Chapter 13 : 13- Reward and Loss
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The sound of the wooden wheels rotating on the cobbled path was the only sound being made for miles. Even the footsteps of the patrol in charge of guarding the train of carts were silent in comparison to the noise.
It was one of Akrahn Colby’s larger supply runs; consisting of more than two dozen large carriages each of which were filled with supplies that bulged through the covering canopies like mountains through the earth. Each cart also had at least three guards assigned to its protection although Dagfinn Boyson never had been one to let mere numbers get in the way of his victories.
As the convoy continued to trundle through the thick woods and towards, Dagfinn assumed, the border with Russia where the front line of the war was located, Dagfinn walked slowly and carefully along with it from atop one of the two grassy ridges that surrounded the path.
His dark eyes were set on the tall, broad man at the head of the caravan; Alvar Tarkon, one of the few Wizards that had escaped Dagfinn and his Aurors during the attack on the Scandinavian Ministry. His thoughts remained maliciously on his hastily prepared ambush; his heartbeats ticking the seconds away for him in his ear.
From the corner of his eye Dagfinn noticed others through the trees on the opposite ridge mimicking his movements as he drew his wand.
There was an almighty crash as the cart at the very front of the line was flipped into the air and sent summersaulting into the one behind. The culprit was a large cobbled pillar that was now sticking out from the ground, blocking the way and separating Alvar from the rest of his guard. Not that he could have helped them.
Spells of all kinds were now raining relentlessly from the trees and the surrounding areas onto the patrol, sending the majority of them to the ground. The few that had survived the initial ambush had dived for cover behind the very cargo they were tasked with protecting before attempting to fire back at their attackers.
One woman sent a poorly aimed curse at Dagfinn, who leaned nonchalantly out of the way as he strolled down towards the pathway. With a flick of his wand the woman was blasted backwards with a flash of white light and left unmoving on the ground.
“Keep your guard up!” Dagfinn ordered to the others as they followed suit and made their way down once the last of the patrol had fallen. “It’s never this easy.” He growled to himself.
Although many regrouped with Dagfinn, the majority of them, to Dagfinn’s dismay, were some of Durmstrang’s most recent graduates. It appeared that their professor, Viktor Krum, had earned himself much respect during his time teaching for every single student he had approached were eager to join the fight against their new Ministry, despite what was being said about both he and Dagfinn.
“I’ve got him!” Dagfinn heard a rough voice bellow out and he turned to see Krum hauling Alvar Tarkon to Dagfinn’s feet. “Thought he could outrun a Leg-Locker Curse.” Krum sneered as the man seemed to struggle getting to his knees with his legs locked tightly together. However, the leader of the caravan’s guard was so tall that even in this weakened position he still reached the same height as Dagfinn.
“Agneta!” Dagfinn called out as he stared at the man. “Lead the others in going through our new goodies and be quick. Now, what do I do with you?” Alvar looked defiantly up at him, the tiny silver sign that had once been Gellert Grindelwald’s calling card dangling from around his neck. “I’d hate to waste what little Truth Serum we have left on you but handing you over to my fellows here for interrogation might not be wise either. They’re only young you see,” Dagfinn explained, the threat lacing his voice. “And very, very angry. So they might get… carried away.” Still the man remained silent.
“We should just kill him, Sir.” A young man from right behind Dagfinn stated, his smooth pale face glowering hatefully at the captured guard. “He’s of no importance.”
“On the contrary young Bryn,” Dagfinn explained as he continued to stare at the prisoner. “Akrahn assigned Mister Tarkon here to head the guard his largest supply train to date which means he has some form of standing with the man we’re having trouble in tracking.” Dagfinn smiled broadly at the man. “Prepare him for transport back to base. We can interrogate him further there. Oh, and a word of advice,” Dagfinn added to Alvar. “Don’t try convincing us he’s at the border. That’s what the last four prisoners tried spouting. We know for a fact he’s not there.”
“Sir!” A voice called from behind one of the wagons. “You need to see this!”
Dagfinn pulled his attention away from their new prisoner and ran towards the voice.
“What is-” He started, but the sight of what was in the cart answered his question.
“What are they?” The woman who had called him over asked as she inspected the long, silvery beams. Although at first glance, one would have thought that they were made of wood, their transparency and smooth, warm touch resembled more of heated glass.
“Pondu Beams.” Dagfinn breathed. “Veritaserum! Now!” He ordered urgently as he bolted his way back over to their only prisoner. “Agneta, what about the others?”
