Secrets of the Hollow
Lady Rowena watched Avalon stare at the north west mountain with deep concentration and focus. Based on her last mis-adventure, the witch could only guess the next one was not too far, but also not too daring. She learned from her mistake--good. The alchemist had been vague in what she saw, the rambling of a dragon not of this land and another mention of the Guardian. The subject was dropped for a few weeks, though Avalon’s mind did not seem to do the same; the mountain was watched everyday and every night, but no dragon had come down since the day of her arrival. The beasts would return any day now, return for their next meal; Hogsmeade must be ready to protect its people.
The Enchantress saw Anne walk to Avalon, wearing the same uneasy expression as she did the night they met in the Ravenclaw House. She watched the two engage, Avalon patted the empty space beside her inviting the nursemaid to sit. Anne was apprehensive, physically curling in on herself as though a sudden chill had taken over. The alchemist looked plainly to her, giving a large sigh before returning her gaze to the mountain. Lady Rowena made no habit of ease-dropping on others, despite an odd irritating of her nursemaid and Avalon now sitting together. She left for the tower.
“I am not as terrifying as you imagine me to be.” Avalon glanced back to the motionless witch.
“It is not the imagination I have that frightens me, but what I know I saw.” Replied Anne.
Avalon watched the mountain, “Do tell what it is you saw? You asked me what I was, tell me what did you mean by that?”
Anne swallowed hard, “Something...not human.”
The alchemist chuckled, “Werewolves and vampires are not creatures of myth, I assure you I am neither--”
“You are not a being as they are...what I saw...that is not something natural!” The witch said sternly, then jumped as Avalon’s shadow towered over her.
She was not pleased of being insulted in this manner. Being called something unnatural, something not of this world. It was an unpleasantness Avalon would not stand for and would certainly have corrected. The alchemist’s hand reached, but just before she touched Anne, the witch grew stiff and still, her eyes widened as a hallowed, ghoulish voice, entirely different than her cherry light tone, came out:
“When the light of the full moon fails, the darkness shall be cast out by the sky from the depth of the Hollow...painted by the Old Blood, mutilated by it passed recognition...one possessing the wills of history shall fall...still rise, they shall, toward the dawn of anew...an entire people will be erased from history...but their end it is not as the will of one shall determine the fate of all...against nature, but is nature, the Old Blood will not rest nor will it faulter, until the duty is fulfilled...”
Avalon staggered back, the witch returned to consciousness, seeing the expression of the alchemist she quickly asked what is it she had said. As a seer, she had no recognition of her words and must be told--for her to have a prophecy here and now...to this creature of unknown...what had she said? The alchemist did not know what to make of it herself, she had never heard of a seer and understood not of what transpired, only that the mention of the Old Blood frightened her quite a deal.
The nursemaid somehow felt pity for frightening the alchemist, seeing that she felt fear, that she pulled away from hearing a sight, was reassuring. Though Avalon may look human, though she may act, her magic is not that of one, but as she held no malice Anne felt she could do away with her fears for the moment. Her own words were repeated back to her, the witch asked Avalon to follow her to the tower--they walked passed the work space of the Enchantress, but paid no mind to her. Anne slipped thru a row of books, she then illuminated her wand and sought a specific book; the desired book was placed on a table, the dust of its age and lack of use filled the air causing the alchemist to sneeze. Avalon repeated the words a second time, the witch made them into script and recorded them in this book.
Avalon looked over the witch’s shoulder, “What is...a s-e-e-r?”
“It is pronounced ‘Seer’ and it is someone gifted with the ability of foresight.” Lady Rowena explained, shutting a book in her hand, “Something I did not think we made a habit of revealing, Anne?”
The Enchantress felt this information was not within the necessity of Avalon, mind you an alchemist not of the village, to know. The fact Anne seemed it prevalent to mention this was a cause for alarm. Perhaps this was in relation to her actions in Avalon’s presence over the course of her duration in Hogsmeade.
“Foresight?” Avalon admitted her language skills were continued to be in development.
“The ability to see the future?”
Avalon’s eye showed recognition, “A Dream Walker; the Anexus very rarely have them, maybe one or two in our history, but I trust they are similar in ability to your...Se-er?”
Begrudgingly Lady Rowena continued, “Anne? Care to explain?”
