"How is Tanner progressing in his journey to the afterlife?" asked Thaddeus, pale and exhausted, when he finally looked up from the scrying bowl he had set up after he finished the book his brother had tossed him.
Malcolm chuckled, "If you hadn't had your nose stuck in a book or that scrying bowl of yours the entire time you'd know he's on his last legs. Shouldn't be much longer the final fever has already been burning him out for an hour never lasts longer than two hours at most and that was his fifth dose of honey. I even got that big boiler for the bath heating nicely, I put it on to clean Tanner soon as he's croaked, seeing it's almost impossible to clean and dress a corpse once they stiffen up. After we get Tanner clean and redressed, I'll fill it up again so we can have a bath before we go dump Tanner in the river."
"A luxury we cannot afford to indulge in. I have been using the time to scry Four Corners, Travis handed Larabee a piece of paper while I was watching and they are preparing a search party as we speak."
"Shit! How'd they find out? We cut the telegraph lines to that place so they wouldn't get that type of message. Damn it all! They'll be checking all the known ranches and mining camps in the area. Might take them a day or so to get to us being that we are more than a half a day ride from the bridge and out of the way up here but they will visit if they ain't found their missing men."
"Indeed, which means cleaning, dressing and the dumping of Tanner's body is of the essence, the sanitising of our abode must also be accomplished," stated Thaddeus seriously.
"What the hell does that mean? Those big words of yours can be a real pain at times, Thaddeus," stated Malcolm in disgust.
"It means it will not be enough to just clean, dress and dump Tanner's body, when the rest of the Seven come calling we must look like model citizens. Which means we not only need to hide all the Magic books and other telltale signs of Demonic Magic but air out this room as it stinks of blood and sex, the bedding under Tanner also needs washing as does the mattress bag all of which stink of old and fresh blood and semen."
"Fuck! Well it needed a good cleaning anyway and the hay in the mattress sack is pretty old, come to think of it, every mattress in the place needs changing and the bedding washed we laid up extra hay to do that sometime this winter anyway so we may as well get it done now, that way it won't look so strange. I learnt that lesson the hard way with Pa, if you make a mess and want to hide it happened, no use just cleaning the mess up, a clean bit when everything else is dirty just makes for the curious cat in a person to come out, they get to wondering why just that bit is clean. Although what we gonna do about Philly, seeing as he is laying in the iceroom with a bullet in him and both you and him showing signs of a fight, I ain't got a clue on?"
"We clean the place, dump Tanner then you head to Four Corners with Phillip's body, report that your brother Phillip and Uncle Thaddeus were robbed on the way to Four Corners for supplies and they killed your brother. We time it to miss the Lawmen, that way we don't have Jackson wanting to come back here to look at my injuries but Phillip's death is accounted for. When you find out Tanner and Standish are missing don't forget to speculate loudly on the possibility of them falling foul of the same robbers that killed Philip, that will give you an excuse to just pay for Philip's funeral and leave them to it. After all you would not want to leave the rest of your family alone for to long in such a situation."
"That is my legal relationship, as grandfather was married to my mother when I was born, safer not to rock the boat on such legalities, explaining how your uncle is really your brother would just complicate matters."
"Makes sense our dirty laundry don't need airing in public anyway. Since them lawmen are starting on the trail we don't have a whole lot of time for this, so we may as well dump Tanner before he croaks," decided Malcolm. "The poison honey will kill him within the hour anyway, we just have to make sure he don't drown before the honey finishes its job. We don't even have to go back to the bridge to dump him if we shove a log under him so his head stays above water and put him in the river here and the current will carry him down the ravine until he hits the log jam from the bridge."
"He won't need to drown the cold will kill him long before your honey will," snapped Thaddeus in disgust.
"Don't worry about that I told you the honey has some seriously weird properties. He won't be in very good shape but it will keep him alive enough even in those temperatures. If I didn't now better I say that honey is a bit possessive of its victims won't let anything but it kill them. I even shot one of them in the heart and damned if that honey didn't fix it, only to kill them ten minutes later. Damndest -- thing I ever saw. I put all the experiments in the book so you should know that," snapped Malcolm annoyed.
"There wasn't anything about surviving intense cold," snapped Thaddeus.
"Are you sure? I buried one under the snow in the icehouse last winter," said Malcolm worried grabbing his honey book and searching through it, "Here it is -- pages got some honey on it and they got stuck together, easy for you to have missed it," offered Malcolm as explanation to his brother. "Just take my word for it he'll survive the cold long enough so we don't have to wait for him to croak first. We best get moving. I'll feel a lot better with him gone, bodies are damn hard to explain."
"What shall we do first?" asked Thaddeus as a peace offering.
