July 4, 4:30 PM, Phoenix’ Roost, Rainforest Battleground
I didn’t give an immediate reply to the man, instead recalling my chain into its shield form and holding it aloft, ignoring the multitude of cracks which had spread through the construct.
In my mind, I knew that my chain-shield probably couldn’t even defend against a light breeze, but my heart didn’t worry about things like logic. As far as it was concerned, as long as I was awake, I could still fight.
That was all there was to it.
And so, my stubborn brain forced my body to ignore all its instincts to flee or pass out, and kept the projection of magic in place. It may have had a rocky relationship with my heart, but the two influenced each other in ways which words could never qualify or quantify with any reasonable accuracy.
Guffries looked to be amused by my reaction. He shook his head and continued moving until he got very close to me. He knelt down to pick something up from under a mass of flowers; it was my wand.
I licked suddenly dry lips as my stomach lurched in alarm.
The last time I had faced this man, he’d put me under the Cruciatus Curse. This time, there was no one to stop him, and I was exhausted and wandless. My only weapon was my conjured chain, and even that was already on the verge of breaking.
Still, I would not allow him the satisfaction.
“It would be so easy to just put you out of your misery.” Guffries said, confirming my worst predictions.
Anger burst forth from my chest, and I sent him a heated glare.
“Do it, then.” I found myself saying. “There’s no need to draw this out longer than it needs to. You got your win here, Guffries. Just end it.”
But Guffries shook his head in amusement. “My win, you say?”
I didn’t respond, though a look of dismay did flash across my face for a single moment before I schooled it into one of defiance.
“And how exactly have I achieved victory against you here?” Guffries said, gesturing at me with my own wand. “Practically dead on your feet before I even arrived. You call that a win, Clarke?”
He then did something which caught me off guard; Guffries tossed the wand towards me. I was so surprised that I just watched it fly to me in a daze. I barely noticed the flare of pain that went through my skull when the spinning stick struck me in the head. Instead, I watched it fall to the forest floor and stared at it. A few moments later, my brain caught up with what my eyes were seeing, and they widened in surprise before rounding on Guffries.
I was seized by the urge to say something, but I could not find the words.
This went on for a few more seconds before I finally could order my thoughts into usable words. “What are you… Why?”
“There’s no point in kicking you when you’re down, Clarke.” Guffries said, though he made sure to send me a glare of his own. “Don’t take this as me being nice to you— I still think you’re still a self-absorbed clown who considers himself to be better than everyone else.”
My irritation rose at the man’s declaration, banishing the feelings of unease away for a time. What the Hell had I ever done to him?
“The fuck you on about?” I said, snatching the wand off of the ground as I felt the anger energizing my body, if only slightly. “When have I ever—”
“Save it for someone who cares, Clarke.” Guffries cut me off before gesturing for me to follow. “Now come on. Get up. We can’t linger here for long.”
I opened my mouth to say something scathing in return, but the sheer strangeness of the situation made me close it again. Instead, I forced myself to my feet with a groan and began to follow him through the forest, dismissing my chain-shield to conserve what little energy I had left.
What the Hell was going on? Why was Guffries helping me? He talked a good game about hating my guts, but here he was, having stopped my final attacker and reminded me that others would soon be on their way.
These were not the actions of someone who was against me.
I mean, he did say that he wants a fair fight… I thought, doing my best to get my thoughts in order as I acclimated to the ever changing scenario I found myself in. Did I really buy his excuse?
Could it perhaps be a long con? I thought but shook my head almost immediately afterwards. No, there’s really no point to that, practically speaking: he had me at his mercy, so he’s either the most massive drama queen on the planet, or he’s actually trying to help me. But why?
I took a deep breath to calm my nerves before deciding that it didn’t matter— none of it did. Whether this was an elaborate trap set by Guffries or whether he was leading me to a safe place was immaterial.
The only thing I can control in this life is my own response to outer stimuli. I thought. I need to focus. If this is a trap, I’ll deal with it.
I followed the man around for at least twenty minutes, moving away from the lake and deeper into the thick forest. Soon enough, I found myself standing in a small campsite nestled into a recess in the earth and surrounded by six massive trees, as well as the abundant overgrowth of the rainforest which did wonders to conceal its existence.
