Grazhir :: Crossover :: Kalpa :: 04

15032014-24032014

04

It was two days later before Valdis could manifest again, but she was able to still speak prior to that without using up more than a trickle of energy. Harry spent a lot of time with her listening to tales of her exploits, rather than sticking with Tom in his efforts to track down an arcane enchanter for their use and to see if the books he had copied were viable. If they weren’t then Harry was going to have to go through the original set here at Hrothgar. And for that, assuming they could find a working enchanter, Soul Trap was a priority as well as finding soul gems.

Valdis also showed him how to access her belongings—or as some called them, the relics of the Last Dragonborn, something she could not even say without snorting. “The armor would not suit you, obviously,” she allowed. “I do not think you would go about in a woman’s clothing, though the boots are a possibility, and the jewelry.”

Harry half rolled his eyes at her. “I’m a little surprised there isn’t more jewelry here. I mean, it’s lightweight and if it can be so easily enchanted. . . .”

“Ah. I wore as much as I thought I needed to wear, that is all. But I suppose there is also the point that if you wear metal it matters to a degree if you plan to be stealthy or not. Shiny metal reflects light and may give you away if there are no strong shadows in which to hide.”

“I see. So if you could dull it down. . . .” His mind drifted off to numerous items he had seen in shop windows, precious metals with dulled or grained surfaces. Still attractive, he supposed, but definitely not shiny.

“Of course, if you are a typical Nord warrior that would not bother you as you’d be rushing into the thick of things to flail around with a blade. I had a companion like that briefly. Always rushing in, setting off traps, but it did mean they usually didn’t notice me, so I was able to kill fast enough to keep him alive.”

Harry pulled the bow out, with difficulty given just how large it was, and experimentally tried to pull back the string. He grunted with the effort and gave up soon enough; he simply wasn’t strong enough.

Valdis laughed lightly, but not in an unkindly way. “If you wish to learn I suggest getting a much smaller bow to practice with and build up the calluses and strength you need. You are also much too small as of yet to use a bow that size.”

“What is it made of?”

“Bones and sinew, from one of the dragons I slew. The sword and dagger are also from dragons. It seemed fitting. But it took me a long time to learn how to smith well enough to make them, and just as long to learn enough to enchant them.”

She was right about the clothing. The boots and gloves might work, but the rest of it? No. And all of it looked like something one of those Goths around Surrey would wear.

“Ah, that is armor from a vampire lord. I liked the way it looked and it provided good coverage.”

“No helmet?” he asked, not seeing anything resembling head armor.

“No. I did not like to restrict my field of vision or my hearing.” She gave him a considering look. “If you are able to acquire the use of an enchanter, the use of the necessary spell or ability with the dagger, and soul gems, you could at least begin to learn that craft, perhaps on pieces of leather to tie around your wrist. Eventually you would be able to enchant your own. And with enough practice you could use the bow to gain large enough souls to enchant strong effects.

“You say you will be attending a school for magic so it is not outside reason to enchant your clothing with resistances to magicka. And as you can see, light armor can be mistaken for clothing, so the people you will have to deal with may not even realize you are so well protected.”

He nodded thoughtfully. Some might consider that cheating, but he considered it the intelligent thing to do, and he suspected Tom and his mother would as well. Enchanting was all but lost among the wizarding populace and being able to do this would grant them a serious advantage.

“There is so much here I never got around to selling,” she pointed out. “You could learn much by disenchanting those things.”

“But wouldn’t the Greybeards notice that I took any of this?”

Valdis shrugged. “They never come here. They are too busy with their practice and study and worship and devotion. You could probably take everything in here, including my sarcophagus, and they would never notice.”

Now there was an idea. Except, of course, he rather doubted his mother and aunt would want a corpse on their property. Much better to ask Tom if there was a way to ward the room to cause the Greybeards to avoid the place, not realize there was anything going on in there, and possibly even forget about it. With a supply of portkeys Harry could visit as often as he liked. Maybe later on, if they survived whatever it was that approached, and when he had his own home, he could remove Valdis. He knew she did not like the Greybeards and it was extremely likely that being here was something she would never have chosen of her own will.

“For now, let us try an experiment. Do you see that dagger over there, that looks like a stylized bird? Take it in your hand, close your eyes, and concentrate on it. Try to ‘feel’ it with magicka. Tell me if you can sense anything from it.”

After fifteen or so minutes—random thoughts kept breaking his concentration—Harry said slowly, “There’s a strange roaring sound and it feels hot, almost like it’s burning.”

