Chapter Thirteen: Terminus
The Limper jabbed the feet of his staff into the ground and leaned heavily on it's shoulder.
He gazed down over the small hut at the edge of the forest at the gate and blinked slowly. It seemed the wench had moved him to the correct place after all. That was a thing well done. Carpets had been a dodgy thing of late. After the Howler had vanished, and he'd lost his own to Stormbringer before he took her head (he stopped to remember the surprise in her eyes as it tumbled into his lap, stupid wench) there was not a replacement to be found in the seventh land.
He stepped on the closest wall of the hut and it collapsed around his leg.
That was just irritating. His hand dismissed the stone and wood, returning it to where it came from. He hoped dearly it had been a nymph forest the wood had come from. The thought of one of the sisters falling on them in savaged pieces was far, far too delightful to not be so.
He pushed his staff into the ground ahead of him and shoved forward again, lurching awkwardly on his lame foot.
Presently he was saved from further indignity of motion by the arrival of the one the Executioner had warned them of. A swirling nimbus of bright crimson danced from the old stone of the castle. He turned a deaf ear to the crack of thunderous rage that the stone reacted with to abandonment. Places should never have been imbued with sentience. The blight of these arrogant wand-wielders. They did not even realize what magic was.
The Limper extended one arm, fingers unable to straighten properly, and the last joint on the index finger permanently bent backwards.
The blood exploded outward, reacting to the impending doom of it's child master. It swarmed, ever moving, ever presenting a disordered front to the raw energy fouling the air. It held, heating slowly, seeking to call more to it, and finding it in the earth of the woods, where dark blood lay dormant, quiet, patient, and in the stones, where more blood rested, waiting for the return of the magics it sought to protect. But it was too far, far too far. It would not reach before the unfocused energy (now burning now shocking now slicing ever changing eternally restless unfettered) finally had it's way.
That would not be allowed. It could not be allowed. The child master was back, to lose him again so soon was not just unthinkable but wholly unfair and blasphemous. It could not happen, for if the last child master was forever lost, the end would come.
So though it pulled the blood from the forest and stone, it sought to steal the (magical powerful destructive restructive) blood from the offending giant.
The stitches that held half of the Limper's face in approximately the correct position (but not quite no seamstress was he and to ask would be weak and weakness had lost him his head and the wench) pulled as he smiled, and it transformed his face into something that not even the Lady could bear to look upon and smile at.
He recalled the malformed magic, and moved the staff in front of him, so the mouth frozen in an agonized shriek faced the raging blood.
The Lady smiled, wiping the blood off on one of the wall hangings. It bothered her a little bit that The Executioner killed so much more efficiently than her and she had never met him. It wasn't really anyone's fault, not really, and that was really what made her uncomfortable. Blaming the walking mass of molten metal was the easiest option, so she did that.
A well-aimed blasting curse that could have torn through the Great Wall shattered the head-blob. It flew apart, stopped, came back together, and the whistling tentacles continued to kill.
It continued in that vein for some time. Every now and then, to stave off boredom, she'd produce a blade and sling it into the battered crowd somewhere.
The old, bearded man had several students under a corporeal shield, though was far separated from the vast majority of the children, kept from the rest by the very stones of the castle having wrapped around his feet and refusing to let go. Intermittently argent ribbons would lash against the protective magic, at least theoretically keeping the biggest wand in the room occupied with defense. Though the students (all of them from the upper years, she noticed) were doing something, she couldn't see it having much of an effect. Nothing so far had, though she suspected that either some of the charms or transfigurations careening, some slower than others, around might have done something if they would land. Unfortunately for the children, The Executioner had his orbs at the ready and thusfar a faultless record.
She watched the oldest children conclude what they were doing and direct it.
The room flooded immediately. The Lady didn't bother gasping for breath. Instead she breathed normally as the water level rose up past her shoulders and up her neck. In the fraction of a second it took the level to rise over her head, she started to laugh. Seemed there was someone with a bit of science under their belt.
The water was arctic. It burned as she breathed deep, though the level was already nearing the ceiling. And as she held the lungful for an instant, as the water reached the stones overhead and—
And then the water was gone and she held a lungful of air. She frowned and breathed out, looking at the students inside the old wizard's shield. They were not, as she expected, panicking or even confused. She had almost a full second to consider that before a wave of searing heat dropped her to her knees. She watched through boiling eyes the Nightshade Armor she wore heat from the ever black to red, then progressing to white before—
The heat was gone and the only proof it had ever been was her glowing armor and the stench as it seared her flesh and melted onto what was left beneath that—
And then as though it had never gone, the water just a milibarr's length from ice, filled the room floor to ceiling and her armor screamed as almost instantly it cooled by too many degrees.
