Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Seventh Safeguard [IV]



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Chapter IV ~ The Story of Severus Snape


When I awoke the room was filled with daylight. I took in the dreary, magnificent, dusty room, slowly comprehending that the strange events of the night before had not been a bizarre dream after all. Then I saw that the chair beside the empty fireplace was empty. A glance around the room revealed Ron and Miss Granger still sleeping amongst the blankets and cushions on the floor. But both Sherlock Holmes and Harry Potter were gone.

I left the parlour in search of them, out into the dusty corridors. The house looked different in the daylight, still lonely, ugly, and forsaken, but there was less menace in it. It had become just an ill-kept, ugly old London house.

I was not searching long. I had only left the parlour behind me moments before when I heard Sherlock’s voice, and turned to see him striding towards me. There was a brisk cheeriness in his manner and I deduced that he had been spending his time profitably.

“Good Morning, John.” he said.

“Do you know where Harry is?” I asked.

“He’s upstairs in his godfather’s room, poring over an old letter his mother wrote.”

“Been exploring the house this morning?”

“Oh, yes.” he said, looking oh so pleased with himself. Then, as if he had a secret just too delightful not to share with somebody he turned to me and said:

“Severus Snape never defected to Riddle.”

“Severus Snape? The professor who murdered the headmaster?”

“The same.” replied Sherlock.

“How do you figure that? Was it not he who murdered Dumbledore after all?”

“Oh, no. He killed him. That much seems to be indisputable.”

“Then, how do you get to the conclusion that the man who murdered an important counter-Riddle figure …”

“Ah, not an important counter-Riddle figure, say rather, chief in the resistance against him.”

“All right. So how do you get to the conclusion that the man who murdered the chief of the resistance against Riddle, and has now openly aligned himself with Riddle, isn’t actually working for Riddle?”

“My suspicions were first aroused when we entered the house. I was rather appalled, as you may have noticed, by the young people’s suggestion that those preposterous booby-traps downstairs would keep anyone out of the house, especially a seasoned murderer well-used to the tricks and illusions of the British Wizarding world. Yet we encountered no traps, and the house was quite clearly abandoned. Miss Granger tells me that this house is under an illusion, which only people who have been shown by the illusion’s ‘secret keeper’ can see through. Snape is obviously not the secret keeper. So it is true he cannot tell the other Death Eaters how to get in. But I can see nothing to stop he himself, should he desire entry. Nor would anything prevent him from leading them in as if they were inanimate objects … as the three in fact did with us last night.”

“That’s why you wanted my pistol.”

“I thought it as well that the one conscious person should have the weapon. Still, this was a mere precaution. Since no attempt had been made to set a trap for Harry, and no one was stationed here to wait for him, and no one had tried to enter for all those hours to check in on the place, it did not seem to me likely that an attempt was going to be made. This has indeed proved to be the case – fortunately, since one gun would not likely be a match for an entire war party.

“As soon as the sun was up, I set out to discover who has been here recently. To bring you up to speed, in case you had wondered why they would bother to try and set up defences against Snape in a house which generally stands empty – until recently, it hasn’t been empty. You may recall a reference or two last night to ‘The Order’. This appears to be an organization devoted to defence against Riddle. They used this place as a base for a number of years. Harry has avoided speaking directly of this Order, so I have been left picking up hints to flesh out their occasional references. But it seems clear that Snape was a member and they abandoned this place two months ago when he appeared to turn traitor.

“Unfortunately, I did not take the time to look for recent visitors before we all came in last night. The entrance hall was fairly hopeless. But since we had all come straight up to the parlour, it was simple enough to see where any other traces broke off from our path. One person besides us seems to have been here recently, probably within the week. A tall man, with large feet, and large hands too, I should think. He came in and went straight upstairs. His advancing and returning tracks were side by side and sometimes superimposed, so I tracked him back down at the same time as I tracked him up. They led me to the old bedroom of Harry’s late godfather. Once in the room, things became rather more confused, but it is clear that the tall unknown searched the room, chiefly Sirius’s papers. … That letter from his mother that Harry’s reading, from Lily Evans Potter – it’s only one page, the first. The rest is missing.”

“Surely the other page was just lost, she’s been dead for sixteen years.”

“So I should think too, if it wasn’t for the photograph.”

“What photograph?”

“The photograph that accompanied the letter; a picture of the one-year old Harry playing with the toy that Lily was thanking Sirius for. Half of it is missing as well. It has been torn in two – recently. Deliberately. And very carefully. It was neither an accident nor malice, it was a purposeful separation of something that the intruder wanted to keep, from something that he didn’t. The half I found, thrown heedlessly on the floor, had Harry and his father James in it. Whoever came up there took the other half, which clearly contained something he thought important. Now, from the contents of the letter I know that the Potters were at the time in hiding from Riddle – who was actively hunting them. And hence, they had few visitors. Lily mentions the names of their recent visitors; Bathilda Bagshot, an elderly neighbour, and one ‘Wormy’, who I learned from Harry was a school friend who shortly thereafter betrayed their hiding place to Riddle. So the number of people who could have been in that photograph is very limited. I think it safe to say that the intruder was not likely to have taken a picture of their cat or an inanimate object. That leaves the neighbour, the traitor, and Lily. ‘Wormy’, better known as Pettigrew, and Ms. Bagshot are still alive. Ms. Bagshot is a well-known Wizarding historian, and her photographs and writings would not be difficult to come by. Pettigrew is one of the Death Eaters. Why would the intruder come up here to search for memoranda of him? If they were a Death Eater, they would probably be working with him already. And if they were not, why would they want anything to do with him? So that leaves us just Lily Potter. And it would in any case match the tone of the remainder of the photograph. It was picture of a child playing with his parents. The intruder tore Harry and James out of Lily’s picture. This is significant. If he had merely wanted the picture of Lily, there would be no great reason for him to tear her husband and child out of the picture. But he did. So he not only wanted the picture of Lily, he vehemently didn’t want the picture of her family.

“So. A man broke into a house to get a picture of a woman. There is an attachment there. The woman has been dead for sixteen years. A strong attachment. He tore away the image of the man she chose and the child that came of their union. Rivalry, bitter rivalry. The second page of a letter she wrote is also missing. She has, by the by, quite remarkable handwriting. I should judge Lily Evans Potter likely to have been a woman of an exceptional nature. Under the circumstances, the fact that half of the letter is also gone seems unlikely to be a coincidence. The first page was doubtless left for the same reason that the photograph was torn in two; it was filled with her husband and child – they seem to have been a happy family. What is on the last page of a letter? A signature. And considering the tone of the letter, a very warm farewell; ‘Love, Lily’. He took it, just as he did her photograph. The man who broke in here once had a romantic passion for Lily Potter, and, all these years after her death, he still does.

“So who was he? This tall man with large hands and feet, who can get into this house, knows this house well enough to know exactly where he was going, and broke in to search for memorabilia of Lily Potter? Most likely, due both to his entrance and his knowledge of the house, he is an Order member. Now, Harry Potter, who was so very reluctant to let us in on the secret of Riddle’s safeguards last night, practically leaped at the opportunity to tell someone of the multifarious villainies of his most hated professor, and gladly answered my questions about it. He was up rather early, and so I have spent the last several hours hearing a very heated and fortunately detailed account of all the known doings of Professor Severus Snape.

“Physically, Snape matches our unknown intruder, and since he was an Order member he can get in. He has been here many times with the other Order members without taking the photograph before, so presumably he didn’t want anyone to see him go up to Sirius’ room or ask him what he was doing there. He had and has a passion for Lily, but he doesn’t want anyone to find out about it. It is a secret passion. Since Harry was avoiding telling me very much about this Order or its members, it is impossible to completely rule out it being some other Order member who sneaked into headquarters recently. But there is enough evidence in favour of it being Snape (who, by the way, is the exact same age as James and Lily would have been, and knew them both as children) that we’ll take it as a working hypothesis. Now, that Severus Snape, in all probability, harbours a secret passion for Lily Potter in itself proves nothing. But it does at least suggest that the man who murdered her, Riddle, might not be well advised to trust him completely.”

“If it was Snape who broke in here.” I said. “Is this whole theory based on the man’s shoe size?”

“And his height, and the cut of the robes he normally wears, and the shape of his hands, and I’m not finished yet. That is just the circumstantial evidence I found in this house. Harry told me a great deal more than what he looks like.”

“He told you more about the murder?”

“Precisely.”

“And you agree that he did kill Dumbledore?”

“Yes, that much is cut and dried fact. Harry was there, and he saw the whole matter.”

“Harry was there? It seems that Harry is always there. And if he was there, then why wasn’t he murdered too?”

“There you have hit upon the precise point that Harry does not see! … Although, during the murder itself Harry was both wearing his invisibility cloak and paralysed. But listen. Maybe you can see an excuse for Snape’s behaviour other than the one which seems obvious to me.

“Severus Snape has been acting as a spy not just since Riddle’s regeneration three years ago, but also before his first downfall. The question has never in fact been whether or not Snape is a spy – but which party he was actually spying for. If Riddle had ever thought Snape was not completely loyal to him, he would have killed him. But Dumbledore also trusted Snape’s loyalty. He defended him to Harry again and again. Offered explanations on Snape’s behalf. It was Dumbledore who kept Snape out of prison after Riddle’s first downfall.”

“They thought that he had been a double agent?”

“Not precisely. He really had been a Death Eater for a while, on his own admission. The question was whether his supposed repentance and subsequent undercover work against Riddle were legitimate or not. It was on Dumbledore’s word that he was acquitted.”

“Dumbledore let a Death Eater teach children?”

“That shows you how complete his confidence in Snape’s reformation was. When Riddle came back, he sent Snape to him; thereby re-starting the old double spying situation, which lasted until this June. If he’d had any doubt of Snape’s inclinations, he would not have exposed him to that temptation. And if he’d had any doubt of his total reliability, he would not have willingly opened that avenue for him. Now, throughout the whole of last year Harry had been concerned that one of the students – Draco Malfoy, the son of Lucius who was given the diary – had been given some kind of assignment by Riddle within the school. He was further convinced that Snape knew about this mission, and was trying to help Draco with it. He had spoken to Dumbledore of his concerns, but Dumbledore – not particularly helpfully – just told him that everything was under control and he shouldn’t worry about it.

“The night that Dumbledore was murdered, he and Harry had been out of the school, this was the night they found Regulus’ locket in that cave. They returned, with Dumbledore badly hurt, to find the Death Eater’s calling card in the air over the school. They were on one of the tower-tops, and Dumbledore had just sent Harry to go and fetch Snape, when Draco came onto the top. Draco is a seventeen year old boy. Rather than casually disarming him, and telling him to behave himself, Dumbledore took the time to paralyse Harry instead. This allowed Draco the time to disarm Dumbledore. So, Draco was left on the roof, with a frozen and invisible Harry, and an injured and unarmed Dumbledore, and he revealed that he was under orders from Riddle to kill Dumbledore. But he did not in fact kill anyone. He hemmed and hawed and didn’t act, until a group of adult Death Eaters joined them. The Death Eaters then proceeded to argue about whether they could kill Dumbledore, or whether Draco had to. None of them noticed Harry. Last of all, Snape came up. The Death Eaters received him as one of them, with casual questions as to how to proceed with Draco being so nervous. Without saying a word, Snape shot Dumbledore. Then he shooed everybody off the tower, saying it was time to retreat. Thus far, it looks as if Dumbledore had just been wrong all those years. But – Harry followed the retreating Death Eaters.”

“Alone?”

“Yes. When Dumbledore died, he unfroze. He ran out into the grounds after a group of full grown enemy fighters by himself. It appears he was in a rage which over-rode his desire for self-preservation. He ran out, and he caught up with them.”

“And he wasn’t captured?”

“No.”

“And none of the teachers or even any of the other children followed him out and helped him?”

“No they didn’t.”

“So, you’re saying that this group of gangsters had this kid who Riddle’s been after for seventeen years right in their hands and didn’t even try to kill or capture him?”

“See! You see. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Harry though! He caught up with them, and attacked Snape. … And Snape blocked him.”

Blocked him?”

“Blocked him; while criticizing the lack of skill in the blows. Eventually he wound up knocking Harry down. When one of the other Death Eaters tried to torture Harry … Snape stopped them. He told them that Harry ‘belonged to the dark lord’, and that they should leave him.”

“Wait a minute – Riddle’s been trying to kill Harry since he was an infant – right?”

“Yes. He has. That it should have been Riddle’s idea for a whole group of his fighters to have had the boy in their hands and let him go, not only not kill him – but not capture him either … and even object to him being injured … is not credible. But if those were not Riddle’s orders, then Dumbledore’s killer turned right around and protected Harry Potter – the great symbolic enemy of Riddle. So, why should Riddle’s servant, who has, remember, just killed the man who has supported and trusted him for years, take a risk like that for Harry? It wasn’t personal affection for this particular student. He can’t stand Harry. Even Dumbledore admitted that Snape has an unreasoned and unreasonable hatred of him (as did our recent visitor). But he protected him anyway. Doesn’t that strike of duty?”

I had to admit that it rather did.

“And if we look back at certain previous incidents, we see a similar theme. Snape saved Harry’s life in his first year of school.”

“Did he?”

“Yes. Harry, whatever may be lacking in his ability to put two and two together, seems to have always been a vigilant and concerned boy. In his first year at Hogwarts, he became convinced that one of the teachers was trying to steal a valuable device Dumbledore was keeping hidden in Hogwarts and use it to help Riddle regenerate, and was trying to murder him, Harry, while they were at it. He was later proved to have been correct. But he was wrong in thinking it to be Snape. It was another teacher. Snape turned out to have been working to prevent this other teacher from stealing anything or killing anyone. It seems, since Harry would certainly have denied it if he possibly could have, that this was proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

“But Riddle hadn’t regenerated yet, so Snape was acting alone, and so from this incident by itself one could just say that he was just working within a different paradigm at that point, one in which it only made sense uphold the law. Though why he should go to greater effort than the other teachers to uphold the law, which he did, without actually caring about the matter itself, would still be in question. But in any case, the incident is not on its own. Last night, Harry didn’t go into much detail on what exactly happened the night that his godfather Sirius died. This morning he did. He partially blames Snape for Sirius’ death. Shortly before the incident Snape had been taunting Sirius, with whom he seems to have had an old feud, about how useless he was. Harry feels that the taunts may have encouraged Sirius to take undue risks. But far more important – You remember that Sirius was killed by Bellatrix Lestrange when he came with a team to rescue Harry and some friends from the Death Eaters?”

“Of course.”

“But last night Harry didn’t explain how ‘the Order’ knew where he was, or even how they knew he was in trouble. I only got it out of him this morning by listening to a whole lot of ranting mixed in with it. But, despite the vituperations with which it was surrounded, the fact remains. Snape alerted them. … Snape realized that Harry and his closest friends were missing at dinner. He remembered a commotion that Harry had made earlier in the day which suggested to him where they might have gone. And he sent a message to London that he suspected that Harry Potter had been lured to an important Wizarding research facility and was probably under attack there. The Order went in, took the Death Eaters by surprise, beat them soundly, rescued Harry, and took several Death Eaters captive, including Lucius Malfoy. … If Snape was in fact spying for Riddle at that point, he was doing a very bad job.”

“Well, obviously, if he sent out the Order against Death Eaters when the Death Eaters were outnumbered and not expecting it … he can hardly have been really working for Riddle at the time.”

“Obviously. It simply won’t work. It was Snape who thwarted whatever Riddle’s plans were that day. So far as I have been able to discern, he was the only person even in a position to do so. It would have been very easy for him to just ignore the issue and feign ignorance – no one would have ever been the wiser. In which case, his supposed master would have gotten whatever it was he was looking for at the facility (Harry wasn’t very clear on what this was) and Harry himself – the symbol of the resistance – would have been taken or killed. From the point of view that Snape was really working for Riddle, his actual actions makes no sense at all. Even individually, each of these incidents make a very strong case. Unified, they seem indisputable.”

“Then why did he murder Dumbledore?”

“I don’t know.” mused Sherlock. “He certainly isn’t a very nice person. Perhaps, finding himself stuck with all those Death Eaters on the tower, he decided that his own position as spy was more important to the anti-Riddle effort than Dumbledore’s life, and so, being quite unscrupulous, sacrificed him to strengthen his position.”

“Then why is Harry so much more important than Dumbledore? Strictly speaking, from a strategic standpoint, the experienced, far more knowledgeable leader of the Order looks more necessary to the war effort – yet he died and Harry didn’t.”

“Yes, well, I haven’t told you the supposed reason why Snape left Riddle in the first place.”

“Why?”

“Snape – while still genuinely a Death Eater – told Riddle about a prediction he had overheard some self-proclaimed ‘seer’ make. It predicted the coming of one ‘with the power to vanquish the dark lord’ or some such nonsense. Riddle, being the superstitious moron that he is, took this quite seriously and started hunting the boy who he believed it referred to – Harry.”

It took me a moment to digest this.

“Harry’s been hunted since infancy because of a fortune-teller?!”

“Yes.”

It seemed preposterous to me that, in this day and age, anyone could take such a thing seriously. That someone could be in real danger because of such a prediction struck me as so improbable as to be almost comedic … except for the fact that Sherlock was quite seriously attributing the death of a young couple and the kidnapping, torture, and repeated attempted murder of their son to it.

“Are they really that superstitious? Or is Riddle just mad?”

“Well, Riddle could very well be mad. … But unfortunately, yes, Wizarding society does seems to be very superstitious. … Anyhow, it was when Riddle decided to hunt down and wipe out the Potters that Snape went to Dumbledore. … Harry has told me, in bitter, grieving, enraged words, of how Dumbledore told him that Snape was filled with great and terrible remorse, that setting Riddle on the Potter’s trail was the greatest regret of his life, that it was the thing which caused him to turn away from Riddle. … Harry of course doesn’t believe a word of it.”

“But you do?”

Sherlock smiled. “Yes. I do.”

“You think that this Death Eater was secretly in love with Harry’s mother, and when he wound up getting her killed, he was so upset that he tried to turn his life around.”

“You could put it those terms. One thing though: he didn’t go to Dumbledore after she died – and that is an important point. He went when Riddle started hunting them. And we know that the Potters spent some time in hiding before Riddle found them. … Which makes it look rather as if Snape in fact alerted the Potters to the need to go into hiding. … Riddle found them only because Pettigrew betrayed their hiding place. Then of course there is the point I started from. He can get in here. The booby-traps downstairs are meant to dissuade him. But he can get in. He must know this to be a likely place for Harry to go. Too likely. It’s Harry’s house. He could have easily led a party of Death Eaters in here in the middle of the night. But did he? … Riddle is an idiot! … In defence of both Harry’s and Riddle’s belief in Snape’s allegiance however, he did appear with a group of Death Eaters in open battle a short while ago.”

“Did he kill anybody then?”

“No. But he sliced off Ron’s elder brother’s ear.”

“Well, I must say, Sherlock, whatever his true allegiance, Severus Snape does not exactly stand out as a model of kindness and decency.”

“No indeed. I dare say that none of us in this house – save Harry – would be quite safe around him; and Harry only if we are referring solely to matters of bodily safety. He’s famed for having a nasty temper and certainly has shown a great ability to use means that few ‘decent’ men could agree with.”

“And yet – besides his continual looking out for Harry Potter – can you find any results of his supposed spy work?”

“His continual looking out for Harry is significant. But my information is incomplete. I have never heard the secret councils of ‘the Order’. I know what he has done as regards Harry Potter. Can you reconcile that with the theory of him as a dedicated Death Eater?”

“No, I can’t explain that.”

“That much is certain then.” said Sherlock. “But you’d probably better not mention this to our young allies just yet. Their hatred (or at least Harry’s hatred) of him seems deeply entrenched enough that any attempt to defend him would not go over well. They’d either think we were out of our minds, or stop trusting us altogether.”

“Well, of course they hate him. That he was a mean professor would be reason in itself. But he’s also murdered a popular teacher and cut off a boy’s ear.”

“It is worth noting that it wasn’t his head. … Very worth noting. Doesn’t it occur to you John, that cutting off people’s ears is a very awkward and ineffective method of fighting?”

“Well, obviously, he wasn’t aiming for the ear.”

“Obviously. But imagine you’re one of the gangsters, pursuing Order members through the sky on a broomstick…”

“On a what?”

“…and you have in your hand a weapon capable of delivering lethal blasts. Why would you instead switch to a relatively awkward tool like a long distance energy beam slicing weapon? … And to slice a man’s ear off … that would be a vertical stroke …” He was now standing across the corridor from me, making slicing motions in the air with his hands – clearly chopping me to pieces with an imaginary energy sword. “Why a vertical stroke? Wouldn’t a horizontal stroke be more effective? I suppose one could cleave through the skull with such a blow. But the combined width of a man’s head, neck, and torso offer a much better target than the top of a head. You’d use a vertical blow to hit a horizontal target. I suppose we could theorize that Mr. Weasley was flying side-ways, or doing a barrel roll…” He stopped and lifted his arm, and looked at it critically for a minute. Then he smiled.

