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Entry #5

Discussion in 'Q3 2018' started by Xiph0, Sep 24, 2018.

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  1. Xiph0

    Xiph0 Yoda Admin

    Joined:
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    West Bank
    Upside Down

    1.1

    Acrid hookah smoke did little to take the smell of death from my nose. The heat and humidity of the pub covered me like a wet blanket. I leaned back into my chair heavily as I downed another shot of what the bartender had the audacity to call 'whiskey'. I wasn’t of a mind to argue with him; the more I drank the less of an issue it became.

    My buzz did little to stop the sigh that escaped me: it came from deep within my chest, leaving me hollow. I didn’t know why I was here. Today had been a total disaster; the team I was supposed to meet? Dead, and on top of that, a recovery team was two days away. I hated waiting. I questioned my motivations for being here: the opportunity to get away from Ginny and the kids had been a siren’s song.

    My children’s forlorn faces flashed through my mind as I ordered another drink. The thought of Ginny’s scowl made me order a double. I wasn’t a good father, but I was an even poorer husband.

    As I refreshed the cooling charm on the cloth draped around my neck the waitress set my drinks in front of me. The cooling charm was a pleasure. It was also the first bit of magic I’d used since I’d arrived in Egypt. The first drink went down smoothly. I eyed the second one and considered staying my hand to enjoy my buzz, but as soon as the thought crossed my mind, I snorted and downed it just as quickly as the first.

    I deserved it. The Goblins had a strict no-magic policy when it came to recovery missions, so that meant no brooms, no portkeys, and since I couldn't find any other means of muggle transport, it also meant that I had to walk.

    Today was hell.

    I could understand the goblins’ caution but, it didn’t mean I had to like it. I guess that’s why they picked me. I had an understanding of ancient magic that the common wizard didn’t. Modern magic had a nuanced feel to it, a fresh flavor on the tip of your tongue whereas the carved hieroglyphs of the egyptian wizards left my mouth feeling like dirt. Their intent weighed on you as if the ancient sorcerer himself stood behind you, his hand squeezing your shoulder.

    I thought about ordering another drink, but I didn’t want the waitress to think I had a problem. I let my eyes roam over the room around me. It seemed the other patrons were of a similar mind as she was; there was a distinct barrier of empty seats surrounding my table.

    I gave myself a sniff. The reek of liquor, smoke and sour stench of sweat clouded my nose. That being said, I don’t think I smelled so bad as to warrant the reception the locals were giving me. The uneasy murmur of conversation and the side eye that the others shot me as they talked made me think the reason was much simpler.

    I was much too white for my present company. But this wasn’t my first rodeo. I could handle the natives not liking me, just so long as they kept bringing me drinks: I was fine.

    The settlement I’d found myself in for the night was distinctly magical; the flying carpet salesman and counterfeit cauldrons in the bazaar down the street before finding the bar had been a sure sign. I’d struggled to find someone who would allow me to use their floo to call into Headquarters. Many had outright denied me, while some attempted to charge me double my daily per diem.

    When I’d found this bar, the snaggle-toothed old man behind the counter had known just enough English to tell me, “Paying customers only.” I obliged and bought a drink. Afterwards he'd gestured at a clay pot over top of the fireplace.

    I made sure to palm a couple extra pinches and slip it discreetly into my pocket wrapped in a handkerchief, just in case. The drink in my gut had made talking about the carnage I’d just came from much easier. The goblin's 'all business' attitude served to remind me that this really was all just business to them.

    I’d been told to hang tight and they’d have someone out here in a couple days. The fact that they wanted to keep me out here spoke volumes. My services weren’t cheap. There was something in that tomb they wanted, and they didn’t care if there was a body count attached to it. The tomb had been interesting. There was certain smell, underneath the rot of bloated bodies. I could almost taste it. It electrified the tip of my tongue with a new flavor, the sensation of promise and peril.

    I was in the business of exploration, and contradictory to how Bill Weasley had made it seem when I was younger, tomb raiding wasn’t all glitz and glam. I was born to be on the front line, unraveling curses, dodging dangerous traps, finding unplottable locations. Instead, as I moved my way through Gringotts’ various enterprises, I found that I didn’t get to explore. I was sent in only when they had a problem that someone of my talents could solve. I no longer got to find new locations or track down new leads. I was a problem solver, but the drudgery killed me. And it always seemed to be other people’s problems.

    Being competent was both a blessing and a curse.

    Despite the bubbling undercurrent of mystery and the urge to go further, I’d left the site after securing the bodies. Did I feel guilty? There were twelve men that wasn’t going home to their families. Meanwhile, I was drowning myself in as much cheap liquor as I could get.

    “You look like you could use another.”

    I was deep in thought when the stranger spoke. I didn’t like being snuck up on, so I turned my head to give them an unfriendly look. I blearily allowed my eyes to travel up and down the fine figure that stood in front of me. Suddenly I was much less annoyed. Her hair was dark, her skin olive and a deep red tint to her lips that wasn’t natural. She placed two drinks down on the table, and took the chair across from me without waiting for an invite.

    She’d been watching me.

    Tension crept into my shoulders. Warnings echoed in my mind as I thought back to my early days with the company; loose lips sank ships. Another minute of me just staring at her went by before, she smirked, grabbed my glass and took a sip before passing it back.

    “It's not poisoned, I promise,” she said, downing her own drink.

    I pulled the glass up and before I allowed it to touch my lips, took a deep sniff. Snape might have been a terrible person, but he had taught me some things.

    The ability to identify poisons by smell was one of them.

    Finally, I sipped the drink and gave her a mumbled thanks. She didn’t have a drink of her own, so I figured it was only fair to go a drink for a drink. Besides, drinking alone was just depressing.

    I motioned for the waitress to come over, and with great reluctance she did. When she got close to the table, her eyes widened when she saw who was sitting with me. There was a brief exchange between the woman and the young girl before starred expectantly at me.


    “Whatever—” I paused.


    “Helen,” she said, answering my unasked question.


    “—whatever Helen is having is on me,” I finished.


    There was another rapid fire exchange between the waitress and Helen before she returned with the order. Considering their facial expressions and the amount of discussion going on between the two, I had a feeling that more than a drink order was given.


    I chewed my lip as I attempted to figure the woman out without speaking. There was only so much I could read from her body language, but now that our whole introduction had happened, there was a nervousness about her that I picked up on easily.


    “Well, you know my name, what’s yours?” she asked.


    “Harry. Harry Potter.” I could have kicked myself. In my paranoia, I’d forgotten what it meant to be polite. At the same time I measured her reaction to my name. She made no indication that she recognized me. She sat stoically for a moment, before she tittered a nervous laugh.



    I’ve been told my gaze is piercing and disconcerting. I tried to tone it back a little for her, but I couldn’t help what happened naturally. I also had to remember, too, that others didn’t find as much enjoyment ad I did making people feel uncomfortable. I relaxed my gaze a little to inspire some confidence in her, she continued.



    “A pleasure, Harry,” she said, finding more courage in her own voice.


    “So, why do you think everyone keeps looking at me like dragon dung on the bottom of their boot? I asked, my voice nearly a whisper.



    “I would say it's because you’re not the standard customer around these parts. And...“ she hesitated before continuing, “I don’t know how to put this delicately.”


    “Don’t worry about hurting my feelings, I’m made of sterner stuff than most,” I said, already knowing the answer.



    “You stink,” she said quickly, hiding her nerves with a sip of her drink.


    “Yeah, you’re right. I do stink. But I’d have thought that would make me fit in better, if anything.” I said, a smile on my face. She laughed again, like I wanted her to. Even though I’d long decided that my sense of humor was as dead as the mummies in the tombs that I raided.


    Her laughter was musical and caused me to lower my guard a little. There was no reason for me to be so paranoid. “And you? I asked, “What brings you to my table when so many others would faint at my stench?”


    “I overheard you ordering from the bar. It's not often I hear a familiar accent, and thought I’d investigate. You look like you’ve had a long day.”


    “Not even the half of it,” I said, but didn’t continue. There still wasn’t a reason to tell her any more than necessary. Instead, I marvelled at the anonymity that my job afforded me. It was rare that I could go anywhere in Britain without being recognized immediately, here with Helen? I was just another face.


    I’d been cataloging ever minor detail I could read from her. Her answers, or rather lack of told me more than anything else. She’d travelled. She was educated somewhere in Britain and if my senses could be trusted, she wasn’t magical.


    There had been a lull between us and I watched her fidget, uncomfortable. I wasn’t exactly at ease myself, but I had nothing to lose in this, she was the one that approached me after all.



    Finally, she sighed a bit, a rueful smile on her face. “I’m sorry this is so awkward. Let’s start over. Hello, my name’s Helen. Helen Fletcher, and it's a pleasure to meet you Harry.” She held her hand out for me to shake. I reached over, gently giving it a light shake. There wasn’t a single callous to be found and I doubted she’d ever seen a hard days work in her life, much less a wand.



    “The feelings mutual Helen. I’m sorry if I’m a bit of a stick in the mud, I didn’t think I’d wind up here today. What brings you out to this fine establishment?”


    I’d accepted her attempt to make a better go at conversation. I wasn’t one for having someone just staring at me expectantly.


    “Oh, I’m just avoiding the heat and enjoying the cheap drinks,” she said, taking a rather long draw on her own drink then. She’d need another soon.


    “I agree, it's quite dreadful out.” I wasn’t one for small talk, but I felt like we were finally getting somewhere. It helped that she was attractive. I fingered my wedding band to remind myself I was married. But couldn’t stop the memories of home from washing over me.


    “So, are you from around here, or vacationing?" I asked, again probing for more information. My paranoia had diminished but not entirely, and it wouldn’t be satisfied until I’d asked enough questions to satisfy my curiosity.


    She smiled, happy to continue to engage. I watched the way her eyes light up. She was starved for attention, or she’d not been lying when she said she missed the familiar accent. “I just got back off vacation actually, I’m from around here. I live up the street in fact.”


    “Oh?”


    “Oh yes! I was born here, but we moved away when I was little, if you can’t tell by my accent. I moved back a couple years ago and I’ve loved it ever since. There’s just something magical about the area,” she rambled, her words coming out in a rush.


    She was eager to talk about herself. That much was obvious. I continued to puzzle out who she was, utilizing all of my senses. In a room full of magicals, Helen stood out like a sore thumb and there was no way a muggle could just walk off the street and into a magical bar, so: a squib.


    Not that there was anything wrong with that. I’d never been one to judge.


    I’d gotten distracted piecing together the puzzle that was Helen, so I missed her next question.


    “Sorry, could you repeat that? I asked.


    “I asked you what brought you to my fine country. Something work related?” She was excited, so her questions were asked rapidly.



    “You could say that. I work for Gringotts as a Cursebreaker.” I said and nothing else, not that my vows would let me say more than that.



    “That sounds so interesting. Did you go to Hogwarts?” she asked. She’d surprised me by not asking further about my job. That was a point in her favor; it was nice because it meant I didn’t have to be impolite.


    “Yes, I did. What do you do for a living, Helen? I asked, not wanting to go into further detail. If she felt slighted by my answer, she didn’t, taking my abrupt response in stride.


    “Well, my parents run a multinational company. They hired me to lead their PR division because they have ventures in both the magical and muggle world, and since I’m a squib, I’m better suited for making contact with some of their muggle acquaintances.


