End of the Line
There was no solution the Enchantress could conjure to rid her of this hangover. Too much ale...or was it too much Goblin Wine? She was pretty sure the Anexus brought barrels of Mead from their private stash. Whatever it was she had to admit she hated her choices, or lack there of, from the previous night, but certainly enjoyed herself at the time. The curtains blacked out the sun of the room, as she spent the majority of her time in the castle now, she ended up dropping on one of the bed in the staff bedroom. How on earth she made it to the west side of the castle she had absolutely no recollection of.
The witch turned over on the bed, away from the light though she knew it was blacked out, she also knew the sun was up and that itself made her head ache. A shadow darker than the ground caught her attention, she leaned over the bed’s edge and recognized the large and fluffy coat that was Fenrir. Had the wolf been the one to guide her to this room? If so where was his other half? Rowena looked around the room and found no other person. The memories of last night were a haze she hoped to clear throughout the day, but now that she was awake there was no reason to force herself asleep. Avalon often spoke of having ‘days of relaxation’, but there was still much to be done. Her spell was almost complete, the spell that would give Avalon the full life she deserves.
The wolf opened his eyes and watched the witch pull on her robe to cover her night gown. She opened the door, the noise having him raise his head.
“Shall we go find our friend?” Rowena smiled as the wolf hoped to his feet and took the lead.
From the Northern Towers they walked thru the transfiguration corridor and hung a right towards one of the main staircases that led to the dungeons. Passed the staircases she followed Fenrir another right to the court-yard. Passed a study room and towards the west wing, an unknown Anexus walked from one of the staff rooms to the left and walked toward the two, turning red and lowering her eyes when passing. Rowena stopped and watched her disappear behind a corner, then looked forward to see Fenrir sitting in front of the same door the Anexus came from. The witch opened the door, but Fenrir pushed it open to reveal Avalon bare back to them. The alchemist is often clothed in some form of armor or layers of clothes that hide most skin. This was not as frequent until the battle four years ago, when Avalon nearly lost her form--now she has unconsciously made the habit of hiding as much flesh as possible.
This was the first time Rowena had seen this much of Avalon and it was easy to forget how toned her muscles were and the large mural marked in blue on her flesh. There were new scars on her body, wounds received from the last battle, especially on her arm. The Dire Wolf walked into the room and went in front of the Anexus as she pulled a shirt over and clamped the twin bracer on her arm. There were other marks on her body, fresh ones, looking like claw marks that were now hidden by the shirt. For one who is considered the wisest of them all Rowena felt a fool to not realize it until now. Now it all made sense.
“If you have finished your business I would like to go over the spell with you.” Rowena’s voice made Avalon jump as she did not realize it was the Enchantress who was there.
She tried to hide her surprise, but it was too late and the witch was already away from the door before she could say anything. What did Rowena see? What did she hear? How long had she been standing there? Fenrir wagged his tail sitting innocently beside the bed. Avalon glared at him:
The wolf continued to wag his tail, giving a grin with his pearly fangs showing.
“By the Tree I cannot believe you.”
Avalon went to the Ravenclaw common room in the North Tower, climbing the stairs until she arrived at one of the moving portraits that stood in the doorway. The sorcerers decided on using these animate paintings to decorate the walls of the school and to have some of them be guardians of the common rooms. She did not quite understand their thinking in this, but apparently it was a safety measure to ensure students went only to their assigned common rooms. There would be traditions and secrets kept within these Houses, a way to personalize them Avalon thought, to reflect the traits each Founder sought to nurture and bloom in their future students.