"You go scrub Tanner clean. I'll strip the bed. Give it a good shake and that ol' bear skin rug will do to put him on while we dress him to go dump him. Eugene can get started on washing the mattress and bedding while we do that. He can hang them in front of the fireplaces while we're dumping Tanner. There's plenty of hay in the stable caves to restuff the mattress bags later. After we finish with Tanner I'll head for town with Philly's body to report a robbery and murder. You come back here and help Eugene get everything in order. Just make sure you're in bed looking beat up and sick if those lawmen turn up early. And let's just hope I don't meet up with them on the trail. Jackson's bound to come check on you if he hears the story."
Ezra was stealthily making his way towards the caves when he heard a splash. A very aggravated voice with a Tennessee accent was heard swearing. "Damn it, Thaddeus, you should a told me you were too tired for that levitation spell."
"Don't be ridiculous, Malcolm, who else was going to do it? You for all your practice can barely float a feather let alone an adult body and log with magic." This voice was upper crust English. "So I am exhausted, it is a small price to pay. I will rest while you complete the rest of our plan. At least this way we don't have to worry about being found with Tanner's body on the premises, if the Lawmen I scried turn up early they will find nothing to implicate us in Tanner's disappearance."
"We could a lowered him by rope just as easily, Thaddeus. You're you're starting to use the Magic for everything which is a bad idea. You’re the one told me drawing on the Magic to much especially the Demonic stuff can consume a mind from the craving if you let it. We ain't got our Demon bodies yet capable of using the magic without harm."
"I can handle it!"
"Don't fight me on this, big brother, because I ain't backing down on it, ain't just you that will die of it if ya fool enough to go that route. The bond will take me along with ya, remember? I can already feel the craving ya starting to have for it, so I'm telling ya, no more magic unless I give the okay. Don't think ya can sneak it either I feel what you feel remember so the moment ya start drawing power I'll feel it."
"Fine, go saddle the damn horses and do your part of the plan, try to find out how they discovered Tanner and Standish were missing, as you said we cut the telegraph to the mines we should have had more time. Tanner will stay on the log and get hung up on the blockage at the broken bridge, even if he falls off and drowns he is healed enough for most scrutiny and I made sure to flush out his rectum when I cleaned him up."
"Good thinking no use letting the honey put his mancunt back together without cleaning out the jism we've been filling it with for the last few days. I still can't believe Tanner had never spread his legs for a man before we saddle broke him -- just don't make any sense given his history, hell Tanner was prettier than a lot of females he must have had offers."
"His looks are probably why he hadn't gone that route even if he was inclined in that direction," said the English voice sardonically. "I saw it happen all the time in England young men exquisitely beautiful like Tanner usually have to fight harder to be taken seriously by the men around them."
As the voices faded with distance, Ezra stood frozen in horror as the gist of that conversation sank in; he only managed to keep from vomiting because he hadn't eaten since Vin disappeared. Trembling with the knowledge of what Vin had endured these last few days, he shakily reset the locater spell moaning softly as the direction spell now pointed his wand down the ravine he had just made his torturous way up, confirming that the splash had indeed been Vin being dumped in the river. Glaring at the caves and the Sorcerous miscreants who had instigated this nightmare, Ezra turned around and quickly made his way back along the dangerous route he had just navigated. Vin's attackers could wait, it wasn't as if they could not be found at a later date, recovering Vin while he still had life in his body took precedence over retribution and there would definitely be retribution for this horror, they would probably be lucky if the rest of the seven got them first. For the first time in his life he felt like trying some of the more creative tortures his infamous Pirate ancestor Lord Silverhair had been known for throughout the Caribbean. His heart refused to believe there was no chance of Vin surviving this ordeal as Anyanka and Halfrek claimed. His heart insisted while there was life there was hope. The only good thing about that conversation he had just overheard was that it told him the wild owl he had sent to Travis, the only Wizard he knew of in the area had reached its destination. Using wild birds as messengers was a very chancy thing, they had little loyalty and often lost interest in the task long before reaching the recipient with the message.
It was a full fifteen minutes before he made his way to the place he had left the horses, Chaucer was patiently waiting for him but Peso had almost managed to untie the mass of knots he had tied him to Chaucer's saddle with, he quickly caught the aggravating beast before he escaped again.
"Not again, you fractious beast, if I didn't know better having heard the tale of your purchase and subsequent naming by your owner, I would have sworn by Merlin himself you were as much a Wizard familiar as my own spoilt devil," he said retying one of the knots angrily. "And you, Chaucer, what have you to say for yourself? You are suppose to be keeping Mister Tanner's aggravating mount in line." Both horses snorted as if to say fat chance of that happening. Ezra narrowed his eyes as he glared at the big blaze faced black horse of Vin's, he had his suspicions about the beast but there were few ways to prove them.
He reached for his saddlebags and removed his shrunken toy size broom much to Chaucer's annoyance. "Really, Chaucer, haven't you yet realised how idiotic being jealous of a piece of wood is, simply because it can fly and you cannot." Chaucer snorted indignantly and Ezra made sure to keep his shrunken broom well out his familiar's reach as Chaucer had stomped his old broom more than once.
