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Chapter 31 : Of Winged Ambition
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‘The Chalice was a matter of myth even eight hundred years ago,’ said de Sablé with honest apology. ‘I regret to say I do not know how it fell into the hands of the Templars, but we did not understand it even then. Most knights accepted it at face value as a gift from the Lord, and I was not involved in the decision to bear it with us to the Holy Land.’
‘We call it Syria these days. Or, the bit you went to,’ said Selena helpfully, perched on the edge of Matt’s desk.
‘It was only there that I started to suspect it was something of man, and then we kept it in Ager Sanguinis to understand it better, but you know about that. I would wager its origins were of Britain, and I would agree with Matthias’ theory that the Chalice predates the Age of Camelot. Likely Arthur’s knights found it, giving us our stories of the Grail, and after Camelot’s fall it eventually worked its way into the hands of the Order. But I am a French knight.’ He smiled self-effacingly.
‘We need,’ said Matt, sat at the desk, ‘to go through all of those older legends of Dyfed, of all south Wales. Of Myrddin Emrys -’
‘Okay.’ Selena lifted her hands. ‘I get that myth and history get squiffy if you look before Hogwarts’ time. I get that records have been lost, and wizards have worked so hard to stay hidden they’ve sometimes hidden from themselves. But we need to talk about Merlin. Was he the Emrys who named the Chalice?’
‘I don’t know,’ Matt said bluntly. ‘The thing about Merlin is that he was obviously centuries old to pop up in Arthur’s Court, and then to study at Hogwarts. He studied at Hogwarts under an assumed identity for years until he confessed the truth to Slytherin. Allegedly. Allegedly, he did it to gauge the Founders and how well they would do with a new era of magical - look, the problem is that he’s a sneaky bastard who used lots of names, lots of faces, and if we try to pin him down anywhere except Hogwarts and Camelot we’re going to tear our hair out. Emrys may have been Myrddin Emrys, a wizard who may have been Merlin. Or Emrys was Emrys Wledig, also called Ambrosius Aurelianus, a 5th century war leader who predated Arthur. But even if we could tell which the name referred to, that doesn’t mean either one of them made it.’
‘This,’ said Selena, ‘is why I don’t do the research. Because I’m already lost.’
‘I believe that Matthias’ argument,’ ventured de Sablé, ‘is that we must look to myths and legends even wizardkind dismisses to find some shred of truth.’
‘Oh, so, just the lost records and tall tales from, what, the entirety of the history of south Wales before the 5th century?’
‘You’re right,’ said Matt. ‘We’re flying blind. So we need to go to the source.’
‘What, wander Wales and hope we trip over the ritual circle the Chalice was made in?’
‘Actually, we want to go to Winchester.’
Selena stared. ‘Assume I have no idea what you’re talking about.’
De Sablé was looking at him, too. ‘You wish to consult the Black Book.’
‘That’s promising.’ She folded her arms across her chest. ‘What a cheerful name.’
Matt raised his good hand. ‘The Black Book of Carmarthen is a thirteenth century Welsh document. Or, the better-known Muggle copy is. Wizards had it rewritten as they started to hide themselves from society more and more. Originally it was a seventh century magical record from the Kingdom of Dyfed - Pembrokeshire region - which, yes, is assumed even by wizards to have been about local myths and legends and not that reliable. But there were some historic elements to it, and it’s the best source I can imagine to consult if we want to take the myths about the Chalice of Emrys seriously.’
‘I have a super important question,’ said Selena. ‘Why’s it called the Black Book?’
‘It’s just the black bindings, honest. Honest.’
‘And why’s it in Winchester?’ She narrowed her eyes at him. ‘In short.’
‘Er - okay, in short, the King of Dyfed allied with Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, when the Vikings were invading in the 9th century. Winchester was Alfred’s seat of power. The book fell into Saxon wizards’ hands through the alliance, and it stayed there even after the Viking threat, which upset the Welsh wizards a lot. Sort of setting the scene for Welsh-English relations, really, Muggle and wizarding, so -’
‘Stolen by English. Got it. God, we’re pricks through history, aren’t we.’
The Frenchman Reynald de Sablé smiled. ‘You shall find no argument here.’