In the Ravenclaw house, Rowena desired to teach those who were of wit and learning. Godric wanted the brave and the bold, Salazar, most certainly reflecting his personality, desired those of his own cunning who possessed the purest of blood. Helga was far more accepting of people who did not possess the strict qualities the other three desired. She was homely and friendly to all and that is what she wanted to pass onto future generations, to give kindness is to receive kindness. Avalon’s own House she chose a different approach: it does not matter if one is born with strong magic or not, but if they have the will to grow, who were free-spirited enough to understand and respect the true essence of magic. If they could do that than they will always be welcomed in the House of Anexus. In this respect...Avalon also considered the applications for people sorcerers called ‘squibs’. She had met a few of them, they were no doubt touched by magic, but they simply could not produce it...would it then be possible for them to become alchemists?
Unlike the others, the door to the Ravenclaw common room was a bronze eagle with a knocker. It came to life, asking a question that must be answered for entrance:
“What keeps the dead alive?”
Avalon tilted her head, “The spell to create Inferni?”
“The living who remember.” Answered a voice from behind.
Avalon turned around to see Rowena and heard the door speak again:
The door clicked and opened, the witch went first, passing Avalon without another word. Inside, the arched windows set into the walls of the circular common room look down at the school grounds: the lake, the Dark Forest, the Quidditch pitch and the Herbology gardens. It was the most open-spaced common room of the five, reflecting Rowena’s independence and desire of freedom and un-attachment. Avalon was not fond of heights, but being as she designed the castle and knew how sound the structure is made her feel more at ease. he Ravenclaw common room is one of the airiest rooms at Hogwarts. It is a wide, circular room with arched windows hung with blue and bronze silks and a midnight blue carpet covered in stars, which is reflected onto the domed ceiling. The room is furnished with tables, chairs, and bookcases; and by the door leading up to the dormitories stands a tall statue of Rowena made of white marble. It did the real woman little justice in terms of her beauty.
The Enchantress walked to the bookshelves carved into a semi-circle behind her statue. There was little here, in terms of books, which was unusual, but Rowena answered the question in her mind.
“Helena...had quite an amazing idea.” She began, “She said that it would be good if every graduation year a student left a book for future generations to read.”
Avalon smiled, “She has quite a few of those if you take a moment and listen.”
“I have much to improve as a mother.”
“No one is perfect.” Avalon shrugged, “But what is important is to ensure she knows you do care and love her.”
Avalon pulled a book from her robes and held it for Rowena to take.
The witch sighed, “You always seem to know what I am thinking.”
“No, you are just predictable.” Avalon chuckled, “You make a face when you are thinking deeply about something, a different one when you want to ask someone a question, but are unsure of whether to ask.”
Rowena took the book into her hands and placed it on the shelf, “And what face am I making now?”
“The one that is wanting to ask me about the woman who left my room this morning.”
The room fell eerily quiet.
“If you are uncomfortable with me I would like to be told out right. That way I can avoid--”
“I am not uncomfortable, only surprised I did not realize it sooner.” Rowena admitted, sitting down beside Avalon.
The alchemist rubbed her head, “I tried to make it so you did not. I understand sorcerers have a conventional way of thinking and did not want to cause any mistrust or discomfort between us.”
“Did you think I would avoid you?” The witch asked fearfully.
Avalon fell quiet.
Rowena sat forward, “Avalon?”
The alchemist shut her eyes and stood up, “I must go meet with my clan.”
The alchemist ignored her when walking to the door. Rowena stood up and waved her wand to shut and lock the door. Avalon turned around with a frustrated look in her face, though she continued to avoid making eye contact with the other woman. Rowena stormed toward Avalon, surprising her.
“How could you think so little of me?”
Avalon stepped back with every advance the witch made until she was against a table. Her hands caught the edge with surprise that she was being cornered. This was not how she wanted this to play out, but Rowena...Avalon did not know how to handle a very angered Enchantress. Many of the muggle and wizarding world lean heavily on a conventional way of thinking and beliefs and despite the Anexus’s own reservations about the natural order they were very free-spirited and doing what came as natural. This also entailed whom one held feelings for.