“Sir, are you quite sure? You said so yourself, our supply is limited.” A specky looking Wizard answered as he fumbled around in a draw-strung bag while Dagfinn’s old friend threw off the tarp of two more carts to reveal more silver beams.
“I’m positive.” Dagfinn interrupted as he drew his wand on the bound man at Krum’s feet. “Unless of course our guest would like to explain willingly.” But the man continued to stare defiantly at Dagfinn. “Very well then.” Dagfinn responded as he accepted the tiny crystal vial from the specky Wizard and advanced.
Krum pulled the man’s head back by the hair and clamped his hand over the prisoner’s nose. When he finally opened his mouth for air, Dagfinn was quick to force the liquid into his mouth.
After attempting and failing to spit out the truth serum, Dagfinn finally got the man to swallow.
“Where are you taking these?” Dagfinn growled.
The man looked as though he was about to be sick, though when he opened his mouth the words “The Ministry” were the only things to fall out.
“The Ministry?” Krum asked. “Then why are you taking them by cart? Why not Portkey your supplies in?”
“Because Pondu Beams are sensitive to other enchantments being used on or around them.” Dagfinn answered, his eyes wide.
“Sir, what are Pondu Beams?” The young man called Bryn asked but Dagfinn was too taken in with glowering at Alvar to answer.
“Why are you taking them to the Ministry?” He asked
The prisoner was grinning broadly now. “I don’t know. Akrahn just told me to make sure the delivery was made and to kill anyone who tried to stop me.” The guard then looked up at Dagfinn, on the point of hysterical laughter. “And I plan on fulfilling my order.”
Dagfinn and Krum caught each other’s eye. “Everyone!” Dagfinn bellowed to his followers. “Get ready to move out!” He then turned to Krum. “We need to make contact with Kingsley. Regroup your patrol and we’ll meet back at HQ.”
“What about him?” Krum asked disdainfully as he indicated the large man kneeling before them. Dagfinn turned and sighed as he glanced at the prisoner.
He was just about to raise his wand and aim for the heart when an ear-splitting high-pitched siren pierced the silence of the forest. However, the noise was nowhere near loud enough to drown out the sounds of Apparition from all around them.
“Ambush!” A voice cried out over the noise as spells begun to fly.
Dagfinn counted at least fifty Wizards and Witches charging at his thirty-five from where they had appeared from thin air. Knowing that Disapparition would now be impossible, Dagfinn re-aimed his wand and bellowed “Retreat!”
One man who’d run straight at him fell as Dagfinn struck him in the face with a Stunner though two more were right behind him.
“Come Dagfinn!” Krum ordered, grabbing the short man by the robes and tugging. “There are too many to fight!”
The two leaped over the breeches of the cart behind them, a curse narrowly missing Dagfinn’s head as they did so, and darted towards the trees. Fighting had already broken out around the site and Dagfinn could already see that Akrahn’s men were overpowering them.
Agneta was fending off three at once as she backed away into the trees, her hazel eyes tracking each of their every movements, while some of their younger members were being struck down around them by assailants, both afar and up close, conjuring jets of green and red lights.
But neither Dagfinn nor Krum were in any position to help any of them. Four Wizards appeared to be waiting in hiding amongst the trees for any stragglers, their wands at the ready but Dagfinn was still quicker to strike first. His curse struck one of the men in the stomach, freezing him where he stood as his skin rapidly grew several shades paler. Krum ducked and dived out of the way of a barrage of hexes by two of the ambushers and behind a tree while Dagfinn ran at the fourth, hatred and fury burning in his blood.
“Crucio!” The man cackled but Dagfinn was quick to spin out of the way and slash his counter-curse in retaliation. The spell hit the man in the face making him recoil in agony as he clutched at the affected area. A flash of green light later, the man’s wails ceased and he fell dead to the floor.
Dagfinn spun on the spot to see Krum being forced to remain behind cover as the final two continued to send hex after hex at him as they advanced.
Dagfinn wasted no time and with a wave of his wand and a flash of purple light, one of the men was sent off his feet and into a nearby oak. Taking advantage of this, Krum dove out of cover and hit his own target in the chest with a jet of white light that made the man summersault on the spot before landing face down on the ground.
The fight and the siren still echoing throughout the forest, both men turned back to face the massacre.
“Go,” Krum ordered. “I’ll head back and help the others.” But before the sportsman-built Wizard could even take a step, Dagfinn held him back.
“They’ll kill you.” He explained sadly, still panting from his skirmish. “It was a trap, Viktor. The carts must have had a kind of Intrusion Charm placed on them.”
As he spoke, the sound of the charm -placed alarm began to die down leaving only the bangs, crashes and screams of the fight.
