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Entry #7

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

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  1. Xiph0

    Xiph0 Yoda Admin

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    Harry Potter and the Echoes of a Lost War
    Part I - Debates.

    Pillnitz Castle, Dresden, Germany.

    “All sit. We will now resume this conference on the matter of the Treaty of the Rhine,” Supreme Mugwump Babajide Akingbade announced. “Ambassador Potter, you have the first voice of the table today.”

    Harry Potter nodded and leaned forward, laying his arms down before him. He panned his gaze around the round table as he spoke, “We’ve been over this for nearly two weeks with no resolution in sight. The fact of the matter is that the vampires refused to serve Lord Voldemort, and no amount of reasoning or debate while we’re sitting halfway across the continent from them is going to explain why. I propose that a delegation from among the envoys gathered here today be deployed at the nearest opportunity to speak with the surviving clan lords and find out first-hand what the situation is like in Transylvania before we continue to discuss whether we uphold or repeal the treaty next month.”

    Ignoring the minor flinch from a handful of envoys at the casual mention of the late Dark Lord’s name, Akingbade waited a beat before asking, “Is that all, Ambassador Potter?”

    “By and large, yes, Supreme Mugwump.” Harry stayed in his position, not at all pleased at the looks he was receiving in return as he assessed his counterparts. We’ve dawdled for long enough, and I have enough of a measure of their worth to at least try this. “I would like to press the motion to an immediate vote.”

    “Very well.” Akingbade cleared his throat. “All in favor, voice your assent. Those against, say your own piece. You will have three minutes.” As the only wizard in the room with a wand, he raised his and conjured a simple Tempus charm over the center of the table.

    “Obviously I agree,” Harry said at once. “And I volunteer for the delegation.”

    “Most noble,” Alexei Drominov uttered from directly across him. The grizzled Russian was tall, at least a head above everyone else even while seated. “If you are so desperate to leave, Ambassador Potter, return to England and your typical duties behind a desk while discussion continues without you. Your Wizengamot can appoint yet another fresh envoy, if they have the time. And for the record, this is a firm no.”

    “I must concur with Ambassador Drominov’s sentiment, that we have no need to further divide conversation in this way. If we simply resume our talks over the following month, I have faith that we will reach an agreement to uphold the treaty,” Helios Delphiki said from Drominov’s left. The olive-skinned wizard folded his hands over his lap and turned to his other neighbor.

    “I too see nothing to be gained from such a mission,” Ao Shang said, inclining his wrinkled head. “Politely, I must reject Ambassador Potter’s notion.”

    Harry leaned back and began to drum his fingers along his still crossed arms. With the obvious resistance out of the way, he thought, as saying such aloud might well alienate one of those still on the fence, let’s see who else actually gives a damn about what the treaty stands for.

    It was several long moments before his first outside support came. “I agree with Monsieur Potter,” Fleur Delacour began. Her looks and tone had only matured in the decade since they had last seen one another at the Triwizard Tournament. “How many years has it been since a witch or wizard other than the Dark Lord has deigned to visit them in person?” No one bothered to answer the rhetoric at this point. It had been the late Minister Albus Dumbledore. “We have discussed the available information to no conclusion. I too volunteer for this proposed delegation.”

    Three seats down from her on the left, Ireland’s envoy, Harwin Grimm, a shrunken old man with more salt than fire in his curly beard, shrugged. “I’ve naught against the matter, but leave me out of the delegation. Even before they joined Grindelwald, their kind and mine have never seen eye to eye.”

    “What kind, goblins?” Elayne Murdoch interjected from Shang’s left. The young American brunette flashed Grimm a grin, to which his expression soured, and she turned toward Delacour beside Harry. “Alright, darlin’, let’s say I agree. Assuming you two are the only two stupid enough to walk into a country of angry, starving vampires, surely you would need more protection than those pretty little eyes?”

    Delacour’s soft features took on a degree of sharpness, accentuating her cheekbones, the set of her narrowed gaze, and her now pursed lips. “I am adequately prepared should the worst come to pass, Ambassador Murdoch, even without a wand at my disposal.”

    Murdoch held up her hands and adopted a falsely sincere expression. “I’m just sayin’. Remember what the treaty was named after? At least bring along some Aurors for y’alls own safety.”

    “That’s not a bad idea,” Harry broke in before Delacour could respond. Both women looked at him, Murdoch with her flashy grin again, Delacour with a more guarded expression. “Something to consider after the vote.” He nodded to them both and then looked around at the remaining envoys quietly murmuring to themselves.

    Four so far. Not counting Akingbade, that leaves six to convince. He settled on the comfortably rotund Swiss representative next to Grimm. “Ambassador Feist?”

    “Ah, yes. Well.” Feist hesitated and looked elsewhere. “I would agree that from the given information, we cannot accurately compare their behavior from the nights of the Red Rhine to now, Ambassador Potter. But I also cannot endorse that those of us gathered here take the risk which you have proposed,” Henrich Feist said firmly. “I am sorry, but it is simply too dangerous, given their history. As Ambassador Murdoch said, they are bound to be ravenous if they have abided by the terms, and my grandfather has shown me his recollection of their war crimes. I know what a starving vampire can do to a man.” He visibly shivered and fell silent.

    “It would appear that we are at an indecision,” Drominov stated. He motioned toward the clock, which was rapidly running out. “A shame. Such an impasse means--”

    He was cut off by the Australian representative between Feist and Delacour, Savannah Harper, a deeply tanned, tawny-haired woman with all too leonine features. “--I was gonna keep my trap shut until ya opened ya own again, but just for that? I’ll agree with Potter, ya obnoxious cunt. And now time’s up, so stuff it.”

    Drominov’s lips pressed together. He might have responded, but Akingbade dispelled his Tempus and then tapped the table with his wand, silencing everyone else.

    “That will do for now, Ambassadors, thank you.” He cleared his throat again. “With five votes in favor and four against, and four abstaining, the motion to form a delegation to Transylvania has passed. The matter to uphold or repeal the Treaty of the Rhine is now adjourned until one month from today. Let us take a short break to collect our thoughts, and when we sit again in half an hour, any who would be willing to join Ambassadors’ Potter and Delacour, please voice your support at that time. After that, we shall leave the remaining matters of security and transport up to the appointed.”

    Akingbade tapped his wand to the table, ending the silencing spell, and then rose, making his way out into the garden behind them.

    That was closer than I would have hoped. Akingbade seems like he would have sided in my favor if pushed to cast a decisive vote, but I’m grateful it did not come down to that, Harry thought.

    Those who had kept their votes to themselves, being the Ambassadors’ Champi of Bucharest, Agni of India, Khan of Mongolia, and Pho of Thailand, gave a shake of their heads when Harry glanced over to them. Grimm and Feist had made their decisions clear, and he would sooner trust a reformed Death Eater than offer the invitation to Drominov, Delphiki, and Shang.

    That leaves Murdoch and Harper.

    But even as he thought that, they both stood. Harper followed after Akingbade out into the garden, while Murdoch stepped away and then turned to bend and rest her arms on the back of her seat so that she was facing Harry. “I’ll give credit where credit is due, darlin’, you’ve got more nerve than most to want to walk into Transylvania. But don’t try an’ sweet talk me into joinin’ this venture. I like my pretty little neck the way it is.” She didn’t bother to wait for his response, but stood with a not wholly unwelcome stretch and walked out to look at the River Elbe.

    When he looked back to the table, he found that Delacour was giving him a look of resignation before she also stood and followed after Harper, and one by one the rest of the envoys to turn him down made their own departures, leaving Harry alone at the table but for the three he cared for the least.

    “Well, Ambassador Potter, it would appear that you have curried enough favor among our softer counterparts to scrape by on this occasion.” Drominov’s expression lifted. “I can only hope that your bravery does not turn out to be your downfall, to say nothing of the danger you have placed Ambassador Delacour into.”

    “Thank you for your concern, Ambassador Drominov, I hadn’t realized you cared.” He pushed his chair back and turned to join Delacour in giving Harper a shot. “I have full faith in myself and Fleur to return safely from Transylvania. After all, not every dark creature has the same moral deficiencies that you do.”