A perfect natural hiding spot. I thought as we gently passed through the vines and errant branches hiding us from view. For anyone looking from the outside, it would appear as if it were impossible to enter.
“Sit.” Guffries said the first word since we started our trek, gesturing towards a small, soft spot in the ground. “Rest.”
I stared at him for a moment, not doing as he indicated.
“Why are you doing this?” I couldn’t help but ask again. “I don’t understand.”
“It’s not particularly difficult to comprehend, is it?” The man answered in an acerbic tone. “I’m not going to explain it again; now rest— while you still can.”
I pursed my lips, wanting to argue with the man but realizing that I was indeed far too tired to do much of anything. “Fine. Thanks.”
“Save your gratitude for someone who—” He said but I cut him off.
“—yeah, yeah. Someone who cares, blah blah blah.”
Guffries opened his mouth to retort with something most likely unkind, but stopped midway as a bright light flashed through the sky, followed by a low boom which rattled the entire forest.
We both looked up to see that another announcement was made. It said:
25 CONTESTANTS REMAINING
“Twenty-five, huh?” Guffries said, smirking to himself as he turned his gaze down towards me. “I know how to quickly get it down to twenty-four.”
I glared at him and grasped my wand with a bit more tightness than before, readying myself for a fight in the now cramped space I found myself in.
But Guffries laughed at my expression. “Piss off to sleep, you stupid twat.”
“Not until you tell me why you’re not just ending it here.” I said, not willing to accept his explanation so easily.
He glared at me for a few moments before speaking again. “Is it not obvious? I said I want to beat you at your best.”
“And that matters more to you than having access to Clan Zhenya?” I said, tilting my head. “Isn’t it supposed to be one of the strongest families of the Wizarding World?
“I suppose you still are very much a child, eh?” Guffries said, shaking his head in disappointment. “Still thinking in simple terms?”
“This simple child beat you.” I said automatically. “Or did you forget, Nick?”
“Yes. This child did indeed.” Guffries’ tone turned flat before he palmed his face. “Beaten by a snot-nosed, wet behind the ears kid… I must have done something truly awful in a previous life to be cursed with such an existence.”
“How about this life, eh?” I said. “You know, using one of the worst spells in existence on a kid— you don’t think that’s awful?”
“Says the one who crushed my limbs.”
“Tit for tat.” I countered with. “There was no reason to throw that kind of magic at me.”
I got a heated glare for that comment, but Guffries’ expression quickly faded into one of neutrality. “No, I suppose there wasn’t.”
“Then why?” I asked, locking gazes with him in an attempt to understand what the Hell was going on in this guy’s head.
Guffries didn’t answer immediately. He turned away and laid on his side. “Just get some rest, Clarke.”
I stared at him for a long moment, but he never turned his gaze back to me. A whole minute passed, but it seemed like he was never going to address my question.
Letting out a huff of annoyance, I sat down with my back to one of the trees. My legs cried out in relief, but I kept my eyes trained on the man before me. My hand kept a tight grip on my ebony wand just in case he tried to attack me again.
For all I knew, this could just be an elaborate trick to get me to lower my guard just long enough for him to strike. And so, I continued to watch him closely.
I would not succumb to tiredness and exhaustion, even if I did feel like collapsing on the spot.
But maybe I should rest my eyes a little bit. I thought. If he moves, I’ll be able to hear him and react.
And so, I closed my eyes, deciding to at least rest those organs. The next moment, I felt someone’s hand on my shoulder.
“Clarke, wake up.” Guffries’ voice assaulted my senses and I sprang up in alarm. Eyes snapping open, I moved to point my wand at him, only to realize that it was no longer in my hand.
But Guffries didn’t acknowledge any of that; his eyes were looking outside of the camp. “Get the bloody hell up, Clarke. Something’s out there.”
I blinked as he moved away, his eyes still trained on something to the left— something I couldn’t see. A quick check of my surroundings showed that my wand was between my legs, having fallen out of my grasp for a while.
“How long was I out?”
“Hour and a half, maybe two.” Guffries said, though he still didn’t look at me. “Now, come on. Something’s out there.”
An hour and a half? I thought incredulously. I had only closed my eyes to rest for just a little bit. Maybe I was really that exhausted. It’s happened before in the past.
