Adam’s Soulscape, ???
The first thing that I noticed as the world began to shimmer back into existence was the smell; a strange, metallic stench peppered with hints of rotten eggs and smoke.
I blinked a few times, sweeping my eyes over my new surroundings as I shielded my face from the sudden wave of heat. “A volcano?”
The hard, volcanic earth beneath my feet was a craggy, dark gray which extended as far as the eye could see. Speckled with many streams and glowing pits of bright orange and red magma, my eyes took me towards its source; the humongous, very active volcano in the distance.
And yet, something about this was strange. My eyes followed the trail of smoke upwards to see that there were absolutely no clouds in the sky. No, I saw the unfiltered majesty of the cosmos above— but even that wasn’t quite right.
I did not recognize a single constellation.
Where had Voldemort and my mind taken us?
“Is it not beautiful?” Voldemort’s voice came from my left, and I turned to see… nothing?
No; he was to my left, but he was so far away that I almost didn’t notice him. Far up the massive, craggy hill we stood upon, perched on a large, cracked black boulder, the Dark Lord greeted me with a small gesture.
“This land… This heat.” He continued, and I heard him as if he were right next to me. “Magnificent! This is it; this is where we shall decide who among us has the right to rule over this body.”
“A trial through fire and smoke.” I said, nodding as the idea began to grow on me. “Pitting our powers against each other and seeing who will be the victor.”
“Indeed.” Voldemort said, a tone of approval in his voice. “It truly is a shame that you are forcing my hand, but this is the path you have chosen, Adam Clarke.”
“And I would choose it again.” I said. “A thousand times over I would. And then once more.”
“Admirable resolve. We shall see if you are able to say these words again once I am done with you.” Voldemort smiled, his red eyes glittering with sadistic purpose.
He closed them for a moment and extended his arms, palms down to the floor. “Attend me, my servants.”
I opened my mouth to speak, but stopped at what I was seeing. The earth sundered and shook as creature after creature began to arise from its depths.
I tightened my grip on my wand, gritting my teeth.
And yet, more and more continued to rise around the Dark Lord.
A series of howls carried over through the air currents as Werewolves positioned themselves at the man’s frontlines. Behind them, a few Giants rumbled as they brandished enormous clubs made of the strongest of steel.
I stared, dumbfounded. You can do that?
“Indeed I can…” Voldemort said. “With experience and practice, the mind is capable of such wondrous things. Your move, Adam Clarke.”
I felt my tongue run over dry lips as I tried to think of a way to battle against this. This was a battle of the minds and souls, so I had to be able to visualize and manifest creations of my own, no?
I mimicked my opponent’s earlier movements, and refined my intent and desire to give life to warriors of my own. All of the powerful warriors hailing from all corners of fandom and creation, heed my call… Come to me!
I opened my eyes, only to see a heap of mangled, putrid flesh covered in lacerations, bulbous overgrowths, burns and wounds. The strange, disgusting thing gave a loud belch before it deflated; a pool of blood gathered at its base, steaming from the heat of the earth.
I turned away from it, facing Voldemort’s army again and realizing just what kind of predicament I was in.
“Not so simple, is it, child?” Voldemort said, and I could tell that he was gleeful at my failure. “Though you are quite talented, you lack the level of understanding required to truly manifest such creatures— let alone control them. I, on the other hand…”
He raised his hand, and the earth split into two, revealing a deep, dark chasm. A roar came from its depths, shaking the earth as a massive dragon erupted, flying high into the starry sky and releasing a pillar of bright crimson flame in a clear show of power.
It was a Hungarian Horntail, but somehow reaching five times the size I expected one to be. I stared at it, and then at my hands before clenching them into fists.
I took a breath to shake off the sudden case of fear and doubt. “No. I can do this, too. I just have to refine my thoughts better.”
I focused harder, trying to bring my thoughts to life, but once again, nothing happened.
