The Enigma deepens
| Ezra woke confused by his strange
He gazed blearily around out of tired eyes as he wearily regained the
of the last few days, the hot fever in his cheeks, the cracked lips and
parched dryness to his mouth that made his tongue feel like lead made
moan. Gods! How could have been such an idiot, 'Warm-Up' had some
drastic side effects unless precautions were taken. The potion
the blood of the hypothermic Wizard but that very heat dehydrated at
same time. Ezra was kicking himself mentally for forgetting
that little side effect. If he felt this bad how must Vin
The young tracker was not in the best of shape to begin with.
Groaning from the effort he managed to leave his warm nest, pleased that the dreadful cold in the room had been somewhat mitigated by the warmth from the fireplace; he didn't bother with shoes deciding his warm winter socks would do within the confines of the tent. He did, however, quickly transfigure two of his blankets into an ankle length makeshift robe for extra warmth. He also freely admitted to himself that he did not feel comfortable walking around in just his nightshirt, at least outside the equivalent of a bedroom. The highly embarrassing episode of the tablecloth had been more than enough to make him even more self conscious of such things.
A shiver of memory of that shameful episode shook him briefly; the man had definitely cheated and had used both Muggle tricks and Magic to do so. It was a blow to Ezra's pride that he had still not solved to his satisfaction the puzzle of what method had been used to cause such a lowering of his natural inhibitions and caution, was still a mystery to this day. It had of cause been Magical in nature, the Magical residue he had felt once it had worn of had been quite plain but as the man was a Muggle Chaos Sorcerer not a Wizard, Ezra had still not managed to discover the exact mode of administrating whatever had been inflicted on him.
Ezra sighed, the entire incident had been a severe blow to his self confidence, which was not something a professional gambler could afford, these days he was much more wary about playing games of chance with Muggle Sorcerers. In fact his confidence had been so undermined by the incident that he had instigated a personal policy of not playing Sorcerers of any kind, telling himself that it was only until he finished working out how that particular Sorcerer had cheated. When the truth was that he did not want to chance a repeat of that particular effect again, the loss of his natural inhibitions had been terrifying and quite embarrassing.
Strangely enough, Vin's horrified reaction to his lack of propriety during that incident had been a bonding moment for them both at least it had been once whatever the Sorcerer had used wore off. The others had been amused by the incident but Vin had been embarrassed and disappointed in him over the entire episode which for some reason Ezra had found strangely reassuring in the embarrassing aftermath of that shameful episode as it had given him a clear goal to get his life back onto a even keel.
The clear goal of clearing the air between the young tracker and himself had enabled Ezra to overcome his own embarrassment of the situation. Ezra had finally managed to corner the young tracker in the stable before he rode out on patrol the day after the incident and ruefully admit he thought he had been drugged and apologised for the inpropiorty of his actions the day before. Until that moment he hadn't realised he had found Vin's reaction to the incident strangely pleasing, as it confirmed Ezra's suspicions that the young tracker for all his rough edges and lack of schooling was a true gentlemen in all the ways that counted. Vin had finally forgiven him in the end saying with a teasing smirk that while he had looked quite fetchin' in the tablecloth, he might want to watch his drinks more closely in future. Ezra had watched him ride of on patrol quite simply flabbergasted at the young tracker's compliment of his physical form. Not the least of his bemusement and shock had been Ezra's sudden realisation that he quite liked the idea that Vin found his form 'fetchin'. He had been horrified at the direction his thoughts had turned. He retreated to his room to examine his quite unexpected reactions to a compliment from Vin Tanner in minuet detail. In the end he had come to the unsettling conclusion that his heart was a fickle beast and he was quite insane, not to mention without a shred of survival instinct in the area of love. How else would a certain cerulean eyed tracker have somehow snuck in and stole his heart while he was defending it from a certain arrogant and high handed black clad gunslinger already. By the time Vin had returned from patrol Ezra had come to some unsettling conclusions and the decision to ignore his feeling for the young tracker. It would seem he did have just enough survival instinct not to make a fool of himself, as well as sense enough to see Vin Tanner's heart had been stolen by a certain black clad temptation from the moment they met.