The next part of the plan would be tricky, while familiars were more intelligent than their non-Magical counterparts they all had their own annoying quirks and different limitations. Equine familiars were usually quite smart but to actually get them to do something they disliked was incredibly difficult. They were also the most possessive of the animal familiars when it came to their Wizarding masters, two character traits that made it almost impossible to get a equine familiar to leave their masters vicinity. "Now, Chaucer, I require you to meet me at the place we last saw Peso's Master," as he said this he formed a picture in his mind of the area near the destroyed bridge they had camped at and sent it to Chaucer over their empathic link as expected Chaucer baulked at leaving him. "Do not snort at me, you stupid beast, I know we just came from there. I am going after Peso's Master and if I am successful in retrieving Mister Tanner I will meet you there," he said releasing Peso from his bondage. Chaucer would quickly outstrip Muggle horse speeds. Vin would not be pleased at this abandoning of his beloved Peso to find his way back to Four Corners but his life might depend on them getting the supplies in Chaucer's saddlebags as soon as possible. Unshrinking the broom and making it hover, Ezra hesitated briefly before mounting it and taking to the air. He was not sure he would survive this course of action truth be told. He had always found brooms a disagreeable if fast and convenient mode of travel inside the safe confines of the Wizarding Enclaves at least. Unfortunately he had known from childhood that he would end up travelling amongst the Muggles and in that case a broom was anything but convenient good only for use as a last ditch escape in the dead of night when the Muggles could not see its use.
Which was why, much to his mother's horror, he had insisted on taking the almost obsolete equestrian course Salem Academy still had on offer. It had not been the first time he had baulked at his mother's decisions but it had been the first time he had actually won the argument. Ezra had frankly seen no point in learning the fine points of Broom handling simply because his mother's family had always been noted Broomists who excelled at Quidditch. Mother herself hardly ever used her broom as she limited her cons and other illegal pastimes to the Muggle world, which forced Muggle transport on her. Having won the argument that let him take the equestrian course Ezra had felt magnanimous enough to placate his mother by doing the basic broom-handling course first. It had been little more than how to mount, manoeuvre and land one if he needed to use a broom but it had been a compromise his mother had accepted. Until this moment he had never had cause to regret choosing horses and Pegasus to learning the fine points of brooming he was the first to admit that what he was about to attempt was quite dangerous and foolhardy especially as it had been almost three years since he had seen a need to unshrink his old school broom and he was a mediocre broomist at best despite the natural talent the Salem flying instructor had insisted he had.
Hovering over the ravine he awkwardly manoeuvred his old and he admitted almost dilapidated broom, down over the rising winter flood as he began the painstaking search for the tracker. He didn't dare use the locater spell in this situation as he would very likely end up with his wand being lost in the torrent below. Finally he thought he saw something with a vaguely humanoid mass draped over it and started hovering over it to confirm that it was indeed Vin.
Ascertaining that the mass indeed held the missing tracker, Ezra was now faced with a more pressing problem, how the devil was he suppose to retrieve the man from the rapidly moving flood. He could not just reach down and pull the tracker up onto the broom, he doubted even a skilled broomist would attempt such a thing which left only magic as a viable option left. Keeping his old wobbly broom as close to the tracker and his floating nest as possible he surveyed the situation. The log Vin was supported by was in fact a part of a tree and Vin was firmly lodged in the intersection where the branches joined the trunk. The mobilicorpus spell was the best option if he could keep his old broom steady enough to maintain the wand tether once he had Vin in the air, getting his wand out of alignment could be fatal as the magical tether would disconnect sending Vin plummeting back into the river. All of which meant he had to not only maintain the broom on a steady course but do so while his wand point never lost line of sight with Vin's floating form.
Half an hour later he shakily lowered the tracker to the ground and alighted next him. He was trembling with exhaustion aggravated by the pure terror he had endured as he kept both of them aloft. Quickly he made his way to his friend, franticly he searched for a pulse the very real possibility that he had been floating a corpse only lightened slightly when he found the Tracker was still alive, the pure relief he felt only added to his exhaustion. He knew they were not even close to the stage he could rest. He was chilled to the bone from the icy winds and his clothing soaked from the river spray, Vin would be in worse shape having actually been in the icy river. Unfortunately the only thing he could do was dry their clothing with a few heavy drying charms which in this weather wouldn't keep them dry for long merely alleviate some of their present discomfort until they were soaked through again. They still had a long way to go before they met up with the horses.
Sighing softly, he started checking for other injuries, grimacing when he saw the odd angle to Vin's right lower leg. He'd have to set that before they continued, checking the rest of him he found far fewer scrapes and cuts than expected probably due to the plethora of buckskin and Buffalo hide the tracker habitually wore. Unfortunately protection from his apparel did not extend a great deal of protection from being battered against the rocks, his left ankle was bruised and possibly cracked, the diagnostic spells showed numerous hairline cracks in both legs. Vin's upper torso had obviously had some degree of protection due to the branches around him taking most of the rock impacts but he still had a few cracked ribs. Vin's hands and face had little of the protection the buffalo jacket and buckskin trousers had given his body so he had numerous cuts and abrasions what worried Ezra was that even as he was looking at the damage the scrapes and cuts were healing at a rapid rate.
