Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling. I am merely telling a story in her world for the fun of it.
A/N: In most cases, Mayan words are pronounced like Spanish words. The main difference is that "X" is pronounced like "SH", and that there are several other differences in the use of glottalized consonants. "Tz" has no real English or Spanish equivalent and "Dz" is just a glottalized "Tz." If people ask for it, I will post a pronunciation guide in the second chapter.
Also, although magical spells and terms are capitalized in the books, I have chosen not to capitalize them for several reasons. One, with the amount of foreign terminology that I will be using, it would be offsetting to capitalize everything. Two, this is from Ginny's POV and I have made magic a much more commonplace, almost background, element of the story. Capitalization would draw attention to it, and I prefer to make it no different than her sitting or talking. Lastly, the visual appearance of writing with too many capital letters can be jarring to readers and editors.
Kneeling in the center of the chamber, Ginny ran her hands over one of the stones, feeling the slight tingle that indicated a protective spell. Usually, she would consider that a good sign. Magic meant they were on the right track in a room, but this entire room had that feel. She had been pacing around it now for two hours, touching every surface, feeling the living breath of magic that permeated every square centimeter of the room, including the dome overhead.
The room was circular. It measured thirteen yards across, and the ceiling rose from the floor in a dome. It was a perfect hemisphere, seamless with no doors, except for the hole in the stylized sun that was carved at the apex of the dome. A rope ladder dangled from the aperture. The floor and ceiling were carved with intricate reliefs that told the Popol Vuh, the story of creation. In the center of the room three round rocks, that had been green at one point, were evenly spaced in a triangle around an intricately carved, circular center stone a yard across. A few flecks of color still showed in the crevasses, giving them a sickly hue.
The air was musty and damp, but not oppressive like a newly opened tomb. Beyond the dust and dirt and the lingering scent of sweat, there was a fragrance of life and lush growth that came from the air circulating in from the outside. It masked the remnants of the stale air that would have been in the room when her team had first opened it two months ago. In another few months, Ginny mused, the room would smell no different than the ruins a hundred feet above her.
Brushing a stray lock of red hair out of her eyes, Ginny chewed her lip in thought. She was frustrated, and it was making her irritable. The team she had assigned to this tomb was reportedly one of the best from Egypt. Taking their past successes to heart, she had given them Itzamna in the hope that they would acclimate to their new locale. Part of their failure was her fault. She was the Curator for Central America, and the six curse breaking teams in the area were her responsibility.
In general, she was excessively lenient with new teams because the Maya were difficult to understand, and they used a very different brand of magic than most ancient cultures. A room such as this would have stymied any rookie team. Although, she reminded herself, a rookie team would have asked for help before spending two months testing a room. Obviously, the entrance to the burial chamber was hidden here, but the question was where and how. Pulling out her wand, Ginny tapped the stone in front of her and whispered the revealing charm. For a moment the stone glowed blue, and a subtle pattern of obscured colors appeared, hidden within the light. Instead of remaining visible, as she expected it to, the light flowed outward from the tip of her wand and dissipated in the surrounding stone tiles. That was very interesting, and she wondered why she had not been informed of that effect by her team.
"Stupid choice," Ginny said, berating herself. She had been so certain that this site was no different than Becan. They were within miles of each other and laid out in the exact same manner. The only difference was that, unlike Becan, this site, which she had named Itzamna because of the hundreds of iguanas that basked on the temple steps, was warded by very powerful and very old Muggle repelling charms.
"That should have been your first clue, Ginny," she told herself, shaking her head. She should have let Bashir's team handle this one.
"What was that, Curator Weasley?" a voice asked from above.
Squinting at the opening in the dome, which was lit with a soft blue from the light crystals her teams used, Ginny could see the shadow of a thin head and shoulders looking down at her. Although shadowed, she recognized the man. "Nothing, Wendal," Ginny said. "I'm just working out the problem with myself."