However, this was not a time that would accept the Anexus in such a manner, most in the clan kept their intimacy to themselves. It was, in a sense, a ‘do not ask and do not tell’ towards outsiders. Godric, despite his obviousness about Madison, he was incredibly perceptive about other people’s feelings and relationships. His bluntness about Avalon nearly gave her a heart attack, in addition to not only accepting, he pushed more than once for Avalon to be upfront about her own feelings. She of course did not such thing.
“I thought we were friends Avalon! How could you not tell me something this important in your life!” Rowena accused, continuing to push Avalon harder against the table.
“I did not want you to know...”
“You have told me everything about yourself, how could you possibly think this would change--!
Avalon snapped, her arms came up as she clamped them around the witch’s biceps. Rowena was unable to react, she stood in shock as Avalon pressed her lips against the witch’s. The warmth of their connection ignited by passion and longing, only to be broken by the very one who initiated. Avalon stepped back, her hand clasped over her mouth at the horror of what she had done. Before Rowena could speak, Avalon was out the door and well out of reach and sound.
In Moor, Avalon sat at an empty table her head hung between her arms as she mauled over the events of the past few days. How could she have done that? She had been so careful, so protective and restraint in her feelings and when she is simply backed into a corner she loses composure. How pathetic is she that she would do such a thing, if Rowena had only dropped the matter it would have been known and over. How was she to face the Enchantress now? Godric came, setting a pint of mead in front of her.
“That could have gone better.” He sat gulping his mug, “Hm--” He stopped, “You are doing it again.”
Avalon opened her eyes, seeing the wood her elbows rested on sprouting flowers and branches of young green. She breathed and brought it under control again.
“No magic or weapons at the table.” Madison yelled from the kitchen seeing that Avalon continued to wield her swords at her sides.
Godric went for another sip, “That has been happening a lot more lately.”
The alchemist sighed, chugging the entire pint in one go, then held the mug up for a refill. Godric sighed, it will be one of those days again. Madison came around, topping her husband’s mug, she pecked him on the cheek before walking around to fill Avalon’s then taking the vacant seat beside her.
“Oh leave her be Godric, the last thing she needs is to be ridiculed for a little mishap of magic.” She defended Avalon, though was unaware of the true reason for this mishap.
“I should not have done that.” Avalon downed another mouthful, “I really should not have done that!”
Madison rubbed Avalon back, “It was bound to happen eventually, you must know that.”
Avalon let out a growl, as Fenrir barked with agreement in Madison’s statement.
“Oh shut it! You started this!” Avalon yelled at the wolf who continued to wag his tail.
Godric laughed, “Leave it to Fenrir to cause mischief, perhaps he would have been better named Loki?”
Avalon stayed for a few hours and licked the wounds to her pride and heart. The smells of dinner called the masses to the Great Hall, filling it with people. At the head of the hall were where the teachers and Head Master who was overwhelmingly voted to be Avalon, however she refused outright and the responsibility fell to Godric. The only vacant seat was at the end of the table, the one beside Rowena; an intended arrangement no doubt by Godric...or even by Rowena herself.
Avalon stood close to the door frame on the right and lingered. She watched the members of her clan laugh and be merry with the sorcerers they worked years with. If one looked at them as a fly on the wall there was no certainty to be found that these people tried to kill one another for generations. It was amazing what could happen in nearly three decades. The chief’s eyes traveled from the main tables, where students sorted into five different houses would also share this experience, to the head table where the official staff already took their seats. Godric would be the Head Master, Salazar desired to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, Helga was happily tasked with Herbology, Rowena would teach charms, and Avalon History of Magic. Other filled positions were Potions, Astronomy, Brooming, and Alchemy. They desired to include and offer more, but for the time and until their attendance rose that was a task for the future.
