Fandoms: Harry Potter. Wizard of Earthsea.
Characters: Harry Potter. Sparrowhawk (Ged) of Earthsea. Also features: Draco Malfoy, Dudley Dursley, and (in a minor role) Chang from 'Tintin in Tibet'.
Summary: Two wizards talk. Two young men love.
Feedback: Yes, please, I would love feedback! Anything, even if it's only one line, one word!
Rating: 18, for some sex
Length: c. 5,000 words.
Disclaimers: This is a work of amateur fiction. I am not making money. I did not invent these characters.
Thanks to: Calico, Lazlet, Natasha and Gloria for just wonderful beta and alpha.
For Birdgerhl who doesn't read HP but who encouraged me to write and to finish, way back when. ;-)
It was one of those bright early autumn days, with the air like crystals and the light bouncing off the snow drifts on Mount Chomolangma. The old man stepped out of his stone hut and squinted into the sun. His breath rose in fumaroles against the blunt blue sky.
There were two people wending their way up the path this morning. The old sage shielded his eyes with his right hand and watched them round the bends. He had known they were coming, just as he had known that one of them would drop behind, would stay squatting on top of the big boulder at the hairpin bend.
In the village, a temple bell sounded. Smoke patterned the sky.
The old man stood, inhaling the welkin scent. They called him the sage-of-the-mountains down in the village. This was not his real name. He was neither a sage nor of the mountains. But he let them call him as they liked. He let them make their way up the steep path, bearing offerings and libations, and he allowed them to shuffle across his threshold, their palms pressed together, mumbling thanks and requests. In the summer, there could be veritable streams of visitors, some of them from far away. He didn't mind them; he was from far away himself. But also he didn't mind when the days dropped below freezing and the travellers to a trickle.
Only one of the two visitors continued on his way. Small pebbles fled before his boots and made tinkling sounds far down into the valley.
Next to her small trough, the shaggy she-goat bleated. He bent to scratch her behind the ears, and she looked at him out of her other-worldly eyes. She had been given him only a week ago, one of the many gifts bequeathed by the villagers and other arrivals, intent on making him into something more than just another part of their daily lives. The sage didn't mind this, either. He was used to accepting offerings, freely given.
Inside the hut, the air smelled of wood smoke, lichen and dry cold stone. Outside, the world was a brilliant shimmer of rocks and sky, scree and mountain.
The visitor, when he finally arrived, at the tail end of the morning, did not immediately approach the hut. He crouched down on the hard, harsh earth some feet off. He rummaged in his pockets and drew forth a brown, triangular paper bag. The sage knew those bags. They sold them down in the village. They held sunflower seeds. The paper crackled, and the visitor popped a handful of seeds into his mouth. Then he sat, chewing, looking across the ranges.
He was not from around here, the sage could see that straight away. He had round green eyes, behind wire-framed spectacles. He wore a foreigner's clothes, thick boots, blue denim leg wear. He had the Kargish white skin of those whom some of the villagers called 'injiy-kay' and others 'angrezi'.
When the visitor turned round and bowed to the sage and took off his woollen beanie, he revealed a forehead disfigured by a pale, jagged weal. The sage involuntarily touched his hand to his own cheek.
"Tah-shi de-leh," the young visitor said, with a careful accent. His hair grew in ragged short tufts across his scalp.
The sage nodded from his threshold.
The visitor came closer, crouched down again. He looked at the sage, the sage looked at him.
"Do you speak English?" the visitor finally asked.
The sage smiled. "It is not my mother tongue but I have learned to speak it well enough, over the years."
"That's good," said the visitor. "Because my Tibetan is really limited. And you're not from here yourself, are you?"
"Oh, no," the sage said, and smiled.
The visitor dug his hand into his bag and absently fed more seeds into his mouth, like coins. Suddenly he stopped. "I'm sorry," he said and extended the bag. "Would you like some sunflower seeds?"
