Grazhir :: Crossover :: Kalpa :: 23

28092014- 28092014


The only way to go was a path in front of him; he could see a set of stairs up ahead, beyond an arch formed from books. The path was lit with flower-like lamps. As he started forward, moving carefully, tentacles erupted to either side from the water and lashed out at him, causing him to roll backward to avoid them. He looked up at the dirty yellow-brown-green sky and sighed, then stood up and darted forward. The tentacles lashed out again, but he was already beyond them.

At the stairs he went into a crouch again and nocked an arrow, then headed up, eyes sharp for anything unusual. At he crested the rise a ripple caught his attention, confusing him. It was almost like seeing someone using Disillusionment or an incomplete form of Chameleon. He drew back, aimed, and released. The arrow struck true and he sucked in a breath on seeing a creature flick into view and turn to face him.

Whatever it was it floated; octopus-like tentacles hung down to brush against the landing. Four arms like those of a desiccated corpse or an anthropomorphic tree gently moved around, one holding a blackened book. The head was another eldritch horror and it was “clothed” with a shaggy, layered cloak of sorts. “I am never reading Lovecraft again,” he swore, then nocked another arrow and aimed. It collapsed into just the cloak, so he assumed it was dead. Even so, his approach was cautious and he used an arrow to poke at the remains before daring to actually search them. He found a book and some scrolls and tucked them away, not daring to read them after Hermaeus Mora’s warning.

He continued up the next set of stairs from the landing to a platform, at which was a circular pool surrounded by a low rim and the water within was black and oily. He took a moment to look around and saw numerous pillars in the distance, formed of blackened books. ‘They look almost burned,’ he thought, ‘which seems a bit odd for the realm of a Lord of Knowledge.’ He glanced at the pool again, thinking of the tentacles from the path, and edged around it very carefully. A tentacle whipped up and he did a shoulder roll, being careful not to roll straight off the platform.

Ahead were a series of arches blocked off by more of that wrought iron-like material, showing him glimpses of the spaces beyond. A pedestal held a book, which he quickly tucked away. Another held an odd, flower-like thing that glowed. He prodded it with an arrow to no effect, so he used his fingers instead. It curled and folded and he could hear something shifting.

‘Okay, so those are probably switches of some kind.’ Directly behind it the blocked archway had a center seam, so he approached and gave it a push; it opened like a set of French doors. Off to the left was a dark sideboard or table holding a grand soul gem, tucked into another arch fashioned from singed books, and ahead was a glowing blue light. He grabbed the gem, and a book almost hidden in shadow, and continued on, noticing that where the floor was not covered in pages it more closely resembled the cracked earth of a dry waterway or lake bed.

Books upon books upon books formed walls and arches and pillars, and swirling columns of loose pages erupted from nothing every so often, then faded. He spotted another door, but this one did not open at his push, so he searched around for another one of those flower things. He found one near another grand soul gem and activated it after pocketing the gem. As the sound he expected was heard he chuckled to himself, suddenly remembering some of the stories Valdis had been happy to share, then stiffened on seeing a shady ripple ahead.

Another arrow went into place and was drawn as he crept sideways and forward. He released it, hitting the mark, and quickly nocked a second one and finished it off. Either they weren’t very hardy or his experience plus enchantments equaled one hell of an attack. He continued on through the bizarre landscape, collecting a few things along the way and opening another door. Ahead, down a short flight of steps, was a much larger pool, and the air there was hazy with a green mist. As he hit the top of the stairs something rose from the pool.

It was far more humanoid in appearance, but still horrifying, with a head like a mutated fish. He started shooting; it quickly oriented on him and began lurching his way. He kept shooting, moving backward, until it dropped down dead. ‘And this is the equivalent of a tutorial area in one of Dudley’s games?’ he thought a bit wearily. He moved forward again and spied another switch off to the side. When he activated it a set of stairs appeared, but the door at the top was still locked. Another look around revealed a lacework ramp, which led up to a switch, some scrolls, a book, and more soul gems.

