Disclaimer: I own neither the Harry Potter book series nor Bioware Dragon Age game trillogy. If I did, many things would change, I wouldn't be writing fanfiction, and I'd be a lot better off financially. Now, enjoy, cringe, review..!
Sirius Black laughed maniacally as wove and dodged across the stage of the chamber of judgment, trading spells with his cousin. Bellatrix, trixie as he had always called her, was as good an opponent as he'd ever known. He fired off a series of nasty hexes with his wand and a body binding hex with his free left hand as Kingsly Shacklebolt joined him momentarily on the stage and grinned. This, the rush of combat, the euphoria of fighting for that which he believed in, this was what he lived for.
Over the past months he'd been chafing under the restrictions Dumbledore had placed on him. He had hoped perhaps that Harry would finally have the presence of mind to unwrap his Christmas present, but he had not seen the boy since he had made a flu call about Snape of all things. And now, here he was, fighting his way through the ministry because his best friends son couldn't possibly do anything the easy way.
Ah well, he thought, perhaps it's for the best! I'm out, Harry's alright and I get to cut loose for a change. Perhaps now the old goat will see reason to field me again! Let me be of use in this war! He twirled his wand and smacked away a withering curse and paired blood boiling and chilling curses, his grin broadening. Trixie was getting inventive. The withering curse was an obvious pulsing purple and black, but the blood spells were nearly invisible and hard to tell apart. Alone an of them could be deadly, but the withering curse was easy to block and the blood curses taken together would act more like a cross between a powerful stunner and a weak cruciatus curse.
"Dear cousin! You aren't even trying!" he shouted at her, returning with a stoneflesh enchantment (which would slow her down if it hit) and a massively overpowered tickling hex. The protective but hindering enchantment was batted away but the tickling hex she took dead center, giggling like a madwoman.
"You're one to talk, Siri!" She returned in a high cackling voice. "Using kiddy spells? Really? If you'd joined me and the master like a good loyal member of the family you could have learned real dueling! Perhaps then your dear headmaster would have been willing to use you, rather than locking you in our old home for your protection! Poor baby..!"
He sneered and gave her a wave of bludgeoning hexes and a wandless summoning charm on her dress. She shielded against them and their battle went on. As the pair of them danced around the hall each of them did far more damage to the environment and their opponents allied forces than they did to each other, but then, that was the nature of being a Black. Collateral damage and chaos flowed around them while they rode the storm at it's eye.
The pair of them were locked in combat for nearly a minute when the professor himself burst through the doors at the top of the chamber and the flow of the battle changed. The Death Eaters started falling like flies and the pace of his and Bella's spells picked up an even greater pace. A spray of red bolts bracketed him and he laughed.
"Come on Bella, you can do better than that!"
He didn't have time to hear her response as within the stream of fire aimed to keep him from moving, one final streak of red hit him directly on target and he fell backwards, through an archway…
He only had time for one thought before he hit the cold layer of magic with the appearance of a curtain. Shit, now who's going to look after Harry?
The landscape on the other side of the so named Veil of Death was not at all what Sirius had expected. For one, the crushing sensation he had always associated with apparition had never been in his conception of what death would be like. For another, where were all the souls of those who had died before him? Wizarding religion, if you could really call it that, was a form of ancestor worship and dictated that the afterlife was full of ghosts of wizards who had fallen before you.
He gazed around with a frown at the the walls of the place he had appeared. This was neither the grand forum for any sort of Faery court, but that didn't discount it being an entrance chamber of sorts. The walls around him were made of a strange black stone marbled through with streaks and flecks of gold. Raw hematite perhaps? He remembered his father talking about mixed veins of gold and Iron before, wondering at the worth of selling it to the goblins raw or transfiguring it to separate the metals.
Sirius tried to take a step forward but his feet found little traction, as if the floor was made of jelly or perhaps wasn't even really there to begin with. He didn't sink into the surface however so he took his blessings where he could find them. What he really wanted though, was to be able to get up from his sprawled position and pass back through the Veil. Sure, it was supposed to be impossible, but then so was becoming animagus at 14, being a Black without illegitimate children and mixing magic and muggle electronics, all of which he'd done before he was sent to Azkaban. Say nothing of the simply rare feats he'd done as a DMLE Hit Wizard during the first war.
That was nothing on what his nephew/godson Harry had done.
Not dying as the victim under the wand at a sacrificial ritual, defeating a revenant at 11, an ancient basilisk at 12, using a patronus successfully on over 100 dementors while under their thrall (even Dumbledore couldn't manage that) at 13 and surviving the killing curse twice so far. And the boy wasn't even 16… that honestly might have made Sirius feel a little jealous if he didn't know the boy was still a virgin... Regardless, all of this dangerous insanity was exactly why he needed to make his way back through the Veil. Screw death, Harry needed him!