    There wasn’t a hint of bitterness in her tone then, when she mentioned her parents. That confirmed my feelings of bad blood. The casual way she used the word squib felt oddly forced; a test it would seem. So I ignored it entirely and focused on the rest of her question. Which was easy because I was genuinely interested.


    “That sounds like a lot of responsibility.” I said.


    “It is. I spend a lot of time in the office, making phone calls and fire calls alike, so it was nice to get out on a vacation, no matter that my parents practically forced it on me. They seem to think they know what’s best for me.’


    There it was. I’d been waiting for it. And finally her facade cracked a little. The bitterness in her tone gleamed like a diamond in coal. I’d relaxed enough around her that some of my thoughts must have been evident on my face, she was quick to defend.


    “Don’t get me wrong,” she continued, “I love my parents, but ever since I was a child they’ve treated me like I was made of glass. I can’t use magic, that doesn’t mean I’m going to turn to dust.”


    She chugged her drink.


    I was a curse breaker, not a psychologist. I also didn’t think she required any advice from me. But I was still at a loss on how to continue. She saved me from having to say anything when she sighed deeply and stared morosely into her now empty drink.


    “Look at me, one drink and I’ve spilled my guts. Way to go, Helen.”


    I’ve never been able to deal with emotional people well. My marriage was proof of that. I genuinely worried for my children and their future. I’d bottled so many things up that my ability to empathize was askew.


    I didn’t have parents. Molly and Arthur despite their best efforts could never fill the void that growing up with the Dursleys left me. If I was honest, I was just as bitter, probably more so, as Helen. But that didn’t mean I had to turn this into a pissing contest about whose woes were worse.


    “Hey, easy. I know the feeling.” I said, waving my hand to placate her. “My parents died when I was a child, but I can sympathise with people being overprotective.” I finished, thoughts of the Order circling through my mind. Even after all these years the memories remained clear.


    I signalled to the waitress to order us both another round; my glass had sat empty for long enough.


    Hoping to ease us back onto a smoother topic, I took us back to something she enjoyed talking about. “So, you live here, and you like it here, what is there to do around here? I find myself with a couple days to kill and not a whole lot of knowledge of the area.”


    I knew I’d chosen correctly when her eyes lit up. “You must go to the Natural History Museum. It’s the truly the best, Harry. Ancient Egyptian history magical and muggle is so extensive, and the museum here has so many exhibits to look at.”


    “Maybe you could take me there?” I asked.


    ‘Smooth, Potter.’ I thought.


    “I’d certainly love to!” she exclaimed, “We can go tomorrow.” Helen said.

    “We can work out a time a bit later, I’ve still got plenty of drinking left in me,” I said.


    The young waitress from before came back with our drinks, and placed them on the table. She left again quickly. I gave her an exaggerated look when she once again ignored my thanks.


    Helen laughed at me. “Don’t mind Natalie. She’s takes a while to warm up to new company.”


    “Oh, you know her?” I asked.


    “We’re distant cousins.” Her response answered an earlier question I'd had. The familiarity in which the girl spoke to her had clued me into there being something more between them, considering their differing appearances I hadn’t assumed they were family.



    “Would you tell me about Hogwarts? Helen asked, her voice timid. She clearly remembered my dismissal of the subject earlier.


    I sighed, but spoke anyways. “There isn’t much to say about it. When I went to school there, Dumbledore was our Headmaster and we were embroiled in a civil war. It has some of the fondest and worst memories I’ve ever experienced.”


    I watched her face crumple a bit when I talked about the war. Certainly even she’d heard of it.


    “Even over here we’ve heard of Lord Voldemort. A terrible person.” She said.


    “Great, but terrible, indeed.” I agreed. It was then that I saw a hint of something in her eyes. She’d connected the pieces. I could practically see it screaming into place in the front of her mind.


    “Put it together yet?” I asked, amused.


    “You’re… you’re Harry Potter. The Chosen One.” she said, lowly. As if trying not to speak too loud. I appreciated her efforts.


    “That’s one of my many titles, yes. Though not my favorite.” I let her suffer a bit more before I continued speaking.


    "As I was saying: it's the place of some of my fondest memories. There's a giant squid that lives in the lake; the rumor is that it was placed there by Godric Gryffindor himself. There were four founders, and he was one of them. I was also in Gryffindor House. There are magic staircases that change position on the hour, but my favorite thing ever was flying on the quidditch pitch. There’s something about being on a broom, so high up and free.”


    “That reminds me of the first time I was ever in an aeroplane,” Helen said, after a pause. "When I was a young girl, I remember looking down from above the clouds and wondering who was looking up. It’s a truly freeing experience.”


    I could tell she got it. The joys I had when I was on a broom, looking down on the stadium; the other flyers specks in the distance with the heights I achieved. I didn’t have the time to fly anymore, and I missed it dearly.


    We continued to trade memories of our youth and my paranoia faded into a distant memory.


    I’d caught myself more than once watching her. There was something about her that drew me in like a moth to flame. Her smile was vibrant and full of life, a mixture of demure and confident. Her words rang with sincerity, the amount of alcohol we’d both drank making it easier, I reciprocated her sincerity with my own.


    I enjoyed her candidness.


    The sun set low in the sky as our talks continued. I caught her eyeing her watch and making furtive glances at the door. I saw her bite her lip, a question on the tip of her tongue.


    “Come back to my flat with me?”


    A hundred and one thoughts flashed through my mind; I’d clenched my glass tightly, tipping the glass back and finishing it in one large gulp, the metal of my wedding band dug into the glass.


    She’d do the same to me, right?


    I slip the ring off my finger with practiced ease and make it vanish, just like magic.





    1.2

    'Flat' had been a bit of an understatement on her part, I thought to myself as I stepped out of the modern shower. The cool tile on my feet and climate control did wonder for my aches from the day.


    There was one thing that muggles did better than wizards, despite one having magic, and that was a shower. Helen’s shower had six shower heads. I was in heaven.


    Noticeably cleaner, I used my wand to charm the stink from my clothes. Despite muggle innovation, nothing beat magic when it came to such trivial things. There was some smooth music playing over a sound system by an artist that I couldn’t place, it followed me from the bathroom to the living room.


    In the corner of the room was a little sitting area complete with a wet bar, Helen stood there now mixing drinks for the both of us. As I approached her she turned and placed the chilled glass in my hand. She gestured for me to sit, and I did. I let my eyes roam the architecture of the room: the smooth, modern cabinetry, the cool stone countertops and dark flooring complemented Helen’s personality perfectly.


    Helen seated herself on the end of the sofa and turned to face me. The dark leather a sharp contrast to the pale fabric of her dress. She’d changed since we arrived at her flat and the fabric clung to the curves of her body, highlighting the swell of her breasts and the fullness of her hips.


    “I thought you’d enjoy another drink, a night cap,” Helen said, from beside me. I made no attempt at hiding my appreciation of her form, bringing my eyes up slowly to meet her gaze. The corner of her mouth was turned up into a small smile, her eyes glimmered in the dim light of the room.


    I had no intentions of sleeping on the couch, either.


    “Thank you,” I said. Bringing the chilled glass to my lips, I downed the smooth, richly flavored liquor within. I didn’t stop until the ball of ice within the glass touched my nose, I was thirsty and it was good whiskey.


    Helen’s eyes were wide and staring at me, I cleared my throat a little to ease my embarrassment. I tapped the side of the glass and said, “This is good. Nice and smooth.”


    “Would you like another?” asked Helen.


    I gave her a sheepish nod, “Please.” I said, handing her my empty glass.


    She stood and gave me another opportunity to appreciate her body from the back, I swear she did it on purpose. “You’ve got a nice place here. It’s sometimes easy to forget the things you can do without magic.”



    A moment of absolute regret coursed through my body and my face went numb. I’d tried so hard all evening, only for me to now fuck everything up with a simple statement.


    Helen laughed loudly throwing her head back from where she stood. It echoed loudly in the expanse of the open living space. “Don’t worry, you didn’t offend me, we’re long past that now, and any issue I might have had in the past is long since dealt with. My parents keep me comfortable, and I don’t want for anything. Why would I need magic when I have this?”


    She’d turned, fully facing me now, my drink in her hand. She brought it to me, when she sat down once more on the sofa, she was closer to me. I could feel her presence next to me, against my skin and in my teeth, my face vibrated with anticipation. I felt like a school boy all over again.


    I eased myself back into my seat aware of Helen staring at me now. I allowed my eyes to roam the room again as we sat in a peaceful silence, the only sounds in the room the music playing over head and the clink of ice in crystal. My vision swam as I stared at the detailed coffering on the ceiling.


    I brought my gaze down to steady myself and focused on Helen instead. She was watching me, her drink resting beside her. Her gaze looked predatory and hungry, it took considerable will to restrain myself from reaching over and pushing the strap of her dress down over her shoulder to reveal more of her olive toned flesh beneath.


    She’d shifted her body on the sofa so that she was facing me. Her dress had rode up on her thigh, the pale skin and the delicate edge of her garter causing my throat to constrict further. I struggled to come up with conversation to distract myself.


    It wasn’t working.


    “Your parents company, what exactly do they do? I asked, my voice pitched higher than I wanted. She shifted so that even more skin was bared to me, her eyes bright with enjoyment.


    “They organize a for profit seed bank. They’re responsible for all the grain seed in North Africa. They own a bit of everything, if I’m honest, but that is their primary function, and it extends to both the magical and muggle world. Magicals have to eat too after all, and food just doesn’t come from nowhere.”


    “That sounds lucrative.” I said.


    And it was. That was a lot of power for one person, or rather a group. They basically controlled the food supply for a lot of people. That was a lot of responsibility. It made me begin to wonder, what would a woman of her caliber want with me? I was Harry Potter, sure, but the size of her pocket book ensured that we didn’t rub shoulders with the same people. I was boring, common. Maybe that was the appeal?


    I was dense, but not that dense; there was something more here.


    Helen smiled at me. “Yes, quite. But I don’t want to talk about my job anymore. Or about yours. And if I’m honest, I’m bored of this small talk.”



    ‘Here it comes,’ I thought, listening closely to her now. I’d get my answer sooner than I thought.


    “I will admit, I did have ulterior motives in inviting you back to my place.” Helen said.


    I think she intended to put me further on guard by talking this way, but if anything, I was calm. My face stoic, except for a raised eyebrow urging her ever further in her reveal. The pause between us extended well past my comfort zone. I’d leaned forward from my comfortable position on the sofa, but before I could rise to my feet, she’d grabbed my hand.


    A frisson of electricity tingled up my back. I regretted the dyrness of my mouth, eyeing my drink off to the side fleetingly. Helen pulled my hand onto her thigh. He grip was tight, but she allowed my fingertips to glide beneath the hem of her dress.


    We came face to face. The slightest aroma of cherries danced beneath my nose. Alcohol, too. Had she been drinking cherry liqueur?


    I sat there, awkwardly, with my hand up her dress, waiting. For what, I didn’t know.


    “Kiss me, Harry Potter.” she said.


    I didn’t need further urging as I smashed my lips against her own. Our lips fought as my hands roamed her body, I pushed my hand back under her dress bringing my fingers against the dampness of her sex; she was just as excited as I was.


    Several minutes of dancing tongues and gnashing teeth later, she pulled back from me after biting my bottom lip.


    “I think we would be more comfortable in the bedroom, yes?"