“You can only summon the creatures and beings you have gained a true understanding of, child.” Voldemort said. “I have walked this world, encountered its rarest of creatures, seen deeply into its inner workings and have divined many of its secrets. What has Hogwarts allowed you to understand? Its caretaker’s old cat? A few ghosts and poltergeists? Perhaps a flobberworm?”
He was right, I realized.
I may have learned quite a bit from Hagrid when it came to magical creatures, but the best thing I could possibly conjure up in this realm was Hagrid’s baby dragon, Norbert— even then, it would likely die like the putrid mass of flesh that I had brought forth before.
“You see the pointlessness of your struggle?” He raised his hand to signal his army to attack.
I lowered my head for a moment. I would go down, here, but I would be damned if I let him take my thoughts and mind without a decent fight—
Wait. My own experience…?
Voldemort stopped mid-signal, and the monsters stilled, though they continued to snarl and growl at me from a distance. “Do you wish to surrender? Don’t think I will show you any mercy, not after your rejection.”
“No.” I said, closing my eyes as I knelt down and placed my hand against the warm earth. “I may not understand much about the Wizarding World yet, but it isn’t the only place I can draw from. My own experience…”
“What do you…” Voldemort said, but I ignored him, reaching deep into the recesses of my mind.
Come out… I thought, feeling a shiver racing up my spine even as I began to flirt with the powerful presence in the far depths of my mind. I had created a work of fiction in my previous life, before. Now it was time to see if it truly was real. Come out and play.
And to my surprise and terror, an answer came.
Play? The airy voice of a young girl called out to me, making my skin crawl. That sounds like fun!
Doesn’t it? I thought with somewhat panicked excitement.
She was real. She was real. Shewasrealshewasrealshewasreal—
Hmm… She seemed to consider the offer. I guess I can come over for a little while. I’m not really doing anything right now, anyway!
I smiled and opened my eyes, getting back to my feet as the earth began to shake again. “Much appreciated… Mina.”
Voldemort stood there, eager to watch and see what it was that my mind was able to conjure up to fight him. The earth cracked and splintered, revealing…
“A young child…?” Voldemort said, shaking his head in deep disappointment. “All of that effort, and all you were able to bring forth is a helpless little girl. How ridiculous.”
I ignored the man’s words, keeping my focus on Mina, herself. Standing at a few inches short of five feet, with long, black hair and wearing a pure white dress, she did not look particularly threatening.
That was, until she turned towards me, staring at me with excited, slitted red eyes. I could barely suppress the terror I felt.
She was exactly as I had imagined her to be.
“Ooh, so you’re the one who summoned me…” Mina said as she hopped circles around me, her bare feet crushing the jagged, craggy earth beneath her feet into dust. She stopped in front of me, pointing with exaggerated shock. “You seem familiar… but I know I’ve never seen you before! Who might you be, I wonder?”
I had to force myself not to gape at the girl; she was so real, so lifelike that it was uncanny.
“The silent type, huh?” Mina said, placing a hand on her chin and giving me a look of deep thought. “That’s fine, I’ll give you a name! You’ll be…”
“I’m Zero.” I said quickly before she could come up with something. “You can call me Zero.”
“Zero?” She said, not particularly pleased with the name I provided her. “That’s just a number, not a real name.”
“Well, it is mine.” I said with an insistent tone. “It would be rude not to address me as such, you know.”
“I suppose that’s fair…” Mina mused, nodding twice. “Very well. I’ll allow you to retain the name Zero. I am Mina.”
“You… are most gracious.” I said, giving her a quick bow. “Thank you, Mina, and it’s nice to meet you.”
“You’re welcome.” Mina said and opened her mouth to speak further, but was interrupted.
“What is the meaning of this!?” Voldemort said, looking offended. “You bring a child to this fight, Clarke?”
Mina blinked at the sound, turning to the man with a pointed gaze, ignoring how he looked just like me. “Hey, his name’s Zero! Show some respect.”
“Zero?” Voldemort sputtered at the child’s attitude. “What nonsense. Do you know who I am, child?”