This had nothing to do with the probability that James and Lily would find a way to kill his ghost for being such a bad godfather, no serrie!
Now if only he could get rid of the crushing apparition sensation maybe he could think straight… where was he..? Oh, right! He wanted to stand on a surface that didn't appear solid..!
Sirius perspective changed in an instant in he blinked, momentarily dumbfounded. He was no longer laying on the black and gold marble floor of the big room, but standing upright on (he stomped his foot) yup, solid ground.
I want to turn around, he thought. The thought wasn't so much words as it hadn't been last time either, but rather a concept and a need. Sirius found his perspective shift again. He was now looking at the other side of the room, complete with several of the statues he'd glimpsed as he'd looked around earlier, but turned his head and body back and forth, looking over both shoulders just to make sure.
It was still the same room, he hadn't randomly transported somewhere, but that alone wasn't the important part of what he was now seeing. In front of him now, was the Veil. The megalith was of the same proportions to the one in the old execution chamber but instead of being worn gray stone the archway was made of smooth blocks of a purplish stone marbled with red and blue lines and patches. Set into the stone were symbols he vaguely recognized from his ancient runes class formed of gold filigrees.
Sirius was interested in the changes, but all in all they weren't important. What was was the gossamer curtain hanging from the upper plinth. It too no longer appeared worn with ages of neglect as it wafted back and forth in its frame, as if caught in an invisible breeze.
Taking an experimental step forward Sirius smiled slightly as he found the ground was still solid and strode towards the archway, making a point to get a good look at each of the runes that covered it. He didn't care particularly what the said right now, but he was sure he could leverage the memory for something substantial with the Department of Mysteries later. Get Harry out of trouble for invading their restricted wing, get serious help from the ministry against Voldemort, possibly his pardon. Little things like that…
He walked up the stone steps to the dais where the archway stood as it had in the real world and tried to step through.
The curtain didn't budge.
Or rather, it did, just not where he pressed against it. Sirius scowled. For all that the sheet of fabric was gossamer, to the point where he could see Dumbledore finishing off the death-eaters on the other side, pushing against it was doing him little better than trying to shove his head though a stone wall.
...strike that, it was harder, he'd put his head through walls on occasion to spy on the girls dormitories. Still, this was like trying to do it without the spell. The one incongruity here was that the curtain still moved and undulated as if caught in a breeze between outdoors and indoors on warm spring day.
Not one to be easily deterred Sirius tried to work from another angle. First he tried for the edges of the barrier, then the bottom. When those failed he tried to see if he could hold back the movement of the fabric; imagining that if he could repeatedly hold it from moving forward he could use its backward motion to stress the barrier and breath through. The attempt did nothing, offering little more than an uncomfortable back and shoulder massage. Glaring at the curtain he tried to make himself intangible as he had been earlier and pass through that way. It worked, sort of, because he immediately lost traction with the ground; but did nothing to changed his interaction with the Veil of Death.
Offering the priceless ancient artifact a poisonous glare he filled his hands with fire and tried to burn his way though. Wandless magic like this was difficult no mistake, but if you practiced a spell long enough… well; a wand was just a focus, not a source.
"That's not going to help, you know..." a multilayered feminine voice came from behind him.
Sirius whipped around to see who was speaking. If he'd hoped for a friendly ghost he was in for a disappointment. Standing against the door-frame on the other side of the room was a figure that could be generously called a woman. She was tall, humanoid and perfectly proportioned female, but that was where the similarities ended. The woman's skin was purplish gray and covered with a smattering of short spines like a redheads freckles. Her hands were delicate looking until you got to the fingernails with ended in wicked hooked claws he'd expect on an owl, not a human. Her feet, which weren't touching the ground as she sauntered closer, were a cross between that of a chimpanzee and a dragon and behind her lashed a tail made of what looked to be wickedly bladed segments of insect chitin. Her face was soft and classically beautiful aside from the thorns, but the eyes gave him the creeps, black sclera glowing golden iris and no pupils. Her hair fanned out behind her, red as blood and moving as if she was underwater and in place of eyebrows there were a pair of horns that wouldn't have looked out of place on a Sicilian Quilled Dragon. Her cloths, or lack there of really, were a cross between Arabian dancer and a chain bikini scandalous enough to embarrass muggle girls.
The Black Lord frowned in irritation. Here he was trying to do the impossible and get back home and death saw fit to send him the perfect distraction. Her obviously nonhuman status didn't matter much to him, he'd slept with several magical girls in the time between discovering sex and being locked up, but Morgana's tits, he needed to get back to Harry!
"You wouldn't happen to know what would, miss..."