Ezra found himself frowning as he made his way to the tent's well appointed Wizarding kitchen, considering the new information he had discovered it might be time for him re-evaluate his conclusion of just how close the two men were. Given the undeniable facts obtained from that truly vile conversation of the sexual brutality to which the younger man had been subjected to these last few days, it was obvious that no matter how close Christopher Larabee and Vin Tanner had become they had not been lovers. Unless, of course, Christopher Larabee only liked to be on the receiving end of anal intercourse, which given the man's domineering personality he found highly unlikely. So despite over a year having passed, the two men had not progressed beyond an extremely deep and unusual friendship. Given the now known fact of Vin's previous physical innocence of such matters combined with the obvious love he had for the black clad gunslinger, the young tracker couldn't hide. Ezra had to admit some confusion to the lack of physical progression in the relationship. Ezra had become quite skilled at judging men. From the start he had thought the tracker's shy nature indicated a tendency to let his sexual partners to take the lead and nothing he had seen in the last year had contradicted that original assessment of the younger man. Ezra frowned, so that left the blame for the non-progression of the relationship to a physical level firmly at Christopher Larabee's door. Which did finally explain the Charlotte Richmond fiasco, if Larabee had been curtailing the natural progression of the relationship the younger man had probably been slightly depressed and more than usually vulnerable to Charlotte Richmond's masterful manipulation. He doubted the others realised the woman had used Vin to regain her husbands attention, only a lifetime of dealing with his mother's constant manipulations had let Ezra see Charlotte Richmond's game and even that was deduction from hindsight to a large extent.
Searching the well-made, space-enhanced cupboards in the kitchen for a drinking vessel he finally found a glass water jug and some drinking glasses. The set was a well-known Wizarding pattern made by most Wizard glass manufactures as a basic household item. Such sets were routinely made with a standard set of spells impregnated into the glass at its making. A quick check of this sets impregnated spells found nothing dangerous which was not always the case when dealing with Wizard made items. The delicate glass was impregnated with a strong unbreakable charm, a freshness spell and a spell that let you set the contents to remain at one of three temperatures. The chill, normal, warm setting were also not unusual as they were routinely found in this type of item. The addition of a poison detector raised an eyebrow but even that was fairly innocuous compared to some spells you could find in a Wizarding household. The added touch of a synchronisation spell between the jug and matching drinking glasses brought a pleased smirk, a warning if the contents did not match the jug would certainly warn someone their drink had been slipped a mickey. Both the poison detector and synchronisation spell were a nice touch, Ezra thoroughly approved of their inclusion but their addition also pointed to the strata of Wizarding society the original purchaser originated from, only the more paranoid of the old families would include such a spell in a common water jug set.
As his thirst was becoming a problem, he used one of the glasses to quench his thirst and filled it directly from the tent water supply. Only then did he fill the water jug and grabbing another glass before heading to the bedroom. He needed to get liquid into the young tracker as soon as possible, only the gods knew how long it had been since Vin had liquid, his captors had never intended the younger man to survive so he doubted they bothered with food or water. He had been a fool not to realise that before this and take precautions; 'Warm Up' would have just aggravated the condition if his suspicions were correct.
As he carefully carried the water jug and glass towards the bedroom he had left Vin in, he contemplated his next move in tending his young friend's injuries, as well as the inevitable problems the aftermath of such sexual assault would bring. Ezra had a very good idea of the emotional horror and loss of self ahead for the young tracker, when he was eighteen one of Maude's many cons at the time had backfired. Maude had managed to escape but hadn't bothered to give warning to Ezra who had blithely walked into her hotel suite after graduating from Salem Academy and right into the arms of the powerful man that she had swindled. For the next three months he had used Ezra as both his whore and whipping boy to vent his frustration on while he tracked Maude down to regain his money. Those three months had almost destroyed Ezra. The physical marks of his suffering had been alleviated easily enough with a visit to a Wizarding Healer but not so the emotional scarring. Even now, almost ten years later, he was honest enough to admit the lessoning of the night terrors that left him a terrified tearful wreck huddled into the corner of his room was due to the obituary he had read five years ago. The obituary that told him Theodore was finally dead and no longer a danger.