    -/-/-/-​

    “--but I agreed only to stick it to Drominov, not because I support a walk into that lion’s den,” Harper was saying as Harry walked up. She barely nodded to him. “I’d as soon spend a year mediatin’ between the yowie tribes and the acromantula than join ya, and I’ve known some right mean spiders around Mount Isa. I doubt ya can convince anyone else, nor can I see why ya would bother to try.”

    “Minister Dumbledore taught me that everyone deserves a second chance,” Harry said evenly. “That’s the entire reason we’ve been here for two weeks, and why he pushed for the treaty following the end of the war instead of total genocide.” He searched her expression, finding no ground there. “This has been their second chance, Miss Harper. And from everything that we have to go off of, they have lived up to his expectations.”

    “Well fuckin’ good for him, Potter, but he’s been dead and gone for years or else he’d be here preaching to me instead, and it wasn’t vampires who did him in at the end.” She held up her right hand to cut him off from going further. “Listen, I’ve been around dangerous predators all my life, and they don’t tend to act against their nature. I can’t explain why the vampires stayed put when they had another chance to run wild under the Dark Lord. They should be starved for human blood, no matter how much livestock and wildlife Albus Dumbledore provided out on that plateau.” She stepped away and looked around at the fountain ahead. “Somethin’ isn’t right about the whole situation, Potter. If ya walk in there, I don’t expect to see ya here again when we continue discussion.”

    He had nothing he could say to that, and Harper walked away, ignoring Delacour’s half-hearted attempts to speak from beside him. I hadn’t expected to recruit more than a few, but just the two of us is not the most ideal situation, no matter how much I trusted in Minister Dumbledore, Harry thought.

    Delacour exhaled the last of her futile words and placed a hand to her brow.

    Mon dieu, must they all be determined to see the worst in this matter?” she said, more to herself than to him, given the lapse into her native tongue. She brushed a few strands of loose hair behind her ear before she looked up at Harry, frowning. “Mademoiselle Harper is unfortunately right in one way, Monsieur Potter. Our odds of convincing anyone else among our peers has dropped significantly with her refusal.”

    -/-/-/-​

    “All sit,” Akingbade began when everyone had gathered again. “The matter of the delegation is now resumed. Let those who have decided to join now voice their intention to do so.”

    Harry leaned back in his chair, casting one last silent plea that was flatly denied by almost everyone. To his dismay, it was actually Ao Shang who said, “After consulting with my fellow envoys, Supreme Mugwump, I feel that it would be remiss of me to ignore the plight which Ambassadors’ Potter and Delacour have volunteered their services toward.” He bowed his head. “In the interest of cooperation, I shall retract my prior complaint and now submit myself to this delegation.”

    What are you playing at, Shang? If the wizened Chinese emissary had had a change of heart, it was no doubt at Drominov’s urging. But on what grounds could Harry actually protest? Anything I could say now would just give Drominov more ammunition when talks pick up again.

    “Thank you, Ambassador Shang.” Akingbade gave the table several more moments, and when no one else spoke, he said, “Very well. I would normally insist on a larger group for such an undertaking, but it has become obvious how few are willing to venture into Transylvania, and assigning unwilling members toward any duty will only put everyone involved at risk.” He cleared his throat, “For that very reason, all matters of security will be left up to the delegation’s discretion, including their method of transport. This meeting is now on hold until the delegation returns, or one month’s time has passed.”

    Those who would stay behind gradually departed for the personal quarters. Harry drummed his fingers across his arms again as he stared at Shang.

    “Thank you for your decision, Monsieur Shang,” Delacour began. Shang smiled a patently false smile that Murdoch could have taken lessons from and bowed a fraction. “As Mademoiselle Murdoch suggested, will you request the services of the Aurors at your disposal?”

    “Oh, yes. I believe the two grandchildren who have accompanied me so far will provide all of the support needed.”

    “You really trust our judgment enough to bring your family along?” Harry interjected.

    Shrunken black eyes closed completely before Shang answered, “Of course, Ambassador Potter. You have reassured my concerns, after all, that we shall be perfectly safe in your presence. You are the Head Auror of your British Ministry, are you not?”

    Delacour glanced at him. “Is that so, Monsieur Potter?”

    Harry let his breath out in a rush of annoyance. “Yes, Ambassador Delacour, I believe that we will be fine.” He straightened in his seat. I should have known better than to respond to Drominov’s taunt. Even if I could use members of the Order to reduce sabotage, he’s not exactly leaving me room to bring someone else in without weakening my position. “I do not expect that additional assistance for myself will be necessary. And for yourself?”

    This time she turned to face him completely, and for a moment, her deep blue eyes searched his muddy green. Whether she found reassurance or not in his gaze, she said after that moment had passed, “I… shall also request two of my aides.”

    “Seven all together,” Shang said, smiling all the wider. “And how might we transport such a wonderful, magical number?”

    “Carriages,” Delacour suggested as she looked back to Shang. “Drawn by--”

    Harry cut across her before she could mention abraxans. “--thestrals. The British Ministry can procure a herd from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry by tomorrow morning.”

    Shang’s smile tightened. “Is that so, Ambassador Potter? You would carry our lives into Transylvania by way of omens of death?”

    “I’ve always lived in the shadow of death, Ambassador Shang, omens do not worry me. Thestrals will not fright back as other steeds would.” Now, will you give in or push the matter?

    “So I see.” Shang mulled the matter over, and slowly answered, “Yes, perhaps you are correct. It would not do to have a common beast of burden steer us over a cliff by some terrible chance of fate.”

    “I’m glad you approve.” Harry returned his attention to Delacour, “And surely you have no objections, Ambassador Delacour?”

    Her expression had settled into a grimace. “No, Monsieur Potter, apparently I do not.” Her voice was perhaps cooler than usual. “If we are through with such matters, we must ascertain our departure time. We will require at least one more day, both for transport and my Aurors to arrive and be brought up to present events.”

    “The day after tomorrow, an hour before dawn, is as good a time as any,” Harry said.

    “I have no objections.” Shang bowed his head incrementally to each of them. “I shall look forward to our unity, Ambassador Delacour, Ambassador Potter. Until then, farewell.” Shang unfolded his legs and rose, taking his time about exiting the meeting room.

    But as soon as he had, Delacour rounded on Harry. “Why did you insist on such vile creatures, Monsieur Potter?”

    “Thestrals are more noble than you think.” He pushed back from the table and let his guard down for a few moments around her now that they were alone again. “Just… trust me on this, Fleur, like you did that night in Little Hangleton all those years ago.”

    Her stern expression softened once she realized what he meant, but he did not wait for her to respond. He walked toward the personal quarters, to find his temporary room, and to floo the English Ministry of Magic to put in the request for their transportation.



    Intermission - Departure.

    “Careful, granddaughters. What you cannot see may still hurt you,” Ao Shang was saying as Harry approached the rest of the delegation before the River Elbe on the morning of departure. Thick fog had rolled in, masking the pair of large carriages lead by four thestrals from muggle eyes, and, if Shang would have him believe it, the two young women hovering several feet away.

    “But how are they propelled?” Bai Shang asked. Both she and her sister were short, perhaps not even five feet in height, with the same dark black hair and billowy red robes. They could have been twins, as far as Harry could tell. Next to her, Ju Shang leaned forward and raised a hand toward the supposedly-empty harness, and their grandfather stepped forward and caught the young woman’s fingers with none of his usual docile pace.

    “As I have said, child, what you cannot see may still hurt you,” Shang repeated as the nearest thestral turned its head to stare at them. He pulled her toward the open door and shooed her up and inside despite her quiet protest. “Come, Bai.” He motioned the other young Auror inside, and then inclined his head toward Harry, standing around and watching the whole scene unfold. “I trust that you will direct our carriage safely, Ambassador Potter. I find myself growing tired from such an expenditure of strength this early.”

    I’m sure you do, Harry thought, watching Shang turn about and clamber up into the carriage before clapping the door shut. They were no doubt putting up concealment charms and sealing the interior against eavesdropping already.