“I know that you’re ugly!” Mina pointed at him before she looked around with wide eyes at the assorted army of monsters surrounding him. Her lip began to quiver. “W— What’re those things!?”
Voldemort could barely hide his amusement and disdain at the sight of her reaction. “It seems your ally has lost heart before the battle has even begun, Clarke. How… disappointing.”
I stepped to stand by the girl’s side, ignoring the man. “They’re magical creatures which are native to this world.”
Mina turned to me with curious eyes full of intrigue. “This world?”
I nodded at her, giving the girl a knowing smile. “With your senses, surely you’ve realized that you’re not exactly from this universe— I figured you might enjoy a little bit of fighting against unfamiliar opponents while you sleep in your world; maybe even collect a few new pets. Or, am I wrong?”
At that, Mina’s expression changed.
Gone was the cute, excitable dainty girl, and in her place was the Somnian Remnant of nightmares. Her red eyes narrowed, and a hungry smile crossed her face, twisting it into an inhuman shape.
“You do know of me.”
“I do.” I said, ignoring the urge to turn and run for the hills. “…Mina, one of the last remnants of the ancient Kingdom of Somnia.”
My own creation. A work of true horror.
She regarded me with that same face for another second before nodding and turning towards Voldemort.
Her eyes still lingered on my own, however. “I will not turn you into my pet, because you’ve given me this fun opportunity; but don’t think this means you can give me any orders.”
“Perish the thought.” I said, maintaining eye contact. “But that also goes both ways, doesn’t it?”
“Hmph!” She smiled again, finally turning her eyes away from me. “You’re an odd one for sure, Zero!”
“I have had enough of this foolishness.” Voldemort waved his hand towards us, clear dismissal in his tone. “Kill them.”
The monsters howled, roared and hissed, shaking both earth and starry sky above as they rushed down the hill towards us.
“Are you ready?” Mina said.
“Odgovor!” I said in reply, muscles tensing as I cast a chain to wrap around my right arm, forming a buckler, while another simply hovered in front of me, undulating in a chaotic pattern. “Yes. Time to kick some ass.”
“You know you shouldn’t say things like that, in case you end up dying early. Would be embarrassing for you.”
I blurted out a laugh, feeling much lighter even in the face of the incoming mass of werewolves. “I’ll keep that in mind!”
A second later, they arrived, filling my surroundings with snarling creatures, showing sharp teeth and claws as the first one got within striking distance. I cried out in challenge, driving my shield against a werewolf’s claws and snapping them off.
The attack’s momentum twisted me to the right, opening my neck up for attack. Unable to resist its instincts, the werewolf lunged forward, maw open with its drool flying behind it.
I turned my wand over my elbow, wordlessly launching a spear-tipped chain infused with the Severing Charm through the creature’s mouth and into its brain.
It stilled for a moment before falling into its death throes, dragging me out of the path of another werewolf’s lunge. I pulled the chain out, but the momentum I’d gained was already too strong.
I fell into a roll, feeling the hard earth cut into my back before I got to my feet just in time for the third werewolf’s charge to reach me.
“Bombarda!” I blasted the earth beneath its feet, sending deadly shards of volcanic stone flying every which way and knocking the werewolf to the side. It recovered far quicker than I expected, and was already nearly within attack range.
I aimed to detonate the ground at its feet once again, but the werewolf darted to the side, attacking me from the right. It knows to attack the side that has no weapons.
I smiled and drew my right arm before launching the shield with a backhand throw. It crashed against the werewolf’s neck before it could react in time, filling the air with a loud snap.
The werewolf gurgled as its momentum continued to carry it forward, dragging it over the hard earth until it reached my feet with a pitiful whimper.
I drew my shield back and aimed my wand right between the beast’s eyes to end its life before it could heal, but a flash of white dropped in front of me—Mina! I realized.
She dropped onto the beast feet first, tearing through its cranium like it wasn’t even there and sending reverberations through the earth beneath.
