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Hollow

A horn of great power, crafted in the days of yore, with fire, blood and human life. Banded with the steel of Valyria, inscribed with their ancient, forgotten magics; capable of binding dragons to the will of its master.

Strong enough to greatly resist my empowered Roar— but not strong to survive it.

Powerful magic. I thought, a faint sense of regret washing over me as I felt the combined might of myself and Balthazar begin to unravel the intricate magics of the large horn.

As my energy continued to obliterate it, I could feel every moment of its creation and life. All of its previous masters, as well as its creator.

I felt every spell cast upon it. I felt every rune inscribed; every ritual used to create and empower it. So much blood and life, sacrificed to give it the energy it required to function adequately.

It was an abominable sort of magic, and yet… it held the appeal of power over everything.

The Valyrians had created it to control dragons. The fools— they didn’t know what they were playing with, did they?

Like monkeys smearing feces over the walls, showcasing it to the world as a priceless artifact; a work of art. I thought in the aperture between the infinitesimal moments it was taking to utterly destroy this tool.

They truly did not understand what exactly they were messing around with. I mentally sneered; a tool of power and control, with so many uses— and they used it to try and figure out a training method for their dragons.

Training, they called it. Obedient pets, they were hoping for. However, I knew that was far from what they got. I could sense it all within the horn’s energy.

Dragonbinder, they called it.

How little they knew of their own creations. No wonder that they failed to make the horn live up to its name. And no wonder they got themselves blown up.

I saw it all, within the moments between moments.

I saw how every single dragon subjected to the binder’s influence flew into a mad rage after regular and continued use, destroying all around it until there was nothing left but the horn among the ashes.

And so, the cycle would begin anew.

Its energy invariably led others to find it once again.

Men and women, kings and peasants would attempt to use its power to usurp the wills of dragons, but their endeavors would fail.

The fruits of their labor would always turn to ash in their mouths as their lives were extinguished.

True, the Dragonbinder controlled the dragons it was aimed at with great precision and horrible efficiency— but the fools did not know. They did not understand.

It had a mind of its own.

From countless lives sacrificed to it, soaked in a sea of blood and fire— how could it not develop a genius loci?

The fools, I thought again.

Of all things to come across in this world, I had to find a Sanctum Invocation*— one so corrupted and vile it felt almost nothing like the original.

They had perverted the Sanctum Invocation and bound the loci of the sacrificed ones to a mobile medium; a horror among horrors. This entire world was a haven for scum much worse than Voldemort could ever have hoped to be.

I imagined, vile as he was, even he would have at least given something of this magnitude and horror a wary glance.

Not that it matters. My eyes narrowed as the Roar completely eradicated the horn’s presence from this world, before going through the wooden wall.

The blast flew off into the distance, impacting through several ships trying to catch up to us and tearing through them as well before exploding with a brilliant blue light, a shockwave of both sound and magic shaking and twisting the waters around us.

I sagged from the use of such power, knowing I was almost at my absolute limit.

I ignored the awed and fearful gazes of the prisoners around me, instead focusing on the sound of roaring above, followed by the flapping of wings. Cries of dismay filled the air, but were quickly cut off— the heat I felt above me was likely the answer.

Hestia was now free.

I heard another roar, full of pain, anguish and rage, and saw Hestia’s form through the massive hole I’d created on the ship.

§Hestia!§ §Hestia!§ Both Balthazar and I called out.

She did not answer, instead flying around the enemy ships and bathing every last one of them in her flames.

“She didn’t hear us.” I said quietly as I watched the destruction ahead. Was my voice simply too weak? Perhaps I was more exhausted than I thought I was. Then again, Balthazar had cried out for her, only to be ignored, as well.

She didn’t reply to me eith— Harry, he’s coming!” Balthazar cried. “The door!”

I turned swiftly as the door flew open, revealing Greyjoy. He looked angry, almost crazed as he rushed into the room, his weapon driving itself downwards to end my life.

I dodged it, and all following strikes with what little strength I had remaining. I already felt Balthazar’s scales receding as our energies dwindled to almost nothingness.