In many ways what Vin suffered would be more horrifying, the men who had captured and used him so brutally had not intended for Vin to survive so had made no effort to prepare Vin for anal intercourse. Theodore for all his brutality had never had any intention of killing him. The bastard had considered Ezra's sexual service due payment for the cost of carting him around after Maude, so as long as Ezra kept him satisfied he didn't hurt him to much sexually while in bed. Outside of the bed was another matter, every time Maude gave him the slip or he heard of a spending spree, Ezra knew the heavy handed feel of his belt and usually a brutal buggering bent over a table or any other handy surface afterwards as he vented his anger. Even then, he had, at the very least, made sure Ezra was well lubricated before mounting him. Ezra had quickly learnt the difference, when Theodore used him in bed it was simple sex and he even made sure Ezra received some pleasure from it. During that time Ezra was paying for his keep, his food and transport and all the other expenses it cost Theodore to drag Ezra along after Maude. The beatings and brutal rapes bent over the nearest surface was more about power and rage, a way for Theodore to vent his rage at Maude without killing Ezra in his mother's place.
Ezra shivered, it had taken him a year after the cumulation of Maude's scam of Theodore to work out why she had taken so long to set it up. Like all her con's, she had worked out Theodore's personality before setting him up as a mark, when he got hold of Ezra she had known he wouldn't kill him but bring him along on the hunt. Using Ezra as bait to kill Maude and retrieve his money having Ezra her next of kin on hand would let him at her effects after her death. Maude had never told him if she knew what else he would use Ezra for and he had never asked, just as he never asked if she had planed for Theodore to gain possession of Ezra in the first place. He preferred to keep some illusions about his mother's love for him, although he had never quite trusted her not to sacrifice him after that ordeal. She had cold bloodedly continued with her original sting even knowing Theodore had Ezra leading him on a merry chase finally letting him catch up to her but too late, she simulated her death using the 'Draught of Living Death' before he could kill her. Having actually seen her body and found no heartbeat Theodore had been angry but resigned to Maude's seeming escape from his personal retribution. He had used Ezra as her next of kin to get access to all her money and effects, he had then systematically gone through her records and receipts, tallying it all before he left after the funeral taking the remaining money and all the goods she had purchased with him.
Those few days had been wearying for Ezra who had not only spent the entire time with a very sore arse and back from Theodore's venting over Maude's death and the proof of her spending spree's but also earning the cost of the funeral in Theodore's bed the rest of the time. During that time Ezra also had the unenviable job of secretly making sure the undertaker did not really kill his mother by apparating into his premises and replacing her body with a dead calf transfigured into her likeness for burial in the grave Theodore had arranged. Theodore had been very though in going through the receipts he had also not trusted Maude one bit insisting on an open casket until just before the burial and even then he followed and watched the burial from the moment it was sealed. Ezra had also found out later that he had hired a watchman for the grave for a week after the funeral to make sure it wasn't dug up just in case she was somehow faking. Theodore's thoroughness where Maude was concerned still gave Ezra the chills even ten years later, if they had been Muggles he had no illusion's that Maude would now be dead either by Theodore's own hand or buried alive to suffocate in her coffin if she had been using Muggle methods to fake her death.
Entering the bedroom Ezra was pleased to note Vin was still sleeping the combination of socks and carpet muffled Ezra's approach but even then he was not surprised when Vin woke suddenly as he approached the bed, still half asleep Vin instinctively reacting to a possible threat by moving away from the approaching intruder.
"Relax, Mister Tanner, I am not your enemy. I have merely interrupted your slumber to bring you some water, the potion I was forced to administer to us both to alleviate the hypothermia we were both suffering from has a dehydrating effect that unfortunately slipped my mind in the rush to erect our present domicile in the face of a blizzard. I myself woke suffering the unfortunate effect and realised you must also be suffering the uncomfortable dehydrating effect of 'Warm Up' and deemed rehydration a vital necessity to both our health." As he spoke he moved closer to the bed depositing the jug and water glass on the small bedside chest. "Will you permit me to raise you to a more comfortable position so you can alleviate your thirst without saturating yourself?"