He backtracked and went back up the stairs and through the open door. Beyond it was a pedestal supporting a large book with a glowing green symbol on the front. ‘Is this the reward?’ he wondered. If it was it made sense to wait for a minute, to let his heart stop racing. True, he had managed so far without getting hurt, but he was still massively keyed up. While waiting for his heart rate to slow to normal he eyed the little “room” and noticed a strange something off to the left of the pedestal. It almost resembled the head of the creature he had most recently killed.

Investigation proved it to be a container; inside was more scrolls, books, gold, and soul gems, which he quickly grabbed and tucked away. He was starting to feel an odd obsession with collecting everything not nailed down and laughed quietly. Though still wary he stood up properly and approached the book. As soon as his fingers touched the cover the circular symbol flashed and the book opened on its own, startling him. The pages subsequently displayed had a text he could not decipher, especially as the symbols moved of their own accord and caused his stomach to lurch again.

Three black circles on the two pages almost seemed like black holes to his eyes, but then they glowed and gaseous green spheres rose from each. He frowned, not sure what to do, then tentatively reached out to touch one of the spheres. His eyes slipped closed as he felt knowledge intrude, letting him know that by choosing that sphere he would gain certain benefits. He checked the other two, as well. ‘Okay, so this is the reward mentioned.’

It really took no thought at all to choose what the book called Companion’s Insight. As soon as he activated it green light from the sphere flowed into him and he could sense a change. From that point on, assuming this was not all some kind of cosmic joke, none of his attacks—physical, Thu’um, or spells—would harm any companion of his. Or, as Dudley would put it, no friendly fire.

He stood there, uncertain of what to do next, but looked up sharply when that apparition formed again. He was almost starting to get used to seeing it after dealing with the scenery.

You have done well, my champion. For this I will teach you the second word necessary on the path toward the defeat of the corrupted one.”

Harry took a step back as another word slammed into his consciousness: Hah—Mind.

Use it to bend the wills of mortals to your purpose. But this is not enough. The corrupted one, Miraak, knows the final Word of Power. Without that, you cannot hope to surpass him. Miraak served me well, and he was rewarded. I can grant you the same power as he wields, but all knowledge has its price. When you wish to proceed simply close the book. You will be transported to the next section of my realm, where you will seek the final word of power.” The Daedric Lord faded away again, leaving him alone but for the waving tentacles in the water and swirling columns of pages.

He sighed and took a seat, fairly certain he was safe for the moment. A part of him could feel a connection to that room in the house in Sofia and he wondered exactly what was happening there. Were the two avatars still present? And, oh lord, he had actually met an Aedra and Daedra, gods of the realms. Was his family still mostly frozen in place? Freaking out? The Krums?

Was his body hanging there, insensate? Held up by those awful tentacles?

Harry shuddered and slung his bow onto his back, and reached into a pocket. He pulled out a bottle of water and drank from it slowly, then capped it and put it back, replacing it with a handful of crackers. If nothing else they should give his stomach something to do besides get upset. He was suddenly very, very glad that Tom had more or less demanded he be fully geared up and ready at a moment’s notice.

‘I kind of wonder what caused the “corruption” of the First Dragonborn,’ he thought. ‘But I guess I’m not in any position to get picky over my motivation right now, not with Akatosh himself loaning me out.’ He dropped his chin to his chest and closed his eyes, feeling very alone, idly fingering his ring. He badly wished Viktor was with him, or Tom. He sniffed, embarrassed to realize his eyes were tearing and one had already escaped, and straightened up. He dashed away the tear angrily and took a deep breath, releasing it jerkily. After a few more deep, calming breaths he felt a bit better. ‘Honestly, you are not a baby. Stop being such a twat,’ he scolded himself, then stood.

