Anna Grayson and The Dragon's Lair

The Missing Ogre

ONE

An hour later, Doctor Pearl was frantically barking orders in every direction. The beds on the hospital floor were full to bursting and the spaces between them crowded with family, healers and Crimson Guards. They were the overflow from the Spellsburg healer’s ward in the city. Several residents had been injured when the dragons cornered the three wizards who trying to steal their eggs. Given their injuries and the death of one of their comrades, the thieves had already paid a terrible price for their crimes, but the surly looking Guards surrounding their beds were there to extend their misery more. The men had stolen something precious from the Cliffs of Knowtor and the fabled, near legendary, Dragon’s Lair. Thus they and their kind were responsible for all the destruction and fear the dragons had brought into the city because of their greed. In the minds of the Guard and the people of Spellsburg, Askaban prison would be their next stop on that lonely road to justice.

Tencha and Damon were standing beside Dowla’s bed. Their sister was still unconscious and looked battered and beaten, but breathing comfortably. The Crimson Guards had arrived just in time to stop Dowla’s life-ending fall and chase the dragons out of the city. Tencha sat down on the bed to hold her twin’s hand, as one of the city’s healers began pouring a number of powered substances into a beaker next to them.

“How is my sister, doctor?” Damon asked, looking very irritated by the all commotion surrounding them.

“She’ll be all right. I little bruised, yes, but it looks much worse than it is internally. She should make a full recovery. Have her drink this potion when she wakes up and that’ll speed up her healing processes.” The healer looked around worriedly. “Excuse me; I have a few other patients Doctor Pearl has asked me to look after.”

Damon looked to stop the woman, but the healer was already looking after John Dell in the adjoining bed. John was also unconscious and gathering most of Doctor Pearl’s attention. It was obvious to everyone that John was in very serious condition.

“They’re not paying enough attention to Dowla’s wounds,” Damon said scathingly.

“John and Trog took the worst of it, Damon.” Tencha replied. She was watching Pearl waving her wand over John and a number of magical devices suddenly started to appear around his bed. She looked strangely unnerved as she applied pressure to a particularly appalling wound on the side of the man’s neck.

“It looks like he might have rolled in viper-venom here,” one of the healers surmised, wincing as he lifted a mound of bandages off the open wounds on John’s legs. “Once we stop the bleeding, we’ll need to keep it from spreading and eating more of his flesh.” Looking up, the man noticed the sickened expression on the faces of those watching them. Without another word, he yanked the curtain around to enclose the bed.

Tencha looked at Damon. “Is there any word about Anna?”

Damon was solemn as he shook his head. “They’re still out searching. Eric is talking to father right now, and I expect he’ll be on the next boat to Spellsburg.”

On the other side of the room, Lieutenant Dunning was standing next to his sister who was sitting on the edge of her bed.

“Look at this!” she complained. “All of this damage and chaos caused by the Graysons. Why aren’t they arrested?”

She looked at her brother and sneered. “I told you what happened and why I followed Anna Grayson into the city. I tell you, she and that entourage of dimwits and freaks were out for their advantage before dawn this morning. They were the ones that caused the dragons to attack the city again – I’m sure of it. Something they probably cooked up to terrorize everyone. And I’m not surprised her two sisters were in on it too. They’re always up to no good, Greg. You know that.”

Gregory Dunning looked down at his sister and knew his response had to be guarded. The Chancellor had clearly warned him against sharing any information with the members of his family and there was far too much risk to his career to make the same mistake again. Debbie didn’t know about the memory altering charm that Qwaad, the onetime Ministry Obliviator, had placed upon her to expunge her memories of everything he had told her about the Grayson family. This ministry sanctioned spell of forgetfulness was something he himself was to have shared with his sister after his failures at Drogo prison. The thought of it still pained him greatly and his only recompense had been the Minster of Magic trusting his suspicions regarding Anna Grayson’s culpability at the prison. The Minister had his sentence of obliviation secretly set aside so he could report on Thordarson’s actions and his support of Albus Dumbledore’s claims that He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named had somehow returned from the dead. To be honest, Gregory Dunning didn’t like acting the spy, but the idea of redeeming his reputation and status on the plateau had to take precedence. He watched Damon and Tencha Grayson trying to pour something from a beaker down their sister’s throat.

