From the Fen
He always saw himself different than his peers. Even at a young age he could see the difference of ability between those of his age--his so-called friends thought his advancement a wonder, truly the work of a protégée, but that was also where his alienation from those his age began. They started excluding him from their games, claiming his skills would make any team he was on unfair, but to him it was their jealously of his power.
“You come from a long line of deep, strong magic Salazar.” His mother once explained.
She was a kind, compassionate woman. Salazar took after her appearance, thin-tall even monkey-like, but her compassion was only outdone by her skill and power in magic. Thought to be the most powerful witch in the north, she was both feared and respected. Her maiden name was Nina Slytherin, though taking the name of her husband Oric Griffendor, most in the north continued to refer to her as ‘Lady Slytherin’. Before being married she had made her name a thing of legend and seeing as Oric was not a native of the north, he was not as respected.
Salazar never once felt lonely despite his exclusion, whenever he had no chores, Nina would personally tutor him. He felt closer to his mother than his father, their bond deeper by the blood and magic that connected them.
The three of them were happy. Were.
Nina had gather a number of enemies in her life. Many were insignificant, people bearing a grudge over the denial of teaching or revenge for the death of a loved one in a duel. This witch, before Salazar was born, was a fierce woman, having never lost a duel and was merciless in the execution of a violator of her laws. Despite her kind demeanor, she was not one to be crossed, especially when possessing magic passed within her family since ancient times. Once Salazar was born however...everyone noticed how ‘tamed’ the serpent became. Many sought to exploit this weakness and all, but one failed.
Though at a young age Salazar remembered everything from that night. Oric was away, having taken most of his soldiers to engage the Anexus just south of them. It was unusual for them to be this far north, though not out of character to follow the sounds of battle to an unprotected village either muggle or magic. He was not to return till the morning, but by then it would be too late.
Nina had been aware that the muggle villages were on a Witch Hunt, a few leagues over some preacher had come spouting nonsense of an evil consuming the land, coming for their souls and such. Nina did not take him seriously, if he had posed any threat she would wipe his memories and send him on his merry way.
It happened far after sunset, in the dead of night, but not before Salazar had been sent off to bed. He was the one to notice just after his mother, an ominous feeling of dread swept over him like a shroud. He sought out his mother in the castle, finding her on the walls looking to the village a short distance away.
“Mother...” He called out cautiously, “Something is wrong.”
Nina’s thick black hair blew untamed in the wind. She brushed it, holding it back until turning to her son and kneeling down to receive a hug from her.
“Fear not.” She said softly, though her gaze to the village told otherwise, “Everything will be alright.”
They had gone too far now, burning an innocent woman at the stake. Lady Slytherin left her son in the care of a servant as she rode to the village. This madness must end.
“There is the servant of the devil!” Called the lunatic tracker from abroad.
The muggle villagers turned their attention to the Lady of the castle. Unbelieving of their deceived eyes of what this stranger had said to come true: burn one and another will appear.
“A witch!” They echoed, their pitch-forks and torches held at the ready.
Nina remained mounted on her horse, “Do not be deceived by this swindler! He burns an innocent woman having fooled you with parlor tricks disguised as magic!”
These muggles who she had watched over and protected. Giving them prosperity in these formerly infertile lands with a wave of her wand. Healing them from sickness, sheltering them nature’s wrath--would a servant of the devil perform such kindness?
The preacher kept within the crowd, having stepped down from his elevation.
“Parlor tricks indeed.” The preacher said when stepping forward, “A few good acts to turn a blind eye to the true nature and goal of the devil--your own protection from we godly and just. No more.”
Nina rose a suspicious brow, “I know you.”
The preacher smiled darkly, flexing his hand as a wand slipped into his finger from his sleeve.
Nina rode hard back to the castle, having narrowly dodged more than an arrow or two. Forced to defend herself with magic, she knew not everyone had been cursed, but it only takes a few to ignite fear.
What would killing them solve? They are frightened people faced with something different, unknown to them--fear is a natural reaction even anger. She could not turn against them for something that is a natural and she has long since lawed that muggles would not be harmed. There was something she could do however: all fellow sorcerers were sent away, told to follow the road and to meet with Oric and tell him of what occurred. Her son...her pride and joy was to join him.
“No!” The boy cried out, grasping his mother’s dress.
“You must go find your father Salazar.” Nina knelt down and grasped her son’s shoulders, “I need you to help keep everyone safe while I am gone.”
Her thumb wiped the tears from his face.
“W-what about you!” He choked, “Those muggles are coming to kill you!”