    Her cheeks were tinged red and her eyes dark with desire. That hungry look was back in full force as she ground her wet sex against my own throbbing dick. Only the fabric of my boxers between us.


    I watched as she delicately let the tip of her tongue move smoothly along her bottom lip. I struggled to speak, my mind tracing her tongue, thinking of how sweet it tasted and the softness of her lips.


    I was excited and scared at the same time. I’d not felt this way in a long time. In the end, all I could manage to say was “Please.”


    We stumbled our way into her bedroom, our hands roaming each others bodies, I pulled her dress down, she let it pool neatly around her ankles as she practically ripped the buttons off my button up and pushed my unbuttoned pants and boxers down around my ankles.


    She worked quick.


    Helen pushed me down on the bed, her body resting on top of mine. She wasn’t still for long as she ground her sex into my erect dick again, this time nothing between us -- it was heaven. I couldn’t take the separation much longer, I fought the need to be inside her and thrusting by grabbing her round ass and squeezing tightly.


    In a smooth motion I didn’t know I had in me, I’d switched our positions with me on top of her. I watched as her eyes widened as I buried my dick deeply into her, not able to contain myself any longer.


    Her pleasured moans lasted well into the night.





    I awoke to a pounding that I first attributed to my own throbbing head. There was an awful taste in my mouth, almost like Crookshanks had shat in it. It was only when the shouting started that I realized someone was at the door — it sounded urgent.


    I groaned, pulling myself up, and grasped around for my wand. I was everready so I quickly found it under my pillow; drunk me had kept a healthy dose of paranoia. I flicked it causing some light to fill the room so I could see better, at the same time, I called over to Helen, trying to rouse her awake.


    “You might want to answer that, it sounds like they’re going to beat your door down.” I said, loud enough that it should have woke her, but she didn’t give an indication that she’d heard me. I took her by the shoulder and shook, but found her skin cold to the touch.


    “Helen?” I asked again, clarity was slow in coming, but as I scooted closer to her in an attempt to figure out what was going on, it screamed into my brain, burning away any fugue that might have lingered.


    The light from my spell shined against the dark, dried blood that covered Helen’s side of the bed. I could see a gash running from behind her ear down. I assumed it ran across her neck, I leapt from the bed, and paying no mind to my nudity, I pushed her flat on her back, my fears confirmed.


    She was dead. Deader than dead. Her face was mangled, I couldn't’ even recognize her anymore. On the bits of skin that was unmarred, I could see the smudge of her red lipstick. But that was it. Her eyes were gone, her jaw askew like she’d been hit, and her skin was shredded.


    “What the fuck?” I yelled loudly, jumping from the bed.

    The shouting from outside stopped then. They’d heard me. Fuck. What was I supposed to do? My heart beat quickly, my tongue was in knots in the back of my throat. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to throw up or scream. I ran my hands through my hair, pulling harshly at the roots. The pain served to clear my mind and calm my nerves.


    The sound of splintering wood and calls of ‘Shurta!’ rang through the living room. I could hear glass breaking and furniture being pushed aside as multiple pairs of shoes squeaked against the tile floor.


    Immediately a plan formed in my mind. I couldn’t be found here. Those weren’t aurors in the other room, and while I didn’t speak arabic, I did know that word they were shouting meant ‘police.’ That meant guns and other shit I didn’t want to deal with right now.


    I was still reeling from Helen’s death, but I’d have to figure that out later. Now, I had to get the fuck out of here. I flicked my wand, and my clothes appeared on my body. My shoes finished lacing themselves as I moved across the room looking for anything that could aid me in my escape. The room was bare other than Helen’s scattered clothes and some decorative furniture.


    I nearly slapped myself on the forehead when I remembered one of the most important things about being a wizard. I could just apparate out. They’d be none the wiser. I twirled on the spot, deliberately determined to leave this destination, only to hit a wall.


    Anti-apparition jinx. ‘Fuck.’


    I stomped around the room then, my mind flying faster than a firebolt. Helen dead? Muggle Police? Magic? This stank of a setup.


    I was supposed to be serving Helen breakfast in bed, and maybe a morning shag to go along with it, instead, I was contemplating jumping out of a window like some criminal.


    I could hear them ramming the bedroom door now, they weren’t playing around. If I didn’t hurry, I’d be caught; the bedroom door was much thinner than the front door. I had seconds to escape.


    Time moved slowly as I enacted my hastily made plan. It was lucky these were muggle police and not aurors, or I wouldn’t have had this much time to prepare. I could smell Helen’s blood in the air now, it caused my stomach to turn. The morning sunlight streamed through the windows on the far wall, and I moved to them.


    The windows were perfect if they hadn’t been painted closed. I growled in frustration before tapping my wand against the glass: before my eyes the wood and glass turned to dust. I had but a moment to appreciate my work before the door cracked loudly behind me.


    My time was up.


    I stepped back to get a run and go, before I threw myself out the window.. The roof of the building next door came faster than I anticipated. In my haste I’d forgotten to slow my descent and I paid for it when my gut was slammed into the parapet, the force of the impact nearly pushing my insides out of my mouth.


    I wheezed for breath, my eyes clouded with tears from the impact, the pain unbearable. I’d be feeling this later and for days to come. The yelling above me let me know I didn’t have time to waste. I pulled myself to my feet, slowly, a stumbling run putting distance between me and my pursuers.


    I ran from rooftop to rooftop, bounding leaps to a new building now assisted with magic. Eventually I found one with rooftop access, I barely broke stride as I spelled the door open and into the dark. I misjudged the incline, twisted my ankle, and nearly ate shit. I caught myself against the wall and paused just long enough to let my eyes adjust to the darkness.


    The dim light from around the door at the bottom of the stairs, helped me judge the distance and save me from any more damage to my ankles. As I approached I heard more arabic and the smells of finely spiced meat. I tried the knob, found it was locked, and so let myself in with my wand.


    I burst into the ground floor of a kebabery and stared mutely at the wide-eyed clientele. For a second, only the high-pitched whine of the turning spit broke the silence. Then as I dashed to the door, pandemonium broke loose. An old woman chased me from the store screaming bloody murder and brandishing a bushel of carrots.


    I fled into the street, finding it, thankfully, crowded despite the early hours. Shouts echoed down the street behind me, the police were still chasing me, and they were coming my way. I could see pedestrians being pushed left and right, many of them shaking their fist at the passing police.


    An alleyway to the right of the kebabery I’d just left gave me enough cover to step in and transfigure my clothes into something I could blend in with. Stepping from the alley way I grabbed a scarf from one of the many stands lining the pavement. The young man running it was too busy trying to impress a girl and was too busy to notice me walking off with his wares.


    I looked back and forth, plotting my course, the police were getting closer. The food stalls faced the business fronts along the pavement. Lines pushed out into oncoming pedestrian traffic causing people to travel in groups so they could easily avoid a bottleneck. The line closest to me was much too close to the police, so I walked casually down the street searching for an easy target. I found one, but it was hard to determine where the end began, so I used a confundus charm to ease my way into the middle of the group without pissing ayone off.


    My ruse proved successful when a group of four police, made their way past my line. I gave myself a solid ten count before I headed in the opposite direction, hoping to make it back to the magical district as soon as possible.


    Despite my original impression, it was clear that this was not entirely a magical community. I could feel the weight of the muggle repelling charms that cordoned the town off into enclaves.

    1.3

    The sun was high in the sky and the sweat trickling down the small of my back had me seeking refuge indoors. I’d spent all morning searching for the alleyway that led to the bar, and hadn’t managed to find it yet. So I’d stopped in the shade of a rather dirty looking cafe, and was being served by a toothless old woman who poured my tea with enviable flair.


    As she mixed it back and forth, I lost myself in my thoughts. I had very few options left to me, I wasn’t authorized to cast a portkey and I didn’t need the Egyptian ministry on my back as well as the muggle police. I needed to clear my name and fast.


    I hadn’t killed Helen, but someone had did a great job of cornering me with the charges. I’d arrived here unprepared, not even having brought my trunk. So, with only the transfigured clothes on my back, I’d wandered from alleyway to alleyway until I’d given up and found myself here.


    I’d have given anything for a two way mirror or even just access to a fireplace right now.


    I leaned back in the chair, giving the tea time to cool, and allowed my eyes to scan the area. Pedestrians danced between each other as they made their ways to their various destinations. Traffic zipped up and down the street in a chaotic pattern that I couldn’t even begin to decipher.


    I’d just picked my tea up for a sip when it slipped from between my fingers and crashed to the ground. My eyes were locked on something that made my mind go blank.


    Helen.


    I blinked and rubbed my eyes vigorously, not believing what I was seeing. ‘It couldn’t be, could it?’ I thought as I leapt from my chair with enough force that it crashed into the table behind me. I dashed to the street edge to better see through all the motorbikes and people walking.


    Dark hair, olive skin, and bright red lips. Her dress attire separated her from the others easily, because she was the only woman walking around with her face uncovered.



    “Helen!” I called, it drew attention, but what did it matter now?


    I watched as she stopped dead in her tracks and turned to face me.


    It was her.


    Traffic whizzed between us. I growled low in my throat. As much as I wanted to get over there and demand answers, I also didn’t want to get smeared on the tarmac by a lorry driver that wasn’t paying attention.


    I watched the natives as they worked their way across the street and decided to imitate them. That was, I walked into traffic blindly after saying a silent prayer to whoever was listening and holding my hand out in a stopping motion.


    Just like magic, it worked. By the time I made it across the street, Helen was gone. I ripped the scarf from my face and threw it to the ground.


    I glanced up and down the street, hoping for a glimpse, for anything. I thought I saw the tail of her dress disappear down an alley and I hastened my steps in that direction as I chased after her.


    As I stepped into the alley, the sounds of traffic and chattering pedestrians were left behind like a fever dream. I was back in civilization, or at least, somewhere magical.


    Multi-colored cloth fluttered in a phantom breeze, casting shade on gnarled old men and women hawking wares. I saw a glimpse of olive skin as Helen cut into a tent at the end of the alley. Along the way I saw the bar from the night before. I was in familiar territory at least.


    Out of nowhere came the elderly barman from last night, finger jabbing into my face. He was talking so fast, and slurring so much, that my translation charm was struggling to keep up.


    "You!" he exclaimed and made an ineffectual attempt at pulling me into a headlock.


    Despite my injuries, I had several decades and several stone to my advantage. I held him at arm's reach.


    "What's your problem?"


    "You killed my daughter!" he screamed. People were beginning to stare.

    "Helen is your daughter?"


    I was baffled. I hadn't killed anyone, and besides, hadn't she told me they were rich multinationals?


    “Helen is your daughter?”


    “No, you bastard. Natalie! Natalie is dead, and I blame you. I told her not to go after you last night, and what does she do? She runs off, thinking she’s going to save you.”


    He was rambling now, bent at the middle, hands on his knees and his words turned to indecipherable muttering.


    Meanwhile, my mind was spinning. Natalie’s name surprised me, I’d never expected to hear it again. Save me? What was this drunk old bastard talking about?


    He was standing now, I grabbed him roughly by the shoulder and leaned in. I could smell the stench of alcohol on his breath, making my stomach roll. “What was Natalie supposed to be saving me from?” I asked, in an effort to keep things simple.


    “Undead.” He said. I made sure I could hear him again.


    “Speak clearly, man!” I said, as I shook him hard, causing his eyes to snap up to mine.