“It would seem all of their sins have finally fallen at the feet of the Graysons today.” He looked down at Debbie again. “In all likelihood Anna Grayson is dead… and one more Grayson troublemaker will have some lasting pain to remind them of all of their deeds of malice.” He placed a hand on Debbie’s shoulder. “We’ll have to be happy with that for now.”

“You may go, Miss Dunning,” interrupted a smiling nurse. “Your injuries were not too bad, only a minor concussion from the falling debris. The potion I gave you should have done the trick and you’re probably looking forward to getting away from all of this ruckus anyway.”

Debbie sprang to her feet and looked up at her brother. “So some Grayson rule breakers are finally getting their comeuppance. Well then… my work here is done.” She smiled and then happily left the hospital floor.

The lieutenant turned to stare at the Graysons again. “Not yet, dear sister; our work is far from complete so long as the Graysons remain here in the school,” he whispered to himself. He headed across the room and stopped where the two smugglers remained unconscious. Lieutenant Mantos was speaking to his men guarding the beds.

“As soon as Doctor Pearl will allow it, I want these two taken down to the dungeons,” Mantos said curtly, “Take the beds with them if you have to. These criminals should not be in the same room with students and residents. Do you understand?” The two guards nodded. “Good, get it done.” He turned to see Dunning standing there.

“Oh Gregory — excellent; I was hoping to speak to you. I’m sure you won’t have any problems with my stowing a couple of prisoners in your dungeons downstairs. I doubt Pearl will let them out of the castle so long as they’re under her care, but they need to be in a cell.”

Dunning nodded. “By all means; I’ll store them for you and happily double the guard.”

Mantos flashed a quick smile and then looked concerned. “I see they’ve released your sister. How’s she doing?”

“About as well as can be expected, but with your help I’m hoping to put a few more in my dungeon before the day is done.” He was staring at the Graysons.

“What are you talking about?”

Dunning looked at him again. “Why do you think the Grayson were involved in this… ah…” he sneered skeptically, “incident in the city?”

“From what I’ve gathered after speaking to the sister,” Mantos pointed to Tencha sitting on the bed, “they were in the city early this morning to meet with their brother Eric. John Dell and the ogre were escorting Anna Grayson outside the castle as per the Chancellor’s previous order that the girl not leave the castle without a guard.”

Dunning studied Mantos carefully. “Wasn’t it Anna Grayson who also told us about the smuggler’s hideout?”

Mantos cocked his head questioningly. “Yes… it was. What are you insinuating?”

Dunning took the lieutenant by the shoulder and led him away from the other guards. “Don’t you find it strange that the one person who knew about the smugglers’ hideout was on the street once more this morning when these two dragons showed up looking for a stolen egg?”

Mantos frowned. “What are you saying, Greg… that the Graysons are in league with these egg thieves?”

Dunning continued. “Did you ever get an answer from Hayman about how Anna Grayson knew about the smugglers’ headquarters, or how she became the secret keeper to its location?”

Mantos shook his head. “The Captain would only say he was satisfied with her explanation, but he never told me what that explanation was or how she had come into the information.”

Dunning smiled. “I have a theory. There’s only one way I know that a person can become the keeper of a Fedelius secret.” He leaned in. “That can only happen if the original keeper gives it to that person orally or by writing it down. You know as well as I that even if they draw a map to the place and accidently left it somewhere in full view, the location is still safe…”

“Unless the secret keeper actually intended it to be delivered to the finder,” Mantos finished with a nod.

“Correct. So I ask you again: how did Anna Grayson become the secret keeper of the gap at 13 Old-Way Lane?”

Mantos stared at him, unwilling to give one obvious answer.