Matt looked at him, gaze tired. ‘I have another source for you to consult. As you can travel abroad more easily. I need you to go to Bygøy in Norway. Viking raiders stole the Chronicles of Gwrdebyr - King Vortipor of Dyfed - in the 9th century. They’re in the magical archives in the city, perfectly free to view and also a source of political consternation for Britain, but I don’t really care about who owns what.’
‘I will arrange for travel and consult the texts.’
‘Good. Those are more likely to have information about Aurelianus, in case he’s the Emrys we want.’
Selena wrinkled her nose. ‘I’m not comfortable with the assumption that we’ll find out about the Chalice’s origins from well-known books and documents which have been in wizarding hands for centuries. Surely it’s not that easy.’
‘Maybe not,’ said Matt. ‘But until we found the Chalice, remember, most of the world thought it was a myth.’
‘Even the Templars encouraged the world to believe it a legend,’ said de Sablé. ‘Legends can be more powerful, and are also harder to steal.’ He bowed his head. ‘I shall see about arranging transport. Good evening.’
He left, the door swinging open and shut to let a splash of humming activity from the main office pen spill into the office. Selena frowned in its direction before she turned to Matt. ‘What’re they all working on out there?’
‘Technical magics,’ said Matt. ‘We have the Chalice itself, so they’re experimenting on it. What magics does it react to, what rituals affect it. I suppose the better we understand its fundamental nature, the easier this will all be, but I still believe we’ll need to go to the source. Magic was different when the Chalice was made. Wilder.’
‘I’ll take your word for it.’
He gave her a lopsided smile. ‘Sorry. I don’t mean to babble on.’
‘It’s okay.’ She returned the smile gently, reassuringly. ‘I like listening to you babble.’
Matt brightened, but then his gaze flickered and he got to his feet. ‘I, um. I have a couple of errands to run. I’ll send a letter to sort us access to the Black Book, if you’d like to come with me to Winchester, that is…’
Selena frowned. ‘Of course. What’s wrong?’
‘No, nothing. Nothing.’ He rubbed the back of his neck with his good hand, studying the floor for a moment, then drew a deep breath. ‘Do you - I mean, would you like to have dinner with me tonight?’
The flush that ran through her was so petty it was precious. She thinned her lips to stop a stupid smile from curling them. ‘I would, yes.’
‘Good! Great. I, uh, I’m not sure where -’
‘I know a place,’ she blurted. ‘Near the Clarion’s offices. It’s magic. Tapas. So it’s, uh, finger-food…’ So you don’t have to use a knife and fork. Colour rose to her cheeks, a shame she wasn’t sure she should feel, uncertainty if this was considerate of his hand or rude and patronising.
But he smiled with relief, either at the thoughtfulness or just so pleased she’d said yes that he didn’t care. ‘Great. Tonight. I’ll drop by your place at seven?’
‘It’s a date,’ she said, and now she couldn’t stop the stupid smile, because even if she’d spent nights curled up in his arms with varying degrees of intimacy, something this minor and flirtatious and normal was still a bout of fresh air so strong it could buffet her into a place where doom and grief and the shattering world didn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t reach her.
‘You wanted to see me?’ Eva decided formality was the more sensible route to take as she padded into Scorpius Malfoy’s hotel suite, and clasped her hands behind her back.
‘Oh - Eva - coffee?’ The man himself was at the kitchenette, fighting with a contraption of pipes and steam like it took the effort of scaling a mountain. ‘I swear I can make this thing do coffee -’
‘No. Thank you.’ She did rather want a coffee. She also wanted to be out of here as soon as possible, and didn’t fancy precipitating Scorpius Malfoy’s second death by household appliance.
‘Well, I want a coffee,’ said Scorpius, and all her goodwill was for nothing when the machine gave a horrible choking, groaning noise that made her want to take cover behind the sofa. A tube sputtered before vomiting black ichor into a mug, and Scorpius stared at it for a long moment. ‘This… isn’t coffee.’
‘Can’t you just Floo room service?’
‘I do, but I have to order fancy coffee that this machine apparently doesn’t do or they’ll judge me. The last time I asked them for normal coffee, they sent a guy up here and he just glared at this machine and it made a brilliant cappuccino.’ He put down the mug. ‘So I think it hates me.’
‘I see.’ Eva didn’t.
‘Have a seat. I’ll Floo us up the fancy coffee.’