The creatures offered a sultry smirk and continued to sashay slowly across the room, her breasts and hips swaying in a manner that would have been hypnotic were it not for his current predicament. "I was called Grainne Mhaol (brawn U-whale) before the council of elders tossed me through that door to execute me" the creature replied with a small shrug which none the less set her chain clad nipples jiggling. "Here though? I am Perth, ruler and mistress of this section of the golden city."
Council of elders? Sirius thought. Execution? He struggled to recall the history lessons his grandfather had insisted on teaching his heir personally when he'd heard about professor Bins. The Council of Elders was the governing body before the formation of the ministries of magic in the early 1700's. Most of the ministry building had been their headquarters, but they hadn't used the Veil as a means of execution for nearly a century prior to that. ...he was pretty sure. "When did you come through?"
The creature looked at her nails and crossed one arm under her breasts to emphasize them while cocking a hip. "I believe it was 6037 when I went through? Yes, 6037, I remember because Hogwarts had just celebrating its bicentennial a few days before I was captured."
Sirius blanched. 800 years old? Well, this was the realm of the dead he supposed. "Mind telling a girl what it was like on the other side? I do so rarely get visitors anymore, and it's a rare few who are as pleasant as yourself."
Sirius shrugged. There wasn't much harm in it, and perhaps answering her questions would mean she would answer his. "Well, beautiful" he said, carefully complimenting her "we're going by the muggle calendar now, though judging by your comments it'd be around year 6870 Woadmark; May 1996 Gregorian. The muggles and their tools have nearly caught up to magic and it's caused a bit of a civil war among our kind. Those who like the way things are versus those who'd prefer dominance over non magical folk."
She nodded. "I suppose you fall into the latter category" Perth replied pensively "you'd not likely have been executed otherwise." She paused and then looked up. "Unless someone other than the establishment is winning for once?"
Sirius shook his head. "I wasn't executed actually. There's a battle taking place in the Chamber of Death right now and I was dumb enough to try and use the Veil as wall at my back" he replied sheepishly. "Stupid I know, but perhaps you could answer me on that, luv? Why can't I go back? The curtains like living metal."
The monstrous woman before him smiled sadly. "The gate was made by those who are gone and the Exiled keep it. Not even that arrogant worm with the gall to call himself the Maker could breach it. I'm afraid you're trapped here with the rest of us..." She drew out the last word, fishing for his name as he had for hers.
"Sirius" he replied. "Sirius Orion Black, at your service. Relatively," he added with a smirk of his own. "Still, tell me about these exiled and this maker? Doing the impossible is a bit of a tradition in my family."
The demon smirked at him indulgently. "Yes, one could feel your desire to return to war and family from halfway across the fade. But why not? I could be convinced to humor you, if there were something in it for me..."
Sirius smirked "My undeniable Wit and Charm? The pleasure of my company and stories of how the world has changed since Hogwarts was founded. I'd mention my roguish good looks, but even I must admit those have suffered some under the last decade of imprisonment. If this isn't the afterlife Lily and James went to then I've really got to get back somehow. Anything might help."
"A tempting offer" the purple woman replied, voice husky "but I have a better offer. You intend to tear down the Veil and open the way between worlds, if only for a moment. The price for my assistance is simple. Swear to me upon your power that should you find a method of crossing over, you will take me with you" the demon demanded. It would be a source of no small amusement to see him try and she could always secure his soul later as she and her kin had on times before. Better still, if this mortal did find a way to open the Veil of Death and physically pass between worlds… to see the homeland of the maker…! That was something she'd willingly pass over one of his kin for! There was also the possibility He'd help her get to Thedas, the world of the Elves. Her lesser sisters had been there plenty, but none of the demon lords could properly claim such. Damned Fen'Harel.
"Ah, alright." Sirius said, nonplussed. "Mind you, the world's changed quite a lot since you were there so you may not find it pleasant, but I swear on my magic that should I, Sirius Orion Black, find a way through the Veil I shall invite Perth to go with me. That good enough?"
Perth smiled cruelly. "Done" she acknowledged. With her utterance chains of light sprang from each of them and wound around each other before disappearing in a brilliant flare of light. "The bargain is struck. Ask your questions, Lord of the Black."
Well shit Sirius thought. Normally swearing on your magic really didn't mean much. It was more serious than a handshake and was actually considered legally binding, but it was hardly an unbreakable vow. The hell had just happened?
Sirius shook his head. What was done was done, he'd just need to be more careful about what he said in the future. Best start asking his questions. The sooner he started his quest the sooner he could get back to Harry. Merlin only knew what that kid would get up too in his absence. Facing a dragon in single combat came to mind. Assaulting the ministry as well, if you added in his current predicament. That boy had no sense of self preservation!