The Lady barked a silent laugh into the abruptly aqueous room. So that was the plan. Very clever.
And ultimately pointless, she saw as the water vanished again and left the Executioner slightly duller than the previous radiant silver. She looked around the room as the next heat wave struck, noting that the room was no longer a room so much as a solid cube of stone, with her and the Executioner the only beings still in existence outside of the shield the ancient wizard held.
Of course, that left the Executioner free to focus all of his efforts on the shield. The relentless pounding was beginning to irritate her. There was a sound, though it was not the sound of the shield vibrating from the impact of the Executioner's ribbons, but the whisper-hiss-scream of the ribbons lashing through the air. The shield was utterly silent.
Then the water, and the heat. And again. And again. And again.
And then she felt something in the stone of the castle change.
And she watched, first with curiosity, and then with delight, as the water fell away and the walls of Hogwarts shifted, no more than a centimeter, but enough so that the next instant, the old wizard's shield collapsed and he wrapped one around only himself as the heat scorched the students to bone and then to nothing.
And as the reservoir of power built within the ritual circle crafted by the careful positioning of the students suddenly was no longer contained, it chose to do what came naturally. It sought to equalize the concentration of the magic within the space the reservoir had been with the rest of the world.
In short, it exploded.
And immediately the heat vanished, before even the outrush of magic had torn the wizard's shield asunder. Before even the Executioner had raised his hemispheres to drain the onslaught. Before even the Lady realized what was happening and laughed defiantly.
When she could see straight again, she realized that the Executioner had made no move to slaughter the old man on the floor.
"This Witch is mine," she snapped. "Mine."
The Executioner turned and slid out of the room, where the damage to the stonework abruptly stopped, and then disappeared through a wall.
"Now," the Lady said, moving to stand before the Witch, her armor already but a dull red, "You are going to tell me anything I wish to know."
Lily Evans was scared.
Even so, she was possessed of her wits. She had realized at the moment that the Headmaster began to barricade the room they had retreated to that they were fucked.
They were all dead. When was soon, and where… well, where wasn't something that had been chosen for her. So she slipped away without half a thought about it.
She'd heard the screaming, and then she'd heard the screaming stop. That was worse.
So now she shivered, alone in a dark corner of a classroom, wondering if maybe she should have stayed with the rest and died with them. It might have been better than dying alone, or at least better than the anticipation of dying alone.
She didn't scream as the wall oozed some strange, shining liquid. She panicked, but she did not scream. Then it formed a vaguely familiar figure, though she couldn't quite tell who it was mimicking. Eyes opened like scales across the being, and she felt everything inside her start trying to climb out of her body through her back.
The eyes focused on her, and she felt as though she were being judged.
An instant later the thing had passed through the wall on the opposite side of the room, immediately next to the window.
Lily decided against investigating.
He was only conscious in the way that a rose is conscious. He existed. He performed solely what must to perpetuate that.
The elimination of threats to that continued existence was less than a thought. Less even than a reaction. It simply was.
He stirred slightly when his form passed the girl with red hair and green eyes. Not a threat. Then he rested again.
When next he woke, he stood behind a screaming vortex of blood. He felt it was peculiarly familiar. It twitched at the edge of the final sense, though he could not quite tell why.
He stood still and watched. The man at the center of the vortex would not win. The man at the center of the vortex could not win. The man at the center of the vortex, after all, had already ceded the rest of his battered soul.
He watched as the man in the vortex fought without moving. He watched as the man in the vortex reached out to boil the Limper's blood in his body. He watched as the Limper ignored the inferno inside and struck back with a blow so poorly crafted of wild magic that it managed to shatter the blood that attempted to shield the man and rend him open from shoulder to thigh. The man started to collapse, and then the vortex closed around him, lifted him upright, and cradled him.
He watched as the Limper snarled irritably and slammed his will formed of magic into the blood coffin and savaged it.
He watched and he waited. Plenty of time to let the Limper play. They had done it before. They would do it again.
Time, they say, is a fickle thing. They say to change the past is to destroy all of existence. They say that a single, simple paradox would end Time.
As if some ape-descendants could destroy a thing that has existed, will exist, for all of ever.
Personal journal of Ancient V.