    He spoke again, and this time, the translation charm picked up on what I’d mistook as ‘Undead’ before.


    “Vampire. She went to warn you about the vampire.”





    It’d been a long time since I felt so lost.


    The feeling was foreign, so acute I could count on one hand the number of times I’d felt this way in the past. My thoughts were spiraling. Panic because someone was targeting me and I didn’t know why. Anger and confusion because I kept trying to rationalise the woman I’d met last night, Helen, was a lie. The fear was secondary and I easily swallowed it down. It was a healthy reaction when dealing with the unknown. It kept even the most seasoned wizard alive.


    “Vampire.” The old man's words echoed through my head.


    I racked my brain trying to think how I’d come under a Vampire’s gaze. Contrary to popular belief, they didn’t just seek out random targets. Rather, wizards were never picked at random.


    Helen had been good at what she did. I thought back to the night before” the moment when I’d bought into her story. Her bitterness at her parents had felt so genuine. The undercurrent of allure I’d felt when she’d said all the right things, I should have known it was too good to be true. Now, all I felt was regret. I’d thought it’d make me feel better. Ginny had done the same thing, but I didn't expect to feel like such a shit in the end.


    And now, someone’s child was dead. Natalie was gone, because of my actions, her father would never see her again. It made me think about my own children, and in that moment it made me miss being home.


    I clenched my fist tightly as I resolved myself to making it through, if only to see their faces again. I needed answers; I needed to find Helen — she’d given me the slip, by the time I’d made it to the tent she was already long gone. I’d left the old man in the bar, slumped at the counter, too drunk to carry a coherent conversation. He was useless to me now, but later, his story would serve purpose.


    I needed to tell the Goblins what was going on, let them know who to talk to first in order to clear my name. As much as I didn’t want to tell them everything, they’d need to know what was going on so this mess I found myself in could be cleaned up.


    Then I could track down that bastard vampire and give them a piece of my mind.


    When I stepped into the bar, it was to absolute silence. The old man had stopped sobbing, and was instead slumped over the bar as if he’d fallen asleep: passed out was more likely. I’d intended to make a fire call, but the thought of a nice stiff drink drew me toward the bar and his slumped form. Nearly on top of him, my foot slipped.


    I threw my hands out to steady myself, turning my gaze downwards to see what I’d slipped in.


    Blood.


    “Not again.” I said, with a resigned sigh.


    I didn’t need confirmation to know who the blood belonged to. Instead, I turned on my heel after cleaning the blood off the bottom of my shoe, and exited the premises with haste.


    I’d made it maybe ten meters out of the alley, every step I took, I glanced over my shoulder. The more distance I could put between me and the bar the better. It’d be the cherry on a shit sundae for something else to happen now.


    Almost as if it had been foretold, the moment I let my vigil rest, I felt a hand clamp onto my shoulder tightly. The strength contained in the grip brooked no argument.


    “Eyes forward. Don’t look back, and don’t make a scene.” said a familiar voice.


    Good, I wouldn’t have hunt her down after all. Her hand squeezed tightly on my shoulder again, a reminder of who was in control. I nodded my head, I had no reason not to comply. As we walked across the road, she moved to walk beside me — to anyone watching, we looked like a young couple in love — and we were ignored.


    We made it across the street and she forced me into another dark alley. This one wasn’t magical at all. The stench of garbage and the scurrying rats proof of that.


    When her hand left my shoulder, I turned, ready for a fight. I’d had enough of these games, and I wanted answers. Before I could even open my mouth, Helen backhanded me, her strike heavy like a sack of bricks across the jaw.


    I staggered back, off guard.


    She struck me again, and my vision swam. I tripped over some debris on the ground and fell prone, back to the ground.


    She stood over me, her eyes manic and her teeth sharp and gleaming. I was the rat, and I’d fallen in to her trap.


    She pushed something over my face, a cloth, reflexively I gasped for breath, and whatever narcotic smeared on the cloth did its job. As my vision faded, I heard Helen’s voice as if from a distance.


    “We need to talk.”




    1.4

    The worst part about being knocked out is waking up. I came to feeling like my chest had been kicked repeatedly while someone else held my nose and mouth shut. I coughed violently as my gasps were rewarded with lungfuls of stale air.


    I turned my face into a soft surface. I’d not been left on the floor, but instead, a very uncomfortable cot. The blankets and pillow indicated that it was well used.



    The room was small, and dimly lit by small floating brasiers above. They cast more shadows than light, but even in the dimness I could just make out the fine edges of carved hieroglyphs came into focus as my eyes adjusted further.


    The irony of Helen using a tomb as hideout didn’t make me feel any better, this entire journey had started there, it was only fitting it would end in one. I patted myself for my wand.


    No dice.


    She must have taken it from me after she’d manhandled me, that was smart. I let myself sag back into the thin mattress with a sigh and let my thoughts consume me. There was little I could do but wait, my escape was unlikely; there were no windows, and the only door I could see was covered by a blanket. I had no idea what was on the other side, and with the way I felt I wasn’t eager to find out.


    As I lay there, I pieced together what I knew. I’d not had so much time before to connect the dots, hadn’t even been sure there were any to connect, if I was honest. But things were starting to become clearer.


    I was being set up. The barkeep had confirmed that. His daughter had come to warn me. So that meant some time between when I was showering and when I’d stepped out into the living room, Helen murdered her.


    I had to give it to her, she worked quick. But that also meant she had a reason for wanting me here, when she could have killed me as easily as she had Natalie.


    I’d eat my left shoe if my hunch was proven wrong.


    At some point in my thinking, I’d dozed off — getting your ass beat was tiring stuff. I woke from my light sleep to the sound of footsteps as they padded along the rough stone floor, I kept my eyes closed, mostly to buy myself more time, casting all of my senses out to see what came back. I felt nothing, but I could tell by the shift in the whine of silence in my ears that someone was standing over top of me.


    “I know you’re awake Harry.”


    I cracked an eye and looked up at her, she was close to me, peering at my face. I resisted the urge to grab her by the head and smash it into whatever was closest. She’d lost a bit of the crazed gleam in her eye from earlier, but I could tell there was an undercurrent of something there, I just couldn’t quite place my finger on it. I knew better than to let my guard down now, fool me once and all that.


    There was a clatter of wood on stone as she dropped my wand beside me. I reached to pick it up, my movements restrained, non-threatening.


    “You can heal yourself. I’ve never been good at that bit of magic.”


    The warmth seeping into my arm from my wand was comforting, so was having something to defend myself with. As I healed myself, the full impact of what she’d just said clicked into my mind.


    ‘Never been good at healing magic.’ That didn’t make sense. She’d told me she was a squib. It was the only thing I hadn’t doubted; I couldn’t feel a bit of magic from her.


    She pulled a wand from her pocket and transfigured the cot into a seating for two. My assumption had been wrong. Not good at healing magic, but decent at transfiguration. Warily, I began casting healing chams on myself. I wasn’t good at healing magic either, but it was serviceable, and I could at least move now without my stomach and chest revolting.


    “Why do you feel like a squib?” I asked There was no reason to be delicate about things now. I wanted answers.


    “There are certain benefits of my master’s protection. Being undetectable to other magicals is one.”


    “So you cast the anti-apparition jinx on your apartment,” I asked, her nod of yes confirming what I’d already known.


    “Please, have a seat Harry,” she said, gesturing at the empty seat across from her.


    I turned over in my mind some more thoughts. The old man had called her a vampire. But she wasn’t any vampire I was familiar with. She lacked some of the noticeable traits. Notable, a cold disposition and a thirst for blood.


    She was something else.


    When I’d seated myself she clasped her hands together and smiled. There was nothing warm there, it was all predator appeal and sharp angels. The cat that ate the canary. I could feel her eyes on me, weighing me up in a way she’d not done the night before.


    Her smile widened even further. She was pleased.


    “So, Harry, I’m sorry for lying, but I had my reasons for getting you here and I wasn’t sure you’d hear me out.”


    “Well, I’m here, I’m listening,” I said with a snort.


    Lying was a delicate way of explaining away the complete bullshit of the night before. I wasn’t sure what I was more mad at. Myself for buying into it, or the fact that the Helen I knew wasn’t the Helen here now. I’d fallen for the dark haired beauty from the night before, shy, but certain of what she wanted.


    “Harry, from the moment I laid eyes on you, I knew you were the one.” I saw a shadow of the nervous girl from last night, before it was quickly smothered. “I’ve waited years for this. Years. And then I found you.”


    “How?” I asked.


    “At the tomb, here. You walked in from the desert and stole my heart. My master wanted me to kill you, but I’ve been alone for centuries. I fought for the right to have you as my own—” she kept talking but I’d tuned her out.


    I had to, or I’d say something. I belonged to no one, and I didn’t take kindly to her talking about me like I was a piece of meat. She had provided me with some clues. There was someone else, her ‘master.’ It also confirmed the fates of my coworkers.


    She’d killed them.


    “ —and that’s where we stand. I’d like you to spend eternity with me Harry.”


    “How do you propose we spend eternity together, Helen, when I don’t even know who the fuck you are?”


    “I apologized for lying Harry, please don’t hold that against me. You can’t deny that there was a connection between u— “ I held up my hand stopping her.


    “There was a connection between me and the cautiously bold but attractive woman that invited herself to my table. You,” I pointed at her, “I have no idea who the fuck you are.”


    My words agitated her, the way she fidgeted back and forth in her chair made me think she was going to leap from it and start pacing. It wasn’t my fault she hadn’t thought these things through — If she thought I could ignore all the shit that’d brought me here, all the shit she’d done, she was crazier than I’d thought.


    But maybe that was the answer to all of this. She was crazier than I thought. Certifiably fucking insane, actually. Because she was a ghoul. They were insanely strong and possessed a poisonous bite.


    I let my gaze cut through her, as things started making sense. She couldn’t take it, and she stood, wringing her hands in her dress as she tried to hide her panic.


    “You’re tired, that’s all. You’re not thinking straight.”


    “I know what you are, Helen. A ghoul. It makes a lot of sense now. You’re fucking crazy, because you can’t be anything else.”


    “I’m not crazy!” she shouted, her voice echoing loudly in the small room. She didn’t like being called crazy, my words enough to bring a promise of pain to her eyes and an abrupt stillness to her agitated form. She looked ready to fight.


    Good, I was itching for one.


    I withdrew my wand, and I saw her eyes widen. She’d forgotten she’d given it to me. It served to make her cautious, but just barely.


    “I can’t believe I let you fool me. A fucking ghoul. You’re nothing more than a vampire groupie — chosen for your gullibility and the fact that no one’s going to miss you — you fucking crazy bitch.”


    I could tell instantly the moment I’d won.


    I stepped left and easily dodged her charge, I brought my wand to bare, a overpowered banishing charm at the tip. I took no small amount of pleasure watching as she was stopped mid charge and thrown forcefully against the solid stone of the wall behind her.


    My victory felt like it’d been stolen from me, it only took one spell to render her unconcious. It was anti-climatic. I could feel my heart beat thrum in my ears. I waited half a beat for her to stand again, when she didn’t I left her laying. I stepped into the next room, ready to face my next challenge. Her master still needed to be dealt with.


    In sharp contrast to the room I’d woke up in, this room, no, this chamber, stood as a testament to the riches and splendor of times long past. The walls hummed with magic, and in center of the room on a raised dais rested a crypt.