“So,” I said, “is your final thesis that Snape’s out to destroy Riddle? Or that he’s out to protect Lily’s son?”

Sherlock dropped his arm. “I don’t know. Imagining him as a sort of free-agent, betraying both sides wherever convenient, would cover the facts better than Harry’s own idea. … It is perhaps a possible theory (though the vertical blow is perhaps a strike against it) that he is willing to do whatever seems most politically advantageous to him at the moment (including fight for Riddle) besides killing Lily’s son. Such a position could be imagined. But it is not self-consistent. It could not be long maintained. And if he was so passionate about that woman that he will thwart his very dangerous supposed-boss’s will to protect her son even though he personally detests the boy, it hardly seems likely that he would be wiling to accept her murderer as his boss at all. No. Far more likely Dumbledore was in fact correct. …”

“But not that he could trust Snape.”

“Hmm. It does look that way. He clearly did think he could, sending Harry to fetch him…” Sherlock broke off suddenly. “He sent Harry to fetch Snape.”

This clearly opened up an intriguing train of thought, for Sherlock said nothing more for a while; he just stared into the distance with a concentrated, faraway look in his eyes, as if he too was on the fatal tower-top.

“What if …” he said after a while, “ what if he could? What if…? You know Dumbledore was badly injured? His hand was withered by the horcrux, and Harry tells me that it didn’t heal at all last year – and he was a very old man. And his last words. He didn’t upbraid, or exhort. Didn’t try to talk his way out of it …”

“What did he say?”

“‘Severus … please.’ … According to Harry, they were spoken in a quiet, contained, but unmistakeably beseeching manner. … Harry thought that Dumbledore was pleading for his life, and it wrung his heart to hear it. But if Dumbledore had been certain that very day, that very hour, of Snape’s loyalty, and Snape had not yet made a move against him, why would he have thought that he needed to plead? Shouldn’t he have tried to put on a staged argument for the Death Eaters’ benefit? If cleverly acted by both he and Snape – and I gather that they are, or were, clever men – it might have both cemented Snape’s position as spy, and delayed the situation long enough for them to find an out or be rescued. But he didn’t. Just as he didn’t even bother trying to defend himself from a student. He gave Snape a direct either-or scenario. He obviously knew what that meant for a man in Snape’s position. It’s almost as if he wanted… What if … it’s Dumbledore who owes Snape the apology?”

Before he could elaborate further, there was a panicked sound of slamming doors and rushing feet and Ron and Miss Granger barrelled into the room.

“Where’s Harry?!”

“In Sirius’ room.” said Sherlock. “He found an old letter from his mother.”

The children rushed past us.

“They’re a little hyper about it.” I said.

“They should be.” remarked Sherlock casually. “Their friend is one of the most hunted people in the country at the moment. Dumbledore is dead, the Minister of Magic is dead, the Ministry of Magic answers to Riddle. What could please Riddle more, what could be a greater symbolic victory, than to finally kill ‘The Boy Who Lived’?”

“The what?” I asked.

“Surely you remember the rather sensational story that Harry passed over so briefly last night – How Riddle came to kill him and left half killed himself.”

“Yes, but that was his mother’s doing wasn’t it?”

“Her work yes; however she managed it. It doesn’t seem to have lasted, since Riddle apparently thinks he can kill Harry without injuring himself now. But it captures the imagination, doesn’t it, John? … The old murderer, bloody with a hundred callous butcheries, approaching the cradle – and the child lives while the butcher flees, broken. … It captured the Wizarding world’s imagination anyhow. Hence the name.”

“Did he tell you about it this morning?”

“The name? No. We mostly discussed Professor Snape. I heard it ages ago.”

“And you know it to be he because of his story.”

“Yes. It was quite evident from the first.”

“Sherlock,” I asked, “why, after being so hesitant to bring us here at all last night, were they suddenly so trusting as to set up camp for the night right next to us – in the same room?”

Sherlock seemed to think that this was very amusing.

“Did you actually try walking over there, John?”

“… No.”

“Well, I think you would have found it far more difficult to get over to that corner than appearance would suggest. The words they use may sound merely laughable to us, but their ‘magic’ can be very effective.”

Chapter 5 ~ Following the Threads ~>

This non-commercial, derivative work is an independent production by Charlotte Ann Kent and is not associated with The Doyle Estate, the BBC, Warner Bros, or J.K. Rowling. 

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Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Seventh Safeguard [III]



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~Chapter III ~

Statement of the Case


“Voldemort should have died.” Harry Potter explained. “He murdered my mum and dad, and then tried to kill me. But my mother’s last enchantment protected me, and his curse rebounded and hit him instead. It should have killed him, but it didn’t. He disappeared for thirteen years, and a little over three years ago he regenerated.”

“What do you mean he ‘regenerated’? Don’t you just mean he returned?” asked Sherlock.

“No. He … regenerated. I was there. I saw it.” Marks of old horrors were written on the boy’s face as he said this, and with a sickened feeling, I wondered what place a boy of fourteen could have had there.

“What were you doing there?” asked Sherlock, and I knew from his tone that he was not insensible to this either.

It was Miss Granger who answered.

“He was captured.” she said. “Because of his failure to kill Harry, Harry became a symbol of resistance and Voldemort meant to begin his second bid for power with killing him in front of his followers. … But he was overconfident. Harry fought him and got away.”

“Ah.” said Sherlock. “That is why you expected to be targeted tonight.”

“He’s been hunting Harry for years.” said Hermione. “Our friend who escaped the ministry tonight sent us warning that they were coming.”

“I see. Please continue.”

“Wait.” I said. “So he, Voldemort, has sort of a – fake body?”

The three children looked as though they weren’t sure how to answer that question. It was Sherlock who answered me.

“Oh, it’s real.” he said. “Flesh and blood … DNA … But if it is unnaturally created, like cells designed and grown in labs, that would help to explain … a great deal.” He flashed his gaze back to Harry. “You are certain of this?”

“Completely.” said Harry.

“What state was he in before he made this artificially regenerated form?”

The answer that Harry gave consisted of anecdotes which did not seem to me to work out into a conclusive or even consistent explanation. Ghost or goblin, or ruined man – or all of them together? I couldn’t believe that Sherlock seemed to be swallowing it. But perhaps, I thought, he’s humouring Harry, or maybe he sees what’s really going on through Harry’s explanation, or he’s understanding what Harry is saying better than I and it matches so well with information he already knows that he’s willing to take it as a working – if improbable – hypothesis until he can find a better. I, in any case, was utterly confounded.

“So, it was these safeguards which enabled him to regenerate?” said Sherlock finally, apparently deciding that that was the really important point – the how of the matter was academic.

“Yes.” Harry replied definitively.

“Then if his exact location was known at this moment, and an aerial missile strike was called down which incinerated the entire vicinity … that would not get rid of him?”

“The equivalent of that’s already happened to him once.” said Harry. (Harry has never seen a missile strike, I thought.) “If it was so simple as that, we wouldn’t be having this war now. The horcruxes must be destroyed first.”

“I see.” said Sherlock. “Well, I’d prefer not to rule out the missile strike anyway, just yet. But – your objective is to hunt down and destroy all of these objects, so that when the legitimate wizarding forces confront Riddle, he is not invulnerable?”

“Exactly.” Harry nodded.

Sherlock nodded. “Very well. What do we know about these ‘horcruxes’? How many? What do they look like? What kind of places are they likely to be found in? Please be as specific as possible.”

“Dumbledore – Albus Dumbledore was the headmaster of Hogwarts, the Wizarding school – found out Voldemort was going for a seven part soul; six horcruxes, plus himself. We’ve already destroyed two.”

“Excellent. How and when?”

“I destroyed the first five years ago, when Lucius Malfoy – a Death Eater, one of Voldemort’s closest followers – used it to release Slytherin’s monster.”

“Details, please.”

“It was Tom Riddle’s diary.”

“Riddle’s father Thomas, or Riddle himself?”

“Riddle’s … a book, nothing written in it, but if you wrote in it, it wrote back to you. It, or the bit of Voldemort in it, possessed Ron’s little sister Ginny, and used her to open the chamber of secrets beneath Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry, in order to release the basilisk.”

“Basilisk? Isn’t that a kind of mythical snake?” I asked. “Killed with its glance?”

“Well this one was real.” said Harry. “Dumbledore’s phoenix helped me to kill it.”

“A phoenix helped you to kill a basilisk? … All right. Okay.”

“So the horcrux released the basilisk on your school?” asked Sherlock in clarification.

“That’s what Voldemort designed it to do.” Harry said.

“You destroyed it. How?”

“The basilisk left a poisoned fang in my arm – I stabbed the horcrux with it.”

“Basilisk venom destroys horcruxes?”

“Basilisk venom is one of the few things that actually does. Merely breaking the object doesn’t actually destroy the horcrux.”

“If the venom is so potent, then why didn’t it destroy you?”

“Fawkes.” said Harry. “The phoenix. His tears healed me.”

“How does that work?” asked Sherlock.

“Well,” I interjected, “as long as we’re talking about myths – Rapunzel’s tears could completely regrow whole eyes. … Uh, Harry, are you being quite serious?”

“Harry’s telling the truth.” declared Miss Granger. “He went down into the chamber of secrets, slew the basilisk with the sword of Gryffindor, destroyed the horcrux, and rescued Ron’s sister.” Harry had spoken with what almost seemed embarrassment. But Miss Granger’s voice had taken on a tone of admiring pride, and she held her head higher as she spoke. She then seemed to notice that Ron was giving her puppy-eyes, and added: “Ron was there too – it wasn’t his fault the roof caved in and Harry had to go on alone.”

“So.” said Sherlock. “The first was a diary. It was left with Riddle’s henchman Lucius Malfoy. It actively did pre-programmed things. And it was destroyed by basilisk venom?”

“Yes.”

“What happened to the basilisk?”

“Uh … it’s still down there, I guess … or its skeleton is.”

“Thank-you. Continue.”

“Dumbledore destroyed the second. It was the ring of the house of Gaunt.”

“That would be his mother’s family, correct?”

“Yes, the Gaunts were descended from Salazar Slytherin … a famous wizard and one of the four founders of Hogwarts School. Dumbledore found it in the ruins of the Gaunts’ cottage.”

“Ah.” said Sherlock. “How did he destroy this one?”

“I don’t know. … I should have asked him, but, I didn’t think of it until … ” Harry trailed off.

“He didn’t tell you?”

“No.”

“Well, that was thoughtless of him.”

A momentary flash of indignation crossed Harry’s face, as if he took this criticism of his late teacher ill. But he made no retort.

“So,” said Sherlock, “we have a diary, left with a follower, and a ring, hidden in his Wizarding family’s house?”

“Yes.” said Harry.

“Do we know anything about the rest?”

“Dumbledore thought he knew what three of the remaining were – he spent years trying to put together a picture – to trace Voldemort’s footsteps over the years – and he had a guess at the fourth. Riddle has a thing for important Wizarding artefacts, especially belonging to the four founders of Hogwarts. That’s Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin. So, Dumbledore said he thought the remaining horcruxes are the locket of Salazar Slytherin, the cup of Helga Hufflepuff, Voldemort’s snake Nagini, and something else probably belonging to Gryffindor or Ravenclaw.”

“His python is a horcux?”

“You know about Nagini?”

“I could hardly miss it, though I didn’t know its name until now. So the kind of objects which can be made into horcuxes is very broad? Both animate and inanimate – just about any type of substance? We have here paper, metal, and living flesh.”

“I guess.”

“Well, snakes are easy enough to kill. And it’s always going about with him, so finding that one shouldn’t be much too of a problem, we’ll have to find Riddle anyway. Any ideas on the other three?”

“Dumbledore actually found where Voldemort originally hid the locket.”

“It had been moved?”

“Yes. … Someone had been there before us.”

“Riddle shifting it? Or someone else trying to destroy it?”

“He left a note, for … Riddle, saying he planned on destroying it.”

“Perhaps he did, then.”

“Yes, we thought of that, but we’ll have to find it to be sure.”

“Do you happen to have that note?”

“Yes, I have.” said Harry. He pulled from his robes a small brown pouch which had been hanging around his neck and drew out a large golden locket.

Sherlock took it and turned it over and over in his hands; looking at the gold, the smooth unmarked surface, the finely worked chain. Finally he opened it – examining the hinge as he did so, took out the little square of paper within, and carefully unfolded it.

“Exceedingly high quality parchment.” he commented. “Either the thief was well-to-do to have this on hand or he chose expensive paper particularly for the purpose. Most likely the former, since it is not generally poor men who use golden lockets to send notes in. Obviously written during Riddle’s previous attempt to seize power.”

I got up and walked behind Sherlock’s chair to look over his shoulder. On thick, yellowed paper, written in small but bold printing, I read the following message:

To the Dark Lord,

I know I will be dead long before you read this

but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret.

I have stolen the real horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can.

I face death in the hope that when you meet your match,

you will be mortal once more.

R.A.B”

“He expected to die?” I said. “Was he planning on committing suicide?”

“Perhaps, but he was clearly committing treason against a very hard master. He may have expected to be killed before Riddle checked his hiding place. … ‘I face death’, that doesn’t sound like he’s going to take his own life … but it also makes it sound more inevitable and immediate a threat than being eventually hunted down for treachery. But then there is the intending to destroy it ‘as soon as I can’ which sounds as though he’s going to be living for a while. … There are clearly a number of other factors here.”

“You say he was Riddle’s servant?” I said.

“Obviously. Follower anyway, ex-follower. The writing suggests a familiarity between them, and he clearly expects Riddle to recognize his initials as a matter of course. Can’t be a family member. Riddle didn’t have any near family left alive after the age of sixteen, besides perhaps an uncle – but local sources say he disappeared from muggle view at least at about the same time that the Riddles died. And his initials were M.G. Also the greeting. “The Dark Lord” That’s very formal, as if he is used to speaking up to him, like a henchman. I doubt that ordinary wizards are in the habit of referring to him by any such preposterous title as ‘the Dark Lord’.”

“No they’re not.” supplied Harry.

Sherlock nodded. “So this note was written by one of his followers, who turned against him and tried to help bring him down, apparently at the expense of his own life.”

“His?” said Miss Granger.

“This is a man’s writing, a young man’s, of a decisive and probably arrogant personality. Principled to some extent – he had the moral courage to change his allegiance when it was not clearly personally advantageous to him. Proud, since he wanted it known. But unwise, since it took actually working under Riddle to show him what bad news he was. Riddle is a charismatic person, is he not?”

“Yes, he is … very. It’s part of what makes him so dangerous.” said Harry.

“Well, this R.A.B.” I said. “You don’t know who he is?

“No.” said Harry.

“I’ve looked up all the well known witches and wizards with those initials.” Miss Granger said. “And I couldn’t find anything to connect them to Voldemort.”

“Well, he mightn’t be all that well known.” I suggested. “Shouldn’t we go through all the well-to-do B families in your society that we can find information on and see if any men in that age category had names beginning in R?”

“Yes.” said Sherlock. “It should have been the first step taken. And since we’re sitting in the Blacks’ parlour we can start with the Blacks. Your said your godfather’s name began with an S, so …”

“And Sirius was never a Death Eater!” said Harry, suddenly fierce.

“Were any of his family?” asked Sherlock, totally unphased. “Death Eater connections or the possibility of such connections, name beginning with R, would have been a young man about twenty years ago…”

Harry’s face fell.

“What is it?!” cried Ron and Miss Granger together.

“Regulus.” said Harry. “Sirius’ younger brother … Sirius told me he joined the Death Eaters when he was really young, got cold feet, and disappeared not long before Voldemort’s first downfall!”

“R.A.B!” screamed Miss Granger. “Regulus Black! What was his middle name, Harry?”

“I don’t know. But it fits!”

Sherlock was not impressed – they’d had that locket and note since June. But the three children were far too excited to bother about his pointed comments. They scurried about, checking out Regulus’s bedroom (where we learned his middle name was Arcturus) and other hiding places around the house. Sherlock and I helped in the search, but found nothing, or at least no lockets. Half an hour passed before Miss Granger had an epiphany and remembered a large golden locket engraved with an S which they had thrown out two years ago while trying to clean the place up a bit. The three were appalled by this news, but Sherlock didn’t seem to think that it was so very dreadful. He was making inquiries of them about Wizarding methods of garbage disposal when Harry had another thought.

I would have expected that upon discovering a non-human creature who possessed humanoid form and the power of speech, one’s first response would naturally be curious scepticism, and then, if sufficient evidence was presented to overcome this, delighted fascination. But the arrival of the creature which Harry called into the kitchen left little room for for either sensation.

It came quickly, I didn’t see from where; Harry called ‘Creature!’, there was a sharp crack, and when I turned around to see what had fallen, a strange creature was standing there. My instant response of mingled revulsion and pity at the sight of this hideous little mockery of the human form quickly increased to something very like horror. The contempt and hatred of Harry it expressed, even as it addressed him as ‘Master’ surprised and disturbed me. Harry had impressed me as being a quite decent young fellow; hardly likely to inspire such hatred in a subordinate. But then, he was not the sole object of its hatred. Room was left for Ron and Hermione Granger in its extreme displeasure; the titles of address it gave to them were the peculiar epithets ‘blood traitor’ and ‘mudblood’ – which I recognized as favourite catchwords of the screaming painting in the hall. It muttered them bitterly under its breath with vicious inflection and angry glares. Then it noticed Sherlock and I.

The paroxysm of fury and horror at the presence of ‘filthy muggles!’ in his ‘mistress’ house’ into which it erupted was of so violent a nature that Sherlock and I thought it politic to excuse ourselves from the room. This was to the evident relief of Harry, who was frantically trying to make him stop and apologize to us at the same time. Miss Granger, who looked at it with sadly sympathetic eyes, came with us, out into the hall on the other side of the kitchen door.

The gentle girl, to whose kind, upright nature the situation was utterly abhorrent, related to us that this creature (it appears it had no other name) had long been bound to the service of the house of Black, in a position which she considered no better than slavery. There was a firmness about her lip and an indignant flaring in her nostrils as she said this which were the first signs I had seen from her that she might be a very formidable person if prompted. When Sirius died the legal ownership of the house had passed to Harry, and so had ‘Creature’. Harry had not wanted him. He did not desire a servant, and to make matters worse, Creature had conspired with a Death Eater cousin in the affair which cost Sirius his life. But Dumbledore had bade Harry keep him, legally bound to obey his commands, for the time being at least; for Creature knew too many secrets. If he were permitted to go where he wanted and do as he wished, he would undoubtedly go at once to that cousin, one Bellatrix Lestrange, one of Riddle’s foremost lieutenants and Sirius’ killer, a full-blown psychopath whose brutal deeds were infamous in the Wizarding world, and offer her his service and his knowledge. For she was the nearest in the Blacks’ line. I saw now that it was not only dislike of the horrible house which made Harry hate his inheritance – he might well consider it a curse.

Once the ‘muggles’ and the ‘mudblood’ were out of his immediate presence (‘mudblood’, we learned, was a racist slur for a wizard whose parents were muggles) Creature was able to calm down enough to answer Harry’s questions about the locket.

I need not here go deeply into the sad story that the creature told. Sherlock, Miss Granger, and I heard almost all of it from just beyond the door. Before Creature was half finished, tears were streaming down Miss Granger’s face. Even Sherlock’s countenance had assumed a grimmer aspect. In that moment I conceived a loathing of Tom Riddle which knowledge of his merely expedient political violence had not produced, and which time has not effaced.

But I see no reason to take up space and darken my tale by repeating the poor little person’s story in full. Therefore, passing over some hideous anecdotes of wanton cruelty not strictly relevant to the investigation, let it suffice to say that many years ago Creature had gone with his beloved, long-dead Master Regulus as guide to the cave where the horcrux had been hidden. Regulus Arcturus Black had never come out again. He had succumbed to the horcrux’s defences, and died a terrible death before his servant’s eyes. But he managed to send Creature back home again, with the horcrux, and orders to destroy it. Creature had tried, tried and tried. But he been unable to do so. His master’s, his very dear master’s, last behest was unfulfilled. The locket had sat in the house for years. Creature had carefully guarded it. He had stolen it out of the trash when it was thrown away. He had kept it hidden in his own little cubbyhole until Sirius died. Then an associate of theirs, one Mundungus Fletcher, burgled the house. Among the plate-ware and trinkets he took was Regulus’ locket.

