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Entry #5

Discussion in 'Q2 2019' started by Rahkesh Asmodaeus, Jun 14, 2019.

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  1. Rahkesh Asmodaeus

    Rahkesh Asmodaeus THUNDAH Bawd Admin DLP Supporter

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    The Mindtraveller

    --

    I travel over high mountains
    Through deep valleys and forests
    Crossing great rivers
    In search of knowledge of the gods
    From far beyond place and time
    I hear a whispering wind
    It tells me to strive on
    Through the horizon of my thoughts


    I am the mindtraveller
    My quest is man's destiny
    Teach me secret holy spells
    And the wisdom of the elderly
    Gazing into my mind
    Entering my soul
    Is there not a secret to unfold


    I am the mindtraveller
    Seeking wisdom of yore
    I am the mindexplorer
    Striving to know so much more
    Spirits of history fill my soul
    With divine old words
    I am on the right track
    Out of the haze I'll emerge


    - Falconer



    Sitting in the Leaky Tavern, sipping on some hot tea, Harry Potter waited for the person he was meeting to show up, whoever it happened to be. The booth he was at had a mild obscuration charm on it to keep the random looky-loos at bay, so Tom the Barkeep would have to send them over. If he had only known such things were possible when he was younger.



    The minutes ticked by until he started to get nervous. Perhaps it was too much to expect them to arrive early? But what if they arrived late? He hadn’t really planned for that possibility. How long would he wait if they were late?



    Harry still didn’t know who the other person was, only that he’d told them to meet him at the Leaky Cauldron at 3 PM. Late enough to miss the lunch rush, but early enough to still have many hours of daylight left. And he left instructions to inquire with Tom. For everything else, he’d just wing it.



    His worry was for nought as a very distinctive person walked into the Leaky Tavern, someone he recognized immediately. They were the kind of person who normally wouldn’t get caught dead walking into a place like that, but the fact that she was there spoke volumes.



    Of course, it helped that she went straight to Tom who pointed her in his direction, and was carrying a copy of the Daily Prophet carefully folded over to the section where his advertisement was. Those were dead giveaways.



    Apathetic male, 19, fresh out of 8th year at Hogwarts, seeks companion for globetrotting adventure. Must be interested in exploring the ruins of ancient civilization, finding forgotten battlefields of yore, discovering lost magic, and sampling the local cuisine. Passport and International Apparition License required.



    That ad had been in the Daily Prophet for nearly a month. Long enough that the original had said “Male, 18,” as he had gone through a birthday.



    It was surprising to Harry just how it had taken so long to get any responders. Perhaps it was simply the requirement of a passport, something that many wouldn’t have immediately available. Or perhaps it was the adventure itself, as the war had soured many on such a thing.



    Spending a few months or even a year after leaving Hogwarts to travel had been a rite of passage at one point of time. Dumbledore had done it, as a notable example. Tom Riddle as well. But for one reason or another, it had fallen out of favor sometime around World War Two. Probably because of the war.



    Harry just didn’t want to settle down at a nine-to-five job like many of his friends, or even just stay at Grimmauld Place, living off his fame for the rest of his days.



    Travelling the world, meeting interesting people, perhaps even writing a book… the truth was that Harry just wanted to get out of England. Ron and Hermione had left a year ago for Australia and hadn’t looked back, and Harry couldn’t blame him. Neville had little interest in travelling, and as he was falling in love with his girlfriend and working on his greenhouses, Harry didn’t want to end up as the third wheel again.



    So he had put out the ad, and had finally found someone to take him up on the offer. He hadn’t even picky about who it was, he just knew travelling the world alone could be pretty dangerous, and he wanted to travel incognito, rather than relying on his name to get things done. Similarly, he didn’t attach his name to his ad. If he did, he was sure he’d have gotten a thousand replies instantly.



    The person arrived at exactly 3 PM, almost to the second. She scanned the room briefly, taking in all the clientele, though was unable to see much in the dimly lit tavern. He was able to see her quite well though from the booth, and got a good look.



    She was tall, maybe taller than he was. Platinum blonde hair, blue eyes, and delicate features. All very pleasant to look at. She wore a tight black halter top and summer shorts, but even so, it was hard to ignore the black eyeliner, black lipstick, black fingernails, black fishnet gloves, the eyebrow piercing, nose piercing, and lip piercing.



    Yeah, she was that kind of person. It was like looking at a black and white photograph from the 1800’s.



    “Daphne Gothgrass,” Harry said as she approached the booth, the copy of the Daily Prophet with his ad clearly clutched in her hands. “Princess of Darkness and Mistress of Black Lipstick. That’s Darkness with a capital D, of course.”



    “I should have known,” Daphne Greengrass said with a snort as she reached the booth, sizing him up. “I must have misread this ad. I thought it said apathetic male, 19, blah blah, not pathetic male, 19, blah blah.”



    “It’s an easy mistake to make,” Harry said, waving it off with a sweep of his hand. “Take a seat, if my presence hasn’t deterred you.”



    “You’re more melodramatic than my sister,” she said, rolling her eyes. But, she took a seat, carefully crossing her legs as she did so. An interesting look crossed her face, one of curious indifference.



    “I find that hard to believe,” Harry said, eyeing her up. She’d changed quite a bit over the years. She’d gone from a quiet but studious Slytherin, to more of the same except with black fingernails and eyeliner. Ear piercings followed shortly after that, then fishnets, and that trend continued for a little bit, passive shouts for attention while becoming more of a loaner. Until they all redid their 8th year at Hogwarts, where she was more or less like she was now. Though it seemed like she had added a tongue piercing to her collection since then, which Harry couldn’t help but stare at while she talked.



    “You’re such a muggle,” Daphne said upon noticing him checking her out. “There’s this thing, you might have heard of it, it’s called magic. You can do lots of things with it.”



    “You know, now that you mention it, I think I have heard of this. Though I must have missed the lesson on transfiguring tongue piercings. Like, how much of a statement is it actually making if it’s not real?”



    “All because it’s magic doesn’t mean it’s not real,” Daphne said. She clicked her tongue stud against her teeth, drawing a wince from Harry.



    “Still, I can’t help think there’s more effective methods of protest against whatever societal norms that you’re trying to buck.”



    She rolled her eyes. “Are you done?”



    “I can go all day,” Harry said.



    “You must be really fucking bored,” she bit out, “what with all your pals having their own lives. Must be hard, having to look for random people in an ad to go on a vacation. You save the country and this is where you’ve ended up”



    “Could say the same to you, minus the save the country part,” Harry shot back. “Why are you looking to do this? You don’t seem the type. And, you know, we’re going to have to go out in the daylight, you might burn.”



    “I want to do this for probably the same reason you’re doing it,” she said. “So, are we cutting to the chase now?”



    “Sure,” Harry said. “You’re still here, I’m still here, the circumstances haven’t changed.”



    She shifted in her seat across from him. “I hope you at least have some sort of vague travel plan. And for the love of everything, please tell me those plans do not involve visiting Stonehenge and the Giant’s Causeways. They’re just tourist bait.”



    “I have drawn up a map,” Harry said. “A few maps actually. Doesn’t matter what particular order to do things in, makes more sense to do it in the moment if you ask me, rather than just treating it like an itinerary”



    “I just did,” she stated. “You know, ask.”



    “Yeah, well…” Harry pulled out his primary map. It was a standard muggle map of the world, showing all the countries and borders and things like that. There were several dozen locations marked, and in the margins were the labels for each one. Harry very nonchalantly, but deliberately, covered up a few of them with his hand.



    “So it looks like you’ve at least done the very bare minimum required for a trip like this, so congratulations,” she said. There was no real menace to her voice, and she seemed genuinely interested in the map. “So, what’s the first stop?”



    “I was thinking Transylvania,” Harry said. “Get it out of the way first. With your family connections there, perhaps we could see something cool. Something not meant for public eyes. Perhaps you can get us a backstage pass to the Countess of Blood’s altar of sacrifice.”



    “Ha ha,” she said flatly. “Have you seen yourself in the mirror? You’re nearly as pale as I am. Looks like you’ve been sleeping like shit as well. Though, I suppose that could just be your normal look.”



    “Seriously though, this trip isn’t going to be a picnic,” Harry said. “We won’t be staying at five star hotels every night. I’ve got a magic tent - and yes, there’s seperate rooms for us - and I plan to spend many nights as far away from civilization as possible.”



    “Yes, I did read the ad,” Daphne said. “Look, I even highlighted it and everything. What, do you want to see my credentials?”



    She waved the ad in front of Harry’s face, and he did in fact notice that it was highlighted.



    “Well, that’s what the ad says,” Harry said. “This trip is dead in the water without being able to apparate across borders legally. I’ve read accounts that indicate hoodwinking your way through security as even more dangerous than not having a license at all. Some counties are very serious about that sort of thing.”



    “Yeah yeah, I got them,” she said. She magicked a knapsack out of thin air with her wand and pulled three small booklets out of it. Harry had no means to tell if they were genuine or not, but that would be on her if she got caught, not him.



    “Good,” Harry said. He then wasted no time in pointing out a specific mark on the map. “So, I was thinking the first stop before leaving the country would be the final resting place of Morgana. There’s a bunch of places I would like to go in the British Isles, but I’d prefer to get out of here as quickly as possible. I’m really curious about this one though.”



    “Me too,” she said. “Should be interesting. I don’t know much about it.”



    “I figure we can visit a bunch of the other places on the way back in, if we feel like it,” he said. “But this one just sounds too interesting to pass up. Not many people know about it, or so I’ve read. Most people would rather visit the Mausoleum of the Founders’ Four, or the marker where King Arthur fell in battle. But this is a place that supposedly averages just a handful of visitors per decade.”



    “Wow, why?” Daphne asked



    “No idea,” Harry said. “Could be that there’s just nothing to see but a gravestone with a name. Or there could be something sinister. There’s very little information on it. Either way, I would like to find out.”



    “I am up for anything, really,” Daphne said.



    “Alright,” Harry said. He pulled out a local map of the British Isles. It was labeled just as his world map was, but since it was a local map, everything was larger and more detailed. Obviously. There were a dozen locations marked up, which Daphne noticed immediately.



    “Hey, what are those,” she said, the laughed. “Oh, you did, didn’t you. Of course. You did mark Stonehenge and the Giant’s Causeway.”



    “I marked everything I thought would be of interest,” Harry said as he crossed his arms. “Doesn’t mean I was actually planning on visiting everything.”



    She rolled her eyes. “Whatever,” she said. “When are we leaving?”



    “Well, if you’re definitely committed, as soon as possible. All my affairs are already in order for an extended leave. I’ve got no lingering commitments.”



    “Okay, let's go then.”



    Harry seemed to straighten up in his chair. Greengrass was apparently very serious, so he pulled out yet another map. He had had too much free time, waiting for someone to respond to the ad, and he had only reinvested that time back into the trip planning. “This map shows safe airspace,” he said. “I’ve highlighted all the airports and military bases that I could find.”



    “Why is that revelevent?”



    “Because we’re going by broom,” Harry said. “And the airspace can be dangerous. Muggle airports have planes coming and going, which can be a minor danger if you’re unprepared. Military bases have all sorts of things that might possibly pose a threat to an unawares witch or wizard. We have magic obviously, but we have no idea what kind of technology they have. They’ve got devices that would make an explosive hex look like a three-year old blowing out a birthday candle. It’s hard to develop specific counters to things we don’t even know exist, meaning it’s best to simply exercise caution.”



    “I’ll take your word for it,” Greengrass said dubiously. “Taking slight detours isn’t a big deal, it’s not like we’re in a rush.”



    “Exactly,” Harry said. “Better safe than sorry, it’s one of the reasons to travel with a partner as well. Now, according to this map, the nearest portkey hub is the official Ministry Hub #6, and from there, it’s about forty miles to the grave, which isn’t near a town large enough to be named on this map.”



    “I’m assuming you have an extra broom,” Daphne said.



    “Are you telling me you’re not prepared?” Harry asked.



    “I have a broom,” Daphne said. “But, I didn’t realize I’d be travelling with someone who’s owned a Firebolt since they were thirteen. I’ve got a Cleansweep Six.”



    “Point taken,” Harry said. “Well, It so happens that I do have an extra.”



    Harry reached into his bag, which was only about a foot long, and went in to his shoulder. He pulled out two identical brooms. They were made of a reddish brown wood, polished to a perfect sheen and fitted with golden hardware. There was a nameplate on each one that read “Firebolt Mk III”, with “6 of 50” and “7 of 50” respectively.



