards were - because even if two fliers were in the air, taking them on, they were clearly not happy about the golem dragon. ‘Piece of cake.’
The dragon’s breath hit the courtyard, and chaos reigned.
Goodbye, Statue of Secrecy, Rose thought as she sprinted across the open space towards the thronging of Muggles in the shadow of the walls. They’d run for cover when they’d realised that, no, their eyes weren’t deceiving themselves, there was something flying above them. Now masonry was cracking, chunks of rubble were flying through the air, and they might not live long enough to regret this choice.
‘Protego!’ she yelled, wand snapping out before them, and the magical barrier came shimmering up only about a metre above the half-dozen Muggles’ heads, sending masonry bouncing and skittering off to hit the ground around them harmlessly. They looked around, gaping, and she waved a hand. ‘This way! Run!’
They might not have spoken English but the message was clear, and soon they were bolting towards the gates away from the castle as the shadow of the golem-dragon fell above.
‘Right. So. Obliviate about… a thousand people. Surely that’s happened before,’ muttered Rose, head whipping around. The dragon was still swinging overhead, and there were still people in the courtyard, even though they fled for the gates. It was making for the tall shape of the convent, and she could see its huge maw opening yet again.
If it brought the building down, there was no way she could shield the fifty or so people below from falling rubble.
So think laterally.
There was something inherently wrong about running towards where a golem-dragon was about to unleash its strength, but she did. Already her wand was before her, already she was summoning the spells and energy to mind and body, running through it over and over to make sure she got just right, to make sure it was as strong as it could be. Only seconds before the dragon got close did she let the magic spring from her wand, across the distance, and into the courtyard-facing wall of the Convento de Cristo.
Shield to repel all magical and physical force over square twenty metres? Too much energy without ritual. Spell to reinforce the walls of an entire building? Too much energy without ritual.
Can’t block force. Has to go somewhere. Deflect it - one side of building intact. Other side of building, destroyed.
Her inner intellectual monologue had taken on a cadence not too dissimilar to Methuselah Jones’. Now she could understand why he’d talked like that. When you had huge and complicated notions to work through in short seconds, extraneous words had to go.
The wall facing the courtyard crackled with the energy from her wand just as the dragon’s burst of magical force erupted from its mouth. It hit the building dead-on, and she froze at the impact, poised out in the open, unable to act in the heartbeat where she waited to see if she’d succeeded or not. She couldn’t block a blast like that outright, but she could deflect it somewhere else. Muggles fled for the gate, screaming at the dragon’s latest blast, but the building above them remained tall, intact. Just as the other side of the tower exploded when all of the force of the impact was shunted at it in one go. Masonry flew wildly, rained down upon the ground, but there was nobody underneath it, nobody to be hit by the debris.
Rose almost collapsed from relief and the ebbing fatigue that thudded through her. ‘How’s that for the second-best student of the year?’ she muttered to herself.
‘Hey! No need to be so stony-faced!’
The shout came from above, and Rose didn’t need to look up to see who had spoken, or to even tell what was going on. But she did anyway, just as Scorpius, on his own atop a broom, came hurtling down from the sky to swerve in front of the golem-dragon’s face. He flashed his wand out, a sparkling array of pointless lights bursting in the air between them - but then as he dragged the handle of his broom back up, it looked like it had got the monstrosity’s attention.
‘Well!’ she heard Scorpius yell at the golem-dragon as he swerved on a course away from the tower, away from the screaming and fleeing Muggles. ‘This is off to a rocky start!’
I’m going to kill him.
Footsteps thudded across the courtyard behind her, and she turned, wand raised - and stopped as Matt skidded to a halt. ‘Woah! Hold fire!’
She slumped. ‘Where are the others?’
‘We found - long story, but Raskoph’s here, with others. They were trying to do a ritual to control… er… that.’ Matt looked up. ‘Looks like we botched it so now it’s on a rampage.’
Rose lifted her gaze and wrinkled her nose. She wasn’t sure if she preferred a golem-dragon on a rampage, or a golem-dragon under the Council of Thorns’ control. ‘Raskoph?’