Is this the end? I thought as I tripped over a piece of broken wood, narrowly avoiding my head getting cleaved off by the furious Euron. My wand fell out of my hand, clattering a few feet away.

I tried to move, only to find that I no longer had the strength to even do that.

“You are indeed as annoying as I was shown in my visions.” Euron, with me at his mercy, had calmed down. The crazed look in his eyes faded, replaced by a new, calculating glint as the man’s breathing slowed to normal levels.

This is bad.’ Balthazar thought to me unnecessarily.

“Taking the dragon from me was something I half expected.” Euron pushed the axe closer against my neck, leaving me with no room to escape— not that I could possibly have done a thing with how drained I was already feeling, I realized.

“Of course.” He said, voice tinted with a hint of confusion. “I hadn’t realized you would be so single minded in your determination. To destroy the tool, rather than kill its owner and take it for yourself.” He smiled, then.

The prisoners around us whimpered in fear, calling out to whatever god they served.

“Demon…”

“Begone…”

“I beseech thee, Lord of Light…!”

Nothing happened.

I’d felt other priests work their prayers before; there had always been a hint of something… more in what they did. I felt the energies. Their magic was young, but it was quite potent, considering.

Certainly, the other unknown priests should have had similar powers.

And yet, nothing…

Broken men. I realized. Broken through endless torture, endless trials and humiliations of their faith.

They would be of no use, here.

Silence.” He fixed them with a glare, and they obeyed.

I felt my bones chill with the show of control.

“How easily they obey…” His smile widened, ugly, horrifying and manic as I felt a sting against my neck— his axe had finally drawn blood. “You will soon join them, World Drifter. I may have lost the Dragonbinder and the dragon, but I have the next best thing, right here!”

No. I felt the horror rise within me.

“I’ll not kill you here, World Drifter. No, no.” He turned his hungry gaze to me. “A powerful man with the blood of magic running through his veins. It would be a waste to spill it carelessly, as I may have need of it later.”

“You’re insane.” I said, trying to stall for time. Why wasn’t my power regenerating?

“I wonder about that.” He pushed the blade a little harder against my throat— that’s when I noticed it. The slow trickle of my magic, from my body and into the blade.

He’s draining my power! I became afraid.

“You understand, then.” Euron seemed to delight in the fear rising in my eyes. “You believed the Horn was the only thing the Valyrians left behind, didn’t you?”

He raised a hand. I felt the boat rock unsteadily as the man summoned an inordinate amount of water.

“Such power, you possess…” He seemed awed as the sound of splashing was heard above us, and the feeling of heat subsided.

Euron had absorbed what little power I was regenerating to put the flames out atop his ship, I realized in dismay.

Soon enough, there were approaching footsteps.

He addressed the slowly approaching men, who held open cuffs, ready to put them on me. “Boys, you know what to do.”

I tried to think of anything to do. If I made a single move, he would cut my throat open. If I didn’t move, I would be in chains for the rest of my life. Would Erebus come and save me?

Could he? Who knew how his own battle was going?

Balthazar was painfully silent. Had the energy absorption rendered him unconscious?

I closed my eyes as the men came closer and closer.

No. I thought furiously.

Hermione. Ron. Sirius. Remus. Hagrid. Dumbledore.

Robb. Tyrion. Jaime. Barristan. Bronn. Daenerys.

Daphne!

If it’s a choice between slavery and death.

I opened my eyes and laughed.

“Have you finally lost your will?” Euron mused and waved at his crewmen. “Get a move on.”

I gladly make my choice. Forgive me, everyone…

I moved against the blade, ignoring the quickly blooming agony on my neck and smashing my armored right fist in his face, sending him tumbling into his two men.

The pain stopped.

Immediately, I shook the surprise off, took hold of the axe he’d let go of and rushed the lot before they could react in time.

A downward strike with my considerable strength went right through his left arm at the elbow, in between the armor pieces. The axe continued downwards, the Valyrian Steel ending the lives of the two men below him, as well.

I snarled and made to finish him off, but a quick gesture of his right hand and I was blasted away with water, hitting the wall behind me.

