July 4, 1992, 3:10 PM, Phoenix’ Roost
Gellert relaxed in his seat on the highest platform, enjoying a bar of chocolate as his eyes flitted between the various floating perspectives shown in the viewing arena. He watched every one intently, noting every action and reaction his current and future officers made when presented with the various situations they found themselves in.
Not only was this a good exercise for them to mature as wizards and witches, but it would also have added benefits to his organization as a whole. The obvious benefit is the morale boost— his officers seeing the prowess of their fellows would no doubt stoke the fire of progress in their own pursuits.
The more practical benefit only applied to himself and his lieutenants: this was a great opportunity to see the strengths and weaknesses of his own officers. Knowledge such as that was valuable, as it would allow him to assign them missions to which they could be uniquely suited to.
He took a bite and nearly hummed with pleasure at the rich taste, the chocolate bringing a moment of bliss to his tongue that he scarcely felt during his imprisonment.
Gellert had to clamp down on his urge to join in the event; his fighting spirit had not dwindled away in his years of forced solitude— far from it, in fact. He smiled, remembering the golden days of his youth, back when the world seemed wider and more mysterious, and yet still as full of promise and potential as it ever was.
The other viewpoints disappeared for a moment as a singular one was brought forth and enlarged, showing one of the higher rated recruits embroiled in a vicious duel with one of Gellert’s mid-level officers.
“—and the duel gets serious!” He heard Vanessa’s shout over the crowd’s gasp. “But who will prevail?”
What was the officer’s name? Gellert thought, struggling with himself for a moment before nodding and leaning forward to get a better view of the match. Chagnon, if memory serves.
The crowd’s noise dropped as the sounds of the battle were relayed as well as the images. Gellert watched the two men trying to overpower the other with sheer magical brute force, launching attack and shielding spells only.
Gellert shook his head in mild disappointment and stifled the urge to sigh. Such plebeian attempts to subdue each other would not lead either of these men anywhere, and yet they continued to try the same tactics, hoping to achieve new results.
He supposed he couldn’t blame them. Sticking with what they knew was generally the smart option to go with: it would be foolish for either of them to attempt something that they had never tested before, no?
Such a maneuver would indeed open the attacker up to retaliation, since they were undoubtedly performing at a slower rate, no matter how slight. Such was the nature of the learning process.
You would essentially be putting yourself at a disadvantage in terms of speed. Gellert thought. So I suppose I can’t really judge that. And yet, bashing your skull against the wall after you’ve done so a hundred times before, in the vain hope that the hundred-and-first will break it… A fool’s method, and likely to end in your doom.
A poor showing was a poor showing; there was just no going around it. There might not have been a need to harangue the men’s lack of skill, but Gellert also supposed that there certainly was no need to mince words, either.
A balance needed to be struck. Still, there was something a little curious going on in the duel.
He found himself looking at Chagnon’s opponent, watching his every move. The recruit moved in obvious ways, attacking, blocking and dodging exactly like one would expect a freshly trained rookie to move.
Textbook execution, and yet… Gellert thought and watched the younger man’s soul thread twist and turn in a way that made him think that he was preparing for a new offensive.
Wait a second; my, my… He smiled and leaned forward in his throne-like chair. So he is pretending to be weaker than he actually is.
Knowing now that the younger man was holding back, his tactics made complete sense. He’d made it seem as if he was attempting to match Gellert’s officer blow for blow, only to ‘fail’ at the endeavor and ‘give ground’.
“You see something, Mr. Grindelwald?” His right hand man said from beside him, and Gellert graced him with a look.
The man’s eyes were a little sunken in, and his face was gaunt; it was as if he’d not been eating for weeks, and had also gained five decades of age in that same amount of time.
Gellert’s lips pursed at the man’s state. He knew that the mission he’d sent Matthias in had been a dangerous one, but it had been necessary.
At least he’s recovered enough to be able to attend events. He thought, encouraged by the progress his friend was making. Whatever he must have faced down there must not have been easy to vanquish. The night he came back from his mission…
Gellert shook his head; suffice it to say that it wouldn’t have been out of the question to declare the man dead. It was thanks to the Healers that Matthias had been brought back at all.
