The Secret of the Forest
Chapter 32: A Bloody Nest
The troll stood at least seven feet tall and stared at them growlingly and stupidly. What did he expect? Albus thought to himself. That they would run into minimal danger? Perhaps it was a good thing that they were high in number. Provided they did not run into Centaurs like Albus and Scorpius did the previous journey with Hagrid, perhaps they might overcome dangers including a troll. The troll just started to process that stray humans were in front of him and made a dangerous move towards them.
Albus knew that just one swipe with his club would knock all of them out and probably kill some of them. But there was a way to take them down. Albus was in the process of remembering how to take down trolls, a process his Uncle Ron taught him… “Levitation,” he muttered to Lorcan who brightened up. He nodded at his twin and they acted first. They pointed their wands at the club in unison and said, “Wingardium Leviosa!”
The club levitated, and the troll lost control of it. It stepped toward the party stupidly, and Scorpius, backing away, fired a Bogies Curse at his face. It glanced off uselessly, and Scorpius fell back. The Scamander twins pointed their wands at the club, still levitated by the Wallaby twins, and said in unison, “Locomotor Club.”
The Scamander twins released the spell, and took a breath of air as if it was effort holding the club up. But, Albus reminded himself, it probably was. While holding the club, Lorcan turned to his twin, “Forward?”
“Agreed. Hit him?”
And the club zoomed toward the troll, and bashed him in the face. Dazed, it fell back with an earth-shaking crash. Rose yelped in fright as it landed near her and she jumped out of the way, staring wide-eyed. Hugo was jumping up and down in triumph, as if he the one who took it down until he pat Lysander on the back. Lily herself, though young squealed in delight before returning her attention to the silver line which continued on. The way was once again cleared.
The forest path winded on through the bushes and trees. Sometimes, the trees stood so close together that it was found difficult to move past. But if they thought there was a severe lack of creatures, they saw nothing yet. A stirring in the bushes made everyone jump, and Albus slowly started regretting this excursion. They were deep enough in the forest to run into a host of terrible creatures. If the rustling was what he thought it was…
Eric instinctively fired a spell at the spot where the rustling came from, and dove aside. As he expected, a large blindingly white something charged past where Eric had been seconds before. A large squeal of horror came from Lily, but Lysander awed at the sight. “Unicorn! Don’t hurt it”-
But Eric didn’t listen. He fired another spell at the white animal, but it was fast. Eric might’ve grazed its tail and even Alex tried stopping it, still startled and not yet processing that the creature was harmless. Rose held Alex’s wand back to stop any more spells and it disappeared into the bushes, leaving the kids shocked. Lorcan was the first to move when he spotted something on the ground. He slowly walked to where the Unicorn had been and bent down solemnly. He picked up a lock of pure white hair and stared at it, face impassive.
Lorcan gaped at it, and rushed over, staring in delight. “Sander… we got… we…”
“YES!” Lysander yelled in delight. “Unicorn hair! Lorcan… it’s a wand core. We can sell this for so much!”
“No, I’m selfish, we’re keeping some,” Lorcan shook his head.
“Yeah, we are so keeping souvenirs,” Lysander said in glee, pocketing it eagerly.
Albus and Scorpius stared in surprise and shock as Lorcan and Lysander started arguing excitedly. As Hugo shrugged in loss at what was happening, for it all happened so fast, Mark who Albus thought would act long before then said, “Shhhhhhhh! Guys, we’re making noise. Shut”-
More rustling sounded and Albus froze again. Was it another Unicorn? Or something else? Albus’ worst fears were confirmed when out of the tree scuttled a horde of large spiders. A large squeal of horror was let out from Scorpius who jumped behind Lorcan for protection but Lorcan too seemed fazed. Hugo cursed loudly as one of the spider made an immediate snap at him. He cowered in fright as around twenty spiders surrounded them.
Albus pointed his shaking wand, looking over at Lysander. “Well, you’re the whiz. What do we do?”