    He walked up to the same thestral and raised his hand. The gaunt steed inhaled his scent, and then allowed him to run his fingers down its leathery neck. “Southeast Carpathian Mountains,” he said. “Follow the scent of blood.”

    It gave a long, shrill shriek at the one ahead of itself, and then they began to trot as if there was no weight attached. Within moments they had gathered to a gallop, and suddenly they rose, great leathery wings flapping. Had they been harnessed after the same fashion as Hogwarts carriages, side by side, it would have never worked, but in single file there was no difficulty.

    “Monsieur Potter,” Ambroise Bastion said as he turned toward the remaining transport. Bastion was the older of Delacour’s newly arrived Aurors, closer to the late Alastor Moody’s age. The blue robes he wore were embroidered with the Ministry for Magic Affairs of France emblem in golden thread over his left breast. “You will be joining us, yes?”

    “Normally I would prefer to travel alone, but yes, Auror Bastion, on this occasion we will be traveling together. Give me a few moments to instruct the thestrals.”

    “As you say.” Bastion turned about and ducked inside of the carriage.

    Once Harry had repeated the sniff-test with the nearest skeletal creature and received its approval, he told it the same directions. True to their intelligence, even after shrieking toward the other steed, they waited until he had joined Bastion, Delacour, and her younger sister, Gabrielle, before the carriage began to move.



    Part II - Contact.

    Transylvanian Alps, Southeast Carpathian Mountains, Romania.

    The first sign of trouble began with a series of thestral shrieks as they were approaching the end of their journey. In the chill afternoon air, passed the muggle repellent charms, the high cries of the four thestals came moments apart, and Harry sat upright and looked out of the window to find that Shang’s carriage was diverting away from their own.

    Bloody hell. “We’re splitting up,” he said for Delacour and her sister’s sake, as Bastion beside him likewise had a clear view of the other carriage descending further east ahead of them. “Their thestrals must have scented a different kill to track than our own, which explains the bickering out there a few moments ago. Or else Shang has bewitched them.”

    “Is that a problem?” Gabrielle Delacour asked. Her eyes were lighter than her sister’s, as was her loose blonde hair, but otherwise she could have been a distant imitation. Even her voice sounded close enough to what Delacour’s own had been all of those years ago that he still gave a moment’s pause before he answered her.

    “Given Shang’s own hidden agenda for coming here? We won’t know until after we’ve landed and had a chance to evaluate matters, but yes, Auror Delacour, in either case I am inclined to believe that it will be a problem all too soon.”

    “Is there nothing we can do, Monsieur Potter?” Bastion asked. The older man had drawn his stubby wand and was making an attempt to no avail to sight the distant carriage before it vanished completely into the sloping forestry.

    “I’m afraid not.”

    “Then we will have to address them when we can,” Delacour said evenly. “We may have needed to separate in order to speak with each clan. Do not fear the worst just yet, Monsieur Potter.”

    Harry nodded, but inside, he was less optimistic. It galled him to have to admit it, but for now Shang - and by association Drominov -- had managed to win this round.

    -/-/-/-​

    Their carriage set down in between a gap in the blackwoods only a few minutes later, and in the darkened interior of the forest, a dry, feral snarl went up into the air, met at once by the shrill shrieks of the thestrals.

    Sacre bleu, what is that noise?” Harry glanced to Bastion, still with his wand out and leaning forward on alert. Harry slowly drew his own from the polished horntail leather strapped to his right arm and panned his sight out of the rocking windows ahead and to his right. There came another shriek as the thestrals fought against whatever they had found, rocking the vessel back and forth.

    He caught sight of a pale shadow backing away, its stomach - or perhaps mouth, with how it seemed to be bent over -- dripping dark, inky blood. It snarled again and retreated further to the side and away as the carriage turned, the thestrals following.

    “I think it would be safe to say that we have interrupted someone’s meal,” Harry uttered. “I doubt that they will be very happy with us for that.” With the creature hanging back, the thestrals quieted, and gradually pulled away, turning toward the recently killed prey that they had smelled. Harry tracked the movements of the creature out there and said, “I’d rather limit the number of targets they have to take any anger out, so please, stay here and let me tackle this one alone for now.”

    “You are certain, Monsieur Potter?” Bastion asked.

    “I’m certain,” Harry replied, still tracking the shadow’s progress.

    “Be careful, Harry.” Delacour said. He blinked and glanced over to her, finding the usual guarded expression up. It was the first time since they had met again in Germany two weeks ago that she had called him by his first name, and it came to him that she had done the same thing when his life was endangered at Little Hangleton.

    Of all the times to bring up the good old days. He couldn’t afford to take the time to savor that right now. But it did raise a brief smile to his lips.

    He made sure that whatever was out there hadn’t made another move during his distraction. Holly warmed in his hand and then that same heat washed over his ears and mouth as he performed a rough, nonverbal Shinar charm. A Protego was close at hand if he needed to follow up talk with defense. He opened the door the next moment and slid smoothly to the side, allowing him to close the carriage again in one neat transition.

    It was damned hard to make out any real physical features with how dark the forest was, but he thought he could detect the movement of the figure’s eyes as their head twitched left and right by centimeters, no doubt smelling him now. Very gradually its posture unfolded, rising upright, still dripping either its prey’s blood, the thestrals’, or its own to the ground with quiet splashes.

    “You…” the figure slurred, spilling more of that inky substance from its lips. “You are a wizard.” There was an almost hypnotized slowness to the words, independent of the Shinar’s rough translation, as it spoke with a husky rasp. “Why? Why have you come?”

    “The Treaty is close at hand--” Harry began.

    “I must finish feeding, wizard,” it continued over him. “Your pulse is so loud…” It wiped at the mess around its face with one hand that gleamed at the fingertips and licked the gore away. With that done, it took a hesitant step forward, but almost at once it jerked back again as if some unseen chain around its neck had drawn taut suddenly, and it turned toward the thestrals with the same sort of jerking motion of its shoulders and neck. The skeletal horses were noisily chewing on whatever had been its choice of meal. “I hear it, master. His. Others. Must I feed on this beast even now…? Aagh!”

    The vampire bent double again, lifting its hands to its head and driving the wicked nails there into its own scalp. Fresh, inky darkness poured to the forest floor as Harry watched in no little shock.

    Telepathic commands at a distance? He finally thought. He could only stand there as the vampire thrashed, but with each attempt to proceed forward, it jerked back, until at last it sank to its haunches and lifted its head, staring at him with flat, widened eyes rimmed in murky black. “Wizard! Get back!” It turned desperately toward the thestrals. “Get back until I have fed!”

    Under other circumstances he might have tried to say something, but it was clear that the vampire was nearing the very limits of its restraint. If the horses stay in its way, they’re going to get hurt. He pulled up that Protego and turned, shaking his head as Bastion motioned from inside of the carriage toward the door, and instead put to use seven years of transfiguration education at Hogwarts to melt the harnesses away.

    “I know you’re hungry,” he said urgently to the thestrals, “but I need you to find something else to hunt, and do it now.” The nearest thestral raised its beak-like snout as behind his back the vampire snarled wordlessly, and with the same shrill shriek of communication, the skeletal horse and its mate withdrew, taking flight.

    WIZARD!” the vampire cried in warning, shaking the leaves of the trees around them and allowing dewdrops of afternoon sun to pierce the gloom for an instant. Harry spun back in time to see the vampire rocking on its feet. His instinct kicked in and he flung himself aside, rolling out of the way, and not a beat later the tormented creature lunged across the distance and fell upon the remains of its earlier meal, passing far too close to the place he had just stood for comfort.

    Harry settled into a crouch, his wand at the ready to take action again. Things may be worse than we had imagined, he thought as he beheld the scene unfolding in front of him.

    The sounds alone which it made as it ate were stomach-turning. Not just the heaving gulps as long incisors bit and pulled the blood out, but the wet squelch of muscles pried off of bone and squeezed of the last droplets of precious life between thick, tapered nails, which in turn pierced down to the marrow itself. With each depravity as it sought and found all of the blood that remained in its prey over the following minutes, the vampire shook where it lay.