Durrand had earned a promotion twice over for the outstanding work she’d done. The woman’s prowess with Healing magic never ceased to surprise him, though she, herself, insisted that much of the recovery was because Matthias refused to be disheartened.
That much was true. Matthias had a fire in him that would see him back to normal before too long. He should be back to normal within a few weeks. He’s become far stronger than he ever used to be.
“Yes, my friend.” Gellert answered and gestured towards the recruit. “Observe the young one carefully. He’s about to surprise everyone.”
If it were any other wizard, Gellert would have expected them to scoff and deny his statements, or at the very least, disagree with him.
It was almost painfully clear to the viewers that Chagnon was the one with the distinct advantage of experience, and he also controlled the flow of the battle by constantly overpowering his opponent and forcing him on the backfoot.
Still, Matthias heeded his superior’s words and watched the younger man’s movements for a few seconds, frowning in confusion as he saw something that didn’t look quite right. On the surface, it seemed like the young man’s hope of winning was about to be crushed underfoot, but the way he was moving…
“He is… stepping back before his opponent’s attacks even come, allowing him to deflect and bleed off most of the damage with high efficiency, but he’s… pretending?” Matthias said, leaning forward in interest. The fire in his eyes stood out in stark contrast to the state he was in. “Yes. A façade.”
His eyes then widened as it dawned on him. “The right time to strike would be when an opportunity presents itse— Now!”
No sooner than he said that did they hear Vanessa’s exclamation of approval as the recruit finally made his move.
It all happened in less than two seconds.
Chagnon stepped forward to launch what was seemingly the blow which would ensure his victory, but no sooner than right foot hit the muddy ground had he realized the trap he’d sprung.
The earth shifted beneath his feet, pulling his right foot further to the right and causing him to fall down with his legs split in each direction. His drawn out cry of surprise and pain were broadcast to the whole group, making everyone cringe and grimace in the second it took for Chagnon’s opponent to finish his disabled opponent with a well placed Stunner.
Chagnon fell backwards into the mud, unconscious.
There was silence among the crowd for a single moment before they all erupted in loud cheers, the wave of sound shaking Gellert to his core and making him smile with approval.
“How the hell did he do that?” “That was intense.” “I would not want to be Chagnon in the morning, I can tell you that…”
“And Recruit Tromsky snatches victory from the jaws of defeat with a single, well placed spell!” Vanessa roared as she thrust her fist up into the air, her eyes glinting with glee as she gave the live viewing a nod of respect. “Just goes to show that the simplest spells can still be used to devastating effect, even in high level combat! Let’s hear it for Tromsky!”
The crowd let its pleasure be known to the skies above several times over, egged on by Vanessa’s announcing and hype. Gellert smiled at the woman’s spunk; he’d been as surprised as anyone when she’d revealed her skills as an orator. He’d have to ask her about it at some point.
His new allies were quite strange and had many quirks, but that was the beauty of it all. Getting to know all of these people did not reduce his passion for his dream at all; rather, it made him more motivated than ever.
To create a world in which we are free to live whichever way we want… Gellert thought, staring down at the chocolate in his hand for a moment before putting his attention back to the recruit, who was adjusting Chagnon’s pose so that he was at least comfortable in his unconsciousness. I will make that a reality. We all will.
“That was a very impressive showing from Tromsky.” Matthias said, looking far more alive than he had five minutes prior. “He has considerable potential.”
“Indeed, he does.” Gellert said, smiling. “His technique is still rough, to be sure, but then… he has not been practicing this kind of spellcasting for very long.”
“Yes.” Matthias said, nodding in agreement. “Creativity, resourcefulness… I doubt he learned that at Durmstrang. Too repressive despite their reputation.”
Gellert nodded, remembering his time there as well. “Nothing’s changed, then?”
“No, but that is what we fight for.” Matthias said. “To introduce this change to the world. To show them that there is a better way.”
Grindelwald smiled at that.
Matthias may have been weakened by his ordeal, but he seems to have become all the more willful for it. “Yes, my friend. Soon, our ways will be shared with the world at large, and they will rejoice.”
Gellert went back to eating his delectable chocolate, smiling as Vanessa continued to announce the event with zeal and passion. They will rejoice.
Same Time, In The Forest
“Crap!” I shouted and dove behind a tree, hearing the sound of the bark being torn apart as the creature missed me by a single foot.
