CHAPTER 1: The Wyverns of King’s Cross Station

the eagle engine
‘the eagle engine’ digital collage and sketch on publisher by Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

The Library of Lost Wands

by Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

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Chapter 1; The Wyverns of King’s Cross Station

Above a sea of busy humanity, two dragons whirled watchfully in the sky, stretching their wings against the damp chill in the air above the station. They awaited the ticking clock. Soon they themselves would signal adventures to places hidden from the muggle world and known only to a few. King’s Cross stood against a pale pewter sky, wrought in iron, red bricks, glass, and defiance. Built to be the hub of a rusting empire, it had become a waiting room of lost worlds as people waking up from war and deathly epidemic, discovered renewed rhythms of life on the cusp of the new decade.

In the bustle outside, only a witch’s eyes could see the wyverns circling the great clock as it ticked towards seven. This witch was Lindsay Amata O’Brian, raven-haired, blue-eyed and slight like her beloved twin brother had been. Above her, the great clock chimed the hour and she quickened her pace. The wyverns were becoming restless, barbed tails swishing as a tiny belch of flames erupted into the autumn morning. It was almost time. She felt unfamiliar eyes and minds directed towards her. Working for the Department of Mysteries as Legilimens, she could read others’ thoughts and emotions and so did not trust easily. Stopping to buy hot chestnuts, she popped one into her mouth and smiled, tucking the bag into her pocket and checking her ticket. Just half an hour before the train would depart.

A stack of yesterday evening’s muggle newspapers fluttered in the morning drizzle. She grabbed a copy of ‘The Globe’, her quick eyes scanning the pages. There it was on page 14; news that British delegates were gathering shortly for the first council meeting of the League of Nations. She folded the paper, putting it in her carpet bag next to her copy of ‘The Daily Prophet’. This was a very different kind of publication. Delivered by owl and featuring photographs that moved. The front page featured a self-important looking man gesticulating grandly at the reader. The headline proclaimed “Ministry of Magic Meddling in Muggle Peace!” Unsurprisingly,  though the magical community had been forbidden from taking part in the Great War of the Muggles, thousands of wizards & witches had ignored the ban to protect their non-magic neighbours. Now it appeared ministry wizards were whispering in the ears of those at the peace negotiations.

There were other whispers too; troubling murmurs and prophecies of a wizarding war to come. It was her job, in seven short days, to get to the root of these predictions.  Like most true seers, she took visions of the future with a pinch of salt, believing the future, like the present, was capable of change. Completely accurate prophesies were comparatively rare, yet many predictions offered valuable and dangerous insights into possible tomorrows. Whenever prophecies came in clusters,  with seers forecasting similar patterns or events, the odds increased. Over the last seven years, registered seers had been disappearing and meeting with strange accidents. A fierce determination boiled inside her; one of those seers had been her twin, Seamus. He had always been better at divining the future. She had always been best at reading minds and emotions.

She took in a deep gulp of air and released it in a hot rush. Early on this autumn day, possibility scented the humming air around her. The station was awash with black hats and coats bobbing about like bubbles in polyjuice potion, lending a cloak of anonymity to tides of humans. Even the indignant hooting of owls went largely unnoticed as a steady stream of people slipped through a brick column between platforms 7 and 8 into a hidden world. She wore her grey cloche low, shielding her eyes from billows of steam while pulling the wide collar of her coat tight about her. Absently fingering the moonstone in rose gold that hung about her neck, she stepped forward. On October 16th, 1919 Lindsay O’Brien walked through the portal to platform 7 ½, King’s Cross Station carrying only her wand and a red, clanking carpet bag. Everything was about to change.

High above King’s Cross, the wyverns circled. There before her in all its promise and glory was the Eagle; one of the engines that pulled trains and travellers between the secretive magical communities of Europe. The whole train was designed and engineered by fellow Ravenclaw alumni Amos Quirrel and Belgian Beauxbatons alumni Jacques Marc Lumez. The two brilliant muggle train enthusiasts had created the feat of magical engineering now shining before Lindsay. Long, sleek lines stretched in shades of twilight and midnight blue. A bronze insignia of an eagle was emblazoned upon its flanks, the great bird’s wings shifting; ready for flight. Elegantly curved culverts graced the base of each carriage next to shining bronze wheels that looked like clocks. The Eagle always ran on time. Hundreds of rounded windows reminded Lindsay of enlarged portholes. Yet one compartment appeared to be more window than anything else, steel framing glass that seemed to subtly ripple. This, she knew, was the dining car, which the brochure had informed her was magically extended to offer a small dance floor and bar.

Not, thought Lindsay sternly to herself, that she would have time to spare for dancing, though something told her she was lying to herself.

Lindsay surveyed her fellow passengers from under her hat. There was the usual assortment of travellers. The train would be busy. During the recent muggle war,  St. Mungos Hospital had treated a fair few injuries caused by witches and wizards being mistaken for a missile or enemy craft and shot at. As a result, no-fly bans were imposed, with many still in place across the continent. Yet there were those who chose the Eagle for the sheer opulent joy of it. Ahead of her, she spotted bright-eyed, eager newlyweds seeking luxury and romance. There would be muggle born train enthusiasts reliving childhood holidays and explorers on quests to find rare magical beasts. There would also be those who may pretend to be these things to hide other, more secretive purposes.

She could see the usual smattering of recent graduates from various wizarding schools, setting out or returning from explorations. Some of the recent Hogwarts leavers preparing to sample the magical world were easily detected. Their parents waved packed lunches at them as if a couple of cauldron pasties could last the trip. The same parents cast protective spells on anything they could wave their wands at, reminding themselves of first journeys to Hogwarts and the infamous Sorting Hat, but this was not platform 9 3/4. Wizarding schools all had closely guarded secrets. Along with several magical communities, they used protective charms to stop visitors arriving by apparition, or use of unauthorised portkeys. The train offered a way to monitor who came and went. It allowed those with apparition sickness to travel and provided a way for the adventurous to meet like-minded people and discover new places, including those they did not yet know existed.