She sat down, hands in her lap because she wanted to hold onto something whenever she was unsure, and she had no idea what Scorpius Malfoy was about. She certainly had no idea why he was fussing like this, and it was only by the time he’d flapped around the suite, ordered coffee, got coffee, made a small scene over milk and sugar and sat down opposite her that she had the slightest clue. Whatever was going on, it made him nervous.
That wasn’t reassuring.
‘I’m going to look after Albus in Johannesburg, you know,’ she said once he’d sat down, because this was getting tiresome.
‘No - I mean, I know that.’ He frowned and put another sugar lump in his coffee. ‘Of course you are. I trust you.’
She hadn’t meant to sound so surprised, but he noticed and gave her a small, lopsided smile. ‘Frankly, I think you’re more deserving of trust than me. Your track record over the last two years is way better than mine over the last eight months.’
‘If we expand it to lifetimes, I’ve not saved a school.’
‘Perhaps not.’ He sipped his coffee. ‘But I didn’t, not really. Methuselah died to stop the ritual. Professor Lockett figured out the cure, with a lot of research help from Rose. Albus captured us Downing, which got us important information and got us closer to the Resurrection Stone. Thane gave me the Stone. So, credit for me isn’t fair. But you do bring me to the point.’
Eva’s expression pinched. ‘Prometheus.’
‘He…’ Scorpius’ voice trailed off, and he looked to the window. ‘That’s annoying. I thought we should talk about Thane. He’s something we have in common. But now you’re here I don’t know what to say.’
She let out a slow breath. ‘If you were wondering, no. You don’t ever stop feeling like he made you. Owns you, in a way.’
Scorpius’ cheek twitched. ‘I wasn’t wondering,’ he said. ‘I was pretty sure of that. The man brought me back from the dead. And then he gave me a cause, a means of fighting. I feel sick that I owe him -’
‘But you know you wouldn’t be you if it weren’t for him.’
‘And I don’t know if I want to kill him or thank him for that.’
Eva regarded him for a long moment. ‘If you want me to tell you that it gets better, it doesn’t. All I can do now is make my decisions for myself, but I know what this is. It’s making the most of the time I have, but the end is still set in stone.’
He met her gaze, expression slumped before he drank his coffee. ‘So, South Africa.’
She hadn’t helped. Then again, she’d only tried to because he’d asked; she’d known nothing would come of it. ‘I feel like I should tell you to not hate yourself for letting him under your skin. I feel like I should tell you that you’re your own man and you make your own fate, and that you’re free of him now because you chose to be. That if he asked something of you, a part of you wouldn’t want to do it, wouldn’t feel like you owe him. I can’t tell you any of that.’ Eva got to her feet. ‘I’ll look after Albus out there. And I’ll find your father so you get answers before the end.’
Before you die. It didn’t seem right to pretend this wasn’t the truth of the matter, but Eva wasn’t sure how to mince her words when she wasn’t trying to manipulate someone.
Scorpius’ expression was creased when he looked up at her. ‘Thanks.’
She suspected she wasn’t being thanked for her words of wisdom. She drew a deep breath. ‘You should know I never did what I did thinking it was for the “right” reasons. And neither did Thane. Even if you weren’t sure of your methods, you still did what you did for the world. Not your own hide, or money, or politics, or him. You’re not like me. And you’re not like him.’
His lips twisted. ‘I’m my very own kind of screwed up monster.’
She had to return that sardonic smile. ‘Aren’t we all,’ said Eva Saida, and left. She still wasn’t sure what he’d wanted from her. If it was absolution for the hold Prometheus Thane could have over one’s soul, she couldn’t grant that. If it was camaraderie for damnation, she wouldn’t grant that, because she knew she was destined for a deeper layer of hell. She could, at least, reassure him that she’d look after Albus Potter. In so far as she was capable of that.
Someone was waiting for her outside her flat when she reached the safe house’s corridor, and her hand was at her wand before she recognised Matt, leaning against the wall opposite her door. He lifted his good hand, expression wryly apologetic. ‘Selena told me where I could find you. I’m sorry.’
‘The five of you don’t understand secrets very well, do you?’ asked Eva, letting him into the sparse rooms that passed for home these days.
‘Oh, we do. We keep them from each other all the time.’ Matt’s brow furrowed as he looked around the bare chambers. ‘The DMLE’s budget sucks.’