"I always thought the goblins were crazy giving a curator position to that child, but I didn't think she was crazy." Ginny heard the disparaging comment and the laughter that followed it, thanks to the remarkable acoustic properties of the Mayan structure. However, the architecture was the last thing on Ginny's mind as her temper flared. She cursed Satterfield and his lot daily.
This team had been nothing but problems for her since they had arrived six months ago. All of them, except for Wendal Coombs, thought a thirty year old witch was a joke as a curator. Although Ginny had been a curse breaker since graduating from Hogwarts, and she was responsible for two of the five largest recorded finds in Gringotts history, few of her colleagues, especially the older crowd, accorded her any respect. No, this team came from Egypt, and the Senior Curator of Egypt was the most influential wizard in Gringotts. And since Lord Alfred Satterfield, the team leader of this group, was a personal friend of Senior Curator Smythe, she now had to deal with them on her own turf.
Ginny snorted at the title. Satterfield was an arrogant berk who liked to pose with his borrowed title. He was the uncle of the actual Lord Satterfield. His nephew was eight, however, and Alfred had taken on the onerous responsibilities of the title until his young ward came of age. Still, if the rumors were to be believed, the young heir would not have much to his name after his uncle's dalliances and liberties with the title in Egypt. Ginny was certain that less-than-savory improprieties had forced Senior Curator Smythe to protect his old friend by sending him half way around the world to become her problem.
Because of that, this group of gadabouts thought they were better than every curse breaker in the Americas and that Ginny was little more than a well paid babysitter. Gritting her teeth as another wave of raucous laughter rolled over her, Ginny tried to focus her attention on the tomb, but it was futile as another 'child' comment was bandied about.
Ginny was well aware that she was the youngest curator ever appointed, and the only witch to ever serve in the position. In the wizard dominated field of curse breaking, Ginny had to prove herself constantly to every new curse breaker who came into her territory. Most learned to respect her and her abilities, but some were entrenched in their beliefs and ended up shipped to another location or dead because they refused to listen.
As Curator of Central America, Ginny was responsible for all the sites in Mexico and Central America, and she was entrusted with the management of six separate teams of curse breakers. As much as the other curators complained, she was curator for a reason: the goblins liked her results. By the goblin's own admission, she was the best they had seen in decades, even better than her older brother Bill, and the damn Egyptian treasure hunters were treating her like a little girl playing dress up. Even her brothers had stopped doing that by the time she was fifteen. Of course, she had to teach her brothers a lesson before they did.
Well, Ginny decided, if they thought she was just for show, she would remind them why she was curator. She grinned maliciously. She was certain she understood the secret of the room and could get to the burial chamber. She doubted they would be impressed with her knowledge, but when she claimed first rights as the Curator and split the fee among all of her teams, they would be humiliated at the least. The goblins often punished curse breaking teams that needed a curator's help in opening a tomb.
"Wendal, why don't you come down here?" Ginny asked cheerfully. "I need a sounding board."
There was silence from the antechamber, followed by the skittering of stones, and Wendal's long legs swung into the room. He expertly caught the ladder and climbed down to stand on the floor, grinning sheepishly. He was uncomfortably tall for a curse breaker, standing almost a head higher than her brother Ron. But where Ron had broad shoulders and a muscled body, Wendal was stick thin and flexible, like an overgrown bowtrunkle. Unlike the often nasty wood imps, Wendal Coombs was a jovial fellow whom Ginny liked. How such a soft spoken, and rather intelligent, Hufflepuff like himself had ever gotten involved with Satterfield and his mob was a mystery to Ginny.
With a few long strides, he was standing beside her, with a slightly puzzled, yet eager expression on his face. "How can I help, Curator Weasley?"
"Ginny," she corrected absently, and then expounded at his worried expression. "In the field, call me Ginny. Curator Weasley has an office and a pile of paperwork that is months behind. Out here, I'm just one of the guys."