He got his bow ready again, recharged the enchantments, and reached out to close the book. The world faded and came back. Aside from some differences in presentation he was absolutely still in Apocrypha. He was on a relatively small platform with a switch in the center. Up ahead was a long, moving passage, rather like it was segmented or accordion folded. He eyed it skeptically for a moment, then activated the switch. A small extension unfolded itself, allowing him to time a jump into that passage.

At the other end of a walk that made him wonder if this was what it felt like to be drunk he waited to see what precisely would appear. Two platforms came into view, but it was the one at the far right which contained another switch, so he jumped off and activated it quickly enough that he could catch the passage again and ride it to the center. There a second extension or bridge had been made known and he used it to get to a pedestal with a black book on it.

Opening it warped him to a new section. Something about it made him nervous so he got into stalking position and readied an arrow, and Shouted, “Laas Yah Nir!” Three bright spots in gaseous red popped up, all vaguely humanoid, two gliding around, one stalking. After a moment he skulked off down the narrow corridor. Part way down the sides unfolded like the petals of a blossoming flower to resolve into a fairly large room containing three creatures, two of the book-holding sorts and one like the one from the pool.

As he took out the first one and gained the attention of the other two he resolved to call them Seekers and Lurkers, having remembered something from Valdis’s stories about the Oghma Infinium. “Fiik Lo Sah!” he Shouted, letting his decoy take the heat, and resumed launching arrows at them. The Seekers used magicka and created clones of themselves while the Lurker had some kind of spitting attack. ‘No way in hell I’d want to go against these things up close,’ he thought, launching yet more arrows.

Once they were gone he checked around carefully and looted the room, then activated the only visible switch. A set of gates opened across the room. “Laas Yah Nir!” Nothing else was revealed to his sight so he proceeded through the gate. One of those funny containers was just inside the door and to the right, so he looted that, then opened the book on a pedestal straight ahead.

When he warped back he sighed. He waited for his throat to clear from the last Shout, then started in again, recharging his bow as necessary. After a convoluted trip involving numerous opponents he came to yet another book. This one, however, was like the one he gained a reward from, which meant he was at the end of this particular part of the test. After checking again with Aura Whisper for any other enemies he slung the bow back and was about to take a seat. Naturally, Hermaeus Mora appeared once again before he could.

Your progress since being brought here has been rapid. There is but one word left, and that word comes with a different price.”

There was a long enough pause that Harry realized a response was necessary. “What is this price, my lord?” he asked politely.

I require knowledge for knowledge, and you hold that knowledge. You will also help to spread my influence in the world.”

He frowned; Hermaeus Mora made it sound like a communicable disease. “You said Miraak has served you well, but he’s become corrupted?”

Miraak was a Dragon Priest when dragons ruled Nirn, but sought me out and became my champion. I taught him the words of power and he used them to revolt against the dragons and devour many a soul. Others tried to use him to deal with Alduin and he refused. I rescued him from a killing blow and brought him to my realm. He has served me long and well, but he grows restless under my guidance. His desire to return to the world will spread my influence more widely, but it will also set him free from my direct control. It may be time to replace him with a more loyal servant, one who still appreciates the gifts I have to offer.

“What knowledge do you require?” he asked, squirming inside over being referred to as a loyal servant. How Valdis had become champion for so many Daedric Lords. . . .

We shall see,” was the response, and then he felt himself freeze in place. Something rifled through his mind, his memories, the sensation ineludibly reminding him of those tentacles, and latched onto the memories of Tom’s diary for some time before moving on to wizarding magic in general. A timeless span later he was released. “Dragonborn, you have delivered me the gift I requested. In return, I keep my promise, as befits a Prince of Oblivion: I give you the Word of Power that you need to challenge Miraak. You will be either a worthy opponent or his successor, as the tides of fate decree.

Harry braced himself as the final word slammed into his consciousness: Dov—Dragon.