‘We don’t all have access to our parents’ funds of international information brokering.’ This was the second time in as many hours that one of the Hogwarts Five other than Albus or Selena wanted to speak to her, and so she couldn’t help but be guardedly sardonic. Eva paused by the coffee table and turned to him, arms folded across her chest. ‘What can I do for you?’
He kept his apologetic smile. ‘If I’m intruding, I’m sorry. I know you’re out of the country soon. And I know South Africa’s been the Council’s latest target. Regular Inferius attacks to keep the populace scared and tired, just like they did with Greece, before the inevitable strike at their defensive holdings.’
‘I just want to get Gregory Goyle and get out. I’m not there to save the nation. Honestly, I don’t know why people can’t just leave Greece. So what if the Council owns a bunch of government buildings and have set up their own people behind the desks with name plaques?’
‘You know the Council clamps down on international travel; it’s why the IMC is operating its relief efforts for Greece out of Macedonia. But also, people really don’t like abandoning their homes, or their home countries, especially when doing so comes with a risk of death.’ Matt shrugged. ‘And Inferi aren’t trying to kill them in Greece any more.’
‘Then I certainly can’t help the people of South Africa if they don’t want to be helped.’ She was being more cynical than she meant, Eva knew, but failing to help Scorpius had held up an uncomfortable mirror to her own Prometheus Thane-related damage, and she couldn’t help but be suspicious of why Matt was here.
‘Then help people who do want to be helped. Like Albus. Like yourself.’
‘Why is everyone coming to remind me today to look after Al; like I’m a complete amateur who doesn’t watch her team -’
But then Matt had reached into his jacket with his good hand and pulled out the metal hilt and crossguard of his sword, the blade itself still nestled in the magically enlarged inch-long leather scabbard. He held it by the leather strap, extending it towards her, and now gave a more genuine smile. ‘This might help.’
Eva stared at the sword. ‘This is yours.’
He lifted his metal hand. ‘And I get so much use out of it right now. Look, even if I weren’t a bloody cripple, I’m staying in Britain to look into old mythologies, and you’re going into one of the world’s biggest hot-spots. You’ve seen what this thing can do against Inferi. So use it.’
Suddenly feeling clumsy, she stepped forward to take the hilt, as ever surprised by the unexpected weight of the hidden blade. She stared at the fine metalwork, the cross on the pommel, and avoided looking directly at him. ‘Why me?’ Her voice was hoarse, so she cleared it and pressed on. ‘I mean, why not Albus? Or the others?’
‘I thought about giving it to Scorpius or Rose, and then that thought became complicated and messy so I stopped,’ said Matt with uncomfortable frankness. ‘So I instead worked out who would get the most use out of it, and it was clearly your mission, and out of you and Albus, you’re the one most likely to have a clue how to use a blade. Unless he took fencing lessons in his globe trotting.’ He shuffled his feet. ‘I also remember Brillig, and what you did for me there.’
She looked up, eyes narrowing. ‘What, let you go ashore so you could catch Eridanos while you thought I was just as at-risk as you?’
‘You let me fight,’ he said, meeting her gaze calmly. ‘Also, Albus mocked the sword when I first got it, so screw him, he doesn’t get it now.’
He’d grinned at that, and she had to give a thin smile back. But now it was her throat which felt clumsy, not her hands, and she fought to clear it again. ‘Thank you. I’ll - thank you.’
‘Just find Draco Malfoy,’ said Matt awkwardly. ‘And then we’ll call it even.’
‘I can’t promise Malfoy will know anything to get your father off. Not if the Minister’s office is just corrupt.’
‘I know. But ending the war’s a great way of making all this go away, too.’
Along with my freedom. Eva shifted her expression into a studied mask, and nodded. ‘I’ll do my best.’
With her mother at the office most of the time and her father in Macedonia, it hadn’t taken long for Rose’s research to spill beyond her old bedroom and take over the living room. It didn’t help that she had two projects. Most of Cassian Malfoy’s old Alliance files were with Scorpius, because he had the time and the space, but she still had plenty of copies strewn about the left side of the room, to pore through when she needed a change of pace.
The right side of the room was focused on Scorpius, the Chalice, the Veil, and her project planning on cheating death. So it seemed serendipitous when Reynald de Sablé knocked on the door with all the polite formality she would have expected of a twelfth century knight.
‘I am truly sorry to intrude, Miss Weasley,’ he said, nod so low it was almost a bow as he stepped in. ‘I shan’t impose for refreshments.’
