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When Cultures Collide
The following morning, the travellers woke bright and early, ready to leave the elven settlement soon after breakfast. Packing up their bags, they stored all of their possessions in their bags, and shrunk as much of it as possible. Fawkes was an invaluable companion when it came to carrying the luggage. They wouldn't have been able to bring nearly as many supplies if it wasn't for the phoenix. Of course, they could shrink things, but they could still only carry so much. The majestic bird could carry weights far superior to any of the travellers, and was perfectly willing to help out. Myleidi had been fascinated by Fawkes from the first time she had seen him. Phoenixes were originally from the elven world, and as a small child she had heard stories of the magical creatures in her ancestral homeland, but had never dreamt she would ever see one in real life.
As soon as the breakfast dishes were cleared away, it was time for the group to say a final farewell to the river elves. They had been good hosts for the travellers, a welcome oasis of peace in a hostile world. Saying goodbye was hard, especially knowing they would be leaving the elves with the huge task of rebuilding their homes in the wake of the giant attack. Myleidi especially found it difficult to leave the home she had always known. Of course, she wanted to go with the time travellers, but she still felt as if she was abandoning her lifelong friends.
Go now, Myleidi, one of the elders eventually told her, a gentle hand on her shoulder pushing her away from the village, You know you wish to leave. We will still be here if you ever wish to return. You have the independence of a wolf, and the spirit of a soaring eagle. You will never be truly happy here, no matter how much you wish to stay. You have a free soul, Myleidi, see the world that these humans are offering. No matter what, you will always have a home here. Always.
Tears streaming down her face, the younger elf wrapped the elder in a tight embrace, before pulling away and joining her travelling companions.
I'm ready, she said in English with a watery smile. Severus gave her a brief hug.
It'll be alright, Myleidi. If you want to return, I shall escort you.
The elf gave him a weak smile in return, and in the background Sirius gave a snort of derision.
Never thought I'd see the day when Snivellus got himself a girlfriend, he muttered.
Shut up Sirius, Remus admonished, I think he deserves some happiness after all he's been through.
Death Eaters don't deserve to be happy, the animagus growled.
Neither do convicted murderers, Remus replied, darkly, before stalking away. Sirius' enmity towards the Potions Master was starting to grate on the werewolf's nerves. He had been friends with Sirius for a long time, but he was tiring of the constant conflict with Severus. He himself had set aside old grudges years ago, but the other Marauder seemed unable to do so. If anything, Sirius was getting worse, and the thought frightened him.
Come on, everybody, Harry called from a short distance away, We need to leave now if we want to reach the edge of the mountains by nightfall. We're pushing our luck as it is, and if we dally any longer we'll certainly not make it.
That said, he turned towards the south and changed into his animagus form, spreading his wings wide and preparing to launch off the precipice. The others said their final goodbyes and prepared to leave as well. Adopting the arrangement they had used to travel before, the group members launched themselves into the sky, Fawkes taking the lead as usual. Within a few minutes, they were leaving the elven settlement behind and disappearing over the top of the mountains.
So, where are we actually heading? Ron asked that night at dinner. The group had made good time over the course of the day, and had finally reached the edge of the Alps. The mountains lay at their backs, and what would one day be Italy stretched out before them. Their plan thus far had consisted of heading south, but they were at a crossroads. There were three directions they could go, each with their own dangers and merits. Choosing the best route would be vital if they wanted to eventually reach Egypt in one piece.
Egypt, ultimately, Severus drawled with a smirk, earning him a scowl from the redhead.
You know what I mean, Snape. Are we going to go through Greece or Turkey?
Italy might be a better choice, Hermione suggested, I know we'd decided on Greece or Turkey, but the way I see it, if we go through Turkey, it'll take us at least an extra two months. Greece is still a viable option, but if we go that way, we'll have to pass over a lot of mountains. Mountainous regions are good for cover, but don't make the best camps. It would also hinder the land based animagi. If we go down the east coast of Italy, we avoid the mountains and Sirius, Severus and Glen will be able to travel over the ground.
Italy's good in that respect, but what about crossing the Mediterranean? Remus asked.
We would have three options once we reached southern Italy, she explained, We can go through Sicily and over to Tunisia, which would cut down the amount of sea travel, but would mean we would have to go the long way by land. It's not really any better than going via Turkey.
We'll dismiss that one, then, Harry interjected.
I would say so, Hermione agreed, That leaves sailing to Greece and travelling over land to the furthest point south, then going via Crete, or going from the heel of Italy and sailing down the Greek coast. It would save acquiring a second boat, and we could go ashore for supplies. We would be able to rest more that way as well.