Krum appeared heartbroken as he looked from Dagfinn to the convoy. “I’m sorry, I can’t leave them.”
Dagfinn sighed. “I’m sorry too.”
There was a flash of red light and Krum fell unconscious to the floor. With a second wave of his wand, Dagfinn made Krum hover a few inches off the ground.
He was about to continue his way, his unconscious friend by his side, when the snapping of a nearby twig reached Dagfinn’s ears among the remaining crashes and bangs.
Dagfinn spun on the spot, ready to fight but what felt like the shockwave of an explosion sent him through the air and into the trunk of a tree.
Though winded from his collision, Dagfinn forced himself to look up at his attacker to see Alvar Tarkon looking down at the stunned Krum, his twisted, blood splattered face filled with malice.
He had just raised his wand at the unconscious figure when Dagfinn slashed his own. The resulting Shield Charm made the Alvar’s curse rebound and with a loud bang sent him flying backwards.
After witnessing the large man roll across what must have been fifty feet of the forest ground, Dagfinn finally caught his breath back and got to his feet. His now dirt covered opponent did the same and jabbed his wand at Dagfinn who deflected the curse with a second slash of his wand making the jet of light zoom off into the sky like a silver firework.
“Where does Akrahn go when he leaves the Ministry?” Dagfinn bellowed, hoping the man was still under the effects of the Veritaserum.
For the first time, Alvar gave Dagfinn a fearful look as he replied wildly “Nurmenguard!”
It was clear he knew the cost of his mistake for Alvar then wasted no time in sending a Killing Curse at Dagfinn who had dive out of the way before replying in kind, his blood cold from the name of the prison. But Dagfinn’s curse missed and struck one of the surrounding trees leaving the part of the trunk where it had struck looking rotten. Dagfinn waved his wand again, pointing them this time at a nearby bush. Immediately the leaves from the shrub stiffened and detached themselves from their host and flew at Dagfinn’s target like daggers.
It was Alvar’s turn now to go on the defensive as he cast a Shield Charm of his own just in time to block the bulk of the oncoming barrage though a few of the leaves beat him to it and left deep slashes in his cheek, shoulder and arm as they zoomed past.
“Why Nurmenguard?” Dagfinn shouted as he continued the assault. “The prison was destroyed during his attack on it!”
“Akrahn keeps his prisoners in the Eastern Tower.” Alvar admitted through gritted teeth as he struggled to focus on keeping his Shield Charm steady. “He restored the tower and plans the same for the rest of the fortress!”
Dagfinn tried to process this despite his current situation. No, he thought to himself. The Pondu Beams already being used there would still be in effect. He wanted to press further but before he could, Alvar saw his chance and slashed his wand, turning the remainder of Dagfinn’s leafy ammunition to ash before attempting to end the fight with another Killing Curse. Dagfinn was ready though and let loose a jinx to collide with the jet of green light in mid-air.
Back and forth their spells flew, each of them deflecting or dodging the other’s as they advanced closer towards one another until they were no further than a foot apart.
Alvar was desperate to make up for his forced answers and was sending curses at Dagfinn every chance he had but the smaller Wizard was quick to duck and dodge around the man and his spells. Dagfinn leaped behind his opponent, out of the way of a jet of green light, but Alvar’s reactions had slurred during their fight and he was too slow in re-aiming his wand. There was a bright flash of purple light and the guard was lifted into the air and soared several feet before landing again.
Panting, Dagfinn advanced, his wand raised and ready, but before he was even half way to reaching him, Alvar lifted both is head and his wand. Before Dagfinn knew it, he had thick bronze chains flying towards him. They caught him in the stomach, winding him a second time, before they went about coiling themselves tightly around him. Bound and breathless, Dagfinn fell to the floor with a thud while his captor took his time to struggle back to his feet.
“I told you,” Alvar said as he towered over his victim, his wand-tip pointing directly at Dagfinn’s cheat. “I plan on fulfilling my orders.”
There was a flash of bright green light and Alvar Tarkon fell. As the man collapsed, he revealed Bryn standing behind him, his wand raised. The young Wizard looked shaken and sick; half of his sickeningly pale face covered in blood while the other was coated in sweat.
“T-told you we should of k-killed him.” He spluttered in an attempt to sound confident.
The young man then aimed his wand at Dagfinn and the chains binding him fell off.
“Come, Bryn.” Dagfinn said gently as he searched their surroundings for any other survivors or attackers.
Dagfinn bustled the young Durmstrang graduate towards the unconscious figure of the man’s teacher before continuing onwards, beyond the reach of their attacker’s enchantments.
