Chapter Fifteen: Summer Fun
"Harrison! Draco! Over here!" Harry beamed as he walked over to his mother and was quickly pulled into a hug. He smiled and nuzzled his head further into the embrace, soaking up the warmth he pulled that radiated off of his mother, feeling safe and loved. Draco was soon joined in the embrace, and they both accepted it, unlike most boys their age. While others were embarrassed to have their parents hug them, Harry and Draco soaked it up and basked in the love and attention that only a parent could provide. Lucius smiled and patted them both on the back, and then they were scooped up by their aunt Bellatrix, who had missed them just as much as Narcissa.
"What are our plans for the summer?" asked Harry eagerly after they'd apparated home.
"We're going on a holiday to America," Lucius informed his son. "Bellatrix, during her travels there, founda young pureblooded woman who would be willing to give us a tour of all of magical America, and its history. We'll be staying at our castle in Westchester, and we'll be using portkeys to get around every day… oh, and we'll be accompanied by the families of your friends, the Notts, Zabinis, and Greengrasses." Harry and Draco exchanged smiles.
"When do we leave?" asked Draco eagerly.
"First thing tomorrow morning, so you better make sure that you have all of your essentials packed."
"May we bring our pets, Father?" asked Harry, thinking of Regulus and Char, while Draco was no-doubt thinking about Caelum.
"Of course," said Lucius dryly. "They can stay at the castle, where the house elves can look after them."
The journey to America was swift, using an international portkey, and they soon got all of their information cleared and they met with the others at Westchester Castle, which had been prepared by the house elves there for their arrival. Harry greeted Daphne with a swift peck to the cheek, and gave the others a formal handshake, though he smiled at them.
They spent the day unpacking and settling in, as well as adjusting to the time change and sleeping off and portkey-cross-continental-lag they might have been experiencing. The next day, in the afternoon, there was a knock at the grand oak doors.
"That will be our guide," said Bellatrix, going to meet her. The others followed, curious, and were greeted by the sight of their guide. She was tall, slim, and well-muscled, with tanned skin, slightly slanted hazel brown eyes, and a waterfall of raven black hair fell down her back, with several small braids running through it, with the occasional brightly colored feather tied in. Though she didn't look very much like a pureblood, she carried herself that way, and gave Draco, Blaise, and Zabini cold looks when she found their eyes glued to her chest, in usual hormonal teenaged boy fashion.
"Everyone," said Bellatrix, motioning at the woman. "This is Merced Abramowski, her father is pureblood and descended from royalty in Poland, and her mother a pureblood descended from royalty in Vietnam. She is the current shaman of the Great Tribe in Arizona, and specializes in Earth magic."
That seemed to shake the boys out of their stupor, once they realized that she was royalty, and royalty was to be treated with respect. She was wearing dragonhide boots, tight pants, and a rather tight, revealing, shirt, but, as she worked with dangerous animals on a daily basis, it was a rather fitting outfit.
"Good afternoon," she said in an American accent, it sounded Southwestern. "Our first destination will be my homeland, the Great Tribe's ancestral lands. We can leave when you're ready." Harry observed her for a moment and frowned.
"We're ready," said Lucius.
"Where's your wand?" Harry asked, not seeing the rather important item on her person, and Merced shot him a small smile, nodding once in approval at his observation skills.
"I don't need one," she motioned at the feathered, woven wooden bracelets around her wrists. "But that is a tale for another time, for now, onwards we march." She procured a large rope, and everyone grabbed on, it was a large group. Lucius, Narcissa, Bellatrix, Draco, Harry, Daphne, Mr. and Mrs. Greengrass, Astoria, Theodore, Mr. and Mrs. Nott, Anastasia, Blaise, and Mrs. Zabini were all whisked away by the portkey, and landed in the middle of a large canyon.
"Welcome," said Merced, motioning for them to follow her through a small, hidden tunnel, going away from the muggle tourists, "to Antiqua Terras."
"The Ancient Lands," Harry repeated in awe, taking in the sight around him. Inside of the rock walls surrounding the Grand Canyon was a large, underground community, where the magical natives had resided for many years, and still lived humbly, though they were still incredibly wealthy. There were villages surrounding a large, castle-like structure, where Merced and her family resided, and there were shops, and magical centres. It truly was amazing what one could hide from the muggles.
"Legend says that it was here where magic took it's first breath," said Merced, arms crossed, looking over her home proudly. "You can feel it here, more than ever, it runs in the ground, in the stone, in the water. No one is more connected to the magic than the chief of the land, in this case, my father, who was adopted by the previous Chief when his parents died in an accident making their way down to the lands, leaving my father blinded. My mother's ancestors migrated here long ago, so she and her siblings were already members of the Tribe." She appraised them with brown eyes.
"I feel your disdain. My father may be blind, but one does not need their sight to be able to manipulate the magic that envelopes them in a warm blanket, welcomes them. The Chief is adopted by magic, so my father more than makes up in power for his lack of sight."
"We apologize," said Lucius quickly. "We meant no respect." Merced nodded, pleased.
"It is fine, and unfair of me. I am connected to the magic here, as the heiress, it allows me to connect with every living thing here, and I can feel their emotions. Come, I will show you the palace, and the towns." They walked through the winding pathways of the underground kingdom, and soon came across a man, tall, buff, and tan, with rippling muscles that could be seen easily –– as he wasn't wearing a shirt –– messy black hair and kind brown eyes. He was wearing a pair of loose brown pants, and moccasins, and held in his hand a magical whip.
"Merced!" he exclaimed, pleased. "You're back."
"This is Mika," said Merced, smiling at the young man. "My betrothed. He helps run the animals here, with me."
"You have animals here?" asked Draco, perking up.
