“So, where were we... ah, we have werewolves, hags, and vampires all living in Little Whinging, the nexus of the site being Privet Drive. What next, what next… Oh! Then came the lich.” Nott rubbed his head. “The retired headmaster of Scholomance. I'm told he, and I use that pronoun cautiously given that ‘he’ wears robes over ‘his’ body, so examination of the pelvic region is impossible, and confirming gender from a skull simply untenable; at any road, ‘he’ was curious about this new dark neighborhood in England, and during a poker tournament in Transylvania, the vampire Lord Judas was raving about this up and coming little dark prince to everyone and sundry, so ‘he’ came to investigate. Met Potter. Liked Potter. Bought the house next door.” - T. Nott, No Competition, Part 1
The site of Scholomance was shrouded in ancient mystery. The ancient citadel far older than any other magical school, and a place of legendary darkness; the school was founded by the fallen-angel Lucifer who served as its first headmaster in the ancient times of the world. Word of Scholomance was never carved in stone or writ on paper, it was communed only by word of mouth. And so, it remained nothing more to the mortals than a dark myth, to be found only in folklore, and thereby a legend never discovered by the Catholic Church.
Oddly, the lack of advertising worked well for the school’s purposes. It helped keep class sizes down. Only those that truly wished to learn the depths of their magic came to Scholomance. And it required commitment -- the journey TO the citadel often times weeded the weak from the strong.
Some say the school was hidden in the treacherous heights of the Southern Carpathian Mountains. Others claimed the school was to be found on other plane of reality, connected directly to hell. The truth was far more complex, and no muggle science would discover the school behind the complex wards that hid it from visibility.
Not that any of that mattered. To enter the doors of the Citadel one had to be a student, or a former student, or Lucifer himself. No tourists were ever permitted. Once a student enrolled in Scholomance, they were bound to the school until graduation. And the per annum mortality rate of the school was frightfully high.
As legend suggested, Scholomance was a school of dark magic, but the description was a little peasant; Scholomance was more apt to be described as a school of magic for dark creatures; those more dangerous, more powerful magical beings with greater connection to the wild magics of Earth. Werewolves, vampires, incubi, succubi, hags, goblins, merfolk, fae and demons. The school motto was ‘learn, or die trying’. There wasn’t any fuzzy hand-holding by sympathetic teachers, no cheerful after-school groups, or social gatherings of like minded friends. And visitors simply didn’t happen.
Except on the solstices. Poker night.
“Fold,’ Judas threw down his cards in disgust, casting a withering glance at Lucifer. ‘Seriously, who said you could deal? We all swore some few hundred years ago that you were never to deal again. You cheat outrageously.”
“I’m the devil. It’s what I do.” Said the fallen angel rather indifferently, pushing an ridiculously tall stack of chips forward. “Raise.”
Glowing green balls of magic, in lieu of eyes, from within a flesh-barren skull glared at the devil. “Because you don’t have a royal flush in your hand after dealing the cards.” said the eight-thousand year old Lich. “Contrary to your ridiculous notions, I wasn’t born on the last new moon. Fold.”
The devil pouted, tossing down his cards, which were, indeed, the predicted Royal Flush. “You poofs are utterly no fun.”
“Poofs?” Judas snorted. “People in glass houses, should not be throwing stones. You’re well known as an equal-opportunity player, Lucky. Seriously, it’s very well advertised, everyone knows that that you’re shamelessly indiscriminate. Male, female, goat…. Indifferent. Shameless.”
“These are my adolescent years.” Lucifer frowned severely, pointed a black-tipped finger at him. “I can’t be responsible for my hormonal urges.”
Both Judas and the Lich, whose name was long forgotten to time, snorted at that. But, all the same, the Lich gathered the cards, shuffled them in his skeletal hands, and proceeded to deal again.
“So, my students tell me you’ve abandoned Romania.” The Lich began as he sorted his cards into some order. “Moved to England. Doing that Dracula schtick, are you?”
“Hmm?” Judas reached for a blood-pop, stripping it of it’s wrapper and popping it into his mouth. “No. Please. I went for a vacation to see this new bed and breakfast some hag had set up in a residential area of muggle England. I mean, the wards that were advertised to be on the place were perfect for a vampire, she’d listed a great selection of bloodwine, and then there was a muggle all-you-could-eat-buffet of a small town outside of the Greater London Area. It sounded like a great idea, and I was craving a bit of English blood.”