As Ezra spoke the terror left Vin's eyes and a small smile graced his mouth as he recognised his voice and relaxed, "You surely do love them ten dollar words, Ez, if you didn't speak them so pretty everyone would shoot ya so they didn't get a headache tryin' to work out what they mean." Whispered Vin the rasp in his voice showing just how dry his throat was.
"Here let me sit you up," said Ezra, gently raising the young tracker and propping him up with the extra pillows, once he was settled he poured a glass of water and held it out, only to help him hold it when he saw how shaky Vin's grip was. "As for my ten dollar words as you and the rest of our friends call them, it has not escaped my notice Mister Tanner, that you can usually work out the gist of what I am saying if not the exact meaning, quite well and unlike some of our compatriots have no problems simply asking for clarification when you do not work out the meaning to your satisfaction," smirked Ezra.
"Chris is still gonna end up shootin' ya one of these days when he works out ya deliberately use the biggest words when he has a hangover," said Vin with a weak chuckle.
"Indeed, Mister Tanner, I have no illusions about Mister Larabee's patience when suffering the after effects of his periodic binge drinking, but I dare say as long as you always just sit there as if you understand my excessively verbose babble at such times, he will merely moan and believe his headache from his over indulgence in that cheap gut rotting whisky he favours, is the cause of his misunderstanding of my conversation," laughed Ezra with a similar smirk.
"Just means he'll shoot us both when he works it out, but he does lay of the booze longer when we bamboozle him the next morning into thinkin' he's overdone it more than usual, ain't as if we do it every time either only when he really goes to town on the stuff," said Vin sadly.
"Indeed, and our unspoken cooperation in that little con has been keeping his periodic binges to a more sedate timescale," smirked Ezra matching Vin's grin.
"That stuff is still gonna kill him eventually, they don't call if rotgut for nothin', seen to many drunks die from what it does to the insides of a man when ya drink to much, wouldn't touch the stuff myself if the saloon had something else I could drink instead," said Vin with a sigh of disgust.
"You could always drink milk," laughed Ezra imagining Chris's reaction if Vin asked for milk.
"Laugh it up, ain't nothing wrong with Muggle milk, if ya can drink it that is, problem being I's one the people can't drink it, makes me real sick whenever I have some. Grandpa Red Hawk use ta joke about it, said it just proved our family was more Unicorn than human. Ma said it was because no one in Pa's family had drunk Muggle milk in centuries we all grew up drinking Unicorn milk. Found out that was a little strange even for the Wizard kind a few years ago when I broke my arm and Ms Elsbeth wanted me to drink milk, as it's good for the bones. When I done told her how all the Muggle milks made me sick and if she wanted me ta drink milk we had to go find a Unicorn ta milk like Ma did when I's little. She got real quiet and made me describe the critters I was calling Unicorns. When I said they was white, and pony size sort of a cross between a horse and a goat with a single horn, she nodded and got real nosy about my family. Had ta tell her about Great Grandma Belladonna Tannerae having been Unicorn stole before she believed I weren't joshing her about drinking Unicorn Milk. She finally got the grumpy little Goblin fellas to send her some Unicorn milk in the next supply box, only took a sip to confirm it was the same stuff Ma made me drink when I's little. I think until that moment Ms Elsbeth had thought I was fibbing she was right startled when I just drank it down as if it were Muggle milk."
"I would say her startlement is quite understandable, Mister Tanner, Unicorn milk is a potion ingredient not for casual ingestion by Wizards as a food source. As far as I know, the fabled Unicorn Lords of legend are the only humans ever to be able to do such a thing and their ability to ingest Unicorn milk in its pure form is only possible due to the inclusion of a demi-god in the family tree; the semi-divine nature of the Unicorn Lords is reinforced by the purity of the Unicorn and makes them incapable of falling to the temptation of the Dark Arts. Even such families as my own, who have Elven ancestors, can not ingest Unicorn milk in such a manner and the Elven did habitually raise their children on such milk as well."
"I ain't heard that thing about us having divine blood before," frowned Vin, not really sure he liked that at all. "I know the Unicorn's stole the Tannerae clan more than once according to Ma. I always thought that was why they call us the Unicorn Lords. The Unicorns keep saving the clan from being wiped out, they sort of count us as two legged members of the herd. I remember Ma telling me that's how my Pa's family the Tannerae ended up in Texas early last century. Great Grandma Belladonna Tannerae became the latest in a long line of Tannerae orphans that got Unicorn stolen," smirked Vin.