"Thank you. I would, very much."
The sage loved sunflower seeds. He held out his cupped palm, and the visitor poured out a handful for him.
They sat, chewing companionably. The smell of yak dung floated on the breeze. A hawk wheeled across the zenith. The air crackled in their nostrils.
"Cool view," offered the visitor after a while. "Tallest mountain in the world, that's not a bad sight to wake up to."
The sage nodded and cracked a seed with his canines.
"I didn't come to bring offerings," said the visitor. "And I didn't come to ask for wisdom, either. I really just came for one last hello."
The visitor's eyes looked older than his age. They reminded the sage of his own eyes, at that age. He swallowed with care and brushed a seed husk from the corner of his mouth.
"Nasty scar you've got there," said the visitor.
"Yes," said the sage and fingered his cheek. People did not often ask after the scar. Perhaps they were frightened of it. This visitor did not seem frightened. "Old and long-ago. But very nasty, yes. And so is yours, I might add."
"Yeah," said the visitor and remained thoughtful for a few seconds. "It's old, as well. I lost it once, and then I got it back. And now it's with me to stay, I guess."
"It has lost its evil," and this was not a question, but an observation. The sage paused. "The hand of death, perhaps."
The visitor threw him a quick glance, then laughed lightly. "Yes, death. Not its hand, though: its mouth. Death tried to eat me but instead, I ate it, and then I spat it out again. Hey, you're not bad at this." He shrugged, twisted on his haunches, spilled a seed as he caught a glimpse of the inside of the sage's hut. "Is that," he said, "your...?"
"You have a quick eye," smiled the sage. "Yes, it is my staff."
"That's what you call it around here, is it?" The visitor looked almost wistful for a moment but then shook his head and smiled a strange smile. "You're not surprised, then?"
"It is unusual for a mage to lose his powers," said the sage, "but not unheard-of." He cupped his palm to his lips, tipped back his head and let the sunflower seeds slide into his mouth. "At any rate, there are, after all, far greater powers than the humble craft we practise."
"Yeah, right," said the visitor. His eyes were still on the staff.
"Your friend," said the sage and indicated the distant boulder with his chin. "He does not want to come up?"
"Oh, no," said the visitor and laughed. "He wouldn't come. He doesn't believe in this stuff at all, mumbo-jumbo magic, he calls it. He doesn't like the old ways. He thinks I'm insane, looking for healing or spiritual guidance or some other sort of mystical rubbish. He thinks that because I'm a weird Englishman I've been tricked into this exotic wise-man-on-the-mountain stuff. He is very modern. He says, 'When I have a headache, I take an aspirin from America.' That's what he says." The visitor laughed again and looked down towards the boulder.
Another bell sounded its solemn note. The sun cast shadows behind every single pebble on the slopes.
"I knew, though," said the visitor. "As soon as I heard about the wise-man-on-the-mountain, I knew."
"So you had to come and see for yourself?"
"Yeah. For the last time." The visitor looked down at his paper bag. He slowly emptied the remaining crumbs into his palm. "One last time. Far away from anyone who might recognise me. I can handle that. Do you use it much, still?" The visitor nodded towards the staff.
"No, not much."
"I didn't, either, towards the end. I didn't need to. Only I didn't know it was the end."
"Sometimes," the sage said, "it can end up using you, not you using it."
"Yeah, well," said the visitor and shot him another quick glance. Then he crumpled up his paper bag and stuffed it into his denim trouser pocket. "I do have something for you. Not an offering, exactly." He dug deep into another pocket and drew forth a small object. He held it out to the sage.
It was a lumpen piece of charred wood, about the size of a playing die.
"That's all that's left," said the visitor.
The sage looked at the misshaped knot, the one thing saved from the mouth of darkness. "And you would like me to keep this for you?"
"Yes. No, I mean no. Don't keep it. Do with it... whatever. Destroy it, if you can. I want to leave it behind me. It's time to leave all of it behind me now."