Creature finished and sat sobbing on the floor, sobbing as if his heart would break; hatred forgotten in grief. Miss Granger had broken down and rushed back into the kitchen. She would have embraced the wretched creature, but it rebuffed her, crying ‘what would his mistress say?’. Ron stood by, looking distinctly disturbed. Harry was kneeling on the floor beside Creature, his vivid green eyes wide. It was clear that the teens had never seen this side of their unpleasant acquaintance before. Harry’s question had broken into a locked up corner of his heart, and the nasty little bundle of spite had broken down into a weeping, grieving, almost childlike creature. Harry tried to ask of him how, after what Riddle had done to him and what Regulus had done to bring Riddle down, he could then connive with Riddle’s henchmen. I don’t know if Creature even registered or understood the question. It was, as Miss Granger pointed out, not of sides or wars that he thought, but of people. He had loved Regulus and Mistress Black with single-minded blindness, what should he do but accept their prideful world-view in its wretched entirety? Why should he not do as their cousin ‘Bella’ asked of him?

It was in a changed tone that Harry again addressed Creature, when the poor fellow had recovered himself sufficiently to hear anything. He asked him in a distinctly gentle voice if he could find Fletcher. ‘We’ said Harry ‘we need to finish Regulus’ mission’. Creature agreed without dispute and prepared to leave. But, apparently moved by some sudden impulse, Harry took out the golden locket which had held Regulus’ note and told Creature he thought Regulus would want him to have it.

Well, the calming down had to be done all over again. It was difficult to tell at first if this gift made Creature very happy or very sad, just that it made him very hysterical. But the care and almost reverence with which he stowed the little treasure away made me think it must have been at least partly positive emotion. A change had come over his attitude as well. It seemed that Harry had transformed himself in Creature’s eyes from being a base nobody – a ‘half-blood’ whom Mistress Black would despise – into an ally of Master Regulus. And it was astonishing how his viciousness had disappeared. He was downright respectful to both boys. He was tersely polite to Miss Granger. And he even consented to courteously ignore the existence of Sherlock and I. And, promising to bring back the thief, he left.

The affair left a nasty impression on my mind. It was not that I judged that the three children had done ill – I was not sure what else they could have done. But a terrible situation it was all the same. Miss Granger was right. However much he had loved some of his masters, Creature was a sentient being held very much in bondage. Sherlock seemed greatly annoyed by the whole affair, and he and Miss Granger spent a great deal of the time in which Creature was recovering off in the corridor, conversing earnestly and indignantly together. I had no doubt about what.

“Right.” said Harry when we finally reassembled in the parlour. “Two are dead. Mundungus Fletcher stole the one. The other is hanging around Voldemort. That leaves just two we don’t know.”

“You said that one was a cup and the other an artefact related to one of two founders of the school.” said Sherlock. “We know something then. Could you recognize this cup if you saw it?”

“Probably.”

“Good. And the other. Do you know if any artefact which fits that description is missing?”

“No. There’s only one relic of Gryffindor really. The sword of Gryffindor. And it’s perfectly safe.”

“Well, if it is most probably from either Ravenclaw or Gryffindor and cannot be from Gryffindor, shouldn’t we be looking at Ravenclaw? … What artefacts are there belonging to Ravenclaw?”

“We’re all from the house of Gryffindor.” said Miss Granger. “We wouldn’t know.”

“Would someone from the house of Ravenclaw know better?”

“I suppose so.” said Harry.

“Then we need to talk to someone from Ravenclaw. They don’t need to know why we’re looking for it. But we can’t discover which artefact it could be until we know which ones there are. Who from Ravenclaw would you be least worried about talking to right now?”

“Luna Lovegood.” said Harry instantly.

“Is she a teacher?”

“No, she’s a student. … But she’d know about artefacts, come to think about it. Her father is really into everything weird.”

I wondered what a person weird by Wizarding standards would be like.

“Where is she now?” asked Sherlock.

“At her house, not far from my place, in St. Ottery Catchpole.” said Ron.

“Do you know how to get to her house?”

“I’ve never been there. I just see her at school.”

“I’m sure we could find it though.” said Miss Granger.

“Good.” said Sherlock. “In that case we should call on the Lovegoods tomorrow. But once we know what it is we’ll still need to find out where it is. Now since we know where he left four out of the six, we should be able to make reasonable estimate of where the last two are. One with a trusted lieutenant. One in the ruins of the Gaunt family home. One he keeps with him. One in a cave … was there anything special about this cave that you know, Harry? Why might he have chosen it?”

“There is a story about how he once, back when he lived in an orphanage – his mother died when he was born, you know, and his father had left when she was pregnant – he went on a holiday with the other orphans and took a bunch of younger kids off alone. Did something to them. No one knows what exactly happened, but they weren’t right afterwards. … Dumbledore thought that this was that cave.”

“I see.” said Sherlock. “One in a place important for its ancestral roots. One in a place where he hurt someone.”

“Yes.”

“One that related to his lineage. One that related to his abilities. Both pointing to his status as a formidable wizard.”

“Yes.”

Sherlock jumped up and began swiftly pacing the room.

“What other places might he consider important to his Wizarding status? How about the Wizarding school? Might he have considered that important?”

“Well, the school was where he went when he first learned that he was a wizard. Dumbledore thinks it meant more to him than any person ever has.”

“Hogwarts school then. Put that down as a highly probable place. It would relate both to his lineage and his ability, making it doubly important.”

“How could he hide it at Hogwarts?” said Miss Granger.

“Yeah, he’d have to get in for starters.” said Ron. “And he hasn’t been there since … when was You-know-who at Hogwarts last, Harry?”

“When he tried to get Dumbledore to hire him as the defence against the dark arts professor.”

“When was that?” asked Sherlock.

“Ah … before he openly started trying to take over – he wasn’t actually considered a criminal at that point, but after he’d started the Death Eaters.”

“He sought a teaching position?” said Sherlock. “On the eve of trying to take over the country?”

“Dumbledore doesn’t think he really wanted the job. He thinks that he just wanted to get in the school.”

Sherlock swung both fists in the air in a gesture of delight.

“Just wanted to get in! He hid a horcrux there that night, it’s almost a certainty!”

“Well … Dumbledore thought he was looking for something to turn into a horcrux.”

“Maybe he was. Could have done both. … Did he ever commit a serious crime in Hogwarts?”

“Yes, he murdered a muggle-born student, he set the basilisk on her in the girl’s bathroom. I think that was probably the murder he used to turn the diary into a horcrux.”

“Wait,” I said, “what do you mean?”

“Well … a horcux is a broken off piece of somebody’s soul, right?” said Harry uncomfortably.

“ … Okay?”

“In order to ruin your soul like that you’ve got do do really terrible things … like murdering people.”

I wasn’t sure what to say to that, so I said nothing.

“Was it his first murder?” asked Sherlock matter-of-factly.

Harry looked thoughtful.

“I don’t know. I think he murdered both her and his father and grandparents in his sixth year… but you won’t know about that …”

“Yes I do. … Impossible murder. The squire, his wife, and their grown son all dead. Found in their dinner clothes the next morning; not a mark on them. No cause of death ever determined. No one ever found guilty in their deaths. A small place like Little Hangleton doesn’t wear out stories like that in a mere fifty years. Especially with the house still standing empty …”

“He killed his father and grandparents?” I said, appalled by the total lack of filial respect, and the utter bloodthirstiness of such a massacre.

“Yes.” my friend replied. “At the tender age of sixteen.”

“Revenge for his abandonment?” I asked.

“Possibly in his father’s case. But the wanton slaying of his grandparents, who, judging by local reports, never even knew they had a grandchild, suggests that not only revenge, but racism was at work. Hatred of his own race. You will recall that the Wizarding connection was on his mother’s side.”

“Yes.” said Harry. “Dumbledore thinks he killed them to wipe out his muggle ancestry. …”

“Might not that too have been considered a momentous occasion? At least as much as the abuse of a pair of children? … I have already been over the Riddles’ house and its grounds fairly thoroughly, but I wasn’t looking for horcruxes at the time. The cup of Helga Hufflepuff, can you describe it?”

“I saw it in a … recorded memory that Dumbledore showed me. It’s made of gold, it’s got two handles, and there’s a badger engraved on it.”

Sherlock shook his head. “I saw nothing of that description. But that doesn’t rule out either horcrux being hidden there.

“We’ll check the Riddle house then.” said Harry. “After we know what the last one is.”

“The Riddles’ house and the bathroom at Hogwarts …” said Sherlock.

“Actually, I can’t think of any way to hide a horcrux in the bathroom.” said Harry. “I mean – if we manage to get into Hogwarts – we could look, but I doubt …”

“Then where in the school would it be? You must know the place. … He would have known the place too. … If you wanted to hide something in Hogwarts, Harry, where would you put it? Pretend for a moment that you have something to hide and only a few minutes to do it in. You don’t want to put it where anyone, especially a teacher, will stumble across it. You have to be able to get there and back quickly before anyone realizes you haven’t gone straight for the headmaster’s office. Now tell me, where have you put it?”

So quickly that I thought he must be telling us not where he would hide something, but where he had hidden something, Harry quipped out:

“The Room of Requirement. … It’s a shape-shifting room in Hogwarts. It changes shape based on what you need. One of the things it turns into is a great big storage room … A lot of people have hidden things in there over the centuries, it’s filled with all sorts of things. … Like an overstuffed attic.”

“Hide it among the tumbled secrets of school-children…” mused Sherlock. “Yes … a single important artefact in a room like that – isn’t a haystack the best place to hide a needle? … It would have been possible for him to get into that room during that evening?”

“Definitely … if he knew that it existed.”

“We’ll have to check both, of course. With Riddle in power it will require infiltration, but you know the place. And the Riddle house. That one is easy. It’s standing empty. We can just stop by and give it a run over. Any other suggestions? You’ll know his history far better than I do of course. Places where he worked, or lived, or killed somebody important …”

“He worked at Borgin & Burke’s – that’s a Wizarding shop that caters to the dark magic crowd – for a while after he left Hogwarts.” said Harry. “And he’s spent a lot of time in Albania over the course of his life.”

“Albania? Why Albania? And a country is too big to go on, we’d have to narrow that down a bit before we tried to search it.”

“I don’t know where, just Albania.”

“Well, if we run out of places to look in England, we’ll have to try tracing his footsteps in Albania. But let’s try England first. A shop sounds like a bad place to hide a horcrux. Too many people, and a brilliant way to get a trinket like a cup or a locket accidentally sold. But I suppose we can look. And there’s another thing. What about people? You said he left the diary with Lucius Malfoy? Who is Lucius Malfoy? Who else might be an equivalent to him? Who else among Riddle’s people might he be willing to entrust so important a device to?”

Harry sat there for a while without answering, arms crossed, shoulders slumped, staring into the carpet. Pain chased itself across his face as he thought. In asking him to judge among Tom Riddle’s followers, Sherlock was asking him to relive all his most painful memories. I considered all that had been said and implied this evening – both parents murdered, multiple murderous attempts on his own life, his godfather’s death at the hands of that cousin, the recent death of a clearly beloved teacher. … After what seemed a very long time indeed, Harry started listing names; odd names, that fell on my ear with the ring of a strange language. Two of the names stood out to me, not for peculiarity of syllable, but for the anger they roused in the young speaker; Bellatrix Lestrange and Severus Snape. Mrs. Lestrange was the cousin who had killed Sirius; she had struck him down in battle when he had come with ‘the Order’ to save Harry and some friends, who had been trapped by some of Riddle’s forces. The name Severus Snape was familiar, for the fake ghost downstairs had called the name. It was against him that the booby-traps had been intended. Snape had been a professor at Hogwarts. It was at his hands that Headmaster Dumbledore had died, not two months before. He was now openly serving Riddle. That the thought of him raised Harry’s indignation did not surprise me. Harry could not seem to help but stop and briefly lambaste Snape’s villainy and treachery before continuing his list.

Finally, Sherlock asked him if there was any incontrovertible way of telling if something was a horcrux or not. Harry knew of no foolproof test, but was able to say that both horcruxes which had been destroyed so far had put up some kind of a fight. The diary had set the basilisk on him – and seemed to think that it was going to duel him somehow. The ring had withered Dumbledore’s hand.

The night was growing old. Miss Granger was sitting bolt upright in a failing attempt to remain alert. Ron had long since slumped over on the sofa beside her. Even Harry, though still eager, was drooping. It was clear the children at least could do no more that night.

“You might as well get a few hours sleep, John.” Sherlock commented (though he himself showed no signs of weariness). “It’s too late to go home tonight.”

A very short while ago, I would have shrunk from the notion of sleeping in this place, but it seemed that weariness had done away with my fastidiousness, for when Miss Granger offered me one of their blankets I accepted without question, and scarcely noticed the children’s own preparations, or the sort of camp they set up with cushions and sleeping bags in a corner. As I was drifting off, Sherlock appeared at my shoulder and spoke to me in an undertone.

“John, can I have your gun?”

Sleepily handing it to him, I inquired: “Worried they’ll try to obliviate you in the middle of the night, eh?”

Chuckling, he stowed it away in his own coat. “That is the least of my reasons.”

I remember nothing more that night save a brief image of Sherlock Holmes, curled up in an armchair by the empty hearth, his old briar pipe in his hands, and his face illuminated by a flash of fire.

Next Chapter ~>


This non-commercial, derivative work is an independent production by Charlotte Ann Kent and is not associated with The Doyle Estate, the BBC, Warner Bros, or J.K. Rowling. 

Chapter 4 – The Story of Severus Snape will be available on April 28th.  If you enjoyed this chapter, check back then, or follow the blog (the widget is in the sidebar at the top) to get a notification sent to your email.  If you know somebody else who might like it, feel free to share it!

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Seventh Safeguard [II]



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~ Chapter II ~

The Hidden Mansion in London’s Heart


It was in a strangely uncomfortable fashion that the young lady replied to my question; a pause, a nervous glance from my face to that of my friend, and a quiet: “Yes, they didn’t hit us.”

I wondered what it was that made her so nervous – surely she couldn’t suppose that she and her two friends were in any danger from Sherlock Holmes and I. But only I nodded in response, and started towards the waitress, who lay in an undignified heap by the door where she had fallen.

“She’s not hurt.” said the girl, whose voice was clear and precise, but gentle.

Having not the faintest idea what they had used to knock her out however, I bent down to examine her anyway. True to the girl’s word, she could have been sleeping.

Behind me, Sherlock was addressing her: “I appreciate your attempt to shield us, young lady.” he said. “But you should have realized that your shield would work both ways and John’s own ricocheting bullet would be more likely to do him long term injury than most ‘spells’ this unpleasant gentleman would be likely to cast.”

“Wait! But you’re a muggle!” exclaimed the red-head. “How do you …”

“Ah, you see, I have been devoting some attention to your secret society of late. Your invisible world is indeed difficult to see, but, truth be told, not quite invisible; any more than, you,” here he looked towards the invisible owner of the floating hand “my alert young fellow, are.”

The girl’s face suddenly changed, the nervousness was superseded by a look of excitement.

“You – you’re Mr. Sherlock Holmes, aren’t you?” she said. “I thought you looked like the photographs but I wasn’t sure!”

“You have the advantage of me, Ma’am. That is indeed my name, but I do not know yours.”

With a delighted smile she held out a slim white hand. “I’m Hermione Granger.” she said. “It’s such an honour to meet you, Sir. And you must be his friend Dr. Watson? I …”

Hermione,” said the red-head, looking confused and a bit worried, “what …”

“Hermione, who are they?” asked the invisible boy.

“Am I the only one who ever reads anything in the muggle news?” she asked in a tone of ancient disbelief.

“Yup.” said the red-head.

“I only read the muggle news to see if there’s something big going on when I can’t talk to wizards.” said the invisible one.

She sighed and rolled her eyes, and I seemed to glimpse years of such interchanges behind the gestures. “Mr. Sherlock Holmes is only the greatest criminal detective of our age!” she explained, a bit shortly. “He’s not a wizard but I would have thought you would at least have heard of him.”

“Well, how does he know about us?!” asked the red-head.

“I would suppose,” she said with some asperity, “that it probably has something to do with the fact he’s a great criminal detective now when there’s so many …” She broke off.

“I have been looking into this little noticed segment of our island’s population since the unfortunate murder of Ms. Amelia Bones.” said Sherlock. “ And I know something of your organization and customs. For instance, I am aware that your next intended step is to cover your tracks by erasing the recent memories of myself and Dr. Watson. I don’t recommend you that try that, Miss Granger.”

I now saw that this was what had made her uncomfortable; she had been trying to figure out how to go about erasing our memories. I could see from her reaction to Sherlock’s comment that she had not expected him to know this, and was further embarrassed by his knowledge.

“Why not?” she asked finally.

“Firstly, it would be ineffective. You could not remove my knowledge of your people through mere destruction of my short term memory. You would have to go much farther back, which would not only be disastrous for my overall mind, but, on account of my profession, would also seriously compromise the outcome of several trials now headed for the courtroom. Your behaviour would suggest that you are too conscientious a young lady to effect such a compromise. Secondly, we are armed. And not about to let you just take our memories.” (Actually, only I was armed, and the nudge he gave me suggested that he thought my current demeanour insufficiently formidable.) “Thirdly, I’ve already contacted my brother in the muggle government on the situation. He is naturally discreet, and under my management the information about this evening’s events can be kept under control. But if I suddenly forget all about the matter you have just opened not a loophole, but a floodgate of investigation into your secret society. Fourthly, I believe that we desire the same goal at the moment, and our mutual cooperation would be greatly advantageous to both parties.”

The invisible boy took off his hood. I must have been unconsciously expecting a fantastic figure to be hidden beneath the remarkable garment, for I was surprised to see the face of a very ordinary looking boy emerge; light freckled skin, dark messy hair, features that had not lost their childishness yet, big vivid green eyes partially obscured with a pair of large, round glasses – the only remarkable thing about his appearance was a jagged scar, cutting straight down the centre of his forehead. He looked at Sherlock Holmes and me with open suspicion. I was too absorbed in wondering what terrible misfortune had given him that mark to feel much annoyance.

“What goal?” he asked.

“The destruction of the terrorist organization within the ranks of your secret society and the removal from power of its murderous leader, Mr. Riddle.” replied my friend.

At these words, the three children were flung into a something of a flurry. They wound up scampering off to the far side of the room for a whispered consultation of some kind. I noticed that they still kept their eyes on us, and did not put their weapons down.

In spite of these not entirely friendly precautions, Sherlock seemed extremely pleased by the proceedings, and he chuckled and rubbed his hands with together great satisfaction.

“Sherlock, what exactly are we doing?” I asked.

“This is it, John! This is precisely what I needed. I’ve been trying to figure this society’s workings primarily from the outside. But these children, they are inside! … By the way, a word of warning – their choices of words are extremely odd.”

“Yes, I noticed. They really call themselves wizards?”

“Yes, but don’t allow that to make you think that the matter isn’t a very serious one indeed.”

“But are you sure you can trust them? They wanted to knock us out and take our memories. And what if they actually are with Riddle? Aren’t you taking quite a chance?”

“They’re not with Riddle. And of course they wanted to knock us out and take our memories, that’s what wizards do when muggles stumble into their secrets. And of course I’m taking a chance. It’s too excellent a one to pass up! … You don’t have to stay though, if you’d rather not. They’d obviously want to erase your memory of the evening before you leave.” He hesitated. “It seems to be a perfectly safe procedure, medically speaking, assuming you don’t mind someone stealing things out of your head …”

“No, of course I’m not leaving.”

He smiled. “I knew you weren’t. … If you are coming, I wouldn’t count on getting home tonight. Better let Mary know. In the interests of diplomacy, make no mention of the wizards at the moment. Just tell her that the Bones and Burbage cases have turned out to be linked, and we’re following a scent while it’s still warm.”

As I had been accustomed to being away overnight from time to time while working with Sherlock Holmes on his cases, this would not come as a great surprise to my wife; though I knew she would be after a more thorough explanation when I got back. She was on a late shift that night and by the time I had gotten through to her at work, the trio had returned.

From their manner, it looked as though Miss Granger had just won an argument. She said that they couldn’t discuss the matter here and asked Mr. Holmes if he could return with them to a hiding place where they could speak freely, to which Sherlock readily agreed. And she asked me if I was going to accompany them. The two boys required further persuasion (or rather brow beating) from the her before assenting to even the temporary accompaniment of a second ‘muggle’. But between Sherlock’s insistence that he would require my help, and Miss Granger’s insistence that they could not afford to pass up his, they agreed, if reluctantly. I more than half suspected it was only to avoid staying here any longer. It occurred to me that in spite of their apparent acquiescence, memory wipes had not been ruled out yet.

They set things in order before we left. Their unassuming little ‘wands’ were more than weapons. They were also tools of the most extraordinary nature. I watched in amazement as the shattered glass flew back up into the empty panes, sealing back together without a seam, and as the cracked tables smoothed back over, the Formica melding till it looked as though it had never been broken. Having followed Sherlock Holmes in his cases for many years, I was no stranger to the remarkable, even to the marvellous. Yet I could scarcely bring myself to credit the evidence of my eyes. And I thought to myself that whatever technology the children were using to accomplish this, it was greatly under utilized. When, in but a few minutes, the café stood as it had been before any of us entered, save for the sleeping waitress and the slumped over gangsters, I found myself greatly wishing that I knew how to do this.