Hermaeus Mora faded away, leaving Harry to feel violated, and not in a good way. “Okay, so I guess Occlumency is a joke when it comes to gods,” he muttered, then sat down and fetched out his water bottle to have that rest, along with another handful of crackers. Ten minutes later he heaved a sigh and got up, unslung the bow, and reached for the book. After choosing which of his Shouts to strengthen he grabbed an arrow and nudged the book closed.

He heaved another sigh on looking around. The way was long and filled with enemies, giving him good reason to use Aura Whisper frequently. Loot tumbled into his pockets, but in each of the sections separated by those transport books there was one book that stood out as being somehow different. At the end of the fourth area was another switch and another gate, through which was a large, open room with a pillar glowing green at the center.

Harry took care of the lone Seeker and approached after checking to see if anything else was lurking. There were four pedestals surrounding the pillar, each etched with a symbol. Another pedestal sat farther in front of the pillar with what looked to be a transport book. While thinking about that he searched and looted the room, then fetched out those four odd books from the previous sections and double-checked the titles. He placed the copy of Delving Pincers on the pincer pedestal, Prying Orbs on the eye pedestal, and then the other two.

The transport book glowed. ‘If this were one of Dudley’s games I could at least save my progress,’ he thought ruefully, then activated the book.

The next area featured a book almost straight away that he tucked into a pocket. A check ahead with Aura Whisper showed what looked to be two Seekers, so he nocked an arrow and stalked down the path. Another platform was there, quite large and surrounded by that oily, murky water. Off to the side was something that surprised him. If the images he had envisioned from Valdis’s stories were anything resembling accurate that had to be a Word Wall. It looked much taller than him, was curved and etched with symbols—words in the dragon language—and some of them were glowing blue-white.

He used Aura Whisper again, thankful that his mastery of Illusion spells made his Shouts quiet enough not to alert enemies to his presence, then drew and began killing. As soon as they were down he looted the remains and skittered over to the Word Wall, a low chant resounding in his mind—something or someone chanting the words contained on the Wall itself—and stepped right up to it, just as Valdis had described. In quick succession three words slammed into his mind: Mul Qah Diiv—Strength Armor Wyrm.

Harry was reading the Wall to try to understand exactly what the shout would do when a roar attracted his attention and made him pivot in place, using the Word Wall to guard his back. A dragon approached, the first he had seen aside from the avatar of Akatosh in almost four years. “What the hell am I supposed to do?” he whispered to himself, nocking another arrow. He was about to draw when what Hermaeus Mora said came back to him. That Shout was to bend others to his will, including dragons, and he could see no route off the platform. Going back would get him nowhere.

Taking a leap of faith, heart pounding madly, he replaced the arrow and slung the bow across his back, then waited until the dragon got close enough to unleash a torrent of flame at him. He then ran forward. “Gol Hah Dov!”

The dragon immediately back-winged to a landing and said, “Hail, thuri. Your Thu'um has the mastery. Climb aboard and I will carry you to Miraak.

“I’m an overlord now?” he wondered, eyeing the dragon, then took it up on the offer and mounted more than a little awkwardly. He was shaking a bit as it launched itself into the air and began to fly toward a tower in the distance. There were other dragons there, circling it, and he fully expected to either have to kill them or control them. Killing was more likely given that he assumed he could only control one at a time.

As they flew the dragon flamed several Seekers to a crisp that were aiming spells at them from a platform part way along, then said, “Beware. Miraak is strong. He knew there was a threat coming—that you would come here.

Harry was still shaking a bit when his mount back-winged to a landing at the tower. He slipped off and was readying his bow when he heard, “Sahrotaar, are you so easily swayed?”

He scanned around as he nocked an arrow, spotting a man wearing elaborate armor and a face-concealing mask much like some of those to be found amongst Valdis’s ‘relics’. A Dragon Priest mask, then. His armor was probably classed heavy.