Which meant he didn't dare try to set Vin's leg the Muggle way as it was probably magically healing at the same rate even out of alignment. Yet the only other option did have a major drawback where Vin's was concerned, the Petrificus Totalus spell had actually been invented by a Healer to correctly align bones in a battlefield situation it had the added benefit of being useable on any creature. The only drawback was that it could be dangerous when used on people like Vin who had physical abnormalities to their skeletal structure. Vin's spinal curve had been the reason he had never even contemplated the possibility of the young tracker being a Wizard until Anyanka and Halfrek had let it slip. Anyone even remotely connected to the Wizarding world capable of tolerating healing potions would have had such a physical defect corrected by a Wizarding healer during their school years any school nurse would have insisted on that.
With a grimace he contemplated just what the simple Petrificus Totalus spell would do as it forcibly straightened Vin's back, it wouldn't be the gentle correction a Wizarding healer would preform but a brutal realignment that would rip and tear muscles as it instantaneously forced his spine into a more natural alignment. Ezra grimaced he had endured a Wizarding Healer use that spell to rebreak and instantly realign his arm that had healed wrong on one of their Muggle trips during his school years it had been agonising even with the pain and healing potions. If he did that here Vin's entire torso would have to be bound in some way so the realigned spine had some support other than the torn muscles. Given all the other breaks and fractures Vin was going to look like an Egyptian Mummy until he could get them back to Chaucer and the limited array of healing potions he had hidden amongst his personal effects. It would also take longer as he would have to ensure the muscles were correctly positioned as well. Ezra grimaced he wasn't a healer, Wizarding spells in this case could do more harm than good if he wasn't extremely careful. He had never actually treated a human other than himself before and he was damn well sure Vin's spine and legs deserved more than swift but brutal realignment with Petrificus Totalus and rough and ready muscle realignment using the simple diagnostic and healing spells he had learnt in Equine care.
Shaking his head, Ezra realised he didn't have any choice the accelerated healing Vin was exhibiting gave him no choice, if he left Vin's leg in this condition it would be completely healed in the broken position.
Almost twenty minutes later Ezra shakily made his way over to his broom, he never, ever wanted to do that again. It had taken forever to realign the muscles in Vin's spine and leg, once again he was in awe of Nathan's willingness to put himself through watching such second hand agony on a daily basis and Nathan did his healing the Muggle way. Thankfully while the pain had brought Vin briefly conscious, the same pain had sent him back to the pain free oblivion of unconsciousness within a few minutes, Ezra didn't think he could have continued if Vin had continued to endure such agony without passing out. The careful transfiguration and drying of Vin's clothing into close fitting support of his broken body had been just as draining as the rough healing he had administered and Ezra was almost despairing of the fact that he still had to get Vin and himself back to the rendeverous point he sent Chaucer and the vitally needed supplies to further down the ravine.
Realising the longer he delayed the next part the worse off they would be, he made his old broom hover yet again and climbed aboard, only then did he remember to dry his own soaked clothing. Floating Vin over to the broom he manoeuvred him into place before him. He hadn't even contemplated doing this above a rapidly moving river while flying a broom; it was bad enough getting Vin into place while the broom was stationary only a few feet from the ground. Finally, Vin slid into place before him and he released the mobilicorpus spell bracing himself for the sudden addition of Vin's full weight on both the broom and himself as the spell's intangible support holding Vin up disappeared, expecting it Ezra already had his wandless arm in place ready to draw him back against his own body as a support frame on the hovering broom. He added a number of the strongest sticking charms to join their clothing together as an added safety precaution not wanting to rely only on his ability to keep Vin on the broom with just one arm. When he was satisfied Vin was bound to himself as best he could he resheathed his wand and slowly took to the air again, trying to keep as close to the ground as possible for safety reasons carrying a unconscious passenger seated before him on a broom wasn't the wisest thing he had ever done it made it almost impossible to steer.
He fully expected Chaucer to be waiting for him at the destroyed bridge which was the only reason Ezra had any hope of them surviving this nightmare. Chaucer might not have wings but he was of known Pegasus stock and was quite capable using his innate magic to accelerate well beyond normal horse speeds. Ezra's old riding instructor at the academy had insisted on his equestrian students attending the specific lessons that covered winged horses even if they did not choose care of Magical creatures as an elective like Ezra who had been forced by his mother to choose divination due to the excellent cons and confidence tricks such skills could bring in the Muggle world.