“Very good. It is very likely enchanted to cause fire damage in addition to whatever damage is caused by a stab or slice. Now try my dragon dagger.”

“. . .It crackles, like one of those plasma globes. I assume that’s the shock damage. And this other sensation I can’t describe, but I would know it again. That must be the Soul Trap.”

“I know not what a plasma globe is, but yes. Try one of the pieces of jewelry or armor.”

“. . .A sense of well-being?”

“I would say either to fortify your health and make you able to take more damage, or something to make you heal faster. The only way to tell right now without an enchanter would be to give yourself a small wound and wear that. If it heals we know it is regeneration.”

Harry was curious enough to try, so he slipped the ring on his finger and felt around for a weapon with no enchantments on it. He placed a careful and very shallow cut on the back of his left hand and waited.

When nothing happened Valdis nodded. “Fortify health, then.”

Harry went on to check a few more items, but he was tiring very quickly. This kind of sensing was more fatiguing than he would ever have expected. He supposed that, as with other things, practice would alleviate that aspect and allow him to assess any number of potentially enchanted items with little to no effort.

Tom arrived shortly thereafter and listened to the quiet conversation between Harry and Valdis for a few minutes before easing his way in during a lull. “According to the Greybeards, after I asked about where they even come from, there are more than a few settlements in this general area that remain more or less true to the old Nord ways, though they lose more and more young people each year to the modern world. I plan to visit to see if they will sell or trade an enchanter to me. I expect, if they still practice enchanting, they will know where to obtain soul gems. I have to wonder if those are even necessary, but we shall see.”

“Did you want me to accompany you?” Harry asked, rather hoping not to.

Tom arched a brow at him and shook his head. “Considering you look as though you might fall asleep at any moment, no. I will be fine on my own, I assure you.”

It was not until several days later, back at the house, that Tom was able to report on his findings. Yes, he could trade for an enchanter, and they had given him a rough idea of where to find the gems. But, as it turned out, they were nothing more than amethysts in this world. The smaller and paler they were the smaller the soul they could handle. Only the very deeply-coloured gems could handle those of sentient beings. Thus, the issue was not so much there being any particular trouble in obtaining the gems, but in making sure that more modern methods had not been used to improve their appearance. They needed uncut, untreated, virgin crystals.

Harry intended to try what Valdis had suggested, to enchant strips of leather that could be worn around the wrist. If something went wrong and they were ruined it would be no great loss, and if it worked it would give him experience toward being able to eventually place more than one enchantment on an item. He would have to find out from Tom exactly what the rules were with regard to magically-enhanced clothing at Durmstrang, but expected he could probably slip in a number of things regardless.

It was absolutely not a bad idea for all of them to try to learn, and for all of them to wear items geared toward their protection. His Aunt Petunia may or may not be able to work the device (and he sincerely hoped she could), but she would derive benefit from wearing enchanted items. And for all he knew, she might be able to use an enchanted staff; the power came from the charge, not the user, and she was not a muggle.

Valdis had, after being questioned, promised Harry she would begin teaching him the Shouts she knew, all twenty-something of them, assuming he had permission from his mother and Tom. Due to the sheer effort it would take on her part it would mean one word per moon cycle with a transfer of understanding midway between. “I have many, many dragon souls attached to mine I can give to you. Since I do not expect you to be slaying dragons any time soon this would simplify matters greatly. But, please do ask your friend Tom about hiding this place from the Greybeards. They will otherwise know immediately what we’re about and most likely try to prevent us.”

Lily and Tom agreed with the provision that one of them be with Harry during any learning or practice, and Tom proceeded to obtain ward stones to protect both Valdis’s room and an area of their property. And with that Harry began his education in earnest. Muggle school, Thu’um, enchanting, archery, and magicka spells. Alchemy was added in once Tom realized that the Nords also practiced it and in a way that was somewhat similar to wizarding potions. Dudley also learned archery, and all of them learned alchemy and enchanting. By the time Harry and Dudley were to begin at Durmstrang they each had numerous enchanted items to protect them should they be subject to magical attack. All of their school clothing was also enchanted, including—after Tom’s experiments finally yielded success—ones to protect their minds from outside control.

Harry continued to have the same problem with wand movements, but not once did any of the professors say a word. Obviously Tom’s instructions to Karkaroff (which probably included a great deal of intimidation enough to also ensure that the man never revealed that Voldemort was technically back) had been dutifully relayed to his staff. As a school it was very . . . stiff. Perhaps it was something about the cultural mindset of the Germanic and Slavic wizards. Harry and Dudley both were pleased that they could share a room. He knew from Tom that at Hogwarts you were sorted—by a hat, of all things—and placed into one of four houses, and then had to share a room with everyone of the same gender in that house for your year, which could mean as many as ten other boys (though that had not happened in quite some time).