    Typically, vampires never came out until night time, but there was no sunlight here. I had to hope I’d caught it sleeping. This room was brighter, there were considerably more braisers filled with light — the glitter of all the gold helped, making the room that much more opulent.


    I heard bare feet padding on rough stone from behind me, I turned again, expecting Helen. She was knocked out, but I couldn’t be certain for how long. There was no one there, the light from the brightly lit chamber made the roughly fashioned curtain look like it moved in a breeze, which I knew was impossible. It was just my eyes playing tricks on me.


    I turned back to the crypt, unable to stop the startled yell that ripped itself from my throat.


    Before me stood the most beautiful women I’d ever seen. She stood arms akimbo, an incredulous look on her finely formed brow, but otherwise made no other show of her intent.


    A monster wearing the skin of a woman, but no matter what, she could never escape the taint of her inhumanity. I could still hear my heart in my ears, it beat faster now, as my mind supplied me with all the consequences of if I was to fail.


    Vampires preyed on the weak, the defenseless and the destitute. I couldn’t let her leave here, for all the Natalies to come, the sake of my children, and for the sake of the children in the village outside the tomb.


    No one should have to face this horror.


    “Fuck you!” I snarled, flinging a firespell at her, every bone in my body wanting to burn the smirk from that bitches face. I bottled my annoyance at how quickly she moved.


    I brought one of the braiser’s above loose from its hangings, it fell faster than she could react.


    Hot embers showered her, leaving blisters and char along her skin where ever they touched. I took advantage of her distraction and cast Impedmentia to slow her down, I was lucky the spell struck, because if her next charge had connected, I would have surely been decapitated.


    I put distance between us again, she struggled to right herself under the effects of my spell as heat waves danced in the air as anything flammable was on fire around us. I was soaked in sweat.


    I prepared my next spell, now that she’d been slowed down, this would be more effective, while also giving me the range I needed. The hot fire of my flame whip coiled on the floor behind me as I invited her next charge.


    Who would move first, the monster or me?


    She shifted, and I forced myself not to blink as I brought the whip around. In her slowed state I managed to catch her ankle, the white hot whip searing through and cauterizing it in one smooth motion. Her wails were music to my ears, her beautiful face transformed into a mask of gnashing teeth.


    I flicked my wand again for the next strike, this one a lethal blow. I wasn’t one to let wounded animals suffer— before I could finish, I was tackled forcefully from the side. I screamed as teeth tore into my shoulder and my neck.


    I let my flame whip die, and pointed my wand blindly towards my attacker, the spell forced the razor sharp teeth and jaws away, tearing through my shoulder as they went.


    Helen’s beautiful face was no more, her fine red lipstick looked obscene on lips stretched thin across a wide gaping mouth, all pointed black teeth and forked tongue. With a twist of my wand, a circle of flame sprang up separating me from Helen and her master.


    Blood ran down my arm and pooled in my hand and around my wand. I was bleeding, badly. Each thud of my heart forcing more of it out of my body. I could see them preparing to overwhelm me. My fire barrier wouldn’t last for long, and neither would I. A ghoul's bite was invariably lethal; I could already feel her poison in my veins.


    My eyes narrowed, resolve I didn’t know I had trickled in fortifying my body. Even if I didn’t make it out of here, I fully intended to take those two to hell with me. I was as certain of that as I was of my own demise.



    I dropped the barrier spell, another spell already on the tip of my tongue.


    Malus Ignis!


    I let all of my anger and desperation give life to the spell. A serpent composed entirely of dark red flame erupted from my wand and was on them before they could even show their surprise.


    The heat from my spell was so vicious it didn’t even give them time to wail as their bodies were turned near instantly to ash. I watched as the spell circled the room I was in, turning everything it touched into molten slag.


    I basked in the heat and the satisfaction that I’d done something right, that this fucked up journey I’d been on was now at an end. I let my wand drop, breaking my connection with the fiendfyre.


    As my connection broke, the fiery serpent began to form a ring around me like an ouroboros.


    Expecto Patronum. I cast one last spell.


    My silver stag companion appeared beside me in a burst of light. The feelings of hope it brought let me know that I’d made the right choice. “Ginny, I’m sorry. I love you and the kids, always.”


    My patronus flashed away from me then, carrying my last message and my hope to those that I loved. I fell to my needs, the burden of the blood loss and the poison in my body too much. Already, I could feel as each breath was more shallow as my lungs gave up the struggle.


    I coughed once, and then eyed the malicious fire around me.


    “Do it then,” I said, and the fire responded like it’d been waiting for my permission all along.


    I knew peace then, as the fire consumed me.
     
  2. Typhon

    Typhon Order Member

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2010
    Messages:
    803
    This is another one that's really quite good. In fact, I think it came a hairsbreadth usurping 4 as my favorite of the first 5 entries outright, because it's more to my taste on a lot of levels than entry 4 I think. As it is this story is still competitive, but I think 4 might edge it on a story-crafting level for me.

    Let's do the good first - the language is quite evocative here, and this is quite good at character building. It doesn't take long to wrap your head around this Harry and his motivations, and everything seems to follow reasonably from his character. The whole story is super... organic? Between that and the occasional beautiful turn of a phrase, I was really into the whole thing. Hell, I don't even like vampires and I felt you were doing a good job with the vampire.

    Which brings me around to the bit that detracted from this for me - the vampire. I have to say, I can't really figure out why you introduced a master vampire character whose name we don't even get in the story and make Helen something less than a vampire in the final moments. It felt very awkward and a bit forced, which like nails on a chalkboard for something that had as one of its primary merits before the fact that it wasn't forced.

    Don't get me wrong, this wasn't enough to make the story bad - it's still excellent as far as I'm concerned. It does move it from something that was tightly plotted and beautifully executed to something that has a bit of a stumble just before the finish line, though, at least for me. Solid work on the whole, but I think the simpler plot would have been the better one in this case.

    Link to longer review.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018
  3. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

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    1204
    I'll have to ape Typhon's comment; it's well-written and I liked it a lot, but making Helen not the main vampire was an odd choice. The way the story was leaning it would've made perfect sense.

    A couple of other minor quibbles: we never really find out why the goblins sent Harry there in Egypt. I'm also not sure why they insist on no magic. Surely you'd hire wizards for the fact they can do magic? Also, what was the whole thing with the police meant to do? Get Harry killed? Because there's far easier ways of doing that and they didn't kill him while he was unconcious.

    Anyway, those problems aside, it's hard for me to point out anything else you did wrong. Technically your writing is great. No errors really stood out to me. Descriptions were vivid enough, both of locations and of characters, to make them stand out clearly in my mind. I feel like you did a good job in showing Harry out of his depth in Egypt without rubbing our faces in it.
     
  4. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    Joined:
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    I liked this.

    I mean what more is there to say? The setup is great. The atmosphere and general vibe are evocative. The characters are great - Harry and Helen having their little seduction? UNF. If only all smut were written this well. It's easily top tier even if I were just judging based on that scene alone.

    The technical writing I have no complaints with. There's a solid grasp of the fundamentals here, and while not aligned with my personal minimal style, I'm conscious that it works well enough here. Any gripes I have I'd say are more stylistic in nature rather than anything wrong with the piece itself, and would probably serve to weaken the distinctive style and tone of this piece to its detriment.

    The switch with Helen turning out to be the vampire took me by surprise, at first, but I quite liked it. It would explain why the stench of death and all that didn't really deter her from approaching Harry. I liked the mystery, the cloak and daggers, the way the story was developing. Vampires being an integral plot point? Ancient magics? Yes please.

    And then you spring the ending on us and I was just crushed with disappointment. Don't get me wrong, this is still probably the best entry this competition (with 4 being a close second), the writing is solid, but I just feel like the ending came out of nowhere. The introduction of a nameless master vampire was a poor choice, over just keeping Helen as the one in charge. Helen's sudden 180 into a psycho-stalker chick was just jarring and while it makes a certain amount of sense, it just feels like you were setting this story up for a different direction, got tired halfway, and came up with this compromise?

    Harry's offhand mention to Ginny at the end of it also struck me as pretty weird given what I've seen of their relationship here. Felt out of character.

    So yeah I liked 3/4ths of this, and the ending kinda made me sad. Would read the hell out of a story that continued from where scene 3 left of with 4 excised.

    TLDR, you write good words. More lewd plz.
     
  5. Otters

    Otters Seventh Year ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    This is the most structurally sound of the comp entries I've read so far by a long way. You've got the same Harry archetype as #4 - the jaded but skilled Harry DLP likes so much. There's a really good balance of implied drudgery and action, so we never feel bored ourselves as the readers. The drudgery is mired hand in hand with mystery, the promise of adventure, and the suggestion that something really terrible has (and will) happen. And most of all, the boring parts Harry alludes to don't ever actually happen on screen.

    Helen is pretty good for the most part. Her fictitious backstory is a bit too much, I'd say. Especially as she doesn't turn out as the primary antagonist. Thinking on it now, I'm reminded of those old timey JRPGs where you'd have the main boss of the storyline, but the after the credits there'd be a second superboss waiting out in the world for you. That's kinda what this feels like. Something unrelated and extra tacked on afterwards. The character interactions did feel spot on and sincere, though. The sex scene was tasteful and minimalistic, almost a fade to black - somehow you've managed to write fanfic smut without being cringey. All of Ao3, FFnet, Reddit, SB, SV, and Tumblr the internet could use your gift. When she turns on him, it was believable, but still felt rather too short. I would have liked a bit of a deeper look into her motivation. The facts are all there, but this was a big leap for her to spontaneously fall in lust with Harry. I would have liked to have heard a "why" in there.

    @Halt hit things pretty on the nose when he said that things were jarring later on. That's by far the biggest fault in here. Abruptness. There's a really great and coherent storyline for the most part, but it's as if I went out of the theatre for a bathroom break and missed a good 5 minute run up to the climax of the movie. The abruptness was a bit of an issue, but aside from that it did feel like a completely coherent and self-contained piece. We see the ordinary world of Harry after a job, his call to adventure as he meets Helen, and then his cross over the threshold of the murder into an ordeal. And although elements of how the end plays out are rough, it clearly hits the beats of reward and conflict followed by the return to his ordinary world - in this case, through his acceptance of his fate compared to his malcontent with his life at the very beginning. It fits the character arc of the hero's journey very well.

    The writing felt really polished for the most part. Things tapered off towards the end a fair amount, and it's clear when you start to run out of steam. All the pieces are there, but something towards the end seems to fall off. Perhaps it could have been improved by switching the places of the antagonists - Harry fighting his way past the vampire to reach Helen, then she turns on him enraged at the death of her master. But that would have probably required moving around about 50% of what's written here. Eh.

    On the whole, this is a good piece of work. It does what it needs to for character and setting to be established, and then it moves on. There's not much wasted time, and there's no asinine narrative dribbling to pad out words. It's neat, clean, and efficient. It feels like some serious effort went into this. I've not read Entry #7 yet, but this one is the best from the first six.
     
  6. Jeram

    Jeram Elder of Zion ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    In general I felt this was a fairly strong entry. A few odd formatting and technical issues here and there, and some of the pacing was a bit too abrupt to me. Harry was weirdly characterized here, because the story isn't clear whether or not he's been affected in a way that's fundamentally screwing with his mind. Mostly I felt he was "off" to me, which isn't atypical for a lot of future!Harry stories, but I wasn't such a fan of that aspect.

