Chapter One: In the Beginning…
Nemo Nightwish Naga grunted as his body flew through the air and landed with a heavy thud on the ground fifty feet away from where he’d started, his sword trailing after, albeit decidedly more gracefully.
“Again, Nemo,” came the command in Parseltongue.
Nemo pushed himself up off the ground and recovered his sword, gathering his strength for a headlong dash at his opponent, a tall, pale man with pale blue, snake-like eyes. He hefted the sword in his right hand and threw himself forward at the man with a cry. He was neatly disarmed and sent flying again by his opponent’s sword, straight up this time. His sword came back to earth first, stuck point downwards in the moist dirt, quivering slightly. Nemo followed roughly five seconds later, landing a few feet away from the sword in an unorganized heap. He gave another grunt as he attempted to organize himself. He froze when he felt the tip of his opponent’s sword on his neck.
“If you intend to learn the ways of the Battle, then you must learn to fight on, through earth, wind, fire, water, sunrise, moonrise, rain, snow, sleet, hail, and—most importantly—exhaustion. Also, you must learn—” then his opponent stopped as he felt the tip of a sword at his own throat. A rather earthy sword tip.
“To surprise my enemy, perhaps, Master?” Nemo responded. The fingers of his left hand were splayed and seemed to be controlling the sword. Which it wasn’t. It was his right hand, which was quietly hidden beneath his torso, fingers splayed, that was controlling the sword.
His opponent looked at him pityingly, then he removed his sword from Nemo’s neck and used the flat to push Nemo’s left hand away. He was greatly surprised when the sword did not follow. Nemo smiled at him angelically, then inched his right hand, still hidden beneath his torso, forward very slightly. The pressure of Nemo’s sword on his opponent’s neck increased correspondingly. His opponent caught on and rolled Nemo over, exposing Nemo’s right hand, but also hiding his left. Nemo stood up, using his right hand to control the sword and to drive his opponent back away from him. His left hand remained hidden behind his back. It held the handle of his chain whip.
Nemo’s opponent, however, was in no mood to let some upstart defeat him. Even if he was the half-breed son of a very famous BattleLord. He held the sword off and waited for a chance to slice the air behind the hilt. When it came, the sword dropped only slightly before regaining its momentum. He blinked once, realizing that Nemo had cut the strings of magic that were controlling the blade only to reestablish them a fraction of a second later. He switched his blade to his right—and dominant—hand, and began to pummel Nemo with kunai and shuriken, hoping to throw him off or to break his concentration.
His hopes were not ill-founded, but the many kunai and shuriken didn’t faze Nemo. He didn’t release his grip on his chain whip, however, and continued to push towards his opponent, trying to bring him into optimum chain whip range, pausing only to dodge the throwing stars and knives which came too close to him for his comfort. He’d already made the mistake of abandoning his plan once.
Once within range, he allowed his opponent to slice the air behind his blade again, forcibly cutting the magic strings that allowed him to control it. At the same moment as his blade dropped, his opponent rushed him, and Nemo unhooked his chain whip, sending it snaking towards his opponent.
Unfortunately, his opponent still had his blade. He swatted the chain whip aside and once again sent Nemo flying. But by this time, Nemo had reestablished the magic strings which connected his sword to his right hand, and also managed to establish some to some of the kunai which his opponent had thrown. He twitched his hand very slightly, and his sword and more than a few of the kunai leapt up from the ground and rocketed towards his opponent. In the fraction of a second that followed, his opponent leaped straight up into the air, threw several more shuriken at Nemo, and used magic strings of his own to reuse some of the ones that he’d already thrown. A single breath before they struck, Nemo cried the traditional surrender, “I yield!”
The various weapons dropped in mid-flight, and Nemo was caught in a breath of wind which bore him safely to the ground, though not on his feet, and not particularly gently either.
“Well fought, Nemo. Well fought. Had I been a lesser opponent, I probably would have fallen to either of your last attacks. But tell me: were either of those improvised?” his opponent asked, kindly giving Nemo back his blade.
“No, Master Kwan, they weren’t. I had them all planned out from the moment I flew through the air for the fifth time today,” Nemo answered respectfully.
Master Kwan—his opponent—arched an eyebrow. “All of them?” he asked his student, mildly surprised at his choice of words.
“Yes. I rushed you like that on purpose. I figured that you would throw me again no matter what style of attack I used, so I decided to turn that to my advantage. It all went according to my plan from there. Well…except for the kunai.”
“I am pleased to know that I can still surprise you, with the number of times that we have fought each other. Return to your quarters, Nemo, and practice shall resume tomorrow at the same time,” Master Kwan half-smiled at him and turned to his next victim...er, student.