Their mentor, for each room shared the advice and guidance of an older student, was a fourth year named Viktor Krum, from Bulgaria. “We of fourth year are old enough to be of help, but have not yet started the push to prepare for our OWL exams,” Viktor explained, “and later our NEWT exams. By the time you two are getting closer to your own OWL exams, and may be mentors to first year students, I will be able to give you proper advice about them.”

Harry and Dudley exchanged a look before Harry asked, “Are the exams the same every time or do they change up the questions and tasks?”

“They differ some,” Viktor replied. “Otherwise an enterprising and dishonorable person could potentially make a fortune selling the information for others to memorize.”

Harry nodded in satisfaction. He was firmly of a mind that his accomplishments should be ones he earned though actual understanding and effort. It was bad enough that Valdis was essentially giving him her hard won knowledge about Shouts, but there truly was no other way. There were no Word Walls on Earth for him to learn from and no ready supply of dragons to be defeated. To do it the way the Greybeards did would mean decades and he doubted he had that much time.

And at that, because of how it was being done, with her being a spirit, he had plenty of time to meditate on the meaning of what she was teaching him before he could even think to use any of it. As it was, the process would not be complete until he was sixteen, perhaps a little earlier. His visits to her during the school year were to be kept quiet, Tom having given him portkeys that would work even to and from Durmstrang, and it helped that the actual visits only took minutes unless he wished to stay and simply converse.

“So we should expect,” he said, “to know that certain types of things would be covered, but no real idea of exactly how the questions would be presented. That’s fine, and it makes sense.”

Viktor nodded back. “Exactly. If you have made the effort and you understand the material, it should not be an issue. Obviously, if there are areas of magic you struggle with it will not come so easily.”

Harry grimaced, thinking about his “disability”.

Viktor gave him an awkward pat on the arm and something approaching a smile. “They may mark you down a bit, but if you can show you know the correct movements even if you can’t use them. . . . It is not something to worry about so early on.”

“I heard that Headmaster Karkaroff changed things here so that muggle-borns aren’t invited,” Dudley said. “Is that true? Do you think people will give us a hard time because our last name isn’t a recognizably pure-blood one?”

“I have heard this, too, but no, I do not think so. There are always some who believe in the superiority of being pure-blood, but I cannot say I have noticed it too much here. If that is true—and I admit I never actually checked to see if it was—I suppose since this is not a free school that those in charge have the right, morally sound or not as a decision.”

Harry felt confused for a moment, then remembered something his mother had said. “Oh, right. Hogwarts isn’t a fee-paying school, is it. Their ministry subsidizes it along with donations from alumni. They would have to take in students of every kind—unless someone was very, very clever to find a way to suddenly no longer have room for the muggle-borns. And I heard that Hogwarts is the only school over there, so. . . .”

Viktor nodded. “Yes. I do not know exactly what the fees are here—my parents have not told me—but those who do not wish to or cannot afford to come here go to the smaller ministry-subsidized schools in each country. You know that we have students from many countries here for a singular education, one that gives us more than simply the mandates for passing the standardized tests.”

“You mean like what I heard about the Americans,” Dudley said. “How they teach kids to pass tests, not to actually learn anything.”

“That is my suspicion, yes,” Viktor said with a slight sneer. “You will find quickly enough that our professors expect us to understand magic, and understand how it can be both good and evil in its use. They expect us to mature and make informed decisions, not just parrot what our elders say.”

“You would think that fewer students would grow up to join dark lords, then,” Harry commented.

Viktor shot him a surprised look. “Here? Not so much. Grindelwald attended this school until he was expelled for his activities. Those who ended up following him came from the local schools. The most recent one is suspected of having attended Hogwarts and rallied the pure-bloods to his cause, those who felt their power base was being eroded by the muggle-borns brought in with their incessant demands for change and the half-bloods with pure-blood ties.”

“Demands for change?” Dudley asked.

“Oh, yes. Because too many countries do not do enough to bring them into our culture. They are adrift in these changes and given no real reason to understand why our traditions are important to us. With this lack of understanding comes the idea that they are obviously not important and therefore muggle ideas are superior and enlightened. For example, they look at house-elves and see only slavery, not the reasons why the relationship exists as it is.