“Only if the leader, this limping man you’ve been looking for since the incident outside the Guardian walls, gave it to her. And remember too… Anna Grayson was one of four girls in that room with the blasted window; was that also just another coincidence? I recall you telling me somebody from the Guardian Hall shouted out a warning about this limping man trying to get away. If you think about it, this could just as well been a warning to the fugitive that your men were nearly upon him.”

Dunning cautiously looked around them and then continued. “And now this morning we’re expected to believe the Graysons just happened to be on the same street when these three criminals showed up with another egg in their possession. Accept for the injuries to some of our citizens and the damage done to the city, some might consider it a blessing that the dragons showed up when they did. Otherwise, we might never have known about this meeting.”

“So you do believe the Graysons are allied with these smugglers?” Mantos replied, skeptically. “I find that very hard to believe, Greg.”

“And why is that? Is it because there’s no evidence to be found to link them, or because their family name is too prestigious for its consideration? Why is it that so many are afraid to voice their suspicions, Tom? I know their father works for the Minister of Magic, but despite that fact… how long can we ignore what is obvious here?”

“No… my skepticism has nothing to do with their father,” Mantos replied. “It’s because of the others who would also then be implicated and I can’t believe John Dell and the ogre would be a party to anything so sinister. I know John Dell. He’s a very close friend of mine, and in my opinion his morals are completely incorruptible. As far as the ogre is concerned, Trog is a creature of the Shadowed Forest. It would be against his very nature to steal for profit. He’s never accepted payment for his duties within the Guard because gold doesn’t mean anything to him.”

“Really? Are you sure about that? Shouldn’t you at least try and question the beast about this trip into the city to meet the eldest brother?” Dunning leaned in. “Where is the ogre now, Tom? Do we even know? If I were still your captain… I would be demanding an answer to that question from you right now.”

Mantos quickly surveyed the hospital floor. “Nobody knows where Trog is. According to Tencha Grayson, the ogre was thrown through a building in the fight with one of the dragons… but… his body was never found. I would assume he’s back in the forest, licking his wounds.”

“Well that’s rather convenient, wouldn’t you say? So the only witness who can tell us what really happened this morning is the one hovering over her unconscious twin. If I were you, I would separate the two of them before she wakes up and they have a chance to begin their collusion.”

Mantos frowned again. “What’s going on, Greg? You couldn’t have come up with all of this simply because of a broken Fedelius charm and the disappearance of an ogre. What else do you know?”

Dunning smiled. “You’ll notice Eric Grayson isn’t here either?”

Mantos looked around the floor and nodded. “I think he’s using the Floo network to send a message to their father. What of it?”

“Tom… I had enough foresight to pull Eric Grayson aside before he was allowed to enter the hospital floor and I asked him about this so called meeting he had arranged this morning with his sisters. I thought it rather suspicious that a family meeting should be taking place before dawn and without Damon Grayson being present.”

“And… what did Eric say?”

“The answer was plain on his face before he said anything, but he eventually admitted to me there was no planned meeting. He never sent for Anna Grayson or his other sisters.”

The other lieutenant’s jaw dropped. “He told you that?”

“Yes, Tom… he certainly did. I’m sure now he’s probably sorry that he admitted this truth, but I didn’t give him time to collude with his family before I grabbed him.”

Dunning looked around meaningfully before reaching into his pocket to remove a small piece of parchment from his robes. He unfolded it and handed it to his friend. “I also have this; it was delivered to my sister in the city by an unknown informant yesterday afternoon.”

“What informant?” Mantos took the paper, looking skeptical.

“She could only describe a little of what she saw of him, because it was obvious he was trying to keep his identity hidden beneath a heavy cloak and his face was wrapped bandages. She only saw him for an instant in passing when he forced this message into her hand.”

Dunning could see his friend was handling the parchment like some diseased thing and he smiled. “Don’t worry, I already checked it for prints and spells… it’s clean.”