Nemo bowed to his master and did as instructed. He couldn’t really say how he felt about today overall: he felt disappointed that Master Kwan still did not think him ready to challenge one of the BattlePrinces for a title, miffed that the only compliment that he had received for today’s sparring session had been one on his overall strategy, pleased that Master Kwan had paid him a compliment at all, and stunned that Master Kwan had shown such great emotion at the end of the session.
Upon reaching his rather spare quarters, Nemo found that a lunch had been prepared for him, probably on his mother’s orders. His mother was the Crown Princess Nagini, his father the only known Parselmouth in Great Britain alive today: Lord Voldemort. Of course, he’d mysteriously disappeared ten years ago, and no one really knew where he was now. Nagini was currently out in foreign lands, looking for him, and trying to rally the snakes of those lands to their cause. She had not succeeded on either count. Nemo finished his lunch, and allowed his concentration to ease. His supposedly human legs immediately began to melt together and lengthen, and snake scales began to form over them, to the point that the lower half of his body was that of a snake; his teeth had also become decidedly more snakelike. His now-snakelike tongue flicked out, just once, tasting the air. Nemo breathed a sigh of relief. All snakes had the ability to at least appear human. It was just about the only magic that most of them had. Nemo was by and large the exception to this rule, but then, he was a Naga: half-snake, half-human. In his case, half-wizard as well, because his mother had told him that his father had been one. What that meant was beyond Nemo. His mother never really talked about it, and he didn’t really want to press her. She had a rather famous temper. All Nemo really knew was that his father’s blood had a lot of magic to it, and that magic allowed him to do things that it took most Spellcrafters years to perfect. The “magic strings” he’d been using in the past few weeks’ sessions with Master Kwan, for example. And the ability to take and maintain an actual human shape (instead of a mere seeming) for a very long period of time. It didn’t really have that much impact on his life so far…he hadn’t blown anything up, or made it hail indoors, or…well, anything of that nature. Yet.
Nemo settled his weight on a large coil, and was about to sneak out of his quarters to go sun for an hour or two, but he was distracted by the arrival of a large barn owl. “How did you get in here?” he rasped to himself in Parseltongue, fully aware that the owl couldn’t understand him. The owl hooted once, and extended its leg, which, for some reason had a letter tied to it. Actually, it was two letters, one inside the other.
The outer letter bore the Empress Regina’s seal. Nemo swallowed reflexively, his lower jaw dislocating slightly from nervousness. It popped back into place with a slight shake of his head. His fingers trembled as he picked up the letter and read through it.
Nemo Nightwish Naga, son of Crown Princess Nagini and Honored BattleLord Voldemort, Parselmouth, Royal Guardian of the Twin Thrones of Britain, High Honored Spellcrafter, Wizard, etc.:
The enclosed envelope came to Our residence last week, via this same owl, which appeared to be bound and determined to reach you. When it was finally caught, the envelope was removed, and it was given to the Royal Spellcrafter, who determined that the owl had been sent to you by Hogwarts Schools of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the Human “Ministry of Magic” and had been instructed to deliver its letter at all costs. The matter was then brought to Us, and, after reading part of the letter enclosed within the envelope, We decided that the matter was important enough to be allowed to reach you. However, We also decided to enclose a letter explaining the situation to you, in the hopes of relieving your confusion.
You may read through the letter, and should you decide to accept the offer contained within, you may inform us of such at the private audience which has been scheduled for Moonrise Tomorrow. There will be other matters to be discussed at this audience, so your absence at Training will not be noticed.
Empress Regina, Thirtieth in the line of Ragnarok, Queen of the Twin Thrones.
Nemo heaved a sigh of relief. At least he wasn’t being kicked out of Training. But there was still that audience to worry about. A thought occurred to him, and he read through the letter again. No, it really was from the Empress: the ink was the Royal blood-red, and no one who didn’t have a death wish would dare to even think about forging her signature, much less her seal. He read through the letter once again, then he picked up the second envelope. This one was thick and heavy, made of a yellowish parchment quite unlike the type the snakes preferred, which was pressed from papyrus (which they were able to cultivate quite well…under the correct magically enhanced conditions and as long as there was a Spellcrafter in attendance) bore a very odd seal: a lion, a snake, a badger, and an eagle all surrounding the letter H. His brow furrowed, and he turned it over. The back of it was addressed to him, but in a manner he’d never before heard of, let alone seen:
Mr. N. Naga
The Dormitory of the Training Grounds
Twin Throne Training School
Underground Snake Kingdom
Lacking any other ideas, Nemo opened the envelope and read through the letter:
of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,
Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)
Dear Mr. Naga,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.
Nemo stared uncomprehendingly at the letter for a moment. They were…very forward, in his opinion. And they seemed to be quite certain of his answer. After thinking about it for a moment, Nemo pulled out a piece of papyrus, and began to draft his answer, using the royal blue ink that was the only kind allowed to students:
Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall:
I am pleased to inform you that I will be attending your school starting September 1 of this year.