“Another would be how I hear that Hogwarts has Christmas instead of Yule, Halloween instead of Samhain. They are degrading our history and traditions by catering to the muggle-borns. The muggle-borns say we are backward and stagnant, and in some ways we are, but they fail to see how little of a negative impact we have on our lands. We do not rape the soil, either of nutrients or trees, we do not—what do they term it?—‘strip mine’ for metals and gems, we do not taint the air with the burning of coal or the use of their vehicles, and we do not taint the waters with the output from their facilities. Is it any wonder so many of the pure-bloods and those raised in our culture are incensed?”

Harry was nodding along at the impassioned speech. Viktor had a lot of good points, though he had no doubt many muggle-borns would decry the logic. Yes, it was a little strange to be using quills, but it also meant using more of an animal killed for food or for potions, feathers that could not be used in something like a feather mattress or bed covering. Parchment was a little strange, also, but was it truly any more strange than wearing leather? Their food was grown in protected fields, so there were no chemicals or pesticides, and regularly rotated and enriched. Many families kept gardens and sometimes greenhouses to grow food, and whatever they had excess of they traded with another for something they wanted, or sold it to market stalls or restaurants. Still, it would be nice to have things like computers to ease research and provide entertainment.

The best he could manage on those terms was the beneficial side-effects of Occlumency. Tom had provided enchanted items to protect them, but should anyone ever figure out what they had and wrested the items away they would still need to be able to protect themselves. Due to their Occlumency training he and Dudley had much faster and more reliable recall abilities. One could consider the brain and a computer analogous. The obvious drawbacks were missing data because of not having read about a particular subject, and a lack of understanding if they merely stored the information in memory rather than taking the time to explore it more fully.

Viktor, being raised as a wizard, was a font of information for the cousins. Even Tom, for all his intelligence and drive to learn, could not provide certain data in the way one raised in the culture could. Tom and Lily had done their best to give the boys the best background they could on wizarding culture, but they were still, essentially, outsiders. Tom had found most of his information from books, and books never really covered the essential, “everybody knows” aspects. And Tom had wanted to know enough to know how to manipulate people, not because he necessarily wished for a true understanding.

Things had been going well so far at Durmstrang. No one gave them grief for their obviously not pure-blood family name. With Viktor’s mentoring it would only become increasingly more likely they would fit in smoothly. However, that also meant they might be guided away from things which might be equally useful, so Harry posed a question. “Is there anything in the curriculum that teaches non-magical skills?”

“Such as?”

“Well, stealth without employing disillusionment or the like. I mean, why waste magical energy you might really need for something else if you can manage to sneak around mundanely.” Valdis had pointed out to him that he could go one of two ways: learn how to do it properly, including using more than just his sight, or rely on spells or enchantments for invisibility (which would fail for a short time if he did more than simply move around) or an analogue to disillusionment. The chameleon spell in their lexicon was very similar to disillusionment, but a strong enough application (or use of enchanted items) made it as visually strong as invisibility without the drawbacks.

“If you take a course in fighting,” Viktor said slowly. “Not dueling, for that is formalized and follows certain strictures. You can take fighting starting your sixth year and it tries to teach at least the basics of real-world tactics.”

Harry frowned. “Seems to be leaving it a bit late. The earlier you start the more of a reflex it all becomes, right?”

“Perhaps. Yet, most people do not go to school with the idea that they will become fierce warriors,” Viktor pointed out. “They instead expect some teaching to show them how to defend themselves if necessary. This is why the fighting classes are elective. People come to school to learn about their gifts and how the world is.”

This, of course, sat badly with Harry. He could understand Viktor’s explanation, but for someone like himself, someone linked to a prophecy, not training early on was a bad idea. Already he was much better at archery, even if he was not yet capable of drawing the dragon bow. How was he going to train himself at mundane stealth? Should he just discard that idea and go with a chameleon set?

He brought it up during his next visit with Valdis, wondering how she would respond, and a funny look he could not interpret crossed her face before she said anything. “Even with a full chameleon set there are other considerations, such as sound and scent. If you can’t walk silently—or near silently—and if you aren’t as scent-neutral as possible. . . .”

“Oh,” he said slowly. “I see what you mean. I think.” Actually, he was thinking that the original Nord society probably wasn’t big on daily bathing and wondering how exactly did that play into things. Perhaps it did not matter so much around humanoid targets? So he asked about that, too.

Valdis smirked. “I am glad to see your reasoning capabilities are doing well. Now, it is true you could use your wizarding spells to cover those two aspects. But this goes back to not using more energy than you need to when possible. So, to the first that does mean, yes, keeping yourself tidy. It also means not wearing scents, not heading out to be stealthy after downing onions or garlic or other strong-smelling substances. If the setting is outdoors you try to stay downwind, especially if you’re hunting actual game, or offside.