“Sucked, then?” Lucifer asked. “Small town paranoia, no threshold invitations, and boring bloodwines?”
“Oh, hell no!” Judas grinned, “It was AWESOME. Best vacation I’ve had in three thousand years. Seriously, they have this little tiny dark lord growing up there. He’s the bomb! I swear. The power he gives off, and his aura, honestly, if I didn’t know better, I’d think he was your long-lost son, Lucky. Except, you’re a hormonal teen that practices safe sex with goats.”
The Lich started laughing despite his best efforts otherwise.
“Oh for…” Lucifer threw a poker chip at Judas’ head. “One time. I was higher than a kite, and made a mistake.”
“We don’t let skull-boy forget sinking Atlantis, do we?” Judas asked, smirking at the still laughing Lich. “So, we don’t forget things like you and goat-fucking.”
“When you finally expire, and come to my domain, I’m going to do dreadful, horrible things to your immortal soul.” Lucifer promised loftily.
“So you say.” Judas gave his hand a good look, nodded to some silent conversation in his head, and promptly stacked three chips, including the one Lucky had thrown him, and pushed it forward. “Raise.”
The Lich matched. “A immature dark lord, you say. A real one, or the puffed up mortal wizard wannabe types?” He turned his head expectantly to Lucifer, jerking his chin at the cards.
“I’m thinking!” The devil said. “And really? Puffed up mortal wizards? Did you think you were BORN all bone-and-magic?”
“I was. As far as anyone is concerned, that’s precisely how I came to be. Think faster.” The Lich replied.
“Fuck you, too.” Lucifer flicked his eyes to Judas, who had pulled the blood-pop from his mouth, and was examining it. “So, dark lord?”
“Oh, real one. Blackest, beautiful, black aura. The wild magic is seething around him in such strength it’s amazing. Though, giving the stench of death I get from tasting his aura, I’m pretty sure he’s a Peverell.” Judas gave his bloodpop a lick. “These aren’t the wonko's blood pops, are they? They’re quite good.”
“No.” The Lich gave the devil a kick to get him moving. “I got them from a local village in northern Italy. One of our former students become a confectioner and opened shop after graduation.”
The devil rolled his eyes. “Seriously? This is the epitome of an education from Scholomance? Our students are being shopkeepers? Are you telling me my school is emulating the watered-down bullshit of Hogwarts now?”
“Yes. This is the epitome of a Scholomance education. He’s making millions, and putting potions into his concoctions to subvert the masses. He’s caused three wars In the middle-east, and amassed himself a world-wide network of slaves dependant on his control-potions.”
Judas spit the blood-pop out, and pulled a neutralizing draught from an inner pocket of his jacket. “Fuck! Why didn’t you warn me, you jackass!”
The devil blinked, watching the vampire chug down the potion, grimacing the entire time. “Oh.” Lucifer spun a chip like a top, head tilted. He considered the green look sliding over Judas’ face, before nodding, suddenly stilled the spinning chip and stacked it. “Okay then. That’s alright.”
“The dark lord?” The Lich continued, ignoring Judas’ scowl and issues.
The vampire ignored him, rising and fetching a bottle of blood wines -- one of the bottles he’d brought with him, and chugging it down. He returned to the table, sitting and giving a slight shudder at the blood-pop he’d abandoned. A flick of his fingers, it turned to ash.
The Lich sighed. “Judas, the Dark Lord?”
“Hmm,” Judas discarded a card, and pulled another. “That sounds nice, actually. Judas the Dark Lord. But no. I’m not. Tragically, as awesome as I am, I'm just a vampire. Ah.” He moved his card into a new position in his hand, and then looked up again and found himself being glared at. He sneered back, “Not that you two deserve to know anything after that shit with the blood-pop, but the area is being called Knockturn II by the locals moving in. About eighty-wolves thus far, although that number is steadily growing. One hag, because the other that tried to move in was killed by the first. It’s only a matter of time before we get the Goblins, I’m sure.”