The last option certainly seems the best, Ginny said, It's the most direct way, and I must admit I'll be ready for the rest after so long travelling. It's been a month already, and we're looking at another month to get to the south of Italy. The brooms help, but it's a long way.
Gin's right. We can't keep this up indefinitely. I'm surprised we made such good time on the way down here, Harry agreed.
So we're settled, then? Severus asked, We're heading through Italy?
Looks that way, Glen said, I suggest we get some sleep. We have a long way to go, and I for one need some sleep.
The trip through Italy was surprisingly easy. The first two weeks passed quickly and without incident. They would wake up every morning and set off across the land, following the coast for the most part. The weather was good for the time of year, and they made good time. The breeze from the sea made it easier for the flying animagi to stay in the air, and the journey was decidedly pleasant.
Sixteen days after leaving the river elves, they encountered their first signs of civilisation. From the style of the buildings, they determined them to be of elven origin. The flying animagi, who were slightly ahead of the rest of the group, doubled back as soon as they saw the settlement and called a halt. After their experiences with the Elementals they didn't want to go rushing in expecting them to be welcoming to outsiders. Once everyone had caught up, they spread out around the settlement, casting disillusionment charms on themselves and Myleidi. The elf seemed a little uneasy when she saw the buildings, but she didn't say anything.
The group spent the rest of the day scouting out the village, meeting that night to discuss what they had found out. Glen had been left to set up camp earlier in the day, and he had chosen a well hidden spot in a small wood. Wards had been set up around the perimeter of their encampment to keep out any hostiles.
So, what did we discover? Harry asked when they were all sitting down with a light chicken stew.
They're elves of some sort, Ron replied, digging into his food greedily, They have pointy ears, and I recognised some of the magic they were using. It's the sort of thing I've seen Minh and Lolide use.
Anything else, the vampire asked.
There are other beings there as well, Sirius informed them, But I don't recognise the species.
Severus was about to make a snide comment, but was silenced by a glare from Harry.
What did they look like, Siri? his godson asked him.
Kinda short, about two heads shorter than the elves. They have long pointed ears that protrude from the side of their heads, and shiny dark blue hair. Their skin seemed to be light brown with a pale blue hue to it. They were funny looking things. Strangest thing, though, was that they all seemed to be servants
Are you sure? Hermione said with a frown, That doesn't sound good.
Myleidi, who had been silent up until that point, suddenly spoke up.
They bad elves, she said, They banished.
What do you mean, Myleidi? Severus asked, sharply.
They part my group, she said with a frown, They bad. They made to leave. They hurt.
The group was confused, and Myleidi was frustrated. She knew what she wanted to tell her friends, she just didn't know how to use their language to articulate it. Even though elves were quick to pick up languages, it still took time. Although she understood much of what they were saying, she still found it hard to find the words to reply.
What are you trying to say? Harry asked in the elven hybrid dialect.
They were part of our settlement, but we banished them an age ago. Some of our number wanted to make war. The rest of us wanted peace. Most elves are pacifists, but they were not like us. We banished them when they crossed a line.
What did they do? Harry asked, intrigued.
They made war with another race, the Ash'ren, and conquered them.
Are they the creatures Sirius saw?
Yes, they are. They conquered their race and took them as slaves. The Ash'ren now live to serve the marine elves.
Yes, they renamed themselves after they settled here. They fish the sea, and build boats. They have much influence in this part of the world. My people severed all ties with them, but from what we have heard from nomadic people passing through our lands, the marine elves are still a violent and war-like people. We should avoid them if possible.
Harry pondered what he had been told, and quickly passed on the information to the rest of the group, who had been waiting patently for an explanation.
They have boats? Hermione asked, Are they seaworthy? Would they get us to Greece?
Yes, Myleidi said with a frown, But they not trade.
Are you sure? Hermione said, If we can get them to give us a boat, it would save us a lot of time and trouble. Elven structures are usually well made, so I'm sure they'll have something suitable.
They not trade, Myleidi insisted, They bad elves. They kill.
If we handle it right we should manage it, Remus interjected, No culture is completely against trade. There is always something that one group has that the other doesn't.
But in this case, we have nothing to trade, Ron pointed out.
We have skills and knowledge from the future that they will not have available to them now. I'm sure we can find something useful that they'll want, Ginny countered.
It's worth a try, but I'm not prepared to send anyone in to talk to them without knowing exactly what we're facing, Harry said, So if anyone has any suggestions, let's hear them.
Send the snakes, Dumbledore's voice suggested in Harry's head. The young vampire jumped in surprise. The deceased headmaster had been silent for weeks, and Harry had forgotten he was there.