The two gangsters were propped back up in their booth, the waitress set in a chair in the back, and all three were subjected to the memory wipe which Sherlock and I had so far avoided. Sherlock had offered to ask Mycroft to have the gangsters arrested on charge of assault and hold them secretly until the matter of Riddle was handled. The three children refused this, apparently thinking that handing ‘wizards’ over to ‘muggles’ was letting the secret get out too far. Sherlock did not argue the matter, but I saw him texting away while the memory wipe was being done, and I suspected that someone was going to show up soon anyway. After the children had finished with them Sherlock went over and quietly pocketed their weapons.

Less than a quarter of an hour had passed since the fight when the five of us slipped out through the café’s back door and went hurrying along the dark streets. Had it been just Sherlock and I, we would have taken a cab, but for all five of us to travel by cab we would have had to split up. And none of us wanted to do this (I do believe that every one of us had a different set of reasons). Had it just been the three children, they would have teleported, but it appeared that they were uncertain about teleporting with passengers. I wasn’t sorry for that, since I felt that I should like to know a bit more about this ‘apparating’, as they called it, before I tried it out.

On foot the journey took some time, but it was not yet midnight when Miss Granger turned to us and said that she thought it would be better if our eyes were closed, and asked us to finish the journey being led by them. I rather feared a trap of some kind, in spite of the difficulty I felt in ascribing any kind of ill motives to the earnest, innocent looking young lady. But Sherlock seemed to have no such worries; he immediately took the hand she held out to him and shut his eyes. So I took the red-head’s hand, and was led forward in the dark.

We crossed an empty road, and from the sound and the movement of the air, entered an open square. Whether because of the lateness of the night, or the little-frequented nature of the place, I could discern no sound or vibration suggesting that there was anyone else nearby. We crossed a strip of lawn, went up a paved walk and climbed a short flight of steps. I heard the rattle of a lock and the creaking of a large, heavy door, and I smelled the cold, musty air drifting from the recess beyond. I now felt even more disinclined to comply with this arrangement, and hesitated on the threshold when the boy would have gone in. But hearing Sherlock’s voice ahead of me, already inside the cold cavernous place beyond the door (strangely hushed it seemed), I followed them inside.

At a soft word from Miss Granger, I opened my eyes and found myself in a dark hallway. The scents of dust and mildew filled my nostrils. The heavy door slammed closed behind me, and I felt as if a trap had just sprung closed. A row of lamps spluttered into wavering light along the wall, revealing more of the dreary hall before us, and giving the place, it seemed to me, an even more unpleasant, repelling aspect than the cavern-like darkness of before had.

By the time we found ourselves upstairs in a dreary, ancient parlour, covered with dust, and smelling of untold years of quiet decay, my view of the situation had shifted from criminal investigation to haunted house ride. Even if it hadn’t been for the booby-traps that were sprung upon us as we went down the hallway (screaming pictures, creepy recorded voices, and a remarkable fake ghost) my initial reaction would still have increased instead of being dissipated as we proceeded into the house. Stagnant air, rotting tapestries, dark doorways that I felt no inclination to pass. A sense of dead grandeur hung over it all. It must once have been impressive. I could not imagine that it ever could have been beautiful. One felt that the darkness was not the ordinary darkness that comes to all houses at night, but a more solid, permanent thing – like the darkness far underground. We learned that this ancient mansion was in fact legally owned by the dark-haired boy, who had recently inherited it from his godfather, one Sirius Black. A glance at his face as he said this intimated that he liked the place – if possible – even less than I did. But the three children thought it possible that we would not be pursued here. Sherlock knit his brows and looked unconvinced. I gathered that the booby-traps downstairs had entirely failed to impress him.

“Now, Mr. Holmes” said Miss Granger as we settled onto the dusty sofas and armchairs, “you’ve been investigating some of Voldemort’s recent crimes?”

“That I can remember, I have never heard the name ‘Voldemort’ before. ‘Flight from death’? Odd name. But if by ‘Voldemort’ you mean the leader of the terrorist group, the son of Thomas Riddle, and the man who murdered Amelia Bones, then yes, I have been.”

“Then you understand it’s not simply a matter of him being a simple murderer you could just arrest?”

“From my knowledge of the situation, he could be described as crime-boss, terrorist-organizer, gangster, race-supremacist, warlord, mad-scientist, and would-be-dictator. I know he has a large organization of fighters, a range of technologies which I am unfamiliar with, acts mostly under the radar, and has – tonight – carried out an act of open warfare, possibly a coup of sorts, here in London. If the matter could be dealt with as simply as telling Scotland Yard to arrest him and laying out my evidence before a jury, then the whole matter would have been dealt with long ago. I have spent months trying to put the puzzle pieces of your hidden world together, the innocent ones as well as the criminal ones. And I do not know where he currently is, where his base of operations is, how best to apprehend him, what would remain of his dangerous organization with him gone, or whether imprisonment in the custody of the ordinary British police would be anything like sufficient to stop him. I am missing many puzzle pieces yet.” And he looked keenly at her over the tips of his fingers.

“Well,” she said, “we don’t know all of those things either. And handing him over to the Muggle police would be a dreadful idea! He must be handled by wizards…”

“From what I understand of his capabilities, I must agree with you.”

“And yes,” she continued, “I suppose it was a coup. His forces attacked the ministry of magic just an hour ago.”

“And defeated the government forces.”

“They did.” She was looking at the floor.

“Riddle’s gang is in definite possession of the government headquarters then?” asked Sherlock.

“Yes, we have a friend who only just got out alive. The minister of magic was killed and the ministry itself is fallen.”

Sherlock nodded thoughtfully. “To what extent do you expect this will cripple the legitimate law-enforcement arm of your society?”

The three children looked at each other.

Sherlock leaned forward. “The battle in London cannot have wiped out the entirety of your government’s organization. What elements are left? To whom does the responsibility of apprehending the criminal fall?”

“Well,” said Hermione, “remember, we’re not talking about an ordinary Muggle style arrest.”

“I use the term ‘apprehend’ in a broad fashion.”

“We’re talking another battle, Mr. Holmes.” she said, her white face very earnest. “I don’t know what our forces look like at the moment; I don’t think anyone knows that tonight. Voldemort will have placed many of the important survivors under … a form of enchantment. I don’t know who and what’s left free. But we can’t try to attack him yet anyway. He has … protections, of a sort. You wouldn’t understand. And before we can directly engage him we must …”

“Hermione!” exclaimed the dark-haired boy. He was looking at her in apparent shock.

Without appearing to have noticed, my friend continued the girl’s sentence.

“Before we engage him we must remove these ‘protections’.”

“Yes.” she said.

Sherlock nodded, as though he understood her quite well.

“Do you mean ‘we’ as a generalization or as a specific?” he asked in businesslike tones.

She looked uncertainly towards her friends.

“Ah.” said Sherlock. “You do mean we. … A bit young to be taking on the leader of an opposing force by yourselves, aren’t you?”

The dark-haired boy, glanced side-ways at my friend and spoke in an under-tone to the girl.

“Hermione, how much are you planning on telling him? You’ve already gone too far! We can’t tell him about …”

“Why?” said Sherlock. “You are seeking a way to stop Riddle. So am I. I can be of assistance to you.”

The dark-haired boy went on: “Hermione, I promised Dumbledore I wouldn’t tell anyone but you and Ron. We can’t just tell some muggle because you’ve read about him in the papers! Better we muddle on by ourselves than let word get out to Voldemort.” He turned squarely to face Sherlock. “I’m sorry, Mr. Holmes. But I don’t think I can tell you.”

And I could see that he really was sorry. He seemed to think he was resisting a temptation. But it was infuriating, to have a mere boy say he knew a way to destroy the crime-lord, but was neither sure how to go about it nor would accept help.

“I appreciate the offer,” he continued, “but I really can’t accept. And, no offence, but we’re going to have to obliviate you. It won’t hurt.”

“Oh, I’ve been obliviated.” said Sherlock casually. “But – Dumbledore gave a teenager information on how to destroy a terrorist leader and forbade him to tell any adults?”

“We’re all of age!” said the red-head (who was apparently Ron). “I’ve been seventeen for months!”

“But you’re still young … few … uncertain. People are dying; both Muggles and Wizards. We’ve just been discussing how this has gone beyond mere criminal activity into actual warfare. You understand the situation perfectly well. You ran into hiding this very evening to avoid being captured by the enemy forces in control of the ministry. If you have information which will help bring Riddle to justice, you have to act now. If you aren’t sure how to proceed then you are duty bound to get assistance. … Let me assist. If it is the secrecy of your community that worries you – I’m not interested in a big exposure. I’m interested in stopping the murders, stopping the terrorism, and restoring order both in your nation and in mine. Your secret nation may be your business. But when it starts breaking English laws and attacking ordinary English citizens, it becomes my business. And about secrets getting to Riddle’s ear – I can keep them better you have yourself. If you weren’t going to accept my help in your secret mission against Riddle, Mr. Potter, you should never have told me that you had one. But you have been telling me this whole time.”

For a minute there was quiet. Then Miss Granger spoke.

“Harry, Dumbledore didn’t foresee this! He wanted you to keep the number of people small so the secret wouldn’t get out! This is just two more. People come from all over Europe to ask Mr. Holmes’s assistance! If you want only three then you’d do better to obliviate me, and take him instead!”

Harry seemed to be teetering. He leaned over and whispered something in her ear.

“Is his name written on his clothing?” I asked Sherlock quietly.

“Inside of his collar. H.J. Potter. I saw it when he bent over and put his head in his hands. He must have worn those robes at school.”

“Well, not one hundred percent!” exclaimed Miss Granger, responding to whatever Harry had been saying. “But I can’t imagine any good reason why not!” Then, with a sigh, she whispered something back. There was a long moment while Harry thought her words over.

“All right.” he finally said.

“Wait,” said Ron, “we’re letting a muggle in?”

“Two muggles.” said Sherlock, looking at me. “Anything that you can say to me, you can say also to Dr. Watson. You still have no objection to being involved in so outrageous and out-of-order an affair as a civil war among the nation’s wizards, have you, John?”

“No.” I said, greatly intrigued. “And of course I would keep secret anything revealed in confidence. Although, I’m not sure I can be of much help in an affair of that sort.”

“I assure you, you can be.” said Sherlock. “Yes, two muggles.”

To my surprise, Harry J. Potter made no objection to this. He nodded, took a breath, and despite the doubt that still haunted his eyes, he took the plunge.

“We don’t really have a plan. But before Voldemort can be fought there’s … things that must be done. If we, or any other wizards, try to take him, we have to assume that it’s a fight to the death. The team sent to ‘arrest’ him is either going to kill him or be killed by him. And that can’t happen right now. I mean … him being killed can’t.”

“What things must be done?” asked Sherlock.

“It’s difficult to explain to a Muggle …”

“Well,” I interjected, “remember he has been researching you for nearly a year.”

“What must be done?” Sherlock repeated.

“Before the first time he tried to seize power, he set up some … sort of safeguards … to prevent him being killed.”

“What do you mean safeguards?”

“Powerful magic objects …” said Harry slowly. To my surprise, Sherlock made no comment on the boy’s use of vocabulary. He half caught my eye with a subtly amused expression, as if he found their terminology entertaining and was inviting me to join the joke, but had no intention of challenging the terminology of these ‘wizards’. He was clearly more interested what to do about it than what they called it.

“Dark magic.” Harry continued. “They’re called horcruxes. He broke off pieces of his soul and attached them to certain objects” (Sherlock’s brows contracted) “protected with powerful spells. When he should have been killed, sixteen years ago, he wasn’t. He came back.”

“Came back?”

“He sort of … regenerated.”

“Regenerated?” I said. “Like Doctor Who?”

Everyone in the room (including Sherlock) looked questioningly at me.

“Doctor who?” asked Ron.

“Ah, no one. No one. Go on.”

Chapter 3 ~ Statement of the Case ~>

This non-commercial, derivative work is an independent production by Charlotte Ann Kent and is not associated with The Doyle Estate, the BBC, Warner Bros, or J.K. Rowling. 

Chapter 3 – Statement of the Case will be available on April 21st.  If you enjoyed this chapter, check back then, or follow the blog (the widget is in the sidebar at the top) to get a notification sent to your email.  If you know somebody else who might like it, feel free to share it!

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Seventh Safeguard [I]



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Chapter I ~ The Strange Case of Amelia Bones


I had never known my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, to be as totally preoccupied with anything so deeply and for such a long time since the death of the late Professor Moriarty as he was over the course of the year preceding this narrative. And never, in all the years I had known him, had he been as recalcitrant in answering questions.

For some months, I had thought it was just the strange case of Ms. Bones which had absorbed him so thoroughly. Ms. Amelia Bones, a quiet middle aged lady living alone in London, had been found dead in her home. All the doors and windows had been locked from the inside and there was no evidence of a break-in, yet there were clear marks of a desperate struggle. Sherlock had originally scoffed at the sensational nature of the reports, and lost no time getting on the case himself. He told the police that the people they were looking for were four in number, dressed in long cloaks, three men and a woman, that the woman was unusually tall, with long dark hair, long nails, and a somewhat hysterical personality, and that the actual murder had been done by one of the men – who had small feet with long toes, was thin, even taller than the woman, and who had stood in the middle of the room talking for some time after the initial struggle, before he actually killed his victim. When asked by the police how these persons got into the locked room, and then back out again without unlocking the doors, breaking the windows, or leaving their tracks anywhere except the room of the murder, Mr. Holmes fixed the officer with a strange look and replied simply: “They teleported.”

After this he was always busy. I was not surprised, for I knew he could not be satisfied until he had gotten to the bottom of the mystery. I did not for one second believe that he really meant that they had teleported, supposing this to be merely sarcasm. He several times took great interest in cases which seemed simple enough to everyone else. He would be absent from London for days at a time, and neglect to volunteer information about where he had been. When asked he would be, as it seemed to me at the time, deliberately evasive. He also, and this to me seemed the strangest thing of all, took up studies of a new and most unusual kind. I could not find the common point in his research; everything from highly technical works on the most up-to-date and abstract micro-physics, to paranormal theories I would have expected him to give a mile’s berth. When I asked if I could help, he assured me that he would be certain to call on me if there was anything I could do … but he still didn’t say what he was up to.

All through this of course, he kept on with his normal work, handling at least as many, perhaps more, cases that year than usual.

It was on the first of August that I finally heard something of the theory which had preoccupied my friend so entirely for so many months. We had just returned from Cornwall, upon an investigation into the disappearance of a young lady by the name of Charity Burbage. She had not, it appeared, been seen for several weeks by the time Sherlock Holmes was called to the case, and there had been little that even he could ascertain from her house by that time. There was no sign of a break in; she might have just left it for the afternoon. She was reported by the neighbours to be a friendly and outgoing woman who spent most of the year up north, where she apparently worked as a teacher. But no one could provide any concrete details on her work or her colleagues. We went back to London that night, as I thought, little the wiser about the young lady’s fate. Sherlock was quiet on the train; I guessed that this time even he was stumped. Rather than returning straight to our homes, he to Baker Street and I to St. Anne Street, we stopped in a small café for a late supper.

The room was empty and rather dingy, and my companion was still wrapped in a taciturn reverie, so I busied myself with the evening paper whilst we ate (or rather I, for he ordered only a coffee). There was a television playing in the corner. My companion’s back was to it, and he showed no signs of being aware of it, or of anything in the café. It took me by surprise, therefore, when the introspective thinker suddenly awoke; his face had become intent and he swung quickly around to look over his shoulder. A news report was playing and it was clearly this which had caught his ear.

“… but by the time the firemen and rescue personnel arrived on the scene, there was no sign of the reported conflagration. A second witness claims to have heard cries at about the time of the initial report, which he said could have been coming from near the corner of Dwight and Forth Streets, but he admits that he might have been mistaken. It remains unclear whether the whole affair was an elaborate joke, if something did indeed happen at the corner, or if someone made a genuine mistake. Meanwhile, at Windsor …”

Sherlock drew his phone from the pocket of his blazer as he turned away. From the suppressed excitement of his face, and the urgency of his movements, it was clear that this story meant a great deal more to him than it did to me.

“You think the incident has some bearing on a case?” I asked, attempting to discern the cause of his reaction.

“Yes indeed it does, if I am not gravely mistaken. A rather great bearing. I was expecting something of the sort.”

“Expecting pranksters?”

“It wasn’t a prank.” he replied, apparently carrying on two conversations at once, for he was texting quite hastily. “I’m sure there really was a fire, or something very closely resembling one. It had just been put out before the rescue team got there.”

“By whom?”

“Probably by the people who started it.”

“You expected arson?” I said in surprise. “Shouldn’t you then have warned the police?”

“Why, my dear fellow, you do me an injustice. … I did not in fact inform Scotland Yard, but Mycroft knew full well to watch out for disturbances and suspicious sightings in that area.” He chuckled; his brother’s position in the governement gave him significantly better powers of observation than the police had easy access to. “I rather fancied Scotland Yard might be a bit out of their depth.”

“Well …” I said, looking in surprise at Sherlock, whose expression had immediately lapsed back from the brief chuckle into that of serious concentration, “apparently, so was Mycroft.”

“That report had almost nothing. All we know is that something happened there at nine o’clock this evening.”

These strange assertions did little to enlighten me.

“Sherlock … this doesn’t have anything to do with the Amelia Bones case, does it?”

“You are quite on the mark this evening, John.” “It has everything to do with Amelia Bones. … Mycroft knows almost as little as we do. The alarm of fire was given by one of the agents he had stationed there and the other is missing.”

Mycroft stationed agents at the corners of Dwight and Forth Streets?!” I said in shock. “What were you expecting to happen? Your brother doesn’t post agents over suspected arson.”

“It wasn’t arson.” he said. “It was a battle. … Gang warfare, John.”

“Gang? The gang that killed Ms. Bones, you mean?”

“Exactly. In fact I have reason to believe that it was her murderer who led this attack.”

Thrilled at finally getting a hint of what he’d been up to all this time, I pursued the thread.

“Who was the murderer?”

“A dangerous and highly unusual man. Tall, thin, long-fingered, cruel, arrogant, fond of the sound of his own voice, violently racist towards ordinary Englishmen, the owner of an extremely large and remarkably well trained python, possessing a great amount of resources, an extraordinary variety of odd technology, and who appears to be the leader of a murderous organization which is very well hidden but spread throughout all of Britain.”

“He’s the … leader of a gang?”

“Yes.”

“What do you mean he’s racist towards ordinary Englishmen? Do you mean class hatred?”

“No.” he fixed me with an odd look. “I mean people like you and me, John.”

My confusion must have shown on my face, for he continued wryly:

“Yes, that does happen. It unfortunately happens more often than you’d think. This gang leader is only one such.”

“Who is he?”

“His name you mean?”

“Mm-hm.”

“Well, of this I cannot be sure … but I have a theory. I believe, or rather to be fair, I think it highly likely, his name is Riddle.”

“Just Riddle? Is that some sort of …”

“No no, nothing of the kind. But I have reason to believe that he was the son of a country squire named Thomas Riddle, which would make his surname Riddle.”

“Well, that doesn’t sound so very far from ordinary. What exactly do you mean by …” I broke off as his gaze suddenly flashed to the door. A pair of teenagers had just come in together, a girl and a boy. Besides the slightly odd fact that the girl was wearing a lovely lavender party dress while the boy was in worn jeans and a rumpled orange sweatshirt, I could see nothing about them to warrant interest. But I could see that Sherlock, though pretending to play with his phone, was really watching them very closely. They took a booth near the door, and sat there, looking a bit uncomfortable. They were speaking to each other, but in whispers I could not pick up.

“What is it?” I asked my companion.

“They’re fugitives.” he said beneath his breath, still playing with the phone.

“How do you make that out?”

“Look at them. They’ve just come from a formal event. Look at her clothes and hair. But they left in a hurry. He was wearing dress clothes too, but changed out of them quickly. He pulled on the clothes he’s wearing now fast and carelessly. But he’s still wearing his dress shoes. They were at the event together then, but he changed. Why? Not for practicality’s sake. If that had been the case she’d have taken off those heels. Perhaps because his clothes would stand out more than hers. … Long robes, for instance.” He gave me a look, as if wondering whether I got something. Then I remembered he had described Ms. Bones’ assailants as wearing long cloaks or robes. “They are clearly nervous, perhaps they expect to be followed. The young lady keeps looking over her shoulder at the door. So, they left a party in a great hurry, were worried they would stand out, fear attack … and don’t know what to do next. You can see from their manner that they are uncertain.”

“Maybe it’s just a bad date?”