"Tell me about this Maker. You said he's been trying to get through for some time, seems a good place to start looking for clues."
"As you wish." Perth replied, pulling up her feet to sit cross legged in the air, her tail swinging lazily below her. "The maker was the very first human to enter this realm; an area which is called the Fade by those humans who now inhabit Thedas. Originally he was a wizard as you are now, but over centuries of being trapped here, that changed. There are no words to properly describe his current state of being, other than arrogant, self righteous and self indulgent. Contrary to popular mythology his title as the maker comes not from the creation of the worlds of Thedas or the Fade, for he had no part in those, but as the shaper of a great deal of architecture, many of the fades lesser (at the time) inhabitants and (most devastating) the introduction of humanity to the material world. Before 'The Maker' there lived on Thedas Elves, Dwarves and Dragons."
"Elves?" Sirius asked, incredulous.
Perth shook her head. "Not the creatures you're imagining." The demon had seen the 'elves' of earth when she had devoured the soul of Grainne Mhaol and they were nothing like the elves of Thedas. "The creatures you call elves are in fact demons summoned by Morgana to harass Merlin. Did you not learn of this at Hogwarts?" It has been in Grainne's history of magic lessons under Lore Master Dorian Graves. "These elves could be mistaken for beautiful humans at a glance, but stand a head shorter with thin effeminate figures and have long pointed ears. Before the coming of Humanity and their Maker the elves were Immortal unless murdered; served as slaves to a pantheon of Gods both good and ill and were the favored prey of Dragons and their own elder gods. After Humanity was born unto the world under the Makers Wand that immortality disappeared and with it their gods favor waned."
Sirius listened intently and with some trial and error managed to copy her position sitting on air. "The Elven gods are important to your goal because they are the fools who crafted the gateway to begin with and it is their power which you will require to open it once more." Perth sighed and stretched with deliberate slowness and exaggeration.
"This," she Gestured grandly around at the ornate chamber around them "was their city. Alongside the deities of the Dwarves, Dragons and spirits they dwelt within their golden city."
"Golden?" Sirius asked with a barking laugh. "Try Black!" he said, grin wide and showing alot of teeth.
Perth laughed as well. "Yes, well, we're getting to that. You should see the city from outside, or better, above. It's far more impressive than the Chamber of the Outer Gate."
Sirius nodded and the pair of them began moving, Perth still speaking as was their arrangement. "The city is indeed black, but it used to be gold. Long ago there was a war within the Elven Pantheon. I do not know what it was about, but the Dwarven deities sided with the elvish protector deities, the dragons with the dark ones and the spirits happily caused havoc on both sides. Under the fury of war the city was blackened and bloodied. The war ended with the Betrayal of Fen'Heral, the dread wolf. He came to the city, his coat soaked crimson in the blood of Mythal the leader of the Light elves, though apparently it was not his doing. Devastated at the destruction of Mythal, the Elven mother goddess of creation and protection, Fen'Heral convinced both sides of the war that he and the Maker had crafted a weapon capable of repeating the act and hidden it within their respective realms. When the warring gods left the fade in search of the artifact Fen'Heral used it instead to seal this realm against them. As the middle realm from which the six known worlds are accessed the war could not continue and the thrones of the city lay vacant and shattered."
By this point the pair of them had passed through several doors and were now on a balcony overlooking a city of spires. Sirius had to admit, as he looked down at the gothic fantasy masterpiece, filled to the brim with spirits so alien as to make his head hurt, it was quite as impressive as Perth has suggested.
"Your first goal will be to find Fen'Heral" the scantily clad spirit continued. "While the Maker can tell you a fair bit about the veil and a great many other subjects, what the gibbering old fool cannot do is tell you how to cross over to the any of the other six worlds. The barrier erected by the Dread Wolf shields this realm not merely from void and shining heights where he banished the warring gods, but also from the respective realms of each dragons, dwarves, humans" she indicated him "and elves. The Red Mongrel on the other hand not only made the barrier but was there when the gods tore the hole which connected this realm to the human world."
"So, what's the catch?" Sirius asked deadpan. "Does this Dread Wolf guy eat anyone who asks? Or just flat out refuse?" Why couldn't it ever be as simple as casting the right spell?
Perth laughed, the sound somehow both husky and tinkling. "Nothing so easy. No one has seen Fen'Heral in over a thousand years! After the Great Betrayal the Elven God of Rebellion became… somewhat unhinged and created a landscape within the fade so convoluted and dangerous even Pride demons fear to breach it. Then, after a number of centuries, he reemerged gave a great howl that shook the entire fade and vanished. Nobody is sure if he went back in to continue his seclusion, disguised himself as he was fond of, or moved himself to one of the other realms through his barrier!"