“No,” Miraak said, glancing up at the two circling dragons. “Not yet. We should greet our guest first. And so Dragonborn meets Dragonborn at the summit of Apocrypha. No doubt just as Hermaeus Mora intended. He is a fickle master, you know. But now I will be free of him. My time in Apocrypha is over. You are here in your full power, and thus subject to my full power. You will die. And with the power of your soul, I will return to the world and be master of my own fate once again.”

While Miraak was speaking Harry was eyeing the man, waiting for just the right moment to crouch down and temporarily vanish, a nifty little perk of being so advanced in stealth. He could use that to disappear long enough to use Sahrotaar as a temporary blind, moving to a different position and attacking from there instead. Whether it worked or not was a different story entirely.

Miraak’s hands lit up and he said, “Kruziikrel! Relonikiv! Now!”

Harry crouched and immediately moved back and under the dragon’s tail, drawing hard as he went, then released as soon as he had a clear shot. Miraak staggered back, but his head immediately oriented to Harry, who came up from his now useless crouch and drew again. The Dragon Priest flung lightning at him from both hands making him extremely glad he was so heavily protected. It still hurt and set his nerves to twitching a bit.

He continued to use Sahrotaar as a blind against Miraak and the other two dragons, not always attacking from the opposite side, taking hits in return, either of lightning or fire, and completely ignoring whatever the man was saying. Tom’s memories and Dudley’s games had made it clear that “bad guys” liked to hear themselves talk and most of what they said was useless or intended to make you lose reason.

Kruziikrel, ziil los dii du!

Harry was appalled to see Miraak sacrificing the life of his dragon ally, streaming its soul to him like some super-powered healing spell; it had to be because Miraak straightened up again. Then Harry snorted at his own naïvety and concentrated on bringing the guy down again. There were only two dragons left and he could only hope that he could finish this before Sahrotaar was claimed.

Relonikiv, ziil los dii du!

“Hell. I need to learn how to shoot faster.” He kept fighting, but something caught his attention, causing him to listen. Miraak was claiming that the dragon he had sent off before Harry had arrived should be at his body’s location any moment now. He would die there, thus dying here, at the tower. Miraak would claim his soul and return to the world in his place. And he realized, sparing a moment to think back, that there had been three dragons circling the tower, not just two.

Sahrotaar, ziil los dii du!

With no cover and the additional threat he was beginning to panic and started to move around the tower platform, alternating arrows with healing potions when necessary, until Miraak finally nearly drained his own magicka pool and closed in with a sword in his hand. ‘Shit, shit, shit!’ He shot two more arrows and slung the bow back, then readied spells instead, still trying to stay far enough away at all times and also out of that pool.

He kept lobbing Thunderbolt as he backed around and dodged that blade, the spell helping—or not, depending on how he looked at it—to keep Miraak from casting any other spells. But inevitably he tripped over something behind him and staggered, affording Miraak the opportunity to slam that blade into his stomach, off to one side. The pain was excruciating, but he was able to snap off several more casts of Thunderbolt while fumbling for a potion.

To his surprise Miraak backed away and Shouted, “Feim Zii Gron!”

‘You bastard!’ he thought as Miraak became ethereal.

As the man dashed across the platform Hermaeus Mora appeared again and a thick tentacle shot up from the pool to spear Miraak, despite the effects of the Shout, his sword clattering to the ground. Harry stood there in shock, still bleeding heavily, as the Daedric Prince said, “Did you think you could escape me, Miraak? You can hide nothing from me here. No matter. I have found a new Dragonborn to serve me.

Miraak reverted to normality and coughed up blood, gasping, “May he be rewarded for his service as I am!” His flesh dissolved moments later, leaving only a skeleton that the tentacle dumped onto the floor, and a stream of souls transferred to Harry at Miraak’s death.