“No. That wouldn’t explain him changing his outfit. And hers is too formal for that. And they aren’t nervous about each other. Look at the way she’s leaning across the table towards him, it’s almost conspiratorial, they’re very used to each other. They can’t be out of school yet, or at least he can’t. But they aren’t related, at least not closely. … First of all there’s their appearance, absolutely no family resemblance. Then there’s their clothes. Her things appear new. Not his.”

“Well, hers are formal wear.”

“Yes, but he’s still wearing his formal shoes. Did you notice the soles? Almost worn through. A boy that age doesn’t usually fit a pair of dress shoes long enough to wear them through. They’re hand-me-downs then, or second-hand. Her family has to be at least solidly middle-class. His is short on money. These school children are not close relatives then, but still very familiar. School friends then. And what might we deduce about their companion?”

Companion?” I asked, trying to keep my voice down in my surprise. “Sherlock, there’s only two of them.”

“Yes. I wouldn’t expect you to notice him. But this isn’t the first time this year I’ve happened across difficult to see things. Did you notice the way they walked in? She came first, and he followed some space behind her, pausing just momentarily, but leaving a good space between them. She sat down right away in the left hand side, but he waited before taking the opposite seat; looking not at her but at the seat. It shifted, just slightly, before he sat down. There is a third person sitting next to him on the right hand bench.”

“But how …”

“The manipulation of light waves to bend around an object rather than bouncing off it has been theorized. Of course, none of our scientists have yet managed to make such an object, but this group has done enough strange things that we have not that I find it not in the slightest difficult to conceive that they have done this also. Especially since the proof sits in front of me.”

“Well then,” I said, with raised eyebrows, “what can be deduced about him … or her?”

Him, I think, though I shalln’t insist on this point. Judging by the shifting of the bench, I’d say he’s slightly lighter than his red-headed friend (how tall it is impossible to say). Unlikely to be a full grown man then, although he could be a small one. Possibly he could be a woman. But more likely another teenager. And look at their manner to him. They aren’t directly addressing him, and he hasn’t ordered a drink. … They are pretending there’s only two of them, but they keep giving off subtle cues showing that the third person is very much a part of their little group. When she bends across the table, it isn’t directly towards the red-head. Their posture takes him into account. They probably don’t even realize it. They don’t look directly at the corner seat much, but they keep glancing towards it, not nervously, but conversationally, and at least in her case, rather sympathetically. Whoever is sitting there is clearly not only an ally, but as familiar as they are to each other, they neither avoid him, nor defer to him, he is solidly one of them. … In all likelihood a third school friend. A little knot of three.

“But it is only he who is invisible. It’s probably a small piece of equipment, worn like a cloak or a poncho. Since they are obviously keen on not being seen, they would clearly all be wearing them if they had them, but they are not, so they only have one. And he gets it. Why?”

“Because … it’s him, or her, that’s actually in danger?”

“A sound conclusion. For some reason, the third person is either in more danger, or is more likely to be noticed, or both.” continued Sherlock. “He gets the invisibility cloak.”

Invisibility cloak.” I said with half a laugh shaking my head. “Sherlock, you have a point, but that sounds so …”

“So what?”

“…. Silly.”

“No, not at all. In theory it’s really rather simple, you merely…”

“No, I don’t need a science lecture. … I’ll take your word for it. … Now, why are they on the run? Something to do with that … battle you mentioned?”

“The two incidents are too close for them to be coincidental. There’s something going on there at the corner of Dwight and Forth, related to this secret minority or gang. I’ve been keeping a close eye on it, and have very good reason to believe that it is something of a centre of operations.”

“What have you seen?”

“It’s more what I haven’t.” he said. “I don’t normally wake up on Northumberland street with no idea how I got there, but with a clear memory of having intended to search Dwight and Forth that morning.”

“You think that someone messed with your mind?”

“I’m sure that they did.”

“And you’ve no idea what happened that day?”

“Oh, I have a very good idea.” He smiled grimly. “But I have absolutely no ‘memory’ of the hours between ten and one. … Clearly …”

“I see. … And, is this the only time this has happened?”

He shook his head. “No, something similar has happened on at least two other occasions since I got on the case – possibly three.”

“So, you obviously found something …”

“And they took it back. Yes.” he snapped. “But I’m quite certain about Dwight and Forth. They didn’t see me every time – I was quite right in telling Hopkins about the long robes and cloaks, by the way.” His momentary irritation had faded. “So, a battle happens at a central base of operations, almost immediately thereafter, three school children run away in the middle of a formal party, try to blend in among normal people, aren’t sure where to go or what to do now, expect attack, and bother to make one of their number invisible.”

“Their side lost the battle.” I said, but this time I wasn’t asking.

“I think they must have. And for some reason these three children expected immediate recrimination. Why? They’re just teenagers. It’s difficult to see why they would be special targets.”

“But what is really under the cloak?”

“Yes, I think that has to be it. He is on the run, and they have accompanied their friend. So, the third person is someone of importance to this secret war, on the side which has just lost a battle, and unless I’m gravely mistaken, against the side which is responsible for Ms. Bones murder and Miss Burbage’s abduction.”

“Wait. Miss Burbage was abducted? You didn’t say that before. How do you know that, there was nothing in her house to …”

“She was abducted.” he said, as if there could be no mistake about the matter. “I’m afraid it is highly unlikely that she is still alive. And even if she were, it would be impossible for the police to effect a rescue at this stage. But this teen …” He broke off, his eyes flashed to the door, where two big, ill-tempered looking men in road-work uniforms had just come in. They stomped to a table behind us, near the teens, out of my sight. Sherlock, though he kept his face mostly in the direction of his phone, clearly found something either interesting or alarming about them (probably both, I thought to myself).

“Humph.” he observed. “Didn’t even bother to scuff up their boots. John, I did recommend you bring your handgun today … ”

“Yes, I have it.”

“You might want want to have it where you can reach it quickly. There might be an exchange of unpleasantries.”

“They aren’t workmen?”

“Goodness no. Look at their hands. … No, don’t look, you’ll attract attention. And see, they aren’t here for coffee or sandwiches.” The waitress was walking off towards the back looking miffed.

“Should we uh … say something? Maybe?” I suggested.

“Oh no.” my friend replied. “We shall watch the situation develop. … Besides, I rather fancy our invisible young friend has read the signs too.” He leaned back a little in his seat and pressed the tips of his fingers together, surveying the ‘developing situation’. In response to his warning, I had taken my pistol off safety, and had it in my hand. I could not see the two men from my position, and so waited uncomfortably in the knowledge that a fight between grown men and mere children was brewing behind my back. Then suddenly, Sherlock leapt to his feet with a cry of warning … and chaos broke loose.

The scene that followed was of such a singular nature, and was so outré a sight, that I hesitate to describe it. My first thought was that there had been an explosion, for in the moment it took me to jump up and turn round, there was a succession of loud noises of an unfamiliar nature, accompanied by much crashing and flashes of light. But the scene which met my eyes was one of near comedic nonsensicalism. From what Sherlock had told me, I should have expected it, but nevertheless, the sight of a hand and wrist hovering in mid-air all by themselves took me by surprise. And so too did their weapons. For a fraction of a second I thought that they had none, and wondered why they were grasping small drumsticks, before I realized that those were their weapons.

With a shout, I sent a bullet into the table beside the not-workmen to get their attention before any of them had time to fire again. For a moment the two teens and the remaining man (the other had slumped over on the bench) stopped and looked at us with what seemed to be astonishment. The bodiless hand paused in mid-air.

“I don’t know what your problem is.” I said. “But you don’t have to go around smashing up shops and zapping passer-bys! Put the drumsticks down!”

“I recommend that you don’t make him fire again.” Sherlock said coolly. “The first was a warning shot. The second won’t be. And I’ve never seen him miss.”

There was a moment’s pause in which the astonishment on all three of the faces was replaced by an ugly sneer on the not-workman’s face and horror on the girl’s face. Then the not-workman began to laugh, a nasty laugh which chilled my stomach.

Certain that this was the prelude to something not at all friendly, I began to threaten.

“Point that drumstick at me,” I blustered, “and …”

And then he pointed it at me. Then, as far as I could make out, everyone – besides Sherlock and the unconscious not-workman – fired at once.

For a moment I could make no sense of it. My own bullet whizzed right back past me and took out a light-panel. The not-workman fell backwards with a horrible shriek, in spite of the fact that my bullet couldn’t possibly have hit him. There was more flashing, a window broke, and the waitress slid to the ground.

Then all was quiet, and Sherlock Holmes, the two teens, the bodiless hand, and I stood there amidst the wreckage of the café.

“Well. … That. Was. Interesting.” said Sherlock.

I turned to the teenagers: “You all right, kids?”

Chapter 2 – The Hidden Mansion in London’s Heart ~>


This non-commercial, derivative work is an independent production by Charlotte Ann Kent and is not associated with The Doyle Estate, the BBC, Warner Bros, or J.K. Rowling. 

Chapter 3 – Statement of the Case will be available on April 21st. If you enjoyed this chapter, check back then, or follow the blog (the widget is in the sidebar at the top) to get a notification sent to your email.  If you know somebody else who might like it, feel free to share it!

The Song of the Shepard: Canto 6 ~ Close to Home

© Bioware  ~  Introduction

~ Stanza 1 · Fruit of the Victory ~
‘I can’t believe we just left her behind.’
The gentle light of the comm-room walls
On a weary and quiet circle falls.
Six here sit, with voices deadened,
Where ten hours since sat a circle of seven
Kaidan’s voice breaks the silence. And speaks out my mind.
I told her I would come for her.
Both I and Kaidan gave our words…
He held up his end – but the choice wasn’t his.
He didn’t get to make that call.
I did.
Now Ashley is dead. And Aegohr lost.
Lives this mission shouldn’t have cost.
We took out an army and levelled a base.
But Saren Arterius himself escaped.
And the Reaper, Sovereign, lives
Or exists at least, for I cannot give
A word such as life to the being that spoke
Out of the dark breathing frost to our hopes.
A little victory that but revealed
Who our true foe is. From its face it peeled
The mask of Saren’s hate and ambition
And laid open the pit of the Reaper’s vision.
I lift my head.
Kaidan’s looking to me
He’s worn and bent with grief and pain,
His square and normally ruddy face stained
With pallor from his wounded side.
The stricken depth of his eyes meet mine.
‘Commander, why? Why did you come to me?’
‘I had to make a call, Alenko;
And that was the judgement I made.
Between two perils I chose, and chose you.
That’s all that I’m going to say.’
But I cannot draw my eyes away.
This man was almost lost today,
This one, not some other man.
This one with those brown and able hands
This one whose thoughtful, patient brow
Is fair and noble, even now,
Though pale with lack of blood and breath
And heavy with his comrade’s death.
And if I turn away from the man that I saved
I’ll think of all those I did not.
What is there that I can say?
I abandoned a squad.
‘Shepard.’
I turn as Liara speaks.
‘Wasn’t there something you needed to show me?’
I rise. There is yet the second beacon,
The victory’s one trophy, the Prothean vision.
I bring it before the eye of my mind
As Liara’s mind draws close.
I feel a gasp. She breaks the bind.
‘Ilos! The Conduit’s on Ilos!’

~ Stanza 2
· The Lost Relay ~
Ilos lies beyond the Mu Relay
Where the Relay lies, there’s none can say.
They say it was used by the invading Rachni
But it’s centuries since that the last one died.
If we could be certain that the Reaper too
Doesn’t know, won’t know, and never knew
Then I’d set aside thoughts of the Conduit
Whatever it is. But they yet might find it.
We still do not know what this Conduit is
But we know that the Reapers need it.
And we know their last victims thought this important
And tried to tell us where to find it.
So inquiries can be made, and records unearthed
If all else fails, we can go out and search
The Chandrasekhar system where it’s said to be
But before I waste months, I’m searching for leads.
As soon as I can I’ll send out the word.
Liara’s re-combing for clues in the records.
The nav-team is looking for any near force
Which might move a Relay or alter its course.
We turn the Normandy’s prow towards home
Towards Earth, and the Council, the gulfs of the known.
Our guests have served a long costly tour,
They won our first victory of Sovereign’s new war,
They need conveyance back to Citadel Space.
And we too should make port in a civilized place.
We’ve not docked nor restocked for many long days.
Our ship’s been too long on the vast open rays.
But the Reapers are coming.
Saren is only their foremost pawn
The Reapers are coming.
Out of the past, out of deep space, beyond.

~ Stanza 3
· In the Hold ~

Down in the hold by the ship’s bay door,
On many and many a day before
In the drowsy light of the armoury
Where the working of tools clinked quietly
I used to find Ashley Williams,
Dark hair pulled back in a low, soft knob,
Blue sleeves rolled-up out of reach of her job,
Now there still lies the armoury
But alien voices ring sharply to me
Not that of Ashley Williams.
Commander Rentola now commands
The sadly diminished Salarian band.
Their makeshift barracks are as clean and tight
As though it were months since they came from the fight.
He’s putting a cheerful face on it
Calling their circumstance more than adequate
And though its his team that bore the real weight
He extends sympathies for Gunnery-Chief’s fate.

~ Stanza 4
· Wrex ~
I find Urdnot Wrex in a shadowed corner
Thinking to himself alone
Paws on his knees, his head bowed like a mourner
As if he was cut out of stone.
The Salarians bewail their noble captain
And more than a third of their men.
My strike team grieves the death of Ashley
And the whole crew mourns with them.
But of Urdnot Wrex’s woe
Nobody seems to care or know.
Nobody talks of the Krogan cost
Nobody speaks of the knowledge we lost.
I go to him to apologize
Thank him for his service and sympathize
But as I draw near, he stands up abruptly
And offers me the apology.
He got a bit hot down there. Got carried away.
Said things he shouldn’t have said.
‘But there is one thing, Shepard,’ – great nostrils splay –
‘When we find Saren, I want his head!’

~ Stanza 5
· The Scholar’s Dream ~

Never once do I hear Liara
Talk about how she was right.
Never once does she boast or mention
How she truly foretold Sovereign’s might.
Instead she’s just turned straight back to the work
Restudying passages where tips might lurk
And poring over all that she has on Ilos
Lest some hints to the Conduit go left unnoticed.
She thinks Ilos was the secret heart
Of knowledge in the Prothean empire
To see that sky, those pinnacles,
She has long desired.
But never has Asari Scholar ever seen that world.
‘May you be the first, Liara. Pray you win that race.’

~ Stanza 6
· Shadow out of the Past ~
For the Reapers are coming.
And they need that place.
Sovereign is hunting.
And this is a race.
What are the Reapers? Whence did they come?
Who set abeating their terrible drums?
Kaidan and I together muse
On the terrible theory our mission proved
The lost past and future bleak.
What was it we met, down there in the dark?
Still a cold shadow lies in my heart.
And I wonder to what did I speak.
‘The thing is…’ once Kaidan says
‘It isn’t just that they’re dangerous,
The most evil thing that I’ve heard or met.
I hate it, with all of my being … and yet-
Shouldn’t one feel a kind of awe?
Something so huge, and something so old,
Millions of years … with its own monstrous law,
Don’t you feel the weight of those ages of cold?’
I do. And it burdens and troubles my mind.
‘Alenko, be careful, such horror can blind.
It isn’t the first we’ve been told that we couldn’t.
If we believed it, its true that we wouldn’t.
In the Battle of Shanxi they said we couldn’t break through.
But we kicked out the Turians. We’ll get these guys too.’
He looks over at me. Almost, he smiles.
The closest I’ve seen for what seems a long while.
‘Well, Commander,’ his tone’s resolute,
‘We’re gonna need one really big boot.’

He was back to work sooner than I thought good
Doctor Chakwas insisted he should,
Light ship-board duty, nothing more,
Don’t make him lie there to think and deplore.
He says he’s alright, that he’s holding up fine.
And he hasn’t since questioned the call that was mine.
But I can only think of how
If Saren had not come,
I could have come, then come away
And brought both marines home.

~ Stanza 7
· Farewell, Williams ~

Blue and black Alliance regs
Folded flat and tight
In an almost empty locker
Kept neat and clean and bright.
A photograph of four tall girls
One in overalls, one in swirls
One standing trim in a freshly-pressed suit
The fourth in regs and military boots.
We never spoke of her sisters
Not Abby, nor Sarah, nor Lynn
I was scarcely aware they existed
And I won’t have that chance again.
Kaidan beside me seems to know
Which name is whose, and joys and woes
Of the bold and headstrong Williams tribe
Whose eldest, whose leader, almost mother, has died.
(And I wish I’d been there, when he heard.
I wish I’d been, and made a third.)
As we note the few items and pack them away
For shipment back home when we reach friendly space
I feel something hard beneath the clothes
And there underneath, in a tight-squeezed row
One line of upright volumes stands
Well-worn by the touch of hands.
Tennyson, Tolkien, Virgil and Gray
Shakespeare, and Heinlein, and Lillian Day
With well thumbed pages and bindings worn
Even in places a little torn.
There is no hurry, the long star-lit days
Roll quietly on as the ship shoots through space.
I pluck a book out of the shelf.
They’re marked inside, in sharp bold strokes
Underlining favourite quotes,
Quotes which I have loved myself
And verses which I’ve never heard,
Potent, strange, and stirring words.
As a young dreaming boy, Kaidan revelled in stories
Of men who set out on the deep starry sea
To explore the unknown, to defend their home-world,
Or make themselves worth a sweet lady adored.
While I in the rhythms of old once dwelled,
Under age old canopies with giants and elves.
For I grew up on that starry sea
Looking down to the worlds and the waters, while he
Son of a space marine, grew on the Earth
Looking up to the skies from his green place of birth.
But of recent years, both he and I
Have let all the poets slip us by.
Not Ashley.
Deep in the locker, there’s a second photograph
Kept out of the reach of a careless glance
I lift it out of the shadows.
A young man, with her nose is there.
A woman with her thick, dark hair
Beside them – I didn’t know.
But once has mankind surrendered a place
To the forces of an alien race.
That was at Shanxti, in the first contact war
By General Williams, who I’d not thought before
To connect with this woman so filled with bright fire
Yet the infamous general was Ashley’s grandsire.
Kaidan looks down at the yellowing leaf.
‘I guess her dad was ecstatic when she was made chief.
He never rose above able-spaceman.
Not after what his father had done.’
I turn the photograph o’er
On the yellowed back I read this behest:
A Williams must be BETTER than the best
If only to not fall short.’
‘Now must you give place ignominious Shanxti!
The name Williams shall hence be admired.
Now at its sound will men think of our victory
At the Reaper’s base upon Virmire.’

~ Stanza 8 · The Council Again ~
When we finally reach a comm buoy
I report to the Council, and they contact me
I take a deep breath at their very first words…
‘I thought you said you’d be discreet, Shepard!
You were supposed to go in and investigate.
Now we find that you’ve nuked the place!’
‘Okay, firstly, it wasn’t a nuke.
With a nuke we wouldn’t have lost any troops
For we wouldn’t have needed to plant it inside.
I wish we’d had one! Good soldiers died.
Second, I wasn’t in command of the mission.
It was conceived and led by the Salarians.
It wasn’t even my hand that set their drive core to blow.
That honour belongs to my lieutenant, Alenko.
And thirdly – Yes! We did blow the base!
Did you read the report I sent on that place?
You could thank me, or at least the Salarians,
That team bore one long, hard, and costly mission.
But, Councillors, the Reapers, I’ve found out much more-’
‘Shepard, enough! That string’s getting sore.’

~ Stanza 9 · The Living and the Lost ~
Many days from Hoc’s hard gaze
Many days from Virmire
We burst again on the purple rays
And the gleaming Citadel spires.
All is just as it was before.
No fright, or bustle, no signs of war.
As if the threat we’ve so plainly seen
On the night’s dark sea, was only a dream.
At the Presidium docks, a starship waits
With colours green, and open gates
For the Third STG Infiltration force
To take them the final, short, safe course
To verdant Sur’Kesh, their own home-world.
Their livid green banner hangs unfurled.
My crew comes out to see them off,
And many an Alliance cap is doffed
To the valiant, victorious, diminished band.
While in welcome their own crew stands.
But nobody else is there to cheer
No crowds were waiting upon the pier.
Just us few sailors. No one else knows.
None else here realize how great was their foe.
As I watch them march along
I hear again the piercing song
Of the soldier who sang out their captain’s death.
He too, I hear, fell soon to the Geth.
And where is the noble squad of Aegohr?
Where is that leaping band of war?
On alien shores their ashes lie
In a sea filled crater beneath the sky
Where never a voice is raised in song.
Where the wild sea cries out all day long
And the cold stars wheel o’er the slaughtered throng….
(Look on them Rosamund … you chose wrong.)
Aiiieh! I know. Don’t play that string
I cannot now do anything
To help those who I left behind.
I cannot make the time rewind
No matter how you twist that knife
I cannot bring the dead to life.
I can’t. And so then, let it be.
And though their deaths may fall on me
It was no crime, no false betrayal,
I chose as best as I was able,
I chose in hope that all might live.
To the greater need I tried to give
The little aid t’was mine to wield.
Too late was the likeness of need revealed.
And now there’s nothing I can do
However much my choice I rue.
The choice I rue? … Ah, there I lie!
How could I wish that man to die
Who stands so straightly by my side
How could I wish I’d made a choice
That would have stilled that rough, soft voice
That hand, that heart, had died.
Oh, twisted fate! The cruellest dart
Which gnaws and troubles at my heart,
Is that it were better that you had died,
And been in their stead left as ash on the tide.
If I stood again on that balcony
And saw there then what I now see
I would leave him behind, as he bade me do
And bring Aegohr safe to the rendezvous.
But I cannot. Oh, leave me in peace!
One true heart was saved from that fire at least.
And I cannot now do anything more
For those who were lost on Virmire’s shore.