The sage lifted his head and gazed into the azure wastes. A white cloud, shaped like a long loaf, clung to the summit of Chomolangma. The hawk wheeled still but then the sage murmured a word, and down he came. With a grand whipping of wing, the bird landed on the cold ground. Its talons disturbed a rain of gravel.
The visitor did not flinch. "Is it yours?" he asked. "Does it deliver your mail?"
"Mine? Oh, no." The sage laughed. "This is a wild bird. A free bird."
The visitor nodded. He turned his palm upside down and shook it. One last seed fell off. The hawk pecked it up immediately, then shifted feet and stabbed its beak into the polished air.
The sage leaned towards the bird and muttered another word, and the hawk spread its majestic wings and leaped up into the wind.
Both the old man and the young followed its flight with their eyes.
"That's pretty good," said the visitor. He stretched his arms out, making his vertebrae crack. "I'm like that. I like to keep moving. I've been all over. I'm going to China next, Guangzhou. Taking the bus from Gyantse, and then maybe onwards by truck."
"Really?" the sage said politely. He recognised a wanderer's longings. He himself had wandered far, too far perhaps, and now all he wanted was to stay rooted to a home.
"Flying," the visitor said. He dug a tiny pebble from its earthen bed, looked at it, then threw it in a long arc down the hill. It bounced and danced along the incline. "It's the one thing I miss. Maybe the only thing." He craned his head backwards, tipping his eyes towards the hawk, still circling up above. "And then their kind of flying is not real flying, is it? It's just sitting." He beat his palms together, clapping the dust of the pebble onto the ground. "I never take planes. I go the long way."
"Flying," said the sage, "can be a trap. Your friend: is he also travelling to China?"
"Him? Oh, no. He works in Lhasa. He's got to get back. I like to go alone. But listen. I don't want to drag this around with me any longer." He pointed at the piece of burnt wood, still cradled in the sage's hand. "It's the only thing, the last thing. I think maybe it could be tracked. I could be tracked. And I want to be completely..." He paused for a moment. His eyes skitted over the serrated horizon. "... free," he concluded.
The sage lifted the lump of wood and briefly touched his tongue to it. "It was great once, this staff," he said.
"You can tell that from its taste?"
The sage laughed. He carefully placed the piece on the ground. It cast no shadow. "It's just something I do. To test a thing it is often a good idea to taste it."
The visitor looked sharply at the sage. "You're good at that whole wise-man-on-the-mountain shit," he said, "you really are. If I were still in the business, I might well think about taking it up myself!" He stretched again and stood up. "Could I take a look inside your house?" he said, casually, as if he'd just thought of it.
"Please," said the sage.
The visitor stood in the doorway, a hand on either flank of the frame. He didn't step across the threshold but leaned just slightly into the interior gloom. The smoke from the hearth curled around his ankles.
"What is that?" said the visitor. "Is that a pensieve?"
"Ah, that," replied the sage. "I call it a look-far. In memory of something I hold dear. It is a bowl in which to see the present."
"You mean the future?"
"No, the present. It is quite handy for me here, up in my eyrie. I knew you were coming, for example, long before I could see you. I can see the beginning of the path, down in the village square."
"The present?" the visitor said, with his back turned inscrutably towards the mountainscape. "The present, anywhere in the world?"
"Anywhere in this world," said the sage.
Behind the hut, the silly goat bleated. Winter breathed on the air.
"Would you mind...?" said the visitor, shoulders invisible under his padded coat. "Could I have a use of it? Just one last time?" He turned around and laughed a high-pitched laugh.
The sage placed his hands upon his own knotted knees and pushed his legs into an upright position. "Of course."
"I'm not sure..."
"Don't worry, you should need no special powers for it. I can guide you in its ways. It is not very difficult. Here, let me carry it nearer the light."
