I do not own Harry Potter, Loch Ness or anything near there.
Chapter 16: I Go On The Ultimate Fishing Trip
It was almost noon before we arrived at the shore of the lake. Loch Ness extended out in front of us in all its glory, and I have to say I wasn't too impressed. I expected a giant lake, like the ones I had seen in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior back home in the United States. Instead I got a glorified river. I mean the Mississippi was thicker in some areas that what I saw here. Everywhere I looked I could see the opposite shore. Sure it was long, extending well past the northern horizon, but still it wasn't that impressive. I couldn't help feeling that finding this door was going to be easy.
I was wrong.
It wasn't too difficult for us find a place to rent a boat, they seemed to be everywhere along the shore, although the quality of boat was slightly lacking. It was a large tin boat with four long seats and a tiny motor to help us get around. We eagerly got inside, readied our weapons and headed out onto the lake.
"So what are we looking for exactly?" Kim asked once we were sailing.
"A door of some kind," I said.
"Duh," she said. "I meant what signs are we looking for? I mean if there was a massive door visible at the bottom of the lake someone would have spotted it by now. This is the most explored lake in the world with people looking for the monster."
"I have a feeling we will be looking for the monster as well," Airiana said from her seat next to the motor. She was steering us to the opposite side of the lake.
"Guess I hadn't thought of that," I said, looking down into the water. The bottom of the lake was not visible. It didn't look like it was close. "Looks deep," I said.
"What might provoke the monster to reveal itself?" Kim asked.
"People have been asking that for centuries," Airiana said. "It guards the most important gate in the world. It won't just reveal itself for just anyone. That would give away where the door is."
"You're daughter of the underground," I said. "Can you sense anything on the lake's floor?"
"Not well enough," Airiana said. "But I'll reach out for life. Animal life is more difficult to sense than human life. But a monster that big is going to require lots of food to swim around. If it feeds there might be enough death to sense something."
"It's our best bet," I said.
It was our best bet, but it wasn't good enough. We sailed all day, getting sunburnt in the process, with no luck. The lake's bottom never came into view. Airiana never felt anything. Kim even did some kind of magical scan for a concealing magic, but it all came to nothing. The door remained hidden as we pulled the boat back into shore near a small village. Well, really just a couple shacks and a bar that appeared to be designed for people doing exactly what we were.
"More Christmas tourists looking to give Nessie a few presents?" a patron asked as we walked into the bar. He was an older man, white beard and balding white hair, with glasses completing the Dumbledore look. He was wearing a plaid, button up shirt tucked into worn blue jeans. A knitted hat straight out of the 1930s topped it off.
"What's it to you if we are?" Kim asked. I reached out to hold her back. We didn't want a brawl in the only shelter for miles.
The man shrugged. "Business," he said, getting up and walking behind what passed for a counter, but was little more than a kitchen island back home. "Make yourselves comfortable. Will it be one room or two?" he asked.
My puzzled look betrayed the answer and he set two keys on the counter. "Do you get many people looking for the monster?" I asked.
"Nessie?" he asked, rubbing a rag along a glass. Both were dirty enough that it wasn't actually doing much good. "We get loads of people looking for her," he said. "Not many in winter though usually. But this year, surprisingly quite a bit."
"How many?" I asked, picking up one of the glasses he had supposedly cleaned. As soon as I touched it my hand grew slightly warm and the grime slowly began to dissipate from the handle out.
"Seven this month alone," he said, staring at the glass in my hand. He had stopped rubbing the second one. "Who are you anyway?"
"They tell me that depends," I said. "You can call me Harry. This is Hermione," I said, motioning to Airiana, "and this is Luna," I said, motioning to Kim.
The man grunted and then put two more dirty cups down next to my now clean one. I began cleaning them for him. "Codenames huh?" he said. "That's been surprisingly common this month too."
"Will that be a problem?" I asked.
"If the money is real, the name doesn't have to be," he said.
"Why do I have to be Luna?" Kim asked. "You saying I'm nutty?"
"Well, you did try and start something with a random stranger," I mumbled to her. I turned to the man and said "Any of those codenames still here by chance?"
"Only one," he said. "Woman over there in the corner reading the news. Goes by the name Clio. I've heard more inventive names, but her money is golden."
"Thank you," I said, placing some money I found at the shelter house on the counter. I motioned for the girls to follow as I walked over to the corner.
"Clio mean something to you?" Kim asked as we walked.
"Clio isn't a code name," I said. "She's a muse. I read about her when researching all those ancient religions."
"What's a muse?" she asked.
"We are the source of all knowledge in this world," a voice said behind the newspaper. There was a hollowness to the voice, as if it had traveled down a hallway before exiting her mouth. Clio lowered the newspaper to reveal a beautiful woman's face. She didn't look more than thirty, without a wrinkle anywhere on her face. She smiled at me with a smile that would have melted any man's heart. Her loose, smooth, green dress seemed to blow as if it was making its own wind. "Winston Alexander…Harry. I am glad my faith in your knowledge was not misplaced. Though perhaps my faith in your skills of observation were. I've been waiting for some time here."