My eyes found my supposed foe still looking outside the camp. Maybe he wasn’t as bad as I thought he was? He had allowed me to rest, after all.
All thoughts on the matter stopped when I heard the telltale sound of a low growl, banishing my drowsiness away. “What was that?”
“Don’t know.” Guffries said as I quickly scrambled to my feet, ignoring the way my muscles protested against the action. “But I don’t like the feel of this.”
“Me neither.” I murmured and studied my surroundings, ignoring the spike of pain lancing through my brain. Instead, I focused on checking my range of motion.
Shoulders, check. Arms and legs, check. I thought as I slowly moved my limbs around. My left ankle hurts quite a bit, but I didn’t sprain it— at least, I don’t think so. Just a bunch of cuts and bruises that hurt like a bitch, but nothing that will debilitate me.
All in all, I was nowhere near a hundred percent, but I could still fight just fine.
“Whatever it is.” Guffries said, wand at the ready. “It’s getting closer. Come on.”
I followed Guffries as we exited the little hideaway, moving away from our stalker at a slow pace.
I understood why almost immediately; if we made a run for it, the creature would instinctively chase us. This way would allow us to see what the hell we were up against before it got too close for us to be able to react with any speed.
“Keep your eyes peeled.”
“Don’t need to tell me that.” I murmured back, as we continued to walk through the forest. “It’s quite a slippery one, though.”
“Agreed.” Guffries said, nodding as his eyes scanned our surroundings. “I can clearly hear it, but it’s really good at hiding itself. Can’t really pinpoint its— wait. Listen.”
I blinked and did as he bid. There was no longer any sound coming from behind us. Had the creature given up on chasing us and went another way?
No. I thought, my body already going into motion as I felt something whiz right by me, the gust of air left in its wake blowing against my body. It’s already here.
I only got a short look at the creature as it leapt towards the trunk of the tree before us, collecting an incredible amount of potential energy in its spindly hind legs. It was a strange mix between a starved dog and a reptile, with leathery, gray skin which clung to its bones and strange, lurid green spikes jutting out from its back like venomous quills.
I only had a split second to react as it leapt towards me. I was so freaked out that I tripped backwards, raising my hands up to protect my face as it crashed into my body. It sank its teeth into my forearm as it pushed me down with a hard thud into the soft earth, rattling and disorienting me.
“Get off me!” I shouted and shook my arm in an attempt to snag it off, but the creature only sank its teeth further in and began to suck my blood out.
A second later, it was blasted off of me with a jet of red light, sending it tumbling to the side. I scrambled away from it, using the opening to direct my own spell at it. “Odgovor!”
The chain burst forth from my ebony wand, swinging down at the creature with brutal force. It leapt away at the very last second, the chain crashing into the earth with the sound of a whip cracking as leaves flew up in the air.
Another jet of red light streaked into the creature in mid-air, crashing against it with enough force to rattle a car, but that only seemed to mildly annoy the creature.
“That thing just took two bloody Stunners like they were nothing!” I heard Guffries say as I recalled the chain to me, splitting it into multiple ones and keeping them close to deal with this strange monster.
Considering I was the smaller target of the two, and the fact that this monster had already wounded me, I knew that it wouldn’t stop at just one bite. No, it’s definitely going to try again. It’s already got a taste of my blood.
The next moment, it did just as I expected.
I saw it jump toward a tree, its legs coiling with a frankly astounding amount of power before it leapt towards me again in a blur.
I was ready this time, moving to the left and letting it get tangled with my floating chains.
“Capture!” I roared and bent the chains according to my will, wrapping them around the monster— 0r at least, I tried to.
The creature snarled as it twisted out of the grasp of all but one chain, forcing all three to wrap around just one leg. Before I could fully tighten my hold on it, it yowled and dragged its foot out of the impromptu snare before making some distance between us.
“Almost.” Guffries said before getting a look in his eyes. “When it comes again, let it hit you.”
“What?” I said incredulously, even as the feral being stared at us with malevolent purpose. “Are you insane?”
Just what is he planning?
“No time— just do it!”
I gritted my teeth at the shout but nodded anyway. I moved away from Guffries, making it look like I was abandoning him. A quick glance behind me showed the creature hopping quickly after me like a demented kangaroo out of a nightmare.