Numerous eyes swiveled or floated over to aim at Harry. “Miraak harbored fantasies of rebellion against me. Learn from his example. Serve me faithfully, and you will continue to be richly rewarded.

Then the room began to fade, his pain with it. During that time between Oblivion and Earth he received a rush of memory from his otherwise insensate self back in the parlor.

Viktor hastened forward and jerked to a stop when Tom barked, “No! We have no idea what touching him will do. It could kill him for all we know.”

Viktor looked to protest, but instead looked to the “visitors”. Both had vanished while their attention was on what was happening to Harry.

“What in Merlin’s name is going on!?” Pavel demanded. “And you,” he said to Severus, “don’t think I didn’t see that!” He strode forward swiftly and ripped the sleeve back, revealing the Dark Mark. “You’re a Death Eater!” Then he glared at Tom. “He called you,” Pavel said softly.

Tom lifted his chin belligerently, as if daring the man to try something. “Yes, he did. I am Lord Voldemort, and Harry, his family, and Viktor are mine to protect.”

Viktor groaned at the implication and palmed his face.

“Viktor?” Iskra whispered in horror.

“What’s all the noise?” came Bisera’s voice; she was standing there in the doorway. She took one look at Harry, held off the floor by tentacles emerging from a glowing book, and fainted dead away.

Iskra rushed over to pull her daughter up and bring her over to a sofa to lay out.

Pavel growled and took a step forward, his wand appearing.

“Father, stop!” Viktor said forcefully. “I am not a damn minion, okay? I didn’t take his mark. That’s not what he meant.”

In the brief silence Severus could be heard murmuring, “Lily, are you all right?”

“Then what?” Pavel demanded, his wand aimed at the floor.

“Harry is special, so special. Yes, I’ve known since before Yule of my seventh year that Tom is a dark lord, but he’s been—sane—ever since that night. Everything he’s done since then is to protect and help Harry against the real threat. Harry is the Boy-Who-Lived, not Edward Potter!”

‘Okay, so much for that secret,’ he thought, feeling more connected to his body. Unfortunately, that also meant the pain was ramping back up.

“What?” Pavel breathed, then shook his head. “He’s still a dark lord! And you’re going to bond with his protégé!?”

“I love Harry,” Viktor shouted. “He’s a good man. And Tom can be trusted. You don’t believe me, but you will.”

“Many, many men have fallen to the charms of a dark lord, son,” Pavel argued. “I would not have you be one of them.”

“Just like gods to cause a massive uproar and then flee the scene,” Tom muttered, looking up at the ceiling.

That set Pavel back. “Gods?”

“Yes, gods, on either side of the spectrum, though apparently being on the so-called evil side doesn’t necessarily mean being evil for some reason,” Tom replied calmly enough. “There’s an entire pantheon. We just met two of them. Akatosh, Aedric Lord, father of all Dragonborn—like Harry. Hermaeus Mora, Daedric Prince, not so much evil as pragmatic and voracious when it comes to knowledge. There are eight other of the Aedra, sixteen other Daedric Lords. And no matter how much you might want to deny it they are real and hold power beyond anything we as mortals can comprehend.”

Pavel just stared, then said, “So you were defeated seventeen years ago and switched philosophies? Just like that?”

“Not quite, but close enough. There was a prophecy involved. Possibly more than one. That boy,” he said, pointing at Harry, “is no more evil than the average fluffy kitten and I will do my damnedest to keep it that way, and make sure he survives whatever is coming along with his family and Viktor, his chosen.”

“Please,” Lily said. “I realize you probably won’t believe me, but you can’t lie when speaking Parseltongue. That’s something Harry gained that night and he’s heard it all in that language. That’s the only reason I dared to listen in the first place. Tom is no threat to you.”

He finally finished reconnecting with his body and whimpered at the level of pain from his wound. The tentacles gently set him on the floor, retracted, and the book vanished after closing with a snap. He clutched his stomach, his hands immediately overrun with blood. “Fuck, that hurts,” he said hoarsely. “A little help, please? The only reason I’m not dead from blood loss is my enchantments.”