    “What the -,” Daphne said. “How did you get these?”



    “I asked for them,” Harry said. “You know, sometimes there are benefits to being me. Some people would use that to accrue favor in politics, others would use it to get on a business board. Me, well, I got these. One is meant to be my spare, but you can borrow it.”



    “I’ll be honest,” Daphne said. “I don’t know much about brooms, but I know enough to be scared of even touching these.”



    “They’re pretty robust,” Harry said. “There’s enough enchantments on these things to make them virtually indestructible and impossible to lose, unless you happen to be exceptionally unlucky.”



    “Hm,” she said, looking over the broom. She seemed to be more impressed by the actual construction of the broom, rather than whatever theoretical performance it had. Harry couldn’t blame her, as it was a marvelous piece of craftsmanship. He’d rather stare at it all day than the Mona Lisa.



    “Alright, let’s head out then,” Harry said. He left the table, paid for his drink, and nodded to Tom the barkeep on his way to the Floo. He put two copper on the mantle and took a pinch of Floo powder from the jar and tossed it into the fire. “Hub number six!”



    He stepped into the green flames and disappeared. He was swept up in a swirl of colors as ethereal fireplace after fireplace passed him by, before the world around him began to slow back down, and he popped out at his destination.



    Harry landed on his feet and made an instinctive motion to wipe the dust off his robes. Daphne arrived seconds after he did, looking completely unphased. Looking around, Harry took note of the building. He hadn't been there before, but that particular Floo hub wasn’t all that interesting. Just a building with a two Ministry guards and a Floo maintenance wizard keeping track of things. Wizarding public transportation had its highs and lows, but it wasn’t all like the Knight Bus, though at least the Knight Bus would pick you up from anywhere.



    “We’ll use a leashing charm,” Harry said as they arrived outside. “That way we don’t get separated since we have to use invisibility charms. You do know the invisibility charm, right?’



    Greengrass gave him a look that said “Are you serious?”, but said “Of course I do, I’m not a third year.”



    “Well, doesn’t matter,” Harry said. “I’ve got something better.”



    Out of his bag came two small devices, each identical and each with a clip that looked like it would conveniently fit around a broom handle.



    “Travel bubble,” Harry said.



    “I know what these are,” she said, plucky one out of his hands “Used to be quite common a couple decades ago, but not many people actually travel by broom these days.”



    “These are modified, of course,” he said, ignoring her snideness. “In addition to the standard invisibility bubble, they are matched to each other. So, they’ll point at the other and depending on the distance, will glow green to red. There’s a little knob here to adjust the scaling, from feet to miles.”



    “Useful,” Daphne said. “But how will you actually guide us to the location?”



    “Ah, I thought you’d never ask,” Harry said with a roll of his eyes. He pulled yet another object out of his bag of tricks. It was actually quite similar to the broomstick clip, as it was a small silver box with a compass needle and a clip. In fact, it was an actual compass. “Attuning this compass with the map should get us in the general area. Our senses should get us the rest of the way - places like this will stick out like a sore thumb, in a magical sense.”



    Harry demonstrated this by pulling out his map and wand, muttering an incantation, poking the map, and then poking the compass. Simple stuff. “Okay, we’re good to go.”



    Harry stuffed the map away, made sure both his compasses were clipped onto his broom, and took off into the air. He spared a glance at Greengrass, who, perhaps for the first time so far, actually looked a bit uncomfortable at the thought of flying. He understood why. Many witches and wizards don’t actually fly all that often. A couple times a year, if that. He was essentially handing the keys to a Ferrari to someone without a driving license. Not that she would have any idea what a Ferrari was, or the need for a driving license.



    He activated the invisibility function before he got too far. He was all too familiar with the danger of being seen by Muggles, having learned that lesson in his second year. He did see that Greengrass seemed to steel herself as she mounted the broom and took off after him. And then she too, disappeared behind the invisibility bubble.



    As far as enchantments go, the invisibility bubble was actually quite weak. But in many cases, that could actually be seen as a benefit. Everything inside the bubble was visually hidden from the outside world, but the bubble itself stopped nothing else. So sound and wind and smell would come and go, and other people could simply walk into the bubble, or fly for that matter. Perfect from hiding from muggles at a distance, but any witch or wizard older than twelve could easily see through it. It was more of an illusion than actual invisibility.



    Despite his love for flying, Harry did take it easy. At full speed, he could traverse the breadth of England in a handful of hours. That was the benefit of not having to follow roads, and with his map, he could easily avoid potentially problematic air space.



    They both knew the truth of it. It was cliche to say that it was about the journey rather than the destination, but there really was no rush. Having the wind at his face, a pleasant countryside to skim with his feet, and Daphne Greengrass…



    Of all people to be with him on his journey, she would have been pretty low on his list of possibilities. Probably just above the other Slytherins. It was crazy to him that in just the past few hours they’ve interacted more than the entirety of all their years at Hogwarts. She wasn’t really anybody he ever really considered to approach, even ignoring her house colors. He hated to even think it, but it probably was the way she dressed, like she was a character straight out of the set of the Addams Family. Even in the wizarding world, she dressed strangely. Especially in the wizarding world.



    Harry knew better than to judge someone like that. Then again, she was a complete smoke show. There was no way of getting around that, other than to just not make a big deal of it, just like he wished people would do with him. At least he wasn’t getting tongue tied like he did when he was fourteen and trying to talk to Cho Chang.



    The miles evaporated underneath them, and even just the short trip was liberating. Open sky, fast broom, no commitments, it felt great. He was free to finally live his life away from all the bullshit.



    Their destination came upon them quicker than Harry would have thought, even at their relatively sedate pace. The compass worked as advertised, and the final resting place of Morgana lit up his senses like a beacon. There was no other magic for miles around, other than this one patch. That was actually kind of typical, as far as magical communities went.



    It was at the edge of an old-wood forest, one that had somehow managed to stand the test of time, when most had been deforested long ago. Harry touched down gently and turned off the invisibility bubble, and Greengrass touched down a few seconds later, looking slightly frazzled, but almost like she fit in with the surroundings somehow.



    “That sucked,” Greengrass said. “These brooms are not meant for grand touring. I can’t imagine having to fly on one of these things for more than an hour.”



    “I get you’re point,” Harry said. “They’re not really meant for this kind of thing, and comfort comes second to performance. I’ll come up with something else for the next trip.”



    “Good,” she said. “I’ll hold you to that.”



    Looking around, there was nothing outwardly special about the area to indicate that it was the final resting places of one of the most powerful and infamous sorceresses to ever live. No skull altars, no fountains of blood , not even a single raven. It was almost disappointing to Harry.



    What there was was a quiet forest with squirrels and birds chattering away, colorful flowers decorating the forest bed, and a gentle breeze tickling his senses. And the lingering presence of very powerful magic. Powerful enough that it felt like he had to sneeze, but couldn’t.



    Morgana’s actual burial plot, or alleged burial plot, was not what he was expecting either. He didn’t know what he was expecting. He hadn’t exactly built up a picture in his mind. He knew that it wasn’t a destination hotspot, and it hadn’t exactly been that hard to find. There was a stone slab, overgrown with ivy, with some words carved in that was too weathered to make out.



    “Not much to look at,” Harry muttered.



    “No,” Greengrass agreed. “But it still feels important.”



    “If it’s actually Morgana’s,” Harry said. “Could be anyone's, could even be a muggle.”



    “This is Morgana’s tomb,” a voice said suddenly from behind them. Harry spun around, wand in hand, only to be greeted by a stoop-backed old-man, using a staff to walk steadily closer to them. “Rare is this visit to this forgotten grave.”



    “Not completely forgotten,” Greengrass pointed out.



    “No,” the man said. “I suppose not.”



    “Are you the caretaker here?” Harry asked.



    “I am the keeper of this grove,” he said. “Of which this tomb, and several others, fall under my purview.”



    “You’re a druid then?” Greengrass asked. Both Harry and the caretaker turned to look at her.



    “You follow the old ways?” the man asked.



    “There are many old ways,” Greengrass said. “I know of druidism, but I’ve discovered my talents lay elsewhere. Not really my thing.”



    “I’m not surprised,” the man said. “The path I follow is an ancient one, not taught in schools, or read from books. I learned from my father, and my father’s father, and so it has been for generations. Inducting new members into our order is rare enough to be something that is celebrated.”



    “Do you have a name?” Harry asked curiously. “How do we address you?”



    “Giles is fine,” he said. “And you?”



    “Harry Potter,” Harry said.



    “Daphne Greengrass,” Daphne said.



    Giles stared at Harry, his eyes flickering up to his forehead and returning quickly enough that Harry almost missed it. “So it would seem. How may I be of service?”



    “We would like to learn about Morgana, and why no one visits this place.” Harry said. “We’re on a world trip, hoping to learn as much as possible from people such as yourself. The wisdom of elders is something to be treasured.”



    Giles snorted. “I am not susceptible to flattery, but visitors are rare enough that I will humor you. Do you wish to learn what the public thinks they know of Morgana le Fay, or do you wish to learn about the real Morgana le Fay? They are two very different people, I assure you.”



    “We are truth seekers,” Harry said. “We would like to hear the truth.”



    “What is the truth?” Giles asked. “The truth is lost to time, distorted to make it palatable to society, to fit their expectations. Lost to many, but people like me know the truth. ‘Tis a story too long for a single sitting, or even a hundred sittings. What I know about Morgana could fill a thousand books.”



    “That would take awhile,” Harry said.



    “Indeed,” Giles said. “One must consider the kind of person Morgana was. She was as kind as she was cruel, and as beautiful as she was deadly. She did many great deeds in her life, and it’s true, many foul ones. We cannot forget all the evil she set forth upon the word, but neither can we forget all the good she did. Such is the duality of nature itself. It nurtures us with its food and provides shelter, yet can take it all away in the blink of an eye.”



    Giles twirled his staff and a shadowy scene appeared before them, featuring a lithe, black-haired witch with a charred staff. The animation showed her stopping a flood with a sweep of her wand. “She is known for many things, but it is the unknown that define who she really was, the deeds performed when no glory, no money, and no fame was at stake. Villages saved, children cured of disease, famine staved off.”



    The old druid collected his thoughts for a few moments. “Of all the things Morgana is known for, perhaps the lesser of them was her skill at Alchemy. Think of all the great Alchemists, you have Flamel and Paracelsus, even Dumbledore, but rarely is Morgana in the conversation, and one must wonder, why not?”



    “I’ve never seen her name associated with Alchemy,” Daphne said. Harry nodded his head in agreement.



    “Precisely,” Giles said. “She was very much ahead of her time. She laid the groundwork for much oh what was to come later. But many of her discoveries were co-opted. As mentioned before, there are two sides to Morgana, but the one that the public has decided it cares about sees her as the classical antagonist, and as such, is quick to write her name out of the history books. As an example, the Draught of Peace is her creation, yet it is credited to Geoffrey Montague, a change that occurred in the 1600’s, despite the formula being identical. That is only one example of many, and her impact on our society is far greater than anyone knows. Without her knowledge, Rowena Ravenclaw would not have developed the distillation process used to enchant the stones that Hogwarts is made up of, nor would the Floo system exist, the powder of which was accidentally discovered as a byproduct of one of her experiments. Though now that would be reversed of course, with Floo powder being the main product… Anyways, I digress.”



    It was obvious that Giles had a lot to say about Morgana, and both Harry and Daphne were content to listen to what he had to say. He switched topics from her Alchemical creations, to her actually saving a village with her medicinal knowledge, to fighting off a werewolf threat, to even teaching apprentices the art of wandcrafting, though that knowledge has been truly lost, even to him.



    Not once did Giles shy away from the darker topics of Morgana’s past, though he did not focus on it. Such topics, while distorted by time, held some basis in reality, and many of the stories were already known, even in part. The good did not wash out the bad, nor the bad the good, and to forget that was to do a disservice to her memory.



    Eventually, Giles started to slow down. “It is getting late, I’m afraid,” he said. “These old bones need their rest. Should you still be here tomorrow night, I will gladly weave some more tales. These visits are rare enough that I admit I enjoy them.... That being said, there is one thing I wish to show you before I go.”



    Giles lit the end of the staff, illuminating the carvings on the stone slab. It wasn’t quite dusk yet, but it was still a bit difficult to see. There was an eight-sided polygon etched on the surface that Harry hadn’t noticed. Five-sided ones were common enough, but eight? He wasn’t sure what that represented.