    I found the sex scenes to be anodyne, cliched, and really wanted to skip past them -- I didn't because I want to be fair in my "judging", but I did not care for it. The final twists and turns didn't quite come together for me. I am ultimately kind of confused about when Helen was Natalie or not, and I don't really get the point of the whole "master" thing since you just ended with Harry sacrificing himself. Makes the thematic resonance a bit less important.

    Now I did like much of the prose itself, and the dialogue shone when it made sense. The Squib perspective lent itself to an interesting sort of worldbuilding that I felt wasn't really paid off in the end. As connectivity to the prompt is concerned, I think this story pulled that nicely. Well, I mean this story is 100% wrong about ghouls in the HP universe, but still.. allowances can be made for this competition, since really all of the stories play around with canon-compliance. Not as strong as the other comments on this story, as I don't think it reads as "well" as #4, which at this point is my #1 tale. Not sure I'll have any more time left to read the rest tonight, so I'll finish that up tomorrow I think.
     
  7. James

    James Auror

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    This has been written without reading others’ posts in the thread, to escape the bandwagon, so it might repeat what has been said already.

    This story started in a very close tone to the entry #4, and I was all prepared to close it and not give a fuck anymore, but then:

    He actually has a sex with the girl! There is something happening to the main character that doesn’t completely suck! And then in the morning he wakes up and the girl is dead. Surprise, motherfucker! And instead more melodrama and oh woe is me, there’s the anger, the proactiveness, and it’s already much much better than #4.

    Plot & Pacing - 4/5

    The pacing is quite good, for a one shot, and I was pleasantly surprised by the plot: I was expecting a thriller/action, and instead got a mystery/revenge flick, and this kind of surprise—getting more than was promised—is always good.

    Characters - 3/5

    Harry is okay: a little too broken for my tastes, but not yet enough to be not enjoyable. The girl is okay too, but her motivations are sort of meh. The rest of the cast is not really worth a mentioning.

    Prompt use - 2/5

    There is vampire, true, yet the main villain is actually the ghoul thrall of the vampire—which in it’s own way is inspired and does mesh well enough with this sort of story, but in the end, it isn’t the vampire.

    The vampire is just there, for a few paragraphs. Even the ending happens the way it does due to the ghoul girl, rather than the vampire.

    Other - 5/5

    A point for finishing a thing, a point for being enjoyable, and a point for surprising me with the twist. Two more points are for the ending, and for having the metaphorical balls to use that ending, in the way that feels rather in character at that moment.

    Total: 14/20
     
  8. enembee

    enembee The Nicromancer DLP Supporter

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    This is a weird one for me, because I saw a fair bit of it during the creative process. I honestly feel like a bit of a shit, because there were some flaws at the time that I couldn't put my finger on, and only subsequently have.

    Primarily, the crux of this story is excellent. Harry, jaded and cynical and more than a little broken, is missing something in his life. He tries a number of self-destructive things (boozing, cheating, working) that don't satisfy this hole inside of him and it's only when he returns to being what he always was (a hero) that he finds that thing that he's missing. It's a beautiful concept.

    Unfortunately, the execution doesn't quite work for me.

    The set up (the initial two scenes) put this story head and shoulders above the rest of this competition on their strength alone. Nothing else written here made me feel as acutely for a character. You have taken the skill of writing a sympathetic protagonist (and antagonist in this instance) and making it near enough impossible for your reader not to empathise with them. It's a tremendous piece of writing that you ought to be really proud of.

    Even the more procedural, action oriented middle sequences are solid. They progress the plot as they should and, even if I still feel that there's probably one scene too many in this section, or that Helen's reveal could have been slightly subtler and more nuanced, this section of the story does precisely what it ought to.

    The problem for me, as with all the other reviewers, comes at the end of this piece. I don't, however, think that the reveal with the Vampire is a let-down. As attentive readers we knew that Helen couldn't possibly be the vampire, given that he'd fucked her, (lack of body heat would have been a dead giveaway) and this was a satisfying resolution to that problem.

    My issue comes in with Harry's last minute change of heart and the fact that we weren't really guided there as a reader. We knew that Harry was missing something, we saw him consider his wife and children all the way through, we saw his progression from weary drunk to heroic archetype. But we weren't ever made to feel it. And I think that's probably the fundamental flaw with this piece. The opening chapter promises that we will feel for Harry as acutely as we did when he was in that bar, but somewhere along the way that emotion gets lost.

    All in all though, this is a great story. There is some rough around the edges mechanics in here, most notably sentence construction and flow, but nothing that detracts from a really well crafted piece of fiction.

    Congrats.
     
  9. Zombie

    Zombie Black Philip Moderator DLP Supporter

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    The beginning and end of this story is told from two different perspectives. There is the beginning which is formulated to show the type of person Harry is, and also is set to introduce us to some of the cast that we see later. I like the Harry that was created here, objectively this is probably the best thing about the story. There are bits of introspection that approach 'feeling human."

    Biggest issue is that the middle and end of this are set for a different story. They're rushed, the pacing isn't as tight as the beginning and I feel like the characters established at the start are lost entirely. Harry's perspective is what sold this story. The understanding of his own limitations, his own desires, and his understanding of self are lost in the latter parts. It goes from something thats "In my feelings." to bang them up action adventure, gotta get out of this.

    The fact that Helen wasn't a vampire, but instead a ghoul is a bit heavy handed. There is the idea that if Helen had been the vampire all along that Harry would have noticed the unnaturalness a lot sooner, but the biggest thing you forget about this is the fact that magic is real and there is a potential that vampires cannot do magic. Their inhumanity comes at a cost.

    The nameless vampire was shoehorned in to add conflict to an already weird fucking adventure. Helen is there, and you try and show that she's crazy because she's a ghoul but I don't think that it was executed all that well, you could have spent more time on crafting a more logical middle and end and cut the fact on unnecessary segments. The reveal with Natalie feel a bit flat, and while I know the intention, I felt like that could have been handled better. The subsequent death and then his capture by Helen felt rushed and forced.

    The talk they have at the beginning of the end goes on for too long and I don't think it achieved what you wanted it to. There is a sense that you're trying to tell everyone what they should have realized by now instead of just revealing it organically throughout the story, its a rather poor attempt at mystery.
     
  10. Dicra

    Dicra Groundskeeper

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    Review is written in reaction-style, because I feel like I can contribute best that way.

    DLP Story Competition Entry #5

    The beginning of this reminds me of #4. Again, I personally am not that fond of too morose characters, but, like #4, it’s well written, even though the style is different. Also, this is great build-up. First, we get to know about Harry’s dead „team“ (Question that goes through the reader’s mind: "What happened there? Where is he?“) then, you tell us about his children’s forlorn faces ("So, he’s not in England? Where is he, then?"), and then, we get to know that he’s in Egypt ("Why?"). It’s satisfying yet fascinating to read, because every new paragraph gives us more information and also opens up new questions, which leads to you capturing my full attention from early on.

    The description of the magic’s feel and flavour are alive, for a lack of another word.

    The following is something I wouldn’t know if I read it first, but I feel like my other posts have been somewhat all over the place, so I’m going to address it here even though the problem only becomes apparent later:

    You build up the work with the goblins a lot, you show their mentality, you tell us about Harry’s work with the goblins. While I wouldn’t say it’s as bad as in #4, where some parts of the story don’t seem to matter (at least not as much as it should), and while it does add to Harry’s character and his current bitterness, I think this could’ve been shorter. We don’t need it later on, and some of the details point towards it being of relevance for the story (the dead team, the business attitude of the goblins, etc), even though it ultimately isn't.

    As I happen to know how this story came to be the way it is now, I want to add this: For what you wanted to do before, this would’ve worked brilliantly.

    What comes now is great as well. You introduce Helen, show us Harry’s distrust, and immediately afterwards, you combine that with yet another question, yet another hint – A „rapid fire exchange“ – about what?

    A minor nitpick:
    Harry enjoys making people feel uncomfortable? Why? Doesn’t seem to fit with his personality, not even with the bitter Harry you’ve introduced us to.

    Back at the end of 1.1, I’ll tell you that the first scene with Helen is my favourite scene in the whole competition. The way you add depth to her character step by step during their dialogue, the way you make her a truly fascinating person of her own by giving her some unique traits (squib) and a very relatable, realistic story, the way you slowly lessen the reader’s distrust along with Harry‘s by simply showing what she does and how she comes across … it’s great. Keep doing that.

    In 1.2., you capture the sexual tension pretty well. Writing about "penis goes into vagina" isn't that hard. Building sexual tension is. I think I saw the following quote somewhere around this forum: "You’ve got to get them towards the point where the reader wants to scream at them: 'Just fuck already!'" That’s just the feeling I get from this scene. His voice going up higher, him feeling her presence, the vivid descriptions of her face – you know what you’re doing, I’ve got to give you that.

    That said, while there’s nothing wrong with the scene itself, I had to keep myself from skimming., because I knew what it would lead to, I didn’t think it added much to her character, and, most importantly, the sex wasn’t what I cared about at this point, because the setup pointed towards a well written story with an engaging plot and interesting characters, and it seemed to slow the whole thing down. Maybe it’s just me, but I could’ve lived with a summary. The last line of 1.1. „I slip the ring off my finger with practiced ease and make it vanish, just like magic“ already pretty much told me what would happen in 1.2.

    That said, I’m aware that others really liked the scene. I thought it was a good read, but nothing more.

    And then he wakes up and she’s dead. This scene, again, shows great build-up. He wakes up, there’s someone at the door, Helen doesn’t react, her body’s cold – and only then, our fears get confirmed and the tension pays off.
    I also like how little you actually tell us about his feelings – and yet, his bodily reactions are just enough to show us everything we need to know while still upholding the tension of the flight. That said, I feel like you could've shown us a bit more about his thoughts and feelings after the flight was over.

    Also, and I'm adressing this here for structural reasons: I don't think there's any reason for the anti-disapparition-jinx. Helen just does it, and I don't really understand why. Did she want to rescue Harry after he was caught? If yes, this was an awful setup. Did she fear he'd apparate back to England? He can do that anyway, as soon as he's out of the quarter.

    So, on towards 1.3. And, well, not many bad things to say about its beginning as well. That said, while I’ve complimented you for not using many words, I’d have liked a few more when he sees Helen again. After all, you’ve established this Harry as a bitter, somewhat self-loathing character – you don’t get to be that way without being somewhat introspective. So, a few thoughts or feelings – maybe fury because he thinks she set him up, maybe betrayal, maybe asking himself who was killed if it wasn’t her – would have been nice.

    Then, he gets stopped by the barkeeper, and it’s maybe the worst scene as of now. He’s chasing the person he believed to be dead, he’s got a thousand reasons to ask for explanations, and instead, he simply lets her go because some drunken barkeeper isn’t happy with him? Their dialogue is a thinly veiled plot necessity – the reader needed to know Natalie died, and he needed to know about the vampire, but he couldn’t know about Natalie before Helen’s sudden reappearance, so you shoehorned this into the chase. Here’s where the lack of description of Harry’s emotions hurts the story – it seems like he doesn’t really care at all about chasing Helen. He isn't even annoyed at being interrupted. There’s literally no reason not to shove the drunken man aside, let alone listen to him.