"Of course!" exclaimed Mika. "The Ancient Lands are so filled with magic that the creatures just flock here, and, since everyone with Ancient blood can speak to them, they choose those that are worthy to become their familiars."
"Like beast-speak?" asked Draco, excited at the prospect of being among others like him.
"No," said Merced. "Similar, but different. The magic here recognizes all of us as her children, and she wants her children to be able to speak with one another, so we communicate with the animals with our minds." They led the group to the large enclosure, filled with fields and streams and rocky terrain, and the first thing that the children noticed was the lone dragon, a Hungarian Horntail.
"Whoa," the collective breath left the children, and Mika smiled proudly.
"That is Bodaway," he said, nodding at the Horntail. "He is mine." The boys observed him with awe and a tad of hero worship, and the adults looked intrigued.
"Would you like to meet him?" Mika continued, and they nodded eagerly. From the necklace around his neck, Mika pulled a small whistle, and blew into it three times in rapid succession. The Horntail stretched its wings and glided over, landing in front of Mika. They locked gazes, and seemed to have a conversation, before Bodaway lowered his head and laid down in front of the group of tourists, allowing them to observe him.
"Hello," said Draco tentatively, patting the dragon's snout.
"Hello, hatchling," the dragon rumbled.
"I can understand you!" Harry gasped, and the Dragon's ember eyes turned to look at him.
"The snakes learned to speak by watching us," Bodaway continued. "My father, the Elder, taught them."
"Bodaway is over five centuries old," said Mika, patting his familiar on the head. "His father was one of the Elder Dragons, and he rests in a cave not far away, but refuses the company of any but his children."
An animalistic roar filled the ears of the gathered magicals, and the tourists were instantly on their guard as a lean, sleek feline prowled towards them, its coat rippling over muscles, picking up speed as she approached. A nundu!
Harry wasn't surprised when the nundo –– who was wearing a gold collar of sorts –– pounced on Merced and began purring, rubbing her head against Merced's.
"Chitsa!" said Merced under the onslaught of the feline. "Down, girl." The nundu reluctantly stopped greeting her mistress and bounced off, sitting on her haunches.
"This is remarkable," said Lucius, taking a step forward to approach the nundu cautiously. "There's never been a recording of a tamed nundu."
"Merced found her when she was a cub," supplied Mika. "Wounded and dying, and she nursed her back to health. Chitsa never left, and stays with Merced unless she's traveling. A rather strong bond."
"Well, then," said Merced, standing up and brushing herself off. "I think its best we get on the tour. I'll see you later, Mika. Come along, Chitsa." The tourists cautiously followed the heiress of the Ancient Lands, still wary of the nundu beside her. After all, once one was raised to believe that such a beast was the most dangerous beast in existence… well, survival instinct kicked in, and they kept their distance.
First, they made their way through one of the villages, making small talk with some of the commoners there. A young boy, aged nine, named Kotori, had taken a shining to Daphne, and had been trailing them for a short while, too shy to actually approach them, as they talked to the stone masons and storytellers. Merced had smiled at him and scooped the little boy up in her arms, and tickled him, and he giggled.
The women, and men, in the group were impressed by how connected Merced was with her future subjects, and Narcissa was quite impressed at how well she dealt with children, though she knew that with a position such as heiress, Merced would be expected to produce an heir/heiress early on, so she supposed all the practice was well-spent time.
"Shaman!" exclaimed –– according to Daphne –– a pair of good-looking twins, appearing seventeen, skidding to a halt.
"Has Kotori been bothering you?" the first asked anxiously, and Merced waved off his concern with a laugh.
"No, he's been a little angel. Honestly, Kajika, Kele, you should know by now that I have tolerance for children."
"Except for Takoda," Kele said cheekily, and Merced rolled her eyes.
"That's different. He's my little brother, we're supposed to antagonize each other."
"You have siblings?" asked Lucius, perplexed.
"Yes," said Merced, turning to look at him. "One younger sister, Ayita, and two younger brothers, Yuma and Takoda."
"Then wouldn't Yuma be the first in line?" asked Lucius, who was accustomed to the male assuming the throne on inheritance.
"No," said Merced, answering his question. "Here, it has always been the first born that assumes the position of Chief, though I can understand why you would be confused, as you're still used to the Victorian English style of society, and our ways differ from yours. Now, come, I will show you the palace."
They made their way up the winding road to the elegant building, and were greeted by a gruff looking man with slightly graying hair and scars criss-crossing his face.
As soon as they entered the building, it was as if they'd stepped into another world, with all of the fine decorating and smooth interior, it was magical, almost. Harry, Draco, and the others were blown away by the sheer magnificence of the palace, which was surrounded by equally beautiful buildings as opposed to the simple villages scattered throughout the area.
The walls were practically buzzing with magic, and Harry and Draco, who were both developing a mild sensitivity towards magic, could feel its comforting presence. As Merced led them on a tour, Harry briefly caught glance of a boy his age, whom he could only assume was Yuma, practicing sword-fighting with a few other boys.
"We like to stay well practiced in the ancient arts," Merced had explained. "The Great Tribe has been around since before the time of Merlin, but we've relocated several times."
"Things here are different," she was saying as they settled down for a midday meal. "As you have undoubtedly noticed, those in the Great Tribe do not use wands. This is simply because the magic around us is so raw, so untamable, that a wand would be destroyed the moment we try to harness it. Instead, we use bracelets made of the same materials and mainly rely on wandless magic skills, never limiting ourselves to the pesky wands."
Harry leant forward eagerly, his mind yearning for more information.
The Malfoys, Greengrasses, Notts, and Zabinis would learn much from Merced in the next month or so, but that, sadly, is a tale for another time.