Sirius closed his eyes and grimaced as if in pain. Perfect, He'd just volunteered to take the quest for Excalibur.
This place, The Fade, Sirius had decided, was weird.
There was really no other word for it, and being a wizard he'd thought he knew weird. This place however seemed intent on going out of it's way to prove that he was wrong. Gravity was subjective and could change at a whim. Floors became ceilings, ceilings walls, and walls were as varied in their solidity as the walls of Hogwarts. Literally every surface could be passed through if one stepped or leaned on it under the right set of circumstances. Sometimes it was as simple as a password, like opening a protected door or portrait at Hogwarts, others you might need to light a series of braziers with fire or hold a spell of some specific magical flame in your hand. More still required you to take the form of various animals to move on, or even become an elemental force.
For all of that however, ceilings seemed to be rare as one moved away from the city proper and walls were not always complete, so Sirius had endeavored to find a method of flight. He had tried first to find a broom he could enchant, but the spirits who inhabited this place apparently saw no need for them, not having the chance to visit the material world often. It was thus, after a series of conversation that he enchanted an ornate rug under the curious gaze of a ghost who called itself the 'Spirit of determination'.
The wispy spirit was an odd creature who would occasionally manifest stone body-parts to interact with the world and was quite insistent about holding Sirius attention, asking his a steady stream of questions. He made up for it by being just as willing to answer them.
"Making things in the fade is as simple as wanting it to be. Any dolt or half formed wisp could do it, you'll catch on soon enough." Determination stated bluntly. "So how exactly did your people get the idea flooring could be enchanted for flight? I wouldn't think you'd make your buildings so rickety you'd get that much air time."
Blunt sarcasm like this had been the major thread of the conversation for the last five hours and they discussed a variety of topics covering the fade, Thedas and the other five worlds which used to use this one as a way-station. "Actually the idea came from the use of spells which caused things to fly under our own power. I'm not sure who or what was the first method of magical flight, but wizards and common humans have been jealous of the grace of birds in the air and fish in the sea since time immemorial. Where I come from, we actually use brooms to fly, rather than carpets."
"Brooms?" Determination asked, derisively. "Those little sticks mortals use to clear the floor of debris when they inevitable break something?"
Sirius laughed. "Among other things. The original justification was that a broom requires no justification for laying around the house in easy reach. If one were enchanted for supported flight then we could grab it without question and escape without notice. After that, the idea of riding brooms just sort of stuck. Carpets are older and more comfortable, but they're not exactly common to where I'm from. I think the idea was similar though, something you wouldn't question being in the house and which could be then used to escape without warming..."
The spirit became quite for the first time in hours and seemed to contemplate the situation. "You have impressed me with your forthright answers. Teach me about this flight and I shall teach you the stubborn strength of the avalanche."
Sirius looked at it in confusion, but understood quickly as it's wispy form shifted to that of a tall, vaguely humanoid, pile of rocks. He flew off a hour later with the knowledge of his second alternate form. He felt somewhat cheated by how much easier it had been to learn than his animagus ability, but what could you do?
After leaving the room behind and taking to the air; now able to pass through doors requiring primal earth or canine forms, Sirius set off in the vague direction indicated by Perth's map which designated Fen'Harel's labyrinth in relation to the Black City. After what felt to be a day of flight he passed a small island, one of many floating in the fade, which seemed to beckon to him, drawing his attention as inexorably as well proportioned redhead.
Landing on the island, he found it's surface uneven and, while it still had doors and random intervals, instead of architecture or anything resembling such it was covered in rough stone arches and spires. Sirius brow furrowed in thought for a moment, trying to think what the formations reminded him of. Volcanic perhaps? He'd never seen any personally, but images of Lava tunnels and obsidian formations on tropical islands from Lily's travel books seemed a close fit.
Setting down and rolling up his carpet, Sirius wandered along the rocky valleys and corridors of the island letting his feet draw him onwards. He wasn't quite sure why, but he allowed it, his mind somewhat fuzzy as he continued. He knew he needed to be somewhere, but this seemed oddly important somehow.
After several minutes of walking he came across an odd sight. In the middle of the path was a patch of spongy white stone quite at odds with the rest of the landscape. From it, at odd angles, protruded a series or curled blue...horns? Spines? Gems perhaps? Each protrusion, like crystals in a geode if one were to charm it inside out, was curved like a unicorns horn and more crooked than a politician. From each of the thorns wafted a cyan mist which sparked with miniature lightning storms along its height.
As Sirius approached the mineral he felt energized and yet at the same time calmed. The effect reminded him of the Cannabis Remus had brought them once on Peter's suggestion the weeds smoke might tame his wolven side. Sirius smiled nostalgically. THAT had been a night to remember alright. It hadn't ended up taming the werewolf as the group had hoped, but running drunkenly through the forest with a lycanthrope who preferred howling his little heart out to biting them had been a hoot. Remus had had a sore throat for a week afterward.