‘I can put the kettle on. It’s not exactly difficult.’ Rose looked him up and down and tugged a pencil from where she’d tucked it away in her hair. ‘I’m glad you stopped by, actually; I’ve done a few diagnostic spells on Scorpius and I already had Matt’s medical records after Ager Sanguinis and his resuscitation by the Chalice, but I have nothing on you…’
De Sablé paused. He’d learnt how to dress like a normal member of modern society, though his coat and clothes were shabby and Rose had to wonder how much Gabriel Doyle had paid the man. Potentially he was still living in accordance with his vows as a warrior-monk, which wouldn’t grant him any personal wealth. But his honest expression still creased with a measure of confusion and concern. ‘By all means, Miss Weasley. If there is anything I can do to help you in your endeavours, you need to but ask.’
‘I’m thinking,’ she said, twirling the pencil, ‘that you’ve been sustained for so long by the Chalice that you’ve physically, magically changed. And yet, you weren’t affected by the Chalice being lost through the Veil - were you?’
‘I was not.’
‘Now, Matt had absolutely no lingering presence of the Chalice’s magics. In the same way that healing magic doesn’t leave a signature once the body has recovered, the Chalice was only needed to bring him back, not to keep him alive. Scorpius himself is similarly lacking in any of the Chalice’s magics within him, but then again the Chalice’s magics themselves weren’t used to sustain him. I can detect the connection between him and the Chalice, but only now I know how to look for it. But you…’
‘Are almost a thousand years old,’ said de Sablé with a gentle smile, ‘and this is because I have drunk repeatedly from the Chalice of Emrys. Yes, it has likely left some lingering effects.’
‘If I am to try to keep Scorpius in the realm of the living when the Chalice no longer keeps him there, I need to find an alternative to the Chalice itself. Drinking from it won’t help him. That would keep his body whole and keep his soul bound to his body, which just means both body and soul return to the Otherworld.’ Rose was thinking aloud, so she didn’t wait for de Sablé to confirm or deny this. ‘Any other healing magics or healing objects would really likely do the same. So I’m wondering if I can duplicate what is keeping you alive in Scorpius.’
He opened his arms. ‘Then begin your spells, Miss Weasley.’
She did so, wand drifting across him and invisible patterns of magic springing up which she could nevertheless sense and understand, a layer of the weave of wizardry that she’d only come to understand in her more advanced studies. Magic could be seen and smelled and heard, but at some point it was simply known, in her bones and inside her head, and that was what she needed now.
‘I fear,’ said de Sablé after long silence, though her work wasn’t finished and he didn’t move, ‘that the effect on Scorpius is different, because it affects his soul. My body has been prevented from ageing. Matthias’ body was rejuvenated, and so soon after death that his soul had not passed on. But nothing happened to Scorpius’ body. He and his soul simply passed into the Otherworld, and it is the tether between the Chalice and his soul that has linked their fates. I do not know if my soul has been affected.’
‘I understand the difference,’ said Rose, and tried to not be sharp. ‘But Thane mentioned that the Chalice is an anchor for Scorpius’ soul. I’m hoping to find a new anchor.’
‘I see. That is a fine theory.’
‘I’ll be happier when it’s fine practice.’ It took long minutes before she was done, then she stepped back, wand lowered, brow furrowed. ‘I can detect the Chalice’s magics within you, though there’s obviously no tether. I think that repeated exposure has almost literally enchanted you, enchanted your body. There’s a very faint, self-sustaining production of those same magical energies, constantly rejuvenating you.’
‘It is not as powerful as it may seem,’ de Sablé warned. ‘I can and have sustained injury. I heal no better than any other wizard, and I am confident I can be killed. It seems that whatever magics reside within me only stop me from ageing.’
‘It’s still a start. If I could duplicate that effect in Scorpius, then perhaps he could be his own anchor…’
‘However, this happened to me after drinking of the Chalice repeatedly over decades. And will that be any different to exposing him to the waters of Glanis’ Spring or its ilk? You need something of life and death. To recreate, somehow, that same energy with a foot in both realms.’ He grimaced. ‘I am sorry; I do not mean to undermine your theories. It is a good theory.’