I felt a weakness begin to settle in me as the man got to his feet, pulling a dagger out. The rest of his other arm dangled uselessly off his elbow— that had not been a clean slice.

He was calm and strangely unhurried despite the injury.

He knew my time was numbered in minutes— if not seconds— and was aiming to survive until I bled out, or kill me before he did the same.

I have to run. I realized.

I had nothing but an axe— however well made— and he still had sizable magic reserves, as well as a fast approaching crew. His boat, despite the extensive damage I’d done to it, would likely stay afloat, purely through the use of his own magic.

This wasn’t a situation I could win.

My mind made up, I threw the axe at him with all the strength I could muster. Predictably, it slammed uselessly against his enchanted armor, but the forward momentum still sent him tumbling over the two corpses behind him, giving me a few more seconds.

I rushed for the wand I’d dropped and ran towards the exit, feeling the warmth rush up my arm. Balthazar was awake again.

And yet, Euron was already rushing the door, fully cognizant of my plan. I frowned and spun on my heel, rushing towards the hole in the wall I’d created not five minutes prior.

With what little magic I’d managed to recover in those precious seconds, I cast the fire making spell over my neck, even as I leapt out of the hole.

How’s that for a great escape?

The water was freezing cold, the incredible pain on my neck made it hard to move. I heard Greyjoy’s laughter rise as he watched my struggle in the water.

“What a fool!” Greyjoy taunted. “Were you not paying attention? Do you not realize I control the waters around us?”

I did realize that. I continued to struggle to swim away from the frightening man. But, what choice did I have?

A moment later, the water around me stilled, before beginning to uncomfortably vibrate. I turned, with much more difficulty, seeing Greyjoy glaring down at me with his one, good eye.

His left arm, the one I’d almost fully severed, looked like it was back to normal. What?

He can regenerate? I thought, wondering just what exactly this man’s limits were. Of course, most of the human body is water. Can he simply reattach his own limbs through use of his magic? This is insane!

His other hand was extended, palm slowly closing as I felt the water around me press against my body. Immediately, I understood his intent.

“Perhaps keeping you alive is more trouble than it’s worth.” He glanced down at his left arm before swiveling his head back to me, once more. “Goodbye, World Drifter.”

He continued to close his palm, the water mercilessly beginning to crush me. I held my breath in, knowing that if I let it out for any reason, it would occupy the previously occupied space and stop me from inhaling more air.

Oh, how I wished to cry out in pain. This was torture the likes of which I’d never seen.

Maximum Armor.” I felt the scales cover my body once again— Balthazar’s last ditch attempt at keeping us alive with what little power he’d managed to accumulate in the past minute. “I can’t hold it for long, Harry.”

I didn’t reply, wracking my mind for any possible thing I could do.

My wand was still firmly grasped in my hand, though I couldn’t cast any spells, as the water kept me as still as a rock.

Even if I could still move, I thought angrily. It’s not like I had the energy to cast anything.

My throat, my lungs, they burned horribly. My muscles were all taut, and I could feel the pain that sort of strain inflicted on a person.

As much as I resisted it, I knew my time of death was numbered in seconds. I could feel myself growing weaker and weaker.

Still, I glared above at the vile man.

He wanted to enslave me!

The flash of rage found its way into my eyes. Greyjoy had wanted to turn me into one of his captives. Those broken men, priests of different religions and walks of life from all over the globe.

He wanted to do that to me!

The rage evolved into something else as an enormous amount of power began to well up in me, forcing the water away from me with ease. Consumed by my own anger and desperation, I began to direct all of the power toward my chest, a single thought making itself known in my mind.

Mutually assured destruction.

I could hear Balthazar screaming at me to stop, throwing words like “Death Curse” and “suicide”, but I was past the point of caring.

Transfixed, he who would have been my tormentor stared at me in pure, unbridled fear.

That’s the look I wanted to see. Death is coming for you, you thieving piece of shit!

Just as I was about to unleash everything at the scum, I felt something smash into the side of my head, dazing me. Immediately, whatever energy had been empowering me vanished into nothing.

The water began to converge onto me once again, but I felt something snatch me before that could happen. One second, I was in the water, and the next, I was airborne.