    Perhaps this was what Feist meant when he protested joining us two days ago. He could suddenly appreciate the matter of the Red Rhine, where muggle soldiers had been massacred by the tens of thousands, in a way that the ICW records had been unable to convey.

    When at last the vampire had consumed all that it could, it gave a low, wordless utterance, and finally lifted itself from the broken, gory remains.

    Wizard,” it began slowly. The sedated lull to its tone had lifted, as had the husk, leaving just a hoarse strength there like old piano wire. “Even now the rhythm of your pulse excites me. But… ah… with Master Dragomir’s aid, I am myself again, for now. I will have to feed again, regularly, so long as I am in your presence.”

    “Is that right?” Harry said. He gradually stood, and the vampire rose with him, shuddering once. “Just what happened to you?”

    “A bloodlust as I had thought forgotten. We have not fed on men for so long…” the vampire shook itself and slowly turned to face Harry. “Forgive me. You spoke of that which has confined us here for so long, and my master is greatly interested to hear more. He would as soon hear it with his own ears than with mine, and I fear we cannot stay here much longer after my reckless screams.”

    Harry made his way over to the carriage, his wand ready to rise at a moment’s notice should the vampire have another… lapse of judgment. He opened the door enough to say, “You’ve heard what we’ve said. The thestrals might come back, but I wouldn’t bank on it soon, and if there are others en-route...” he trailed off.

    “We are learning more in mere minutes, Harry, than we have in two weeks of debate and studying.” Delacour said. She climbed down from her seat and stepped out beside him, ignoring both of her Aurors’ protests. “You say that you must feed more often, Monsieur?” she directed at the vampire.

    It looked at her in a way that might have been curiosity. “Yes, witch. Perhaps sooner still when all of your people have gathered beside me.” Even as it said that, both Bastion and Gabrielle hurriedly joined them, and the vampire gave another small shudder.

    “Then lead us to your Master Dragomir. We are but a few of those appointed to review the state of the clans.” Delacour said.

    “Which reminds me that we’ve still got to consider what happened to Shang’s carriage,” Harry said, reminded of Drominov’s servant. “If he and his granddaughters wound up in the same kind of situation as we did, this mission may already have jeopardized everything.”

    “There are others?” the vampire asked with the first hint of husk returning to its tone.

    Delacour answered, “Yes, Monsieur, another Ambassador and the Aurors he brought with him. His carriage veered off somewhere east ahead of our own.”

    “This…” the vampire trailed off. “Master, what must I do? What can we do...? Yes… I understand.” It brought its head up to stare at them. “They will have landed in Lord Mircea’s domain, wizard. Master Dragomir is even now instructing all who remain loyal to feed, and to join him for the march.” It shivered. “If there is still time, we can rescue them.”


    Part III - Conflict.

    “If there is... ?” Delacour repeated and fell silent.

    “If they’ve been caught by something, then they’re trapped.” Harry stated, remembering what he had read from Minister Dumbledore’s extensive, if outdated, catalogue on the entire affair over the past several months to prepare for the conference in Dresden. “We can’t Apparate in here. Portkeys don’t go through. That’s only part of the reason no one else has come to speak with the clans besides Minister Dumbledore, ourselves, and Voldemort. As for their thestrals, well, there’s a reason Shang shied back. I picked those I had a hand in raising at Hogwarts.”

    When he mentioned Voldemort, the vampire gave Harry the same sort of curious look as it had Delacour only moments ago, but there were more pressing matters to address. “We must hurry. I can guide you, but I too must eat again as we travel.”

    “You might be able to see in this gloom but we’re going to need better light,” Gabrielle Delacour said, speaking aloud for the first time since she had stepped out of the carriage. “Spelled light should not be the same as sunlight unless we will it so.” Before the vampire could protest, she brought his wand above her head and said firmly, “Lumos Coronae!” and a curved dome of brilliant white light manifested there, shining upward into the blackwoods and falling outward around her in a wide circle.

    At once the vampire shrank back, but as the young woman had predicted, the light did not inflict harm, and for the first time so far, they could actually observe what the creature looked like in good detail. It was just as pale as Harry had thought, vaguely masculine in the contour of its muscle and bone structure around the antiquated garb, yet gaunt almost to the point of frailty despite having just fed in the past few minutes. In many ways, it resembled a inferi.

    Delacour finally found her voice again. “Well done, Gabrielle.” To the crouching vampire, she asked, “How much time do we have, Monsieur?”

    Gradually lowering its arms from before its face, the vampire retreated another step by simple instinct, saying as it did so, “Lord Mircea’s brood would know better than to feed upon the first humans they have found in all of these years themselves. They would capture and maim them, but leave them well alive for their sire, as they had when they accepted the dark wizard’s agreement.”

    “They allied themselves to Voldemort?” Harry asked.

    “I... “ the vampire fell silent and when it resumed speaking, the voice had grown deep, solid, and somehow cold. “Mircea betrayed all that we have sacrificed by taking that man’s word as law and feeding from his disciples. He sought to kill we his equals and usurp the loyalty of our clans for himself, to unite all under another madman. Mircea was exiled, along with his servants, to a point where we could observe him within the boundaries established fifty-nine years ago. It is not in our nature to kill one another, and so his life was spared, as Albus Dumbledore would have encouraged. I have come to regret that decision more than once.

    “You’re Dragomir, aren’t you?”

    I would have spoken with you as your position decrees I must, as would all of us who remain, though I know not for what reason you could have come if not to give news of our fate. We were not the ones who rampaged like beasts upon the battlefields long ago, yet we were punished all the same alongside those who did. And now, after all of this time, we will fight, and will we kill, so that your own might live, and in doing so, we might join you again when the blood has stopped flowing.

    “I… thank you,” Harry finally said. What more could he say to that? He should have known that the truth would never be so simple. It was almost too much to handle.

    Thank me when we stand side by side beyond these wretched mountains, man. Now go, while time remains for us all.

    “That answers our initial concerns,” Harry said to Delacour. “As to how we’re going to break this news to the others…”

    Delacour turned to face Harry. “We shall address that when we have rescued Monsieur Shang and his family. You say these thestrals are loyal to you?”

    “As much as any Hogwarts graduate,” Harry answered.

    “Then can you call them to us, Harry?”

    He took several steps away, looking up toward the sky. They are supposed to come when they sense the need for travel, but has it really been long enough for them to hunt? He had rarely had a need to fly by thestral while at school, and as such, whether or not the hungry horses he had sent away would come to him now was uncertain.

    Yet in the distance, one high shriek could be heard. I suppose it is true. He almost couldn’t believe it. But after several moments, only one thestral touched down before him. “Where’s your partner?” Harry asked. The horse tossed its head and stared passed him at the vampire, but it did not take any further action as it had earlier.

    “Monsieur Potter,” Bastion interjected. Harry looked over. “Perhaps this is, as you say, fate? You said before we left that you would join us on ‘this occasion’. I would as soon stay with Mademoiselle Delacour and Delacour.”

    “So we split up yet again? I go by air, all of you by ground?”

    Truth be told, the idea had its merits. He was by far the most comfortable when airborne, he always had been. He trusted the thestrals with his life, and the loyal steed could get him to Shang’s general location far quicker than running over unknown terrain would.

    On the downside, he would be trusting Delacour’s life to herself, her Aurors, and the vampire, and if anything happened to her, it would be because he had pushed to have this delegation in the first place.

    But that little voice deep down couldn’t leave it at that. It’s the same with Shang, isn’t it? His life is at risk because of what I proposed.

    “You know what you have to do, Harry.” Delacour said. She turned back to the vampire. “Monsieur, how do we reach this Mircea’s domain?”

    -/-/-/-​

    Find Ao Shang, he had said before the thestral took flight minutes ago. Such a vague suggestion should have only applied to owls, but the skeletal horse only gave a brief shriek and then ascended into the sky, and now they were soaring over the treetops like a dark streak.