Shaking, Lysander looked at Albus open-mouthed before closing it, taking a gulp, and raising his wand. “Immobulus!”
The spell had no effect, except maybe one shuddered. The one that had shuddered turned to Lysander, and opened its mouth. He was going to have some snack. Lorcan, seeing what Lysander was trying to do, raised his wand in the air in unison with his twin and yelled “Immobulus! IMMOBULUS!”
Then, Rose whipped her wand out and cried out a spell Albus had never heard before. A spider skidded to a halt and toppled back into its mates, creating a domino effect. However, this only angered them. Alex and Rose took the lead to defend themselves but the spiders were gaining. Rose seemed unafraid, even a severe lack of anger at the situation. She seemed to be trying to lead them to a particular spot and Lysander saw what they were up to.
At that precise moment, a cantering of hooves sounded and a tree shook violently. Fifteen Centaurs galloped through the darkness, arrows firing in unison at the spiders. Albus opened his eyes, and was amazed at what he saw. Two spiders were dead, and the others were stunned, immobilized, or killed. More retreated from the area but some charged the Centaurs viciously as if they had been fighting a war with them for years now.
One Centaur was overcrowded quickly but the others held the line and within seconds, the spiders that advanced were dead on the ground. A familiar white-haired Centaur turned towards the kids, not amused that he had to defend them. “What are foals doing in this forest!” a familiar white-haired Centaur screamed. “This isn’t your ground!”
“Not yours either, apparently,” Scorpius talked back.
Two Centaurs stepped back in surprise and stared, “Are you threatening us, human?”
“Please sir, begging your pardon, we were just passing,” Lysander said in the calmest voice he could muster. “We’re trying to get to the end. If you know the quickest way, we’d appreciate it greatly. And thank you, for saving us.”
Lysander’s kiss-up attitude at least spared them time, and a further noise sounded. A different Centaur appeared. The leader Centaur backed off as it cantered through the trees, yelling “Stand down. I was tasked by Hagrid to keep off danger posed to these humans in the forest.”
Albus noticed Lorcan hurrying off toward the dead Acromantula to examine them, but he didn’t care to keep his eyes on him. He was more worried about this new Centaur.
“Firenze, we do not take orders from humans nor do we save them,” the Centaur said angrily.
Next thing they knew, a familiar lock of black hair upon a white face appeared. Riley smiled lazily at them, “Hi guys. I’ll take it from here Farb. Sorry to trouble you.”
Things were happening way too fast. Unicorn… Acromantula… Centaurs… now Riley. Albus forgot Riley was in the forest and knew it well. He could’ve asked Riley what was beyond it.
“Come with me, you’re in big trouble,” Riley said tiredly. “You were about to walk into a nest of vampires.”
“I cannot protect you from a nest of vampires,” Firenze stated, bowing his head. “But I did manage to keep a colony of trolls off you. I was pleased to see you could deal with one.”
“Vampires!” Hugo exclaimed in shock.
“Guess what I got,” Lorcan whispered happily to Lysander, who looked over curiously. Lorcan whipped out a small phial of clear, gooey liquid. He grinned widely over the phial as Lysander stared in shock. “I got about three phials worth during the commotion with the Centaurs. But we’re gonna be rich.”
“Keep it secret,” Lysander instructed quietly. “Not even Merlin could take it away from me.”
Rose snatched it out of his hand angrily, finally showing some bit of anger at the situation. Lorcan yelled at her to give it back to his twin but she shook her head, “It’s your fault for promoting this ridiculous adventurism.”
“Well, that’s a step up, you usually blame me,” Scorpius mused.
“Shut it,” she said toughly. “Riley, take them back up, will you? This has gone far enough.”
“Ok, ok, we’ll turn ourselves in to the teachers when we get back,” Lorcan gave in. “Just give it back. It’s worth a lot of- NO!”