Nina did not allow Salazar to see the concern in her expression. She smiled kindly, pulling her son close to embrace him in a tight hug.
“You cannot be angry at the muggles Salazar. They are scared of us because of our power, but it is up to us to show them power is not something to be feared, but respected.”
She looked up to her trusted servant, who pulled Salazar from his mother’s embrace onto her broom.
Their ascension into the clouds allowed Salazar’s last sight of his mother to be of the muggle bursting thru the gates, circling her with fire and wood.
Salazar awoke from his dream, a nightmare more accurately, that caused him to feel the very heat he did that day. He stood from the wall he slept against, walking to a nearby barrel--dipping his hands in he quickly splashes his face, attempting to drown out the image seared into his memory.
The image of his mother’s chard corpse flashes in his mind.
These nightmares did not originally follow him into adulthood, but this has been the first time he has returned to the fen since childhood. They did not haunt Salazar, they fueled him, the origins of his distrust of muggles. His mother thought the non-magics their equals, that was far from the truth and her pride to keep to her irrelevant laws is what allowed for her to not defend herself from them. She thought words were stronger than actions, yet in her youth used her actions to display her authority and strength. He loved his mother and her death was an injustice not on her, but on the muggles who dared to turn against a woman who gave them everything.
They have become submissive here, different than he remembered. They were afraid of he and his men, though they had done nothing to warrant such fear, but Salazar suspected the nearby Coven of dark sorcerers had much to do with the muggle’s reaction. The marshlands had overgrown what farming existed prior, flooding the low grounds and making raising crops nearly impossible. What little there was to eat was either scavenged from the nearby battlefields, stolen, or a few brave souls would venture into the woods. Not everyone always made it back.
Towards Salazar and his men, the muggles were less than cooperative, however as a native of the fen Salazar did allow them ‘some’ ease. Weak and pitiful their only use was to report back what they had seen. Placing one or two under ‘Imperio’ had its merits.
“M’Lord?” An elderly bone of a man approached Salazar, supported by a crutch to make up for the loss of a leg.
“You would not happen to know the family of Lady Slytherin?”
That name caused Salazar to snapped, his wand out aimed toward the man who had no fear in his years. Strange.
“You are not worthy to speak that name!” Salazar sneered.
The elder man looked deep into Salazar’s emerald eyes, then turned around motioning for the wizard to follow. On guard, the wizard came, entering a broken shack of a house with half the roof caved and the other one good wind away from meeting the same fate. Salazar ducked below the beams, minding his head, but watching the elder as he kneeled down and tried to pry a board from the floor. After a few hard tugs the wood broke and revealed a dirty, rotten box.
“Many years ago these lands were prosperous. We had good crops, livestock, a healthy people and a prosperous land.” His hands brushed the layer of dirt from the box as he continued, “We had a generous ruler; a fine child of nature, with a gentle soul. Though we were not like her she showed us respect and treated us fairly.”
He looked up to the wizard, “But this tale you are already aware of how it ends--Young Master.”
From the box, the elder withdrew a green and silver cloth, unwrapped its contents and held it to the wizard.
“I could not save Lady Slytherin, but I was able to save this in hope of one-day returning it to you, her son.”
A long, smooth, wand; black in color of nine and a half inches. Made from Unicorn hair, its power hummed at the familiar touch of a blood-member of its previous owner.
The elder man was an orphan of war, taken in as a stable-hand at a young age. He grew in the fen and then found employment under the Slytherin household from the previous head of house prior to the last Lady herself. It was only right this was returned to the rightful heir.
Salazar held the familiar wand within his hands, having put away his own. Its just as he remembered, only until now he could not recall its appearance, yet now was as though he had always known it. The wand of his mother, murdered by muggles and yet one was able to recognize its value and rather than destroy it preserved it until they crossed paths. The wizard carefully hid it in its cloth, the placed it with his robes. Once safe and secure he turned his attention to the elder.
“I cannot thank you enough for this.” Salazar felt his emotions spill into his words.
The man shook his head, “Do not thank me. If not for me your mother may not have suffered such a horrid fate.”
Salazar gave a stumped expression.
The man explained--his cowardice had him reveal the how-to in breaching the castle. The mob would have torn him to shreds had he not spoken up. A powerless feeble old man as he? What else was he to do? But they could not excuse his actions--the Slytherins had given him many years of prosperous employment and in their moment of need he ran, tail between his legs. They had done nothing, but show he, a man of no power, kindness. If the Heir of Slytherin wishes it, he may claim the life responsible for claiming his beloved mother’s.