    “What is it?” Harry asked.



    “That is the great mystery, perhaps one you and your companion would like to solve. It’s thought to be Morgana’s last known creation.”



    Giles bowed, and walked backwards a few steps before turning around and making his way away from the stone slab, leaving Harry and Daphne there with the supposed artifact.



    “I don’t understand,” Harry said. “Why did he call it an artifact? Just looks like a carving to me.”



    “Don’t just see with your eyes,” Daphne said. “Look with your mind.”



    Harry rolled his eyes and pulled out his wand. He swept it over the slab, and the carving lit up immediately. “I see it, but I don’t understand. It’s not an enchantment.”



    Daphne eschewed her wand and simply tapped the middle of the eight-sided shape with her hand. Immediately, the symbol flashed, and then it was no longer a symbol, as it began to pop out from the stone and separate entirely, morphing into a shape that was like two pyramids intersecting each other. He didn’t actually know the name of it.



    “It’s a stellated octahedron,” Daphne said. Harry gave her an incredulous look.



    “How the hell do you know that?” Harry demanded.



    “It’s just geometry,” she said with a shrug.



    The object pulsed briefly before solidifying with a silver-like sheen. It looked like metal, but not quite like any metal he’d ever seen before. Then one by one, each point of the object popped out ever so slightly, spun around on its axis, and then lit up in a different color and a different symbol.



    “Is it dangerous?” Harry asked warily.



    “I don’t think so,” Daphne said. “Those symbols are familiar.”



    The pulses died down once all of its points were lit up and it just seemed to hover there, practically inert. It seemed to be passive, so Harry leaned in close to get a better look. “You’re right,” he said. “Those are Alchemical symbols. Lead and Fire and Water...”



    Daphne leaned in right next to him and came to the same conclusion. “I think I know what this is,” she said. “It’s a formula matrix. Or whatever passed for it a thousand years ago.”



    “I don’t know what that means,” Harry said.



    “Well, it works like Alchemy, except it’s more like an abacus. Combine base elements to make a compound, or break compounds down into base components. This matrix must contain a discovery of Morgana’s. Think of the possibilities! If what Giles said is true, and this is her last invention before she died, this formula could be anything!”



    “I doubt it’s the blueprints for the Philosopher's Stone,” Harry said. “Otherwise she would probably still be alive.”



    “Ha, ha,” Daphne said. “I’m serious though. This could be a monumental discovery.”



    “This thing has been here for a thousand years or more. There’s no way that we’re the first people to activate this thing. It’s improbable.”



    “You’re probably right,” Daphne conceded. “But it’s still exciting. That’s why we’re doing this to begin with, isn’t it? Seeking out lost knowledge and the mysteries of the world? This could be anything, but I want to know. It’s new to us, and that’s enough for me.”



    The urge to know was kind of overwhelming, if Harry was honest for himself. This thing had been there for a thousand years and still existed, and there wasn’t any record of what it actually was. Daphne was probably right, in that it had probably been solved before in all that time, but she was also right in that that didn’t make it less exciting.



    “Right, so where to begin?” Harry mused. “We should probably see what we’re working with.”



    “I agree,” she said. She reached out and took the device in both hands. It seemed to hover in the air, but was still movable with a slight amount of effort. She twisted one of points, rotating the pyramidal surface depicting the four classical elements one space over, which in turn caused the point on the other side of the octahedron to also swap.



    “That’s interesting,” she said. “They’re connected. But what does it symbolize?”



    “Let’s see,” Harry said as he got up closer to the device. “There’s the symbols for Mors and Vitae, and on the face of it, the symbology is self-evident. But what is the greater whole? Elemental Earth, Water, Fire, and Air are all present in equal quantities. However, there is only one symbol of elemental lead, none of tin, iron, copper, silver, and of course no gold. My guess is that it’s some theoretical formula to create gold, though that seems a bit… obvious.”



    “Huh,” Daphne said. She stared at Harry as if he was a completely different person than what she had been expecting. “Didn’t think you knew anything about Alchemy. It’s pretty much a dead subject at Hogwarts.”



    “I studied Flamel a bit awhile back,” Harry admitted with a shrug. “Interesting stuff, but I wouldn’t even call myself a novice.”



    “Well, I agree with your observations,” she said. “Everything seems to be in balance, except for two things. There is only a single Quicksilver symbol, and there are three neutral salts. That suggests to me that perhaps not all the symbols are relevant. If some are neutralized, that cuts out some potential compounds. Transmuting gold is the end goal of every budding Alchemist, and it’s why many pick up the hobby. Truthfully, I don’t know much about Alchemy either, more than you obviously, but I know that some Alchemists would be of the opinion that transmuting gold was just another intermediary step, and that accomplishing that would lead to greater discoveries. The problem being -”



    “That the secret to transmuting gold is one that is never shared, though we know it is possible,” Harry said. “Flamel is proof enough of that.”



    “Yes, the Philosopher's Stone,” Daphne agreed. “My opinion is that the existence of that doesn’t prove that transmuting gold is possible, in fact, I think it proves my last statement, in that it’s the previous step, and that the Stone is one of those greater discoveries afterwards.”



    “I’ve seen it speculated that the gold it creates is actually the byproduct, and not the elixir of life as commonly thought,” Harry said. “Changes the perspective on it quite a bit when you think of it like that.”



    “True,” Daphne said. “Chances of this thing being related to the Philosopher's Stone in any way is quite slim though. As with many magics, there are often many ways to achieve the same effect. It’s why new discoveries are often just improvements on previous spells, simpler, cleaner, easier, same thing applies with Alchemy.”



    “Still doesn’t bring us any closer to what this thing is trying to tell us though,” Harry said.



    “I think we should stick with the basics, and see where that takes us,” Daphne said. “Often times, the physical formula only tells half the story, so perhaps we should try out the obvious Animismus combinations, and then perhaps focus on Quintessence duplication. We’ve got to figure out why there’s only one Quicksilver. That just doesn’t seem like enough, which makes me think it's a critical component.”



    Harry watched as Daphne went through the motions, rotating the various sides, making different combinations, but seemingly making no progress at all. She’d combine fire with fire, and then air with earth, only for the octahedron to pulse once and reset itself. She’d then try fire and fire again, but then combine air with water and so on.



    Daphne seemed to be lost in the moment and the sun slowly disappeared from the sky and sunk below the horizon. Eventually, he had to speak up. “Let me try,” he said. “Fresh eyes, etc etc.”



    Daphne gave him a sidelong glance before shrugging and giving it to him. It was heavier than he expected in his hands, despite having some sort of floating ability. It felt dense as well, as if the object was actually bigger than it’s physical presence. Perhaps it actually was.



    Twisting the point was much smoother than Harry would have guessed. Just enough resistance to prevent it from spinning on itself. In truth, he knew little about actual Alchemy. Just enough to get into trouble. He knew terms and a little history, but the actual process of Alchemy was a bit beyond him. A +B = C was simple enough, but applying concepts like Dispersion and Calcification was beyond him, though this octahedron seemed to be dealing with purely theoreticals, and maybe finding the correct combination would lead to some discovery. What exactly that would be, Harry could only assume it was related in some fashion, but he wouldn’t even know what to do with that information.



    There had to be some logic to it though. Elsewise, simply finding out a discovery by sheer luck seemed ridiculous. Or maybe that’s supposed to emulate real life?



    Or maybe Morgana’s last creation was intentionally built to infuriate people.



    Perhaps that was a starting point. Morgana’s entire past was one created from a duality. There was Mors and Vitae, but there was much more than that. To create something, something else must be destroyed. Symbolically or physically.



    A single Quicksilver would not be enough, for whatever it was. One unit of Quicksilver could create a single unit of tin from lead, so they would have to create more. But how to do that? It was an interesting question. It had to be possible, elsewise they’d be spinning in circles doing this all for naught.



    Harry spent far too long trying to figure it out, but he was just not in the right mindset. This is not what he had been expecting at all today. It was getting quite dark, and they hadn’t made any progress at all. Just wild guesses.



    “Let’s call it a night,” Harry said after some more trial and error. “I’ll set up the tent, and we can try and do some research and whatever. And food. Food would be good.”



    Daphne hesitated briefly before nodding. She clearly wanted to continue working on the octahedron, but realized that there were other priorities. Like food, and sleep.



    “We need a good spot to set up the tent,” Harry said. “Probably shouldn’t do that right next to the grave. That would be a bit….”



    “Disrespectful?” Daphne suggested.



    “Yeah, that’s a good word,” Harry agreed. Daphne managed to put the octahedron back down on the slab, and surprisingly it evaporated back into it, becoming an etching once more. It was fascinating magic.



    They walked a few hundred feet away from the burial site, deeper into the dimly-lit old forest, before coming across a small clearing. Daphne still somehow managed to look simultaneously like she was extremely out of place in the forest, as well as looking like she belonged. It was an interesting paradigm.



    “This will do,” Harry said. He swished his wand, and the clearing warped and expanded until there was a solid ten foot base for him to set up the tent. It wasn’t really a tent, but all his past experience with such things was with a tent, so he just kept the name. At least until he grew out of the habit.



    He pulled it out of his bag, revealing to Daphne a one foot by one foot piece of parchment, thick from being heavily folded innumerable times. He held it like a throwing disc, and then with a flick of his wrist, threw it like one. It spun and spun before landing on the ground, where it immediately began to unfold.



    It was like watching origami, layer after layer folding out until the whole thing filled up the clearing. Then, once the base was done, it started building upwards, each panel hinging out one and a time, finishing up with the roof sliding out from the inside. Once it was all in place, the whole thing slimmered briefly before solidifying into the house.



    “Alright,” Daphne said. “I’ll admit it. That was really fucking cool.”



    “It was one of the last inventions of the Weasley Twins before Fred died,” Harry said. “And yeah, it’s really cool.”



    “It’s brilliant,” she said.



    “Shall we go in then?” Harry asked.



    He didn’t wait for an answer to open the door and go inside. He could feel the magic warping around him, the protection charms taking effect to hide them from the outside world. It wasn’t too dissimilar to the kinds of spells he’d use during his seventh year when he and his friends were hiding from Voldemort.



    “It’s not very personalized yet,” Harry said as he showed Daphne around. “My room is over here, yours is over there, there’s a stocked kitchen, a nice bathroom, and a bunch of empty rooms for whatever. It’s all customizable, everything is magically permeable. Expansion charms, transfiguration, it’ll all last through the packing, so you can do whatever you want.”



    “This is really cool,” she reiterated. “Seeing this, I can’t help but feel the Weasley Twins’ talents were vastly underappreciated, perhaps even wasted if this is the kind of thing they can do.”



    “You can’t really blame them for doing what they enjoy,” Harry said. “Putting smiles on faces can be worth more than gold.”



    “I suppose not,” she said. “Some of the stuff they make is quite funny, I’ll admit.”



    “Yeah,” Harry said. “Well, you can go get acclimated while I start making some dinner for us. Any preferences or dislikes?”



    “Anything works for me,” she said with a shrug. She walked off to go explore the portable house while Harry went to the pantry and started pulling out foods.



    There really wasn’t much to it, nothing special, and his cooking skills would best be described as adequate. He started melting some butter and heating a pan of water before going see what Daphne was up to.



    He found her in her bedroom, which she had wasted no time in enlarging to four times its previous size, and setting up her wardrobe. From the doorway, he got a small peak inside, which ironically was full of nothing but black clothing. “Hey,” Harry said. “It’ll be done in like ten minutes.”



    “Great,” she said. “Where should I set up my lab?”



    “Anywhere you want,” Harry said.



    Daphne shrugged and walked into the room next to hers and started pulling various things out of a pouch. She set a shrunken piece of furniture on the ground, and she would wave her wand, causing it to inflate like a balloon until it was normal-sized again. It was amusing to watch.



    It was clear she had packed quite a lot. Book shelves, potion equipment, desks and more. She had packed more than Harry had. A lot more.



    The whole house had been made by the Weasley Twins during the war as an emergency bug-out shelter, but the need to actually use it had never come up, and then Fred had died in the final battle. When Harry told George what he’d been planning, the remaining twin had been more than eager to help him out with supplies, including the portable house. Harry had spent the last several weeks kitting it out with everything he thought he’d need, which was mostly just food, books, and medical supplies.



    Books… Books were useful. He’d clearly spent too much time around Hermione. Whenever a mystery popped up, his go-to instinct was to start researching. He certainly had a mystery now, so he went to his own library and started pulling books he thought might be of use.