Mantos opened the note and read:

Dear Miss Dunning,

It has come to my attention that you are a person of utmost character and one who cares deeply about the laws of our city and the residents who strive to obey them. I have information regarding the transfer of illegal contraband taken from the forest and a meeting set for early tomorrow morning to exchange these stolen goods for gold. For the sake of my life, I dare not reveal the culprit’s names here in this message, but I am counting on your fervent drive for decency to bring these thieves to justice.

The meeting is to be held in the city at first light and the person receiving this stolen property is a student at Castlewood Academy. She will have an escort to guard her person. I urge you to follow them, to be a witness to their crimes, and report your observations to the proper authorities.

Please be careful as I pray for your safety always,

A Worried Citizen

Mantos couldn’t believe his eyes. He looked up at Dunning with the appearance of remorse bleeding through his tightened expression, but his response was stronger than steel. He turned to one of his guards.

“Find Eric Grayson!”

TWO

In the adjoining chamber, several people were speaking into the fireplaces set in a large circle around the room. The smell of spent Floo powder filled the air as their voices distributed the news of the dragon’s destruction within the city. Eric Grayson’s head was leaning into one of the fires.

“Father… some here have given up any hope that Anna…” He hesitated.

Mister Grayson was sitting in the dark in his office. His face buried in his hands. “I should never have let her return to the plateau. This… is my fault. My foolishness is never-ending.”

Gabby and Widwick stood looking up at the blue flames rising from the middle of a stone bowl on his desk. Eric’s face within the flames looked grieving. Gabby was whimpering uncontrollably while Widwick stood stoic and unmoved.

“The Crimson Guards are hunting for the dragons, father, but the lair has been unplottable for centuries; even Thordarson doesn’t know where it is, but the Chancellor and the guards are still out searching for her.” There was a pause as Eric swallowed hard. “There’s something else you should know, father.”

Mister Grayson looked weary as his gaze returned to his son’s image.

“Anna doesn’t have her wand with her,” he said somberly, as he raised his sister’s purple heart to show him.

His father suddenly looked mortified and any hope for his daughter’s safe return seemed to leave him. The man shuddered and swallowed hard. “How is Dowla?” he finally asked, hesitantly.

“We don’t know yet. The healers were still working on her when I left to Floo you, but I don’t believe her injuries are that serious. Tencha and Damon are with her now.”

“And John Dell?”

Eric shook his head.

“Eric… we are responsible for John’s care just as surely as if he were our blood. He was protecting Anna with my trust. Whatever he needs; make it clear to Doctor Pearl that our family will see to it that she has whatever she requires for his recovery. He is ours!”

“Yes, father, of course. I’ll make sure she knows.” Eric hesitated.

“Out with it, son. What are you keeping from me?”

Eric looked up and grinned at his father’s ability to read him so well.

He took a deep breath and then Eric told his father about the questions Lieutenant Dunning had been asking him. He told him about the meeting it was said he had arranged to bring his sisters to his flat in the city before dawn and how, during their travel to see him, the smugglers were attacked by the dragons.

Mister Grayson didn’t seem to care about the details. He immediately stood, “I’m on my way to you now, Eric. I’ll Apparate directly to the docks and have Angus take me to the lagoon. There is a ship scheduled to depart from there in six hours. That should put me on the plateau a little after sunset and I’ll be expecting an update immediately upon my arrival, sooner by owl if there’s any news about Anna. Do you understand?”

“Yes, father, if there’s any news… anything at all… I’ll send word right away.” He straightened again and then heaved.

Mister Grayson frowned at his son. “Eric… are you alright? I mean… I know we’re all very…” he hesitated again, “worried about the situation… but you look exhausted.”

Eric shrugged. “I’m alright, father. Really… at a time like this… my problems are nothing.”

His father stared at him disbelievingly. “Tell me anyway.”

“It’s just that… well… I haven’t been sleeping all that well lately.”

“You mean over the last couple of days or has it been longer?”

“It’s been… since I got back to Spellsburg after Christmas. It’s just… I’ve been having some very strange dreams.”

“Dreams? And they’ve been keeping you from sleeping?”