“Hello!” She said, snatching the dead beast by its left arm and leaping high above, carrying it along with her like it was as light as a feather. She threw the werewolf’s corpse forward into the bulk of the remaining group, sending them flying back like one would with a bowling ball before dropping in front of the two who had managed to avoid her attacks.
The two monsters did not hesitate, lunging at the little girl with the intent to kill.
Mina spread her arms wide, grinning with excitement. “Come here, puppies!”
A moment later, the two massive beasts’ massive forms eclipsed hers, and I heard the sound of bones cracking. I almost thought that Mina had already perished, but the werewolves let out loud and confused whines.
“Aww, look, Zero!” Mina’s voice came as she lifted the werewolves and ran to me. I swallowed at the sight; one’s jaw was clamped shut around the girl’s neck, while the other’s was doing its best to tear her right leg off. Still, she hopped towards me, rattling the big beasts every time she landed. Their fangs couldn’t pierce through her skin. “They’re giving me kisses.”
“Yes.” I said in a deadpan voice, not trusting my emotions as I aimed my wand at one. “Kisses. Right. Want me to—”
“No!” Mina cried, her face turning offended. “This is fun! This species reminds me of the Wailers. Do they always whine so much?”
“Ah…” I said. “No. They actually are quite vicious.”
“Perhaps with opponents they deem to be weaker, I suppose. Your world is very strange.” Mina said, petting the two werewolves like they were acting like unruly kittens instead of the walking monstrosities of feral hatred that they were.
She looked each one in the eye before holding her hand out. “Sit!”
To my sheer amazement, the two immediately changed tune, letting go of their prey and sitting down before the now-pleased girl.
Her smile widened. “Good boys. Now, you’re mine!”
The werewolves gave out happy barks, wagging their tufted tails in excitement.
“Go!” Mina called out, sweeping her right hand towards the recovering group of werewolves. “Fight for me!”
The two raised their heads to the stars above and let out a synchronized howl.
“What is this..?” Voldemort’s voice came from the distance. He watched his own creations turn against him and engage the group of werewolves, filling the air with the sound of battle. “How?”
He moved his gaze to Mina with a look of unbridled shock. “You are…”
“Ooh!” Mina cried out, ignoring the man’s words as she pointed at the lumbering giants that were getting closer— the nature of the terrain, it seemed, was working against them here. “Zero, look at those! They’re huge. What are they?”
“Giants.” I said, stretching in an attempt to get the pain out of my back as many of the werewolves broke from the in-fighting to rush towards us again.
I moved to meet them in response, but Mina patted my shoulder.
I threw her a half-frantic glance, but she seemed entirely unperturbed.
“Silly name for anything that’s big, you know.” She said. “Giant what? People?”
“I’m actually not sure.” I bit off quickly, tapping my wand against my chain-shield to infuse it with a Spinning as well as a Severing Charm. I tensed up in preparation for the werewolves. “I’ll—”
But Mina only laughed, driving her fingers into the big boulder beside us and throwing it at the werewolves. The large stone crashed into one, turning it into a smear against the battlefield. It had also struck another, but it got lucky— or unlucky, depending on how you looked at it— enough to avoid the blow, losing only its right paws in the attack.
Mina dashed forward, shaking the earth from the sheer force of her legs. She threw a kick, tearing the downed werewolf’s head off from the sheer force of the move. The head flew into the werewolf beside it, the momentum from the strike bowling the great beast over.
Three more leapt above the downed creatures, attacking Mina from her front and sides. Mina only shook her head, snatching the arms of the two werewolves trying to slash her from the sides and ripping them off in one clean motion.
The next instant, she drove their severed limbs, claws first, into the middle werewolf’s neck, halting its momentum without giving an inch.
“You want to fight the one on the hill, don’t you?” She called out to me, even as she brought her arms down, tearing through the wolf’s throat and throwing the severed limbs back at their owners, piercing their flesh and filling the air with howls of pain.
A second later, and she held their bloody, glistening throats as well in her dainty little hands, standing above their twitching, dead bodies.