Salazar rose his hand, armed with his wand to the muggle’s eye level. It was his fault; all of them; muggles who feared a power used to give them love and life. His mother vowed not to harm muggles, but he was not her. No matter how hard he tried, he could never trust muggles, not even if it was in memory of his mother.
The wand lowered, placed back in its holster on the hip.
Death was too quick, too merciful. Salazar wanted him to suffer more, to carry the burden of his betrayal and live the rest of his pathetic life in regret. That was to be his revenge--a fate far worse than death.
He left the muggle ‘physically’ unharmed, returning to the small outpost.
“Brother!” A familiar voice called when dismounting.
Salazar turned to see his men gathered around a horse then parted to allow the youngest of them to pass thru. The senior wizard found himself pulled toward Godric, realizing that after two years apart he had somehow missed his half-brother. Odd--he never possessed warm feelings toward Godric before, perhaps it was feeling sentimental about his late mother.
They hugged, exchanging further greetings before Salazar invited Godric inside.
“Did your travel here bare any fruit?” Salazar asked when passing a pint of mead to Godric.
Godric nodded, gulping once from his pint before setting it down and removing the satchel from his side and the sack from his back with a new-found energy. Before further was discussed Salazar had them move to his War Room--in the fen, even the walls may have ears.
“I cannot say that I have good news--” Godric rolled out a map of the isles, Salazar assisted in place stones to keep it flat.
“Muggles are quickly escalating efforts to find witches and wizards--resorting to horrendous tactics: burning, drowning, stoning...even exorcizing.” Godric let out a somewhat disdained sigh of relief, “Fortunately they have not caught an actual a witch or wizard.”
Godric turned his attention to the north, “But that is the least of our problems--I’ve heard rumors of gatherings in numerous places, but unfortunately what I know is that these Dark Sorcerers are cautious. They do not stay in a single place long, moving every two weeks or less if they discover they are being hunted.”
Salazar saw different locations with ‘X’ marked on them. Those were places Godric had already investigated, but a few of these area are in lands not belonging to neither Moor nor the Fen. That would explain the delayed time Godric wrote he would be expected by.
“I managed to capture one, but I suspect he and most in these groups are cursed--his entire body caught on fire when he tried to speak.” The brother growled, frustrated at his own foolishness to check for curses or hex--he could have been cursed himself.
“And the Anexus?” Salazar looked to the territory bearing their surname, seeing as they do not title their village.
Godric frowned remembering hearing of their campaigns north here in the fen.
“They do well not to be seen.” Godric began, “Muggles cannot tell the difference, but no one of our people has seen them traveling.”
Salazar looked up, “Could they be Apperating?”
Godric shook his head, “I do not believe any of them know how or can. They are a very proud clan, creating linear lines would be seen as a disruption of the balance. They are not magical creatures therefore they cannot use natural ones either--they are simply adapted to traveling unseen.”
Godric crossed his arms, looking over the places he searched for Avalon. Word reached him of Falcon Anexus being executed, but nothing of Avalon’s whereabouts after. Though...no news is good news Godric told himself. The young wizard pulled himself from other thoughts and continued.
“A few goblins pointed me west, toward the Glen, but I knew nor heard of anything that could be of importance.” Godric took another drink.
“Ah...its good you did not go, sorcerers there are not dark, but they are very protective of their land, untrusting of strangers, and are isolated for that reason.” Salazar rubbed his brow then exhaled, “Though rumor has that there is an enchantress of exceptional beauty, who possesses equally terrifying power among them.”
Salazar straightened, grabbing his brothers shoulder when acknowledging Godric’s bravery to traverse such dangerous land and to come from it with information of great value. He then rolled the map back up and tucked it away in his robes.
It has been a long and tiresome journey, Salazar instructed Godric his only concern now be rest and to seek a full stomach in the bounty of the kitchens. Tomorrow he will go with Salazar to survey a few points of interest and speaking to some locals.
Alone, Salazar sat in his chair and contemplated the newly acquired information. His brother did well to traverse the terrain, though not a significant amount, it gave him a much clearer picture of his elusive enemy. It bothered him that their father would not believe him. He has always heeded his eldest son’s advise in high esteem and yet the idea of another Dark Lord is somehow preposterous.
Salazar stroked his beard.
Father’s actions since his return from battling in the southern isles have been peculiar. There are very subtle habits of his that have changed, not just in his adherence to others, then again father had been reported to have taken a blow to his head. Perhaps in his aging seemingly healed wounds have done unseen damage to his mind. The idea of father being bewitched could be Salazar’s own paranoia. Nonetheless...an unsteady mind could be just as dangerous as being bewitched.