As Sirius sat down at the vein and inhaled, three more figures sat down with him. One looked sort of skeletal in inferris only with green skinned and with too many eyes. It's jaw stretched halfway down its chest and was filled with pointed teeth and behind it's hunched figure dragged bladed segmented tail much like that which had been on Perth. It's arms and legs were distended and ended in claws as well, further relating it to the entity he'd spoken to earlier. It exuded a feeling that reminded him of the dementors, only weaker. It sat down across from him and crossed its legs, staring at him with it's too many eyes. Some of them were milky white, others seemed little more than pus filled blisters, but some of them held iris he recognized. People who at one point or another in his life had frightened him to one degree or another. His cousin Bella who he had failed and watched fall to madness and sociopathy. Voldemort's crimson stare as the Black heir had denied his offer to join the Death Eaters. Dumbledore's heavy lidded glare after that debacle with Snape, he still didn't know how the bugger had survived despite James, but seeing those twinkling eyes filled with a cold flame still brought sweat to Sirius brow. Other eyes were there he didn't quite recognize but the figures aura, strange twisted appearance and eyes said enough. Whatever this creature was it was obviously trying to scare him.
"So," he started, voice chipper "who are you supposed to be?" The monster screamed at him, its spit flecked howl reminding him of the sound of an excited dementor. Sirius wiped his face with the sleeve of his robes and afforded the creature an exasperated glare. "Well, that was rude. Would you perhaps like a breath mint?"
Despite not having the proper facial muscles for it the creature seemed to frown at him. After taking a minute to consider him, it placed its hand on the ground which turned a brilliant emerald and rippled. The creature then sunk quickly through the surface and Sirius felt it come up behind him. A creeping dread filled his stomach and Sirius heard the charismatic whispering alto of Tom Riddle speaking to him. "You know you're not going to get through this, don't you? Nobody survives the dread wolf, how do you think he gained such a title? It certainly wasn't by suffering fools like you, little Padfoot."
The Grim animagus laughed. "So, what are you, an Irritation demon of some sort?" he asked. "If you can see into my head like every freaking other spirit here surely you could have come up with a better way to hurt me? Don't you know the first rule of making someone shit their robe? The anticipation of the act is as potent as the humiliation itself. Or in this case, the scare. Go try again on someone who hasn't spend a decade living with Dementors as housemates."
"Like this then?" Harry's voice asked, him, sounding miffed. The spirit disappeared from behind him, to appear off to the side, as his Godson, only instead of living he looked to be rotted and falling apart in places, his robes mostly shredded and his muggle clothes splattered in blood. "Guilt isn't normally something I prey on, but I know this is your fear." it said, lurching forward. "That your absence means the death-eater's trap will succeed and some horrible fate shall befall your godson, because you. Weren't. THERE! Just like you've never been there, have you? You were afraid of the responsibility involved in being secret keeper for your friends and convinced yourself it would be better to have you be a decoy. But in doing so you doomed them. You were afraid that the dementors would end up getting your godson at the rate which the attacks against you were intensifying so you ran away. But what happened? He got entered in a tournament known to kill most of it's participants because you weren't there. And now he's in the ministry, hunted by death-eater's and dark lord himself because you weren't brave enough to defy Dumbledore. Weren't clever enough to get Harry a proper means of communicating with you. Weren't strong or fast enough to beat your dear cousin when you stood beside him. Oh, yes, I know about the creeping horror you feel every time you look at her too..."
Sirius sneered, but didn't lash out immediately. He was fascinated by the method the demon had used to travel. what was it? Some combination of the intangibility charm and apparition? "I'm rather used to have my failings turned against me spirit;" He drawled "how about you indulge me instead. Teach me how to do that thing you did with the floor and I'll share with you the delights of muggle horror movies! Confounded me when Lily first took James and the rest of us to see one at the cinema, but we humans get quite a thrill from having the piss scared out of us. Perhaps we can both learn something?"
The spirit sat down across from Sirius, seeming rather put out and quite confused. He could feel the Black wizards fear and shame. Knew how it spiked at his words and actions, but what was it about this human that made him hostile at the scent of fear rather than cowardly? Devil's Claw had heard of such from a few of his brothers, but never experienced it in the dreams of those he terrorized at night. Perhaps there was something to be learned from this mortal. "The deal is struck," it repled "show me these memories and I shall teach you how to seek prey through that which is solid."