    The simplest way to resolve the threat of the vampires would be to blow apart the forest and expose them to the afternoon light. But that might endanger Shang or his granddaughters. No, once he found them, for better or for worse, this would come down to spellwork and working together.

    The first glimpses of light began to brighten the underside of the forestry as his thestral dipped down, and in no time at all Harry found himself in the midst of a large scale attack. Snarling vampires had separated and surrounded Ao, Ju, and Bai Shang from one another. The two young Aurors were wielding their wands like blazing jian, manifested fire serving to push back any vampire that drove too close. Shang himself wielded his in a more classical firewhip, snapping the burning cord extending from the tip of his wand around the nearest limbs and severing muscle and flesh from bone.

    They were clearly holding ground, but for every vampire which they disabled or repelled, more filled the gap.

    The first ravenous creature spotted him and leaped. “Down!” he commanded, and the thestral dove beneath its path. As they passed, Harry swung his wand in an arc above him, casting Fulguren, and a bolt of boiling, white lightning crashed into and through the vampire, spreading and reducing it to so much ash on the wind in their wake. It ticked at his conscience to be wielding such magic, but from everything that he had heard about this Mircea, it was not undeserved to end those here now.

    Unfortunately, his spell drew the attention of several more. He swung his arm overhead once more, then brought it back down in a wide arc as he repeated his nonverbal incantation, Fulguren! Whether it was from hunger, or something else, the vampires in his line of fire did not attempt to swerve away as the bolt pierced through them.

    “Ambassador Potter!” Shang crowed as Harry landed the thestral next to the man with no complaint by the horse. “Is this what you would have us release into the world?”

    “Save it for the conference,” Harry said. He swung off of the horse and ran his hand down its neck once more as he brought his wand in yet another arc. It was decisively more effective than the blue cord that Shang still had in hand. “Let’s get your girls and get the hell out of here while we still can.”

    “Very well.” Between the two of them, working in tandem, the growing horde thinned enough to cross the distance and meet with Ju Shang. “Granddaughter, onto the horse,” Shang ordered.

    She breathed hard and looked at him. “The time for acts is done?” the young Auror asked.

    “Do not make me repeat myself, child.”

    She approached the thestral following in their wake and it sniffed at her hard for several long moments before it turned its head away. She swung up onto its back as easily as mounting a regular horse.

    With the tide turning against them, something of intelligence began to creep back into the remaining vampires. They drew closer to Bai Shang and began to press her away from the closing party. It made little matter in the end, other than to draw out how long they had to fight forward, but in the end she too had climbed upon the thestral’s back.

    With that done, Harry at last lowered his wand and wiped the sweat away from his brow. “I’d say you’re welcome, but there’s no point in taunting one another right now,” he said.

    “I would agree with that sentiment, Ambassador Potter.” For the first time since they had met, Shang bowed formally. “You have rescued my grandchildren. You do have my thanks.” He rose, saying nothing more about what awaited in Germany. There was no need for that, as both Aurors behind them gasped.

    Out of the shadows of the blackwoods, something was darting forward like a blur and shaking the ground underfoot.

    “Shang, get on the thestral.” Harry ordered. There was a moment’s hesitation before Shang stepped back and swung up behind his granddaughters. “Home,” Harry added over his shoulder to the horse. The thestral gave a long, horrible shriek as it sensed what was approaching, but it obeyed his command and took to a quick trot, before ascending into the sky and well out of reach.

    WIZARD!” an equally horrific screech flowed across the thinning distance separating Harry from what was inevitably sure to be Mircea.

    Harry leveled his wand and released the Shinar. He had no interest in what it had to say.

    It’s time to end this.

    Yet before he could turn his wand toward opening up the forest around him, there came another noise, and one shadow was met by another of equal stature, and then yet more. In all, four additional vampire lords appeared in answer to Dragomir’s call to arms, and there was nothing which Harry himself had to do but stand back and watch.


    Part IV - Resolution.

    Pillnitz Castle.

    “As expected, such creatures are too dangerous to release into the world again, Supreme Mugwump,” Drominov stated after reviewing the report filed following their return from Romania. “I think it would be obvious that should another such case of bloodlust strike, they would all become the ravenous hordes they were proven to be during the nights of the Red Rhine. I motion to uphold the treaty, and indeed apply additional measures so that we can be reassured none will ever choose to defy our good will again.”

    Akingbade drew a slow breath. “Very well, Ambassador Drominov. All in favor, do so now. Those against, say your piece. You will have three minutes.” He once more cast a Tempus charm over the table.

    “I disagree,” Harry said. “They demonstrated remarkable self-control once they had fed properly upon the wildlife which they were provided with during the weeks which we spent in their company. With Lord Dragomir as their leading voice, I believe that the surviving clans can demonstrate the same fortitude when granted the chance to walk the wider Romanian region again, and I am willing to implement security measures for the muggle and wizarding population centers who might be at risk.”

    “Is that so, Ambassador Potter? You would personally take the responsibility for each and every life endangered by your suggestion?”

    “Yes,” Harry said. Drominov only smiled.

    “You are a fool then, Harry Potter.”

    “I must disagree, Ambassador Drominov,” Ao Shang said. Drominov’s expression immediately soured. “After joining Ambassador Potter at his request, I have found that the vampire clans are not the mindless beasts that we have long believed them to be. They are not greatly dissimilar to werewolves, of which have had freedom despite their own monthly threats, for many years.”

    “I too disagree with Monsieur Drominov.” Fleur Delacour said simply. “For reasons adequately explained.”

    There was no little unrest around the table, and no complete unity toward for or against, but in the end enough votes had been cast.

    “Very well,” Akingbade said. “The Treaty of the Rhine will not be upheld, nor extended further. We shall now move on to addressing the issues surrounding the end of the treaty in relation to greater Romania…”

    The End?
     
  2. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

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    This is short, sweet, and to the point. While not really innovative or having particularly strong prose (no lines that really made me go, damn this is good), the writing is serviceable and it never allows itself to get bogged down or drag out something too long and you get props from me for that. The pace for me felt just right. It's technical writing is decent.

    The politics of it all felt shallow though, and given this felt like a major selling point (I'm not sure if this was indeed the intent, it just came across that way to me), it's a bit of a let down. We don't really delve into the whys of the many personalities involved, and the political antagonists are little more than cardboard cutouts of your stereotypical antiWestern!Russian, Greece being a non-entity, all of these western powers aligning with each other (more to spite Russia than anything else). It feels a bit too similar to real world politics and I feel there was a great opportunity to expand on how different international wizarding nation states could be (such as Assyria being a thing in canon) rather than what we got instead. I recognize I might be harping on too much on a feature that might very well have been just setup you wanted out of the way though and I might be missing the point completely.

    Rest of the story was alright. Tightly constructed scene-wise, no real surprises and nothing too stand out in any case. I did like the conversation between Harry and vampire guy. It just feels like this could have been so much more, y'know?
     
  3. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

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    I'm going to have to echo Halt here.

    The politics were weak. I don't really see why Harry (who is merely the Head of the Aurors? I don't recall it being stated that he's more than that) is supporting the pro-vampire cause. He doesn't seem to have history with them, at least. I also don't quite see why Fleur is there or what she actually adds to the story. Same for the other cardboard cutouts that are Harry's political opponents or supporters or what have you.

    It's a bit of a waste, honestly. Clearly you've got a grip on the technical part of writing, setting a scene, conveying the characters you want to, etc. It's just that the plot's really nothing special, which is a shame and what's holding this entry back, IMO.
     
  4. Typhon

    Typhon Order Member

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    I agree with Halt that the length is a boon here - several of the competition stories ran too long too their detriment, but this tells the story it sets out to and doesn't linger once it's done. I can appreciate that. The story is even somewhat interesting to boot. The technical bit of writing was fine, no outstanding problems there.

    The main complaint I have with this is in the construction, I think. I talked a bit in my reviews of 4 and 5 about how aspects of them rang really true or felt "organic" - this is sort of the opposite of that for me. It feels a bit like you figured out the story you were looking to tell, made a tightly plotted outline, then just slapped some characters and prose on the top and called it a day? That probably comes across more harshly than I intend it to, this is better than several other pieces imo, but I guess my point is that putting a story together this way is fine, you just have to be very certain the the wires and construction is hidden under the prose. This unfortunately just misses the mark with that a little.