“I truly am sorry my friend.” Dagfinn grumbled to Krum as he floated by his side. “But if what I suspect is correct, we might be able to use it to win this war.”
Naomi sat and watched idly as Harry and the Head of the Mongolian Aurors, Obar Amdus, checked and re-checked the patrol lines. She wished she could go over and help or at the very least be doing something somewhere else but Alexei and Berkoff had been so uptight about the oncoming attack that she was surprised they were allowing Harry as much say as he was getting. And even if she had orders to assist in some other part of the castle-like Ministry, Naomi had a sneaking suspicion that Harry still wouldn’t be out of arm’s reach. While she was relishing in being in the company of her mentor once again, Naomi couldn’t help but wonder if it was because he felt the same or because she had become another job to him; just another V.I.P that needed babysitting.
She scoffed to herself as the idea sank into mind.
“Sickle for your thoughts, Supreme Mugvump?”
Naomi turned around to see Chingis strolling down the courtyard steps where she sat.
“I’ve told you time and again, Gal, call me-”
“Naomi.” The ex-Minister finished with a friendly smile. “Are you alright?”
Naomi gave a small chuckle. “About as well as I can feel I suppose.”
“Vell,” Gal said cheekily as he sat beside her. “I believe I can think up something dat might cheer you up.” He then inclined his head back towards the entrance he’d come from.
Curious, Naomi looked back to see a bulk of a woman looking over the courtyard suspiciously.
“Tyrus!” Naomi exclaimed as she leapt to her feet. The ex-Auror, though she stood tall and alert, had certainly seen better days. At least a dozen more scars had been added to her face from her torture and her skin was still a shade off colour. Her short brown hair had clearly grown during her incapacitation, for the longer strands now brushed against her shoulders, and it was a few moments before Naomi realised that this was the first time she’d seen Tyrus out of the sleeveless robes she traditionally wore to show off her scarred muscles and dressed instead in a pair of the Mongolian Ministry’s dark green battle robes. The arrogance that usually decorated her face however, hadn’t changed at all.
“Oh good, so you didn’t start the fun without me.” She quipped as she made her way down. It wasn’t until Tyrus was only a few steps away that Naomi noticed the star shaped emerald gleaming on the breast of her robes. In the centre of the star was a tiny ruby plate with the face of a bald, bearded man staring nobly out into the distance.
“The Zoulin Star of Bravery.” Gal explained when he noticed Naomi’s inquisitive look. “One of the Ten Stars of Gambine; the highest honours our Ministry can bestow.”
Naomi turned to look at Gal to see that he had a second star in his outstretched hand. “Traditionally there would be a ceremony in which the Minister for Magic would personally award it to you but, given your current circumstances…” He then proceeded to carefully place the medal on Naomi’s own Mongolian battle-robes. “It vill stick to any object of fabric you place it on and peel off just as nicely, like a magnet, see, without the need of those pins.” He then took a step back and took in the sight of Naomi. “Please know that this is only a small token compared to my gratitude for what you two did.”
“Thank you.” Naomi breathed in disbelief as she looked down at the star. “I’m honoured.”
“I’m afraid this is also vere we part vays for now.”
“You’re leaving?” Naomi said, a little sadly. She’d grown very fond of the ex-Minister during their time together.
“Unfortunately,” He answered. “But believe me, I’m going to be a damn sight more useful to the Confederation back at my Ministry den I am on a battlefield.” Naomi understood though felt a small pang of sorrow as she embraced Gal in a hug. “Stay safe, Naomi.” He said in a cracked voice over her shoulder.
“I will.” She said with a smile she did not feel like wearing. “And give my best to Bonnie.”
The old man smiled as they broke apart and gave Naomi a small bow before walking over to Harry.
“Aww, you two,” Tyrus said as she walked down to Naomi’s level, her eyes still scanning the courtyard’s defences. “Are you going to be the one who breaks Weasley’s heart or do you want me to do it?”
“I think he’s sweet.” Naomi said defensively.
“It’s the sweet one’s you’ve got to watch out for.” Tyrus said, her eyes now narrowed on Gal and Harry talking in the centre of the courtyard.
“How’re you feeling?” Naomi asked.
“Few extra cuts here and there never did anyone real harm.” She replied casually. “I mean there was the small inconvenience of having Healers break into my mind to get my memories unlocked again, which was a bit of an absolute hell of an experience but, you know, what’s life without a few experiences?”
Naomi could hardly fail to notice the bitterness growing in her voice. “Tyrus, are you sure you-”
“Yes I’m sure.” She snapped and Naomi noticed that her eyes kept flashing back towards Harry and Gal. Naomi turned and could’ve sworn she’d caught the two staring back but they turned their attention back to each other so quickly, it was hard to be certain.