~ Stanza 10
· The Council s Fatuity ~

I leave the restocking in Presley’s hands
I have business aboard, things to say if I can.
As I leave the dock, I hear close beside me
The lieutenant’s voice, and turning I see
Both he and Garrus, no longer in regs
But dressed in full armour, shined up and edged.
I nod and they join me, my left and my right
And come with me up to the Presidium’s height.

But when we reach the Council chambers
The Councillors will not be seen.
Though long we stand at the great white doors
And long we walk the broad courtyard floors
They will not admit my team.
This message they send, and this message alone
Delivered in writing – I near hear their groans.
We have no time to listen to legends.
We will not fuel your folly.
Forgets the myths and track down Saren!
The Reapers are fantasy.’
‘With what proof do you say that? With what but a wish?
You’re not refuting me. You but resist
The data I show you! Sneers change no facts!
We must look at what’s happened if we are to act.’
But they send no reply and we’re left standing by
Staring up at the changeless lavender sky.

~ Stanza 11
· An Hour on the Presidium ~
‘Shepard, Alenko – I’d heard you were here.’
‘Captain?’
Anderson’s standing near.
I’d though he was off in the vastness of space
Yet here he stands, still in the same place.
When we ask him why, he answers merely
They have him assigned at the Embassy,
And asks us to come and speak with him,
Tell him of the ship, of the battle, of Sovereign.
Here has the world gone on as before
With its trade and politics, petty wars.
A Batarian terrorist hijacked an astroid
We were redirecting that it might avoid
Terra Nova colony. He killed the team there
And tried to hurl it to the colony’s air.
A commando team stopped him and took it back.
But we didn’t catch the terrorist, Balak.
And another tale that troubles me
Far more than Balak’s violent deeds
Is that of an Admiral murdered by men
Kidnapped, experimented on ere his end.
He was investigating the missing soldiers
I found slaughtered on Edolus’ boulders.
The culprit’s an organisation
Which goes by the name Cerberus.
Though little is known of its deeds or intentions
Tales have sometimes come to us.
A human supremacist organisation
At the expense of our alien friends.
A group which speaks of man’s domination….
And yet slaughters men.

This all was but news of a passing week,
The Captain would rather listen than speak.
He saw our reports, heard about the Mu Relay
But he fancies there is still much to say.
So to Anderson we tell the tale and fears
That I had intended for the Council’s ears
Of Liara’s work, and the beacon’s vision,
Of the Geth’s idolatry, and the words of Sovereign.
Long we speak in the green dappled light,
Of this threat from the past, of this aeons long blight.
What war were they built for? By what ancient race?
What turned them to wanton destruction cross space?
Were they used by a madman? Programmed to wipe-out
The hands that had built them, their own maker’s flout?
Or did a great weapon, built for all-out war,
Perforce must keep doing what it was built for
Till it turned on the allies, and then back on home
Till a silent machine it was left all alone –
To seek out any folk who could yet pose a fight.
And wield once again their unmeasured might.
Anderson tells us he’ll do what he may.
He’ll plead the case loudly, and look for the relay.
And I shall set sail for Noveria’s port.
Saren’s business there’s unknown. I’ll get a report.

With our captain and friend we linger awhile
Where the clear fountains laugh and the white sun-stars smile.
But in too short a time he is called, and must go.
At the ambassador’s word he now goes to and fro.

~ Stanza 12
· The Ancient Station ~
We head back through the white and gleaming city
In the unending day.
In the sounds of water and flittering ditties
And quiet speech on the quays.
I check in with sources I asked of the relay
They yet have nothing of use to say.
We’re besieged by reporters and I gladly tell
Of Saren, of Sovereign, how the Reaper Base fell.
And a lone man calls to me for I look
Like my mother Hannah, and he almost mistook
(Even here folk suffer dearth
He can’t pay for a berth on a ship back to Earth
But must live on such odd-jobs as he can.
I wonder if mother really knows this man.)

Our path crosses that of a Salarian
Who I’ve met before, one Doctor Chorban
He’s avidly studying the busy keepers
Those silent, creeping, toneless creatures.
The Keepers were here when the Asari first came
Running the station. And it still is the same.
Though folk have long dwelled in this island in space
And we have rebuilt quite a lot of the place
Our understanding’s scarcely grown.
And whence came the Keepers, what these things are,
What brought them here, and from which distant star,
Was and still is unknown.

Deep in thought I tread the ways
Of this strange and unknown place.
Down to the dock where our sleek ship waits
Past shops and dwellings, through many gates
Where perky Salarians hawk their wares
And mixed crowds fill the gleaming squares
Where never a counter or window is bare
And Asari damsels have smiles to spare
Where lively music rings in the air
Where starlight shines and coloured bulbs glare
And the Keepers creep with their empty stare.

~ Stanza 13
· The Alliance Calls ~

We leave the docks as soon as may be
Gliding out o’er the Citadel towers
Away from the Council’s stubborn seat
And the halls, and the courts, and the bowers.
Our intent is for the far icy shore
Of distant Noveria, and yet before
We can sail to the relay, Alliance Command
Hails down our vessel, and conference demands.
Hackett, Admiral of the fleet
Has an order for me
And calls a diversion of my ship
He calls back the Normandy
Back to the Sol system, back to Earth
To its orbit, to our own moon
Where a training system needs shut down
He bids – he requests – I come soon.
The training VI on Luna Base
Where young marines train for battle in space
Has gone rogue, killed cadets, overridden control
And now as if mad, the whole training ground holds.
‘We need someone to shut it down.
I know that you’re a Spectre now.
But you’re still everything that you have been
You’re still a human, an Alliance marine.
We’re calling you in, Shepard. Come soon as you can.’
For a moment I stop.
But I understand.

‘But Rosamund, a training-ground?
That doesn’t really very much sound
Urgent enough to justify
Even the length of time to fly.
Noveria may have that which our knowledge lacks
We don’t know how long til the Reapers come back.’
Liara looks up with her great blue eyes.
‘Surely the base has marines close by?’
Kaidan nods.
‘Of course we do.
That can’t be the reason. Commander?’
‘True.
We have whole fleets which orbit round.
This isn’t about the training-ground.’
‘Then why …?’ asks Liara.
‘To set precedent.
Does a Spectre come when an Admiral’s sent?
He chose the time well. It’s mere hours to Sol.
What it takes from our journey’s a very slight toll.
We have another mindless machine
Out there killing men, a malfunction I deem.
The Reapers can wait a few hours more.
It’s the smallest blip in the course of this war.’
‘Then shall we get ready?’
I smile at her.
‘I’ll need you right here. You’re doing good work.
And not you, Lieutenant. Your wounds are scarce sealed.
There’ll be battle enough when you’re fully healed.
I’ll slip in with one squad. That’s best for this job.
They’re worried that Saren’s smearing the Turians?
This is visible. I’m taking Garrus.
And the technical skill of those Quarians!
Tali will also come with us.’

~ Stanza 14
· Luna Base ~
The sky is black; as black as ink.
And the ground is as bright as salt.
It stretches away; it swells and sinks
Splashed with shadows and faults.
A soundless, airless, brilliant waste
Open above to the cold of space
Where the dust rises up from the Mako’s treads
And drops straight down in its age old beds
Where never a wind blew drifting streams
And never a rain came to wash it clean.
The barren companion of the fertile Earth
Lies in its unchanging silence.
Cold Diane looks upon warm Maia’s mirth
With a placid, icy defiance.

While in brightness she silently lies
Our little truck creeps below her dark skies,
Through lowlands and valleys and under the lips
Of rises of stone, where dust falls and slips.
Past the scout towers and past the pitfalls
Out of the line where the spy-glasses fall
Up to the circle of turrets which rise
Above the hard ground where the rogue VI lies.
‘Take the wheel Garrus – avoid and evade.’
He takes her and spins! In and out of the cannonade
Til I have disabled with cannon the guns,
Laid open the bunker – our foe cannot run.

Down the stair to the bunker’s depths
Out of the light of the Earth
Down to the thing which knows no rest
And stares out on moon fields as a curse.

~ Stanza 15
· The Bunker ~

The underground tunnels are dim and cold
The lights are red and the smell is old.
A strange prickling grows at the back of my neck.
As of unseen eyes in the dark
Whyever so empty? Where are all its mechs?
We go deeper yet none do we mark.
Yet I know they are there
In the tunnels, stark and bare
Waiting out of sight and sound
Far beneath the lunar ground

Held back deeper, why so deep
Why so far it makes us creep
To find the battle we know must come.
In the whirring chill, my squad grows dumb
And stares big eyed in every nook
Looks twice at the ground for every foot.
While in silence we follow our charts
Deeper and deeper into the heart
Of the rogue computer’s many years home.
Shadowy dim is the redding gloam.

They attack altogether, all down in the core
A hundred mockery things of war
Fighting more fiercely than wasp or ant
With their mockery guns they fight but they can’t
O’er power shields or stand up to our fire
They fall, fall in droves, by the troop they expire.

But even after the last one falls
Those eyes seem to follow our backs
We turn and we turn and we scan through the walls
For those eyes which never attack.

Deeply buried’s the VI’s core
Walled in close by the dummies of war
And long we work in the low red murk
To uncover, to open a door.
And now and oft, Tali grabs at her gun
And turns upon … nothing. It’s bare.
And Garrus will hurl down the sheeting and run
Towards an enemy … who is not there.
We post Tali guard and go on as before,
Shavings of metal scatter the floor,
Power tools scream, and not sounds of war,
And yet none of us still can ignore,
The eyes we can’t see.
We uncover the core.

~ Stanza 16
· The VI’s Cry ~
There it lies. A box. No more large than a chest.
Small and unfeatured, seeming at rest.
A little thing, to have caused so much trouble,
A silent thing, in the midst of the rubble.
The centre of all the mindless rage
The rabid thing which stole the age
From men too young to die
The waiting thing which held the base
The watching thing that haunts this place
The silent, waiting spy.
The thing which sat for decades long
Playing and playing the martial song
That we taught it long years before
What made it break the rhythm, the beat
Break out of the song it was taught by the fleet
What made this machine go to war?

I reach for the power
A shriek fills the space
A shriek of the airways that run through this place
A shriek of the light-bulbs. A shriek of the lines
Which carry the power. Sparks flash and floors whine.
‘Shepard! I’ve got something!’
I hear Tali say.
‘Shut it down! Shut it down! It’s not going to obey!’
I yank out the cords and shut the thing down
Like a light going off the cacophonous sound
Falls dead on the air
The empty lights glare.
The box sits black on the ground

‘Tali, what have you?’
She tilts her masked head.
‘Nothing, Shepard, just – something it said.
It sent out a signal, as you came near.
If I didn’t know better … Well, come and look here.’
She holds out her omnitool. I see in the glow
The dashes and dots of the words of our foe.
It is in Morse, a code I know well.
It repeats o’er and o’er, just one word
Help’

~ Stanza 17
· The Mind of the Machine ~
We leave the VI shut down in the hold
And climb back up through the bunker so cold.
Who was it calling? Who taught it to cry?
Where did it learn to seek aid from the sky?
It was not built for that. It was built just to be
A training ground tool to engage young marines.
It was never programmed to fight to the death
Nor call for aid – never taught to fear death.
And yet … I walk in untrodden wastes
What I thought was firm ground drops away out of place.
If a training VI can learn how to fear,
What of the Reapers? They surely appear
As though they were egos, as black the void
Irrational, cruel, and completely devoid
Of ought but a hunger, to impose their own will
To control, to torment, to cow, and to kill.

And how if what it seems is in fact as it is?
How if the machines in some fiendish sense – live.
Whoever built them, for what ancient war
What if their resolve to subdue to them more
Was not automatic, but their ego’s desire
What if not mere numbers, but the hell of black fire
Burned at the heart of these monsters from space?
As fear cried out of the heart of this place.

The light of the Earth breaks out o’er the land
As we step out of the mound.
It softens and mutes the black of the shadows
The hard sun strikes on the ground.
I look up, to the world of living green
Up to the world of men
The arc of umber and ultramarine
So filled beyond my ken
With life that laughs in its leaping streams
And prowls beneath oaks in its narrow denes
And soars in the garlands of sea born steam,
There life – good and ill – uncountable teems
And children laugh and young lovers dream.
It seems so near I could reach out
And touch its cloak of mist
A leap would bring my hand into
The shallows the sunlight’s kissed
And it is as far as an image of glory
Seen by a child in a sky o’er the sea.
I could go up, and my crew with me
I could, but it must not be.
For this is that which is at stake
It’s this that is threatened by that thing that waits
Out in the deep and dark of space
Scheming and plotting to bring its own race
Here to this womb of life.

That thing I had called a mindless machine
That thing which, in theory, ought to have been.
I look up again to the light.
And then turn away. For we must be gone.
I don’t know what we fight, or where it went wrong.
But I know that they’re coming. That matters far more
That wonderments why. For we are at war.
‘Shepard to Normandy, pick us up. Let’s away.
The task here is done, and there’s no time to stay.’

Mass Effect Poetry  by Charlotte Ann Kent


Note: Up to now this poem has been being published monthly on second weekends.  Now however, it is going on a short hiatus while this blog turns its focus to a rather different story.  Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Seventh Safeguard, a serial novel written in the traditional Doyle style, will be coming out next month (brief excerpt available here ~> ~*~).  The next canto of The Song of the Shepard should be published on the second weekend of August.  If either interest you, check back, or follow this blog (top of the side-bar) to get alerts on these stories sent to your inbox.

The Song of the Shepard: Canto 5 ~ Virmire

virmire_by_sin_vraal

~ Stanza 1 · Through Alien Eyes ~
How strange to feel a memory in your mind that’s not your own.
How strange remembering thoughts not yours, and speaking in alien tones.
I can’t go through it all at once
Bit by bit it trickles down
An alien land in my subconscious
That I can’t find my way around.
I know it most in dreams at night
Then I see with altered sight
In memory of eyes which were never mine
Greeting friends of alienkind
Drowned in turmoils and caught up in joys
Fit to enrapture or to destroy
But which, when I wake, have faded away.
What dreams I dreamt, I rarely can say.
But the vision … the vision. That tortured morass.
That whirlwind of souls crying out from the past,
It starts to resolve into things I can see,
Into things I can hear – and Liara with me.
I am no telepath. I’m a human woman.
And I can’t give away second-hand visions.
But Liara can help me to train my mind
And she can see that which I have defined.
She tells me she thinks that the message was garbled
It was buried so long in the rock.
And its hugeness and chaos shakes even her.
She’s surprised I lived through the first shock.
‘How strong of will you must be, Shepard.
Or mankind is tougher than ever I heard.’
I think of that night on Eden Prime …
Till now I assumed Kaidan would have been fine.
If I’d not got him out it would just have been he
Who foresaw the Reapers, rather than me.
But now I wonder, with sharp after-fear,
And wonder what that would mean for this turbulent year.
So little by little, the Asari and I
Struggle to see through the Protheans’ eyes
What good will come, we neither can say.
But we keep on it, day after day.
And many an evening together we spend
Looking back to the beginning and on to the end
At first she seems to fear that she
Is going to annoy, offend, or bore me.
She has spent far too much time alone
Pouring in silence o’er old dusty tomes
The lonely child of her mother’s age.
The only daughter of a venerable sage.
But as time goes by, her social timidity
Mellows and fades into soft modesty.
All those decades of girlhood spent in history’s dusk
A century-old scholar on womanhood’s cusp.
Over time dimmed tales of yore we two roam
And to present Thessia’s leaping foam
In the rich womb of which the Asari were born
And looked out on the stars to a Galactic morn.
But when we look on to the future ahead….
We turn back again to the cries of the dead
And study the message, for message it is.
Though we still cannot tell what they tried to give.

~ Stanza 2
· The Council ‘s Behest ~

When we left Feros, I thought to sail
To corporate Noveria, following the tale
Of a research station, leased by Saren
An unknown lab in mountains barren
But ere we reach the Horse Head Relay
When we’ve briefly linked to a comm buoy
The Citadel Council calls to me
Speaking of intel they think I should see.
Beyond the relay of Sentry Omega
Circling young, hot Hoc
On the peopleless planet of Virmire
Just oceans and jungles and rock
Suspicious activity some time since was seen.
They sent a Salarian Task Group Team
Who only just now has reported back.
The transmission was poor and kept going black
But they have reason to think it’s related to Saren
‘You think it warrants my investigation?’
‘You’re a spectre, Shepard. This is your mission.
We just wanted to tell you your options.’
But they’ve also called to discuss with me
What they consider my multiple follies.
A Prothean ruin was destroyed.
Was that really necessary?
(Never mind that the cause was volcanoid)
But that which truly makes them wary:
Shepard stop this about the Reapers.

Forget those silly dramatic words.
The Geth are being manipulated
And, Shepard! You have fallen for it.
Focus on Saren. Forget the old myth.
There is no such thing as the Conduit!’

~ Stanza 3
· Into the Traverse ~

Back along our route we trace
Back beyond, out of Council space
Where there’s no treaties known, nor lawful commerce
Far into the breadth of the Attican Traverse.
What is it awaits us, none of us know
Rumour in plenty around the ship blows.
And Williams roundly cautions me
About the Council’s honesty
‘If you have a bear coming after you
And there’s really nothing left you can do
But sic your dog and run away …
Well, you will. It’s sad to say.
You may love your dog, but … it isn’t human.’
‘Maybe your dog, Gunnery-Chief Williams.’
But though Ashley’s example angers me
I realize what her story means.
It’s us that she’s cast as the doomed, betrayed hound,
Not knowing why or towards what we are bound.

~ Stanza 4
· Planet Approach ~

Virmire’s globe is a coruscant jewel
Of blazing jade and bright cerule.
The flames that rage across our bow,
The air which burns as we hurtle down,
Turn the blue and green a garish sheen
Glimpsed through tsunamis of tangerine.
Near the given coordinates a fortress stands
On jungly rock beside the sands
A sprawling, thickwalled, smoke-stacked maze
Pouring filth to the turquoise waves.
And all around it, in a circle,
Stand more towers like a girdle
Within the deadly bounds of which
The Salarian team hides in some niche.
‘Take a look at those defence towers,
They could knock us to the ground.’
Kaidan points out from his post at the scanners.
‘And the ship can’t go around.
They’re a bit too close to slip between
They’re in visual range. We will be seen.
But they don’t look heavily fortified,
They were probably just built for defence from the sky.’
‘Then we’ll take a ground team. To the bay, Lieutenant!
Joker, tell Garrus we’re hard on a scent.’