Ezra's jaw dropped. He had, of course, heard the myth of Unicorn's saving orphan children of the semi-divine clans collectively known as Unicorn Lords and raising them with the herd but he had thought that a Wizard fairy tale, on par with the Muggle myths of children raised by wolves. "How on earth did that happen?"
"Ya got to understand Belladonna was only six when it happened so the story is a little sparse on facts and the descriptions that of a child but this is the story Ma told me when I's little and Pa told it ta her. It seems a bad Wizard attacked Tannerae Manor, which was in a cold place, where even the Muggle men wore dresses to show which family they belonged to. I think that might mean Scotland; leastways it sounds like their clan kilts. Met a Scottish buffalo hunter who explained about the kilts and what their tartans mean to them and Belladonna's description seems ta match. Anyway little Belladonna Tannerae who was six at the time managed to escape into the forest where the Unicorns grazed and the Unicorn lead Stallion gored the bad Wizard chasing her and stomped him into the ground. Which Ma explained meant that Wizard was real bad inside which is how the Unicorn see people and creatures, they see what's inside not the outside shown the world which is why the Demon don't ever fool 'em. The next morning they didn't find any of Belladonna's human family left alive only a House Elf, so they waited for Belladonna and the House Elf to collect some things which the House Elf insisted they take with them. The herd carried them for them in packs the House Elf made, then that lead stallion just set them on his back and they left, using some Magical pathway that brought 'em to Texas. An old Indian medicine-man saw 'em arrive in Texas using the moonpaths. He had come to talk to the spirits 'cause he and a few of the other old ones of his tribe were getting too old to travel. It was a small tribe heading north away from the Spanish who were either killing them or taking them as slaves, the old people knew they were slowing the tribe down, so sensing a place of power nearby when they camped for the night the old medicine man had come to ask the Great Spirit for guidance. Spirit Wolf, that was the old man's name, saw the Unicorn dancing down the moonbeams to the valley carrying little Belladonna to her new home. He took it as a sign for the old people of the tribe to stay in the valley protected by the white horned spirit horses as he called them in return for looking after their little spirit girl. So that's how Pa's family ended up in Texas and more Indian medicine people than Wizards," laughed Vin. "Ma claimed the Tannerae clan Unicorn stolen which made her giggle and call me her little Unicorn Lord. I remember asking her why it always made her giggle when she called me that and she just looked sad and said no one would ever believe one of her family would ever have married a Unicorn Lord like my Pa, let alone have a baby. Her family's got itself a real bad reputation, which is why she didn't want me anywhere near 'em when she died. I got a Uncle in England which I never told anyone about, Ma made me swear not ta tell about him after she'd gone back to Heaven, as he was the type of Wizard the Unicorns would stomp."
"Someone a Unicorn would stomp is quite a serious warning to give a five-year-old about a relative," said Ezra startled. "One can only hope your mother exaggerated his nature."
"Yeah! Trouble being Ma saw people for what they were real good, and she was real good at making up games that taught me ta see people as they are as well. Ya got to be almost Demon dark inside for a Unicorn to be mad enough ta stomp ya, if Ma claimed my Uncle was that bad I believed her which is why I never told anyone I had a Uncle named Salvador Slytherin still living in England when they was searchin' for a relative ta take me."
Ezra choked, "Slytherin?" he spluttered shocked, before recovering enough to say dryly. "Well, that certainly explains where you inherited the Parcelmouth gift from, not to mention that exquisite Ice Drake cloak clasp that hissed at me quite rudely."
"Found Quisen, did ya?" laughed Vin amused, "Yeah! He was Ma's although she didn't have him when she run away from home. He just popped out of the air a few weeks before she died landin' in Ma's hand like a little hissin' bird callin' her Mistress. Ma cried and told me it meant her daddy was dead and Uncle Salvador had proved himself bad. Ma explained that he was so bad the Unicorns would stomp him so Quisen run away ta find Ma and me. That's when she made me promise not to tell people about Uncle Salvador and I was always to remember I was a Tanner and so was Quisen now," sighed Vin, remembering his mother's frantic terror when Quisen turned up and started hissing quietly in her ear and her sudden decision not to send him to England now her Father was dead as she originally planned when she died as he would fall into the hands of her brother Salvador now that her Pa was dead, instead she sent for Grandpa Red Hawk ta take him even though she knew Grandpa was slowly dying as well and he'd eventually end up in Muggle hands.