    He had a lot of resource books, encyclopedias and such. He was planning on travelling the whole world, so he had many niche topics at his disposal. A good quarter of them starts with “Ars,” case in point, he pulled out Ars Magica and Ars Alchimia. And to top it off, he pulled pulled out a book called Influential Witches and Wizards of the Dark Ages. It held mini-bios on people like Cliodna, the Morrigan, Merlin, and of course, Morgana, as well as a whole other people whose names started with the letter M.



    He set the books down on the dining table while he finished cooking dinner, and when he was done, he called for Daphne. The ate in relative silence, with Harry reading his book, her writing some notes. With how fast she was eating, Harry took it to mean that the meal wasn’t completely awful, which was about as good as an unspoken compliment that he could expect.



    When they were done, Daphne said thanks and disappeared and Harry swept up the dishes with a flick of his wand. Eating inside certainly wasn’t going to be an everyday thing. He was quite looking forward to trying out local cuisine, but they hadn’t even left England yet. Local cuisine around these parts would just be fish and chips, which was just a giant cliche. Though now that he thought about it, he was dubious as to whether Daphne had ever even had something like McDonalds.



    With dinner done, that really only left him one thing to do, and that was to continue his research. The trial-and-error method seemed unlikely to solve the octahedron problem, and neither one of them wanted to leave the place without having solved it.



    It took him about thirty minutes to read all the information he had on Morgana. It didn’t give any specifics on her inventions, barely even mentioned her skill in Alchemy, but he was more looking for hints into what she might have made. Her mindset, important events that might have influenced her decision making process, things like that, but he came up empty. It was hard to separate fact from fiction with a character such as her.



    He did have another option though, and that was to cheat.



    Carefully stored in one of the sides rooms was a tapestry, and hiding behind the tapestry was the portrait of a very particular wizard. A wizard with half moon glasses, twinkling blue eyes and a long white beard. A wizard that everyone knew and recognized, and one that Voldemort feared, feared so much that he went out of his way to destroy all the portraits of him that he could find, after the wizard’s untimely death.



    Albus Dumbledore.



    Several portraits had survived the purge. Voldemort had met his own untimely end before he could finish the job. This portrait in particular had been borrowed from the Headmaster’s office, one of several to have been stored there as the office had been sealed up tight and protected following his death.



    “Harry, it’s good to see you again,” Dumbledore said, peering down his glasses. “I see my location has changed once more.”



    Dumbledore’s wise eyes took in every detail of the room as Harry replied. “I’ve started the journey,” he said. “You’re in a portable house.”



    “Oh, you’ve found a travelling companion then?”



    “It took a month, but I did,” Harry answered. “Apparently this whole world-travelling thing has fallen extremely out of favor compared to your day.”



    “So it has, so it has,” Dumbledore said. “A shame really. Well, don’t keep an old man in suspense. I need to live vicariously through you, so who is it?



    As if on cue, Daphne Greengrass walked passed the door, holding some sort of curled horn on a string, looked in, kept walking, backtracked, and did a double take.



    “Oh my, well this sure is interesting,” Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling madly and his lips quirking into a mischievous grin. “Unlikely companions, brought together by the common cause of exploring the world. How romantic.”



    “Professor Dumbledore?” Daphne asked curiously as she entered the room, rolling her eyes in the process.



    “One and the same,” he said. “Or rather, a painting of him.”



    “He’s the reason I’m doing this world travelling thing,” Harry said. “I talked with him frequently during the reconstruction period after the battle, such as about that book that Rita Skeeter put out, and in turn, he regaled me with stories of his own youth.”



    “I see,” she said. “Still doesn’t explain why you have a portrait of our Headmaster. Or how, for that matter.”



    “Well, I took it,” Harry said plainly. “Or rather, borrowed. I’ll return him when we’re done, whenever that may be. It’s not like anyone could tell me no.”



    “And does it happen to be hooked up to any other portraits?”



    “Oh yeah,” Harry said. “There just happens to be a connected one in the Minister’s office.”



    “Convenient,” Daphne said dryly.



    “Definitely.” Harry agreed. “Anyway, he’s our guide. Half the locations I picked out for us to visit are one’s I got from him. Like Morgana’s grave. Which is where we currently are, by the way.”



    “Oh? How is it?” Dumbledore asked. “Everything you were expecting?”



    “Well, there’s not much really,” Harry said. “Just a stone slab that’s kind of like an altar, and an old druid named Giles.”



    “Giles is still alive?” Dumbledore asked. “That’s wonderful. Is that all there is?”



    “Oh, just this thing that Greengrass called a stellated octahedron,” Harry said casually. “Do you happen to know anything about that? It’s got something to do with Alchemy, and you just happen to be a world-renowned alchemist, and you have visited this place before.”



    Dumbledore’s eyes were twinking madly now, and Harry knew that he was about to be jerked around. “Indeed,” he said. “One or more of those statements are factual.”



    “Delightful,” Harry said. “As you obviously know, seeing has how you were the Headmaster, Alchemy isn’t taught at Hogwarts, so whatever knowledge I have is incidental. Such as anything involving your old pal Nicholas Flamel and his Philosopher’s Stone.”



    “Mhm, go on,” Dumbledore said.



    “Now, Morgana predates Flamel by hundreds of years, so it is unlikely that this has anything to do with the Philosopher’s Stone. Now, as Greengrass mentioned to me, it is possible that there are multiple ways to use Alchemy to create gold, or that perhaps gold is the actual byproduct of the transmutation process with the stone. Either way, without more knowledge of Alchemy, we don’t really have a good starting place. And I’m rather doubtful that we’ll learn everything we need to learn to unlock this particular secret when we travel the world.”



    “I see,” Dumbledore said. He steepled his hands and contemplated their situation. “I’m not going to tell you the answer, you know that much. But, I can perhaps lead you in the right direction. I will answer your questions as best and as vaguely as I can, as is tradition.”



    “Great,” Harry said. “First question - is it a puzzle?”



    “The answer to that, Harry, is both yes and no,” Dumbledore said, still smiling. “The definition of what a puzzle is and isn’t is up for interpretation.”



    “Is it a lock then?” Daphne tried.



    “Indeed it is, Miss Greengrass,” the portrait answered. “Very astute.”



    “Did you manage to unlock it?” Harry asked quickly.



    “Straight to the point then, I see,” Dumbledore commented. “Again, the answer is yes. It wasn’t particularly difficult, one you realize the intent behind its creation. It is very conceptual, which in itself, is a hard concept for many of our kind to understand. We tend to lack common sense, as it is often falls by the wayside when you can simply use magic.”



    “Were you the first to unlock it?” Daphne asked.



    “Good question,” Dumbledore said. “No, I was not. I estimate that it is solved a couple times every century. I, myself, learned of Morgana’s Mystery from another Alchemist who had solved it decades earlier than me. But I assure you, the prize is such that it will be to your satisfaction.”



    “So it’s still there then?” Daphne asked. “It’s not going to be an empty chest?”



    “That is always possible,” Dumbledore admitted. “But it has existed for longer than Hogwarts has, without tampering, so you should be fairly confident of having a rewarding experience.”



    “Hm,” was her only reply.



    “What can you tell us of the actual puzzle-slash-lock?” Harry asked. “Do we just need to figure out the right sequence of turning the symbols?”



    “It’s not about turning symbols,” Dumbledore said. “Once you realize what the device actually does, the sequence will become obvious, even though it’s nothing you’ll have ever seen before.”



    “But what does it do?” Harry asked. “Giles said it was an invention, which implies it has a function, a function beyond being a mere lock.”



    “It shares both more in common with the Philosopher's Stone, and less in common, than you might think,” Dumbledore said. “Alchemy is a far broader field of study than is apparent. Often, it is pigeonholed into a single topic, that of creating gold. Gold has a great deal many magical uses, that is true, so having an unending source would be extremely beneficial. It is, however, just a single aspect of the art. Sadly, convincing the Hogwarts Board that was not something that even I could pull off, so courses on Alchemy were few and far between. It truly is a lost art.”



    “So it is some sort of contraption,” Daphne mused. “It shares that in common with the Philosopher's Stone. But, it has nothing to do with creating gold. So it must help an Alchemist out in some other way. Morgana was an experienced Alchemist, so it’s purpose must be truly great, if it was her last invention.”



    “Morgana did die an untimely death,” Harry pointed out. “It’s possible that it was not intended to be her final invention. I would think if it were her Magnum Opus, it would be more renown. For all we know it could be something that just washes her clothes or something like that. A frivolity.”



    “Good reasoning,” Dumbledore said. “Miss Greengrass’s assertion does have merit to it, however. An Alchemist is constantly constructing new tools to help further their studies. So much so that they often pick up a secondary title of Artificer. The Philosopher’s Stone is just one example, there are many other versions of transmuter stones that can be constructed. Even a novice like yourself could create one that can turn lead into tin in under a week. Of course, these days, it’s easier to just buy the tin…”



    Dumbledore seemed to lose himself in thought for a moment before focusing back on the two teens in front of him. “There is not much more I can say, without ruining the surprise. However, I will finish by saying that you should not get lost in the Alchemy. Do not lose sight of the big picture. I have every confidence that you do can figure it out. Well, Miss Greengrass at any rate.”



    “Hey -” Harry said, but Dumbledore already ducked out of the frame. “I resent that.”



    Harry let out a sigh. “Well, look at the bright side,” Daphne said. We know it’s not the secret to creating the Philosopher's Stone.”



    “How is that a bright side?” Harry asked. “Immortality would be awesome.”



    “It means that because so many Alchemists were focused on that singular goal, that narrows what it actually is down quite considerably.”



    “I suppose you’re right,” Harry said. “I’m going to leave it for tomorrow though. I’m knackered.”



    “Suit yourself,” she said.



    He did. He closed the tapestry covering Dumbledore and left the room to go to his own room. He only vaguely noticed several strange objects hung up seemingly at random around the house. He was quite tired with a lot on his mind, so he didn’t give them a second though. He didn’t really feel like he was any closer to figuring out the puzzle, or rather, lock, but he felt like he’d do much better with a fresh mind.



    That didn’t stop him from taking both the Ars Magica and Ars Alchimia to his room, just in case he had trouble falling asleep. He did have a lot on his mind, but if he was truthful, most of it wasn’t about Morgana or her mystery. It was about Daphne Greengrass.



    She was a bit of an enigma, a walking contradiction. They had spoken more that day than they had in their previous eight years at Hogwarts. A small part of that was due to her being in Slytherin, well, actually a large part. Probably the whole part, if he was honest with himself.



    But she had no idea how much of an influence he directly and indirectly had in her life. The eighth year of Hogwarts had been an interesting one, one that almost didn’t happen. The summer after Voldemort’s defeat had been hectic. Reformation of the Ministry, apprehension of the remaining Death Eaters, too many funerals to count, and even more trials.



    Then there was the whole reconstruction of Hogwarts. The castle had suffered quite a bit of damage in the battle. Not enough that any particular part needed to be rebuilt from the ground up, but enough to require hundreds of volunteers three months to get everything sorted out, and even then, the refurnishing of it lasted well into the school year and still wasn’t one hundred percent complete after he had finished his eighth year.



    His eighth year… he didn’t even know where to begin with that. It had been a tough choice to make, to return, but he wanted to say he had a proper education. He didn’t want to coast by on undeserved accolades and his fame. He didn’t want to be accepted into a job with no NEWTS just because of who he was and what he did. So he went back and got his missing 7th year of education, him and a couple dozen others. It was completely optional, and anyone was free to re-do any year. If someone chose not too, then they’d get as much (or as little) help as they wanted during the summer to get caught up.



    McGonagall had been working relentless hours to see it all through. So much so that Harry was convinced that the only way she could find time to sleep was through the use of a time turner. Supposedly they had all been destroyed during his little trip to the Department of Mysteries, though he’d always found it kind of difficult to accept that literally every single one in existence happened to be in that singular room at that specific moment in time.



    Surprisingly, Ron and Hermione hadn’t returned for the school year. Or rather, Hermione hadn’t managed to convince Ron. Harry did not blame them for getting out of England. He wanted to do the same thing, in fact, he was currently working on it.



    Neville had been his best friend for that return year. The rest of the DA was still tight-knit as well, now more than ever. The loss of a few of their number stung deep and brought them even closer still. Such was the death toll that not everyone had been allowed back to Hogwarts. There had once been a saying, that everyone was welcome at Hogwarts, but a line had been crossed when students got killed and other students were indirectly, or even directly involved with it.