The lesson had been truly fascinating and Ezra had wished he could have taken the entire magical creature subject as it had been much more fun then Divination. It had also been extremely useful when he finally decided to purchase a equine familiar the lesson had been quite detailed as it explained that while there were no longer any of the pure blooded Elven bred horses left outside the Hollow Hills the wing heritage was still to be found in many of the half breeds from the Elven stallions mating with normal mares. Over the millennia Wizards and Witches had bred many of today's winged breeds from those original cross pairings. Given his own travels amongst Muggles he had taken those lessons to heart and sort out a reputable winged horse breeder and left his name down for a special type of rare throwback. Chaucer had been the result, the breeder had thought he was a fool to take the gamble that such a throwback would manifest magical ability after bonding until he explained that he travelled amongst Muggles and the more obvious winged steeds would be not only useless but illegal and even if Chaucer didn't manifest more than the intelligence and empathy he would be happy.
Chaucer's magical uncertainty meant he had been sold for a pittance of his winged siblings price as the breeder could not even guarantee that Chaucer would eventually gain the ability to magically enhance his speed let alone eventually transfigure wings to fly. That was the gamble when you bonded with throwbacks like Chaucer they had a fifty percent chance of being little more than a more empathic Muggle horse which is what he suspected Peso was given the story of his purchase. Unscrupulous magical owners who had taken the gamble and disliked the result often tragically discarded throwbacks that failed to manifest magic. Such failures were often sold to Muggles to regroup their upkeep and original cost; this was not illegal as long as they were gelded. The selling of throwback mares and filly's to Muggles was where it became illegal as any future foals had the potential to grow wings.
When Chaucer had begun to display the magical speed after their bonding Ezra had been well pleased although he would have been happy with an almost Muggle familiar given his lifestyle. Whether Chaucer inherited the full genetic ability of those old Elven created stallions he had yet to see as he was not yet Magically mature enough to manifest wings whenever he wished.
It was almost an hour later when the remains of the bridge came into view; Ezra was chilled to the bone and was having trouble feeling his extremities he hated to think what condition Vin was in. Coming in for a landing in the small clearing just off the main trail Ezra was relieved to hear a wicker of greeting from Chaucer, what he wasn't expecting was to find Peso in the clearing as well. Shaking his head in disgust at this obvious proof of the fractious horse's nature he set about the painstaking task of landing without mishap.
Carefully he lowered the hovering broom until his feet touched the ground; he had to keep the broom hovering to support Vin's weight while he dismounted. Not wanting to lay Vin on the ground he withdrew his wand and pointed at his saddle, he used a release charm and a attico on the bedroll to first free it from Chaucer's saddle and then to call it to him. Once it was spread out beside the broom he carefully undid the sticking charms freeing himself from Vin, and then he floated Vin up of the broom and lowered him onto the open bedroll.
Free of the extra burden he stiffly dismounted, staggering as his legs gave way. Luckily, the hovering broom provided enough support until his numb legs obeyed him enough to let him wobble over to Vin and remove his still wet Buffalo coat, boots and outer clothing until the Tracker was clad only in dry the winter underwear he had turned into a support frame for his broken bones and his socks. When he was completely dry he wrapped him tightly in the bedroll applying warming charms to the blankets and quilts as he went, pulling the tarp around him to keep the weather out and the heat in.
Trembling with fatigue, he looked around the small clearing thankful that his memory hadn't failed him on how the trees were grouped around this small clearing using his wand he bent the trees into a central point and bound them together at the same time weaving the branches into each other like a woven basket it took him fifteen minutes but in the end he had the clearing roofed in. It didn't do anything about the icy wind but at least the snow no longer fell on them. Using his wand to force the fallen snow and ground debris out from under his makeshift roof until there was only bare ground he built a fire next to some rocks to help reflect the heat and moved Vin's nest close to the resulting warmth. Before he saw to the horses he wanted to deal with the hypothermia that they were suffering from. He dug out his small emergency potion kit and heated two vials of 'Warm-Up' a strange little potion he had bought during a trip to Canada it was specially designed to counteract hypothermia and frostbite in a Wizard or Witch, it stored indefinitely in the inert form only activating when heated up to near boiling point. It had been expensive to buy but travelling in such inhospitable country in winter had made it a necessity, the family that sold the potion made a fortune each winter but no one complained even with the rumours that they had stolen the recipe from a French Wizard from Quebec leaving him for dead in a blizzard, it was worth its weight in gold when you were suffering from frostbite or hypothermia, which was probably why no one looked to closely at the origin of the formula the family had obtained. Ezra been forced to use it once during a blizzard and had been determined never to be without a few vials in his emergency kit. That decision was about to save both their lives.
Once the potion in the small vials turned a rich blood red colour he took them out of the fire to cool down when the potion turned first purple then a dark blue colour he knew it was ready. Carefully he tipped one of the vials down Vin's throat making sure he swallowed the potion. Tucking him back into the cocoon of heated blankets he swallowed the second vial himself, grimacing as the Magical heat flooded his system dispelling the cold and forcing his body back to normal temperature. In the end he was actually hot which was better than freezing to death. The potion 'Warm Up' had many legends about its origin, the murder of the Wizard inventor just one. The other version of its origin Ezra could believe more readily probably because he had his mother's family of Dark Wizards as object lessons of just how black the Dark Arts could be. That origin had the potion originally being an assassination tool, give 'Warm Up' to a Wizard or Witch with a normal body temperature and it would heat their blood until they boiled alive.
