No sooner had I said those words did Hestia spring into action, flames coiling around her claws as she streaked towards me, eyes alight with a savage fury.
I folded my wings, falling slightly as I used my preternatural reflexes to grab onto the offending claw, letting its momentum pull me with it. Once clear of Hestia’s body, my wings spread wide and flapped furiously, allowing me to get some distance between myself and the murky waters.
“She’s looping around.” Balthazar informed me. “Coming in for another swipe.”
“Yes.” I replied. “You don’t have to tell me. Focus on whatever made that sound. I know you haven’t had a lot of practice to channel your power in any sensing method, but—”
“You got it.” Balthazar cut me off. “Don’t kill her.”
“Never planned to.” I snarled as I dove towards Hestia, my hands wreathed with Lightning.
I’m sorry, Hestia, but this will probably hurt. My mind was already dredging up my future regret as I aimed and shot Lightning Blades at the Greyjoy thief, who simply batted them away with a shield— how did it not break?
I ignored the resulting surprise and, with a flap of the wings, I dodged Hestia’s bite, landing atop her head. Standing face to face with the scumbag.
I lunged towards him, hand exploding with electrical energy as my Breakdown Fist made contact with his raised shield, but it did not break.
I gripped the edge of the shield and used it, along with a flap of my wings, to get myself above the man, narrowly missing the horizontal swipe he made with his cruel looking axe.
I made to drive downwards into the wretched thief, but Hestia swerved away at the last second, allowing the man to avoid his death.
“Damn it.” I swore and twisted my body in the air, swiftly reorienting myself.
“Burn him! Dracarys!” His shout was quick, and Hestia’s response even more-so. I had enough time to cover my entire body in Lightning before I was consumed by a powerful stream of flame.
Covered as I was in Balthazar’s scales, I merely felt painfully warm. It felt like one particularly bad summer day at Little Whinging, I mentally noted. “Balthazar.”
“On it.” Was his only reply as I felt my armor writhe with molten power, splitting Hestia’s stream of flame in twain— just in time for us to get bombarded with projectiles.
They drove themselves into Balthazar’s scales, sizzling on impact and knocking me back with every hit. They were barely visible, but I could guess what they were made of well enough just from the steam billowing on impact.
Water magic! I realized in dismay, feeling pain flare in my shoulder, knee and chest.
I veered to the left, narrowly avoiding another barrage, swearing under my breath at the turn of events. “Who is this guy!?”
No! I couldn’t lose my cool. Hestia’s fate was on the line.
My mind whirred with possible strategies. I hadn’t been able to knock the shield off of his person with my Lightning, and it could take an inordinate amount of damage.
Maybe… I nodded as an idea formed within my mind.
Balthazar’s armor parted for me as I reached for my wand, holding it tightly in my right hand. I would have one shot at this, I realized as my wings guided me up.
I dodged a few more water projectiles, approaching Hestia with great speed, until we were face to snout. Her mouth was already open, ready to bite my head off.
“Immobulus!” For the barest of instants, it was as if Hestia was frozen in space and time. Ignoring my girl’s hateful visage, I made it onto her back, facing the armored Greyjoy once again.
“Expelliarmus!” The scarlet spell flew true, engulfing the man— but the shield glowed with fiery green runes, and the spell was neutralized.
Greyjoy laughed at my shocked face— a chilling and cruel noise. “Did you think the magic you learned at your pathetic school is a match for mine? Foolish child..”
What? I jerked at the mention of Hogwarts.
“Nothing to say, World Drifter?” Greyjoy laughed again.
“Who are you?” I snarled, my anger quickly replacing both my shock and fear. “How do you know—”
“How do I know that you’re not from this world?” Greyjoy gave a nasty smile as Hestia began to try and knock me off. “Harry Potter, the hero of the world of magic. I have seen much of your life, World Drifter.”
I made to answer, only to be forced to leap off of Hestia’s back once more to avoid the spears of water sent my way by the Greyjoy. I swerved to the right, avoiding Hestia’s tail and trying to get back on top of the she-dragon.
“My name is Euron Greyjoy.” The man said as I dodged another tail swipe. “And I want to thank you for the gracious gift— one so wasted on you.”
“Harry, stay calm…” I faintly noted Balthazar’s voice, but I was too far gone, Euron Greyjoy’s callously spoken statement driving me over the edge.