The visitor stepped aside and let the sage pass, let him step up to the low stool upon which rested the shallow earthenware basin, brimful of water.
"Are you quite certain you wish to see what the look-far will show you?"
"One last time," repeated the visitor. He took his spectacles off, they had become misted from the fumes and warmth of the hut. He wiped them along his denim-clothed bottom and replaced them carefully on his nose.
"Very well," said the sage. "Now what you must do is you must look into the bowl, and you must think of the place, or the person, you wish to see in the present moment."
"The place? Or the person?"
"It would help if you told me which."
"Person," said the visitor. "Person."
"Good. Go ahead. One thought is enough, and one brief glance. At first, you will see only fog but after a few moments, the image will be clear."
The visitor bent over the clay lip of the basin. The water rippled beneath his breath. Bits of sun flashed off the edges.
The goat bleated again.
Another temple bell struck in the valley. A far-away dog barked furiously for a few seconds, then ceased.
"On second thoughts," said the visitor and stepped back and turned abruptly. "I won't look. It is best to leave it all behind, once and for all. I'll never look again."
A gust rolled grit along the packed earth in front of the hut.
"Right, then," said the visitor. "It's my last week here, before I leave for Gyantse; I don't want to make him wait too long." He gestured towards the path with his head. "It's been nice talking to you. Very nice. But now I must move on." He executed a strange half-salute with his hand, then scrambled in his pockets and withdrew a pair of mittens. "And thank you for taking care of that last little piece of my past." He nodded once, and then he was off, down the mountain.
He scampered down in a half-jog, cascading grit and pebbles before him. He pulled on his mittens as he went and clamped the beanie back on his head.
The sage stood lost in thought for a moment. Then he picked up the black, dry bit of stick that his visitor had left behind, carried it inside between thumb and middle finger and dropped it into the fire. A sulphurous green flame shot up, a sickly acid snake. The sage winced for one moment. He knew that green, he recognised that acrid smell.
Then it was over, and only the world's fire crackled on the hearth, and the kettle was nearly boiled dry. The sage wrapped his hand in a rag and lifted the pot out. Only ashes scattered, and sooty flakes of twig.
As the sage turned, his eye caught the basin and he noticed that the vision was there, vibrating softly in the thin noon-day sun that lapped at the bowl's edges.
The sage paused for a fraction, then he gave in to curiosity and bent over the bowl. He peered deep into the water's lens.
The initial fog had already cleared, and what could be seen was an interior. There was a bench in a room, a kind of worktop, along which stood arrayed a number of instruments. The sage was not sure what these were; they reminded him of the apparatus he had once seen, not in the village, but further afield, in the town of Nyalam, at an apothecary's shop. The tall glass beakers were similar, as were the flat ceramic bowls and the basins on tripods, some of these connected to each other by hoses and tubes.
A man entered the room, a thick-naped stocky man with blond curls and a short-cropped beard. He was youngish, the same age as the visitor on the mountain, as far as the sage could make out in the dim tides of the bowl, and there was something familiar about the cast of his jowls, something that reminded the sage of his green-eyed visitor. The man looked at a sheaf of papers, placed it on the worktop and took out a small device. The sage recognised this as a mechanical abacus, of the kind used by the village shopkeepers. The stocky man played the device with his fingers. When he looked up, the sage could see that he had a misshapen nose, punched out of kilter once upon a time.
Another young man came into view. This one had a sharp, pointed face, thin shoulders and an armful of cartons and boxes. He spoke, but look-far was a silent window; the sage could only see, not hear the present elsewhere. The stocky one did not greet the thin one; he continued to run his fingers over the abacus; he held up his other hand in a gesture of silence, without turning around. The thin one spoke again. He dumped the cartons on the workbench and took out a corked glass phial from one of the boxes. He lifted it up to eye-level, peered into its liquid innards, flicked its side with the back of one fingernail. He spoke again and gesticulated.
