30 March: The Catacombs Who: Rodolphus Lestrange, Tairith Burke, Clarissa Gamp with Bellatrix Lestrange, Valry, and a poor little friar What: Rodolphus and his team explore the catacombs in search a chalice. The catacombs try to fight back, but they are ultimately successful. And only one muggle dies. When: 30 March into 31 March Where: The Paris Catacombs Warnings: Unforgivables, references to blood rituals (with actual bleeding), skeletons/dead bodies, death by drowning.
Underneath the Lestrange Mausoleum was a labyrinth of tunnels and tombs. None of which seemed to stay in one place. It made it helpful for burying things, far more difficult to actually retrieve them. A younger man might think there was fun in that. He supposed that was the strength of the rest of his team.
Valry, the plucky little house elf, led Rodolphus over to the far wall. While there was no door, there was a scratching sound on the other side. Rasping. Valry knocked on the wall and motioned for Rodolphus to take out his wand, instructing him on the proper procedure to create a doorway.
Bellatrix was positively relaxed as they entered the catacombs. Her wand was still out, at the ready, and her eyes flicking from side to side, assessing both good and bad, but the whole excursion had just the right expectation of a satisfying outcome that she couldn't help enjoying herself.
The wall shimmered out of existence, revealing a twenty foot corridor with two openings on either side. “Miss Gamp,” Rodolphus turned toward the woman and her little muggle, “I believe this is your moment?”
Tairith stood next to her cousin, Rodolphus, as the corridor revealed itself. Her wand in her right hand as she used her left pointer finger to touch the top of it. She turned her head to Clarissa waiting for the muggle to lead them onward.
"Well, go on, dear," Clarissa said softly to her toy. "You heard him. I know you did." She gestured toward the dark opening.
The old man -- Fr. Etienne De Monet -- looked frightened, although mildly so, no more than anyone might when walking into the flightless underbelly of a city with no knowledge of what lay inside. Certainly not as frightened as his true situation warranted; Clarissa had made past puppets explain to her what it felt like, and certainly the waking dream- nightmare- of the Imperius curse was worth terror. Some of them, the stronger ones, the ones who'd fought her hold harder and longer and better, had said it felt like thousands of tiny, invisible hooks caught under their skins and inside of their minds, dragging them along, opening their mouths to use their voices for them.
All in all, she thought this little man was doing rather well to look merely frightened, as she'd allowed him the use of his face. His steps were slow, but he took them, into the dark, the muggle electric torch she'd made him fetch for himself rather than wasting a charm casting a bright but thin line of light in front of him. She waited for him to get six feet or so ahead, on the edge of a Lumos, and then looked to the others. "Shall we?"
Rodolphus motioned for the rest of the group to go ahead of him. He was interested to see how Clarissa’s skill would playout. Still, he would keep Valry close by his side in the case of anything unexpected.
Tairith carefully fell in line behind Clarissa and followed closely behind, with her wand at the ready. Her breathing echoed slightly inside her mask. She felt comfortable that they could handle anything that might come their way. Her black boots clicked across the ground as she walked.
The friar shuffled down the corridor, turning right into a clean, well lit room. “I see three chests.” His voice stuttered. “They seem to be in working order.”
Tairith moved forward so that she was standing beside Clarissa as she looked up at her closest friend. “Am I the only one who wants him to open the chests?”
Clarissa laughed inside of her own mask, enjoying the way it echoed ever-so-slightly. “Of course not. Go on, dear, start with the one on the left.” Left: sinister. It seemed apropos for the setting.
She gestured with her wand; her hold on the poor little friar was strong enough that she didn’t need to utter the words ‘open it’ for him to try to do so.
Inside the first chest was a pair of muck boots. The second two sets of robes, and the third a hat. None of them were particularly fashionable, although there could be practical applications.