It gave a growl of anger before its two packmates caught up, trying to surround me from all sides. Their silver fur bristled in anticipation of the blood they were about to spill, and it caused me to grimace in annoyance.
Damn wolves; they shouldn’t be able to see me! I thought, continuing to move and not letting any single wolf get an advantage on me. Why are they so big— Engorgement Charm, or were Direwolves recently brought back from extinction while I wasn’t looking?
I gave a mental shake of the head. Whatever they were, I did not intend to sit around and let them eat me.
I had initially intended to lead them towards the river and cross it— they wouldn’t have followed me there, I thought. As far as I knew, wolves couldn’t cross over water, but then again… the ‘dog paddle’ swimming method was known for a reason. Perhaps I was wrong?
At any rate, that idea ended up being scrapped; not only would it have taken me quite a bit of time to make it there, thus opening me up to many attacks from the wolves, and not only was it possible that they could follow me through the water, but I also didn’t want them to eat the person I subdued there.
Wouldn’t be very sportsmanlike to have them kill a contestant like that. I said and slashed my wand behind me, catching the one trying to sneak up on me in its front left paw with a Severing Charm, making it yelp in pain.
It snarled and tried to attack me, but every time it put pressure on its paw, the limb crumbled under the weight and it was forced to shift its stance to remain standing.
Another wave of my wand and a Stunning Charm struck it in the snout, knocking the beast out. Immediately afterwards, I dove to the left, feeling the displacement of air at the spot which I had occupied a split-second prior.
Protego! I cast the spell instinctively, just in time to see the other wolf crash into it snout first. It continued to snap and bite at me, trying its hardest to brute force its way past the barrier.
I frowned even as I watched its wicked sharp fangs swing down every time it clamped its mouth shut in a futile attempt to bite me; this wasn’t the behavior of a regular animal. I wasn’t exactly an expert on the subject, but the knowledge of my previous life as well as the time spent learning about Magical Creatures with Hagrid gave me enough knowledge to realize that there was something wrong with these things.
They’re attacking with wild abandon— to kill, not to acquire their next meal. Otherwise they wouldn’t take such risks. I thought and frowned as the implications hit me. Probably mind-controlled or turned extremely aggressive to deter any would-be visitors or snoopers? I wouldn’t put it past Grindelwald or any of his followers.
However laudable the man’s dreams and plans for the future were, his methods were nothing short of vicious.
Shaking my head a moment later and transferring the Shield to my other hand, I decided that all of this pondering and thinking didn’t really matter. I was trying to survive; they were trying to kill me.
That was all there was to it.
I held the barrier up for another second as I immersed myself in the intent to ensnare my foes in an unbreakable grip. “Odgovor!”
Two medium-sized chains materialized into existence, swirling around for a moment before rushing to the two massive animals.
The barrier dropped with a thought, and I snaked the chains around their legs in one quick motion before drawing them tightly together, binding the wolves’ legs.
The animals gave yelps of surprise as their snouts met the muddy floor of the forest at either side of me, their legs unable to hold them up any longer.
I quickly took several steps back, jarred by a sudden realization. If I had been a tenth of a second late in my spellcasting, then their teeth would have found purchase on my neck and thigh. All it would have taken was a single jerk off their heads and Adam Clarke would have bled out on the floor of the forest while being eaten alive.
Close. Too close. I thought, watching them writhe in place in a futile attempt to escape their bonds. Focusing, I channeled my power into the chains and cast my next spell. Stupefy.
A bright red sheen suffused into the beginning of the chains, traversing through their lengths up until it reached the two animals. It glowed brightly for another second, and the massive mutts went still, finally sent to the realm of unconsciousness.
I stayed rooted in place, watching them for any sign of wakefulness. For all I knew, they could be immune to Stunning Charms and were taught to play possum. I picked one of the three wolves, transfered my chains to my free hand and aimed my ebony wand at my chosen wolf’s back.
Thrusting my wand forward, I struck my target with a mild Stinging Jinx. The flesh around the spot swelled slightly, but the wolf gave no reaction whatsoever. I nodded and took a deep breath of relief, unsummoning my chains as I did so.