“A prophecy. La--Miss Avalon and I were talked and all of a sudden I fell into a trance and when I regained consciousness I came to a rather concerned alchemist.” Anne explained as Avalon’s tone grew heavy.
“What concerns me is your mentioning of the Old Blood.” Avalon stepped toward Anne who found her fear again, “Tell me, how is it you know of such a thing?”
Lady Rowena stepped between the two, explaining that the sight is not something that can be controlled, it is not something base upon a person’s knowledge, rather provided what one does not know. None know of the source of this power, or where it is a person sees to, but the prophecies given are not things tat should be ignored--they always come to pass. Avalon did not accept this, she studied the two and turned away, heading down the stairs. The Enchantress sought to go after the woman, but Anne had grabbed her wrist begging her not to go, not to trust Avalon. She felt something dark coming from that woman, not of magic, but a dark fate that awaits the alchemist. It was frightening, something that would no doubt effect Lady Rowena should she continue to involve herself.
“Lady Rowena!” Yelled a wizard below, “Dragons!”
Avalon was already outside, wielding Caliburn in her hand as Fenrir stood at her side. Lady Rowena joined her shortly after, the two exchanged glances, but did not hold them as the large group of dragons dove into range. Fire flowed from their tongues, eating away the roofs and streets of Hogsmeade. Their roars filled the skies as the might of wings commanded the wind to bend to their wills. Avalon took to the sky, being launched by alchemy to bat a fireball away from the village square.
Lady Rowena caught her on the decent, landing her safely back on her feet.
“Convenient.” Avalon said, transmutating a wall to barricade against a dragon’s talons from fleeing people.
“I cannot keep throwing myself up there, have any alternatives?” Avalon asked, her sword preventing a small mouth of teeth from making a meal of her.
Rowena looked to the brooms and nodded, “This way!”
“By the Tree--I cannot fly a broom!” Avalon said as she stood in front of two enchanted sweepers.
“I will fly, you fight.” Rowena said, mounting.
Avalon growled when sitting behind her, “If I fall...you will catch me right?”
“Do not fall and I will not have to.” Rowena said taking to the skies and leaving Avalon’s stomach behind.
As they ascended the skies Avalon held on hand to Rowena’s should and couched on the thin wood. All she had to think of was she was climbing a thin branch thru the woods; she was not hundreds of feet in the air and was not going to fall her to death--getting eaten by a dragon seemed somehow reasonable when compared to. Rowena charmed the alchemist’s feet to keep to the broom an ease of the alchemist’s conscious and ability to concentrate on the battle rather than what lies beneath. The first dragon flew towards them, Avalon stood up and held Caliburn ready--fire came towards them, but as a stone to water the blaze went around them as nothing more than embers before the sword of a fallen star’s might.
There were at least nine dragons, but to fight them alone was folly and to fight them was two was a fool’s errand. The black, horned dragon of Avalon’s climb of the mountain roared, zooming under and with its sheer speed caused Rowena to lose control of her broom for a moment. Avalon could hardly follow the dragon, its speed was unimaginable, but not maintainable. Certainly a beast built for speed, but that speed was not something that could be held for long periods of time. That dragon had a particular presence about it, it was not old, it seemed young and rebellious, just as Avalon was when she was a teenager.
“Lady Rowena...remove the charm that keeps my feet on the broom.” Avalon sheathed Caliburn, watching the dragon take a sharp turn around.
Rowena removed the charm, Avalon was snatched by the dragon’s talons, carried off the broom and left dangling.
The other dragons continued to attack, Rowena could not dwell on saving one when the others were more important. She returned to the ground. Avalon climbed the talons and arms that held her, using the soft spikes of the dragon to lift herself to its back. The alchemist understood teachings from a dragon-hunter she met on her travels: dragons in a pack or group are always under the leadership of an alpha and that alpha, unless defeated or killed, has absolute authority over the dragons of its group. The dragons obey because of the instinct to submit to a higher power, but there is an exception to this obedience: hatch-lings or adolescent dragons...children do not listen to anyone, that is a fact across all species.