Dumbledore suggests I send Simbi and Nirah, what do you guys think? he asked the rest.
Sounds good, Harry, Ron agreed, They can probably avoid being seen, and if not they can at least blend in or hide.
I'll ask them, the elder Potter replied, pulling his sleeves up.
*Simbi? Nirah? I need a favour*
*What can we do for you?* Simbi replied.
*Could you scout out the elves' camp for us? We need to know everything there is to know about them*
*Of course. We'll let you know in the morning*
*Thank you* Harry said, lowering his wrists to the ground and letting the snakes slip off into the darkness.
The next morning, the group woke up early as usual. Simbi and Nirah had returned in the early hours of the morning, and had woken Harry up to give him their report. The elves and Ash'ren had all gone to bed, so there was little reason for them to hang around. They told him how the elves had gone about their evening meal, the Ash'ren doing all of the cooking and clearing up. Afterwards, the blue haired creatures had gone about tidying up the camp and preparing the fishing boats for the next day. Harry had surmised from what the snakes had said that the Ash'ren did all of the manual labour in the village. They were slaves in the truest sense of the word, with no freedom or rights of any kind.
When the travellers were all awake and breakfasted, they gathered next to the camp so Harry could update them.
Well, from what the snakes have told me, the elves are pretty peaceful most of the time. They fish, they eat, they train their warriors in a training ring on the outskirts of the town. The Ash'ren do all of the physical work. The women stay at home with the children, but are also trained warriors.
How did Simbi and Nirah find all that out simply from watching them sleep? Sirius asked incredulously.
They have their sense of taste, of course, Harry said condescendingly, earning him a frown from Hermione, They can tell how recently the training ring was used, by what species and which gender. The same goes for other areas of the camp.
That makes sense, I suppose, Sirius answered, glaring at his godson.
So what do we do now? Glen asked, Do we just walk in there and ask for a boat?
We should leave at least one person here to guard the camp and provide backup, Remus suggested, We don't want to put all our eggs in one basket, and if we're staying here more than one night, we don't want to be packing and unpacking all of our things just so we can take them with us.
The first thing we should decide is who has to go, Hermione put forward sensibly.
I need to go, Harry answered, And Myleidi would be useful. We are the only ones that will be able to communicate with them. I'll take Gin and Sev for backup. That'll leave five people here in case anything goes wrong.
It's settled then, the Potions Master concluded, Let's go.
Before the group set off for the village, Harry and Ginny went into their tent and prepared for battle. The theory was that if the elves turned out to be hostile, they would have a means of defending themselves. The presence of their weapons would also show the elves that they meant business, and were not going to be pushovers. Harry strapped his sword to his back and hid several sharp knives about his person. His elven bow was hanging from his shoulder, with the quiver of arrows easily accessible, and the lightweight elven armour from Lolide protected his chest. Ginny had likewise prepared for battle. Her own bow was slung over her shoulder, with her sword hanging from her side. When they finally exited their tent, they were met with the sight of Severus and Myleidi. The Potions Master had a sword at his side, much to Sirius' amusement, and the elven maiden was dressed in one of her delicate dresses. She bore no weapons, but an aura of power surrounded her. She wasn't happy about meeting with her distant relatives, but she wasn't about to object.
Are we ready? Ginny asked as she and her husband approached the waiting pair.
As we'll ever be, Sev muttered, before taking the lead and heading out of their encampment.
He doesn't look too pleased to be going, Ginny muttered to Harry as they took up the rear, letting Sev walk with Myleidi.
I don't think he approves of us taking Myleidi along. She'd scared of these people, and I know Sev's developing a soft spot for her.
That much is glaringly obvious, Ginny said with a snort, I've never seen him so smitten with anyone before.
He's been on his own a long time. As a Death Eater he would never let anyone get close to him. He was ashamed of the mark on his arm, and didn't want to put anyone in danger. It's about time he was happy.
He deserves it, after all he's done for the side of Light, Ginny agreed, I just wish Sirius would leave off taunting him.
I've told him to behave himself, but you know my godfather. He'll never listen. He's too stubborn, Harry admitted with a sigh.
Are you sure it was a good idea to have them both come on this trip? I know we've only been here a couple of months, but they've been at each other's throats the entire time. Their constant fighting will compromise the group eventually. And you know it.
Harry sighed deeply, knowing his wife was right. Asking both his friend and godfather to come along was not the wisest course of action. However, he still clung to the hope that they would learn to get along. If they didn't, then the results would be disastrous.