Well. Nothing she would be caught dead wearing under normal circumstances, but Clarissa thought that if the garments were down here there had to be a reason for them. Clucking her tongue in distaste, she waved her wand so that the boots, at least, levitated out of their chest. “What do you think?” she said to Tairith, ignoring their non-magical company for the moment. “Worth lugging with us? I’d have it carry them for now, of course, but it will need the use of its hands sooner or later.”
She gave a quick glance to the clothes. Tairith’s true eye for fashion was her best friend and partner in crime standing beside her so, Tairith usually deferred to Clarissa for clothing decisions. “Well, they certainly won’t get you on the cover of Witch Weekly.” She shrugged “Let’s leave them, we’re not here to collect hand me down clothes.”
The friar left the clothes alone and continued onward.
Across the hall was a ceremonial washing room. Despite the intended use of the room there was a foul stench filling the air. Apparently it was too much for the Friar’s sensitivities. Not even three feet in the door and he was sick. Mouth covered, he attempted to back out. “I think- I think the privy overflowed.”
Clarissa’s frown on distaste was audible in her voice, which had sharpened from the sweet tones she’d been using up until now in response to the apparent resistance on her puppet’s part, small though it was. “Finish your job. Search the room.” And then, nicer again, “Don’t worry. We’ll clean you up once you’re done in there. We don’t like the stench any better than you do.”
When he found nothing except more of his own vomit and emerged, she rolled her eyes at the filthy figure and cast a quick cleaning spell over him.
Tairith thought she was standing back far enough but the smell still managed to slide it’s way under her mask and into her nostrils which caused her to wrinkle her nose.
Further into the catacombs, the walls were lined with everburning torches illuminating two altars carved with the Lestrange family crest. Rodolphus took a moment to study them. He paused to share a brief conversation with Valry. Quiet French exchanges before he looked over to Bellatrix, with a small shrug. It was about all the warning he gave before he cast a careful slicing spell on his hand, squeezing some of the blood out into the bowl below. As an offering. Just in case.
Bellatrix had a handkerchief at the ready for him to wipe his hand as soon as the offer was given. She leaned over a little to look down into the bowl, watching the droplets of blood as they slid down the sides. While she watched, Rodolphus took the blood and drew a symbol upon the Lestrange family crest. He then took her hand and pressed it upon the marking.
The little friar continued onward until stopped halfway down the stairs and turned right. At the end of another short hallway was a small pool of water. At the bottom of the pool was two large gems and a silvered cup. The water appeared unnaturally still.
Clarissa peered at the pool for long, silent moments before glancing to her partner. “What do you think?” she asked the other young woman, her tone thoughtful. “It can’t be as easy as reaching in to get them.”
Tairith stood beside her blonde haired partner and also stared at the pool of water. After a moment she shook her head and whispered to Clarissa. “I agree, it has to be some sort of trap.” She thought for another moment and placed her gloved hands on her hips, looking up to her taller friend. “Perhaps we should make our friend reach his hand in and see what happens?”
Anticipating the order before it came, the friar bent down. His hand trembled as he reached into the water below. Upon first touch the room seemed to erupt into shadows and screams. Below the water figures seemed to emerge, reaching upward, writhing in agony.
It took several precious seconds for Clarissa to react beyond the instinctive jump at the sudden noise, and an equally instinctive clutching at Tairith. “Get back,” she barked at the muggle once she’d found her voice, but by then it may very well have been too late. And Merlin knew that she wasn’t going to risk getting too close to those horrid corpses for the sake of a muggle puppet.
Thankfully, Tairith’s Auror training immediately took over and when Clarissa grabbed her arm Tairith was already pointing her wand in the direction of the muggle man and the water. She didn’t immediately cast any spells as she waited a few moments longer to see what happened, especially since she knew Clarissa’s skill with mind control and how the friar wouldn’t be able to resist her command.
The friar let out a horrifying wail as one of the things grabbed his hand. He pulled back against it, compelled to follow the order. All that did was put stress on his joints. “I can’t, mistress. Help.”