This dragon wanted to defy the power that kept it and all the other dragons here and choose Avalon to be the start of its rebellion. They flew above the clouds, gliding across its surface, the full moon illuminating the night. It was beautiful...when she did not think about how high they actually were. The mountain’s peak came into view and on its side was a large cave, dug into and enlarged by talons to easily fit numerous dragon’s wing span. Avalon kept low on her guide’s back, not wanting to draw attention...it was doubtful her presence would...after what Anne claimed to have seen...Avalon was beginning to doubt many things.
The dragon landed near a cliff, Avalon set herself down and cautiously walked to its edge. The cavern was as massive as she had seen, the lighting was enough to see clearly, but if one tried to read it was not something to be done easily. In the depths of darkness Avalon looked into the center, then to to ceiling, based on where they entered and how massive this cave was the entire mountain’s center was hallow. Hollow. Avalon repeated the words that were carved in stone in her mind and wondered if some of that prophecy bared any truth to where she was now? If so that was a very fast-working and not too convenient prophecy.
Where was the Guardian? The beast in the darkness below could not possible be it, it was not a size or pattern that made a Guardian distinct from other animals. Yet whatever was below had the power to pull her in, to see and show her: I am here. Avalon knelt down to the edge, the dragon, who she now realized to be male, stood beside her, it brushed her shoulder and Avalon looked up to where he was. Other dragons came, baring the fruit of their hunt, flying over the great hole as they dropped the victims into the darkness below. A massive dead came forth from the darkness, its blue and white eyes piercing the darkness as rows of its massive teeth showed when it opened its mouth to consume.
Avalon’s eyes became wide as two clawed feet gripped the hollow’s walls and lifted itself up further. Despite the darkness, the dragon was white, rather than scales it appeared to have fur or hair; extending down it short snout as two separate beards. Its face was thin and skeletal, whether this was from a lack of food or its actually appearance Avalon was unsure of. Inside its mouth came a glowing blue light that matched the walls, sparks lite up and shot out frying the falling prey and with a loud Chomp they were eaten. The size of the dragon was unlike anything Avalon had ever seen--if the dragon extended fully...it was probably half the height of the mountain it resided in.
That was no Guardian. That was an Elder Dragon.
Avalon ran into the village with all her might, her lungs screamed to stop, as the icy air sent knives into her chest, but they were ignored. She could not stop, the dragon had gotten her to the bottom of the mountain, but there were miles of distance between the mountain and Hogsmeade and none of her time could be wasted. The moon was at half, meaning they had two weeks before the New Moon and if that prophecy was correct something was going to happen. Avalon learned to expect the worst and considering there was an Elder Dragon, something that even the Anexus believed to be a myth living in the mountain no one was safe. How did it get there? She had difficultly believing anyone in the village had the power, even together to trap it within. Yes, the dragon was indeed locked inside, Avalon saw the flicker of enchanted chains of a ghostly appearance around the dragons rear legs and wings. The others seemed to have broken from age and age was certainly another matter--the dragon had been there for a very long time.
No amount of knowledge or preparation could have prepared her for this; the Volva could do nothing; Father could have done nothing--this was entirely up to Avalon, but how? How do their duties to protect the Great Balance apply to an Elder Dragon that was suppose to be a myth and is now likely not far from freeing itself? Avalon entered the boarders of the village, to a massing crowd in the village center.
The voice of a man yelled above the crowd, “We cannot sit idle by as the dragons take our livestock, destroy our homes and kill our people!”
“Enchantress we must do something!” A woman cried out.
“The dragons were never this violent or this many until the outsider showed up! I say she is the cause of all this!”
“I hear one of the dragons made off with her to the mountain--unharmed!”
Avalon felt anger melt away the iced knives in her lungs.
“Whats it matter? She is gone, if she was responsible for the dragons, she would not have left her familiar!”
Fenrir growled, keeping beside Finlay who held an arm out to keep the others back. Until Avalon returned he would protect the dire wolf from the fanatics of crazed and fearful mobs.
“Enough.” Said simply Lady Rowena with the force in her tone to quite the entire ramble of the village, “I will not have you abandon your wit over the over-imagination of a threat that can be managed--”
“I disagree.” Avalon spoke up, still trying to catch her breath when breaking thru the crowd.
“The wicked returns.”
Avalon ignored the remarks made against her and fronted the crowd.