    It wasn’t just Slytherins, but it would be a lie to say they weren’t the vast majority. A heavy vetting process was established, to determine culpability. A great deal many students had connections to the Death Eaters. Some of them had those connections but had no part in anything, while others took full advantage of it. The truth had to be discovered



    Draco Malfoy was one example. He wasn’t allowed back for an eighth year, if he even wanted to. He probably wouldn’t anyways, as his seventh year of Hogwarts had been ideal for him. He could lord over everyone, do whatever he wanted, get whatever grades he wanted, while others like Neville had to fight tooth and nail every day just to not get tortured.



    Others were in the same boat. Any student who had a parent that was a Death Eater had practically been a lock for not being invited back to Hogwarts, even though it was theoretically possible that they did not believe in that cause and had not been involved at all. For younger students, it was easier to accept. It wasn’t a coincidence that all the first and second years were allowed to return, while their were almost no 6th and 7th year Slytherins returning. In fact, there were so few 7th years, that Daphne Greengrass had actually been the only one to accept a return invitation. The only other person who had even been sent one was Blaise Zabini, but he had declined. All the others had been sent notices that they would not be asked back. Some of them were lucky that was the end of it, as others would be facing criminal investigations.



    Harry mused it must have been hard for Daphne arriving back at Hogwarts, only to realize she was the only person in her year in her House. Then again, she had been a loner before the whole Voldemort thing had happened. Her classes wouldn’t change, as the entire 8th year took classes together, but ostracization was always a possibility. In the end, she had ended up spending most of her time with her younger sister, who was about as much of a polar opposite to her as possible.



    It wasn’t that Harry really paid all that much attention to her, but all the black makeup made her really hard to not notice.



    Harry didn’t actually remember that much of that specific meeting where it was decided that she would be let back into Hogwarts. He’d been apart of over five-hundred meetings in that time frame. A council had been formed to oversee it, comprised of him, McGonagall, Kingsley, Nearly Headless Nick, and an Auror named Robards. He hadn’t even realized that she was the only returning 7th year Slytherin until like a week into the year.



    Eventually, his thoughts start to drift away from his mostly uneventful 8th year, and some time during the witching hour, he actually managed to drift off to sleep.



    <Scene Break>



    Harry slowly came to consciousness, feeling refreshed. A quick look at the time showed that he had slept most of the morning away. It was rare that he ever got more than five hours of sleep, so this was a pleasant surprise.



    He spent a moment to collect himself before gathering his clothes for the day, and going to eat breakfast. The house was quiet, with the only sounds being birds chirping outside. It was actually kind of nice, something he could definitely get used to. It was a much more pleasant experience without the threat of being discovered by Voldemort.



    Greengrass was nowhere to be found, which didn’t surprise him in the slightest. It was almost predictable that she would have went straight back to Morgana’s grave at the first opportunity. It was not something that Harry would lose sleep over though, as he had plenty of other causes for that.



    He took his time. He ate breakfast. He showered. He even did a little research before deciding that he probably should go check on her.



    It was a very nice summer day out. Gentle breeze, a few clouds, bees buzzing, birds chirping and squirrels squirrelling. It was quite relaxing. He could find peace here, away from it all, just strolling through the serene woods.



    That’s what the whole trip had been about. He had been shackled his whole life, destined for Voldemort to torment his very existence. But he had won that fight, and instead, he had been shackled by his fame once more, a savior twice over. He needed a respite, and a well-earned vacation was just the trick.



    The walk only took a few minutes, and as expected Daphne was working on the stellated octahedron. There were several rolls of parchment stacked up on top of the stone slab, as well as several vials of ink and three quills and several books propped open. A quick glance showed him that she must have been at work for several hours already, as there was quite a lot written.



    “Good morning,” he said.



    “‘Morning,” she replied, barely sparing him a look. She looked tired, and in truth, it didn’t look like she had slept at all.



    “Any progress?”



    “Not as such,” she said. “I’ve been recording tests. If what Dumbledore said is true, then the secret to unlocking this is to see what it actually does. Best way to do that is through observation.”



    “He also said that brute-forcing it won’t work,” Harry pointed out. “Implied it, rather.”



    “I’m not brute-forcing it,” she replied. “There could be millions of combinations. Instead, I’m using logic. Just like there’s not an infinite amount of potions that can be made from random ingredients, the same is true for Alchemy. Like, combining fire and water is going to give a known result. There’s a predictability to it.”



    “I get it,” Harry said. He peered over her shoulder to get a better look at her notes. Her penmanship was impeccable, despite using a quill on an uneven worn surface.



    Harry watched her write down a formula, spin the octahedron, and write down the result. This went on for about ten minutes before Harry was starting to get bored. “Let me try,” he said.



    “Suit yourself,” she said. She floated the octahedron back over to Harry. “Perhaps watching will give me a better perspective.”



    Harry did much the same as Daphne did, though he kept what Dumbledore said in mind. The octahedron was made for certain reason. The reason which wasn’t apparent yet. It wasn’t about any specific formula, that’s what Dumbledore had said. It was about the big picture.



    What was it about then? What was the trick? They were obviously missing something.



    He started fiddling with the octahedron, not doing anything in particular. Just putting in sequences. Daphne was recording every single one, writing it down in careful abbreviated notation.



    This went on for five minutes, then ten, then thirty. Daphne’s only change in posture was to start munching on an apple, but she did not even miss a beat with her writing. Then an hour passed, and then two, before Harry was nearing his wits end.



    “It feels like my brain has turned to mush,” Harry admitted, pushing the octahedron aside with a sigh.



    “Well, my hand has cramped something fierce,” Daphne retorted. “This isn’t the most comfortable of writing positions.”



    “Did you at least learn anything?” Harry said.



    “Not a thing,” Daphne admitted.



    Harry sighed again. “Let’s switch then,” he said. Daphne was more than willing and quickly slid the quill and ink over to him, but he wasn’t terribly interested in actually recording anything.



    Dumbledore’s words came back to him again. Do not lose sight of the big picture. And like that, a lightbulb came on in his head. The individual formulas were meaningless, they had established that, but as a whole, they represented something greater.



    “I think I get it,” Harry said. “I think I know how to solve this.”



    Daphne immediately set the octahedron down. “You see something?”



    “Not something, everything,” he said. “The answer is right here in front of us. This whole thing is the answer. It’s simple pattern recognition.”



    Daphne yanked the sheet of paper right out of his hands and started analyzing it. “Where?”



    “Look, right here,” he said pointing at two particular lines. “Two different inputs, same output. And this one as well, same thing.”



    “Yes, we know that there are multiple ways to achieve the same result,” she said. “That’s not new.”



    “No, but look, they all share something in common.”



    She glanced at the parchment once more before her head snapped back up. “You’re right. I know what this is!” she exclaimed. “I’ll be right back!



    Harry was about to say something else, but she dashed right off, moving surprisingly fast. She was gone for about five minutes, and arrived back, completely out of breath and her makeup running slightly from all the sweat. She bent over, clutching her knees and sucking in air.



    “Well, don’t leave me hanging,” Harry said.



    “It’s a -” she said, again stopping to breathe. “It’s a Quicksilver Duplicator!”



    “Alright, pretend that I don’t know what that is,” Harry said. “Actually, don’t pretend. I have no idea what that means.”



    “You pointed it out,” she said. “All the Quicksilver combinations are redundant,” Daphne said. “Duplicating lead is simple enough and you don’t need a contraption like this to do it. This though… this can duplicate entire compounds! That can cut down on entire hours, even days of work. Think about it! This creates time. And time is the most valuable resource of all, something no one ever has enough of.”



    “And there’s the similarity to the Philosopher’s Stone,” Harry muttered. “Both give you time, in their own way.”



    “Exactly!” Daphne said excitedly.



    “So how does it work?”



    “Well, it runs on Quicksilver,” Daphne said. “So, it stands to reason that if you attempt to duplicate itself…”



    She picked up the octahedron once more, this time with purpose and determination. She twisted the end before flipping the entire axis, repeating it several times, until it was aligned as such that the Quicksilver was both the input of the chain and the output, and immediately, the octahedron popped open, splitting lengthwise. From within, an object fell out.



    “Holy shit,” Harry said. “You did it!”



    “We did it,” she clarified. “But… what’s that?”



    “It looks like an amulet,” Harry said. He pointed his wand at it and floated it off the ground, stopping right in front of them.



    “That… that looks familiar,” Daphne said. It was a gold amulet with several dark stones set in it, each one about a half inch in diameter. Ornate, but not overly so. “Hold on.”



    The Quicksilver Duplicator continued to hover in the air while Daphne quickly picked up one of the books she had propped open. She flipped through the pages before stopping and jamming her finger on it. “There! Look.”



    Harry looked. It was a painting of a beautiful woman. Black hair and brown eyes, some freckles. And around her neck was the same exact amulet. Below the picture was a text, but he didn’t need to read it to know it said Morgana le Fay.



    “It’s her amulet,” Daphne said, almost in awe.



    “It’s remarkable,” Harry said. “A real piece of history. But, we can’t take it.”



    “Why not?” Daphne asked.



    “It’s been stored in there for a thousand or more years. Dumbledore had solved it. Others have solved it. And they’ve all left it here, for future people like me and you to discover it. We should do the same.”



    “How… sentimental,” Daphne said, before sighing. “Alright. I agree. I shall treasure the memory instead of the actual treasure.”



    She turned her attention back to the octahedron, so Harry did as well. Inside of it was a glyph lined chamber, so tightly packed with silver symbols that Harry couldn’t distinguish any of them. There were also several built in chambers full of Alchemical essences.



    “Watch this,” Daphne said. She opened her palm, revealing a single copper knut. She then placed it carefully inside the Quicksilver Duplicator before closing. She spun a few of the points, and a few seconds later, it popped back open.



    She pulled out the knut, and a lump of copper alloy about the same size.



    “Pretty cool, huh,” she said. This time she reached into her pocket and pulled out several vials, which was obviously what she had ran back to the house to retrieve. She went immediately for one that was full of a shimmering silver liquid, flicked the cork out with a thumb and catching it with her other hand. Harry immediately grabbed her wrist.



    “Whoa, be careful,” he warned. “Quicksilver is dangerous.”



    She rolled her eyes and shrugged his hand off. “Really, Potter? Like you’re one to speak of danger.”



    “I’m serious,” Harry said. “Don’t let it anywhere near your exposed skin.”



    “It’s not that bad,” she insisted.



    Harry shook his head in frustration. For all the power they had, some of them could be quite dense when it came to safety.



    “You know what the Muggles call Quicksilver?” Harry asked.



    “No,” she said.



    “Mercury,” Harry said. “See, the thing with Muggles is, they don’t have wands they can wave to make a problem go away, or a potion to drink. Things have consequences, and as such, the amount of research they’ve done on substances like this is far, far greater than anything the wizarding world has done. And trust me, exposure to Mercury can do some really nasty shit. I’m honestly not surprised that Alchemy isn’t taught at Hogwarts. Someone would accidentally drink pure Quicksilver and they’d die before they could get to Pompfrey.”



    “So, what do you suggest?” Daphne asked.



    “I’m just urging caution,” Harry said. “You should take a word of caution coming from me doubly serious, as you know how rash I’ve been over the years.”



    Daphne seemed to look at the vial of Mercury in a new light, re-corking it and opting to use her wand to deposit it safely into the Duplicator before closing it shut. She then input an even longer sequence, resulting in a duplicate vial of Quicksilver. Harry was surprised that it duplicated the vial as well, but Daphne had surmised that it could do complex compounds, which he supposed this would count.



    “Seems versatile,” Harry observed.



    “There’s so much that can be done with this,” Daphne said. “It can probably duplicate an entire potion.”



    “You think so?” Harry asked.



    “Definitely,” she said. “Potions are just a small subset of Alchemy, after all.”



    “Fair enough,” Harry said. “It’s pretty cool, but I can’t help but feel it’s a bit anticlimactic.”



    “It does take a certain type of person to appreciate the beauty in something like this,” she said. “I admit… I’m not exactly deep on Alchemy lore either. There’s only so much you can learn with self-study and there’s not a glut of Alchemists looking to take in an apprentice around here. And given the choice between learning Alchemy and something like Duelling, I’d rather learn Duelling.”



    “Same,” Harry said simply.



    Daphne shrugged and put the Duplicator down and focused back on the amulet. She waved her wand over it, causing it to glow slightly. “It’s magical, but it doesn’t seem to be cursed or anything like that.”