“I do.” I said, collecting myself as she tossed the wriggling flesh in her hands aside and hopped her way back to me, her pure white dress still as impossibly immaculate as it was when she had arrived. “But he doesn’t seem to want to meet me halfway. I’ll have to fight my way up there.”
“He really is rude!” Mina stopped beside me with a pout. A second later, she snapped her fingers as an idea crossed her mind. “How about I help you out?”
“I—” But before I even started on the second word, Mina had clawed her hand through the air like a cat, tearing a hole into the fabric of reality.
In an instant, the tear grew, becoming as wide as the pack of the werewolves had been. From it, I spied at least a dozen sets of eyes staring back at me. Strange quadrupeds leapt out of the ominous portal, filing before their master before their attention turned to me.
I tensed, recognizing the frizzy, midnight-black fur and the long claws— twice as long as an adult man’s fingers, and as sharp as razor blades. “Hellions.”
“So you’re aware of these cuties, too?” Mina mused as a few of the Hellions broke rank and circled me, eyeing me like I was dinner.
“This one’s not for eating.” Mina’s voice cut through their curiosity, and they immediately shifted their attention to the werewolf carcasses. “Nope. Neither are they.”
The Hellions shifted with some restlessness, turning towards Mina’s new allies. The girl laughed and petted her two new acquisitions.
“No, not these two puppies, either. They’re friends!”
“Don’t worry, though!” She said, pointing towards the three Giants, as well as the new wave of werewolves rising around Voldemort. “There are plenty of friends to make over there!”
“Oh!” She turned to me. “Do you think the big guys will like Blueberry?”
I shivered at the name drop but nodded quickly.
“Blueberry.” I said, shaking my head with an almost manic grin. “Oh, I’m sure he’ll have a great time.”
“That’s good to hear.” She said, walking towards the tear and placing her hand against it. “He hasn’t been on a playdate since… Forever! He’s been ever so lonely.”
The hole in the world quadrupled in size, and a massive arm of midnight-blue grasped its edge, its defined muscles rippling as it pulled itself out of the darkness. Small, beady eyes of black gazed upon new surroundings as the big blue behemoth lumbered towards Mina, the ground shaking with every step.
“Blueberry!” Mina cried in happiness, leaping towards the massive creature’s chest and smashing against it with the power of a speeding train. “I missed you!”
Blueberry the Eokor didn’t so much as react to the impact, taking the little girl into his arms for a moment before placing her over his massive shoulder and walking towards me.
He looks even bigger and more roided out, up close. I thought as I gauged his appearance. Fifteen feet tall, just as I imagined so long ago, and built like an absolute fucking tank.
When I had brought these things into being, I had never ever considered the possibility of coming face to face with them.
“Come, Zero!” Mina declared, pointing towards the Giants. “Up on Blueberry’s shoulder!”
I tore my eyes off of Blueberry and shook off my bewilderment for a moment, getting an idea of my own. “No. I think… Yes.”
‘Don’t forget’. Absol had told me that before I’d gone to face Voldemort. Maybe…
Kneeling by the ground, I concentrated. “Absol?”
Within an instant, a familiar Thestral erupted from the earth, landing in front of me and pecking my cheeks with enough strength to hurt. “Hey!”
~Dummy. Waited long enough.~ Absol replied. ~Wondered if dummy even realized he could call Absol.~
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” I said, raising my hands in surrender. “Will you help me?”
~Shut up. Get on.~ Absol shifted to the side, displaying the magnificent saddle I’d always dreamed of making for her.
“I like this one!” Mina said, looking over my familiar. “She’s pretty! And I can tell she likes you.”
“Thank you, Mina.” I said, hopping onto the saddle and acclimating to the view before nodding. “I’m ready.”
“Then…” Mina trailed off, gesturing at the new wave of monsters with glee so malicious it didn’t belong on a human’s face, let alone on that of a child. “Let’s have some fun!”
The battle had only just begun.