I heard words being spoken, but I could no longer make anything out; just a bunch of white noise as my eyes drooped.

Hestia. Was my last thought before I blacked out.

oooo

Pain.

That was the first thing I was cognizant of.

Pain. Mostly on my neck, but there was a dearth of it everywhere else.

The ground under me felt uncomfortable and warm, but it certainly beat that freezing prison of water I’d almost been killed by. For some reason, however, my neck and head were pretty comfortable.

Finally up, are you?” A familiar voice made itself known.

My emerald eyes opened to see the bright, blue sky above. I turned my gaze to see the voice’s owner, a large, skeletal figure enshrouded in darkness and shadow, contrasting with the radiance of the world around us.

The events quickly came back to me. Mereen. Armies. Fleet. Ships. We were destroying them fairly well until… Hestia!

“How long?” I rasped out with what little energy I was able to muster.

You’ve been in and out of consciousness for the better part of a day.” Erebus floated closer to me, a bowl in his bony hands. “Sit up.”

I felt the ground beneath me shift curiously and, just like that, I was in a seated position.

Huh? A confused check underneath me showed familiar, black scales.

“Balthazar.” I recognized the scales. He was acting like a bed/chair.

Yes, Dumbass?” Came the scathing reply.

I frowned. What was that about?

Drink.” Erebus pressed the bowl against my mouth and tilted it up.

I took a sip— water! I drank deeply, the cool liquid soothing my insides and satisfying my dehydrated body in ways only water could. How had he managed to get any, here?

Probably used his control over the cold for condensation. Part of me realized.

I also put a little sugar in it for some extra energy.” Erebus explained as some of the water spilled down my chin and onto my bare chest, making me shiver slightly.

Bare?

It was then that I also realized that I was naked.

“Where—” I cleared my throat as Erebus backed away, throwing the bowl to the side. “Why am I naked?”

Because, Dumbass.”Balthazar almost snarled. “You were wet and needed to dry up.”

I frowned at his attitude, a little anger showing to the surface. “What’s the deal?”

If you don’t know, then I’m not going to tell you, Dumbass.” Balthazar continued to rage, slithering in a way to jostle me.

The drama queen is referring to when you decided to unleash a Death Curse.” Erebus said lazily as he floated to the side, where my dry clothes were. Beside them, lay my holly wand.

I would have hugged the Demon, were I able to move.

“Death Curse?” I repeated the words.

I remembered Hermione mentioning them at some point during our Fourth Year at Hogwarts.

I only remembered it so well because it was directly after the Moody doppelganger had displayed the Killing Curse, and been explaining the concepts behind it, as well as the concept of what constituted death to a wizard.

“Death Curse…” I frowned, not-quite remembering the finer details. My mind drifted to that moment, right before I lost consciousness. Despite having been completely exhausted of energy, I’d somehow found a well of power within me.

You were about to sacrifice what little remained of your life energy to kill the Greyjoy.” Erebus continued to explain, ever-helpful. “That is what a Death Curse is. Great power at the cost of your life.

In other words, a suicidal attack.” Balthazar added his two pence. “You massive idiot. Buffoon. Moron!”

Balthazar hadn’t insulted me like this since the first day we met. This must have been deeply affecting him.

I felt guilt burrow its way into my being, but I refused to acknowledge the words.

“What was I supposed to do? Let him kill me? At least I—” I snarled and tried to turn to the snake in question, before cringing at the debilitating pain in my neck. “Argh!”

I told you not to antagonize him.” Erebus was annoyed. “Right now, he needs to recover his strength.”

Slowly, carefully, I reached for my neck. It stung painfully.

“Did I lose my healing items?” I asked slowly, squinting at my pants. They had a few tears here and there, but seemed to be in good enough condition…

Only you can—” Erebus brough the pants over, holding them in front of me.

“—access the contents of my pockets, right.” I finished the sentence and did just that. Quickly, Erebus pulled the necessary implements and went to work.

As the various creams, essences and salves began to take effect, I sighed as my body relaxed considerably, removing many of my aches in the process.