    She picked the amulet up in her hands after determining it was relatively safe and ran her fingers over the individual links. “It’s very nicely made for how old it is. Extremely valuable too, seeing as how there’s no known artifacts of Morgana’s left in existence.”



    “Other than this one, anyways,” Harry said, nodding at the amulet. “And people like Dumbledore knew about it.”



    “I feel like that adds to the story,” she said. “A treasure that everyone knows about, but there being some sort of unspoken gentleman’s agreement to leave it behind for the next person to find.”



    “I like the sound of that,” Harry said. They sat there in quiet for a minute before Harry spoke up again. “You know, if this was me, and I was leaving behind something for someone else to potentially find, this wouldn’t be the end.”



    “What do you mean?” Daphne asked.



    “I mean, there’d be more to it,” Harry said. “What is the significance of the amulet? On it’s own, it doesn’t mean anything. Morgana wasn’t known for her vast amulet collection or anything like this. Why leave it behind?”



    “What are you thinking?” she asked curiously



    “I don’t know… I think it would be a red herring,” Harry said. “Or perhaps, just another piece of the puzzle. This amulet would be a key. Ironic, that the key would be hidden inside the lock. Maybe not a key, but a portkey! Wouldn’t even be the first time…”



    “A portkey? Hm, I could see it,” Daphne said. “What would activate it though? Obviously it’s not touch-based or it would have already.”



    “I would guess it would be something related to the subject matter at hand,” Harry said. “Something to do with Alchemy, or perhaps a phrase that Morgana was known for saying.”



    “I don’t know about the second,” Daphne said. “But the first? I suppose saying words at random can’t hurt… Gold! Silver! Lead! Nothing? Uhg.”



    Daphne went on like that for a few minutes, looking absolutely silly as she called out random Alchemy terms while holding the amulet, only for nothing to happen. Then, she started saying them in Latin and suddenly the amulet started to glow.



    Thinking on instinct, Harry jumped forward, latching onto her arm, just as the portkey hooker hed and tossed her through the either. Harry was pulled through, hanging on with all of his might, until they were both deposited in a strange land.



    “Fuck, you were right,” Daphne said, clutching the amulet in one hand and the wand in the other, looking around as she did so.



    They were in another clearing, and it was dark out. Not so dark as to be pitch black, but the sky was in a perpetual state of twilight, with purple light highlight the clouds, and the bright stars piercing through the veil. The moon shone bright overhead



    Trees surrounded them, but they were unlike any trees Harry had ever seen. Their wood was silver and smooth, as were the leaves. Moonlight seemed to collect on them, forming an effervescent dew, before dripping off onto the forest’s floor and evaporating into nothingness.



    There was no sound except for that of their own breathing. It was enchantingly beautiful.



    “What is this place?” Daphne whispered.



    “No idea,” Harry replied, also whispering.



    At the center of the clearing was an ethereal figure, almost invisible if not for the reflection of the moonlight. It was a slight figure, covered by an equally ethereal cloak, with almost indistinguishable features.



    Slowly, the figure turned towards them, and Harry got a look at the face. “Morgana?” he said breathlessly. “It can’t be.”



    The figures eyes opened and gazed at the both of them in turn. “Not Morgana,” the figure said in a haunting voice. An echo, an imitation. An illusion of the one you call Morgana. I am the keeper of this grove and the guardian of knowledge.”



    “What is this place?” Daphne asked. Her mouth hung open in awe.



    “Sanctuary,” the echo said. “Sanctuary for any who are worthy and are in need, to anyone who shares the same passions that she did.”



    “How would we get back here?” Harry asked. “We had planned on leaving that amulet in the octahedron for someone else to find.”



    The echo turned its attention back to Harry. “There are other ways of travel, many have been lost and rediscovered countless times. I am allowed to share one such method with you. It is called the Elixir of Return. It’s ingredients are as follows: Two pinches of -”



    Daphne immediately conjured parchment, quill and ink and frantically wrote down the ingredients. Which there was a lot of. But, for as many ingredients as they were, the instructions were far more complicated. More complicated than anything Harry had ever seen or heard of.



    When the echo was done, Daphne voiced a question. “You say it requires seven petals of a black lotus… they’re all but impossible to find, no shop sells them. If you can get your hands on them, they’re practically priceless. Perhaps that wasn’t like that when Morgana was alive, but making this elixir today will be impossible.”



    The echo turned its gaze back to Daphne, and it suddenly turned away before disappearing into the air entirely. But, where it had been standing, a single plant was growing out of the earth, with a sliver of moonbeam illuminating it. It was dark-colored, so dark it was hard to tell if it was black, purple, maybe even dark blue or a mixture of all three, but little specs of pure magic appeared to be drifting off of it like pollen in the wind.



    “It can’t be,” Daphne said breathlessly. She approached the flower cautiously, as if it was the most delicate object in the world. And in truth, it could have been.



    “Is that…?”



    “Yeah, it’s a black lotus,” she said. “Do you know how rare these are?”



    Harry shook his head. “I don’t even know what they’re used for.”



    “Very high end potions,” she said. “Elixir of Owl’s Wisdom, potion of Magesight, things like that. Highly regulated, extraordinarily expensive, if they ever enter the market at all. They are nearly impossible to cultivate, essentially making it so the only possibility of finding them is in the wild. Professor Sprout couldn’t do it, and her last name is Sprout.”



    “I see your point,” Harry said. “I wonder if Neville could. He cultivated a Mimbulus Mimletonia in the fifth year. How much do you think this is worth, anyways?”



    “Thousands of galleons,” she said. “More than your broom. It’s an actual treasure.”



    “We are going to leave it though, right?” Harry asked. “Just like we are leaving the amulet?”



    Daphne bit her lip and thought about it. “I’m not an expert herbalist by any stretch of the imagination… but I could give it a try. I’m confident enough that I could harvest enough without killing this one.”



    “Seven petals worth?” Harry asked. “Though I guess two elixirs would be fourteen petals.”



    Daphne shook her head. “No, I’d have to harvest a single petal and then try to grow one from that. Like, I just said that no one could do that, but I am willing to try. Getting a petal will be far easier than actually getting it to grow.”



    “Alright,” Harry said. “I’ll help in whatever way I can.”



    “Hold this, then,” she said. She conjured a small drawstring pouch with her wand and handed it to him, followed by conjuring a very small set of tweezers. With some very careful work, she managed to extract a single petal from the plant without visually harming it, though whether or not the plant would actually survive would be impossible to tell until it happened.



    “We good then?” Harry asked.



    “No, for the potion to work, we need something from the area to act as a beacon.”



    “How about a leaf?” Harry asked. He looked around, and there really wasn’t much else in the way of options.



    “That should do,” she agreed, plucking a handful of the silvery leaves from one of the trees. “They feel like silk.”



    “What are they?”



    “No idea,” she said. “Might be worth trying to grow them as well, I don’t know. They’re pretty, but without experimenting on their uses, we’re in the dark.”



    “If you manage to brew the potion, we can always explore the possibilities at a later time. Or, we could always just apparate back here,” he said. “Or if not here, than the grave and open the octahedron again.



    “That’s true,” she said. “Alright, I’m ready to go if you are. The magic in this place is making me lightheaded.”



    Harry nodded his head and put his hand on the amulet as Daphne activated it once more, this time on purpose. The familiar, yet unpleasant, feeling of the portkey dropped them back off where they had started, at Morgana’s grave. It was mid-afternoon and light out, which was a bit shocking compared to the enchanted grove.



    “It feels like almost a waste, leaving this here,” Daphne said, examining the amulet in her right hand while clutching the satchel with the black lotus petal in her other.



    “It’s the right thing to do though,” Harry said.



    “The right thing to do…” she mulled those words over.



    “We should always leave the place we visit the same as it was, or better if possible. We should be respectful.”



    “Respectful, yes. I can certainly understand that. Perhaps it’ll even help me sleep better at night.” She put the amulet back in the Quicksilver Duplicator, closed it tight and spun it around a few times before putting it back into the stone slab. It sunk in, once more becoming one with it.



    “Every little bit helps,” Harry said. They walked back to the portable house and quickly packed everything up. It folded back up much in the same way as it had been deployed, and he carefully stored it in his backpack.



    “Say, are you hungry?” Harry asked.



    “Starving,” Daphne said. “What are you thinking?”



    “I was thinking of grabbing some fast food for the trip, and then making out way over to the next destination.”



    “Are we leaving England then?” She asked.



    “Berlin,” Harry said. “Berlin feels like a good spot to go next.”



    “Berlin,” she repeated. “Well, you have my curiosity piqued. As long as I don’t have to fly that crazy broom again.”



    “Oh, I’ve got something much better,” Harry replied. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a key ring containing a handful of keys, and little motorcycle keychain that looked like a toy.



    He carefully unhooked it and set it onto the ground, stepped back, and with a wave of his wand, enlarged it. It grew until it was the size of a real motorcycle, because it was a real motorcycle. It was an old Triumph with black paint, and a sidecar. It was Sirius’s old bike.



    Harry hopped on and revved the engine. It was a good noise, a loud noise, one that put a smile on his face. He turned to Daphne, who was staring at him, mouth open. “Well, you coming?”
     
  2. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

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    It's the Leaky Cauldron, mate. Honestly.

    There's a lot of backstory to this that I think you'd have been better served not having? You infodump the 8th year, about Greengrass and her transformation into the archetypical big tiddy goth GF, namedrop a lot of Alchemy concepts, you mention the dangers of mercury... None of those things end up really mattering to the narrative, though.

    In the end the story is about solving Morgana's puzzle but not being able to do anything with the reward. They get the Elixir of Returning and a bit of a black lotus (MTG reference?) but no incentive to want to return except wanting more black lotuses or learn from Morgana (maybe). I was expecting a grand trip but they mostly actually stayed in one place. It's a bit of a letdown, really.

    Daphne also doesn't really matter; you could've put any other character in her place (not even necessarily female) and ended up with the same result. I don't think Daphne specifically adds much, so it seems like it didn't quite fit the prompt.

    I'd rate this a 3/5.
     
  3. Microwave

    Microwave Professor

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    There's sort of the opposite problem with this one as opposed to Entry #2, there's a bit too much background, a lot of the information is irrelevant, it doesn't really add anything of substance to the story besides it just being there. The information should have either had some significant meaning in the story, or omitted completely because it kind of takes away from the important bits when there's so much extra background.

    The adventure bit was pretty nice, Harry and Daphne face a challenge together, and in a sense, grow together because of it, and it's nice. The conclusion to this one, similarly to Entry #1, feels like it's setting up for some sort of sequel, falling off because it doesn't exactly show what resulted from their success besides the fact that it just happened.

    The magic in the story is really fun, there's a nice mix of introduced elements to the nature of magic. I'll take BTT's word that some of it is some sort of MTG reference, but it nicely fits into the adventurous bit of the story, which I really like.

    To be honest, I wasn't really a fan of the somewhat non-magical elements of the story. It kind of took away from the whimsical feel that was introduced through the adventure, and I feel like the story could have done better without it.

    It's a novel concept, it's pretty solid, and I had fun reading it, even if it fell of at bits. 3/5
     
  4. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

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    I'm going to be honest - I couldn't bother to finish this before skimming huge sections.

    It's competently written, and starts off alright, but it just takes much too long getting to the point. Harry and Daphne's initial banter was mildly amusing (Gothgrass, heh), but it dragged on and then just shifted suddenly into adventure. Then there's a lot of exposition that happens in between things which don't really matter.

    Worldbuilding wise, I can see you're trying something here and kudos for that, but the extensions of magic don't feel magical to me. It's all too muggle, formulaic, trying to create order from the chaos. Take Entry 4, with the charmed fingernail designs - that encapsulates what I think makes HP magic unique. It's this wonderful blending of mundane items with magical properties in unexpected ways that catches you off guard, that makes you think "huh, that's cool". I was half-expecting Daphne to be wearing a choker that would squeeze tighter everytime she said Daddy or something, but instead I got magic brooms and alchemical matrixes and whatnot.

    The adventure itself bored me before it got interesting. I didn't particularly care for Morgana's thingamajig, not particularly cared to understand what it is they were doing. That sense of wonder Daphne had didn't hit me. It's...the lack of reaction from Harry I think that kills it. Take Tyrion in GoT - he jokes about the Wall being 1 thousand feet long prior to seeing it, but when he's actually there it stops him cold. Because knowing something intellectually is different from being there, seeing it, experiencing it. And in that moment someone tells him "well actually the Wall is just 700 feet long", and he doesn't fucking care because what difference does it actually make? It's still a monument and no less breathtaking for it.