“I was able to confirm there is an alpha controlling the dragons and signaling for more to venture into this valley.” Her announcement made whispers come about, “The alpha is trapped inside the mountain, but it will not be for much longer. If I may...” Avalon glanced to Rowena, “I suggest the glen be temporarily vacated, until I can manage a way to safely lead the dragon from here to someplace else.”
Rowena spoke flat, “No. We are not abandoning--”
“This is cannot be handled by you Enchantress, this is now a matter of the Anexus who are charged with maintaining the Great Balance. So long as these dragons remain away from their homes there cannot be balance therefore the alpha must be handled.” Avalon said with a tone of finalization, “I do not want anyone to be harmed in the cross-fire. Alphas are a different level of beasts and are much, much larger and more powerful than anything a sorcerer can manage.”
Avalon left, Fenrir and Finlay followed as she made for her temporary residence. This was suicide. What else was there to be done? All she could do was wait for the Elder Dragon to break free and antagonize it enough to have her follow--if she could get it away from here, than the magic disrupting the Dark Forest and preventing a Guardian from emerging would be gone. Balance here would be restored...she could go home and have on hel of a story to tell. If the Elder Dragon was here than the other four...they were also just as real, just as powerful...and just as dangerous. The world was massive, finding one is something that is said to take a lifetime and considering Avalon’s state...she is living the extent of her lifetime.
“You have lost your mind if you think--” Rowena barged thru the door, Anne close behind as Finlay and Fenrir decided to keep to the edge of the room and out of the crossfire, “Who do you think you are? Hogsmeade is my village, my responsibility; these people are apart of my coven and will not obey the commands of an outsider, nonetheless an alchemist!”
That alchemist had no time for power games and ordered the doors and windows be closed--she removed a rug and opened a cellar door that was not there before. Rowena was furious before, but adding altering a house without her knowledge and consent was almost the tipping point to have Avalon’s memory taken and her left in the middle of a lake far from here. The band descended down, Avalon placed her hand to a circle on the side wall beside the stairs and torches were lit revealing a war table, bookshelves filled and a decent assortment of weapons armor...and a small table with wooden carvings.
“You may not care about it because it is outside your boarders, but there is still a war to fight. Though I am not on the front lines, it does not mean I cannot be useful to my friends and allies.” Avalon explained, “You may not believe me, but this war truly does affect every man, woman, and child in the free world. That is a conversation of another time, right now you need to know the reason of my words.”
The story had to be told: the mythological origins of the Elder Dragons is directly linked to the origin of magic in the Tree Yggdrasil. The Great Tree’s first and eldest creations were five Great Dragons, each representing to one of the five natural elements: Water, Wind, Fire, Lightning, and Earth. These dragons were the Watchers, the ones who had no inherited alliance or purpose other than to serve the tree. Legend goes they struck at the Great Tree, demanding freedom to do as they wished and to rule their lands as they saw fit away from their place of birth. This of course was long before magic was taken by the original witches and wizards. Yggdrasil, having given a piece (an element) of its magic to each of these dragons refused and sought to take back its power, but combined the dragons were able to overwhelm the tree and weakened it. This weakness caused imbalance of the natural order and created chaos throughout the world and when the Elder Dragons saw what they had done to their ‘mother’ they recanted.
The Yggdrasil forgave her children, but rather than take back their magic allowed them to keep it under the condition they act as Watchers. It seemed a reasonable condition at the time, but with their task of being Watchers, they were forced to see their children and their children’s children pass away from life-expectancy. The punishment continued, not only did the Elder Dragons have to watch time take away their families, but they would never be the size the original five were. Each generation brought the dragons to become smaller and smaller, unable to possess as much magic until finally they were no bigger than the average tree. Legend had it the Elder Dragons passed when Yggdrasil fell...apparently that was not so.
“An Elder Dragon? I have never heard of such a thing.” Anne said shaking her head, “A dragon the size of a mountain...I certain someone would have mentioned that, let alone five.”
Avalon eyed the sorcerers of the room, “There are many things your people do not know. Still...even the Anexus believed the legend to be just that, but all myths and legends have an ounce of truth.”
“There is no way we can fight such a thing--”
“You will not fight it!” Avalon snapped, “To face an Elder Dragon is to face death. I will not allow you to waste your life, which is why I want you to evacuate the village. Get as far away from the glen as possible until I can find a way to lead it away.”