“No… I don’t think so, but when they happen I don’t feel like I’ve slept at all when I wake up.”

Suspicious of nearly everything affecting his family, Mister Grayson frowned again. “Do you remember these dreams?”

“Yes, sir, and that’s what’s so unusual, because I generally don’t remember any of my dreams.” Eric came forward to look directly into the flames again. “I’ve been dreaming a lot… about my mother.”

Mister Grayson sat down again, looking surprised. “Your… mother?”

“Yes, sir. At least that’s what I’ve come to believe. It’s a woman’s voice whispering to me, telling me she loves me and that she loves my father.” Eric looked up again. “You would think they would be wonderful dreams… but they’re not. The voice I’m hearing is so… distraught.”

“I don’t understand, son.”

“She says she’s being held a prisoner and she’s… continually asking for my help.”

Mister Grayson suddenly looked distrusting. “You think the woman in your dreams is you mother and she’s asking you to help her?”

Eric looked worried. “Yes… she says that I should…” he hesitated.

“Yes?”

Eric swallowed hard. “She said… only the Sithmaith could free her.”

Mister Grayson was surprised. He thought about it and once again his mind began to compartmentalize the most important actions awaiting his attention.

“Eric… I wouldn’t worry about this too much right now. It’s obvious to me you’ve been overworking yourself again. I know it’ll be impossible until we find Anna, but try and get some rest between now and the time I arrive. We’ll talk about this again after my arrival and when things are settled. In a situation like the one we find ourselves in now, I always try and think about what Pearl might say.”

Eric smirked. “She would tell me to go and find my bed and get some sleep.”

“In this case… I would agree.”

Mister Grayson straightened. “Alight… I’m off. See to Dowla and John Dell before you retire and know that I’ll be there with you shortly.”

He rapped the side of the bowl with the tip of his wand and the face of his son elongated and then disappeared with a soft pop.

The master of Grayson estate stood staring into the bottom of the stone bowl with tears welling in his eyes. His heart was plunged into the deepest pit of grief, a place he would never allow his son to see. The man slowly turned to stare at the portrait of Victoria Grayson behind him. Her eyes, blue as sapphires, suddenly looked worried for him.

“Oh Victoria, what will I find when I get to Castlewood?” He placed a hand over his face. “What has happened to our Anna?” His body trembled and shook uncontrollably, and then suddenly the man out a howl of screaming agony. His legs buckled and he crumbled to the floor in utter despair.

“Anna!” he shrieked, pounding the floor.

He knew it in his heart: his beloved daughter was surely dead; the lasting proof that his love for her mother ever existed was gone. Worse still, he had killed his last born just as surely as if he had cast the curse with his own wand. How could he have done it? What was he thinking to send her back to Castlewood… to a place out of his reach, where she would be most vulnerable without his protection. How could he have done it… left her safety, trusted or not, in the hands of others?

Gabby ran to her master and fell onto his chest. She too was screaming, her lamented soul tearing itself apart in heart-wrenching agony at the heavens. Her mistress, her Anna was gone. The two held each other there on the floor and cried together, the master and the elf, together in misery and pain.

And then there was a third voice, crying out, screaming to be heard over the madness gripping the entire house, where every portrait was wailing in their gathered misery. The voice became louder, it screamed out as a magical roar that rocked the entire house upon its foundations.

Mister Grayson looked up in shock and Gabby was hurled to the side.

“I SAID YOU IS TO STOP THIS! IT IS STUPID, IT IS!”

The master of the house looked up to find Widwick angrily glaring down at him, the magic within him giving off popping sparks of intense power between the points of his ears.

“YOU IS STUPID,” the elf screamed. “STUPID — STUPID — STUPID!!” He glared at Gabby, her eyes still flooded with tears. “MISS ANNA IS NOT DEAD! YOU IS BEING STUPID — THE BOTH OF YOUS — STUPID — STUPID — STUPID!”

Mister Grayson wiped his face and frowned. “But Widwick… you heard what happened. How could…”

“STUPID — STUPID — MASTER!”