The alchemist’s eyes travel from left to right, seeing each teacher and the last she lingered on was Rowena. Fenrir nudged at Avalon, but he was ignored and now he knew better than to push any further. Just as always Avalon will have to make the decision herself on the next course of action, he was merely the spark that started the fire. Rowena felt Avalon’s gaze and looked away from Helga and to the end of the hall, catching the end of Fenrir’s tail as it disappeared behind the wall. Avalon went to the kitchen where dozens of House Elves were busy with cleaning and clearing for the reveal of dessert. Busy as ever, happily so. Avalon was happy to see them and they her, offering her and Fenrir food and a quiet place at a balcony to eat it.
“I really messed up this time didn’t I, Fenrir?” Avalon asked when setting down a nibbled on a chicken leg, finding she had little of an appetite.
The wolf sat, full from the boar he destroyed all on his own. After supper she would return to the temporary residence that was the Anexus settlement in the fields between the Dark Forest and the castle. In a few days time the entire clan would return to the village, with Avalon in tow. There were matters that had to be attended two, but this small break in it allowed for everyone to breathe a little easier. Soon children would be sent to the school to learn. Down the road there would be plans to relocate the village to the other side of the lake, but Avalon did not care for them to leave their ancestral home. Creating a second village though was more responsible.
Once again that same voice surprised the warrior, “Beautiful moon we are having tonight.”
Avalon swung her feet from the railing to stand on the ground and leave.
“Stay.” Rowena held her hand to Avalon’s stomach before she could pass, “Please.”
Avalon obliged, but did not make eye contact, did not try to offer an explanation only an apology.
“Apologizing to me is unnecessary, it is I who should apologize.” Rowena said crossing her arms and leaning forward against the railing, “It was unfair of me to corner you as I did, nor leave you without an answer--”
Avalon quietly mumbled, “I did not realize kissing you without permission was a question.”
“No, rather a confession.”
Avalon’s heart skipped a beat, “It was a mistake.” She said with a hardened tone, “An indiscretion that I will not repeat.”
“Why do you believe it was a mistake?” Rowena asked, “Love is the most powerful magic, it is a force even you cannot control.”
Avalon frowned, looking down from the balcony she watched members of her clan progressively return to their camp. This one-sided affair is not love, it was cruelty and one she desired to spare herself and Rowena from. The Anexus are taught early on the dangers of a weakened heart and though to love someone is no crime, to allow that love to overwhelm one’s actions was a most dangerous gamble. The Anexus do not gamble the lives of their fellow clansmen and as a result if it is known their love to be one-sided they will do one of two things: crush those feelings themselves, or be strong enough to watch the one they cherish be loved by another. Avalon thought she could be as her predecessors: crushing those feelings before they became a liability.
In the end, she could do neither.
“I cannot give you an answer now.” Rowena came closer, but Avalon turned away from her. The witch moved to the other side, “But if you come tomorrow, we can perform the spell...and...I can give you a proper answer.”
Rowena was taller than Avalon, she came closer, pressing her self unexpectedly against the alchemist. She leaned forward and kissed the top of Avalon’s head before leaving. Alone with Fenrir, she was frozen at Rowena’s actions and touched the place where the witch had kissed her--she felt warm. The Dire Wolf’s ears went up, he stood and looked around for the source of the malice, but knew not where it came from. It was an intent he had not felt in many years, but it was all to familiar. The war may have ended, but the nature of its participants never changes: killer intent.
Avalon felt a great weight off her shoulders with Rowena’s words. Regardless when her feeling were rejected, Rowena was more than willing to save her in-spite of them. It was not what Avalon expected and she felt a fool for fearing that her friend would refuse to save her over something as minimal as that. There was relief in knowing the certainty of the time she would have now to work things out with Rowena, to be teased by Godric and Madison; her heart and soul fed by Helga’s food and to be tolerated by Salazar. She loved all these people, the people who had made her life and the life of her people greater than all their history. Surely her ancestors would be understanding and accept the choices she made if it had given their clan a future worth having.