I exulted in the feeling for a full five seconds before the pain made itself known again, much more dull than before.

Against my two companions’ wishes, I forced myself to get up. I carefully slid my pants on before walking towards the shirt on unsteady feet.

“Tell me everything.” I said as I slowly bent down to grab the piece of clothing.

Good news, or bad news, first?” Erebus asked.

I considered the words as I winced as the fabric rubbed against the wound on my neck. “Bad news. Hit me.”

Don’t tempt me.” Balthazar grumbled from underneath me, ready to support my weight if I were to fall.

I frowned. Why was I being treated like a fragile thing?

A mage about to unleash a Death Curse.” Erebus explained, noticing my confusion. “Is one who is so close to Death that he can access Its power.”

So, I was that far gone. I realized, a shudder going through me. No wonder Balthazar was acting this way.

Euron Greyjoy…

Ever since I’d come into this world, I hadn’t truly faced overwhelming odds like that fight. It hadn’t been until my faceoff against The Keeper that I was outmatched.

The Keeper had been a challenge, to be sure, but I had a plan in place. Erebus, myself and Balthazar fought him to a standstill while Hestia had engineered the conditions necessary for my use of Kirin.

But Euron Greyjoy had blindsided me. He knew of my origins. He’d taken Hestia from me. He’d forced me to fight in his domain— the ocean. If it hadn’t been for Erebus’ lucky save, I would have died back there.

Either from my own Death Curse, or the Greyjoy killing me.

Hestia…

I wanted to cry, but I shook the thoughts off and addressed Erebus as I sat on the dirt ground, pulling my socks and boots on.

“Hestia?” I asked, panting from the exertion it took just to get dressed.

Part of the bad news.” Erebus revealed, and I braced myself. “She destroyed a good chunk of the remaining fleet before flying away to the south-west.”

“She flew away?” I blurted before I could react, emotions running through me— so fast that I couldn’t quite grasp any of their meanings. “What..”

Erebus allowed me the time to absorb what he’d said.

Perhaps she was not in her right mind.

That magic horn, as best I could describe it from what I’d gleaned from its lengthy history, was a sentient, horrific thing, capable of ensnaring whichever target it so chose in a thorny embrace— giving it the control on the level of the Imperius, as well as inflicting pain on the level of the Cruciatus.

I thought about approaching her.” Erebus revealed, grabbing my attention again. “But she was too far gone.”

Too far gone?

He’s right.” Balthazar agreed. “I could feel her energy, chaotic and writhing in pain.”

“But, we destroyed the horn!” I argued, frown deepening. “How..?”

I don’t know.” Balthazar admitted. “Aftereffects of the horn’s magic? Maybe she’ll regain her balance in time?”

Or maybe she truly is too far gone.

That was a chilling thought.

The remainder of the fleet.” Erebus got my attention once more. “Landed south of Meereen and grouped with the army approaching the city. I convinced your general to marshall all of your forces south.”

I shook the thoughts of Hestia off. “All of them? What about…”

The good news.” Erebus nodded as the darkness around him shifted in inconceivable ways. “Is that I’ve broken the western army in its entirety.

That he said it so matter-of-factly was ridiculous in its own right.

“And, the east?” I forced myself to say.

Your newest friend, Daenerys.” Erebus continued. “Has joined her forces with your army and plans on annihilating the invaders from the south before sweeping to the east and doing the same to the eastern army.”

A risky plan, but with much higher rate of success than simply waiting out the storm in a location filled with assassins and spies—I immediately understood.

This would give me the chance to chase after Hestia— no. I had to ensure everyone’s safety before going for her, no matter how much I wanted to.

Even if I could abandon everyone right now. I thought morosely. I don’t really have the energy to face Hestia, enraged as she most likely is.

I picked my wand up and turned to my two companions. They’d been with me through thin and thick in this godforsaken universe.

“After we end this war and I fully recover.” I vowed, a tone of finality ringing in the air despite the weakness in my voice. “We are going to get Hestia back.”

Damn straight.”

I would expect nothing less.

Wherever you are, Hestia. I thought, turning away from the direction Erebus said she’d gone. Please, be safe.

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