"Sure thing, ah, Ginny," Wendal agreed despite the brief flicker of his eyes over her chest. "So what can I do?"
Motioning towards the center of the room, Ginny began to walk and talk. "Did you read the cultural packet I provided your team?"
"Yes," Wendal responded, his voice becoming firm. "It was fascinating, actually. I have spent so many years in Egypt that getting such in-depth information on another culture was a real treat. The Maya are quite distinctive in their view of the world. Additionally, their mathematics and astrology could possibly provide many breakthroughs in arithmancy. When I am done with this tour, I am actually thinking of researching it and presenting it to the Department of Mysteries. I am certain a thesis on it will get me a research post."
A genuine smile lit Ginny's face. "I'm glad someone read it. But what did you think about the mythology?"
Wendal snorted. "Mythology is rarely useful in curse breaking. In most cases it was used to confuse muggles or set traps for the incautious wizard."
"That is true with the Egyptians," Ginny conceded as she walked over to the north end of the room where a stylized jaguar stood, supporting a massive snake which twisted about the dome, clutching the heavenly bodies in its coils. "But that is because the Egyptians became institutionalized in their beliefs, at least those who ruled did. The myth of religion and the power of the gods was believed by the commoners and established by the ruling class. So, the tombs of the ruling class held many false leads and layered traps of magic meant to protect their gold. Religion became more of a theme for the traps than a reason for them."
"I've heard that before," Wendal said, "from Bill Weasley. He was the hexologist for the first team I was on after my apprenticeship. I kept getting bogged down in the false leads until he explained it to me. Do you know him? He's almost as tall as me, with blue eyes and this long red hair he ties back in a pony tail, kind of like yours…" Ginny appraised Wendal with a smirk on her face, and his eyes widened in recognition. "I never made the connection, Ginny. I just thought it was a coincidence."
"Bill is my brother and my mentor," Ginny explained, "And very little he told me has ever proven wrong. However, I am not my brother, and this is definitely not Egypt."
"I'm aware of that." Wendal blushed.
"I'm not being mean, Wendal," Ginny explained, considering her next words carefully. Many of her colleagues were easily insulted when she lectured on the differences between Mayan culture and Egyptian culture. "The Mayan wizards did not build their temples or their tombs to glorify themselves, like the Egyptian wizards did. They built solely for their religion and their mathematics. The mythology of the Maya is intricately tied to their tombs and how those tombs work. Because you have not paid attention to the mythology, you have not figured out the entrance to the burial chamber."
"But we know where the entrance is," Wendal argued. He strode to the center of the room and stood amongst the three rocks. "It is here. The three rocks symbolize the entrance to the underworld, Xibalba. Your extract was very clear on the significance of three stones or a three-legged pot being a symbol of the entrance to the underworld. But nothing we have tried has hinted at this being the correct spot."
"So what is your conclusion?" Ginny asked, impressed with the man. Most of the new teams she was given took two or three tombs before they made that simple connection from her research.
Wendal was silent for a moment, as if he were considering his answer. Swallowing nervously, he glanced at the entrance to the room where the rest of his team hovered. "This is… well we think… that is, we are sure that it is a false lead."
"I asked what you think, Wendal, not what Hexologist Satterfield has decided," Ginny said. She had too much experience with evasive brothers and the Boy-Who-Lived to believe Wendal was being honest with her.
Glancing at the entrance again, Wendal straightened his shoulders. "There are charms inlaid on the room that are designed for protection, but it is very passive. We can do anything we want in this room, and they do not react. There is a good possibility that they are simply there to lure us in here and spend our time searching fruitlessly."
Sighing in defeat, Ginny walked to the center of the room and appraised Wendal for a few minutes. There was fear in his eyes, but also shame. He kept wetting his lips as if there was more to say, but he was afraid to utter such blasphemy. Wendal needed to break free from Satterfield's influence, like she had from her family, but it was not going to happen with Satterfield watching. Yes, he had opened up and taken a few promising steps, but he would not risk his position in the team, even to hazard a guess. Now she had to prove them all wrong.