Rowena refused, “You said it yourself, to face this dragon is to face death--alone, but you are not alone and we are not as weak as you perverse us to be. We have spells here witches and wizards dream of, knowledge to envy, we have the ability, we need only the lead to use them.”
Avalon clenched the boarder of the war table and looked at its placement of information. Where were they to go in the dead of winter? Beneath the ground? The passage out of the glen was closed for more than a month, but they barely had fifteen days to prepare. That was not enough time to consult the Volva, not enough time to get word to Godric or Helga...she was on her own--no she had the people of Hogsmeade, she had the Enchantress Rowena Ravenclaw. That was tipping the chances more in her favor than alone.
Avalon conceded, “...I do not want to involve many people. Its best to keep the entire village from knowing, if they knew of what was there I fear there will be a panic or an angry mob going to march to ‘kill the beast’.”
The others agreed.
“I can transmutate armor and weapons to protect us; the better material, the better the equipment, but that is all I can offer.”
“I can enchant what you create.” Rowena stated, glancing to Caliburn, “Stronger attacks, defense, intelligence; I can do almost anything within imagination.”
Avalon gave a loud yawn, having been up all night she hardly got an hour of sleep. Rowena had dragged her out of her house early, long before the early risers even thought to emerge from bed; before the sun woke. Apparition was not the most comfortable feeling, especially early in the morning, but she was far too tired to care about it. They slipped thru the tiny hole and appeared on the stoned cliff that overlooked the village and lake. It was a pleasant view and within decent distance of the forest, lake, and village. The alchemist understood why her ancestors thought this a good place to have an outpost...regardless of the end result.
“May I ask why you have dragged us up here this early?” Avalon yawned again.
“This point is the best place to teach Apparition .” Rowena explained, “This is a point where many Ley Lines intersect and is the easiest method of teaching Apparition in a limited time.”
Riding Ley Lines and learning to apparate without forcing the creation of a path--expected of the Great Enchantress. This ease what not the only reason Rowena decided to teach this--Avalon is an Anexus, their bodies lack the ability to create their own magic, but nonetheless they can still use magic. They were like magical creatures, like Elves in this sense; a crude comparison, but an accurate one to explain the workings of their magic. The witch was very familiar with the Ley Lines and to an extent could manipulate them into turning slightly in a circle. Avalon would ride the Lay Lines, Rowena would ensure she did not go far and she would learn Apparition which would create one more advantage to fighting a creature of legend.
“I will not...leave anything behind again...right?” Avalon nervously asked suddenly feeling a dread and discomfort in the previous place of injury.
Rowena wore a concerned expression with the word ‘again’. Learning of Avalon’s experience with Splinching filled her with unpleasant thoughts and a bit of nausea at the thought of all the blood. Splinching did not occur often as there was a barrier to keep people confined to a select area, healers were always present, and there were no less than two senior sorcerers present. Rowena rarely attended the instructions and even less of instructed herself, but she was no less capable of teaching than any other. Her attentions were just placed in tasks she found of greater importance, however in this case she found teaching Avalon, who was physically different than sorcerers, required her personal touch.
She warned Avalon, she was a strict teacher and did not tolerate foolishness or that these lessons not be taken seriously. The alchemist would have to obey every instruction, every order she gave to the letter, but to not for a second try something she did not have comfort or confidence in. Magic was as wonderful as it was dangerous and to not understand nor respect that fact would put an individual and those around them in harm’s way. But she did not need to fully explain this to Avalon, she was a special case, an adult who fully understood the workings of magic in ways even Rowena did not know.
The Enchantress pulled back her sleeves and lifted her wand: the tip of her wood glowed with sparkling gold, painting the air around them color and reveal the phantom flows of Ley Lines. Avalon spun around, seeing as what was once invisible now glittered before her eyes. It was beautiful, a word she seldom used, but this...the lights of magic almost danced as they attached to the ever-growing clarity of the Ley Lines. This was why Rowena wanted to be here in the morning, she wanted Avalon to see what it is she would be riding and that she too found this beautiful.
“You have done Side-Along Apparition I take it?” Rowena allowed the visual to remain, but began her lessons.