A few more waves of my wand, and I had the three unconscious wolves tied to the three. It wouldn’t hold them for very long when they came to, but I was sure I would be long gone by then.
I moved to leave before stopping to stare at one of the wolves’ bloody paws. Yes, I did cut you, didn’t I?
Poor puppy; I could, at least, stem the flow of blood. With a quick Severing Charm, I ripped off part of my shirt and wrapped it around the mutt’s leg. I frowned and scrunched my nose while I worked. as the smell of the big beast’s wet fur wafted into my nose. Soon enough, however, I was done.
I stepped back and stared at my handiwork for a few seconds before a thought occurred to me.
“I really could’ve died there.” I gave the thought voice as I continued to mutter. “If these big boys got what they wanted, there wouldn’t be any way back from that— unless these Healers are some insanely talented ones?”
I knew magic was a source of energy as mired in mystery as it was powerful, but I still had my doubts whether I could be brought back from wolves tearing my body apart as they feasted on me.
I would have died from the shock and blood loss five times over by the time Grindelwald sent his first wizard here. I had no idea what sort of response time I could rely on if I were truly in trouble. Could I rely on their promises?
I probably shouldn’t. No, it’s best to act as if no help is coming and safeguard myself, instead. I thought and took a breath. I stood before the wolves for a second longer before nodding to myself and moving on further into the forest.
I lost track of the time ten minutes into my exploration through the territory. The forest was thickening, with the trees growing closer and closer together and the canopy getting ever lower.
Starting to get a little cramped here. I thought, frowning as I continued to push forward. Should I turn back?
Stopping, I checked my surroundings for any sign that the woods would clear up a bit, but the abundant thickets blocked my sight in every direction. I didn’t want to go back and risk having to deal with the wolves again, but at the same time this forest was starting to get unbearable.
Eventually, I decided to keep going. Perhaps in a mile or two, the trees wouldn’t be so close together. I ended up walking three times that distance before I saw any sign of improvement. The trees had indeed parted ways from each other, but there was a new change. The forest was now going downhill.
I passed by a series of boulders ranging from average human size to the size of five Hagrids before stopping to observe my surroundings. The forest had become far less thick here, enough to see just how steep this hill was. I would slide all the way down because of all the damn mud, holy crap.
Even as I thought that, I heard the sound of rustling clothes against the bark of a tree and dove to the side, narrowly avoiding a jet of blue light. What the—?
I turned to face the enemy and heard the sound of cursing before three spells erupted from different locations to my left and right, and in front of me. On instinct, I erected a Shield Charm and felt it buckle from the impact, sending me backwards, almost falling down the hill.
Caught at the edge, no way of escape but down. I thought, feeling a thrill of fear racing up my spine. These three have been following me for some time. Why are they teaming up? How do they…
I tried searching for their presence by tracing the source of the trajectories of their spells, only to see nothing. My eyes went down, tracking the set of footprints being made in the mud and realized that my three unknown assailants were also using the Disillusionment Charm.
I held the Shield up as it weathered more spells and grit my teeth. If I took it down, even for a moment, I would be defeated. I was too tired, too worn out from my successive battles to be able to contend with three foes at the same time.
Just then, the translucent silver barrier cracked like an egg, and I felt the aftershocks of a Bludgeoning Curse strike me in the abdomen. It was pure luck that my Shield had reduced its effects, but I still felt like I’d taken a punch to the stomach from a guy twice my size.
I bent forward, cradling my midsection and struggling to breathe as my Shield continued to crack with every successive spell it took. I stared behind me, down the long hill and realized what I had to do.
This is the stupidest idea I’ve had in the last few weeks alone. I thought, gathered my strength and made a mad dash down the hill. I heard their cries of dismay and used the exhilaration I felt from thwarting them to power my rush through the slippery mud.
Spells flew from their wands but splashed harmlessly against the trees around me. That all you got? Not so confident when trying to shoot down a moving target, huh!?
A moment later, I heard the sound of something heavy grinding against the ground behind me. I sent a quick look behind me and felt the blood drain from my face, seeing a massive boulder tear through a tree like it wasn’t even there before continuing its way down, followed by many more.
They’d sent the entire quarry rolling down the hill at me. Every. Single. Boulder.
Are you fucking kidding me.