Fenrir sniffed the air, a fluffy of dissolving material touched his nose and was gone with the wind. He sneezed. Avalon chuckled, looking up the the sky she saw there were no clouds, meaning that there would be no snow. Still, specs fell from the sky and landed on her face. She reached to her cheek, brushing off the flake that actually smudged grey on her face. Avalon and Fenrir stopped. The amount of specs grew in number falling and covering the alchemist’s and wolf’s coats; Avalon held her hand out and some landed in her palm. She rubbed her fingers together feeling the familiar texture.
“Ash?” She questioned aloud, looking up.
They were too far from the castle and there were far too many in the air to be normal, but looking forward she could see no large bonfires coming from the camp. She stopped, unconsciously grabbing the handle of Caliburn. Was she being paranoid? Was this remnants of being locked in a warring mindset the majority of her life? Avalon released her grip and continued with caution, she never reacted in such a manner without reason and though she could not see the reason she has never doubted her instincts. Walking down the path, Fenrir stepped in front of her--vanishing from sight. Avalon jumped back, drawing Caliburn, she looked to the ground and saw where his footsteps cut off. Holding the sword out, it slipped thru an invisible wall, almost as a stone in a waterfall it broke the barrier and revealed an all-to-familiar sound, feeling, and sight: battle.
This cannot be! Avalon ran with all her might, her body going closer and closer to the ground as she began to take after Fenrir’s manner of speed. People were screaming, crying out as they were slaughtered one by one, not by any unknown enemy, but by each other. Why! Why is this happening! Davel, a man only two years her senior came form behind--a staff to his face knocked him to the ground.
“Thank the Tree! You are alive!” The Volva exclaimed, running closer with a small band of nine others.
“What--What is happening! Why is everyone--!”
Davel stood, stood from a blow that should have knocked him out cold. He lifted a dagger and swung it, grazing the arm of one of the Volva’s care. Another drove their sword into his chest, much to Avalon’s horror, she watched one brother killing another. The one who was grazed, a wound that is nothing to the Anexus--she rose and took two others with her, before the Volva struck her down. One who was wounded, dropped to his knees, begging for release.
“Everyone who is injured by another who has been inflicted with this—curse...” She released him without hesitation, “Becomes one of them.”
A clan member came at Avalon from behind, she swung at her with Caliburn’s broadside and knocked her off her feet. Caliburn cancels out magic, this can only be caused by magic--the clan member stood, the madness in her eyes, reflected by a faded yellow haze had her come at Avalon again. This was dangerous, if the Anexus were being controlled by something else and with that waking the Old Blood then the damage they could inflict would be tenfold. The chief, drew her sword and opened her kin’s chest chest without a second thought. To her own clan member—her own clan members were being turned against each other; was this...retribution? Was the Great Balance, was Yggdrasil punishing them? Was this...all of this because of her choice to find peace with the sorcerers?The Volva grabbed Avalon:
“--listen!” She caught the chief’s attention, “This is not your fault!”
Their cries, their screams, as the fires of battle engulfed the camp, the people within. Women, children, men; young and old it was as indiscriminate as death, taking and taking the lives of her clan members, of her family. Another charged, meaning to kill anything in his sight, it was more than obvious his intended target was Avalon. Fenrir appeared, lunging at the throat of a member that nearly dared to do this--a knife stabbed into his side as they both were in air, having the wolf go limp and fall over.
“FENRIR!” Avalon broke from the Volva’s grasp and ran, swinging at anyone who tried to take another blow to her or the wolf.
Avalon absorbed magic, its power filling her, empowering her to go beyond the limits of humans. The wolf breathed in pained hisses, the dagger driven deep into into his side no doubt piercing a lung. Avalon’s face was red with tears, as she scurried to think of a way to save her companion.
“Avalon! Get away from him!”
Avalon placed the hand on the wolf, feeling the pain in his body, but not feeling the madness taking hold of him as it did the others. Fenrir was an Anexus, but he was different, he had to be different; he was a wolf, his was her friend, her partner, her family. He would not hurt her, he would not attack her, he would not kill her. The wolf lifted his head in painful protest, licking the tears from Avalon’s face. Go. The Volva came and grabbed her, yanking her away from Fenrir.