‘He’s on the ground. Selena and Lisa are going to try to re-do that ritual - it’s some old Templar guardian. See, I think it’s why Caliph al-Mansur lost, I think the Templars had a -’
‘Now is not the time, Matt!’
The golem-dragon gave another roar overhead, and Rose spun to see its breath hit an abandoned patch of wall, and to see the tiny shape of Scorpius swerve away from exploding masonry.
‘Sorry!’ she heard him yell. ‘Did I aggravate you? I mean, aggregate you?’
Matt goggled. ‘Did he just -’
‘Pun? Yes. He’s getting it away from the Muggles, at least - what’re you doing up here if the others are working on a ritual?’
He looked bashful. ‘I’m going to bring that thing down. Stay here, keep an eye out for Raskoph, keep the Muggles safe -’
‘Oh, no!’ Rose stamped her foot. ‘I am not going to stay down here again while you boys run off like idiots to do idiotic, heroic, punning things -’
‘Looks like we’re between a rock and a hard place!’
I will kill you, Scorpius Malfoy.
‘I can do this, Rose,’ said Matt, shoulders squaring. ‘Trust me.’
He hesitated, and for one horrible moment she thought he was going to say something more, do something more - which meant she didn’t act when he lifted his wand, turned on the spot, and with a terrible crack, disappeared.
She whirled around, looked up at the dragon - and saw a dark shape appear just above it as it swept after Scorpius, saw Matt fall several long feet before crashing onto the back of the dragon-golem. Her heart lunged back into her throat as he bounced, rolled - then he’d grabbed a hand-hold, was dragging himself to security and safety.
‘That’s it!’ she heard Matt yell. ‘No more mister gneiss guy.’
Rose swore. ‘I’m going to kill you both,’ she muttered, and turned back to the castle, because if she couldn’t help here, then she could at least help Lisa and Selena -
Which was when she saw the half-dozen or so black dots come soaring over the walls, of Albus and the Council wizards he was locked in aerial combat with, and she skidded to a halt.
At least the Portugese magical authority is probably already having a fit over this. Wherever they are.
‘I don’t know much about rituals,’ said Lisa, brow furrowed as she walked around the tomb, examining the markings on the ground. ‘You seem to.’
‘I helped Methuselah when he figured out how to reverse the Hogwarts ritual,’ said Selena, stepping up to the sarcophagus. ‘I know what stuff looks like, I might even be able to make an educated guess, but I am not an expert. One thing I do know, though, is that the centre-point of a ritual is important, and so that means this is important. Help me with this lid?’
The talkative wizard had been Stunned again, so Lisa tucked her wand away to come over and help her, scraping the stone lid away.
‘Okay,’ said Selena, sticking her head in the gap. ‘That’s a dragon statue and it’s recently broken, so it looks like we’ve screwed this up good and - oh, shit, that’s a body.’
The two of them stared down at the sarcophagus as Lisa pushed the lid off it completely. ‘That’s a remarkably well-preserved body for an old Templar tomb,’ she added.
And it was. The worn cloth and metal and chainmail was of a style Selena wasn’t going to call anything more specific than ‘medieval’, and across his chest was a white surcoat emblazoned with the red Templar cross. But he should have rotted over the years, surely, and the man wearing it all was whole. He looked no more than his late-thirties, square-jawed, dark of hair and bearded, and so peaceful he might as well have been sleeping, not dead.
‘I don’t -’
Then he opened his eyes, and Selena would have been rewarded with the satisfaction of seeing Lisa - hardened, stoic Lisa - scream with surprise.
Except she was too busy screaming. ‘Oh my God, he’s alive!’
The man squinted up at them. ‘Quoi?’
‘Oh my God, he’s French!’
‘Oh. English.’ He sat up, lifting a hand to his head - and lowered it as Lisa whipped out her wand and shoved it in his face. ‘I would not do that.’
‘Okay! We all need to stop and calm down!’ said Selena, lifting her hands, even though she was talking loudly, quickly, and in a very high pitch.
‘Who are you?’ Lisa demanded, ignoring Selena.