    Here, it kinda falls flat.

    3/5

    Grammar stuff
    Below, I think you should add a beat like Harry looked meaningfully at Dumbledore. "Which is where we currently are, by the way." <- just to make it clear he's saying it for his benefit. It made me pause a while to figure out why he'd say something like that to Daphne.
     
  5. enembee

    enembee The Nicromancer DLP Supporter

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    Summary

    Going into this story I set a wager with myself that if the appropriated title and song lyrics actually had nothing to do with your story, I was going to drink a pint of vodka. On an unrelated note, apologies if this review becomes increasingly slurred toward the end.

    Now, now, now, what do we have here, then?

    Far too much exposition. Check.
    Unnecessary and detailed objectification of the female lead. Check.
    Inappropriate author intrusion. Check.

    Oh, we're on to that submission.

    Developmental

    Okay, I'm going to be honest, I skimmed large sections of this. There's an old saying that discretion is the better part of valour; well, the same is true of writing. You will see a huge step up in the quality of your work if you learn to correctly frame scenes. Generally, you want to treat a scene like a party full of people you hate: come in as late as possible, say as little as possible, and then leave as soon as you can.

    By contrast, your writing is rambling, interminable, and boring. I thought for a moment that you were never going to break the original scene and instead going to treat us to every excruciating detail of Harry and Daphne's bathroom habits, but then you demonstrated that you knew how to break scenes by writing <scene break> in the middle of your prose.

    Protip: Write in short, snappy scenes. Absolutely don't stuff them full of pointless details and exposition.

    Just out of interest, I went through and eliminated the absolutely pointless nonsense from this story. It started at 14,708 words, and by the time I was finished it was under 7,000, and the essence of the story was barely changed for the process. If it's possible to flat out delete half of your story and have it make as much, if not arguably more sense, something has gone terribly wrong.

    You need only five scenes to tell the story you've told here:

    Harry and Daphne meet Tim, the Wizard. He tells them briefly about Morgana.
    "" "" "" investigate the gravestone.
    "" "" "" talk alchemy
    "" "" "" solve the puzzle
    "" "" "" talk to Morgana

    That's it, anything else can be left out or dropped as hints. It should be, at absolute most, 1,500 words a scene. The fact that this is so unnecessarily long means that it's difficult to give any more specific or useful feedback.

    Are Harry and Daphne well-rounded and interesting characters? Maybe? It's possible that somewhere in there there's something that makes this an interesting relationship to explore. Is the puzzle intriguing and worthwhile? Perhaps? It's impossible to know because I honestly lost interest during the explanation.

    Stylistic

    I mean it's as basic as cosmos and ugg boots, but functional, I suppose.

    Your sentence to sentence writing is just as long-winded as your structure, so I suppose at least you get bonus points for consistency. The same is true of your dialogue, which often feels needlessly repetitive.

    On the topic of being needlessly repetitive, I feel like I've said these in response to most of the entries, but:

    Trust your reader. Infer stuff, let them fill in the blanks, hell let them wildly speculate. You don't need to spell out every. last. little. thing.

    Read your own work. And then edit it. Do it more than once. If you find your own story too boring to read, imagine how it is for the reader.

    When you edit: if a scene, or a sentence, isn't doing something ESSENTIAL for the story to work, delete it.

    Conclusion

    I would usually have given this a 2, but it bored me so much I'm going to give it a 1 out of pettiness. This isn't unsalvagable, but as an author you need to restrain yourself. Stop writing so much and focus on the actual content of the piece. No amount of writing is going to make up for the lack of a plan.

    With each story in this competition, I'm going to give two pieces of advice that an author can actualise upon, and immediately improve their story. So here are yours:

    1) Write a plan. For the love of god, include the following things:
    • What is the point of this story?
    • How does it do this thing?
    • Where does it end?
    • Where does it begin?
    • How do we transition from beginning to end?
    • Who are the main characters and why are they interesting?
    • How little can I write and still communicate all of the above to my reader?

    2) Read McCarthy and Palahniuk and Hemingway. I'm not saying that you need to emulate them, but just be aware of how much can be said with incredible economy of words.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
  6. Raigan123

    Raigan123 Banned

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    This is interesting and boring at the same time.

    Interesting because the mystery was actually intriguing and boring because there is so much dragging and unnecessary information in between the good parts.

    The beginning drags on. Daphne is introduced and described as a goth chick. The dialogue is fine, Harry’s characterization interesting. Then they finally get going, albeit with more dragging. So we reach the grave. The history about Morgana and what she’s left behind is interesting and the one reason I didn’t stop reading at that point. Then you ruin it by info dumping the 8th year and all that other nonsense and just why should I care? It would have been better without those paragraphs. They add nothing and distract from the interesting bits.

    We finally get back to the mystery and they solve it together. The payoff seems anticlimactic, at least somewhat. All those words just for that?

    Despite all my negativity, this isn’t a bad story. Cut down a quarter to a third in words and you’d have a nice, short piece.
     
  7. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

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    (Not read the other reviews)

    General opinion:

    Yeah, so this was nice. I think there were definitely warm elements that gave it charm and likeability. There was a nice feel to Harry that wasn't so divorced from the Harry we see at the end of canon, and it's always pleasant to see a Dumbledore that's able to mentor in a unique way. I think there were plenty of enjoyable features in this story.

    The good:

    So, as mentioned, it was warm. I enjoyed how Harry used and thought about his magic. The opening of the house-tent, some of his thoughts about muggle maps and food and things like that. I enjoyed how the world seemed bigger than the one we knew. I liked how Harry had come to terms with his fame. I enjoyed many aspects of the world building.

    I enjoyed the way that he spoke to Daphne, I think that he didn't immediately fetishise her as a big titty goth after the initial description, and that was definitely an unexpected plus. He also approached all the things that may cause some reader some eye rolls and lampshaded it - which doesn't always work, but I think it did here absolutely. I'm thinking specifically about how he referenced how unusual a witch goth is. Also, some of the alchemy puzzle bits and bobs.

    There was a good rapport between Daphne and Harry. I think, from pretty much the start, they talked to each other well and there was a sense that these were people who could get on in the future, but at the same time, they had very different approaches to the world.

    There was a good division of skill-set. Daphne definitely provided the bulk of the alchemical knowledge, but in the larger story, and even in the crux of the alchemy puzzle there was a good amount Harry brought to it. It didn't feel like a puzzle either of them could solve by themselves, as it so often was with Hermione. I like that it stymied them at first too, that they had to go away and come back.

    The bad:


    So there were some language things. There was one incomprehensible sentence (which I didn't quote) when they were using the portkey for the first time.

    The alchemy puzzle was a little bit too jargony, and I think you could simplify their dialogue without losing anything. Along the same lines, although I appreciated the general process I think the revelation should have been more philosophical, a good opportunity to offer Harry and Daphne a clear new perspective on the world to reject or accept. It was about time, but it still also seemed very jargony. It was played very correctly for a good build up into a moment of enlightenment - but I didn't actually feel there was a proper instant of crystallisation.

    I think with them having to go away and come back after failing on their first attempt until they sought help together, it should have been an opportunity for a bit of conflict and disharmony between Harry and Daphne in how to progress until the above, at which point they come together again, in like mind as they solve the puzzle.

    This comes to the main criticism, I think, the structure of the piece. This is a very difficult thing to discuss in such a short review - I'd be very happy to come back to this and discuss it further after the competition. In brief, I feel there needs to be a main thematic line through the piece that isn't there. It strikes me as an opening chapter for a larger episodic-travels fic, which would be cool. As an opener, it's absolutely right that it has its own problem and resolution, but it also needs to hint (in miniature) at the interpersonal or moral difficulties Harry will face throughout the larger story and (again, in miniature) show the rough arc of the story to follow. It was nice and warm, but there was that typical pattern of accentuated highs and lows rising to a climax that then resolved into some new truth and understanding of the world. I think it would benefit immensely from that. Also, the very end came a bit suddenly.

    Lastly, technically there are some flaws that I'd be very happy to discuss in a longer review.

    For example, you can turn this into one shorter sentence because it's a fair bit redundant. having something like "The ad had been in the Daily Prophet long enough that the original had read "Male, 18". It's unnecessary to say that he'd gone through a birthday because... well, dur. Implying he's gone through one birthday suggests its some amount of months, while I think specifying one month doesn't actually sound that long.

    It's a striking description, certainly. The final phrase threw me for a minute though. I get, on the second read, that you're saying she's white and dressed black, very monochromatic. However, on first reading, it came across to me as 'she looked like she had stepped out from the 1800s'. I suspect it might trip people.

    This kind of implies that she hasn't actually changed that much because you say 'to more of the same', you see?

    Not very stylish, has the bare bones feel of something that should have been changed after the first draft.

    In general, I think the prose is overly rich. It's too comprehensive and you could slim it all down with a judicious second edit. A lot of the stuff about Harry's time in his AU revisit year to Hogwarts could be cut down massively. And this applies both macroscopically and on a sentence to sentence basis. It's massively open to debate, but my general feeling is you should cut down until you have the shortest way possible in which to tell your story, preserving tone or character. It'll be different for everyone but there's definite room for chopping here.

    Hope that was helpful!
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2019
  8. Nevermind

    Nevermind Headmaster

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    I guess my overarching impression of this entry is that it got better the longer it went on, and the more it delved into the unique aspects of its history.


    It is obvious that you put quite a lot of thought into the background of your universe, and there is so much here that’s good. However, some of it is also wholly unnecessary. he tales of days past are technically interesting, if a bit meandering, but there is so much of it that it was hard to keep reading without skimming. The whole 8th year recap is pretty much unnecessary, the only salient bit being that Daphne was the lone Slytherin of her year to return. You say yourself that the year was “mostly uneventful,” yet there is a considerable number of paragraphs apparently determined to prove the opposite.


    On the other hand, we have some occasions, that perhaps drag on a bit, but which are conceptually very interesting. The back-and-forth in the Leaky Tavern Cauldron (really?) is well-composed and just on the right side of too long, the whole broom travel idea and everything that comes with it is (as far as I can tell) novel, and the Morgana trivia is interesting as well. The house is a logical expansion of the magical tent idea, and the inclusion of Dumbledore was fun. The worldbuilding and the chemistry between Harry and Daphne are the stand-out elements of the story for me. Suffice to say, I had a good time reading this.


    All in all, I would rate the entry a very solid 4/5.
     
  9. BeastBoy

    BeastBoy Seventh Year

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    Using both “They” and “she” for Daphne’s pronouns in the same sentence is unwieldy.

    I think you can definitively say that it fell out of favor due to the War, rather than giving the Narration a passive voice.

    You do a lot of explanation surrounding why Harry put his ad in the paper, but I think it could’ve been pared down. At some point I get that Harry is feeling wanderlust--it’s a pretty common emotion--so the exposition that’s explaining why he can’t hang out with Neville seems a bit tacked on. I’d excise Neville and shift Harry’s concern about third-wheeling to Ron and Hermione. It makes more sense to me that he’d not want to travel with them while their burgeoning relationship is flowering.

    Perhaps you don’t need to add “from the 1800’s” to the end of this. It’s not like black and white photography is confined to that time period, and her fashion sense certainly isn’t 1800’s appropriate.

    There’s a lot of little grammar mistakes and places where sentences don’t read smoothly. It’s not like it’s impossible to read or anything, but I think if you’d have revised one or two more times or sent it to a beta you would’ve caught it. Here’s some examples:

    I guess this is just one of my pet peeves, but it bugs me when people will add these qualifications as to what Purebloods do and don’t know about Muggle culture. After all, Daphne has adopted a Goth aesthetic, she is clearly knowledgeable about that facet of Muggle culture. Who's to say she doesn't know about Ferrari, one of the most recognizable brands out there? If Daphne herself said that, I'd buy it, but not when it's just the narrative voice telling me she doesn't know something.

    If you wanted to include both the Ferrari metaphor and Daphne’s ignorance of the brand, why not do so through dialog? Something like:

    Harry noticed, for the first time, that Daphne seemed a bit nervous now that they had actually mounted the Firbolts and were preparing to take off.

    “Bit like getting the keys to a Ferrari when you haven’t even got your driving license, eh?” said Harry.

    She just sniffed at him and said, “What’s a Ferrari?” before taking a deep breath and kicking off, rocketing swiftly up into the cloudless blue sky.

    Harry smiled and then whooped as he kicked off to follow.