In the heartbeat that followed a series of items hit the floor in a rough circle around him, then Viktor snapped into action and hastened to him, hands already lobbing healing spells at him. Petunia joined in moments later and Harry began to feel rapidly better. “We don’t have much time,” he said, coughing a little and tasting blood on his lips. “I have it on good authority we’re about to be attacked by a hostile dragon. If the guy I just had to kill was winding me up, fantastic, but otherwise I plan to go kill the thing. You people can argue later.”

He realized he had reintegrated with his weapons still out and reached back for the bow. His other hand went out to grab Viktor’s and dragged him off toward the hallway, muttering, “It’s a good thing this house is on the extreme outskirts of the city.” They were halfway to the back door when he heard a stampede of feet behind them.

Outside he stood out in the open, anxiously scanning the sky, bow recharged and arrow at the ready. Then he heard it, his head snapping around to orient on the sound. “It’s coming,” he warned. “Anyone not protected against the elements or magic in general, stay the hell out of this.”

Viktor stood at his side, hands crackling. A glance toward the house showed his aunt standing by the door, hands glowing with healing spells, Severus beside her. Tom was also there, though he had his wand out, and was standing halfway between Harry and the house. Pavel was near the door, his expression a mixture of anxiousness and bewilderment.

He returned his focus to the dragon and waited, and when it flew overhead he acted. “Gol Hah Dov!” The dragon shook it off like an annoying insect so he changed tactics, shooting at it until he could Shout again. “Joor Zah Frul!” he Shouted, using Dragonrend to force the beast to land. Arrows and spells were hitting it before it finished settling on the lawn, Viktor sticking with Shock spells and Tom with what looked to be some particularly nasty Dark Arts.

The dragon unleashed a torrent of ice at them; Harry and Viktor mostly shook it off due to their enchantments and Tom was far enough away to only get the edges of the attack. When the beast looked to be readying itself to launch again he Shouted again, “Joor Zah Frul!” It roared in response and unleashed more ice, then stumped forward, jaws still open, and tried to snap him in half with its jaws.

He and Viktor backpedaled quickly, and Harry slung his bow because of the lack of distance. His reserves were back so he began lobbing Thunderbolt at the dragon. And then it died under the combined onslaught and he finally saw with his own eyes what Valdis had only been able to describe. She could only speak of her experiences, not share them via memory in a pensieve; and that gave him an idea.

The dragon sagged down, wings drooping, and its flesh began to disintegrate as the beast’s soul streamed to him in a wild display of fiery light. Viktor steadied him from behind as he took in the soul, then gently released him when all that was left was a gleaming skeleton. In the silence that fell Tom produced a patronus and murmured something to it; it left in a streak of silver.

Harry took a deep breath and turned back to the house, the shaking of reaction setting in, and he knew it wouldn’t be long before he crashed hard. He had managed to stow his bow and quiver and was halfway to the door when Serana portkeyed in and followed. When he got close enough he said, “Severus, can I have a clean vial, please?” One was handed to him just before he stepped into the hallway and as he walked he mentally marked off the memory of his trip to Oblivion and pulled a copy, looping it into the vial and sealing it.

“This way you can all see what happened, assuming that works,” he said, handing the vial back to Severus as they entered the parlor. A look at where he’d been standing showed that Miraak’s belongings had followed him to Earth. “I’ll get those,” he said, then staggered when he tried to move forward again.

Viktor produced a blanket out of nowhere and wrapped him in it, pulling Harry into his arms and lifting him up. His fiancé dropped down into a chair and sat Harry on his lap, holding him close. He looked back at that spot, saw the huge stain of his blood, then looked at Iskra, who was still hovering by Bisera. “S-sorry about ruining your carpet,” he said, then lost consciousness, slumping against his fiancé.