“The first time was rough, but the forced was worse. The rest with Godric was not comfortable, but I never had an issue.” Avalon answered, reaching her hand to touch the glowing magic.
“Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of taking things slow and since you are no a witch I cannot teach you precisely the same method. What I will do is teach you the fundamentals, but as for the act itself we will have to adjust as we go." Rowena recalled her own troubles with Apparition and hated the fact it was one the more difficult magics for her to master, "I will explain it in alchemist terms: there are three Ds you must understand: Destination, Determination, and Deliberation."
Avalon spent the entire morning working to visualize where she wanted to go. Rowena had carved a line in the stone and tasked the alchemist to pass it. The first was a Side-Along, intended to have her pay attention to what was happening during an apparition. The first attempt on her own was a failure, as was the second, and the third, and all that followed until she was physically sick and felt while her mind wanted her to jump on the Lay Line, her body rejected it and she passed thru. A thought came to mind, a dangerous thought.
"Rowena..." Avalon said, excluding 'Lady' for the first time, "How do sorcerers apparate?"
Rowena pondered to simplify it, "We use our magic in place of Ley Lines...its like extending a magic imaginary hand to the place we desire to go and our bodies follow."
Avalon had a very bad idea cross her mind, she removed Caliburn from her back and placed it away from her. She felt magic more easily and had entirely forgotten that on her back, Caliburn was actually effecting her ability to absorb magic. Whether Master Kloog knew or not...his sword was prolonging Avalon's life by preventing her body from wearing itself out. She sat down and placed her palms together, finally shutting her eyes and focusing on the natural magic.
Magic gathered in her core, her body left to do what it desires as a form that had awakened the abilities of the Old Blood. Ferre. Bearer. That is what people as her were called, but only one word comes to mind in what she is and will become: cursed. Avalon refused to be as her father, to take life to extend her own, but her father desired her to live, if only a little longer, and passed his own life force and that of those he had taken to his daughter. So long as she did not focus on only her internal magic and pulled from the outside she should run no risk of using what was stored within her.
Rowena said for a sorcerer to apparate, it was like extending a piece of themselves to where they wanted to go and their body simply follows. The way the witch worded it made it understandable to Avalon and she was eternally grateful for that because despite her best attempts, how a sorcerer's magic worked still eluded her in many aspects. She had to have it explained in alchemic terms else she would not understand. Elene was very good at these translations. Oddly enough, so was the Volva. Avalon imagined the line in her mind's eye, saw the grass patches on the ground, the cold stone her bum sat on, the wind that tickled her neck and burned her cheeks and ears raw. She imagined the Ley Lines, their location, their beauty; they were more tubes than lines and they were a warm blue color in her mind.
Avalon opened her eyes, their gold glowing though she was not seeing the place in front of her. She did not remember the three Ds, but she knew she wanted to go, to reach that line; touch the Ley Line--Her mind's hand reached and touched the Ley Line.
Her focus snapped back to reality, her consciousness to Rowena who bore and feared and unsettled expression.
"I almost had it!" The alchemist exclaimed frustrated.
"Look!" Rowena pointed to Avalon who finally took the time to see around her.
The stone she sat on, that was nothing more than gray and cold was blanketed with green grass and colorful flowers. The stone had crystallized, taking on a blue shade, but that was not the problem. The rock had crept up Avalon's crossed legs and encased to her waist, as though she was melding into the crystal itself. It was a brittle crystal, thankfully, and broke with Avalon's standing--the area around Caliburn was unaffected.
"What were you doing? That was not alchemy!" Rowena shouted angrily, but was caught by the gold in Avalon's eyes, "Your eyes..."
Avalon hesitated and turned away, pulling her hood up and over her head past her eyes.
"I-its nothing!" Avalon stuttered, "It happens sometimes when--just pretend you did not see that."
Rowena walked around, "Avalon what is going on? A moment ago you were absorbing natural magic and the next, rather than transmutate, everything started to grow. Your eyes are gold and you asking about how we apparate." The witch crossed her arms, "I despise secrets and do not stop until I have unraveled them. Either you explain or I find out thru means that maybe less savory to you."
"You would not dare..." Avalon said with a hint of uncertainty.
Rowena held nothing back, "If it risks the safety of those around me...I will do all that is necessary."