"According to the Maya, the Heart of Heaven created Hun-Nal-Ye, the Maize God, and his wife Chak Chel, the Moon Goddess," Ginny began, falling into the rhythmic cadence of a storyteller. "The Heart of Heaven, Hun-Nal-Ye, and Chak Chel came together and spoke the word 'Earth' and the earth rose beneath them. With the earth below them, Hun-Nal-Ye and Chak Chel created children who they would leave to populate it.
At the center of the new world, the manifestations Itzamna Kauil, Tepeu, and Gucumatz sat atop a green stone and watched the vastness of the plane around them." Ginny circled the center of the room, touching each stone as she said the names of the gods.
"We are all aware of that, Curator Weasley." Satterfield's voice echoed through the chamber with a hint of disdain. Caught up in the story, Ginny had not noticed him climbing down the ladder. He was half way down when he spoke and dropped the floor like a pouncing cat. He was a handsome man and carried himself confidently, with his broad shoulders held back, and his chest always forward. A head taller than Ginny, he had curly, golden brown hair that hung about his Roman chiseled features in soft waves, just brushing the collar of his open throated field shirt. Black dragon skin pants and boots hugged his muscled legs tightly, and his long, thin fingers languidly danced in front of him as he spoke.
Women, witches and muggles, seemed to be quite taken with his air of indifference. Ginny was certain several of her assistants had graced his tent in the last few months. He was the current item in the Yucatan, and he was well aware of it. Ginny herself grudgingly admired his beauty. But, then, Ginny considered jaguars beautiful, and she was not in the habit of spending time alone with them, either.
Satterfield reminded her of Draco Malfoy, a student a year ahead of her at Hogwarts. Draco was the arrogant heir of the Malfoy line and had been the one responsible for allowing Death Eaters into the school at the end of her fifth year, resulting in the death of Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster and one of the greatest wizards to ever live. In the end, Draco had been lauded as a hero for his efforts in the downfall of Voldemort and his Death Eaters, but few believed he did it for more than his own selfish desire to remain alive after the war.
Where Malfoy radiated a smug arrogance, Satterfield maintained a genteel aloofness that infuriated her. However, when he glanced at her with his hard grey eyes, she saw the dead, calculating thoughts tumbling about his head. He appeared to be a languid lion, as his Gryffindor background might attest, but Ginny was certain he was more jackal than king.
"And we are quite tired of rooting through this Neolithic art gallery you have so generously supplied to us," he finished.
Ignoring his barbs, Ginny continued her lecture, turning and talking directly to Wendal as she reached the northern end of the room. "Next, the creators gave birth to four bakabs. Alom perched himself upon a white stone at the northern corner." She began to walk counterclockwise, ticking off the last manifestations as she passed them. "In the black west, where the sun sets, Tzacol sat on his stone. Caholom placed a yellow stone in the south, and there he stayed. And lastly, Bitol placed a red stone in the east where the sun rises, and he was comfortable."
Returning to the center, Ginny perched herself on one of the green stones. Wendal remained silent, but his eyes glittered as he nodded along with Ginny's words. Ginny gave him what she hoped was an encouraging smile. She spread her arms and encompassed the whole room. "This two dimensional plane was created with a single word, but it was chaotic and empty and dark. They desired creatures to help them administer and define it. Each, in his own time, sought to create progeny that would help in his task. Each tried and each failed. Even the trinity in the center failed when they came together and acted as one to create.
"And so each remained alone and distanced from the others as they sat like stars in the darkness of the plane the Maize God and the Moon had created from the Heart of Heaven. Finally, in desperation, they came together and realized that all had failed individually. Knowing that they must create, they again acted as one and spoke the word of creation, and the chaos around them became differentiated. and the seeds of heaven, the earth, and the waters of the underworld came to be in the two dimensional universe of the Cha-Chan."