“No! I have to save him!” She squirmed, “I have to save him!”
Another came at the Volva, she released him, transmutating spikes in their direction while still pulling a thrashing Avalon. She stopped, pulling the alchemist to her feet, grabbed both her arms and looked both her eyes into the chief’s. They were now the same. Avalon’s expression widened as the words were heard loud and clear.
“This was not your fault!” She said in absolution, “This was their doing--the sorcerers--”
Avalon saw the danger, she twisted the Volva to the right, pulling her away from it. A back exposed, without armor, without protection:
The Volva was on the ground now, the force of the attack having knocked her off her feet, leaving Avalon standing alone. The chief turned, the horror on her face as the slash to her cheek was small, but enough. The child she raised, the girl she trained, the woman she followed, and the leader she believed in...the Volva watched as she dropped to her knees the curse now to course thru her body.
“No...” The Volva scrammed to Avalon who held Excalibur out.
“You must--” Avalon began absorbing as much natural magic as she could to weight down her body, accelerating her change, “--Kill--me--!”
Her senses were dulling, the ability to tell right from wrong, friend from foe. She felt herself being pulled from her body, her control was failing, but at the same time, the natural magic, it too was fighting, fighting to control her, but also fighting to keep this alien out.
Avalon knew this spell, this curse because it had been used on her before; knew who it belonged to and that alone filled her with the necessary desire, the will to hold on just a bit longer. But she was dead—Antares was dead! As if called, the Dark Lord herself appeared behind the Volva, dresses in a white gown, but she was by no means a solid physical form. An illusion? A projection? Was she dead coming to greet her? I warned you this day would come. It was all she needed, a moment, the moment, to tell the Volva, to tell a survivor who it is that brought ruin to the Anexus Clan. They were betrayed, betrayed by those she should have trusted, who she thought she could believe in. She knew this magic, this dark magic, but could not tell who it belonged too, only that they were close. Watching the fall, watching the end of the bloodlines of the Anexus drown its members in a one-sided massacre. In this life, even if she must become a shadow of her former self, or a phantom that is a ghost she will avenge them.
"No Avalon...you must live..." The Volva pushed the sword down and set Avalon against the ground, their shared eyes glowing in response to one another, "You will live...to continue our duty...our remember our history...to honor our memory..."
Tears of red went from the Volva’s blind and scarred eye, moving and painting an unfamiliar pattern across her body. The red left her body, glowing hot when touching the ground and forming a different pattern around them. They formed into a transmutation circle that should not exist, that none should know. It was old knowledge, ancient in origin, and an abomination of nature; Yggdrasil did not create this circle, the Anexus did, one Anexus did and this is, but the second time it has ever been used. This was not suppose to be used ever again, for the fact it had been used the first time was already a crime against the natural order and yet...it was a necessary one. To go against nature once again...to save the future of an entire people; no the Volva knew this was not only for them, this was her own selfish wish to save the child she promised to look after, the child she considered her own daughter.
"The last of the Anexus Clan...the end of our line..."
The circle expanded, taking hold of every Anexus body, the remnants of their spirits still remaining. Fenrir limped from the pool of his blood, dropping beside Avalon as he desired to depart this world with the one he first awoke to. The Volva held her hand over the Dire Wolf, his last breaths out in the elder's palm. The other was held over Avalon, as she used blood to mark the both of them, then slid back, putting her hands parallel to each other. Once most she looked to the daughter she loved, the confusion and struggle to hold back this curse present in her body and eyes.
The Volva clapped her hands together and slammed them against the transmutation circle. Black and purple lightning sparked consuming and transmutating all the matter into its single source. Avalon felt every moment of this, saw, but heard not what the Volva said.
Live, for you are our living legacy.