“I told you, everything’s fine.” Tyrus spat before Naomi could finish.
She was about to reiterate her question when the large Alexei trundled between them.
“Apologies Supreme Mugvump,” He said respectfully with a small bow. “I must talk vith Harry.”
“I think he’s just finishing up with Gal.” She answered giving the pair a second
glance in time to see Harry shake the ex-Minister’s hand and mouth the words “Thank you.”
“Oh, this is Tyrus by the way.” Naomi said hastily. “Caitlin Tyrus; she’s come to help fight. Tyrus this is-”
“Alexei Zolnero,” Tyrus finished offering her hand. “I’ve been following the work of you and Head Auror Kazmir Volma for some time. You two were quite a team.” She added as Alexei accepted the hand-shake. “I only wish there was more that could have been done for him.”
“Thank you.” Alexei said stiffly. “I must say, I’ve heard much of your own recent achievements. Re-arming de Supreme Mugvump for example…”
As the two carried on Naomi noticed Gal Chingis making his way towards the Ministry. She caught his eye just in time to exchange one last wave goodbye before he vanished behind the heavy wooden doors.
“Alexei,” Harry called as he approached the trio, Head Auror Amdus towering behind him. “How’re we looking?”
“Twenty-five Aurors have been allocated to our anti-air squadron,” Alexei answered. “With a dozen more assigned to anti-Dragon patrol. All of which have been armed to the teeth vith Darkness Powder and Fervans Potions; each contained vithin a charmed vial so dat dey don’t blow up vile dey’re in de air. And every flyer has been given de latest Aircutter’s to fly; de very best dat Russian broom-makers have to offer.”
Harry nodded. “Good, let me know if anyone else brave or foolish enough volunteers for the anti-Dragon patrol.” He ordered. “And the bridges?”
“Ready and rigged.” Alexei grunted unapprovingly though it was clear Harry could not care about the tone.
“Alright then, go bring Berkoff up to speed with things and then get something to eat. That’s an order Alexei.” Harry added sternly with a small smile.
Alexei gave a sharp nod and returned the smile before heading back into the Ministry.
Naomi found herself eating dinner in her bedchamber alone. Not that she was objective. It appeared the only time she got to herself within the Russian Ministry was when she slept and even then she could feel the presence of the Aurors standing guard outside her bedroom door. As she ate she watched as the mountain view from her window was flooded with orange, pink and burning red as the sun set. It wasn’t until she’d been doing this for an hour that it struck her that if Harry was leaving her alone for this long, something important must be happening.
She could almost hear her friend Emily say You nosey bitch as Naomi cleared her dinner stuff away with a wave of her wand and moved for her bedroom door, a sad smirk on her face.
After eventually miming the answer out of a couple of passing Mongolian Aurors, Naomi found Harry in the small, stuffy office he and the others had been using as a war room. As she walked over however, Naomi discovered that he was alone with Tyrus and overheard the use of her name.
Taking cover behind a nearby stone pillar, Naomi focussed her hearing towards the ajar office door. “…is top priority, do you understand?” Harry stated. “If you are unfit in any way-”
“Damnit Potter I know what’s at stake!” Tyrus snapped. “It’s why I agreed to this in the first place. I’m strong enough to fight and I’m certainly strong enough to activate a simple charm.”
There was a pause as Naomi mulled over what ‘simple charm’ they could be talking about when she was distracted by Harry asking softly “Where would it take her?”
The blood in her face drained as she heard this question as the pieces began clicking into place in her mind.
“A safe-house the Mongolian’s have set up,” Tyrus answered. “Surrounded by half-a-dozen Aurors should anyone else get to it first. Any orders to join her when we send her on her merry way?”
“No.” Harry answered. “It’s a one-man taker should we be in the thick of it when it’s activated; can’t risk sending one of Bowton’s men to her safe point.”
Naomi found herself subconsciously brushing her fingertips against the cold medal attached to her robes. Anger bubbled within her as she stepped out from her hiding place and began marching towards her dear mentor.
Harry, who had been sat on the desk looking up at Tyrus, had only just noticed her when a single sound drained Naomi of all thought and feeling.
A loud, trumpeting noise like an elephant’s cry echoed around them. Immediately, all around them the men and women within the Ministry were charging towards different corners of the building; the fighters to their arranged positions and the civilians to the nearest fireplace before the Floo-Network was shut down.
Tyrus threw open the office door and took in the scene for herself. “They’re here.”
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