So, Sirius showed him Bram Stoker's Dracula, Lovecraft's Dunwich Horror, Sigourney Weaver's Alien, Halloween, the Exorcist, the Omen, Jaws, Carrie, Dawn of the Dead and Silence of the Lambs. Devil's claw wasn't particularly impressed with Dawn of the dead or Carrie, having seen such tactics used often over the course of Thedas history, but the others occasionally had some fairly interesting ideas.
"Traveling through the solid is simple. Far more than the dreamers will admit, foolish creatures. As with everything, you draw your power from the fade and let it flow into and through that which presents you an obstacle. Once this is achieved, pulse your will like ripples over the water that you might search for a proper victim. There's so many flavors, it's often hard to choose, but I personally like those who think they're stronger than their fear. Makes it so much sweeter to cast them out of their own dreams, screaming in terror." The emerald monster shook it's head. "Regardless, once you've found your chosen victim striker your fist against the solid and use the ripples to tighten down the connection between that which you're seeking and where you are. My cousin Chilling Dread, tells me that it works just as well in Thedas when he was summoned as it does here, though the power and time needed goes up significantly."
Sirius nodded and after practicing it a few times got to speaking with the creature about pranks he'd played on people at school, both in good humor and revenge. Devil's claw was dismissive, but nodded along with interest occasionally. Sirius left half an hour later, the vein of what he learned was called Lyrium no longer gripping his mind as it had before.
The next fear based demon Sirius encountered was neither so small nor so understanding as the previous had been. A thoroughly bizarre creature, it had the face of a manta ray, asymmetrical tentacles in place of hair and a beard, a humanoid figure and spider limbs extending from its ribs and shoulders. Unlike the previous demon it didn't walk, but rather floated and preyed on older deeper fears. Where the first demon has been a poor mans dementor, this one was akin to a small pack of them. Sirius fired off a Patronus and fled the area to the sound of its pained and furious howls.
The Patronus, Sirius learned hours later, survived the encounter with the fear demon and took on a life of it's own, becoming a powerful spirit of protection. Sirius would not meet it personally, but it's existence brought forth the attention of other light natured spirits such as Faith, Hope, Valor, Justice and Compassion.
Sirius stared at Hope in consternation. "What do you mean, it's alive?"
"The Halla you conjured to combat fear," the spirit replied simply "it has become a being in its own right. We were curious to meet one who could create such a spirit."
Sirius sputtered "b-but, it's a charm, not a transfiguration! Sure, if you layer enough magic into a thing charms can take on their own personalities, but they don't live. Even with transfiguration creating life is tricky and subjective and tends to be sterile and either quick to die or be functionally immortal. This makes no sense!"
Faith hummed and tilted its head back and forth. "Perhaps, perhaps not, maker. But I sense you speak of actions made in the four material planes. Here in the fade life is born from thoughts charged with emotion. Have you not noticed those you left in your wake?"
Sirius jaw worked, fighting the urge to fall open in shock. The Patronus was a spell whose power and effectiveness depended on the strength of the emotions given to its casting and the basis for the spell was the need to protect your soul, shield it from the dementors, intent on devouring it. If what Faith and Hope said was true…
Valor laughed, it's merriment deep and booming. "The young maker gets it! Yes, this day you have born something as great as it is dangerous! I fear though that it is an injustice that you realized it not! Eh, old friend?" The glowing white spirit elbowed the blue Justice in its armored side.
"Indeed." The creatures said, either ignoring or not feeling the jab. "The question remains whether great justice or injustice shall be done with it's birth. Know that you shall be watched with interest, young maker."
Sirius closed his eyes and fought the headache that was building from this confrontation. "I'm not that Maker fellow, though while we're on the subject, do any of you think you can help me find the tosser? Word is he has something I need."
This time it was Compassion who spoke. "Seeking; Searching; Terror, but not for your sake. Rage; then hope and relief, but shock interrupts terror and confusions again. Sought out by desire. There was a battle, someone important. You need to return to him! We can help. It's our nature to help. The First Maker cannot be found, too long immaterial, lost his way. Wanders the edges, flitting here and there, helping none, hounded by despair. My brothers, they try to help, but the First is fast, and despair is strong. Must seek Fen'Heral. Dangerous, but achievable. Two options, which to take?"
Sirius eyes narrowed, but he asked calmly "What two options?" These spirits constantly reading his mind was getting...really annoying.
While compassion smiled sadly at him and smiled apologetically the other four spirits turned to watch something behind him with clear amusement. "Two options. Desire pointed you to the twisted hollows where the dread wolf sleeps. Deep within the fade, swarming with spirits of despair and rage, guarded by powerful beings of sloth. Many sleepers enter, few return and none with the tainted god on their heels. Another option, journey to Thedas and seek the mask of Fen'Heral. Heirloom of the people, powered by blood. Difficult to find, they will not part with it lightly, nor use it without great need. Use the mask and speak to the lost god. Which will you choose? Do you have time to do either?"