Tairith frowned with a slight look of disdain as she heard the friar’s wail and notice that his hand had been grabbed. She took a small step forward with her wand pointed at the thing and yelled from behind her mask ”Stupefy!”
As the spell hit, the water splashed out of the pool. Valry was ready and threw up a shield to protect them from getting wet. The friar stumbled backward, crawling toward Tairith, reaching for her robes in search of comfort. “Thank you, mistress. Thank you. There was horrible things in here. Terrible!”
Tairith couldn’t back up quickly enough to prevent the muggle from grabbing onto the bottom hem of her black robes. As instinct she pointed her wand down at the man as he was thanking her and she mumbled ”Crucio”. No good deed goes unpunished.
The friar screamed, adding to the symphony of despair around them. Worse yet it was only just beginning. Two corpses -- little more than skeletons with rotting tendons -- climbed out of the pit.
Now that caught Rodolphus’s attention. “Oh lovely.” Rather than engage he simply took a step backward toward the say they entered. The ladies made this mess, it was only fair to allow them to solve it.
Clarissa had had plenty of time, now, to recover herself; she had no time or, actually, interest in dealing with her screaming pet. Maybe once the dead things were dealt with.
“Incendio,” she barked, whipping her wand toward the corpses: not one of her very best spells, but it seemed apropos. Bodies were unlikely to respond to an Imperius curse without a mind in residence, and corpses weren't known for their brain power.
Tairith couldn’t help but roll her eyes. This was certainly not how she envisioned this evening going. She raised her wand towards the corpses just as they burst into flames from Clarissa’s spell. “Petrificus Totalus” she yelled, hoping that would turn the shambling bodies into nothing more than mounds of non-moving, burning flesh.
The two spells slowed down the skeletons, knocking them back, but they persisted. More importantly, it meant the cruciatus curse dropped. The friar heaved his uncooperative body, trying to get behind Tairith and away from the things rising from the water. Only between the fear and his torture his limbs weren’t exactly cooperating.
It was difficult for Tairith to focus her attention on the threat in front of her and Clarissa while the friar continued to attempt to cling to her. As he pawed at her bottom of her robes and boots, Tairith raised her foot and delivered a swift kick to the face of the man in an effort to get him out of the way.
“Get off of her,” Claire said sharply, gaze still focused on the slowly-advancing skeletons. “Go to the skeletons. Hold them off. Do whatever it takes to slow them down.” Not that a tortured, half-dead muggle would be able to much, and she was always sorry to see one of her puppets go. Still, it would buy them a few moments, and she knew well that a few moments could make all the difference.
Then, after a second’s consideration, she pointed her wand at one of the monsters. “Incarcerous!”
The friar stumbled, barely able to keep his footing, much less follow the order at this point. Although he wanted to. He engaged with one of the skeletons in an a rather ungraceful dance rather than a grapple. Then the binding spell went off and all three both man and constructs tumbled back into the water. Unfortunately for the witches it sent another splash of water upward that Valry was not able to block.
The rogue splash of water managed to hit Tairith right above her wrist where just a little bit of her bare skin was showing. All of a sudden Tairith let out a blood-curdling scream and dropped her wand to the ground. She immediately took her hands and placed them on her head, and began messing her hair up so that it covered her mask and continued to vigorously run her hands through her hair as if something was crawling in her hair (spoiler: that’s not her worst fear). After a few seconds Tairith stopped and kneeled down to the ground, not moving as she tried to catch her breath.
Tairith’s body was blocking most of the water, and that combined with an instinctive hop backward meant that none of it actually got onto Clarissa’s skin. Her best friend’s scream took her by complete surprise, and she had her wand up and pointed at...well, the nothing that was on Tairith’s head...by the time the other woman dropped to her knees. After looking around a bit wildly, Clarissa stepped between her and the now-still pool. “Tairith? Are you- what can I do?”