As the outskirts of the village came up, the Potters caught up to their friends and made their way down the main street, towards what appeared to be a town square. The little Ash'ren watched the strangers curiously as they passed, but did not dare to say anything. A contingent of warrior elves, who had spotted the visitors, started trailing behind them. Eventually the four arrived in the town centre and waited for one of the elves to address them. A few minutes later, an important looking elf stepped forward and spoke.
Who are you? What right have you to enter our settlement?
Myleidi, after encouraging looks from her companions, stepped forward.
We come in peace, and respectfully request an audience with the Elders of this settlement. We humbly ask for permission to trade.
The marine elf looked at the she-elf curiously yet suspiciously, before abruptly turning and stalking off to a large wooden hut. The minutes stretched by in a strained silence as the natives and visitors eyed each other warily. Eventually, the spokeself returned, a scowl on his face.
Your audience is granted. Follow me.
That said, he stormed off towards the hut once more, with his guests following silently behind him. As they approached, the doors were pulled open by two tiny Ash'ren and held open as the group passed. The inside of the hut was much like most elven council chambers, with the Elders seated in carved chairs before them. Severus and Ginny took up flanking positions next to their companions and waited tensely for trouble. Myleidi and Harry stepped forward slightly and performed the proper elven greetings. The elders looked at the human suspiciously, obviously wondering how a primitive of the time came to know so much about elven customs, and be in possession of elven weapons.
Speak, strangers, and make your case, one eventually spoke up. Harry and Myleidi glanced at each other, before the elf stepped forward.
We are travellers on a great journey, and seek to trade for a boat, she said nervously. One of the elders scowled at her.
How does one of the Children of Light come to be accompanied by heathen savages?
Elder, I-I assure you, my companions are civilised, she stuttered, not liking the direction the conversation was turning.
Your companions are of heathen blood. Their kind is of no consequence to us. Why should be trade with such filth?
I assure you, respected Elder, we are not savages, Harry interjected, a note of anger in his voice. These elves obviously thought themselves superior to the primitive humans of the time. The Elder seemed quite shocked when a human addressed him in his own tongue. During the exchange with Myleidi, the young vampire had managed to set up a weak mental connection to his friend. Much like the connection he maintained to help his son understand English, this one allowed him to temporarily speak the correct elven dialect to impress the marine elves.
You speak! the Elder bellowed, shocked.
I do, honoured Elder. I am of human and elven blood. I know the customs of your people. I respectfully request a trade on behalf of myself and my companions.
We do not trade with half blood scum, another snapped, a disgusted look on her face.
That may be so, Harry replied with a scowl, But we have much to offer you. Knowledge and skills not known to the elves.
Preposterous! yelled the eldest elf at the table, There is nothing we can learn from a heathen!
Really? the vampire asked with a smirk, before waving a hand lazily and incanting in elven. Immediately, the floor beneath the Elders began to buckle and turn liquid. They all let out yelps of fear as they gradually began to sink into the ground.
What magic is this! one yelled, trying to climb onto the rapidly sinking table.
It is magic beyond your ken, Harry grinned, And I can teach such things to your people. For a price. Will you trade?
Yes! Just stop this madness! the eldest shouted. With a small smile of amusement, Harry levitated the group out of the quicksand-like floor and solidified it, before setting them gently back on their feet.
Good, he said, We need a boat. We plan to travel across the sea for a great distance, so we need something capable of such a feat. Do you have anything available?
Most of our boats are small, one decidedly ruffled elf stated, But we have several warships that would be suitable. We would be unwilling to trade our best warships, but we have one of older design which requires repairing. We could have our slaves make the repairs and would trade it for some of your knowledge. What would you offer in return?
That sounds acceptable. In return, I offer medical magic and skills which would improve your methods of fishing. Do we have an agreement?
The Elders thought over the proposition for a minute before agreeing to the terms. The work would be carried out immediately, and it wouldn't take the Ash'ren more than a few days to make the repairs, during which time Harry would teach the elves some of the elven magic Lolide had taught him. He didn't want to give them anything of human origin, but felt that advanced elven magic would be a suitable trading commodity.
Do you think they'll keep their end of the bargain? Ginny asked on the way back to their camp.
I should think so, Harry replied, After all, elves are honourable creatures, even the bad ones.
You wouldn't think it looking at the Ash'ren. How can they be so cruel as to enslave a whole people?! Ginny said, distressed.
Well, it's a way of life in this time. We should have expected to run into slavery a lot sooner. If you want to complain about it, just think what these creatures remind you of.
What's that? Ginny asked, looking at her husband in confusion. He gave her a significant look before turning back to the road.
House elves, he muttered, closing the conversation as Ginny drifted into a contemplative silence.