‘I could ask you the same question. You woke me. Surely you know who you were waking?’ Then the Templar looked down and saw the broken statue at his feet. He tensed. ‘What did you do?’
‘They did it!’ squeaked Selena, pointing at the Stunned Council wizard. ‘We didn’t do anything! Except interrupt their ritual and possibly cause the statue to break due to a backlash of magical power!’ Facts had fallen into her head over the time spent with Methuselah, she realised. She hadn’t known she knew so much about the general principles of rituals, but it made sense.
The Templar looked over. ‘And who are they?’
‘Who are you?’ Lisa repeated.
‘Someone has to start answering things! I’m Selena Rourke! This is Lisa Delacroix! They are the Council of Thorns, really bad Dark Wizards who wanted to take over this golem-dragon you apparently have here!’ Selena tried to not sound as hysterical as she felt - then she narrowed her eyes at the groggy-looking Templar. ‘Morgana’s tits, are you Reynald de Sablé?’
The look on his face told her she was right, but still he frowned. ‘You could keep a more civil tongue in your head, good lady. That was improper, and twice now you have taken the Lord’s name in vain.’
Lisa lowered her wand and muttered something in French. De Sablé glared at that, too, and she rolled her eyes. ‘This is great - except - no, no, I can’t move past this,’ she decided. ‘You’re actually a several centuries-old Templar?’
‘We already knew he was long-lived from his records in Ager Sanguinis,’ said Selena, speaking very quickly. ‘If he had the Chalice and was drinking from it then that he lived a long time isn’t exactly unusual -’
Then the chamber around them shook, dust knocked from the ceiling, and a low rumble echoed through the masonry like the building itself was a beast about to be unleashed. They all looked up. ‘Oh, yeah,’ said Selena. ‘And there’s a golem-dragon on the loose.’
‘That is a problem,’ said de Sablé, clambering out of the sarcophagus. ‘I have been resting here with the statue imbued with its Words.’ He nodded at the broken dragon statue. ‘In the right hands, the golem is a mighty weapon, the secret behind this fortress’s strength. But with the statue broken, that construct will answer no master, and revert to its primary purpose: destruction.’
Lisa also looked at the statue. ‘Can you fix that?’
‘Perhaps,’ said de Sablé. ‘I am not sure I can do so before it destroys the convent, the castle, and the town.’
‘Matt said he had an idea.’ Selena bit her lip. ‘I mean, all he’s got is one of those Templar swords, and they do work against golems…’
De Sablé looked at her, brow furrowing. ‘It is what they were made for, to disrupt magic,’ he agreed. ‘But it will take more than just a sword to stop this.’
Four to go, thought Scorpius as he saw Albus cut through the swarm of Council wizards like the strong and smooth slash of a scimitar. There was a flash of magic, the spark of a Stun, and one of them fell, a limp shape tumbling through the sky as Albus rounded on the rest of their enemies.
Without thinking, Scorpius dove in their direction. He skimmed the top of the ring wall as he tore away from the castle, all-too aware of the hulking shape of the golem-dragon still hot on his heels, but for those thudding heartbeats didn’t care about the construct behind him, of the danger in his flying. ‘Wingardium Leviosa!’
His wand lashed out - but not at Albus. Magic rippled across the air to wrap around the tumbling Council wizard, and then they weren’t in a free-fall but a bobbing descent.
Nobody’s dying this time.
The reward for his compassion came seconds later, when he yanked at the handle of his broom to pull out of the dive. The golem-dragon roared again, that deafening sound of stone scraping on stone, and his instincts screamed at him to swerve - but too late. He’d been too distracted, too focused on making sure the Council flier didn’t become a smear on the ground, and so pulled his broom up straight into the path of the golem-dragon’s next burst of concentrated, magical breath.
He was only at the periphery, but the blast was enough to send him rocketing out of control, tumbling head-over-feet. His knees slipped on the broom’s handle, and he would have fallen but for his desperate, white-knuckled grip. He righted himself with a grunt of effort, yanked the handle to the side so hard the muscles in his arms screamed in protest to avoid a looming tree-trunk, then he was soaring upward, free, catching his breath and his balance.