    After all, Harry doesn’t know he’ll be able to talk to Helen soon enough even if he doesn’t catch her now.

    Don’t get me wrong: You’ve definitely earned my suspension of disbelief by now, and it’s nothing story-destroying. It still feels cheaply done, though.

    1.3. however, ends with a bang – Helen catches him and I’m definitely very excited for an explanation of what’s going on.

    Which means, we now get to 1.4, the section of the story most reviewers criticized.

    Let’s get to the meat immediately:
    And I think Harry’s right, but it’s worse. To get that out right now: This is, imo, the scene were the story takes a severe blow, more so than with the master vampire. As I said, 1.1 is my favourite scene from the whole competition, because of how you introduce Helen. Now we know that the interesting character in the beginning is a hoax. And her replacement is just … lame. „I’ve been alone, I became obsessed with you, now spend eternity with me!“ I also don’t believe it. The character you’ve got here is far too on the nose, there’s no way she’d be able to fake a personality like Helen’s in the first scene. It’s not just that the background story is lame, it also doesn’t fit with what we’ve seen from her previously.

    If you wanted to have her be secretly insane, I’d have suggested to at least make it more subtle. Make it so the reader almost likes her again, in spite of what she’s done. Instead of hitting Harry and then telling him to spend „eternity“ with her, have her send him a letter with an apology, or have her show up unarmed, have her tell him Natalie attacked her because of what she was and she didn’t have a choice, and that she didn’t dare to tell him at first, or something like that.

    Basically everyone else covered the master vampire, so I’ll just say I more or less agree. However, the only reason it actually bothered me while reading was that the master vampire was the reason Harry couldn't have a longer, more satisfying fight with Helen.

    So, after all that criticism … the ending was ok. I think the payoff would've been better had you described Harry's emotional development throughout the story a bit more. But it felt like Harry Potter as he was in canon, and for me, it was satisfying to see there was some of that person left, too.

    In general, I think this is the best competition entry. The writing is great, 80 % of the story are as well, and you found a great opening and a good ending. The only letdown was the finale, and while that is an integral part of a story, I still prefer this over the tone problems of #4.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018
  11. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

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    (I haven't read the other reviews in this thread so as to be objective as possible, though I have seen that these latter four are the ones being voted for in the over-thread, so I am attempting to be more discerning, too. This review is too long, sorry. NMBs document is too helpful.)

    In my childhood, for a few years, my family lived abroad. It was a hot, poor place where all the trees were brown and there was no grass, just dead earth and burrs that would impale your feet if you walked barefoot. One day, this lethargic pregnant cat appeared in the back garden and splooged out three live kittens. One ginger, who was named Ginger, one black, called Sooty, and the last, Patches - you can probably guess what he looked like. At that time, this was the correct number of cats for the present number of children and so they were kept for house pets. A painful 3 months passed and ultimately they had to go to the cat shelter which, looking back, was probably not a shelter at all. And, it couldn't really be avoided. They were wild things from a wild mother and couldn't live with children, scratching the shit out of us. It was probably the correct decision to get rid of the cats rather than the children.

    Despite that, despite the fact that they were not made to last, that the time spent with them was short, and that they scratched the shit out of me - those memories are still fond memories. I liked them more than I had any reason to, even though from minute to minute it could be quite painful.

    For me, on finishing this story, similar feelings were evoked.

    This is kind of the opposite of my last review. I liked your story, and the narrative you wanted to tell. I liked the setting and the events. Whenever I had doubts about where it was going, or felt you'd made a misstep you'd then work it into something satisfying and ultimately the pay off was strong, to my subjective taste. It was the technical components that let you down.

    This is the first submission I've read in first person, and first person brings unique pitfalls. First person is something to me that can be done quite well or quite poorly and it's tricky, for different reasons to third person.

    I read a quote once, which I can't remember exactly, that said the lessons people cry out the loudest are those they've only learnt a day before.

    Here, this is absolutely true. Halt shared some wonderful links in his writing resources, one of which links to an essay about first person. The shitty two paragraph anecdote about kittens above was more than just a tortured attempt to say I liked your story in a weird way. It's a first person narrative, and I only use the article 'I' twice. Find two paragraphs where you use I twice or less.

    People don't say I in their own head, they say it to other people.

    Halt talks also about directness of narration and this is another way to think of it. You are not submerging your writing in your narrator, which in first person, in a story like this, you really should be. There's a lot of 'thoughts' and 'remembereds'. Reading through this, I was struck by the idea that it reminded me of a witness statment, or a police interrogation. Harry was not just seeking to describe events but to justify them, whether that would turn out to be Ginny with his infidelity or the police with this whole murder malarkey.

    "She put my hand on her leg, and pulled it up against her thigh," pause, justify: "She wanted me, officer, she wanted me the whole night."

    Obviously, that doesn't turn out to be a narrative device and so it becomes extra words that slow down the pace, reduce immersion and make it a more unsatisfying read. Everything is 'I did x' when he should just be describing the parts that aren't his choices to do, and just the results of what he does. That's how we actually think.

    Below, I've gone through 1.1 in more detail so as to be precise with this most major complaint, and then I'll just post general points about the actual plot and your writing's other aspects. After I've posted it, I'll read the rest of the thread and edit in numbers later with any revised thoughts based on other reviews, as per.

    So the first sentence is beautiful, but then it's like I'm immediately flicked in the balls by some big, hairy meaty paw to curb my enthusiasm. Similes slow things down and take you out of the narrative to imagine a different scene. You don't want me imagining two different images in your first two sentences. The first sentence drew me straight in, I was ready and willing. This paragraph does not need the weak simile, it doesn't serve the opening. The heat is an important part of the atmosphere but we're willing to do a lot of the legwork when you describe the hookah. You don't read hookah and think of an igloo. You can hold off on a lot of other description when your first sentence is that strong.

    With this languid, aromatic opening you don't need to rush. I think you get to the situation briefing too quickly or too frankly. You can layer in the atmosphere and build up to telling us Harry's situation. I wanted to be intrigued and curious for longer than I was.

    Very editorial, one example of what I discussed above this spoiler. You tell us what he thinks when you could make it more organic. Why not write 'Why had I come here? It wasn't for hookah, shit whiskey and the local culture' or whatever.

    With editoral language like this, you increase distance between us and Harry. You decrease the immediacy of events. For the events in this story, for first person, that's not ideal.


    Again very editorial, and a post hoc justification sentence, unnecessarily. We get the impression that he's not the best family man from the lack of their presence and the terms he's just described them in.

    This is good. This doesn't actually tell you what the intent was, but it feels like something just on the edge of your tongue. You get the sense that the intent was meant to be something overbearing and paternal, maybe also reassuring. It's good. More of this.

    You mention the waitress a bit. Makes sense with the events of the story. It would be better to make her more realised and for us to see her and her reactions, something to make Harry think this - some reason for Harry to actually notice and care that she might think he has a problem. This is all very internal, following the death of a lot of colleagues, there should be a reason you take our focus external and into the bar.

    Another example of an unnecessary I article, passivity and also a bit jarring a transition. You could just be like, 'in the room around me'.

    I just enjoyed this. It was an amusing image.

    A crude and unpleasant sentence, mostly due to the generic hackneyed term of 'all business' and the fact that you repeat it twice.

    Twice for emphasis. No one likes reading the same thing twice in a row. Even when it's for emphasis.

    We do know, we were right there with him.

    This is cool. However, it could be much cooler. Why not show the skill in use. 'I lifted it to my nose and inhaled. Citrus, cardamom and the horrible, thirsty smell of bourbon, all mixed together. There was no poison here, Snape would be proud'.

    Again. We can see this. We're right there with you as he's doing it. You don't need to do this for those in the back, they'll show themselves out if they're not following, and it's at the expense of all those who got here on time.


    I've read twilight, and fanfiction. There's nothing too wrong here, except all those connotations. Male protagonists whose eyes are piercing and penetrating. Hmmm...

    You can achieve the same effect without describing what he's been told about his eyes.


    It's a little bit too A to cause B here. It's difficult to achieve so precise an effect with such a subtle thing. And he does think highly of himself, doesn't he? It's almost patronising, which isn't the sense I get from him in any of the rest of this story.

    Or maybe I'm wrong, maybe he is a little patronising, and not very self-aware either. He's just been staring at her expectantly, after all.

    I get that Ginny and the family are a source of stress to Harry right now. However, the latter sentence here is couched in a term that is normally positive, and the clarification comes later making me assume one tone and then have to retcon it a few moments later. This is the sorta of thing that makes a narrative less effective at carrying a reader through the story beats.


    She's explicity interested in his british english background, and so we don't get the impression he's talking to an American, therefore I think this comes across as an americanism rather than an attempt by Harry at being international, and he should probably be saying holiday/holidaying.



    This is a lot of large scale concerns expressed with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. I mean, it's good to know it. It's important to know it, but I think this is an ineffective and poor way to inform us of a huge amount of information in a tiny amount of words.


    This is when you start to shine. I love your dialogue and your characters, but I'll discuss that later.

    I also loved this. This is beautiful. Particularly that last line. His fate is sealed. His choice is made. Bring on consequences. I really did sit up straight when I read this, you made the promise explicit and personal, and fortunately you end up delivering.

    In general, technically you make a few simple mistakes. I don't particularly care. They'd be picked up and corrected in the usual non-competitive process and edited away if you still had access to your work. Mostly they're just typos, an 'angels' instead of the more likely angles, or ayway instead of anyway, and a had did. Really, so far, this is probably the second cleanest in terms of common shit like that. You did have some beautiful language too. Your description of architecture, the terms you used for the bazaar. That opening sentence again. The language and verb choice was good.

    That said, there are still exceptions.

    You sometimes ruin your own tone with poorly chosen sentences that don't match. Here, he almost slaps his own forehead. He doesn't even do it. Is this meant to be call back to the devil's snare, with Harry in the role of Hermione? It doesn't work. It doesn't suit.

    I notice it's when you're trying to justify a brake on the pace, in particular. When you're trying to stretch out a narrative moment. Silence can be as effective as noise and might be something to try. Whether that's literal silence or just something that doesn't make it seem like this is a fresh body he's just getting used to, either might help.

    The technical is a large issue here, and I don't know if a narrative can ever exonerate style. However, I think your story is strong enough that I still really enjoyed it. I think it would be an absolute stand-out favourite with some more polish and a little more front loading. Really building up the scene and just taking more care and time with teasing out the details of his life and why he's in this setting. Once you get past that first night, the story moves at a healthy clip and building the ramp a little higher so that the descent is all the steeper once things get going could only be a good thing.

    And boy did they get going.

    Before we get to that though, there was one promise that I don't think paid off. Or one Chekhov's gun that didn't fire, rather. Harry's visceral magic-sensing ability, apart from being fooled by the ghouled (to maximise surprise?), didn't really come to anything, and that's a shame when it was an interesting and subtle ability. I wanted it to be important. I wanted it to be a crypt fight where this little bit of description ended up being how Harry achieved victory or destruction. I wonder if it was meant to be and it was edited out? Either way, it's a noticeable extrapolation/addition to Harry's childhood abilities, this mastery, and it's a shame it didn't actually do anything.

    There are also some stumbles, things that did interrupt me and took me out of the narrative in a big way. The most noticeable being the death of the old man. Read that whole section again. It didn't seem like Harry left the room just that he intended to, but suddenly the man was dead. I think that he actually did leave the room and the previous descriptions of the tent where he saw Helen enter and she has now fled from (to kill old man) are taking place here. My first impression was that he'd fire-skyped the goblins again to update them, but that didn't fit either.