    The issues are in the things that don't really jump out at you without thinking about them - the Fleur inclusion, for instance. It feels very much like you wrote this thing, got cold feet about making it Harry and loads of OCs, then tossed in Fleur because its an international thing and you needed a canon character. As others have mentioned, the politicians are similar - they don't really feel like people at all, just plot devices with names. I feel that it should mean something to the reader that the Chinese ambassador went along, rather than one of the other political opponents, but they're all a bit of an amorphous blob of antagonists.

    I guess if there was a thing in particular that I'd point out to work on, it would just be to hone your characters? Like, if you cut the cast in half and spent all the words you freed up in making the story feel that it arose out of the characters and their motivations rather than sprinkling characters into a story as needed, this would be tremendously improved I feel.
     
  5. Jeram

    Jeram Elder of Zion ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I feel like this a sort of average tale with a few key weaknesses and strengths. One of the strengths is that Harry felt reasonably true to form, and Fleur decently too. There are some interesting historical wordbuilding pieces in terms of the buildup, and the way the vampires aren't monolithic is expressed well. But on the weakness side, the Wizengamot scene felt quite silly, with overly cliched caricatures of the "foreigners" -- I noted with distaste the "Politely" mark from the "Chinese" character and the repeated "pretty little" from the American one. We have limited information on the global politics of the Wizarding world, but we do know it is not simply a copy and paste from the Muggle one. This felt lazy, and considering most of the "Ambassadors" (I don't believe this is the right word) on the ICW barely mattered, I would've preferred more unique characterization and wordbuilding on the ICW side of things.

    In terms of the vampire prompt, I feel like there was some interesting promise, but man, that ending was a real deflating moment. There's a lot of built up mystery and intrigue -- I really want to see how Harry decided that vampires needed a "second chance" apropos of nothing else for example -- but ultimately it's ended with a bland "The End?". That's so cliched it was parodied in The Simpsons twenty years ago. I did like the way the vampires are handled, but that's also a disappointment because I know there was a possibility of something better here.
     
  6. James

    James Unspeakable

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

    Woohoo! Last, but not least, my favourite entry in this competition!

    Plot & Pacing - 4/5

    The plot is well thought out. Includes not only a new location, but also a different kind of ICW—where instead of huge assembly it’s basically a team of Ambassadors from most prominent countries—but also an important historical event and its repercussions in the present moment.

    The one point off is for skipping the part between the battle and the final meeting. I imagine it happened due to the time constraints, but I still miss it.

    Characters - 5/5

    I like this kind of skilled Harry: not a god tier, but very capable, and just throwing stuff out there (“Of course the skeleton horses trust me. I raised them.”), hah! And yet, he’s still not an Edge Lord, but genuinely nice guy, trying to do the right thing.

    Even has some political acumen, without being all formal and shit!

    Secondary characters are okay as well, with their own little stories — like the Chinese Ambassador for instance. But for some reason — and I can’t really tell why — I especially enjoyed Master Dragomir, and he’s the reason I wish you had time for the scene after battle, because I imagine he’d take major part in it.

    Prompt use - 5/5

    Flawless use. I don’t think you could do better here: Not only are the vampires the reason why this story is happening at all, they figure quite prominently in the “stuff is happening” part of story, and there are also multiple groups of them.

    Their abilities, their hunger, and how they react to it, actually makes the difference and splits them into said groups. Awesome!

    Other - 5/5

    It was great! I enjoyed it, and you get all my points. I loved the oppressive nature of the forrest, the vampires’ hunger, the “master can talk through his subject” thing.

    I just loved this.

    Total: 19/20
     
  7. enembee

    enembee The Nicromancer DLP Supporter

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    So, I'm going to start this critique by saying that this story had the best prose of any in the competition and then I'm going to focus on 3 key points that I think you could really improve.

    Cohesiveness This story was basically two completely different stories with one working as a framing device for the other. This would be fine, if either (preferably both) of the stories had a satisfying conclusion. But they don't. The vampire element of this story is solved without our protagonist's involvement, and the political element of this story is solved without politicking.

    Brevity Nothing in either section justifies having 4000 words of logistics before anything actually happens. The first scene with the ICW was probably required to set up the resolution, but everything beyond that point until the carriage ended up off course was, to be blunt, a waste of words. Furthermore, you have about 10 times as many characters in this as you needed. There's not really an excuse for this. If you'd used it as an opportunity to kill some people off, that's one thing, but it was honestly just absolutely cluttered with characters for no reason.

    Characterisation Harry is good, almost everyone else is pretty atrocious. I'm not really sure why everyone in the ICW needs to be a hollow, slightly xenophobic stereotype of their home nation. This sort of goes hand in hand with some of the other points that I've been making, but almost nobody in this story other than the one vampire, and possibly the Chinese delegate, had any form of intrinsic value to the plot. Fleur came along and did… nothing. Just there to fill out some words.
     
  8. Zombie

    Zombie Black Philip Moderator DLP Supporter

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    I agree with Enembee's summation of your story. I'd go further to say I felt that a lot of this was extraneous detail, and the focus of the story could have been narrowed. I don't like politics in general, so I felt like that whole setup was unnecessary. I feel like if this story was told entirely from one perspective and you have them reacting to the ruling of the ICW then it would have worked a lot more fluidly, otherwise we've got a bunch of dialogue from a group of people that really serves no purpose other than to setup the latter part of your story. You did introduce vampires in an interesting fashion, and I have a feeling I know where some of your influence came from in the formation of their factions. It made them feel like they belong and familiar.

    Out of everything submitted, short of number 6, you did a decent job of setting up the believable nature of Vampires in the HP world, where there is an otherwise dearth of material in regards to that. This prompt wasn't easy to write for. Vampire's as a prompt is both super broad and very narrow.

    Its also fucking infuriating because I hate vampires with a passion.

    Overall, technical execution in terms of writing was sound. Its just the story telling that most people struggle with, and I'm not excluded from that.
     
  9. Dicra

    Dicra Groundskeeper

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    Written in reaction style, because I feel like I can contribute best that way.

    Also, to whoever wrote this: I really don't mean to be as big of an asshole as I'll probably come across as during this post. This is not a bad entry, and I certainly don't hate it.

    Q3 Story Competition Entry #7

    The beginning of your story actively discouraged me from reading onwards. So, politics. Politics in short stories are a difficult thing. No, scratch that, they’re pretty much impossible to pull off in a rewarding way. For a politically focused story to work, you need nuances, you need fleshed-out characters and alliances and, most importantly, you need stakes.

    You haven’t got any of that. You haven’t presented us with even a glimpse of stakes. Within the first paragraphs, we get to know that the vampire’s haven’t done something they’ve expected them to, and now they want to investigate. We’re presented with not a single reason to personally care about it. Harry is for it, but there’s nothing more, there’s no urgency, no danger if it doesn’t happen – if there is, I didn’t get any of that from the whole first scene.

    Now, I have to admit I don’t care for politics in HP in general, so your entry is the least likely to gain my favour. That said, I feel like you didn’t even try. It’s a bit like the beginning of #6, there’s no questions, nothing to urge the reader forward, except one:
    "Will they launch an investigation?"
    And again, that’s not enough, because you already failed to answer: "Why should I care whether they launch an investigation?"

    Tell us more about the outcomes of the Treaty of Rhine, maybe the vampires are on the verge of a rebellion, or there’s at least a tangible danger that they are, maybe the Treaty is cursed and the longer it stands, the more people are going to suffer for it, maybe Harry’s just found out one of his grandparents is still alive and wants to get to know him personally, but is prevented to do so - just give me a reason.

    During the scene, you present several pieces of paper with a name attached to them. What’s the point? Do we need to know them? Do they add anything? On that note: We only get their names when they speak up, and as soon as they did, we forget them. We don’t know anything about them. Which means: The one question you have, the one thing that carries your readers through the story, works even less, because we can’t guess who's going to vote for what. Which also means we can’t be surprised.