Rose let out a deep breath and rubbed her forehead. ‘I’m still clutching at straws. I’m sorry, Mister de Sablé - thanks for helping me. What can I do for you? I guess I just leapt on you the moment you got here…’
He chuckled. ‘In truth, I came here for this. I did not know you needed me like this, but I am due to leave the country on business for Matthias and I wished to visit you before I left.’
De Sablé’s dark eyes softened. ‘You have a long path ahead of you, Miss Weasley. You undertake the most difficult of challenges. I wanted to, in essence, wish you well. You will need faith.’
Rose winced. ‘If you came here for some religious encouragement, I’m sorry, but -’
He smiled. ‘I have accepted that wizardkind has changed in many ways. A lot has changed in many ways. But some things do not. Such as good hearts against the darkness.’
‘In my experience,’ she said, trying to not sound bitter, ‘it takes more than good hearts to overcome darkness.’
‘Not in the end. We lose some battles. The war is not over.’ He looked her up and down. ‘I wanted to remind to to cleave to hope. It is the most essential of weapons for any cause.’
‘Please don’t think I’m not grateful for your kindness, and your help,’ said Rose, brow furrowing. ‘But why have you come to me?’
De Sablé winced. ‘I may have tried to hide the Chalice away from the world. But perhaps I should have tried harder. Or perhaps I should have destroyed it, cast it into the Veil of Ager Sanguinis centuries ago. It changes men, and it has been used for unfathomable evil, far more than it has been used for good. I was its guardian for hundreds of years. I should have been its destruction.’ He looked away. ‘You are one who has been hurt by its existence. Comfort and encouragement as you reject that pain and forge a new destiny is the least I can offer you.’
Rose bit her lip. ‘You slept,’ she said. ‘For centuries, even though you didn’t have the Chalice to watch over. Why?’
‘Because it was not a life I should have had. Better, I thought, to not indulge in these centuries. Better, I thought, to instead be there if the world needed me, so I could be called upon if my expertise was needed. These centuries should not have been about my happiness. They were a boon, and so I believed that my only appropriate response was to give them to duty.’ His mouth curled wryly. ‘It did not help that the Knights Templar were all but extinguished and my presence long forgotten. That was not intended.’
She let out a slow breath. ‘There’s one thing I’ve been told a good few times,’ she said. ‘And I’m kind of running out of arguments against it. Maybe this is a life you “shouldn’t” have had. But there are a lot of deaths that “shouldn’t” have been. The way to compensate, or so I’m being told, is to embrace that life. Live it. Because there sure as hell are people being denied that chance.’
‘Maybe,’ said de Sablé, though his nod was firm. ‘Once the war is done.’ He looked her up and down, then glanced to the papers. ‘You seem committed to duties yourself, rather than life.’
‘Maybe that’ll change,’ said Rose. ‘Once the war is done.’ And if I win. She squared her shoulders. ‘Thanks for this, Mister de Sablé. It really does help for someone - especially someone who knows the Chalice - to treat me like I’m not just in crazy denial.’
‘One man’s “crazy denial”,’ said de Sablé, ‘is another’s faith.’
A smile curled at the corner of her lips. ‘That sort of faith,’ she said, ‘is faith I can cope with.’
‘I do not know Scorpius well. But it seems like he is a good man.’
‘He is,’ sighed Rose. ‘Even if he’s too damned humble about it -’
Then she almost jumped out of her skin as the fireplace burst into bright, green flames, and a familiar, excitable voice squawked, ‘Ha, Weasley, I’ve beaten you with my dazzling brilliance! Like, seriously, they’re going to need to erect statues in my honour…’
This wasn’t all Scorpius said, but it was all Rose heard as she closed her eyes. She didn’t know if she wanted to facepalm, laugh, or burst into tears, but when she looked up, de Sablé wore a gentle, encouraging smile.
‘I shall let you talk,’ he said quietly, and gave a low bow. ‘Safe travels.’
‘What did he want?’ Scorpius’ bobbing head in the fire asked as de Sablé walked out the door. ‘You’ve not picked up a thing for massively older men in my absence, did you?’
She pushed a lock of hair behind her ear and turned to the flames. ‘You’ve found something?’
‘I have. Look at this!’ His head beamed. ‘You can’t see this because it’s paper and I’m holding it up and I don’t dare put it in the fire in case it - you know what, I was going to make this a dramatic reveal, but I’ll…’
His head disappeared, and she frowned at the dying green embers until the front door burst open and Scorpius walked in properly, clutching a folder. ‘Ta-da!’