After the effects of the water began to subside Tairith was left with a disorienting feeling. It was a bit difficult for her to catch her breath, especially through her metal mask but didn’t dare risk taking it off. She heard Clarissa’s voice echoing in her ears. “I..I’m fine.” After another few moments she was able to grab her wand and stand up.
Meanwhile, the two wiry skeletons pulled the friar to the bottom of the pool. The water churned in a violent storm letting one more shrieking howl. And then nothing.
Rodolphus and Bellatrix took a step back into the room, glancing around, unfazed by whatever horror might have unfolded. “Are you alright then?”
Before either lady could answer, the two large gems spit out from the pool one landing in front of Tairith and Clarissa each.
Clarissa glanced over her shoulder at the Lestranges as she straightened, and shifted a little to try to block their view of Tairith while the other woman composed herself. “Perfectly,” she said with far more steadiness than she actually felt. Good thing she was a practiced actress. She glanced toward the pool and pouted a little. “Though we lost our muggle, I’m afraid. What a shame. He was a funny one.”
Those gems, however, seemed like more than a compensation. Certainly they were worth more than a single old muggle, whatever they were. She flicked her wand so that the one on the ground before her floated to eye level and examined it a bit before reaching out tentatively. When her fingers brushed it and nothing happened,she took it, looking over at Tairith to see if she’d do the same.
It took another moment for Tairith to catch her breath and pull herself together. She appreciated Clarissa doing what she could to make sure that Rodolphus didn’t see her in her weakened state. When Clarissa turned towards the pool, Tiarith followed suit. “He should have been stronger.” It was impossible to see behind her mask, but Tairith smirked at Clarissa. Tairith then turned her attention to the gems that were on the ground. She waited to see Clarissa touch her own gem before Tairith bent down and picked the other gem up off the ground. “These are beautiful”
Rodolphus supposed that the little muggle experiment was not a complete failure. Clarissa showed great aptitude and he wouldn’t soon forget that. While the ladies finished cleaning up their little mess, Rodolphus approached the passageway at the end of the room. With an elegant series of wand maneuvers, the bolts turned and creaked open the door to another long corridor.
He peered out, looking left and right. His face curdled at the stench from the left end of the catacombs. Likely were all the poor were buried, rotting away. They could loop back that way later if they needed. “Now, let us not loiter.” Time was a funny thing down here, he seemed to have lost all sense of it.
Rodolphus took the lead down the corridor to the right until they reached a T junction. To his right was another large warded door and to the left an open passageway. Now was the time to divide and conquer.
“Valry,” the little house elf looked up eager, “please escort Ms Burke and Ms Gamp through this door. Care for them as you would me.”
The house elf nodded.
“Remember, we are to locate a cursed chalice.” He looked up from the house elf to Clarissa and Tairith. “It would be in your best interest that if you think you have found it to secure the area and call for me.” There was a very clear undertone of do not touch it, but he hardly felt the need to say that out loud. They were all adult. “Do keep your wits about you. Valry will find you a quick exit should things get dire.”
Rodolphus watched Valry direct the pair to open the door. He was mostly sure neither would die tonight. Although, he wouldn’t guarantee they would make it home in one piece. “Shall we, my love?” The door to the left side of the hallway shimmered away as he approached. The room opened a large chamber, not unlike a chapel with a larger alter to the north, and four pillars in the middle. Straight ahead was another entrance way and a bright burning fire to the right.
Atop the altar sat a jeweled and gold plated skull, next to a gold knife, and a goblet filled with blood. Far fresher than one might expect.
“Why, Rodolphus, I thought you’d never ask.”
Across the short corridor the door finally opened. Torches illuminated the room. On the far side of the wall were statues of Lestrange ancestors, famous witches and wizards through the years. Their eyes were surprisingly realistic, almost as if they were watching the party enter into the room. At the end of the room was a statute of a weeping eyeless woman, far more detailed and cared for than the rest, her arms held high toward the ceiling.