    I feel like I’m doing a bad job at getting my point across, so here’s what your story does:
    Person 1 shows up for the first time, gives opinion on matter, Person 2 shows up for the first time, gives opinion on matter, etc etc

    Here’s how it might work (combined with you making us care about the whole thing):
    Person 1 shows up and gives the opinion we knew he had, one additional vote for Harry. Person 2 shows up, and we know he hates vampires, but he is very loyal to Harry, so we think it’s gonna be ‚yes‘. But then, he looks at Harry, almost as if to say sorry, and then simply says „I’m against it.“, hatred and hurt shining through his eyes, and suddenly, it’s far less likely that Harry’s going to win the vote.

    But at least now, the story can begin – we’re on for a trip to Romania, that’s something to look forward to.

    First of all: Minister Dumbledore? Is there any reason for that?
    Second: That’s the entire reason? Sorry, I still don’t care aboot what happens with the Treaty.

    Shang’s going with Harry, that’s a good plot point, and it’s the first that’s well presented. We don’t know his motivations, but he could be planning something dangerous, after all, he’s friends with Harry’s opponent.

    No complaints about this scene in general, I just wanted to mention that it feels like there’s some thought in the backstory of this that doesn’t quite pay off, because we don’t know anything about it.
    Also, this piece of dialogue feels heavy-handed.

    To echo @Halt and say something positive, because this story deserves it: I think you have a very satisfying way to pace your scenes. They never drag, they're always moving forward (even though, like @enembee said, we don't need all of them). Had you subverted the bland politics a bit and given more care to character motivations, this would’ve been within my top 3 at least.

    The scene with the vampire is good, you’re doing a great job at getting across the point that they’re dangerous predators and yet unwilling to attack wizards. That said, I think Harry is a bit bland. Especially now, it would be interesting to know his thoughts on second chances, whether he’s got any doubt now that he’s seen the brutality of the vampire. It feels like the things are happening to a plot necessity, not to a person.

    Also, will you ever tell us what the treaty is actually about? Because it’s the whole point of your story and we don’t even know what it entails.

    Concerning Shang’s disappearance: I think it was @BTT who said that this felt like it could’ve been so much more, and I think he hit the nail on its head. I’ll try to elaborate.

    The situation you have:
    The maybe-bad-guy we don’t care about is gone and Harry wants to rescue him, because otherwise, the treaty we don’t care about will remain.

    The situation that could have been with a few different choices:
    Fleur and Gabrielle are gone (we at least know them), and Harry knows he’s responsible, because he was the one proposing this ordeal. Shang is his only support, and he doesn’t even know whether he won’t betray them.

    I don’t want to write the plot for you, but I feel like you tend to go into the least fascinating direction.

    I said earlier that I liked that Shang was on board. What was the point, though? What was his original plan that Harry managed to change? We see him bowing to Harry, so he’s gained respect, but earlier on, you hinted at him having malicious motives – and that never paid off.

    Yeah, but vampires are a threat every single second of the day. What about the scene where the vampire could barely keep from attacking? That’s not a danger?

    In the end, the Treaty of the Rhine is removed. Yay? Does it matter, except for the vampires?

    I’ve got to tell you, I’m almost sorry for this review, because I feel like I gave you a lot more shit than this story, as a whole, deserves. Maybe that's also due to the fact that it's really not my cup of tea.
    It’s not bad, as a whole, and I think it objectively stands somewhere between Entries 4-5 and 1-3. It’s a good read, there’s nothing detracting from the story and I liked your backbone story for vampires.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
  10. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

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    [I haven't read the other reviews yet, soon I will, for now I haven't]

    We all have a propensity to seek wisdom in antiquity. There's a deep understanding that human experience has some fundamental qualities and that throughout recorded history some bright sparks have carved diamond from this bedrock to form fundamental wisdoms. Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War said, 'The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.'

    Well, I think you proved him wrong.

    Ultimately, it's the largest problem with this story. It was a generally positive experience marred at the finish by a final seasoning that overpowered the dish and rendered it inedible. It's truly unfortunate because sometimes a relatively small flaw can mar the whole image, even if that image is otherwise good on the whole.

    No, there's more to say, and positives to highlight after we address the elephant in the prose.

    Imagine you go to see an athletics competition. Imagine you go to see Usain Bolt run, and just before he gets to the block he's gone to take a load off and stood in some toilet paper, a great long strand that in his preoccupation he just hasn't noticed. He's on the blocks and then runs an amazing time but you and everyone else know that, this once, on the six o clock news, the camera is going to be showing his trailing running mate, not Bolt. It didn't matter how immaculate his form, or how good his time really, the eye is drawn to the exception, the trailing toilet paper.

    This is your trailing toilet paper.

    You appear, after a significant amount of effort with the interesting parts of your story, to have decided that this bureaucratic conflict is to carry the heart of the story. That all the meat before was actually uninteresting, and this is what should get our cheers. But, you don't appear able to convince yourself of that. You haven't expended any effort on this. Even Fleur can't bring herself to expand on why segregation is bad and acceptance is good (although context is important, and I'm iffy about the actual political sub-plot itself here anyway).

    This is the point at which it turns. This is when it curdles. Now, thematically it makes sense to an extent. Harry has been pushing Dumbledore's angle, vampires can be redeemed. We see their struggles, but ultimately so far we've seen them overcome. Mircea represents the vampire's monstrous addiction and nature, Dragomir and his peers outnumber and overcome Mircea. Wizards aren't needed, vampires can control themselves.

    However, this should also be the pay-off of the story. If we don't get to see it, or participate in it, or even get it described to us post-hoc then why have you chosen this narrator?

    I reckon, this is indicative of some of the wider issues of your story. Your theme and moral are at war with your narrative and pacing. You were unable to reconcile them and so you chose the narrative and pacing, and ultimately we just have to ignore the other half of the story, because the events don't work to support it.

    International faceless political bureaucracy is quite a motivationally shallow group, with weird arbitrary discussion times. Although you get they were intentionally trying to sabotage the effort to prevent the treaty from being repealed, you don't get why. More importantly, you don't get why Harry is happy to let the vampires roam - I mean he says they'll still restrict them and protect some population centres, but why is this an all or nothing thing. There seems to be no gradation, the political positions are binary and unnuanced. Neither seem to reflect much reality of the vampires we see. Thematically Mircea and his camp vs. Dragomir and the rest of the nation may mean one thing - but we don't get the impression of a genocide. So if they raise the restrictions then Mircea's peons are going to be just as free as the others. Or if they aren't then it's never hinted at. It's just assumed we'll get ignore all the ramifications of such a large decision.

    Fleur and Gabrielle are a tricky one. Their characterisations are fine and good. But again you make promises which you don't keep.

    Firstly, what's this AU? Fleur was at Little Hangleton - how is this world different? It must not matter because you never tell us, and you never tell us because it doesn't affect the story except to add a confusing dynamic to their relationship. I don't know what their relationship is.

    Secondly, why did you bring her? She sits in a carriage, her sister casts a spell, and then off they fuck? She adds nothing to the narrative. It'd be something if she saves Harry politically in a moment when it looks like it's not going his way, because of some experience with the vampires, but she just casts a vote his way and says 'it's been discussed', basically. That's not pay-off.

    Overall, this is well written on a sentence to sentence basis. There are some spelling mistakes, some mistaken words.

    There are also some confusing images. For example, here Shang closes his eyes completely. It's good you didn't just say 'Shang looked shifty', or weary or serene, but the physical terms you've used to describe him don't get us any closer. They don't put us into Harry's headspace well.

    Similarly, this is another example of good effort but unfortunately poor effect with an image that is too dissonant to the narrator's perspective, and it bumps you out of the narrative.

    Here, again, the unusual imagery destroys the sentence's flow. The light is on the underside of the forestry, implying the tops are still dark? Oh but now he's in a fight! Right. You don't want complex imagery before something that should be a quick observation. It gives an impression that the danger of fight is less a priority to the narrator than the unusual focus to which he is giving to landscape description.