I dodged a swipe of Hestia’s claws, taking a hold of her arm and pulling down with all my Lightning-assisted strength. Blasting power from my feet, I kept pulling the flailing Hestia down using her weight and my power to make the impact against the nearby ship as hard as possible.
It wouldn’t kill her, but the impact would most certainly knock her rider off, if not kill him.
There it was, getting closer and closer. The ship’s crew, having looked like ants earlier, were now big enough that their expressions of terror were easily seen, and ignored as I planned to crash into them like a meteor.
Or, that would have been the result, had the ship suddenly moved away from us, a pillar of water rising to move it out of the way.
The pillar narrowed and twisted much like a piece of fabric, before whipping against my Lightning covered body. Scales flew as the water whip slashed against my body with a loud crack, filling my world with fiery pain as its momentum dropped me into the murky waters below.
I accidentally inhaled some water on my struggle to resurface, Balthazar’s pained scream overwhelming my senses. Choking the water out took precious seconds which Euron used to their fullest extent, constricting the water around me to greatly reduce my movement as Hestia swooped down, claws alight with red fire.
One hit from that, and I was toast. Regretfully, I blasted Hestia’s face with a Bolt, causing her to stop in mid-air and flail around in pain.
Balthazar’s screaming stopped as he exerted his power to boil the restrictive water away, allowing me to take back to the air once again. I coughed again, residual water still stuck in my trachea.
Another monstrous stream of fire crashed against my hastily raised Lightning shield and, this time, I felt the wound caused by the water whip sizzling with the heat.
I bit out a cry of agony, focusing Balthazar’s energy and dispersing her breath once again— this time, only just barely.
I couldn’t keep this up, I realized.
Five more minutes— I was probably being very generous here— and I wouldn’t have enough energy to keep myself afloat, let alone fight against a threat which had obviously been preparing for me.
One final rush, I thought as I exerted my powers again, zooming past Hestia’s blind swipe and swerving to the right to narrowly avoid her monstrously powerful bite. I grabbed hold of her neck and used my own momentum to pull myself up, and use it as a jump off point to lunge at Greyjoy.
But the man was already swinging his axe, intent on lopping my hand off and forcing me to stop and make for his shield side instead. Had I been that obvious?
I pushed against his shield, hard, and managed to open his defense as he staggered slightly backwards, somehow still not getting knocked off Hestia— not that it mattered, I thought as I drove an Edge into his armpit.
But, there was no blood, none at all, only… Water?
The man’s body fell apart, revealing the real Euron behind him, his shield glowing with the same runes I’d seen before.
“Return!” He smiled his nasty grin as the glow turned brighter and brighter.
The light followed the rune’s pattern, converging into the shield’s center, before blasting a thin beam of unrelenting light into me and filling my world with pain as it drilled right through my shoulder— scales, flesh, bone and all.
Still, I aimed my right arm at the abominable man and let the magma loose. Most of it ended up missing him, but enough of it landed on him that he managed to scream in pain, even as his armor and shield deflected most of the damage.
With a wild flail, his shield caught me in my midsection, hitting the cut on my chest and almost driving me off of Hestia’s back, but I grabbed onto its edge to steady myself, allowing me to stay in the game.
Ignoring the pain, I slapped the man’s clumsy axe swing away, sending it flying out into the murky waters beneath. As I moved to finish him off, he let out an inarticulate cry of pain and rage, the waters beneath us rippling with such power that I felt primal fear rise within me, even as I committed to my finishing blow- only for it to hit nothing but a wall of water, separating myself from him.
He directed his fury towards me, both hands outstretched as the wall of water slammed into me with the force of a freight train, sending me off of Hestia once more.
I watched in a sort of awed horror as the sea beneath us parted magnificently, an act of godlike power I thought I would have trouble accomplishing at the best of times.
With a sinking feeling, I tried to invoke Air Raid, to no avail. I barely had any power left— I’d used most of it up in the fights on the ships, as well as the following battle against Euron, himself.
I waved my wand over my head, silently casting the Bubblehead Charm just in time for the rift in the water to close on me, drawing me into horrible, dizzying currents and throwing me into the land of unconsciousness.
I was surprised to still be alive when I came to, wand still in my hand— ah, Balthazar had wrapped his scales around it.
“A few sharks tried to eat you, but gave up when the scales didn’t give.” Balthazar spoke quietly so as not to startle me— a futile effort, as I still flinched.
Immediately, pain made itself known in many spots, my shoulder being the worst off.