The stocky one looked annoyed and replied in what appeared to be a shout. He threw his abacus down on the table and held up his fingers, four of each hand. Without reacting, the thin one started patting his own person; it was not clear to the sage, why. The thin one pulled a short, blunt staff from one of his pockets; the stocky one took it from him and deposited it on top of his sheaf of papers. Then the thin one extracted something else from another pocket, a slim metallic object, a far-phone. He pressed it to his ear and began to speak again.
While the thin one was talking to his device, the stocky one took the phial from the thin one's other hand and held it up to his own eyes. A strange smile played over his face. Then he pulled out the stopper and poured some of the contents of the phial into his hand. He fitted the phial into a wooden stand and rubbed his palms together rapidly.
Then the stocky one did something unexpected.
The thin one was still talking, and while he was talking, the stocky one moved to stand behind him and wrapped both his hands around the thin one's waist. The hands rucked up the shirt, rubbed the thin one's stomach, and then the hands disappeared without ado down the front of the thin one's breeches. Whereupon the thin one arched his back and, still speaking into his device, reached out behind and grabbed the stocky one's buttocks.
The sage drew back. He raised his eyebrows, kettle dangling from one rag-wrapped hand, and then he smiled because now he was remembering. He was remembering what he himself used to do, a long, long time ago, what he used to do with his boyhood friend Vetch, long before the waking of the evil, in their first young years upon the knoll.
He couldn't help but turn back to the basin, and, veiled in ripples, there were the two young men, moving with each other in a slow rhythm. The one in front, the thin one, was still clutching his metallic device; it was no longer held to his ear but pressed flat against the table top where the thin one's arms were both braced. The one behind was biting the side of the thin one's neck, and papers drifted everywhere. Then the one in front groped along the countertop, found his staff and closed his fingers around it. At the same instant, both the men's clothes disappeared, just like that, and the sage drew in a breath.
There were their erections, the thin one's bucking up against the edge of the table, dark against his pale stomach; the stocky one's big and bulging, but visible only for a moment before it was buried in another spot.
Now this was something the sage had never done, he had never gone this far, and he stood, as if spellbound.
The thin one's head fell back, his Adam's apple sharp as his features, his nipples like pricks of rain on the smooth surface of his chest. He let the far-phone be and closed his fingers round his hardness. He surged against the table, the stocky one surged with him, they were lost to this rhythm of their own devising. The one behind had his mouth on the thin one's neck, and the one in front lifted his spare hand and dug it into the other's curls. A glint of light shone on a metal band around the thin one's thumb.
By this time, the sage had himself in hand.
There was a shifting of positions. The thin one let go of his friend's head and slid his free arm down onto the bench top, pressed his forehead into his forearm and his behind high up against the other's groin. The thin one's buttocks worked against belly and thigh, pale and quick, in circular movements. Large round-knuckled hands gripped his hips. There were closed lids, an open mouth, a spine curved like a taut rope bridge.
The waters clouded with the sage's seed. Creamy droplets fell into the vision, meddled with it, wiped it clean.
The sage took a deep breath. His knees had given a little.
The water in the kettle was still warm enough for a quick wash.
"Wait." He hobbled to the door on unsteady feet.
But his visitor was long gone. He was a speck on the distant path, next to a companion speck, both quite close together and quite far away.
The sage would have liked to know which one of the two young men in the bowl his visitor had wished to see. Or if he had perhaps hoped to spy on both of them together. Hoped, or feared.
But many things are hidden, and some deep in the souls of men. The sage smiled, and then laughed, and then followed the progress of the specks down the mountain with a thoughtful heart.
There he stood, on the threshold between
worlds, until the shaggy she-goat butted him in the shin and demanded
~ The end ~
16 November / 3 December 2005 - 24 May 2006
All original parts of this story: © Lobelia
Author's note: This is how my HP opus, long in the making, may end. But then again, it may not. :-)
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