Hook, line… I thought as I ‘tripped’ down a vine, falling onto my side and exposing my bloodied up forearm for it. The monster leapt towards me again, ready to finish the job it had started. I prepared my chains to hit it in case the man’s plan failed— or if he had abandoned me to my fate.
“Crucio!” I heard the cry from my right and flinched on instinct.
No pain came; instead, the sound of the creature’s agonized yowling filled the air, followed by a thud. I got back to my feet and looked towards the sound, seeing it thrash around the rainforest floor like an animal in its death throes.
I watched it for a few moments in morbid fascination as Guffries finally joined me, his wand trained on it. His eyes were wide and his face was scrunched in an expression of extreme concentration. “Now!”
I nodded, traced a circle with my wand and jabbed it forward. Capture!
The chains flew into action, wrapping around the creature and holding it tight. It continued to shriek uncontrollably, even as I turned to address the man.
“I’ve got him.” I said, gesturing at the monster. “You can stop the spell.”
Guffries finally blinked and lowered his wand, dismissing the torture curse. The creature sagged in a sudden exhaustion, and I moved my chains around further, binding its limb even more tightly.
Guffries took a breath, staring at the monster for a second before pointing his wand at it again. “Stupefy! Stupefy! Stupefy!”
Jet after jet of red light flew from his wand, crashing against the strange creature and yielding no results. Even as addled and weakened as it was, it proved to be too strong for multiple Stunners. Still, judging from its slowing movements, I imagined that a few more spells ought to do the trick.
Well, if at first you don’t succeed… Try, try again. I joined in the effort, a hint of red exiting my wand and suffusing into the chain, finally forcing the creature to go unconscious.
Guffries and I shared a single look before he gazed upon the creature again. “Diffindo!”
The spell flew into its hind leg, drawing a deep, but not fatal cut. The creature did not react, this time. It was fully unconscious.
“Okay, good. It’s unconscious, but even if it wasn’t, it can’t chase anyone for a while, I think.” Guffries said and I nodded as I retracted my chains. “Not with that wound.”
He turned to look at me, gesturing at my arm. “You might want to mend that.”
I blinked at him before staring down at my right arm. In all of the excitement, I hadn’t even considered my wound. Dismissing the chains, I focused my attention on the two puncture wounds on my arm.
“Right.” I said as I put pressure onto it for half a minute, only to notice something strange. “The bleeding hasn’t stopped.”
“I expected as much.” Guffries said as he waved his wand at the monster, trussing it up with a frankly excessive amount of conjured rope, just in case it overcame its unconsciousness and in case its wound wasn’t enough of a deterrent. “After being bit by that thing.”
“Just what is it, anyway?” I said, stepping forward to get a closer look at this monstrosity. “A chimera? Looks like a mix between a dog and a lizard.”
“Something like that, yes.” Guffries said. “You probably wouldn’t have learned about this yet, as Care of Magical Creatures doesn’t go too much into detail about creatures outside of the Isles until later in your education.”
I nodded. “So this thing is native to rainforests, I’m guessing.”
I wracked my mind as I circled it. “Is it…? It looks familiar enough to something I learned about in the Muggle world. Is this… the chupacabra?”
I remembered the old urban myths from my previous life: the dog-like creature that attacked other animals and drained their blood until there was nothing left. I looked down at my still bleeding arm.
Anti-coagulant agent to keep me bleeding. I realized with a grimace. More food for it.
“Hold out your arm, Clarke.” Guffries said as he turned to me. “I’ll fix it.”
I looked at him for a moment, seeing the man in a new light. “Thank you.”
“I said I don’t need your gratitude.” He said, pressing the wand against my forearm. “Episkey.”
I continued to stare at him, not really understanding just what was going through this guy’s head.
What’s up with him? One day he’s using the Cruciatus on me, the next he’s pretty much saving my life. I thought as the puncture wounds on my arm closed up; the scars left behind were not looking strange in the least in comparison to the permanent burn scars around them.
“Come on. Clarke.” He said and led the way. “Stop dawdling.”
I frowned at him from behind and followed.
Whatever it was that was driving the man’s actions, there was a certain safety in numbers— even if said safety was going to be only temporary.
If someone told me that I was teaming up with fucking Guffries of all people, I would smack them in the mouth for such a ridiculous suggestion.