"Which is why the honor of your family name means so much to you. It was important to your mother, who had no doubt grown up under the revered but shunned name of Slytherin, given her family history it is understandable that she valued your Father's family honor and had an obsession that it not be tarnished due to her heritage," said Ezra understanding the motivations of Vin's mother with surprising empathy, the Malfoy history, if not quite as infamous as the ancient Slytherin family was almost as dark and as hard to live with.
"Yeah! Ma would be real disappointed in me if I let Pa's family name get the reputation of being as black as the Slytherin one. That's why I'll head for Tascosa eventually; have ta try clearing that bounty even if it gets me hung," sighed Vin.
"Well, on that front I have some good news," said Ezra brightly. "I had the bad luck to run into Aunty Anyanka while following your trail and she insisted on me making a W.I.S.H. To understand the danger of such a situation you have to understand that Aunty Anyanka is a Vengeance Demon and you are risking life and limb even saying the W.I.S.H. word around such creatures even vaguely attached to some desire."
"Ya got Demon relatives, Ez?" asked Vin startled and shocked.
"Well not blood relatives, mothers fictitious recounting of my childhood had little truth to the tale, far from being the doting mother who saw to my every need she instead often found me an inconvenience in her life. An inconvenience she routinely rid herself of by foisting me onto relatives and acquaintances with alarming regularity. During one such time, Anyanka made a visitation, to my Muggle Aunt, from my Muggleborn father's side of the family. My Aunt's husband not only cheated on her regularly but also beat her when she complained of his infidelities. In an effort to gain my Aunt's trust, at least long enough to get her to verbalise a W.I.S.H. detrimental her husband, Anyanka was pretending to have a fondness for children so was holding me when my Aunt voiced her quite bloodthirsty desire about her brute of a husband public combined with the dreaded invocation of the W.I.S.H. word. In the bloody aftermath, Anyanka forgot she was still holding my toddler self and flashed away. Her Demon Lord was not pleased and for some reason my being a Wizard made it impossible for them to just get rid of the inconvenience they were suddenly encumbered with by snapping my neck and discarding my husk. Instead her Master made her look after me as punishment until she could track down Mother and be rid of me that way, she has been Aunty Anyanka ever since. I have always found it slightly depressing to be able to state in hindsight that I received more love and care in that year from a Millennia old Vengeance Demon than my mother has seen fit to give me the other twenty seven years of my existence," recounted Ezra.
"Damn, Ez, I may have only had Ma for five years but I knew she loved me every day of it. So ya Demon Aunt made ya.." Vin hesitated then copied Ezra's lead, the gambler weren't one to go overboard about such things, "W.I.S.H. before she let ya by?"
"Indeed, they were after my willing vengeance on your Sorcerous attackers but as I informed them, all the Seven are quite capable inflicting our own vengeance on the Sorcerous Miscreants who attacked you. When they still refused to let me pass, I resorted to the most innocuous but most gainful thought I could envisage in so limited a space of time. That was to bring into the light all the machinations that have dogged you person Mr Tanner, Aunty Anyanka was quite incensed at my wasting their power on your family honour. Even so her companion Halfrek informed me it had a modicum of success almost instantiously, after the granting of my verbalised desire I was informed that a man had just given deathbed declaration that Eli Joe did indeed kill Kincaid in Texas with the intention of framing you. So the bounty on your head should be even now in the process of being lifted."
"I don't know how ta thank ya, Ez, but I's heard a few warnings about them Demon's like this Aunty Anyanka of yours, being demons their grantings ain't suppose to be for someones gain. Ain't they suppose ta be selfish and cause maximum hurt ta someone usually backfiring on the one who willed it. Ya could have willed something real bad on your self, Ez, trying ta help me."