Clarissa waited until the Lestranges’ footsteps had faded before she turned to Tairith; she ignored Valry completely. House elves were so...well. She’d never cared for them. Those big eyes gave her the creeps. She much preferred a cursed muggle, as it turned out; but theirs was dead now, and needs must.
“Shall we?” she asked her best friend in an undertone, before stepping forward to begin examining the room they’d been directed to. Of course, she made a beeline toward the statue: how could she have done less? It was fascinating, if distinctly...discomforting. “What do you make of this? No eyes? That’s not a normal motif in sculpture, is it?”
“Yes we shall.” Tairith responded and then stepped forward with Clarissa, still clutching her wand in one hand and the gem in her other hand. It only took her another moment to notice the statue as they began examining the room. She used her wand hand to push Valry out of her way as she walked closer to the statue. “No..that’s not normal at all...it could be some sort of puzzle, perhaps.” Almost as quickly as she said those words she looked down at the gem she was holding, and turned to look at the gem Clarissa was holding. “It’s the gems...if we insert them into the eye sockets it will most likely unlock something.”
She casually took a step back so that she was standing next to Clarissa and whispered. “I don’t think that we should have to be the ones to put the gems into the eye sockets, I think Valry should do it.” As confident as Tairith was that inserting the gems would cause something to happen..the ‘something’ didn’t necessarily mean it was good. She looked up to Clarissa and smirked again behind her metal mask.
“Valry...take these gems and put them into the eye sockets on the statue.”
Valry glanced over at the two witches and then at the statue. “Those are not things for a mere house elf to touch. However, should you require assistance.” The little house elf, snapped his fingers. The gems jumped from their hands into the eye sockets. Nothing happened.
He sighed and snapped his fingers again. The gems swapped places. Then there was a loud crash. The statue’s arms came down, each hand now holding a cup -- one golden and the other silver.
Thankfully Tairith’s mask hid the expression on her face when Valry told them that house elves shouldn’t blah blah blah. She instinctively took a step back when the loud crash happened, then the two cups in each of the statue’s arms. She immediately remembered what her cousin said about the chalice being cursed and that they should call him. Tairith looked down at the house elf, “Valry, tell your master that there is something he would like to see.” She was holding her wand in her hand and began scanning the area to make sure nobody else, or nothing else, was coming into the room.
While Tairith instructed the elf, Clarissa couldn't take her eyes off of the cups. She stepped closer to the statue as if drawn to it, fascinated. “Which do you think it is?” She asked the other woman, still not looking away, lifting the hand that had been holding them gem and reaching toward the forbidden things without actually touching. Her wand hand stayed at her side. “Why shouldn't we take it and go?”
Tairith turned her attention away from the door just in time to see Clarissa reaching toward the cups. With a quick lunge she used her free hand to grab Clarissa’s hand before it could touch one of the cups. “NO! Rodolphus said that they are cursed, so do NOT touch them.” She slowly pulled Clarissa’s hand and arm down back to Clarissa’s side. “We are supposed to call for Rodolphus and he’ll do whatever he’s going to do. We are not risking our lives any further for these stupid chalices.” Tairith continued to stand beside Clarissa to make sure she didn’t make another attempt to touch one of the cups.
Rodolphus entered back into the room, tugging down on his robes to cover the lattice work of runes scratched with his own blood. Bellatrix was mirroring his actions still, a bit more lively than he was, but that was par for the course. “I would listen. I don’t think you’d much like what would happen if you didn’t.” There was a weariness to his voice. They had been down here long enough and he had quite literally bleed for this.
“Tairith please do whatever you must to ensure that she does not touch anything.” Rodolphus held both has hands out, wand at the ready as he walked looping into the room. He shared a look with Bellatrix and then the pair glanced toward the little house elf. “In fact, why don’t you both wait just outside the door and we’ll leave together shortly?” While it was phrased like a suggestion, it was most certainly not optional.
This wasn’t going to be particularly pretty and it was far more personal that he could bare others to witness. However, he was nothing but committed to the cause.