Rose dropped one phial threateningly when Alex levitated it and the others in her hands into the air and Lysander leapt up to snatch them back. Rose glared at Alex but he shrugged, “Let them have their fun. Who cares?”
Rose rolled her eyes as Riley led them back towards the entrance, but it was so far off and he seemed to have another destination in mind. Lysander was explaining to all of them, “Acromantula venom is ten times more valuable than unicorn hair,” Lysander said as he happily stowed it away. “Clever, conjuring up a needed phial. We can rake in the galleons in the hundreds if sold at the right time.”
“Stick close and you’re not dead,” Riley responded as he led them off the path and to the left. Through a clump of bushes and trees was a large clearing. This one was lit up with what looked like a small campfire. A group of pale-faced people sat around it, talking amongst themselves.
“Here they are, Fargus,” Riley called.
“Are they ok?” a vampire from within the circle called, and within seconds he was in front of Riley. “Or… perhaps bleeding any?”
“No, but I got good news,” Riley grinned. “A load of Acromantula are dead. Feeds you all for weeks. They’re in the clearing before us. If you hurry, you can get there before the Centaurs take them away.”
“On it.” And Fargus twirled around and in his place was a bat. It flapped off up into the air and out of the clearing.
Riley led the eleven kids further into the clearing, assuring them of their safety. Albus was considering running off when a loud familiarly excited voice sounded, “Oi! Al!”
“Nate!” Lorcan exclaimed.
“So, these are humans?” a vampire asked, gazing at them through red, bloodshot eyes. “Why bring them here?”
“Passing through,” Riley said casually. “Won’t stay long.”
“They’re staying here until our promised three weeks worth of meal is confirmed,” he said in a raspy voice. “We’re thirsty.”
“Patience,” Riley yawned. “I just wanna nap but Fargus is out there investigating. If you go, maybe you can help him to persuade the Centaurs to give us all of the Acromantula.”
“I will stay here where my eyes will remain on these delicious looking children,” the vampire said mistily.
This provoked a fearful response from Albus and Scorpius. Albus raised his wand, moving protectively in front of Lily. Riley and Nate moved in between the two parties, staring significantly at the threatening red-eyed vampire. Other vampires gave him a hard look and the red-eyed stood down, sounding forced, “Very well. Let’s see the dinner.”
Just then, the bat returned. It landed on the ground and spun round again. Fargus was back. He looked positively happy. “All vampires move out! We’re taking the Acromantula here and our thirst quenched for another three weeks!”
Five more vampires appeared in the clearing at that point, supporting three fallen Werewolves. They laid them down in front of Fargus and Riley, who stared down for a moment and then looked up, “Make that a month.”
A flurry of cheers sounded from the vampires, and they all got up. Lorcan grinned widely, looking at his twin. “Told ya they were enemies. Pay up!”
Riley lazily nodded at the eleven wanderers to go out, so Alex retook the lead and walked out to safety and the vampires temporarily left the clearing. Hugo breathed a sigh of relief.
Five more minutes of walking among the thick trees and bushes which sounded like they harbored snakes, they came across a river. They wouldn’t have seen it was there if the silver line didn’t end at one point, and begin at another, on the other side. The river was too wide to jump it, so they were stuck.
As Alex sat down to think it over, a step of four feet sounded in their ears, and when Albus spun around, he was face to face with a human’s head, yet a lion’s body. He didn’t need Lysander’s whisper of “A sphinx” to tell him what it was. A little way beyond the sphinx was what also had the body of a lion, but this one had wings. The wings and head of an eagle. It was colored mostly red for the body, but the feathers were light red to grey.
Of all things to meet, Albus did not expect a Greek monster anywhere in the forest. He stepped back but the Sphinx took a giant step forward threateningly and crouched as if to pounce. “You know the rules, Wizard kids of Hogwarts. Answer my riddle and you go forth… fail and I attack. Only one of you may answer for all. So choose wisely.”