Gabby suddenly scrambled back to her feet. “YOU! Is a disrespectful elf, you is! You dare to call our master… ? In this time of sad-giving?! You is an evil, evil elf!”

“SHUT UP, I SAY!” Widwick screamed back at her again and the sparks between the tips of his ears lighted once more to shake the room. “MISS ANNA IS NOT DEAD!”

Mister Grayson heaved and then slowly sat up. “Widwick… what are you saying?”

Despite’s the elf’s anger, the creature finally tried to find the missing respect due his master once again.

“Master, sir… I is begging you… please forgive a house elf’s outburst and a creature in service speaking his mind, but you must know… our Anna cannot be killed. Not in the way Master Eric has told us — no.”

Mister Grayson looked at Gabby, who seemed just as surprised as her master. “But Widwick, it was a dragon. A very large and predatory…” the man suddenly stopped.

He saw it first in the elf’s eyes, a glimmer of deepest understanding set within its species and kindled by magic. A window to the elf’s soul was laid open for inspection, and from it a rush of understanding tore into the man’s brain like blade laid in battle. And from within his deepest misery, the very thing working its grief and shame upon him, hope was suddenly reignited for both his daughter and of heaven regained.

Widwick smiled back in satisfaction. For he could clearly see comprehension seeping into his master’s expression. The wizard he loved more than any other was finally grasping what should have been obvious from the very start.

“Terrifying they are, yes, but dragon or no, it is still a most magical creature, it is,” the elf explained in a whisper.

Mister Grayson was stunned. He got to his feet, wobbled over to the chair behind his desk, and slowly sat to think.

“Miss Anna is a Guardian, she is,” the elf continued, “and is knowing the hearts of all things magical, she does. A dragon would never harm itself without care and again our mistress, no! By accident, maybe is possible… but never with purpose other than its fiery devotion to breathe!” The little elf smiled again, his assurance and trust was blooming with conviction.

Widwick sneered back at Gabby again. “You is being stupid, you is.”

Gabby looked at Mister Grayson and could see the weakest thread of hope beginning to rise up from out of the shattered madness.

“Master?”

Mister Grayson looked at Widwick again.

“Never — is for sure,” the elf whispered to him again.

The man fell into the creature’s stare again, and from out of those wondrous spheres of life he could see it: complete confidence burning bright like a star on the horizon of his soul. This tiny creature, a servant to any wizard, knew more about the deepest parts of magic than any holding a wand ever could. He knew - he was so secure in his knowledge of things; it was so obvious to him. A creature in the wizarding world like this one, someone who knew Anna so well, who loved her more than his own life would know. Something connected to magic so profoundly would surely recognize the truth… would absolutely know if the Sithmaith had met its end in the magical world surrounding all of them.

Mister Grayson finally smiled. “You’re right, Widwick… I have been stupid.” he admitted in humiliation.

“Master?” Gabby muttered, her hope slowly building.

Mister Grayson smiled down at her. “He’s right, Gabby. Widwick is right! Think about it, honey. Think hard and try to feel it in your heart. You know what Anna is. You know what she’s meant to be, don’t you?”

Gabby cocked her head questioningly.

“What is Anna to you?”

Gabby looked at Widwick, still puzzled. “Miss Anna is… she’s my mistress, she is.”

“Yes — yes… she’s your mistress, but what else is she to you? To Widwick? To that mountain lion you found with her in the woods when she was a baby? What is she to this house? To the woods surrounding us? What is she to any magical object she’s ever touched? What is she to Castlewood? What, Gabby? What is she?”

The little elf looked down at her feet to think. It took her a while to set all the things that made Anna personally so special to her and to think of her mistress as something more, as something completely different, completely obvious. Gabby’s ears began to rise again and she looked at Mister Grayson with something of astonishment lighting up her face.

“What is she to that dragon that carried her away from Spellsburg?” Mister Grayson asked her.

The little creature smiled warmly. “She is… everything… she is.”


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