He frowned as Lucifer dropped another card. “Sunny, very residential with these adorable cookie-cutter clones of houses, lots of tidy green spaces for children to screw around in, and yet a thriving rich wild magic -- which surprised me at first. But then I bumped into our little dark lord, cutest little monkey and so very polite, and it all made sense again. The Nibblet has the oddest curse scar on his forehead, but I haven’t been able to study it yet -- he’s living with the most vile muggles – I truly don’t want to taste them, I’m pretty sure they’ve gone rancid. Anyway, in addition to the muggles, he’s surrounded by a wicked set of blood wards, which must be amplifying his aura’s projection, because it’s plastering the town. Kid hangs with the werewolves on the full moon – there’s a neighbourhood howl-along; it’s kinda fun. Of course, my posse of vampires, vampire servants, and vampire wannabes had to follow as soon as I announced I was buying a property. But, all in all, with the dark creature population upswing, I think the Hag was right… It's a good spot for some business ventures. The Hag has her B&B, the wolves opened a construction firm, another has opened a landscape company. I’m in process of opening a new spa, and butcher’s shop, but my funeral planning business is already launched and thriving.”
“Funeral planning?” Lucifer tossed two cards, and pulled two more. He glared at one of them, tossing it, and pulling a third.
“Muggles on painkillers are just like candy!” Judas smiled brightly. “Tasty and full of zip. I’m buzzing after a few sips. And with my Funeral Planning business it means I get a heads up on the ill and the dying. I make a point of visiting my customers in the hospital; I read to them, socialize for a bit, brighten up their day with my sparkling wit and personality, and then leave after the nurse has administered their pain meds and I’ve had a bite.”
The Lich looked at the devil in askance; it was the same silent question as every time before: Why do we invite him to these games?
The devil’s usual response was, “We needed a third.” Suffice it to say, after six-thousand games, card games only for the past one hundred years, the conversation had been reduced to a silent glance.
“Do you and your sycophants not find the ‘sunshine’ to be a bit burdensome?” asked the Lich, pulling a cigarette from his robes and lighting with a flick of power. The fag hanging between the fleshless lips of the skull was rather odd to see, but no worse than anything Judas had seen on MTV.
“Nope. The Niblett's dark aura initially covered three streets and one play park, but since the influx of dark creatures, it’s grown to cover the town as a whole. And this is what tells me he’s the real deal -- I can wander about in daylight. Hell, I’m even starting to get a tan.” Judas leaned back in his chair, fanning himself absently with his hand of cards. “Seriously, I forgot how nice it was to soak up the rays – and I do make sunglasses look good. I’m thinking of putting a pool in my backyard. Something extravagant, done up with a grotto, and a very natural feel. It’ll definitely need a pool bar, and a hot tub.” The distant look in the vampire’s red eyes spoke volumes about where his mind was at. “Hot sexy blood donors in little tiny bikinis, ooh, or better, nude, running around, lounging around…”
“Those are some serious potions your student is putting into those blood pops.” The devil muttered, looking very curious about the shite coming out of the vampire’s mouth. “A suntan?”
Judas rolled up a sleeve. “You can’t see it in all this gloom – the sun hasn’t shone in this corner of Romania in what, a thousand years?”
“Closer to seven thousand.” The Lich corrected, pulling out spectacles to perch over his glowing eyes, and examining the arm curiously. “Huh. You might have a tan. Or that could be a rash.”
“It’s a tan. You should see my chest. It’s awesome. I look Italian.”
Lucifer rolled his eyes, and swapped a card when he was sure no one was noticing. “You’re Jewish. You can’t hide that nose, no matter what color you charm your hair.”
“You’re just jealous.” Judas said, “And would you kindly stop cheating? It’s ridiculous, because it’s not like we don’t know when you pull this shit.”
“I’m not cheating.” Lucifer protested, wide-eyed angelic innocence on display. “I’m just…thinking.”
“You stole a card.” The Lich hexed him for good measure. “You’ve already taken three. We've played twenty-seven hands, and you've been cheating every play.”
“Oh bite me.”
The Lich puffed his cigarette. (Judas had always wondered how that worked. It wasn’t like the Lich had lungs, though really, he’d never cross examined the Lich’s physical body… actually, he’d never seen it without his robes. There could be lungs under there, trapped inside a rib-cage… And wow, that was a creepy line of thought. For the most part, the Lich seemed to like doing a stellar impression of the grim reaper.) “Your blood doesn’t interest me.” The Lich informed Lucifer. “And your flesh serves no lasting purpose.”
“Says the animated skeleton.” Judas quipped, rising to his feet, and laying down a flush. “Right. Well. If this is what poker night has degenerated to after six hours of playing, I’m heading home. I want to stop in Paris on my way, and pick up a few books on blood wards while I’m out and about.”
Continued in 5B