Now that he was warm Ezra quickly changed into dry clothes and went to tend the horses, removing their saddles and brushing them down draping a blanket with heating charms over each of them to mitigate some of the cold they must be feeling.
Making his way back to Vin he shivered as the wind cut through his dry clothing if they were to survive the night he had to do something to cut the icy wind but first he needed to check on Vin again.
While checking his temperature he felt Vin flinch at the touch, "Vin, it's Ezra. You are safe from those Sorcerous miscreants, don't move you have a number of broken and cracked bones I would prefer not to reset," he said gently gazing into wide terrified eyes, that gradually gained comprehension.
"Yes, Mr Tanner, Ezra."
"They dead?" he asked hopefully.
"Not yet, it is only a matter of time I assure you. I deemed retrieving you from the river they had thrown you into took precedence over retribution."
Vin shivered, "That don't make me feel better knowing them bastards are still alive but I'd a done the same thing if you were in the river, you said I got broken bones. H…How torn up am I from what else they…?" he asked softly. The the hot flush to his cheeks and averted eyes told Ezra exactly what he was talking about without completing the question.
"They were covering their dastardly deeds so used something Magical to heal the atrocities they had inflicted apon you. From what my diagnosis spells have ascertained your body is healing at a rapid rate, only your bones are unaffected by the rapid healing which is why you are trussed up like a thanksgiving turkey to immobilise the broken and cracked bones you are suffering from, the rocks in the river were not kind to your poor body I'm afraid," said Ezra.
"Where are we? I ain't never seen a roof like that. It's real pretty the way its all woven together but if them trees are alive it will wreak havoc with them branches when the trees start growing come spring," frowned Vin.
"We are at the clearing near the bridge those miscreants destroyed under us. As for the work of art above us, it is merely a temporary structure I created with my wand to keep the snow of us. I shall restore the trees to their original configuration with my trusty wand when we no longer need their lofty protection," smiled Ezra only Vin would be worried about the trees. A particularly nasty gust of wind made him shiver.
"I still have to block the wind, the decorative roof you just admired is keeping the snow of us but it does little for the wind and snow coming in the sides. If we are to last the night I will have to weave walls as well," sighed Ezra.
"Rest assured your fractious mount is safe and as comfortable as I could make him."
"I ain't asking about that. I know you, Ez, you'd look after Peso as well as Chaucer, I mentioned him because we need my bedroll," explained Vin.
"Are you still cold? I thought I had warmed you sufficiently," questioned Ezra worriedly.
"We need my tarp, it’s a Wizard tent. If you can get it set up there is plenty of room inside even got a stable for the horses," he said tiredly.
"Are you telling me you have always had a Wizard tent and still forced me to camp Muggle style in the roughest of conditions?" demanded Ezra incensed.
"Didn't know you was a Wizard, Ez. Ain't like you told me you were the Wizard kind either. So get off your high horse about it. We ain't allowed to use the Magic around the Muggles, even I know that and I ain't got much training but my Ma taught me that rule when I was little. No magic around the Muggles that includes the snake talking as well." said Vin innocently.
"Mr Tanner, you and I will have a very long talk when you are well enough," snapped Ezra stomping off in a huff to get Vin's bedroll.
Watching him stomp off in a meldramatic huff Vin called wearily, "French, Ez, got to use French or Latin. Adrian, the Wizard who left it to me was Cajun, he claimed English was the language of the barbarian."
"Lovely, French of all things. It is a good thing my Mother insisted on my learning the ancestral tongue," muttered Ezra with a groan. "My Mother is never to hear of this Mister Tanner, I shall never hear the end of it if she finds out my abhored French lessons actually came in handy."
When Ezra finally got the cantankerous tent up he returned to Vin only to find him sleeping looking absurdly young which defused his anger instantly much to his own amusement. Gently applying a weightless charm on the bedroll he lifted Vin into his arms being careful not to dislodge the warm blankets. Carrying him into the tent he was relieved to find the tent lamps had ignited as he entered. He had never been in a Wizarding tent before; the spells used in the creation were intricate and extremely expensive putting them way out of the average Wizard's income. Looking around just inside the entrance he was surprised to find a large entrance room with two large archways with doors thankfully one had glass panels in the door and he could see a living room beyond them so he carried Vin in that direction pleased when the doors opened at his approach. Inside, he walked towards a wide lounge that would do as a temporary resting place for Vin while he fetched the horses and the rest of their possessions from outside. Before he did that he decided to make sure that other archway was the stable not wanting to end up with the horses on this obviously expensive carpet while he found the entrance if it wasn't.