~ Stanza 5 · On Alien Shores ~
The Mako lands with a bounding splash.
In the hard-rayed sun bright waters lash
I throw up the hatch. Sharp air blows in.
There’s salt and a thousand strange plants on the wind.
The sea is hid beyond limestone tors
But I can hear it. The surf is at war
With the arches and pillars and cliffs of limestone
That rise all around us with green overgrown.
Hidden down amongst the arches
And winding lanes of rock
Out of the sight of enemy eyes
In the sky and tower-tops
Though splashing inlets, across drifting sands
Heaped up by the tide in bone-white shifting bands
Garrus and I and Lieutenant Alenko
Cover miles of coastlands and surf in the Mako.
On spear-like toes in the shallow shoals
Armoured crabs hunt for fishes.
Leathered wings fight in the clear noonday light
In the eddies the bending fern swishes.
Sun dappled grottos open up
Cool on either hand
Inviting me to come and see
Their pools and shaded sands.
But in a flash they are left behind
Barely seen in a moment of time.

tumblr_oi5bu59ccp1vmm2s3o1_1280

~ Stanza 6
· The Fall of the AA Tower ~

Once in a narrow, watery cleft
Where the Mako’s treads throw out fine rain
We run straight into a squadron of Geth.
And the rain turns into a hurricane
With the rushing of steel, the crash of their guns,
The roar of our truck as we screech on and plunge
Through deeper water and up onto drifts
As I keep her moving while our canon rifts
Open the canyon, and arches it cleaves
Scattering Geth like so many leaves.
‘They’re hunting for something. The Salarians live!
The scanners, Lieutenant! What can you give?
We can’t take the risk of having a tail…’
Ahead in the lane, massive and pale
Straddling the tiny, craggy canyon
Is a many-legged Geth like we saw on Therum.
It turns its fearful gaze…
I floor the engine.
‘Full fire ahead!’
Garrus swings his spiky head.
‘There’s isn’t room, Shepard! We’re gonna collide.’
‘You bet! Keep firing. Hold on!’ I cry.
The Mako bears straight to the blaze.
And behind us the Geth is crashed in the tide
One shot and its over.
‘Shepard. Can I try?’
The engine is smoking, our shielding is down.
As soon as we dare we pull it aground
To put out the fires and patch as we can
For the long miles ahead of winding rock strand.
Garrus can tinker, but Alenko knows
The ins and outs of the Alliance Mako.
He sets to the job with his quiet good-cheer
Efficiently, skilfully, in mongst the gears.
Together we work in the sight of the sea,
And I am strangely glad to be
Back on a trail beside the man
As though I’d been missing my own right hand.
And this fortress is Saren’s! For those were his pawns.
Eagerly, swiftly we go on,
Till stretched across an inlet broad
And rising above like a mighty rod
We come in sight of the AA tower
On the top its long range artillery glowers.
But few, few are the Geth inside
And the flights of stairs are open wide.
In a space of minutes, the tower is won,
The massive artillery thrown down in the sun
To drown in the glittering inlet below.
‘Shepard to Normandy. You’re clear to go.’
As we splash to the Mako I hear a high hum
At the border of hearing. The Normandy’s come.
The water around us rushes to meet her.
The leaves and the sand all leap up to greet her.
A white belly’s flash! And a glimpse of her wings
Just over the treetops. She’s gone. Still she rings.
In the sun fountains fall like a pouring rain
And the leaves slowly drift to the ground again.
We follow more slowly in her airy wake
In the winding trail earthbound wheels have to take.
Off to our starboard over the sea
Black thunder clouds arch and a stiff wind blows free.

~ Stanza 7
· The Third STG Infiltration Team ~
The Salarian’s coordinates lead us to a cove
Tucked between high cliffs and deep darkened groves.
In the shallow lagoon, the Normandy rests
Her long hull tickled with little wave crests.
‘I’ll put her away, Shepard.’ Garrus asks for the wheel.
As he splashes off, a Turian whoop peals.
Lieutenant Alenko and I turn away
To the discrete little camp sitting here by the bay.
On the white sand Gunnery-Chief Williams stands
In speech with a tall, lithesome, froggy man.
She looks up to see us.
‘We’re grounded, Commander.
At, least that’s what the Salarian thinks, here.’
His name is Captain Kirrahe
Of the Third STG Infiltration force.
He’s surprised to see the Normandy
And surprised by her low-hanging course.
‘An impressive feat, getting in, Commander.’
He speaks in a smooth and gallant manner.
‘But it’s not worth the risk to try it again.’
‘Well what is it you propose, Captain?’
‘Your stopping to help us is appreciated
But the task is larger than we expected.
I sent for reinforcements before our comm plight.
Until they get here … we better sit tight.’
Ashley whistles. Kaidan shifts, looks at me.
For a moment there’s only the sound of the sea.
‘We are the reinforcements.’
‘Oh. I see.’

grounded_by_graceyn-d481825
~ Stanza 8
· Report on the Base ~

Captain Kirrahe excuses himself
To speak with his officers.
I see in his face the blow this has dealt
Though he gives it no space of words.
The clouds still hang away from the coast
Rumbling and looming, but here, on this host
The sun still beats down, on the sand and the waves
On the wavering fronds, and the mouths of the caves.
A few Normandy crewmen have come off-board
To taste open air, feel the waves on the shore.
I notice Wrex, with his huge Krogan shoulders
Near, by the cliff face, clambering the boulders.
‘Commander Shepard.’
Kirrahe’s back.
‘My men and I have a plan of attack.
Let me explain about this place.
It’s more than a simple military base.
I had reason to think that it was run by Saren,
Now I’ve heard of his treachery, and I am certain.
t’s a factory of war. I’ve lost many men
In attempt to determine what happens within.
He’s cloning an army of Krogan slaves
Who they’ve managed to cure of the genophage.
If he sets these monsters loose on the world
And then lures more Krogan in hopes of that cure …
It must be destroyed. I sent for an army.
But since we don’t have one, can your team help me?’‘
We can’t do that!’
Wrex barges in.
‘That cure could save my people!
If he has one, we can’t destroy it
You little Salarian weevil!’
Kirrahe turns an immovable face.
‘The Krogan are an intractable race.
Uplifting them was a fearful mistake.
If they had an uncontrolled populace,
How much that’s now green would be laid to waste.’
The Krogan stomps forward and looms over him,
A great gnarly truck and a willowy limb.
But not a step backward does Kirrahe take.
Wrex’s rumbles out:
‘We are not a mistake.’
He looks at Kirrahe, looks at me
Then turns and stomps off, heading back to the sea.
‘Is he going to be a problem, Commander?’
‘I’ll go and talk to him, reason him over.’‘Good.
If we don’t destroy this atrocious facility
Saren’s hosts will pour out like a bloodthirsty sea
Not one wave but in measured monsoons
And the first of the waves will be sent out soon.
I’m almost glad we’ve no reason to wait.
Each day of delay draws us near to that date.’
Kirrahe goes and I turn away
‘Ma’am,’ I hear Ashley Williams say,
‘Do you really think you can talk Wrex through?’
‘Williams, this is the Krogans’s fight too.’
‘Well I’ll still keep my eye out, if it’s alright with you.’

choice_by_luckyfk-d6vmny6


~ Stanza 9
· The Krogan ~

The Krogan stands on the whitened shore
Staring over the sea
The wind and the waves and the clouds move and roar
But he stands as still as the lee
At first I think I have not been heard
But a low rumble speaks out my name:
‘Shepard,
Do you know how many Krogan children live to be carried to term?’
I do not answer, nor does he turn.
‘But one in five hundred. We dwindle, Shepard.
Dying before we are even born.’
He’s silent again, and the sea fills the space.
Rushing in. Rushing out.
‘That is their genophage.’
Suddenly past his shoulder, I see where Ashley stands
Perched up among the boulders, her rifle in her hand.
(Dammit, woman! Put that away.
There’s no call for that yet. I hope not today.)
‘Wrex this has to be destroyed.
It’s a task we simply cannot avoid.
Think what Saren is! He is your foe
Yours just like mine-’
‘But is he though?!
He is trying to cure my people!
And you would destroy that work!’
All of a sudden, his rage overspills
He grabs at his gun with a jerk.
And there we stand on the on the edge of the land
Weapons of death nose to nose in our hands.
‘Help me out, Shepard.’
He breathes out low.
‘It’s getting real hard to tell friend from foe.’
‘These aren’t your people! They’re Saren’s slaves!
Not free Krogan warriors, wild and brave.
If he has a cure, it’s a trap to enslave you!
If you’re hard-up now, think how you’ll be used
To lay waste your own as well as your foes.
And what when he needs you no more?
Is that what you want for your people, Wrex?
Pawns in a synthetic war?’
His eyes are boring down into the sand.
But his shotgun’s still clutched in his gauntleted hands.
(Don’t you dare, Ashley! I’ve got this, I say!
Can’t you see what I’m asking of him today!)
‘Wrex, I’d help if I could! I swear that I would.
Any chance that I have, I’ll do your folk good.
But help me today, Wrex. You know the stakes.
Come with me. Fight Saren. Fight him for your race!’
I hear a man running. Kaidan is coming.
And Ashley’s sight’s at her eye.
But Wrex doesn’t see. Just stares into me.
In his face, anger, pain, and reason compete.
He drops his gun by his side.
‘Alright, Shepard. You’ve done right by me
And you’re probably right about what Saren means.
I don’t like this. But, I’ll trust you on it.
Come on, let’s go get this thing over with.’

~ Stanza 10 · Laying of Plans ~
‘All well, Commander? Good. Now the plan.’
Kirrahe gestures with long green hands.
‘Going in and taking the place in force
Is out of the question now, of course.
But we’ve rigged our ship’s drive core up to explode.
What we have to do is deliver the load.
We can’t set it off a short ways outside.
The place is too solidly fortified.
We can’t just drop it, they’d take it out going down.
We have to set it to detonate inside the bounds.
A frontal attack is hopeless, yes.
But I think we could pierce their first defence
Perhaps even take out these first two big towers.
To do any more … we haven’t the power.
But what we can do is distract from you.
A shadow team might well sneak through.
Such a team could never capture it
But it might take out enough guns to admit
One quiet, hard to see ship
Carrying the explosive within it.
I’ll give you the details that my scouts have found
I think you could pierce through, here, from the sound,
If, that is, we’ve claimed their defence
And the main force is off at the opposite entrance.’
‘That might possibly work. Very well, we’re in.
But it sounds very hard on your team, Captain.
And how do you plan to avoid the blast?’
‘Well, Commander, I’m not going to lie.
I expect few of us will get out alive.
Which makes this a harder favour to ask….
I’d like you to send a comm-trained marine
To handle the links between all the teams.’
He’s asking for help, and not just with the comms.
He hasn’t the men for the job he’s set on.
‘Confer with your team first and order your men.
When we’re ready to march, we’ll meet here again.
Thank-you, Commander. And, officers.’
He sweeps us a bow. ‘I shall ready my force.’

~ Stanza 11
· The Lieutenant and the Gunnery Chief ~

Kaidan’s been listening quietly
Now, as Captain Kirrahe leaves,
He turns to speak to me, mild but grim.
‘Ma’am,’ he says. ‘I should go with him.’
Ashley breaks in:
‘Not so fast, LT!’
Her high-boned face set defiantly.
‘Somebody’s got to look after the commander.
I’ll go with the Salarians. You go with her.’
‘Gunnery-Chief’ says Kaidan ‘With all due respect,
(They both understand how black is this prospect.)
I’m better qualified to take this assignment.’
‘Why is it “due respect” always is meant-’
(Oh banter, banter, go play tough.
I see what you’re doing well enough
We’ll all be in danger. This is no place
To compete to leave your companions safe.
His comm skills are better, but she’s qualified too.
I will not let Kirrahe’s prediction come true.)
‘Alenko,
I need you on Shadow to handle the bomb.
You know what you’re doing. And that can’t go wrong.
It’s the critical point of this whole costly mission.
Williams.’
‘Yes, Ma’am?’
‘You’re with the Salarians.’

~ Stanza 12
· Shadow Team ~

Ready and armed is the Normandy’s team
We’ve been over the maps with the scouts and their schemes.
Every outer defence work on the facility
Has been considered intensively.
All standing in view of the Normandy’s course
Have been noted and marked, and assigned to a force.
Kaidan’s been briefed on the ship’s drive-core
It’s safely set-up and been carried aboard.
‘Alenko, Garrus, you’re on Alpha with me.
Wrex, Tali Zorah, Dr. T’Soni,
You are Squad Bravo. Our name’s Shadow Team.
If we do this right we should barely be seen.
Wrex?’
‘Shepard?’
‘You’re in command of Bravo Squad.
I’m counting on you. Take care of your charge.’

‘Captain Kirrahe, I’ve readied my crew.
Gunnery-Chief Williams will go with you.
We’ll pick your force up. Mark a rendezvous for me.
I will give it to the Normandy.’

~ Stanza 13
· The Assault Team ~

Along the sands the Salarians stand
In three well-ordered, armoured bands
They far outnumber my little ground-crew
And yet they are still so few, so few.
In the central position is Mannovai Squad
The heaviest armoured and the most large.
They are the main force, the assault’s spearhead.
Captain Kirrahe will march at their head.
On the port flank is a smaller squad, Jaëto
Lighter, with longer range weapons to throw,
To provide cover fire for the main stem.
Commander Rentola is leading them.
The starboard wing-squad they’ve called Aegohr,
A lean, light, deadly band of war.
Ashley Williams has been placed in command
For she’s a marine well trained to such stands
She will march at the head of a Salarian band
And serve as an alien captain’s right hand.

‘All of you know the mission at hand.
You know what is at stake.
I have come to trust all of you with my life.
And trust you to do what it takes.
But I have heard murmurs of discontent.
I share them. In the fullest extent.
We were trained for espionage.
Glory in battle is not our way.
We would be legends, but the records are sealed.
Think of our heroes of bygone days.
The Ever Alert,
Who kept armies at bay with hidden facts
The Silent Step,
Who defeated a nation with single shot.
These giants do not seem to give us solace here
But they are not all that we are.
Before the network, there was the fleet,
The Salarians too have fought open wars.
And thus, as Mannovai I have named you,
Aeghor Squad, and the Team of Jaëto.
To remember the worlds we have fought for before
And remind us why we now fight on these shores.
Our influence stopped the Rachni
But before that, we held the line.
Our influence held back the Krogan,
But before that, we held the line.
Today our influence will stop Saren
Today, we shall hold the line!’

~ Stanza 14
· Parting of Ways ~

Ashley turns with a troubled brow.
Aegohr is waiting. We march out now.
‘Ma’am, Kaidan, I just wanted to say,
It’s been a real honour, serving with you.’
Kaidan shakes his head, says gently:
‘Hey,
It’ll be alright, Ash. And we’ll come for you.’
‘Godspeed, Williams.’ I give her my hand.
Her grasp is firm and brief.
She turns to Kaidan. He smiles at her.
‘See you on the other side, Chief.’

shadow_by_graceyn-d4818nt2

~ Stanza 15 · The Assault ~
Now in the thickets the insects chirp
And I scarcely can hear the sound of the surf.
For hours we’ve travelled o’er cliffs, and through briars,
Through leafy brushes, and through stagnant mires
We heard the fortress a long ways away
It rumbles and roars and its glaring horns bray.
Now loudly it echoes in the dank, stinking gorge
Where through dark, oily water, we six shadows forge.
The signal rings. Mannovai strikes.
Alarms ring out in the glaring light.
And quietly softly, Shadow Team
Slips to the rampways up from the streams.
Forward, Mannovai! Fear no Geth!
It’s they, not us, who should fear death!’
Though we hear the battle over our coms
The loudest sound here is our muffled door bombs.
And the sound of our footsteps as we break away
Our two squads going our separate ways.
Aegohr! Heads up! Fliers coming in.
They’re banking east on the storm-cloud’s wind!’
We pass through long chambers lined with tanks
Rank upon rank upon rank upon rank
In their darkness we glimpse monstrosities
Huge and deformed and loathsome to see
Krogans set to be born full-grown
For one, but one, purpose alone.
How Saren now has filthied his hands!
Before, they were bloodstained with my peaceful lands.
Now they are foetid with perversion of flesh
An assault to the race beloved by Wrex.
Watch out! We have Krogan! Jaëto, cover my flank!
And take out that pesky, incoming tank!’
Few Geth do we see til we reach an AA gun
The skirmish is short and we sabotage, run.
But there’s more than the Geth that haunt this place
Asari, and members of my own race,
Starched and manicured scientists,
Who, shrieking, turn and flee before us
But others creatures rush to the fray
With a mad abandon to tear and to slay.
My heart grows hot as blue burns in my hands.
These are captured Salarians.
We cannot recapture them, we’ve no men or gear
We fight them off, open doors, disappear.
Good going, Aegohr! But don’t be too fleet.
But don’t push too hard. Don’t push a retreat!’
When we find where Saren’s office lies
We leave our path and turn aside.
The heavy, seamless, unlit door
Is sealed tight to the walls and floor.
Alenko and Garrus together work
To hack through codes while I, guarding, lurk.
Again, o’er the coms, bold Kirrahe cries
Above the battle’s screech:
Aegohr! Jaëto! You know your targets.
We will hold the breech!’
Kaidan looks up. ‘Got it, Commander.’
The door slides slowly aside
A cold draft breathes from the black doorway
And the three of us step inside.

~ Stanza 16
· Sovereign ~

Our booted feet drum with lonesome sound
On a hollow deck far above the ground.
The floor is lost in the dark below.
Ahead stands a tall and wavering glow
Humming, Humming, a humming I know
A rising pillar that faint light throws.
It rings in the ear and draws at the eye.
‘Just like the one on Eden Prime.’
I hear Kaidan say.
I step away.
‘Stand back, you two. I’ll be just fine.
Remember, I have the cipher this time.’
I let it draw me to the light and sound
My booted feet lift off the ground.

I hit the deck and crumple
Black surging at my eyes
All seems around to crumble
As did the ancient sky.
But I see! I see! As I didn’t before.
And I jump up straight from the cold metal floor
Saying to Kaidan, to Garrus, to me:
‘I have it! I saw!’
‘What did you see?’
‘Many things, horrible. But I saw a place…
Tell me, how long since we entered this space?’
‘Moments, really.’
‘So short? Are you sure?
It seems in the meantime that I have seen worlds.
I must see Liara! Let’s go at once.
We’d find nothing better here searching for months.’
I turn to go, but a sudden sound
Rings at my back, o’er my head, from the ground
A rumble almost too low to be heard
It speaks from the dark, forming ponderous words.
‘You are not Saren.’
Where the Prothean Beacon stood
Now glows mass of red
A many jointed, loathsome image
Like the ancient beacon bled
Out its torment to the air
In a fiery form that casts no glare
And yet engulfs and hides the light
Of the beacon, green and bright.
I feel the brush of Garrus’s carapace
‘Shepard, it’s just a VI interface.’
‘What are you?’ I ask. ‘Who is it that speaks?’
The sound continues. Sonorous. Bleak.
‘Rudimentary creatures of blood and flesh,
You fumble here in ignorance.’
Garrus’s form beside me has stiffened
‘Or, I guess … maybe it isn’t.’
‘There is existence you cannot imagine.
I am beyond your comprehension.
I am Sovereign.’
The wayward red lines resolve in my mind
And I’m back in the vale on Eden Prime
Looking up at the curse over valley and cliffs.
I start like a wakening sleeper.
‘Sovereign isn’t a Reaper ship
Sovereign is a Reaper.’
‘An actual Reaper?’ Kaidan whispers back.
Garrus clicks his mandibles beside in the black.
‘Reaper? A label used by the Protheans
To give voice to the agent of their destruction.
Their choice of terms is irrelevant.
Organic life is an accident.
Your lives are measured in days and years.
You wither and you die.
Your extinction is inevitable.
You quibble to defy.
The Protheans did not forge the Relays.
They did not build the Citadel.
They found them, as you did. Our technology.
You develop as we intend you shall.
We impose on the chaos of Organic life
The order which we forge by strife.
Your civilizations hurry
To rise to the pre-set mark.
Then, at the apex of their glory
We plunge them into dark.’
Beside, on my right, I hear Kaidan move.
‘Where are all the rest of you?’
‘We are legion.
We are coming.
You exist because we allow it.
You will end, because we demand it.
We are eternal.
Before us you are nothing.
We are the pinnacle of evolution.
We are the end of everything.’
As the huge sound spoke from out of the black
My heart grew cold and my hands grew slack.
A vision spreads like a poisoned draft…
Then Sovereign’s words strike home like a shaft
The dark spell breaks.
And I almost laugh.
‘Both the end point of a growth in time
And that which transcends it?
My! How great you Reapers must be
To o’er’ride the rules of logic!
No, don’t bandy words with me,
Or don’t say silly thingsBoth of these you cannot be.

My thoughts like yours take wing.
Oh, self-claimed pinnacle of evolution,
To claim that title, the revolutions
Of the spinning galaxy which you have seen
Must of a countable number have been.
What if you pre-date the Prothean race?
What if you’re the biggest bludgeons in space?
You’ve seen length of time, and that is all.
The Galaxy itself is still but small.
You’re not omnipotent, what’ere you pretend.
You began. So you can end.’
‘Confidence born of ignorance.
The Cycle cannot be broken.
The pattern has repeated itself
More times than you can fathom.’‘
And what is the point, the end goal of all this?!
What leads you to lurk in the empty abyss
For thousands of years in wait for your prey?
It can’t be resources. It wouldn’t seem slaves.
Is this just a giant ego-trip?
Tell me, who built you enormous ships?’
‘Your understanding my kind transcends.
You cannot grasp our mode of existence
We are each a nation independent,
Free of your Organic weakness.
We will darken the sky of every world
When you are long dead, we still will endure.’
‘Well we, like you, can fruitfully strive,
Let your failure on Eden Prime stand as token.
You aren’t even truly alive!
You’re a machine! And machines can be broken.’
‘Your words are empty deconstructions
Empty as your future.
I am the vanguard of your destruction.
This exchange is over.’
Overhead is the shrieking of shattering glass
We shield our heads as the fragments slash past.
When we look up the red figure is gone.
There’s only the beacon, burning on.

~ Stanza 17
· Fall of a Captain ~

Back to the day and the glare of the sun,
The distant booming of charges and guns.
I hadn’t heard them, down there in the room
I’d almost forgotten their sound in the gloom.
We don’t stop to speak, to look round at the world,
To ask of each other, what have we heard?
We run on without words more swift than before
While, out of sight, the armaments roar.
A voices cries out o’er the intercom
In a voice so long it is almost a song.
Captain Kirrahe is fallen!
He lies among the Geth!
Aegohr, Jaëto, your banner is fallen.
Take it up and avenge his death!’