    The other is the penultimate scene with Helen, where she returns his wand but forgets that she'd given it to him and that she has a strong ability with wand magic cus she never fucking uses it. What the fuck? What was the purpose of that reveal. You should've just kept her this weird, magicless sexy ghoul (which felt a bit wrong at first revelation, but there's no reason it can't be this hot female sexpot, I suppose [it just made me think, why did Ron never mention that the ghoul upstairs possessed a complex personality? {and sexy isn't very traditionally ghoulish}]).

    Other than that, I enjoyed it. There were bits where I thought you were about to fuck up, but my scepticism was not rewarded.

    The fact that she slept with him, makes sense with her ultimate motivation, once we learn it. I'm not gonna call a lonely ghoul out on her objectification of Harry, get it girl. The fact that Harry eventually, and cheaply defeats her when she's the main antagonist and moves onto this nameless vampire master who is even more beautiful... well I was ready to roll my eyes and leap on it, but it was all just a distraction for Helen to leap out in true horror style at the last moment and slay him. His mistake literally came back to bite him.

    And this is where it got really good.

    When Harry becomes a dead man walking, you can just feel all the stress lift off him. You feel how freed he becomes. It was so visceral and instant and it tied the whole thing together. The theme and the choice and his entire backstory prior to these terminal events. It's brilliant.

    The mystery itself is good. Ignoring the fact that the nature of the prompted competition means we kinda get to know where this is going to end up, your events keep us guessing at the means until the very end. Events are tolerably confusing, and our questions are then answered. The disparate elements are weaved together into a complete whole. That's great.

    In this museum in my city, there's an Egyptian mummy of a young boy, inside an unopened sarcophagus. They CAT scanned him, and then, rather than just make a model, they drew the outline of each CAT slice onto a single pane of glass in ink and arranged them to the same width as the CAT scan slices. From any angle except head on or feet on, you can't see shit. But from the right perspective you can suddenly see this intricate, three dimensional drawing of this little mummy.

    Your story feels like that.

    When we reach Harry's final moments, and this previously hidden pressure of life just slides right off him, and he's not quite furious with it, the themes of this story suddenly become clear and effective.

    To me, Harry was searching for annihilation. Of himself. Of his family. He loves them but he can't cope with the drudgery of normal life. Expectation does not meet reality, but he promised until death. A promise his partner didn't keep and now he's trapped in this half-life, of obligation and desire. Enter, literal undead. He makes his choice, forsakes his wedding ring (a brilliant use of a significant object in a narrative, carrying more heft than any dialogue or description). At that point, he commits himself to death of some sort. Not consciously. But he's choosing to destroy his family and his life, and it turns out to be more literal than he realises. He loves his family, but he wanted release and when he gets that release, and events catch up with him he suddenly realises all this and he gets to make a choice about what he actually values, with all the shit stripped away, now that he can't affect the outcome. And in the eye of the storm, this pausing, timeless moment, his choice is to think of his family. He discovers that they're still the core, underneath all the hurt and weariness of adult life. And he chooses to tell them that he loves them.

    That's a climax. That's emotional pay-off. That's pathos, and it hit me like Mike Tyson to the fucking jaw.

    My last point would be that your dialogue is strong. It carries a lot of the story, and shows that you have the facility to subtly impart character in a way you haven't with the narration. Make your narration more like your dialogue. Because,

    This is brilliant.

    I best stop there, because this is getting too long, and I bet even the author is going to start skimming. I have more notes and if you're ever willing to sacrifice your anonymity at some point and want to discuss this review in more detail just pm me after the competition.

    I think Dicra's review, as per, points out a lot of the things I wanted to say but didn't articulate. Enembee too, in the first bit of his review has concisely summed up the point I was attempting to make about Harry's journey and what I felt it represented to him.

    Plot & Pacing - 4/5

    There were missteps, to be sure. I felt Harry's preoccupation with the goblins and adhering to their stupid rules would turn out to be important, maybe the whole story was him trying to make himself look good as he told it to his boss, but it wasn't. The transitions between start, middle and end were not seamless, and sometimes information was given because it had to be, rather than because it arose organically.

    It still sucked me in the whole way through. I don't think Helen's real motivations were compelling or as deep in fact, as they seemed in our introduction to her, but Harry wasn't in a place to listen and she was a bit panicked and so it didn't bother me anywhere near as much as for others. What did bother me was how cheaply he smacked her down, considering she was a magic using superhuman, it could still have been easy even with a bit more of a fight. Still, I believe it paid off. The 'master vampire' was a sleight of hand. I don't think you actually really presented them as the antagonist. I don't think you lost sight of Helen.

    In my notes as I read through, I had the fact that he didn't bind her or secure her after defeating her before going to fight the main boss as an error to bring up. But, I didn't actually mention it because I'm sure it was no such thing now. That it was, in fact, a character oversight you wanted us to pick up on - for us to be like, 'Harry, you fucked yourself'. All of that scene was a set up for her to blind side and destroy him. Contrary to the thread, I love how you tricked me with that. I found the ending really satisfying. I agree that you made her a ghoul so that some of the vampiric inconsistencies didn't cause problems, because realistically she otherwise walks like a duck and quacks.

    I think the master shouldn't have been beautiful but some creepy nosferatu vampire, so that it contrasted against Helen's beauty better. I think the way you presented her as Helen but better, in appearance, contributed to the idea that you maybe intended her to supplant Helen as the Dragon.

    Characters - 5/5


    A generous five out of five. The bit parts weren't actually super great, although there was some sympathy for them, and their actions felt real, not contrived. They were also suitably 'alien' and unfamiliar, enhancing Harry's narrative of strange circumstances in a strange place.

    Helen was wonderful.

    Harry succeeded in a way I think the last submission's Harry didn't. In my review, a lot of the issues I had were with the way you informed us about his character rather than his characterisation itself. His nature as a weary, competent alcoholic was presented well. He had weight as a character and didn't just come across as a trope to be 'cool'. As I pointed out above, it became clear by the end that he really did struggle with the weight life had placed atop him.

    Prompt use - 4/5

    From the unearthing of the crypt, to Helen's seduction of Harry, and her sinister abduction of him. She was a vampire done right, and I don't care that she wasn't actually a vampire. Master Vampire, not such much. I think you telegraphed that she was more important than she was.

    Other - 4/5


    I think this is a brilliant contest submission. It's a good story, a complete story that is well constructed. It lacks something in style that would've made me really salivate though.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  12. H_A_Greene

    H_A_Greene High Inquisitor –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    Just butting in to parrot what has been said before, but you write some damn fine reviews, Blorcyn. Quite impressive.
     
  13. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    Looks like a jaded Harry who wants to get away from his wife and kids? Meh, not my favorite characterization, but that's very much a personal thing.

    I could understand the goblins’ caution but, it didn’t mean I had to like it. I guess that’s why they picked me. I had an understanding of ancient magic that the common wizard didn’t. Modern magic had a nuanced feel to it, a fresh flavor on the tip of your tongue whereas the carved hieroglyphs of the egyptian wizards left my mouth feeling like dirt. Their intent weighed on you as if the ancient sorcerer himself stood behind you, his hand squeezing your shoulder.

    I like that. Already setting up for a neat story, what with the concept above and the information that Goblins want no magic used at all. Presumably because it can screw with ancient magics. Neat.

    This Harry is interesting. Seems that he's gotten a job like Bill's, but on a contractual basis since he mentions only being called in to solve problems. Seems like something fun, but given his childhood I can empathize with Harry wishing he still got to do more exploring and investigating. He was good at those too, etc. Fun set-up for the story.

    For some reason I like the fact that Harry, well, stinks. And it's keeping other patrons from wanting to be near him. Something about that and his dismissal of it amuses me. Maybe that it's unique?

    And I find myself interested in Helen. Moreso since Harry pointed out that she stood out like a sore thumb without magic but yet had wandered into a magical bar. My guess at this point is vampire, even if she says squib, but only because I know this story has to feature them at some point.

    I admit, I'm enjoying this story. You're nailing the sense of casual along with the sense of lore and plot and mystery. Also, hell yeah, six shower heads FTW.

    Not to mention that for once the seduction aspect of this story isn't completely frustrating to me - I think it's because I suspect she really is manipulating Harry somehow, and he really doesn't know how, and that... is so much more interesting that it either being (1) what it appears on the surface, or (2) Harry being so badass that he knew what was off all along...

    ...and holy shit, I got chills at finding her dead in his bed all casual like that. Good fucking job. Timing, too, with the person at the door and Harry yelling and them hearing him and... yeah, great pacing.

    I stomped around the room then, my mind flying faster than a firebolt. Helen dead? Muggle Police? Magic? This stank of a setup.

    I was supposed to be serving Helen breakfast in bed, and maybe a morning shag to go along with it, instead, I was contemplating jumping out of a window like some criminal.

    Awesome.

    Once he was out though, and running, and transfigured his clothes... couldn't he have apparated then? But I Suppose that's a nitpick. It's easy enough to assume that he still can't as a reader, but I did wonder. Quite possible he never got far enough away.

    Am I supposed to know who Natalie is? It seems like I wouldn't need to, if she was just the person who followed Harry to warn him and got killed for her trouble, but... Harry said he'd never expected to hear her name again. That implies that he knows her, which confuses me because it doesn't seem like he does.

    And this entire thing is made more interesting by the fact that Harry is there on the Goblin's dime and still might have something to do for them. Without that external aspect to the current mystery/plot the story would feel a lot weaker. Good job on twisting two plots together, especially as I suspect they'll merge in the end and relate back to each other.

    “I apologized for lying Harry, please don’t hold that against me. You can’t deny that there was a connection between u— “ I held up my hand stopping her.

    “There was a connection between me and the cautiously bold but attractive woman that invited herself to my table. You,” I pointed at her, “I have no idea who the fuck you are.”

    Really liked that above exchange. Well done. Though... it did occur to me that Ginny might pop up into Harry's thoughts at this point, since he's technically already taken. Even if he's not fond of Ginny at the moment. Though it'd be stupid of Harry to mention that, as it would probably just send Helen flying off to murder the competition and Harry wouldn't want that.

    Is she a ghoul or a vampire? I think a ghoul, and then the super beautiful appearing woman is the vampire...

    Wait, what? The story is over?

    Huh, okay, so... thoughts on the ending.

    I like that while this Harry is incredibly strong, he's not overpowered. He lost. He spends his last breath saying goodbye to his family and then burns the place to the ground, taking himself with it. He feels like a person instead of a caricature of a badass that so many people write him as in these types of stories.

    But I wanted to know what the hell was up with the Goblins. You started with that and I fully expected that to come up at the end. Honestly I'd have guessed that whatever the Goblins were looking for would be in this place that Harry was taken to, with the vampire, and it would be ironic that he'd have found it for them but have to destroy it (and himself). As it is I feel a little cheated despite how much I enjoyed the story overall.

    Any reason you can't add that? Just a paragraph near the end, with Harry seeing something and realizing it's what the Goblins probably wanted to begin with? Would tie off the other plot line nicely, imo.

    But great story. I'm always impressed when an author manages to incorporate seduction/sex/romance/whatever without it pissing me off. Thanks for writing.
     
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