    Not that that’s perfect or anything but why not have some more interaction through their conversation rather than just have the narration tell us things?

    I wonder why you’d include Giles as an exposition dump on Morgana but then just gloss over a lot of exposition with this paragraph?

    This line feels off. Why is Daphne both curious and rolling her eyes at Dumbledore?

    I really like the idea of this: to bored strangers going on a worldwide trip, researching and studying esoteric magic and getting to know each other along the way. I think this really hit its stride when you had them doing research and formulating theories, and honestly I would love to read a whole fic of that sort of formula: travel-->discover some magical lore --> research it --> continue to new and interesting location. If this is the first part of a larger story you're working on, kudos. I'd read it.

    Again, I think you could’ve done some more revision to polish out some mistakes, and I found the Giles bit a little boring.

    3/5 rating
     
  10. Majube

    Majube Order Member

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    This got off to a slow start and the pacing didn't really improve throughout the story, I felt there was just way too much detail put into things that didn't really need to be explained like the brooms and the gadget for them or eighth year and the committee for deciding which students come back. Basically, the plot meandered a lot before it got to the point and that didn't do this any favors.

    I think in general that was this story's main problem, just way too much information for every aspect when it could've been told in far fewer words. So, brevity is your weak point.

    Now on to the story, I was bored and I had to come back to this story around three times to finally get through reading and re-reading it all and I still feel like the first half of the story could've been cut to 300 words of description and then properly started at the Morgana grave.

    Which speaking of the grave, why was Giles' speech so long? Overall, I did like the plot of the puzzle left, though it also wasn't as interesting as it could've been, with them going to Morgana's forest? And then not doing much about it. It was unclear what they got from that trip exactly.

    I also wasn't that interested in the characters either with Harry being a bit oc and Daphne being pretty bland.
    Decently written though so I'd still give it a 3/5
     
  11. 9th Doctor

    9th Doctor Groundskeeper

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    It feels like a series of short stories that you could stat with no end in sight, and I'd be just fine reading all of them. You tied the plot to this story together at the end but definitely gave yourself two or three ideas that will come back to extend through the series- The Adventure itself could be the elevator pitch to the story. Season 1 (book one, series one) is them working to create the return potion and grow the Black Lotus Petal into the plant again.

    I honestly want to read more. It's something I could sit back and just browse. "The Adventures of Harry Potter."

    There were several parts that felt a bit cumbersome, and I definitely got lost more than once. If they're going to be working with Alchemy more, it may be worth going through and making that particular area as understandable and approachable as possible for the reader. Find points that can be related to, so that they engage on Harry's level.
     
  12. Typhon

    Typhon Unspeakable

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    Since I'm a bit of a shit who has waited until the final moments of the review period to get around to, y'know, reviewing, this will be a somewhat abbreviated review. I've also not read much of the other feedback, and none of it in the last week. You have my apologies for both. To the former, if you want to discuss your story further after this is all said and done, respond and I'll look at it some more; to the latter, I guess you can take it as an extra voice to the chorus if I don't have anything unique to offer.

    I may or may not actually finish these by Ched's deadline, but vote or no vote on my part I will finish them. You guys wrote something, so you'll get something out of me.

    Okay, so I cooked some dinner while reading and thinking about the best way to talk about this story. I think the best way to approach it is to use my three legs of writing spiel to talk about where - according to me, at least - this went wrong and why that is.

    So, here are - for me - the three legs on which every story rests:
    1. The quality of the writing - this, for me, is primarily about style and clever word choice, but high quality writing is also, of course, minimally technically sound.
    2. The quality of the characters - obviously this is much to large a topic to summarize in a sentence, but some questions for guidance might go something like this: Does a given character feel like a real person? In other words, can the reader get in the character's head to see what drives them and why? Do they have depth, or do they serve only to make the plot work? On a different but no less important note, is the character interesting? Mileage will vary on that point, I'm sure, but if your characters are bland you had better be bringing some prose that'll make Rothfuss sit up and a plot that Palahnuk wants to crib from because otherwise people are going to dump you story half read out of sheer ennui.
    3. The quality of the plot - much like characters, plot is tricky to define. Some questions for plot might go something like this: Is this an interesting story; that is, do the readers care about what's happening? Is my plot very clever? Heartwarming? Poignant? Why am I writing this? This last question is a biggie, so I feel it bears repeating. Why are you writing this?
    The bolded question feels like the starting place here, on the basis that it's a question that I feel you should have asked a great deal more often.

    By way of example:
    Why Daphne Gothgrass?
    Why are we talking about muggle airbases and safe fly zones in a Harry Potter short story?
    Why is Harry musing about Daphne being "a smokeshow"?
    Why do we get a lecture about Morgana being grey!but!good?
    Why are we going neck deep into alchemy?
    Why are we getting a shout out for how underappreciated Gred and Forge are?
    Why is there a massive infodump of what happened after DH at the 3/4 mark of the story?
    Why, after 1000s of words on this puzzle, is it something that the reader can't reasonably figure out as well?
    Why did we go full chemistry on mercury?
    Why the grove? What does that add?
    Ie. Why are you writing this?

    I'm not being an ass, or at least I'm not trying to be, but those are genuine questions I have while reading this entry. Maybe I'm just a curmudgeon, but a short story should, well, be a short story. Everything that's not driving to the payoff is unnecessary, and being a complete piece there certainly should payoff. That is, after all, the whole point: to tell a story with a complete arc in a restricted word count. This doesn't do a great job of that.

    Take the alchemy puzzle, for instance. It's offputtingly scientific, I feel, but that's just a decade of reading HP fanfic and getting random muggle wank tossed my way. That's probably fine. But it goes on. And on. And on. As a reader you've lost me on caring about it. My advice is this - either have them using magic mumbo jumbo words and solve it quickly (in words, not necessarily in time) with a focus on the grandeur of it all, or else very clearly lay out the puzzle and how it works so a reader could reasonably figure it out themselves or have a moment of realization when the reveal happens. As it is, there's loads of word count spent on something that is remarkably ill-defined given how much screen time it gets.

    I guess the main point is that a short story should do a thing. Your writing is stylistically and technically fine, your characters are aggressively okay, but I have no idea what this story's point was. The budding friendship and/or romantic tension between the leads? An epilogue for canon? The prologue of an adventure? Any of these are okay, really, but have to do them. Believably show that the relationship has developed, complete with building chemistry between the pair. Have the world building come up naturally in dialogue - if it can't, that's probably a good sign that it shouldn't be in the story. Either make the reader feel like a participant or keep it snappy. This might have very well been good at 8-9k words with a healthy dollop of polish, but as it is I'm afraid it's a slog to find only unanswered questions.
     
  13. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator DLP Gold Supporter

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    I would agree with other that this could do with a good haircut. What is here is well written, but there is so much backstory. I think that, given the limitations of a short story competition, you could have spent those words on charecter growth and plot, while allowing people to come to their own conclusions about this AU through hints, context and inference.

    Your prose is solid and the story flows well once the plot shafts shifting forward a bit. The start had a nice hook, I like that you tried to do something new with Daphne. The magical house felt a little like a super magical trunk but I liked you thought through the intricacies of broom travel and the whole firebolt=sports bike was a nice touch.

    I like short stories to have some kind of ending (if not the final ending) and yours sort of trails off as things start to get interesting, leaving your story without a conclusion which I think is a shame. It's clearly much bigger than the scope of this story.

    Overall 3/5, good work.
     
  14. Anarchy

    Anarchy Half-Blood Prince DLP Supporter

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    Now that the contest is officially over, I will claim this story as mine. Kinda obvious, if you know me, but it is what it is. The first thing I did after submitting this story was write a review of my own, although I guess it's more like a most-mortem evaluation rather than a review. I waited until after the competition was over to post it, as I didn't want to influence the judges (for better or worse).

    Pre-judge review:

    Now, I’m sure some people will realize that this is my fic. It’s overly long and wordy, probably considered boring by some. Lots of my hallmarks. I also kinda talked about it here (https://forums.darklordpotter.net/t...ve-their-own-thread.24530/page-3#post-1088493) though at the time I wasn’t expecting to use it as my story challenge. I also mentioned that I was writing a “Daphne Gothgrass” both in IRC and on the minecraft server, which perhaps I shouldn’t have, or perhaps I shouldn’t have actually used the name in story, because I’m sure it probably annoyed some people. I found it funny though, if a bit hammy. And, I titled it after a metal song.


    As for the last minute rush, that wasn’t planned at all. I started this story a month ago, and the plan was for about 8-10k words and 2 “action” scenes. Instead, it ended up as 15k words with only 1 action scene. If I had more time to edit, perhaps I could have trimmed it down enough to get the second scene in, maybe not. It was a huge rush to edit - 1.5 days is not enough time to properly edit 15k words at all, usually I would like a week to edit that much. So I pretty much only had time to do grammar and some structural work, no real time for major rewrites at all.


    The first action scene pretty much went as planned, though in planning I had no idea what the actual device would be, other than some sort of transmutation engine. But, I personally don’t really know shit about Alchemy so I was mostly just taking influences from everywhere else. The general idea of the Quicksilver Duplicator is that it reverse engineers other components to make quicksilver, whereas usually quicksilver is a base component used to make other things. I obviously got sidetracked quite a lot.


    As for the cut scene, I planned for it to go a bit like this. Outside the gates of Berlin (cue Attero Dominatus by Sabaton), there is a battlefield, where tens of thousands died, and it’s the site where Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald. Nowadays, it’s called the Field of Relentless Dead, or something like that (at least locally). So Harry and Daphne would be checking out the monuments and stuff, when the dead start rising from the ground. They fight them off for a really long time, until a local German auror (probably renamed) comes in like a meteor, destroying a bunch, and casting a spell to calm the land down again. He’s very nonchalant about it. Harry and Daphne asks what’s going on, he says not much. His partner is out getting lunch for him and should be by shortly. Harry asks, isn’t it an emergency? Auror says nah, this happens a couple times a week, no big deal. Somehow all this would actually turn into like 5k words or something.


    There would also be some closure to the previous scene. They’d talk with Dumbledore’s portrait again, and bring up the enchanted grove, only for Dumbledore to say that he didn’t discover such a thing, and didn’t know the neck had been a portkey. So they’d get a sense of pride and accomplishment for discovering something that Dumbledore hadn’t.


    And here's what I say after reading all the judge reviews:

    Reviews were mostly what I expected. Lots of people telling me to trim back on content, that it's overly wordy. Nothing too surprising, as it's true. Ran out of time to edit, was literally halfway through a second grammar passthrough when I got messaged by Sree on IRC asking to submit, so I did. It is what it is.

    I do agree that the story doesn't really stand on it's own. Wasn't really designed to. It's supposed to hook in the reader to want to read more of their adventures. I wanted to end the story with an action scene, because right now all there is is just a bunch of talking and exposition. This story can (and probably will be) just broken down into chapters. The Leaky Cauldron (how the fuck did I mess up that name lol) would be the prologue, arrival at grave would be chapter 1, and solving it would be chapter 2. I was actually planning on having the action scene ready to put up in the WBA once the competition was over, but I never got around to it. Got a bit burnt out from trying to finish it to begin with.

    I did want to explore Daphne's character a bit more. I have a lot of it fleshed out, but the places where it came up would be a bit too interspersed so some of it felt shoehorned in during random introspections. Perhaps it would flow better in a story broken up by chapters rather than in one large block of text, idk. Only thing I really tried to do was to not come off as too creepy. No real talk of cleavage or ass, though perhaps that should be expected with Daphne story. Tried to make it so it wasn't so shallow.

    Anyways, some people did figure out this story was mine. Got messaged in IRC a few times. Surprisingly, it was mostly because of the Black Lotus scene at the end. I didn't expect that at all. People know I play Magic I guess, but honestly, I have World of Warcraft Classic on the mind, and it's the top tier ingredient for alchemy there, so that's why I picked it (and also because like I said, I ran out of time, so I pretty much went with the first idea that came to mind for everything). I would definitely try and restructure the Alchemy engine scene, as I kinda tried to make it vague enough because I didn't really know what I wanted it to do, and still don't. Talked a bit in circles with it, and it could definitely be more concise. And if anyone is wondering where I got most of that stuff from, it's from a puzzle game called Opus Magnum. Really fun game, highly recommend.

    Oh, and the song title and lyrics is a song called "Mindtraveller" by Falconer. Felt silly including some of the lyrics in the opening. Felt sillier trying to decide if I should make the title plural or not.
     
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