Rose frowned. ‘That’s just the folder Bachelet gave us.’
‘Yes, but it - combined with the journal, and exciting research of mystical historical matters which weren’t actually as boring as I thought they’d be…’ He crossed to the coffee tale and dumped his papers on it. ‘So the last journal entry mentioned a run-in with Raskoph in Norway, and how various carvings and stuff were destroyed by Cassian, but Bachelet kept some pictures? And it seems like Cassian used those to figure out where to go to chase after Raskoph.’
It took her a moment to switch gears from the Chalice to Cassian Malfoy. ‘Yes,’ said Rose, ‘but we looked at those pictures and even the translations and they weren’t that helpful.’
‘No,’ Scorpius agreed, leafing through papers. ‘They’re not. But Amsvartnir looks like it was some sort of old ruin; the records mention that it was a shrine several thousand years old. Added to over the ages, and the last records were in Norse runes, left by the Vikings, right?’
‘Right?’ She’d honestly focused more on the Chalice.
‘And I looked at some of the Alliance’s other old records, and that was no good, but I guess if the secret was in the Alliance operational files, Bachelet would have figured it out. So I went through the journal. All of it. And I’m glad we figured out how to make more dust, because I’d have run out, but one page I thought was left blank because Cassian really hated writing on the left-side of the diary turns out wasn’t. It was a map.’
‘So many of the places where Cassian and Raskoph fought were ruins of old magical settlements, and I mean old, thousands of years old. But Amsvartnir was also really near an old Viking magical settlement, so a place only about a thousand years old? I guess the Vikings were interested in old magic, too. Cassian checked the place out - on his own, apparently, Bachelet was doing other work.’
‘I’m lost,’ admitted Rose, and wondered if this was how other people felt when she walked them through her findings.
Scorpius let out a deep breath. ‘Cassian found intricate records of wizards thousands of years old at Amsvartnir. That’s what was in the Alliance records. What wasn’t in the Alliance records was what he found about the Vikings, who had apparently also poked and prodded the ruins of Amsvartnir a thousand years ago and kept their own records. Which mentioned an expedition to the west to look for more answers at the frozen end of the world.’
‘The frozen end of the world. Ultima Thule?’
‘The map in the journal wasn’t much use, because -’ Scorpius pulled out the journal and flicked through it to show a pencil-drawn map. Rose could make out a coastline, some geographic features, but it looked like it didn’t cover more than a hundred miles of distance. ‘I mean, it’s precise, but unless we could identify where in the world that bloody coastline is, it’s useless.’
‘But you’ve found the coastline?’
‘I had to cross-reference it with some of the historical records of Viking expeditions, magical and non-magical, but I think, I think I know where the Vikings from Amsvartnir went. They didn’t give their destination a name, but Viking wizards from Trondheim made mention, fifty years later, of the Vikings of Amsvartnir going to Helluland.’
Rose raised her eyebrows. ‘You’re waiting for me to say something so you can reveal it dramatically, but I don’t -’
‘Baffin Island, right at the north-east of Canada,’ said Scorpius with a beam. ‘There’s something ancient and magical in a specific spot of Baffin Island, and I think I have the directions. The Norse wizards from Amsvartnir went looking for it. Raskoph went looking for it. And Cassian Malfoy went looking for it. And that’s where he died.’
A/N: The Black Book of Carmarthen is a real book. 13th century, considered one of the first full texts written in Welsh. I couldn’t pass on the idea that it had sections the wizarding world had contributed to and then hidden away, because that’s such a cool name and such an awesome piece of historical literature.
I had already planned on using it in the story before, in March 2015, high resolution photography and UV lighting revealed hidden sketches, doodles, and passages in the Black Book which hadn’t been seen for hundreds of years (I’d also thought up the hidden text in Cassian’s journal already, for the record!). This isn’t actually relevant to the story, because obviously Matt and Selena aren’t going to go looking for the passages revealed to Muggle eyes in 2015, but seriously. History? I have to make up shockingly little and I just wanted to reveal that amazing little nugget in this author’s note to prove what a ginormous nerd I am. And also sometimes synchronicity is a thing.
Vortipor is a figure of history of such scant record as to be near-mythical, a 6th century King of Dyfed. Any ‘Chronicles of Gwrdebyr’ - which is another name for him - and any theft are entirely fictitious.