A Spy Among Us
Three Years Later
Godric had seen the brutality of battle and war, but none could compare to recent events. Villages, muggle and magic, were burned to the ground, orphans filled the streets as they and the refugees begged for food and relief. London became home to more refugees than residents, being the only safe-haven from conflicts for muggles and sorcerers alike. Both the wizarding world and the muggle one engaged in their own conflicts, mostly unaware or ignoring of the other’s battle. That was probably for the best. It was difficult enough to fight the Dark Ones, but also crazed muggles? That was unwise for anyone, though the Dark Ones were more indiscriminate in bringing death than even the Anexus had been.
Godric and Salazar’s fame had grown in the years, they were recognized now as one of the most powerful wizards. It helped that Godric was accredited with bringing a sense of unlikely and unbelievable peace between the Anexus and sorcerers. He did not ever confirm these claims as he did not enjoy taking glory when it was undeserved. His long-time friend was not as caring of her growing fame, though it came more as infamous seeing as she did bear the Anexus name. Her deeds spoke loud, but it was difficult to speak louder than those of centuries of battle and death at the hands of her clan. She did not seem to care in the slightest.
The leaders of their families wrote to one another, but Avalon always kept it on a professional level. Despite Godric’s best and continued efforts, neither had done more than exchange information on the Dark Ones. They had still not seen one another in over six years and Godric sought to change that. The black sheep of the Anexus kept true to her word, but there still seemed a sense of reluctance in attempting an open peace and alliance if only between Godric’s coven and her clan. Their teachings ran deeps, but as a leader himself he understood there was a reason to this reluctance:
Many alchemists continued to see all sorcerers as Betrayers. As a leader she knew best not to force a new lifestyle and a new path onto her people. It was likely that deep in her heart, she too had difficultly acknowledging that sorcerers were without the sin of their ancestors. How could he convince not only Avalon, but the Anexus Clan that a true alliance and peace between them would be for the better of both? Not only Godric’s coven, but even Salazar could see the logic behind such an alliance would certainly take part with his own forces in the north.
They were on the same side, but they were not united. This was a problem that would be their undoing against the Dark Ones. Those dark sorcerers were united, though of different personalities and goals they obeyed and followed their Dark Lord without question. They had the unity, the numbers, and the power to overwhelm everyone, even the mighty Anexus. This division could not continue, in three years there had been little progress to push back the Dark Ones’ forces nonetheless discovering the identity of the Dark Lord. The best way to end this war was to cut off the head of the snake.
Salazar had provided an unimaginable amount of information in his missions as a spy among them. But even he had difficultly finding anyone who knew of the Dark Lord’s identity, he had only shown himself to his inner circle, the members of the elite group who bore the dragon-bone masks. Salazar found that he could only gain information by rising in their ranks, a feat he could do easily, but must do so carefully. Should his true name be known he would be dead before he could raise his wand. Godric trusted his elder brother, but feared his ability to do something by any means necessary. His elder brother was cunning however, he was able to guide thru a crowd unnoticed as a snake slithers under the fall of autumn without discovery.
He began to recognize the name Anguis Crawford as himself more than as Salazar Slytherin. This was a trying time for he to become comfortable with being known by that name, at the risk of forgetting his true self and his purpose he reminded himself everyday:
I am Salazar Slytherin, son of Oric Gryffindor and Nina Slytherin. Elder Brother of Godric Gryffindor and the heir to the Slytherin House.
He recited this three times a day, the exact same way because each word brought out a memory that connected him to his true self. The first was as a rose, the second was at midday and the last was before he went to sleep. It would seem foolish to some, but it was effective to him and it was also the only way he could recall his little brother’s face. How he longed to see his brother again. They say time (or distance) makes the heart grow fonder and the seemingly cunning and calculating Salazar was finding himself to be soft towards those words.
Perhaps another anchor to his true self was Saraphine. She was a witch of true power and passion, having kept close with Salazar since their meeting in his first night of infiltration. They were very close...he almost slipped in his mission for her, to reveal his true self so that their bond could be built upon truth than lie. He had people he must protect a purpose here, but in his years among these Dark Ones he found they were not the evil portrayed them as. True there were many who found joy in the suffering of others, particularly muggles, but there were others, just as Anguis (Salazar) who lost loved ones by the fear of muggles. They wanted revenge and justice, to live a life for themselves and their children in the open and not cower away in the shadows of ‘lesser beings’.
Salzar found himself being drawn in by this understanding. How much longer could he keep this facade going? How much longer must this war continue that keeps him from his family and friend?
“Anguis!” Saraphine’s voice at last reached the man lost in thought.