Scorpius chanced a look over his shoulder. The blast of air had scattered the bulk of the Council wizards, forcing them to swerve or be struck, and Albus himself had rocketed high over the disaster, clear of danger and in control. While Scorpius had always been the better flier, while Albus’ talents as a Quidditch captain had come more from his grasp of tactics and leadership, there were reasons they’d been a terror of a partnership. They could anticipate one another, they could reinforce one another, and when Albus was on top form he was an unstoppable, decisive flier to support Scorpius’ acrobatics.
It was time for those talents to shine. Scorpius’ heart lunged into his throat as he saw the golem-dragon, its pesky little distractions dispatched for the moment, begin a lazy arc to swerve towards the town of Tomar, another roar rumbling across the sky. He grabbed the handle of his broom yet again, but Albus was closer, and it was he who dove for the nose of the enormous construct.
A flash of his wand, a harmless but dazzling and magic-infused spell, caught the golem-dragon’s attention - and so it swerved after Albus this time. Enormous rocky teeth snapped at the bristles of his broom, but crashed shut on nothing but thin air. Scorpius suppressed a grin. Anticipation and reinforcement. He’d been unable to keep up the diversion, and Albus had seen this and taken over.
The Council wizards were still scattered, and Scorpius took advantage of the moment to look to the ridged back of the dragon, where Matt had been clinging on for dear life. What the hell are you hoping to achieve with that sword, Doyle? But he was still clambering closer and closer to the head, still moving with dogged determination and an iron grip, and Scorpius knew his best bet was to trust he knew what he was doing, and buy him time.
Then one of the handful of Council wizards broke off and dove for the back of the dragon. Spells shot from their wand at Matt, but the rocky ridges of the golem-dragon’s back provided enough shelter, and the magic splashed harmlessly off the stony, immune hide. So the flier dove again, this time to land near the golem-dragon’s tail.
Scorpius’ breath caught in his throat as he got a better look at the wizard now clambering across the golem-dragon’s back after Matt, wand in hand, and without thinking he swerved after them, hurtling at the magical construct he’d been so keen to avoid before now. But now he had no choice, because if he didn’t act, Matt was going to die.
Because he certainly couldn’t do whatever he planned and fight Prometheus Thane.
His landing on the huge back of the golem-dragon was not dignified. There was all of twenty-feet of reasonably-flat space to land on before the flanks of the construct curved and would be impossible to stand. Bringing his broom down on such a narrow space, so quickly he wouldn’t be easily spotted, was no mean feat. His feet hit the rocky ‘ground’ and he stumbled, forced to let go of the broom to grab hold of one of the spiny ridges and cling on.
The broom tumbled past him and fell into the sky which might as well have been endless for how high they were, and he was trapped. Just him, a golem-dragon, and Prometheus Thane. Thane, who was ahead of him, making his steady way across the difficult rocky ground that swerved and spun underfoot, heading for the neck where Matt had reached.
Scorpius raised his wand and drew a deep breath. ‘Stupefy!’
Over the rushing air, his muttered curse wasn’t audible. But Thane stumbled at just the right moment, the magic shooting over his shoulder, and when he looked back his eyes flashed.
Scorpius tried not to swear, and hurled another spell - only for it to crash off a shield charm, and then he was, yet again, face-to-face with Prometheus Thane. And this time it was to protect, of all people, Matthias Doyle.
‘I heard you were dead!’ called Thane, twirling his wand in one hand, the other clinging to the rocky spines of the golem-dragon that bucked and swerved under them.
‘You need to get better at murdering people in their sleep!’
Thane gave a twist of a smile. The air was rushing past them, blasting Scorpius’ hair out of his face, and the landscape around might as well have been anywhere for how little he could pay attention to were the golem-dragon was trying to rampage, or to where Albus was managing to lead it. The world had narrowed away from Tomar, even away from Matt’s gambit, and become nothing more than him and Thane.
As it always was.
The retort was a blast Scorpius surprised himself by shielding, and then the sky was filled with crackling magic and danger.