Cringing, I asked the most important question. “How long?”
“Three hours, I think.” Balthazar replied, not even trying to sugarcoat things. “The fleet is still above us, though the ship you fought the Greyjoy and Hestia on is at its very center. We’re around the back of it.“
I ignored the searing pain, forcing myself to swim my way to the surface.
“I won’t bother telling you to rest, or even tell you not to do anything stupid to save Hestia.” Balthazar angrily said, and I felt grateful for that. “We need to come for that piece of scum with everything we got. I had time to go over the energy we both felt. It’s the big horn he had on the prow of his ship.”
I stopped about halfway to the surface. “The horn?”
I faintly remembered seeing a large ornament, but I hadn’t taken the time to look at it in detail— focused as I was on Hestia’s enslavement under some kind of unholy union of the Imperius and Cruciatus curses.
How he had gotten hold of such dangerous knowledge, I didn’t know. He’d known just about all of my tricks, using my strengths against me, as well as forcing me to limit my attacks in order to not hurt Hestia.
The fight against the Keeper had been a cakewalk, in comparison. It had been a slow and simple beast to conquer, as it did not hide, did not employ any tactics, and took all of my attacks head on.
Euron was different. His armor was able to absorb my power and redirect it towards me, in some way. His axe— hopefully he hadn’t managed to retrieve it— I was sure it was Valyrian steel. His shield and armor, as well.
If he hadn’t been using Hestia against me in this way, I would have made short work of the foul man, but, as it was, I was lucky to even be alive. I needed to use this chance to save Hestia from whatever horrible life such a man had in store for her.
My eyes narrowed as I suppressed the anger that rose to the surface at the mere thought of what Greyjoy would make my little Hestia do.
“Never.” I snarled and rushed to the surface of the water. Clouds had formed above, and it had begun to rain, I noticed as I set my eyes on a nearby ship.
The perfect cover, I nodded to myself and began to swim to the ship in question. As I approached, the sounds of sailors filled my ears, all shouting at each other to do various tasks including, but not limited to, cleaning the ship, cooking, making sure all the ropes are well tied, and other things.
I ignored all of these, grabbing hold of the anchor’s chain, and climbing it silently, thanks to a quickly muttered Silencing Charm. Making it to the surface of the deck, I wasted no time, taking down four men with a few well placed Cutting Charms.
The crew went into a frenzy at the sight of their downed shipmates, but I paid it no heed, rushing towards one of the men who was bleeding out and snatching his sword— longer than I’d like, but it would do.
With my holly wand in my right hand, and the sword in my left, I made short work of the remainder of the crew, using the barest hint of my pitifully low reserves to give me enough of an edge to efficiently kill every last one of them, until I was the only one left on the ship.
I made to use the Point Me spell towards Greyjoy’s ship, before thinking better of it. Who knows what sort of scrying magics he had available to him? Perhaps he was fully aware of what I was doing at this very moment.
There was no way to tell, but as I climbed the mast and scoured my surroundings for any sign of the man’s ship, I realized that it was likely that he hadn’t detected me. Perhaps he needed to actively scry for my body?
“Or maybe you did enough damage to him that he’s forced to solely focus on recovering his powers?” Balthazar posited as I located the ship in question, a bit of a ways away, but not impossible to reach. “He may have gotten you pretty bad, but you gave as good as you got, Harry.”
I nodded, the motion causing the dull ache pervading my body to pulse uncomfortably. I dropped to a knee, remembering an old admonishment Erebus had given me at some point— something concerning taking the time to heal myself before going off into a fight half-cocked.
That’s what this whole fight had been, a half-cocked mess of a mission. It was true that I’d destroyed a good chunk of the fleet, killing hundreds of men myself and sending thousands to their doom via the ships sinking or burning down.
However, the battle with Greyjoy had shown me that the equivalent of a wizard in this world was much more powerful than simple Red Priests.
I sighed as I began to apply the healing salves to my many burns and cuts, sighing in relief as most of the pain was reduced to a barely noticeable noise.
“What I would do for Pepperup Potion, right now.” I groused as I moved to the ship’s capstan, rotating with a wave of my wand.
Another few more waves, and the ship’s sails were down, pointed in the direction of the Greyjoy ship, and a conjured wind was blowing into them, moving the ship quickly through the army of ships.