She frowned, holding her hands on the man’s cheeks, she lifted his head so that their eyes would meet. Anguis had never once faulted in his expressions, he was a difficult man to read, but alas she knew him. He may not show it, he has the skill to deceive those around him, but not she, she knew his heart. Anguis may hid his true intent, but he did not once lie, all he revealed of himself anything he said Saraphine took as truth. He had not once given her a reason to doubt and as they have traveled and fought together his actions as more than a comrade spoke louder than words.
“We have been ordered to scout ahead.” She released him, then offered her hand to help him to his feet, “Our last report says Anexus forces and our own fought a few leagues away, but are at a stalemate.”
Anguis and Saraphine pulled their hoods over their heads and mounted their horses. Though brooms would be best, the lands ahead were heavily wooded and their canopies thick with green, it made ground sight impossible. They rode off into the forest, keeping a walking pace as so to avoid drawing attention to themselves.
It was silent between them for a while, something Saraphine sought to change:
“I miss walking in the forest like this.” She said looking around, “I used to run in the forest with my friends as children...when there was a forest.”
Anguis glanced to the woman beside him then tried to find the same beauty she saw. To him, this place was nothing, but a forest. He saw no shadows dance as their leaves created them from sunlight; no flowers that reached out to be held by others, as the best of them was picked first. It was only a forest, a forest that housed and concealed enemies.
“When victory is ours, I think I may return to my family’s homeland.” The witch said positively, “What about you? Where will you go?”
Anguis took a long moment to think of an answer, “I only want to see my brother again.”
Saraphine smiled a bit shyly, “And after?”
The wizard rose a brow, not liking of this beating around the bush conversation. Annoyed, he asked she not do such.
Quietly she conceded, “What would you say if I asked you to come with me?”
Surprised at this the wizard as Salazar opened his mouth to speak--an explosion rocked the earth and cut off his answer. The horses were off, Saraphine was first, her habit of charging without thinking. Anguis skillfully fronted the headstrong witch, stopping her horse in its place as he brought her back to reason. They were scouting not assaulting and what chance had they two against an unknown number? He calmed the witch, telling her to follow his lead. She did, dismounting their horses, they crept to the source of the destruction and saw.
A young boy, around his fifteenth or sixteenth spring fought against three wizards. Saraphine stepped to help, but Anguis’s jerk of her arm kept her from becoming the victim of a runaway spell. They would have to keep out of this, for their safety and perhaps the boy’s. Anguis peered around the tree, watching as the boy did well against being overwhelmed. His greater conscious was close to getting the best of him, until the boy transmutated the ground beneath and killed two of the wizards in one blow. The boy was an Anexus, but which Anexus he could not see.
They had heard rumors of a shift in Anexus leadership, that now Avalon, daughter of Tali Anexus claimed the title of chief. This added to the stories many Dark Ones heard of this alchemist, her mysterious abilities to deflect magic and mercy towards sorcerers. The lords and ladies of higher leadership commanded that Avalon Anexus was not to be fought, that none outside those who bore the dragon-masks could face her in battle. She had grown much since their brief meeting as children, though neither Anguis nor Salazar would believe rumors: an Anexus is a threat to sorcerers and that is the end of it.
A spell found its place in the young alchemist’s side, but he faulted little in spite of it. The last wizard died by a dagger to his gut, leaving only one to be the victor. The boy was alone now, panting heavily while gripping his bleeding side. Salzar desired to leave the boy to his fate, but not Saraphine. She broke free from Anguis’s hold and drew her wand--her foot was hooked by a branch and the spell she shot missed its target. The boy spun around and threw his dagger, Anguis deflected it with his wand, fronting the witch with his wand aimed.
“You...” The boy became wide-eyed, “I remember you...”
Salazar realized as well.
The boy was dead before he hit the ground, the spell slashed a gapping wound in his chest that led to a quick end. Anguis lowered his wand, knowing this instinctive action had not been intended. It was him or the boy, Saraphine or the boy and both Anguis and Salazar choose the boy, but for different reasons. The witch stood, brushing herself off she thanked Anguis for saving her yet again. Still...for someone so young to die, no matter who or what they were, was sad. Saraphine was a stranger to mourning and to mourn an enemy was an unthinkable action and yet she did, silently.
Anguis guided her back to her horse, marking with a spell the location of the bodies. He doubted he would use it or any would use it, but there was a hope that someone, somewhere wanted to recover and mourn the fallen properly. The Anexus would, he knew that much and somewhere there was a mother and father that would mourn him; a friend even.
It was none of those. A sibling would mourn.