Walking through the other archway Ezra was stunned, this was a damned carriage house more suited to a mansion than a canvas tent. Ten stalls and not just any stalls but the large stalls needed to accommodate the massive winged carriage horses used for travel between Wizarding communities. As if that wasn't enough, he found an elegant two-person buggy his Mother would kill for despite it being at least fifty years old. That particular Wizarding carriage maker had been dead twenty years; a victim of one of those stupid blood feuds so prevalent amongst the Wizarding aristocracy of New Orleans. His Wizarding carriages and coaches were renowned and coveted even today. The workmanship not only in the construction but the intricate spells that made them works of Wizarding art. Their design and unparalleled comfort had never been duplicated, they were the only carriages on the market that were built to accommodate both non humans and humans, a house elf or goblin could drive one of the carriages as easily as a human Wizard or Witch or even a giant if need be owning one of those carriages was a status symbol Wizards and Witches would pay a fortune to own. A stately travelling coach also took up room and that brought a frown, not just because the same maker made it. The travelling coach had obviously been in a Wizarding battle the pockmarks of what had obviously been some very nasty spells pitted the frame. Curious Ezra walked over and opened the door, the inside was if anything in worse condition and Ezra winced at the pitted and fire gutted seats showing the outline of incinerated bodies what wasn't destroyed by fire was stained with old dried blood he doubted who ever had been travelling in this coach had survived. Even more questions for the enigmatic Mr Tanner.
Thankfully, the stable wasn't barren of fodder for the horses. That, in and of itself, was another enigma to wonder about. Where had Mister Tanner obtained this much fodder? Surely purchasing it in Four Corners would have caused undue speculation about its storage site.
It did not take long to prepare two stalls for occupation. The stalls even had water taps which indicated the tent had it's own large water supply. Though, he did need to warm the chilled water with a spell. Drinking icy water would not help the familiars recover from the cold.
After the stalls were prepared, it was merely a matter of retrieving the two familiars and installing them in the waiting stalls. He left the blankets on. The tent might give protection from the wind but it was still deathly cold; which meant he had another search ahead of him the tent must have some sort of heating system. Wizards as a rule liked their comfort and this tent was too elaborate not to have some sort of heating but first he needed to retrieve the rest of their possessions including his old school broom and douse the fire still burning outside the tent.
An hour later Ezra was warming himself in front of the sitting room fireplace, the tent was amazing the central room had all the other rooms going off it only the stable having its own entrance off the entrance hall. It wasn't a big room the tall ceilings and minuministic furnishing just making it seem spacious, it also wasn't designed to impress visitors, the fabrics and carpet while rich were made for comfort and size which had obviously been more important. The walls were paneled but bare of any decoration except the ship style lanterns and candle sconces built into the walls there were three of the big couches one of which Vin still slept on. They were gathered around the fireplace with a big chest being used as a handy table in the centre. The ceiling was at least ten feet high and arching in the middle reaching to about twelve feet containing a crystal candle chandelier.
The left wall had two more of arch doorways the apex of the arches almost nine feet high, the first door in this section of the tent was a large Wizarding style kitchen with a door into a formal dining room which had another arched ceiling with a matching chandelier, the last archway on that wall was another door into the dining room. The big stove in the kitchen served a second purpose as he found shunts to send heated air into the stable and dining room all he had to do was light the stove and it wouldn't be long before Chaucer and Peso were more comfortable. The kitchen had been designed for a tall being but had built in steps to accommodate normal sized humans.
The door to the left of the fireplace directly opposite the glass entry doors turned out to be an actual water closet although the seat was a little large for comfort in keeping with the rest of the tent a second pull down seat fitted over it for normal comfort along with the pull down steps to reach the high water closet seat. Ezra had been ecstatic when he found a working water closet. He hated Muggle outhouses they were so primitive. The door on the right was a fully equipped bathroom with a bath that would easily accommodate someone larger than Buck or Josiah with ease. In here he again found steps and other adjustments enabling a more normal human to use them with ease both these room seemed to be heated by the fireplace using a similar system to the stable and workshop.
The right wall had two more doors the first one turned out to be a fairly large bedroom, which also had its own fireplace. The bedroom had a four poster bed that was extremely large easily able to take three adults with comfort width wise and being almost eight feet in length. It was unmade but Ezra found clean bedding packed away in the large blanket box at the foot of the bed. After lighting the fireplace to warm the room, he set about making the bed applying warming charms as he went. The bedroom was yet another enigma it had an air of disuse about it and everything larger than a human would need. For the first time he did not find the fireplace ready for use or the step platforms so prevalent everywhere else in place, he had been forced to raid the sitting room wood box and start a fire from scratch. Thankfully, he had found pull down step platforms built into the side of the bed. He marvelled at the construction the designer had made the actual steps collapsible and the space behind the steps was a cleverly constructed place for shoe and boot storage. The clothing in the large chest of drawers and the wardrobes were obviously made for a much larger man than Mister Tanner in fact from the size the owner must have been over seven feet tall which went a long way to explaining the size of the tent furnishings and fittings. Each of the storage places cleverly used Wizard space in ways Ezra envied. Ezra fell in love with the furniture as he explored. He would definitely have to find the Wizard carpenter who created these exquisite, if gigantic, masterpieces and commission something similar when he finally gave up Muggle society.