"Your newspaper is – well, "Airiana said, sitting down next to me. I looked down and became a little seasick. The newspaper was a twisting, turning, mess of text and ink, shifting from one story to the next so fast you'd have to read at superhuman speed just to catch the headline.
"It is magical," Clio said. "Not unlike the books your code names are based upon, yes? Social media has sped it up something fierce though. Besides, I wouldn't be much of a keeper of history unless I was able keep up with history."
"Know anything about this Nessie? I asked.
"I know everything that has ever been reported," Clio said. The lights in the room dimmed, and then the whole room seemed to dissolve around me. The four of us were suddenly sitting in a circle around what appeared to be a large campfire along the shore of Loch Ness. It seemed crazy, but I had lived with crazy my whole life. I just ran with it. "The legend of the monster of Loch Ness is as old as the history of people who have inhabited the shores of this fine lake. Stories have been passed down from generation to generation throughout all of time. Some say it is a snake monster with a long, reptilian neck, and long fangs extending out of its mouth. Others say it is a four-legged horse beast that can gallop across the surface and capsize boats with its wake. Still others insist that the monster doesn't exist."
"What do you think?" I asked, shivering as the cold air began to get to me despite the fire.
"There has never been a confirmed sighting," Clio said. "I deal only in facts, not myth."
"What unconfirmed sightings are you aware of?" Kim asked.
"Many, daughter of the magician," Clio responded, her face morphing into that of an older, wrinkle filled, woman. "Would you like me to list them off one by one?"
"We might not have time for that," I said before Kim could respond. She seemed too much to be itching to fight something. I wanted to save that for a certain monster. "Could you tell us if there is something the stories have in common?"
Clio smiled at me, her features melting back to her perfect form. "Of course I could," she said. "Unfortunately, that list isn't extremely long really. But I'll tell you this: The vast majority of sightings occur in the north end of the lake."
"So we should look to the north?" I asked.
Clio shrugged. "I do not believe in this monster. But if it did exist the north would be a good place. There is a system of caves there that would be a good home for a monster intent on hiding."
Suddenly the fire was gone, the table was back, and the walls of the bar slowly reformed around us; clearly the story was over. Once the bar was fully back, Clio picked up her newspaper, rolled it up under her arm, and walked out of the bar. I met the eyes of the bartender, seeing if he was going to do anything to stop the goddess from walking into the frozen night, but he just shook his head at me and said "crazy stuff happening this year," returning to cleaning his once again dirty glasses.
We left on the boat just as the sun was rising and began motoring up to the north. The man wanted payment, which luckily we found in the cabin, and let us go with a wish of good luck. We were apparently on the southern half of the lake, almost 20 miles south of our destination for the day. It was going to be a long trip, even with a motor to pull us along.
"Anyone else wondering how we were able to go that whole night, and go through the shadows this morning, without any visits from Nash or anyone else?" I asked as noon approached. I sensed we were coming close to our destination; not because of a change in the lake, it remained the same width and deep beyond our vision, but more because of a sense of movement and years of sea travel with dad.
"I have a feeling we're walking into a trap," Airiana said.
"We're sailing actually," Kim said from the rudder.
"Shut up," Airiana replied.
"Girls, do I need to separate you?" I asked with as much condescending as I could muster. Airiana simply replied by sticking her tongue out.
"So, what's your search plan when we actually get there?" Kim asked.
"No clue," I replied. But before Kim could say anything else a multi-colored bow appeared slung around my shoulder. The rainbow was almost longer than my body, but it was so perfectly balanced that it didn't cause me any problems like falling out of the boat. "Maybe this will help," I said, rising to stand while pulling the bow off my shoulder. The white light-like string was more blinding than I thought it would be.
"What are you going to use for an arrow?" Kim asked slyly. As if on cue a white quiver appeared on my shoulder, a single arrow made of pure light within it.
"Guess I had better not miss," I said.
That's when the world began to go off the rails. The wind whipped up, almost forcing me to fall back to a seat. The waves picked up all around us, moving from our right to our left directly across the boat. But the boat wasn't rising and falling with the waves, rather that waves tore right past the boat as if it wasn't there. It took me a bit to realize we weren't getting nearly as wet as we should have been.
"That's new," Airiana said, standing up at her watch position at the bow of the ship. I walked forward to join her. I had to agree with her: I had seen many things in my time, but I had never seen this. A giant whirlpool had opened up in front of us, sinking into the lake as if we were looking at a tornado made of water from above. The boat was floating straight ahead on the level as if the now non-existent water was still holding it up. The actual water level continued to rapidly sink down as if it was being drained for several hundred feet until finally the lake floor was visible at the bottom.
A beautiful and ornate door became visible on the bottom. The door was at least a football field in size with beautiful designs that I didn't recognize, but could make out even from this distance of well over two hundred feet away. The whirlpool continued to drain away until the entire door was visible. The door was the same color as the tan stone around it except for the golden designs.
"What are you waiting for? Fire!" Kim said from the back, her voice shaking ever so slightly.
"There's supposed to be a guardian," I said. "I don't want to miss my shot just because something gets in the way."
"We're supposed to be here; the guardian isn't coming," Kim said.
"I wouldn't be too sure," Airiana said. I turned back to the front just in time to duck as a massive, green something flew exactly where my head had been a moment earlier.