"Indeed, unfortunately Aunty Anyanka would not take no for an answer, my counter was the most innocuous of the things I could have willed and I am quite hopeful the avalanche of havoc it is causing elsewhere will not reach us for a long time, the very slowness of the domino effect my verbalisation has caused makes me hopeful it will eventuate elsewhere as reality is reordered to comply with the criteria of my verbalisation." sighed Ezra tiredly.
"How likely is that, Ez?" demanded Vin.
"It depends on just how much havoc the criteria can create elsewhere, if the chaos and bloodshed meeting the criteria satisfies the Demonic nature of the granting we should be relatively unaffected until the domino toppling completes and the new pattern is in place. On a plus side, I was wise enough to only will a bringing to light of past machinations against you that have caused you ill, not the righting of them which would truly have caused havoc. My careful verbalisation should actually change little in your life other than the loss of people hunting you for money. The bounty is the only thing we know of that directly effects you at present, which is why the wording was vital, the difference in verbalisation is slight but fraught with danger. If for instance I had willed the bounty never occurring you would probably never have come to Four Corners which may have caused a lot of the events that have happened to have less favourable impact on the citizens of the town. I fear Nathan would not have survived the original hanging attempt without your marksmanship, a direct result of that would be the loss of life the lack of his healing skills would have brought the town. By merely willing Eli Joes plot to be brought the light the effects of the bounty on your life to this time are still in place only future problems have been stopped."
"It still don't feel right you risking that type of thing just ta clear my family name," frowned Vin looking at the gambler worried.
"I assure you Aunty Anyanka and her companion were not taking no for a answer. I would have had to perform some sort of verbal determination before they let me pass, I chose the least harmful of the possibilities available at the time, and verbalised it with the greatest of care. Even so, it might indeed backfire on the both of us spectacularly in the future. Halfrek, Aunty Anyanka's companion informed me that while the bounty is in the process of being cleared other machinations against you are also coming to light, machinations concerning your parents hidden by Wizarding Magic. I have to admit that does give rise to a certain amount of dread especially now that I know your mother was of the Slytherin line. She may well have taken precautions when she ran away from her family so she and her descendants could not be tracked by Salvador and his descendants in the future. Your mother obviously feared her brother greatly and went to great pains to make your five-year-old self understand that he was not to be trusted. I fear those safeguards, if they exist, are also beginning to unravel due to the W.I.S.H."
"Ya did the best ya can, Ez, sounds like ya made the best of a bad situation. At least Ma gave me warning about Uncle Salvador so if he turns up I know he's Demon dark enough ta need stomping. Doubt he'll be pleased at having a Tannerae Unicorn Lord for a Nephew but at least he probably won't try ta kill me for being a blot on the bloodline. The Tannerae are a real old family, if a little weird due ta the Unicorn's adopting us, so Ma didn't marry beneath her but if he finds out I have Quisen he'll be hell for leather ta get him back and for that he has ta kill me as he only moves on when his master or mistress dies," sighed Vin seeing trouble ahead.
"What is so special about that Cloak clasp?" asked Ezra suddenly intrigued.
"I ain't sure myself, Quisen is real quiet about why he's important, just say's he's the key ta something which either belongs ta my family or my family's the guardian of. Ain't quite sure which it is, may even be a little of both from the way Quisen speaks about it. All I know is whatever Quisen is the key ta could be real dangerous in the wrong hands, which is why his creator made him self-willed as Ma called it. Quisen picks his own master or mistress in the bloodline, if he don't like any of the prospects he just becomes as quiet as a Muggle piece of jewellery until someone he likes gets born. Times like this I really feel the lack of Magic schoolin', protectin' or even hidin' Quisen is gonna take more than the scattering of stuff I got through the years."
"Did your mother have a plan to hide the Clasp or did she intend the Clasp to protect you?" asked Ezra.
"Quisen can only protect himself from being stole, his master or mistress can usually protect themselves. I remember Ma was working on a disguise for Quisen before she died, claimed she was gonna give him another form he could be, as the Ice-Drake was so recognisable and what everyone would be searchin' for. She and Quisen wanted Uncle Salvador ta think he got destroyed with her body in the funeral pyre, even made herself a copy of Quisen for everyone ta remember her wearing, said the only way Uncle Salvador and the ones like him would ever stop searching for Quisen is ta think him destroyed by the Muggles in their ignorance."