    Oh did they? They left, but it certainly doesn't seem clear. We're just informed, after being told it could be an accident or an unforeseen danger - which doesn't seem much like winning.

    You also have a habit of telling narrative events that we have no reason to have forgotten as they happened only a few hundred words ago, with the wrong person. In the first of these three quotes, the vampire and Fleur reiterate and re-clarify this exact same thing for the Vampire which doesn't know, which makes sense. It doesn't make sense that Harry would go 'oh yeah' to this, it's important, and he's just lived through it. I hesitate to give this advice in the general world of fanfiction, but, trust your reader a bit more.

    Just show us several more giving him their attention.

    As well as the fact that this doesn't lead to anything, the two sentences don't really work together. If you changed need to time, it would at least make sense.

    If you ignore the final beats, overall I mostly liked it as I read through it.

    I enjoyed the way you structured it, the distinct flavour of each component and the theatre-like headings convinced me that there was a good plan in place, that this would go places and be quite even, and mostly helped your pacing. Ultimately, with the brief finale, I think you wasted a huge amount of words with that first scene, but at the time I mostly enjoyed reading through the international meeting which is something I can rarely say for Wizengamot scenes or their equivalent.

    Plot & Pacing - 2/5
    I think Dicra put it very well with his review. I've covered it pretty comprehensively above. There was good overall structuring and the impression of a well plotted series of events. It was the choices you took on a higher level that made this unsatisfying, fighting your own moment to moment events and robbing the story of a satisfying climax, with an ending that felt super rushed.

    Characters - 2/5
    Harry had interesting position and some reasonable agency. We got a good hint of backstory and personality from his interaction with the thestrals but the further the story progresses the more bland he becomes and the other characters never get much decent treatment at all.

    Prompt use - 4/5
    The vampires were well utilised. The scene with the vampire fighting for it's own self-control but society in general wishing to improve was actually really improving. I'm quite a fan of that relapsing-remitting addiction cycle, and a society wide reflection of that and an attempt to improve their lot by systemically using their powers of domination to improve their ability to integrate into society was enjoyable for me.

    Other - 3/5

    Overall this was a decent entry and good effort, but the results didn't live up to the promise.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  11. H_A_Greene

    H_A_Greene Unspeakable –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2009
    Messages:
    715
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    4,492
    So yeah, this one's mine. Spoiler tagging it since we aren't technically over.

    I'd just like to take a moment to thank everyone that read and reviewed this. It has offered me a lot of incredible food for thought, and I'll address finer points tomorrow once I've slept more or the day after. I just want to say a couple of things in my usual defensive way and explain why this is what I ended up submitting.

    First and foremost, this story was never what I set out to write when the prompt was announced.

    My bad habits of procrastination once more hampered any attempts to present a quality product in the time allotted, such that one week before the deadline, I was still hung up with how I would introduce the story or even what the end-game would amount to. I had a rough outline that never formed.

    That's shit-luck on me and I should have known better but here we are yet again, and what matters is that I wrote this frankenstein of concepts in the last four days available; little bits and pieces from one direction appeared here, others there, such as Fleur's inclusion because of course she would represent France just as Harry would represent England, so that I could at one point rekindle a relationship(she and Harry grabbed the Triwizard Cup, not Cedric) and have them come together by the end of the story; Dumbledore choosing to accept the Minister for Magic position leading up to confronting Grindelwald; the vampires being constrained by an international treaty to stay out of muggle and wizarding wars; the vampires being far more animalistic rather than as depicted in canon, and there were probably more that I'm forgetting off the top of my head.

    If I could have drawn together my original plot(Harry/Fleur and handful of other nation's finest reach vampire land, the younger generation turned during the war want out at any cost while the older generation try to keep them under control, oh no an ambassador was murdered, could it be a fellow wizard trying to sabotage the vampires or was it actually a vampire who killed them, Auror!Potter will investigate, Harry and Fleur get together, happy end for most yay), this would have been a hell of lot different, but it's far too late to lament that.

    As for what I did end up writing, simply put, I ran out of time to write the ending that I was building toward. The point at which I realized I was going to have to cut even further corners than I already had was about 8 o'clock at night on the 22nd, at which point the Vampire had calmed enough to speak with Harry. I opted to skip the first meeting with Dragomir in order to launch the 'rescue Shang' direction a scene sooner, and in doing so I gave up on Shang's demise(which would have been the intent behind his going, he was always going to sabotage the matter and die, with his grandchildren surviving to argue for him about how dangerous vampires are and blah blah you get the point).

    By the time I had Harry meet with Shang, it was nearly 11 o'clock and I still had a handful of scenes remaining- Harry's confrontation with Mircea, which I finally abandoned with twenty minutes remaining to midnight; the aftermath with Dragomir and the other vampire lords, to explain their side of the treaty and the impact it had on them and so on and so forth, which, once I realized I would not be able to write, I went back and edited in Dragomir taking over and speaking through his servant for something; and the payoff for the earlier ICW discussions with Harry managing to argue for the vampire's freedom, which, as we saw, was no payoff at all. There was no time left to build the ending. I submitted just before midnight, and I was not happy with what I sent it, and I still am not happy with it.

    At this point, I want to do this particular entry over again and do it right down the road, and then at some other point further on write the original plot as its own separate thing.

    So, as usual, that's what happened. I'd like to say we won't see this happen again, but this has been my track record for each submission so far. I apologize for the cardboard cutout characters(to which I figured it was better to give them some flavoring than absolutely nothing, as in the case of the non-voting Ambassadors), and for the unfulfilled promise that Halt has brought up before with regards to a story(that there be an ending that means something).
     
  12. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2009
    Messages:
    8,379
    Location:
    The South
    Ooh, "Ambassador Potter." That's a new one for me. Interesting.

    Question though... Why do they feel the need to figure out why the Vampires aren't serving Voldemort? Why aren't they just... happy about it? I'd think that "Why" would be more pertinent to Voldemort, so he could fix it and get them in his corner. But I guess it's to do with this treaty they're talking about, it just seemed strange at a glance.

    I think I want a hair more information, honestly. Harry is acting like he's older than 17, and he's an ambassador, which means Voldemort didn't die at the same time as in canon if they're concerned about vampires joining him (or not) but apparently the world hasn't gone to hell either if everyone is worrying over treaties?

    Also, I admit I started skimming. Without knowing what the treaty is, and what the stakes are, and much of anything about what's going on or what the plot is... I find it difficult to care about this vote or Harry's thoughts on it. It set the wrong tone for me personally regarding the story.

    “As I have said, child, what you cannot see may still hurt you,” Shang repeated as the nearest thestral turned its head to stare at them.

    I liked that bit. Something about the repetition and the question that asked was a neat bit of dialogue.

    Also I do like that you're including the Carpathian Mountains, Transylvania, etc. in terms of locations.

    The vampire is interesting, with his warning Harry and calling him "WIZARD" and whatnot. Interesting take on things, in a good way.

    I liked the ending, with the resolution regarding the treaty but especially this part:

    “Is that so, Ambassador Potter? You would personally take the responsibility for each and every life endangered by your suggestion?”

    “Yes,” Harry said. Drominov only smiled.

    “You are a fool then, Harry Potter.”

    “I must disagree, Ambassador Drominov,” Ao Shang said. Drominov’s expression immediately soured. “After joining Ambassador Potter at his request, I have found that the vampire clans are not the mindless beasts that we have long believed them to be. They are not greatly dissimilar to werewolves, of which have had freedom despite their own monthly threats, for many years.”

    It feels like it meant something... similar to how in canon centuars, werewolves, and house elves 'meant' something with their species and how their place in the world was seen. Vampires weren't really considered as much in canon.

    But that said, I had trouble getting into this one. I'm not sure why but I suspect it was the pacing. Concepts and plot and the OC (Ao Shang) were decent enough, but nothing grabbed me. But nothing was horribly wrong either, so... I guess I'd suggest editing with what you got here, posting in WbA, and polishing? Could definitely be a solid story with a bit of work.
     
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