Anguis and Saraphine returned to the camp, submitting their report to their commander. Satisfied, their commander remarked on their conduct and loyalty through the years. They were destined for more than to be foot-soldiers and he sought to see them rise. He recommended them to his lord above and his words carried weight to them. Anguis and Saraphine would now be transfered to Castle Walpurgis, in the heart of their lands where the strongest of Dark Witches and Wizards gathered. This was the very castle where the Dark Lord resided, one whose face was seen by none outside of his coven of dragon-bone followers.
The duo were excited by the news. Saraphine overjoyed that their efforts and power had not just gone unnoticed, but was also acknowledged. She held Anguis’s hand then wrapped her arms around him quickly in an act of happiness. That was the first time she hugged him like that, or at all, she was very much a ‘keep your hands off me’ type of woman. The fact she felt comfortable enough to embrace him as that, even for the moment filled him with the same happiness. It also made his choices that much more difficult.
“We will set off tomorrow. I will guide you just this once because you have yet to possess your own marks.” The commander explained as he held up his arm and pulled back his sleeve, revealing the tattooed bracelet around his wrist.
Salazar had to ensure he sent word to Godric of his success, that their years of patience have at last paid off. Not yet. However, he had to wait for more than one opening to come and go so to avoid suspicion and to continue to use the caution that had kept him safe these years. His familiar would suffice to avoid detection of barriers and spells, the small garden snake had served him well these years and had been a companion since he was a child. This was the best method, after-all, none would suspect a spy among them was a parseltongue.
As promised they departed the next morning, in a time before dawn where the fog was thick and heavy. Departing on brooms, above this haze, was the safest way of travel from the battlefield. they would not travel the entire way, only to a different destination where a Portkey lay in wait. They had to make it before the sun rose, else they would miss the chance and not get another until the next new moon. Three...two...one...the trio gripped the hoe and were pulled deep into the earth, spit back out into the air where Anguis slammed face-first into ground and Saraphine found her fall much more cushioned with the wizard under her bum.
Their commander laughed aloud, “That never gets old.” As he effortlessly floated to the ground and landed gently on his feet.
On the hill, overlooking a vast plain the trio stood. Their commander, a elder veteran of many wars, breathed in the free chilled air. How he longed for any chance to return to the castle, this place where like-minded individuals of true power gathered. In his youth he longed to be in a place such as this, to be a respected and powerful wizard just as countless generations of his family had. His wish was accomplished, though he did not have authority he had power and respect and such was enough to be content. Unlike the hungry youth in this generation he had no true desire to continuously strive for greater power. True there were many that were a great deal more powerful than he, but that did not bother him, only that he was respected as a wise and senior. A few made the mistake of not granting this entitlement, but not often and it was not repeated more than once.
“Welcome to Castle Walpurgis.” He folded his arms, standing strong and proud for being in the presence of the castle.
“If you become branded with our mark, you will be able to apparate to and from as you please.” The wizard explained, walking past the apologizing witch for her use of the wizard to be a fall breaker.
“The only other way to enter the barrier is by certain Portkeys that can only be used every new moon just at dawn.”
Into the range they walked a distance that was rather long and time consuming, circling a small lake rather than crossing it. Still, they arrived inside the castle with little difficultly beyond that. They security appeared lax, but was my no means so. Guards were still against the moving crowd of hundreds, familiars of all beast and magic-kind also accompanied these guards, dark creatures of Giants, Acromantula, and the occasional ghost. All manner of darkness gathered in one place was not meant to be a place of trade and connection, it was to build an army.
"Not everyone is as we are on the frontlines." Their commander said, eyeing a few less-than-likable people, "There are many undesirables, a cunning lot who seek only to gain power and favor. They will do anything to anyone to get it."
"No honor among thieves." Anguis commented.
Their commander agreed, "There is a reason I lead from the front, I do not seek greater power only that I possess it."
He led the two thru the central courtyard, the massive castle could easily hold a decent size village with room to spare. The numbers and forces gathered here were greater than Salazar anticipated and far more dangerous--there would be no victory, not with Godric's forces alone, even the Anexus would not succeed. The castle was of stone and magic, a compiling of centuries of magic residents who used all at their disposal to build the ultimate fortress. It was certainly a feet of generations of effort and Salazar commended them for it.
"Ah, we made it just in time." Their commander, motioned them to keep close else they would become lost in the growing crowd.
The introduction for new prospects was about to begin sometimes one of the only times one may see the Dark Lord in person. He was not one to make himself available for just anyone, giving himself a mythological presence among the Dark Ones, a legend they hushed and in late night whispers. But the Dark Lord was not a myth, very real and very powerful, the Dark Lord came to the crowd from atop the castle balcony and rose a hand to silence the mass. The Dark Lord was not a myth.