I moved to stand at the captain’s wheel, steering the ship as best as I could— it was harder than I hoped, but at least, easier than I expected. The book took a while to properly commit to any turn I made, but the gaps between the ships were so large that it didn’t really matter.
I ignored the shouts coming from the ship I passed, feeling a faint sense of amusement as the captain barked order after order at his crew, readying weapons of war whose range I would be well out of before they managed to get the scorpion bolts locked in and ready to go.
I stared ahead at my target. Hestia was curled into a ball on the ship’s deck, likely recovering from the blindness I’d inflicted on her, as well as whatever torture Greyjoy had inflicted upon her. Next to her, despite the distance between us, was Euron Greyjoy himself, merely standing next to her.
I suppressed a snarl, adjusted my stolen longship’s heading and readied myself for impact. The shouts of the men on deck seemed to bring Greyjoy back to normal, but it was too late- any escape attempt they made would have taken too long.
The rain began to intensify, but I didn’t care.
I felt a savage grin of my own make its way over my face as my longship crashed into Greyjoy’s, the sound of cracks filling the air as I rushed to the front, leaping onto Euron’s ship and killing the first few members of his crew.
They came at me with swords, axes, clubs and spears, swinging them wildly, and with no regard for their own well beings. Whether it was out of fear, or loyalty, I neither knew, nor did I care.
They died all the same.
“Underneath.” Balthazar said after a few seconds of recovery, while I kept my eye on the perturbed looking Greyjoy, who was staring at me in shock. Was he surprised I was still alive?
I hastily shook the thought off— something to deal with later— and made my way down the deck before Hestia could react, steel flashing and crashing against that of others in a one sided dance of blood and death, with water pouring from a large hole in the front— where my stolen longship had crashed.
If Greyjoy dared to use Hestia to destroy his own ship, he’d lose his precious control device to the sea— and I would be ready to break it, thanks to the Bubblehead Charm.
Balthazar growled in a low tone as the blood splashed against my scales, and I somehow knew he was absorbing it and whatever power it imparted upon him.
I processed this in the very back of my mind as I went down another level, while all of its forefront was focused on one thing, and one thing alone: locating the horn which bound Hestia’s will.
The men throwing themselves at me did not matter— they were just fodder. Mindless nothings. I slashed, stabbed, cut, brained, punched and kicked my way through the throng of men, their weapons useless, but their sheer numbers somewhat daunting.
Behind me, I could hear the frantic chanting of the Greyjoy swindler— I’d been right, he didn’t dare destroy his own vessel— and dodged to the left, just in time for a barrage of water spears to zip past me and tear through the crowd of men which had been attempting to hem me in.
I turned to the man in question and flicked my wand at him, aiming it at his feet. “Bombarda!”
The wooden floor exploded under the man’s feet, sending him flying into the staircase and quickly flooding the ship with even more water. I winced at the rising levels of water, just another weapon Greyjoy could use against me, and hurried along the lowest level of the ship, aiming to find and destroy the horn while Greyjoy was recovering from the impact.
Two quick slashes, and I opened the throat of the remaining two guards. Without fanfare, I magically unlocked the door they were guarding, before closing it and locking it behind me with a mutter of “Colloportus!”
I’d been resolved to focus on the destruction of the horn, and that alone, but seeing this— smelling this…
The air was filled with the smell of rot, urine, blood and feces, much stronger than the smells during a fight— it was a room utterly drenched in the horrid scent.
On each side of the room, I saw people of all sizes, sexes and ages chained up and lying in their own filth and staring at me with an expression of fear.
“The harbinger of thunder and ice.” A man in red rags breathed in fear. “Come to kill us!”
“A red priest.” I muttered and shook my head, focusing on the prize at the center of the room: the massive horn I was looking for.
It was a monstrously sized thing, six feet long, black, banded with red gold as well as Valyrian steel. It glowed slightly in the darkness of the room, showing runic sequences and arrays which were most likely the runic equivalent of the Imperius and Cruciatus curses rolled up into one.
An abomination of the highest order.
He hurt her, with this.
I heard the jingle of keys behind the locked door, and immediately gathered every sliver of power I had, Balthazar gladly adding his own to mine. As I made to unleash the energy, I felt Balthazar’s resolve and determination welling up into me and combining with my own.
I smiled. Hestia would be safe, no matter the cost.
I would make sure of it.
“Lightning Dragon’s Roar!”
The world exploded in white just as the door behind me opened, Greyjoy’s cries overtaken by the resulting explosion of power.