Sirius frowned in worry and annoyance. It wasn't as if he was unaware of those problems, but it wasn't particularly pleasant to be reminded how he was unlikely to return to Harry before everything fell apart. There was a war on after all. And then this little bugger… He should be called the spirit of indecision or confusion in the Black wizards opinion, rather than compassion. Still, best not to offend the help where possible. "I don't know how to get to Thedas. Lead me to the twisted hollows."
Valor laughed. "A brave soul then! Come! We shall show you the way! I look forward to the slaughter of many demons, but beware of Pride. Here, the pride of mortals may summon or birth great demons to harass us on our path!"
Hope nodded. "And to answer your unasked question, leaving the fade is a task both simple and complex." Sirius offered a barking laugh and a raised brow. Hope smiled and continued. "It is simplicity itself in that all a spirit needs to cross Fen'Heral's barrier is to make a compact with a dreamer, but difficult and complex because convincing them of any such actions or methods is…dangerous, from their point of view."
"Why dangerous?" Sirius asked, as the group set off, flying between landscapes like the Millennium Falcon in A New Hope.
"Spirits come in many varieties and all watch the dreams of mortals with much interest, but in most cases, only the malicious seek more than that. Those spirits, whom they label demons, attack and often consume the souls of the incautious and spread havoc in the material world. They are envious of humanity's ability to create and imagine things greater than themselves and in their jealousy seek to destroy rather than learn …generally. It is not always so, and changing those spirits minds is our duty." It smiled serenely at him as it said this. Hope indeed.
As they traveled, Sirius learned from the spirits. Much of what they taught him was about Thedas itself. Languages, history, the plight of the dreamers, the names and ranges of the countries. Their knowledge of history was…questionable at best, spirits seemed to have a fair amount of trouble grasping the concept of time in human terms; or perhaps didn't experience it in the same way as the material world' did.
This...worried Sirius. For one thing it sounded far too much like the fairytales of the 'Nevernever' where the Fae lived in time that spun in circles flinging mages who were abducted by its denizens back and forth across time. If that was real, if that was...here...it could very well spell trouble. Of course it could also be a thing of great hope. Whatever he did or learned here, no matter how long he stayed, if he found the right time of place to return to Harry then he could return as if he had never left… Of course that also meant that if he was wildly successful and passed the gauntlet and gained this mysterious gods help in the next few days or even hours it could still be decades or even centuries before or after he left that he would be returning too and that wouldn't help him in the slightest.
The spirits taught him other things as well, the price of these exchanges being a constant flow of stories about his life and world. From Valor he learned how to bend the fade so that his strength was equal to the half-giant Hagrid. From Hope he learned how to cast powerful wandless healing spells, strange ones that fixed nearly everything rather than specific maladies or injuries. Compassion was fascinated by his Legillimancy and Occlumancy skills and endeavored to help him learn the difference between the ways they got into each others heads. Faith insisted he learn something called smite which drew on the veil to temporarily cut the dreamers off from the fade. The spirit insisted it was important, though Sirius count for the life of him figure out why, it wasn't as if you needed this fade to dream… Justice lesson as well was quite interesting. The creature seemed to be honestly offended by Sirius learning Terror's secondary apparition and amused by the flying carpet he'd created. In an effort to correct what it apparently saw as an imbalance it taught him how to fly without a broom; a skill it called 'fade step'.
Eventually the sextette reached a point in the veridian gloom where a large spherical landmass dominated their vision. From a distance it looked as if someone had taken a marble and etched their thumbprint into it's surface in several different directions. As they drew closer however the loops and whorls of the 'print' turned out to be tubular landmasses covered in wild stone spikes covered in veins of Lyrium from which lightning arced everywhere. To Sirius eyes, it looked like a bramble patch, complete with thorns.
"Yes!" Valor declared proudly, "daunting, is it not? Haha! We shall face many guardians within its depths; the manifest shame of an elven god!"
Sirius looked questioning at the other spirits, but they all shook their heads. "This is where we leave you," Hope replied "but know you go with our blessing."
"You have learned well, young maker," Faith added, nodding "good luck in your quest."
Justice snorted and crossed its arms. "Your child, Protection, needs watching. Time will tell whether it is a beneficial spirit or in need of a good smiting."
"Be careful around the dread wolf" Compassion added "he wallows in regret, but it is not unjustified. If you survive to find him, do not be too harsh."
As they left Sirius felt Valor clap him on the back with it's armored hand. "Well? What are we waiting for? Your godson awaits!"
Sirius nodded, eyes narrowing in determination and prepared to cast another Patronus. Time to meet a god. He grinned, if nothing else, this would be something he could brag about for the rest of his life.
However short that may be...