Once the bed was ready he collected Mister Tanner, gently transferring him into the large bed and covering him with the warmed quilts. Then he doused all but a few of the lanterns, not wanting the tracker waking in the dark after the ordeal he had been through. When he had finished he carried his bedroll back out into the sitting room leaving the archway door open to hear if he was needed. Having one more room left to explore Ezra couldn't resist depositing his open bedroll on one of the couches while he explored. He opened the final Archway door finding that the final room was a large study, the fireplace in this room looked like it shared the same chimney as the bedroom from its placement. The difference was that this room showed evidence of habitation in the recent past including the fireplace made ready for use so Ezra ignited it to take the chill from the room as he explored. The desk and leather chair were made for a large man the bookshelves also reached to a height not comfortable for a human the books were mainly French and Latin even a few in Russian, English wasn't to be found.
A large built in couch graced one wall and was obviously being used as a bed as the pillows and bedding were folded at one end ready for a bed to be made. Ezra found a large storage drawer augmented with Wizard space and divided into sections built under the couch-bed, in it he found clothing that obviously belonged to the enigmatic Mister Tanner. More of the inevitable buckskin trousers the tracker insisted on wearing with a few shirts, underwear and socks. The next section he found a pair of dark grey Dragon hide Wizard boots lined with grey fur, looking strange next to a pair of moccasin boots of Indian manufacture. Moving to the section after that he found two Wizarding outfits, one made of dark emerald green velvet with pale silver grey silk lining complete with a matching over-robe, the second outfit a dark sapphire with a darker grey silk lining, the over-robe was dark grey velvet with blue silk lining. The outfits were exquisite. Ezra was definitely envious of them, and imagining the Tracker out of that atrocious bucksin and dressed in either of these outfits set his heart racing and caused his trousers to become uncomfortably tight. He could almost too easily imagine how either outfit would compliment Vin Tanner's beauty instead of hide it and that was more than a little disconcerting. A battered wooden box hidden under the expensive clothes contained an old velvet lined box containing a gold and silver cloak clasp of an ancient Celtic design. He was about to pick it up when the winged Ice Drake that made up the design opened eyes made of emeralds and hissed warning. Ezra had sense enough not to touch it after that, it looked old and Wizarding jewellery that old often had protection's to stop themselves from being stolen. 'No magic around the Muggles that includes the snake talking.' The memory hit him like a landslide. Damn, Vin must be a Parselmouth, and from the age of that piece of jewellery descended from an old Wizarding family. Under the box containing the jewelled Ice Drake clasp, Ezra found the only book in English in the entire room a family bible that had the name Tanner embossed on the cover. He have to examine that more closely tomorrow. Family Bibles often had family history or even family trees written in them and he had to admit the more he found out about the enigmatic Karvindar Tanner the more curious he became. Reluctantly moving onto the final section of the big storage drawer he found a dark grey dragon hide hooded cloak that matched the boots with the same silvery grey fur lining and yet another of those damn buffalo hide monstrosities Tanner favoured when dressing Muggle. ~ How many of those monstrosities did the Tracker have? ~ thought Ezra disgusted, ~ how could anyone who owned that beautiful Dragon hide cloak let alone that exquisite emerald or sapphire outfit not only stoop to wearing such a monstrosity but actually own at least three of the disgusting things by Ezra's count. ~ shoving the storage drawer back into place Ezra admitted his findings had him even more confused.
Deciding to leave the puzzle until tomorrow Ezra prepared for bed. As as much as he would love to sample that Wizard made bathtub he was much to tired at the moment to make the effort. It was a delight he would enjoy another time, now he just needed to make up the sleep he had lost these last few days. First, he made up the couch turned bed and then retrieved his own bedroll for extra warmth. He extinguished most of the lights in the rest of the tent while he did so; leaving only enough to see by if Vin needed him during the night. For the first time in his life he wasn't worried about unwelcome visitors sneaking up on him during the night if he slept soundly, when he had brought in the rest of their possessions he had found a small plaque written in French when he sealed the tent flaps on it was the incantation to set some sort of security system around the tent he actually felt safer in this tent than he did in his Muggle room at Four Corners and he intended to enjoy that feeling of safety along with the rest of the tent's Wizarding luxuries as long as they lasted they would be returning to the Muggle life of Four Corners soon enough.
Returning to the study he donned his
into the bed he had just made. In the morning he would have
see about food for both of them. Hopefully, Mister Tanner had
his usual efficient self and stocked the kitchen pantry with human food
as enthusiastically as he had seen to his mounts needs, if not they
have to make do with the atrocious Muggle rations they carried in their