With all due respect, I can think of naught else to say.
Nai i eleni sílante ambo i lúme omentielvo.
May it be that the stars shine upon the time of our meeting.
ristina;">Nemo Nightwish Naga
Nemo Nightwish Naga
Nemo waited a few moments to allow the ink to dry, then he folded the papyrus, sealed it with a simple glob of wax (since students weren’t allowed to craft their own seal until they left Training and had gone into their chosen field of study), and gave it to the owl. The owl delicately accepted the letter in its beak, then it flew out the perpetually open window without a sound, leaving only a few loose feathers behind. These Nemo collected, and stuffed inside his pillow in a vain attempt to make it fluffier. Shortly after the owl flew off, a message came for him, telling him that he was excused from classes for the rest of today and tomorrow, with the exception of Master Kwan, who apparently expected an extra-long session, since he didn’t have any other classes that day. He was also to send the homework for those classes which he had not attended yet today back with the messenger. Nemo complied.
The next day pretty much flew by. Nemo spent most of it preparing for Master Kwan’s class, which passed without much incident. After that class, he found that lunch had been prepared for him again, and that there was another messenger, this one from the Empress. She didn’t say much this time, just told him to come in his natural shape, and that no answer was required for this message. An hour before moonrise found him in the halls leading to the Empress’s quarters. He was in his natural form, wearing the only standard-issue shirt he owned that was suitable for an audience with the Empress. A few minutes before moonrise found him before the Guards of the Empress’s Chambers, waiting for her call, which came the moment the first sliver of the moon cleared the horizon. Nemo slid gracefully into her Chambers, observing every aspect of Court decorum: head bowed respectfully, the full length of his body inside the room, and, since he had hands in his natural shape, hands clasped in front of him.
The single glance he dared to sneak at the Empress told him that she was also in her natural shape, which was that of a rather large Basilisk. She looked at him briefly, then she turned her gaze to the guards, and ordered them to leave. They were taken aback, but they dared not question their Empress, and bowing respectfully, they left.
The Empress would have raised an eyebrow at the fact that they had left the doors very slightly ajar if she had them. As it was, she merely hissed something in Parseltongue, causing the doors to swing completely shut with a resounding thud. Another few hisses, and the room was proofed against sound. Then the Empress turned back to Nemo. “You may dispense with the Courtly decorum, grandson,” she said. “This is part of the reason that I insisted on a private audience.”
Nemo relaxed his posture and met the Empress’s gaze. Most snakes were immune to the “death-stare” of the Basilisk, and having Basilisk blood didn’t hurt either. “Empress—grandmother,” Nemo corrected himself. “I’ve accepted the offer to attend Hogwarts.”
“Yes, I thought you would. Obviously, they also thought so. If they hadn’t, I do sincerely hope that they wouldn’t have worded it such. So, that matter’s out of the way. Onwards to the next. Have you read through the second parchment they sent you?”
“I…glanced at it.”
“Hmm. Well, when you do, you’ll notice that the items they wish for you to buy cannot be found in any Leucan store. In fact, they can’t be found anywhere save for in one place. Which I don’t know how to get to, but fortunately, your mother does.”
“Isn’t she somewhere in…damn, what was it, Albania?”
“While we are not being particularly formal, Nemo, I would still appreciate it if you didn’t use such language in front of me.”
Nemo was immediately contrite. “Sorry, Your Majesty,” he said.
“‘Your Majesty’ makes me feel old. I’m not old yet, I’m only a couple millennia old, and I’ve got lots more to go before I’ll start thinking about dying!” The Empress snapped, more at herself than Nemo.
Nemo crinkled the corners of his eyes, the Leucan equivalent of laughing out loud. “Yes, Grandmother.”
“Hmmph. Moving on, your mother’s coming back—however briefly—and she’ll be going with you to aid you in the purchase of the necessary items. She’ll also guide you to where you will be taken to Hogwarts. Apparently, they’re being nice and providing transportation. Also, while you’re there, try not to get into Slytherin House. Just remember that, ‘Not Slytherin’. It’ll make sense when you get there. You’ll also be sending me monthly reports, and for that purpose, you’ll be allowed the use of your father’s seal. That way, I’ll know it’s you. Any questions?”
“None that I can think of, Grandmother.”
“Good. Now go back to your quarters, keep training, and don’t worry about your mother. She’ll be here in another two weeks.”
The Empress nodded at him, hissed the words that lifted both the silencing spell and the spell that held the doors, while Nemo hurriedly reassumed courtly position, trying to fake like he’d never left it. The guards glared at him as they came in, but he did not react, and the Empress did nothing that betrayed the informality of their meeting. “You’re dismissed,” was all she said. Nemo bowed low, and returned to his quarters, where he promptly fell asleep.