At the far end of the sleeper, near the engine, was a carriage for families. In the distance she saw a sombre looking group inch into it, the children flinching at an older wizard’s words. Lindsay briefly caught the eye a young girl in the group before she disappeared from view. All around her passengers bustled, while house elves wearing a livery of starched white table clothes carried heavily laden trays, rattling bags, and outraged owls. An Owlery carriage was located to the rear of the train. Three witches from the Department of Control of Magical Creatures were scanning up and down, issuing permits and probing for stowaways. Lindsay did not recognise them; the Department of Mysteries in which she worked operated by its own rules and rhythm, connecting with other departments only when needed. The official closest to her was barking orders at a small family in front of her. She could see beneath the surface of this witch’s mind, to twisted thoughts that belonged in the wizarding prison, Azkaban. A bony finger pointed upwards to an ominous sign suspended in mid-air. Silence fell as they all read.

By Order of The Department of Magical Transport & The Department of Control of Magical Creatures
 Please have your wand and ticket ready for registration prior to boarding the train. Wandless and underage passengers must be registered on a responsible witch or wizard’s wand.

All magical beasts and beings must also be registered before travel.

Prohibited or unregistered magical beasts and beings may be destroyed by order of the Ministry. Owners will be charged for this service. 

Wishing you a lovely journey!

 THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC

Please be aware that smuggling nifflers, dragons or other magical creature deemed dangerous to passengers or their property is a serious offense.

 

A contingent of goblins moved forward. They were chatting in hushed tones with an accompanying wizard who was casting the charm, “Wingardium Leviosa” upon a selection of heavy trunks, floating them ahead of the group as they talked in intense undertones. Lindsay watched as the goblins were halted in their progress by one of the witches from the Department of Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures.

Speaking solely to the wizard, the ministry witch said, “Are these creatures yours?”

“No,” replied the wizard, then, upon noticing the witch’s raised brow, continued “we are travelling together.”

“You need to register any magical creatures you are taking before embarkation” the witch continued, probing each of the goblins, as a coil of measuring tape snaked around them. A quill and giant ledger danced in the air next to her left ear, taking down their particulars. “Name?” she barked.

“This is Gringlehop…”

“Not them,” she interrupted, her reedy lips pursed as her wand prodded one protesting goblin in the ribs “The Ministry requires your name.”

“My name is Fion Alba-Heinz” the wizard replied with a hard stare.

“And where are you travelling to?”

“Odessa, for business”

“Wand please” bayed the officious witch who, having finished probing the goblins, touched the end of her wand with his. “Alder and dragons heartstring, 12 ½ inches unyielding, carrying three goblins” stated the witch as her quill scratched furiously away above her left cheek.

“Actually,” Fion said, “I won’t be carrying anyone, Gringlehop, Inglehart and Grawgun each have two legs they are thankfully perfectly capable of using, you see.”

The three goblins laughed at this but the ministry official ignored the comment.  “Mr. Heinz, it is incumbent on me to read you the following”. She flourished the same scroll Lindsay had seen her use during the registration of magical cats and owls, and read aloud in an imperious voice

“This creature or creatures have been registered to your wand for the duration of your journey. Carrying them aboard ministry approved magical transportation makes you fully responsible for their every action whilst on-board. At no point during the journey can they be left unaccompanied, except in the crates provided. Please do not bring any hazardous magical creatures into the dining car. It may be necessary for you to re-register creatures at certain checkpoints, according to local laws. It may be necessary to destroy any creature that does not comply with these recommendations. You will be billed for this service. By bringing them onto the train you agree to these conditions.”

“Can my colleagues and I go now?” Fion Heinz said through clenched teeth.

“You may board the train now” she replied, waltzing off towards an attractive witch in her sixties wearing a mint green striped skirt and cradling a wriggling ball of fur. Lindsay was delighted to notice the dog grab the official’s wand, leap from the arms holding it and bolt across the station yapping merrily. Predictably, pandemonium followed. The fluff ball hid behind a pillar and started tearing into the wand with joy. Passengers jostled this way and that trying to dodge the sparks, blasts and bangs emitting from the mangled wand.  One or two confused passengers even drew their wands, ready for a dual. The ministry witch became preoccupied when a large man with a wobbling moustache blocked her path. The little Pomeranian scuttled away with its prize.

When Lindsay looked around, the goblin party had disappeared into the train. An elegant octogenarian, sporting a towering bun under an absurdly delicate lace hat, was being helped onto the train by two white-gloved attendants, six trunks and several crinolines floating in her wake. She haled the witch in mint stripes who was now chasing her Pomeranian down the platform. Lindsay thought she saw a tail wag beneath one of the elegant witch’s huge petticoats. The great witch and her skirts vanished from view.

Lindsay refocused on the emptying platform. There were the quiet souls here; whose air, like Lindsay’s, was of calm observation. Enigmas and assignments took them across borders known and unknown. They may camouflage themselves by blending in with the dragon hunters, vacationers, and engineering enthusiasts, or pose as honeymooners, or clerks, but they were here. Legilimens like herself reconnoitred information, aurorers; the world’s dark wizard catchers went about their tasks. Lindsay O’Brien knew those the aurorers were tailing were never far away. While she took in her fellow passengers, she was aware she too was being watched by both friend and foe.

Above her the wyverns called out, whistling and chuckling, their fire-belches mingling with the steam on the platform. The train would soon depart. Little did Lindsey know that this journey would change the course of wizarding history.

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