~ Stanza 18
· Planting the Bomb ~

Deep inside the fortress, a high walled courtyard lies
Open to the sharp sea air and the blazing skies
Within its walls a turbid flood of brown and sluggish water moves
Whether design or mark of war naught that I can see will prove.
‘Alenko, does this alter our plan?’
He shakes his head.
‘I don’t think so, Ma’am.
The drive core exterior should take the damp
If it’s not messed up during transit or preamp.
Actually, it might be a kind of good thing,
Make it harder to see, if someone comes looking.’
‘Well then … Joker, this is Shepard here.
All squads have checked in. Alpha’s on-site. You’re clear.’
Moments later I hear her hum
Swift, over walls, under towers she comes
And splashes down low to the filthy flood.
It stains her silver like ancient blood.
‘Attention! This is Shadow Team. The Normandy’s through.
Pull the retreat. Head back to the rendezvous!’
As the great door lowers to the filthy damp
Kaidan springs past me and jumps to the ramp
I hear his voice directing the sailors,
His straightforward, gravely, matter-of-fact words.
Then he re-emerges in a circle of men
Shuffling, the heavy core carried between them,
Down the ramp to the water below
And through it off to a little alcove.
There he bends down, low in the brown
At work at what seems a small brazen mound.
Across the water, Bravo stands
Tali leaning on Wrex’s hand
He scoops her up and bears her over
While behind, fair Liara skims through the water.
‘Alpha Team, stay. All hands else aboard!
To the rendezvous, Joker, but don’t go straight toward.
Make a fuss elsewhere, distract from this spot.
But mind the gun schemes, and be there on the dot.’
Suddenly a voice calls out in my ear,
Shouting sternly through gunfire and cries of fear.
‘Commander! You there?’
‘Williams? Are you alright?’
‘My squad’s been pinned down and we’re getting fried.
Up by the second of the big front guns.
We’re gonna have trouble making this one.’
Kaidan looks up.
‘Go, Commander.
I’ll be a few minutes here, you go help her.
We can meet up again at the rendezvous.’
‘You have the coordinates?’
‘Yes, I do.’
‘Right then. Wrex! Is Tali alright?’
‘Ah, nothing much, suit torn in the fight.
She did pretty good for a Quarian.’
He speaks with bright brashness, but he too is bleeding.
‘Well get her on board. Joker!– Area scan.

Garrus! Liara! Aegohr needs more hands.’
By the time we’ve sloshed to the opposite door
The Normandy is gone
And I scarcely can see the green clad marine
Bent o’er the half covered bomb.

~ Stanza 19
· The Call ~

Whilst we run, we tell Liara
In a couple of short-breathed words
What we found in Saren’s office
And the thing which we there heard.
If not for the time pressed down upon us
I’d stop and show her now.
It would take just a moment, then we would know.
But – soon as time will allow.
Ahead, I see the tower rise
Behind, the courtyard evades my eyes.
But – maybe its merely a mischievous echo,
Or maybe Geth fight with some phantom foe –
But back down deep where I cannot see
The shrieking of plasma comes sharply to me.
We ran the scans! The place was clear!
There shouldn’t yet be Geth so near.
I snatch at my comm.
‘Alenko! Report.’
The delay’s just a moment. Really quite short.
Then the plasma and gunfire, close in my ear,
Then Kaidan’s voice.
‘Alenko here-’
He breaks off again, as if torn from his answer.
‘Lieutenant! Are you headed to the rendezvous?’
More crashing and fire.
‘No, Commander.
They’ve found my location…’
‘Do I need to come help you?’
No! I’ve got this. Just a minute, hold on.’
Seconds pass.
‘I’ve just set the bomb.
I’ll keep the Geth off it, Ma’am. Go. Ashley needs you.’
Another voice breaks in. Ashley has listened.
‘Fiddlesticks! They found him! Go help the lieutenant!’
‘Negative!’ he cries. ‘I can hold them off!’
(I believe him. He will. While we soar aloft.
I’ve placed the mission’s crux in his hands
And he’ll keep the trust. He won’t come. He’ll stand.
I’ve ordered that man to suicide!)
‘Go, Ma’am!’ he says.
Then from Ashley’s side:
‘Rosamund Shepard, listen to me!
You heard the lieutenant. You know what he means.
Don’t let him do it! Go help him get through!
Commander! You know it’s the right thing to do.’
In a moment’s flash I see them both
She and Aegohr are fighting to break through a host
But Kaidan will stay to the death at his post.
‘Alenko, hold your ground, I’m coming.
I haven’t okayed any suicide missions.
Keeping trying, Ash. I’m still coming for you.’
‘ … Okay, Ma’am.’ she says.
Then just gunfire comes through.

~ Stanza 20
· Running ~

Over the ground which we passed so fast.
Quicker this time than even the last.
Doors crash before us in bursts of blue.
Each second I grudge, each second I rue.
Every moment’s one less til I retrace again
These steps towards the tower and Ashley’s men.
Every moment my chance of getting to her,
Each moment my chance of keeping my word
Slips farther away. Have I chosen right?
I haven’t unless Ashley wins that fight.
But how can I leave a man behind
With no chance of escape? Just leave him to die?

~ Stanza 21 · Back to the Post ~
Water surges brown and swift
Within the sun-beat walls
And sharp and hard the bright air rifts
With plasma shotgun’s calls.
I see the Geth, bright gems of death
Lashing through the shallow depths
But I don’t see Kaidan, in my first scan
It’s when I look back that I see the man.
From behind the rippling glimmer
Of a quick set-up tech-shield
Down beside the brazen lump
In the niche beside the field
A splash of green is pouring lead
Towards any foe that shows its head.
And now a mass tries to rush the post
And a burst of blue hurls back the most
While others jerk from an overload purge
And tumble back to the shallow surge.
To his side we race, our guns a’cry
In the splashing murk and the sun’s hard eye
Against the Geth, the many Geth.
Where in the nearby corridors’ breadth
They hid from our scans, there’s no way to know
But they number greater than I had hoped.
‘Shepard! Incoming!’
Garrus cries.
Pointing his claw o’er the roofs to the skies.
‘Pull back to the post!’
I shout.
‘Pull in dense!
Liara!
I want a biotic aerial defence!
Kaidan!
Maintain that shielding and keep up ground fire!
Garrus!
With me! Let’s take out those fliers!’
We pull back beside Kaidan, fighting low from the flood,
Crouched down at his post.
The pool’s dark with blood.

~ Stanza 22
· Saren Arturius ~

The fliers swoop down; there’s a Turian form
Perched on a glider leading the swarm.
From the air he can see what the ground troops did not.
I see in his face. He knows what we’ve got.
With a silent gesture he raises his claw,
Halting his troops. He opens his maw.
‘Well, Shepard, I am impressed.
Your little distraction had me convinced.
I was sure the Salarians were the real threat,
Until I saw you turning back on your steps.’
‘The real threat is that pal of yours, Sovereign!
You know what the Reapers did to the Protheans!
You know what they plan for us!
And you would still help Sovereign bring them back?
Are you mad, Arterius?’
‘No.
I know better than you what became of the fallen.
Shepard, we have no hope against them.’
‘And that’s a reason for betraying us all?!’
‘You do me injustice. The Protheans fall
Was brought on by their fruitless attempt to fight.
There can be no defence against the Reapers’ might.
They’ll come whether I, or anyone aid them
But I can prove Organics’ worth to them!
They won’t throw away tools that have proved themselves fit.
Shepard, this is why spectres exist,
To do the ugly things which must be done
And make the calls from which little men run.
They won’t kill us all if I can just make them see.
Shepard, save your race. Join me.’
‘You would betray all those that breathe
In the hope we can live on as slaves?
I sooner would see us honestly dead
And our every structure razed
Than live as the playthings and tools of the Reapers
Than exist as the chattel and thralls of the Reapers
Even if there was reason to think that the Reapers
Even desire slaves!’
‘No, they can be reasoned with!
Shepard, I am sure of it!’
‘You fool!Do you think that such as Sovereign is
Will truly honour your service?
Will he not rather throw you away,
The minute you’ve served his purpose?
You know what he does to other minds,
How they’re trammelled and subjugated!
Do you think you alone are exempt of your kind?
You are indoctrinated!
Escape him. Come with me! We can fight the Reapers.
But, Saren, we’ll have to work together!’
‘No!
Sovereign will not indoctrinate me
A mindless tool would not serve his needs.
You work against your own people, Shepard.
You’ll bring them all to doom.
In fighting those who cannot be fought
You build your race’s tomb!’


~ Stanza 23
· Fight at the Bomb Site ~

And the rattle and the brattle of the rifles to the battle
And the crash boom bang biotic fields
And the screaming of the plasma and the flashing bright miasma
And the ramming slamming bamming on our shields
Kaidan fighting right beside me, and Liara just behind me
As her field above us strains and shrieks but holds
And the battle cries of Garrus, and the darting Geth which dare us
To pursue them where the walls do not enfold.
And the lashing of the water and it’s splashing and its splatter
As its slammed in waves and churned with falling Geth
And the burning of the air, and the smoke and heat that tears
And the crash that slams the breath out of my chest.
A slippery claw – my throat is seized.
He drags me up. My eyes are going blind.
Just a Turian maw – grey as a frieze.
I hear my comrades’ voices far behind.
Dammit, Saren! There’s no time for this!
Humming nearer, I hear my ship.
I strike. A slug to the foul maw
And the glider jerks and rocks
I wrench as I feel a slip of the claw
And down through the air I drop.
I plunge to the water and throw off the black,
The Geth have streaked off and the Normandy’s back.
‘Joker!
Main target fleeing at your two o’clock!
Alpha Squad!
Come! We’re taking off!’
At the foot of his post, in the loathsome flood
Kaidan is struggling to stand.
He who held a battalion – struck down in the sludge
I go to him, take his strong hand,
And rise from the pool straightening under the weight
Of the soldier borne over my shoulders.
They’re calling to us from the Normandy’s gate.
I grip him and trudge through the water.
My tread strikes the ramp. I feel the ship rise.
I glance back and we’re looking down from the skies.
I bite down a cry to turn back.
Our starship is leaving. We’re fast skyward bound.
Our time has run out. There’s no turning round.
The Normandy cannot go back.
‘Commander! We’ve got a bogie ahead!
It’s huge! And if I made that turn it would shred-’
‘Joker! Engage the FTL drive!’
‘This close to the ground? Commander-’
‘Try!
A short range jump along the grav-well curve!
Go! Do it now!’
‘Aye, aye, Commander.’
The great bay fills with the crash of the door.
In the clamour I lift up my voice
‘Did Aegohr make it?! Is Williams on board?!’
(Our hands are still gripped like a vise)
‘Jaëto and Mannovai made the rendezvous, Ma’am.’
Below, a crack tolls. And the FTL slams.

virmire

TERRIFIED OF TRUMP? Here’s why you shouldn’t be.

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So, we have a new president. Donald J. Trump has taken the oath of office and and now holds the highest office in the land. A great many of us have greeted this event as a great victory for freedom. …. But many of us are yet wary. And some of us are terrified.

Well, I am all in favor of always maintaining a certain amount of wariness. Always keep your eyes open. But for those who watch this event in pure horror, I have a few words to say.

You can relax, Donald Trump is NOT a bigoted monster.

He really isn’t. I know they’ve screamed it at you all day long for months. But it is a lie, a bold-faced falsehood to manipulate you. I personally abhor racism. Early on in his campaign, when I was attending to the democratic nomination and catching only what was said about him (rather than listening to what he actually said), I believed him to be a monster as well. I was wrong. I was lied to. And when I investigated what he had actually said and done, the deception was revealed.

Donald Trump has not attacked racial minorities. He does not threaten women’s position in society. He has not given the non-straight community to reason to fear. He does not promote religious persecution. He has not espoused hatred of foreigners. … Over the course of the year the major media institutions have taken things Trump has said, and by strained argument, perversion of facts, and sometimes whole-cloth invention, attributed monstrous meanings to him.

  • Donald Trump HAS pointed out the high level of criminal activity among people who enter the country illegally.

    • Their Story – Trump hates Mexicans.

There simply is a high level of crime among that demographic; that’s the statistics. That wasn’t about Latinos as a race. It wasn’t about Mexicans as a nationality. He didn’t even try and make out that all people who enter the country in a criminal fashion are bad people. (In fact, he made a point of saying the opposite.)  But factually speaking, the illegal traffic across the border does indeed bring crime and drugs into the states – that is well known. And yes, there is a disproportionate level of rape cases among people involved in the smuggling. These are simply facts. To try and swing a mere reporting of some unpleasant facts about a (relatively) small group of people (who happen to mostly be Latino) into an attack upon the entire Spanish-American race is a job so big, so far out, that I am genuinely impressed that they convinced so many people.

  • Donald Trump HAS has put emphasis on upholding the border laws.

    • Their Story – Trump hates immigrants and is starting an unprecedented border tyranny

No, there’s nothing unprecedented or hateful about it. Trump has emphasized that the border regulations which America (and every other nation state) has always had, need to actually be enforced. That’s not revolutionary. It’s just basic, ubiquitous national security. Go anywhere in the world, and try and just walk into the country. Not going to happen. I can’t even drive from New-England to our good friend Canada without offering identification and an account of myself to the authorities on both sides of the border. The famed and feared wall is not about oppression – it’s simply about enforcing the existing law. American citizens who have immigrated here are not in any danger on account of this. You’re an American citizen!  People who are living here against the law are indeed in danger of being sent back and made to come in legally or not at all … as they would be anywhere else. People who try to come in without legal permission will be stopped. That is not something new. It is ubiquitous. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with race.  That they managed to swing this as revolutionary and racist is truly mind-boggling. 

  • Trump HAS recommended entry restrictions on some groups

    • Their Story – Trump intends to persecute racial and religious minorities.

We are at war. We are not at war with a nation but with an ideology. This makes it messy. But we are certainly at war. And our enemy is as evil as any we have ever faced. Torture? Yes, burning and crucifying people is back in style in the Middle-East. Slavery? ISIS sells little girls as sex slaves. (I understand it makes a significant portion of their revenues.) Murder? They glorify the killing of civilians. Genocide? They slaughter not only other races and religions but even their own. This is our enemy. And they have not only threatened to bring the fight to us, they have done so. Americans and Europeans have died over the past year in attacks by Muslims in the ISIS promoted fashion. While we are at war, restricting entry in some fashion is not only reasonable but necessary. Not all Muslims are terrorists, of course, but a percentage of them are. By restricting the immigration of foreign Muslims into our land, we are not persecuting them, and we are not saying that they are all evil as individuals. We are saying that a significant percentage of Muslims are supportive of violent radical policies such as those of our fiendish enemy – because they are – and so for safety’s sake we’re keeping the door closed while the fire-fight is on. Certainly, this has absolutely nothing to do with harassing American citizens of any ethic background. It’s simply a step to keep foreign enemy warriors from infiltrating us.  For those of you who are concerned about the innocent Middle-Easterners who have been displaced by the chaos, you’re perfectly right something needs to be done – like stopping the chaos so they can go home.

  • Trump HAS chosen a vice-president who doesn’t like gay marriage.

    • Their Story – Trump is a threat to people with unconventional sexual identities.

At no point in his campaign has Trump threatened or demeaned homosexuals.  To hear the media talk, you would think he had. But he hasn’t. Perhaps you are remembering that incident where a Trump supporter burned a gay flag? … The guy was gay (still is actually). He burned the flag symbolically to represent the danger he perceived his fellows to be in … from Hillary’s policies. It was an anti-clinton ad talking about the danger she would put his community in. Perhaps you didn’t watch Trump’s presidential nomination speech back last summer? I did. Donald Trump did something which I didn’t think I would ever see. He got the entire convention hall full of republicans to cheer for the safety of the nation’s LGBT community. He has openly noted the danger of bigots attacking based on their sexuality, and condemned it in no uncertain terms, promising to be a protector to the LGBTs of America. If you are gay and worried … its okay. The media has been using scare tactics to manipulate you. No one’s going to persecute you. It’s all right.

  • Trump HAS been a cad.

    • Their Story – Trump is a misogynist.

Yes, Trump is a cad.  Yes, respectable people are embarrassed on his behalf for his indiscretions.  He’s a libertine.  Nobody’s arguing that.  But a very big deal has been made about him being the perpetrator of sexual assault – the main incident about which this narrative was spun was a video in which he was bragging about how easy slutty women are when you’re rich – bragging in very coarse terms. Now this was in horribly poor taste, but it wasn’t about assault, it was about promiscuity, it was about how loose women ‘let’ rich guys take liberties. Let. If you want to criticize him as a lout and a womanizer, that’s fair. In fact, I’ll join you. But to act like that is evidence of assault is dishonest.  His philandering and his coarse words are unworthy of a president. But er, being a philanderer does not translate into being a misogynist. A misogynist is someone who hates women, not a libertine. And there is absolutely no evidence that he does hate women. He’s willing to subject individual women he dislikes to the same scorn he shows to men he dislikes – but that’s a gender neutral tendency. He hired the first woman to successfully run a presidential campaign.  His daughter Ivanka grew up to be quite an independent lady. He has at no point suggested the inferiority of women. He has at no point suggested that they should have their right infringed …. Oh wait, yeah, there was this one thing. He doesn’t think women have a right to kill children. But, might that not be derived not from a negative consideration against women’s right but from a positive consideration for children’s rights? (Just, something to consider.) In any case, there was at no point a statement in the campaign attacking women. Girls …. you’re fine. Trump has no plans to let you be enslaved. (That was Hillary.)

  • Trump HAS spoken of American Blacks as living in bad conditions

    • Their Story – Trump hates blacks.

Actually, my ability to comprehend things is starting to give out at this point. The infamous statement about the terrible state of some black communities was in the middle of a passage in which he was talking about the importance of increasing opportunity for the black community. That was a pro-black speech. It was the exact same issue the left is always touting … that blacks don’t always have it very good, and that needs to change. How on earth they have managed to make anyone think that it was racist towards blacks I have no idea.

Oh, and finally, the Antisemitism thing … his grandchildren are all Jewish.  We just had a Rabbi give the first invocation at the inauguration ceremony.  He certainly hasn’t verbally attacked Jews or suggested persecution. I don’t even know where they think they can stick that.  

Now, tell me, where is the hate?  Because I don’t see it here.  The main hatred I have seen all year is the vicious attacks on Trump and his supporters as bigots and racists and xenophobes and every other ism under the sun.  Time and time again what Trump has actually promoted has been ignored by the media, who simply promote their same old script whether anybody’s following it or not.  Trump will cry for better opportunities for blacks – and they screamed how he was insulting them.  Pence debated his opponent beautifully and was congratulated by Trump – so Huffpost runs the headline that Pence has earned Trump’s ire by being too good and showing him up.

No better example can be given than that which happened today.  Donald Trump said this:

“Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves.
These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.
But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
We are one nation – and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.
The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans……..
We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.  We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.
We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones – and unite the civilized world against Radical Islamic Terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.
At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.
When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.
The Bible tells us, “how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”
We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.
When America is united, America is totally unstoppable ………..
A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.
It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.
And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.
So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:
You will never be ignored again.
Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams, will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.”

Moments later the NBC commentator said “Wow, that was divisive!  I mean, he was appealing solely to those those populist fans of his!  Did you notice how divisive that was?!”

Aaaaaand so the lies go on.  They don’t even try to make them plausible.  They are apparently hoping you weren’t watching.  They are counting on you listening only to them, counting on their use of ‘isms triggering such terror in you that you cannot think or see.  That is hateful behavior.  That is deceptive and divisive behavior.   It is deeply insulting behavior.  They directly contradict what is boldly in plain sight and expect the average American to believe them.  And to what end, do you ever wonder?

Trump is obviously a very flawed man.  By all means, be wary.  I am too.  But don’t take to the streets vaguely shouting of isms.  Don’t scream ‘literally Hitler!’ at the guy with Jewish grand-kids.  Don’t lambaste him for attacking things which he has publicly defended.  Criticize every specific thing he does which is wrong.  But do not, I adjure you, simply take a great big pack of negative feelings from the MSM and run terrified of a non-existent threat.  It grieves me to see so many well meaning people so angry and terrified …. of a cartoon villain put forward by CNN.

So, I don’t know what will happen over the next four years.  But let’s remain calm, and deal with what actually happens, not with vague lies.  Let’s not believe false reports of hatred, and respond with hatred.  Let’s not let anyone else do our thinking for us.  Let’s give everyone, including our new president, a chance.  You should be vigilant and cautious.  You should always be vigilant and cautious.  But you don’t need to be terrified.

So, I say with President Trump:

God Bless You, And God Bless America!