“You use the shadows when possible, and cover. You step carefully—something you can practice at any time—even in those enchanted boots of yours. What is not fine is relying on those boots so much that you forget there are things underfoot which can make noise, like snapping twigs or accidentally kicking something. The boots will help muffle that sound, too, but often not enough.” She then proceeded to give him a demonstration, though more for form’s sake given her general inability to physically interact with anything.

Still, Harry thought she almost glided around in that crouching stance she used, and it lent itself well to shoulder rolls. An illusionary bow in her hands demonstrated the usage difference while trying to sneak around. “Your leg will be in the way if you try to hold it as you would normally,” she said as the bow disappeared and she stood back up properly. “The point is that not being seen is only part of the challenge. Even your breathing can give you away.”

He went away from that session very thoughtful and determined to practice being unnoticeable and stealthy. As a result, he became somewhat obsessed with how he inhaled and exhaled, among other things.

Later he asked her about magic—rather, magicka—and how she wielded it.

“I was proficient in all the schools of magic,” Valdis responded, shrugging lightly. “But after I got to that point I used mostly what was efficient or useful to me, mostly invisibility and healing spells. It was inefficient for me to put away my bow, use Soul Trap, then get my bow ready again, so I enchanted it instead. Easier when I was using a one-handed blade, yes, but I was still better off enchanting again and having a healing spell ready instead.

“Now, I could make a case against this wizarding magic in that if you lose your wand for some reason you would be helpless. Not you, should you have your weapons on you, but most would be. Correct?”

Harry nodded. “Yes, they would.”

“Obviously a different case with magicka because no tool is required. Magicka spells, however, tend to be more limited in scope than wizarding spells. Just as alchemy is superior in some ways to potions if only because you can create them anywhere so long as you have a few small tools and the ingredients, which is not something you can do for a potion. However, potions can do things alchemy cannot, and the reverse. All have value, magic, magicka, potions, alchemy, enchanting, and weaponry. Use the most efficient option. And preferably the least noticeable one. After all, if you want something someone else has, it is easier to get away with stealing it over killing the person and looting the body.”

He was startled for a moment, then began snickering. “Um, yeah.”

Valdis shook her head in fond exasperation. “This is funny, yes, but at the same time it is not even close to being so. Aiming your bow at a rabbit and taking it down is one thing, but a person? If you are involved in taking down a mad man and his followers—dovahkiin are born during times of need, Harry—trust me, it is an entirely different prospect. Expect to be actively ill the first time, at the least.”

Harry sobered up at that. To have to kill another human being. . . .

“This is one example of where wizarding spells can be more useful. You can use those to capture a target. Assuming whoever is in charge of justice is not corrupt the targets would be jailed, presumably in such a way that they cannot easily escape. And let me say, the jails in Skyrim were ridiculously easy to break out of. You being incapable of using the wizarding motions is a plus, especially if you are capable of not saying the incantations. Can you explain to me why?”

“Er. . . . No wand movement means they can’t tell what spell it is based on that, and the same if there are no words. Tom and my mother say they teach non-verbal casting starting sixth year at Hogwarts. I’d have to ask Viktor about Durmstrang.”

“Very good. You already know that magicka spells require nothing more than preparation and release, but they might not be effective in a given situation.”

“Capture, like you said, being one. Or transfiguration.”

Valdis nodded. “Something to keep in mind as you continue to learn Shouts, my type of spells, and also the wizarding ones. You have a very good mind, so try to categorize them based on their best uses for what you may be facing. Do not use a Shout where a wizard on any side of the conflict might witness and live to tell about it. From what Tom has told me your magical governments can be a bit hasty and jump to conclusions.”

“Then why am I even learning them?” he asked, rather bewildered.

“Harry. . . . First, because I wish to pass on my knowledge to one of my own. Second, because some of them, such as Dragonrend or Aura Whisper, can be of immense value to you. Do not use something like Disarm unless you intend to kill, or are capable of using that magic spell to alter memories of the event. If there is enough action and noise you could probably get away with it. Cyclone, Dismay, Battle Fury—all useful. Become Ethereal, preferably without witnesses, again, but it could, in theory, save you from one of those spells Tom calls Unforgivables. You cannot harm or be harmed while ethereal. But if some officious person who lives and breathes the law, or even fears anything they do not understand, were to witness some of what you can do, you might find yourself hauled off under charges of using ‘dark’ magic.”

Harry returned to Durmstrang that evening with a whole lot of thinking to do.