"Would not the clasp have been able to have saved itself from the fire, if it was self-willed?" mused Ezra seeing a flaw in the plan.
"That's just it, Ma claimed the family almost lost Quisen a few times, if he goes quiet because he don't have a master or mistress of the blood he likes, he can get destroyed as easily as something Muggle made."
"I see!" said Ezra slowly. "Your mother intended the Slytherin family to believe Quisen had finally succumbed to his weakness, when in truth he was to assume a new form, quite cunning of your mother to think of such a thing."
"Yeah! Trouble is I ain't got the magic trainin' let alone the readin' skills ta work out what Ma intended for Quisen. I know she put it in the bible but I only just worked out how ta make it a spell book again. Ma was real good at hiding things in other forms, she also had a touch of the Seer gift so I guess she knew I'd eventually end up in Muggle hands. That's why she made the spell book look like the family bible on account of Muggles valuing such things. Told me the Muggles would burn a spell book the instant they set eyes on one but might let me keep the family bible and she was right, it helped that it had the Tanner name on it so it couldn't be easily stole. I think she might have spelled it to always come back ta me as well, although I can't rightly be sure about that, the few times it did get stole Quisen was in his hidin' place inside the back cover and I know he weren't about ta let himself get stole," mused Vin. "Can ya pour me another glass of water, Ez, my mouth is still dry as a bone and all this talking ain't helping."
"Forgive me Vin, you must be parched," said Ezra horrified, immediately pouring another glass of water and holding it for him. "I also need to find you some nourishment as I doubt your captors bothered to feed you."
"Only thing I got given was some honey-water," sighed Vin after he drank another glass of water. "Don't think I could eat anything too solid yet but I got plenty of food in the kitchen, the larder has what Adrian and Ms Elsbeth called 'Stasis Spells', which sure makes keeping supplies fresh easy as can be. Ya should be able ta find something takes ya fancy that just need reheating in there. I cooked a passel of soups and stews when I was cutting hay in a valley I know. If ya don't want soup or stew which is about all I can probably stomach at the moment truth ta tell, ya can always roast something if ya want. That valley I found had some good huntin', the vegetable garden I planted also did real good, so I got plenty of food in the larder at the moment and the spells'll keep it fresh for years."
"Do you always keep this Wizard abode of your's so well stocked, Mister Tanner?"
"I always try ta keep the larder well stocked in case I got ta take off 'cause of the bounty on my head, stopping for supplies is what would have got me caught and folks around me killed, especially in winter when the land has scarce pickings. Only took the hardware clerk job in Four Corners originally because I needed money ta restock stuff I can't get from hunting and such, even then I knew I wouldn't have been able ta stay long enough for a complete restock, seein' as I woulda had ta buy most everythin' but meat, this last year has let me stock the larder and stable completely. Ain't really sure why I've been doin' it, other than it gave me somethin' ta do when I got bored with townlife, didn't really need ta restock seein' as I intended ta just go back ta Tascosa and see about liftin' the bounty if I left Four Corners."
"Well, Mister Tanner, I for one am certainly glad of your boredom with townlife this last year, as it will mean we will not be eating atrocious Muggle trail food in the near future and I have saved you a dangerous trip to Tascosa, now you have the luxury of thinking of the future," said Ezra brightly, pouring another glass of water and helping the younger man drink. "I had best get to the kitchen and find you some food, Mister Tanner. You will not recover from this ordeal on water alone."
"There's more firewood stacked in one of the stalls if the stuff in here runs out, I ain't had the time ta cut it up ready for the fire, I don't really know any wood choppin' spells so I had ta cut it all by hand with a axe."
"Rest assured, Mister Tanner, I do know a firewood spell, so I will see to the restoration of the wood boxes to a full state before they completely empty."
"Good," said Vin sleepily, "I'll have ta get ya ta teach me that one, Ez, I hate chopping wood."
"Rest, Mister Tanner," said Ezra gently, "I shall wake you when I have prepared some food for our consumption and replenished our firewood."
Vin didn't reply as he had already
asleep as the
physical toll of his ordeal caught up with him once more.