Jumping down to the floor, Ginny landed next to Wendal. "This room is the Popol Vuh. It is an exact representation of the world created by the seven children of the Maize God and then separated by the Hero Twins who followed. Even the dimensions of the room are sacred." Ginny pointed at the large flagstones which made up the floor. "Thirteen stones from East to West; Thirteen from North to South; And all of it is tied together by the same protective magic, the Heart of Heaven which the God Seven had to manipulate as one," Ginny concluded, staring intently up into Wendal's speculative face.
Ginny was elated as she watched the speculation turn to understanding and then awe. "It's brilliant," he whispered. "So simple, yet it makes perfect sense."
"Although I admit it was a fascinating tale, Curator Weasley," Satterfield interrupted, running his finger along the carved jaguar face of Bitol, "I still do not see the point of this. I have wasted two months on this room at your insistence, and another three hours watching you pace about and tell stories." Satterfield paused, and absently brushed his hands together, as if cleaning them. "So is there a point to this? Or can I go?"
Ginny smiled at Wendal, who returned the smile. "Call your team in, Hexologist Satterfield," she then snapped, "and I will show you what the point is."
For a moment Ginny was certain that Satterfield would argue, as his lips thinned in anger and he balled his fists, but the moment passed. He relaxed, smiled as if listening to a private joke, and called in his team.
Satterfield's charm expert and second in command entered first. Ginny was certain his name was Richard Parkinson, or perhaps it was Rick. She had not spoken to him since their first introduction three months ago. He was an uncle or cousin to Pansy Parkinson, a Slytherin girl Ginny had been a year behind at Hogwarts. But whatever his name or relationship with Pansy was, he was definitely a Parkinson. He had the mashed, unfinished features of the family with a small and squat nose which adorned his face like a warty growth over a jaw that jutted forward a little too much. His dark brown hair was limp and thinning, and he appraised the room with dark eyes deep-set under heavy brows. Making his way over to Satterfield, he hovered about the hexologist's right shoulder, his expression bored and contemptuous.
Parkinson was followed closely by Aswad Hassan. The Egyptian healer was a short, quick man of indeterminate age. He was either bald or kept his head religiously shaved to expose the stylized jackal tattoo that grinned on his scalp. The whispered rumors were that Aswad was more inclined to poison than heal a person, but Ginny refused to believe any rumors about curse breakers. They all gained reputations over the years. However, her brother had sent a warning to her when he discovered the man was going to be in her region.
Supposedly, the man had been very close with the Death Eaters and Voldemort during the Second War. Although he was definitely not one of them, he was a mercenary, and the Order of the Phoenix had lost several important contacts in Egypt to suspicious diseases.
Having watched the man over the past few months, Ginny did not brush aside her brother's suspicions. The dusky-skinned man had small black eyes that observed every detail and bothered Ginny when he stared at her. She was also aware that he had gathered an impressive collection of the most poisonous plants and animals that inhabited the Yucatan. As a healer, it was prudent for him to be aware of the dangers in the area, but he had never taken the least bit of interest in the extensive foliage of the Yucatan rain forests that could heal, going so far as to leave the roll of parchment on natural remedies on her desk after their first meeting.
Warily watching Hassan, Ginny almost started when the last two members of Satterfield's team dropped to the floor and sauntered over to their boss. Both were former hit wizards who had turned to curse breaking after the Second War.
Tyler Scott was an average sized sandy haired American wizard. He had a nice face, but years of horrors working for both sides during the war had given him a hard haunted look that Ginny often saw among some of her old friends. Where Tyler's blue eyes were often troubled, Hans Kastner, the dark haired German wizard standing next to him, had a wild gleam about him that reminded Ginny of Bellatrix Lestrange, the mad lieutenant of the late Voldemort.
In the blue-white glow of the illumination disks spread about the floor, Ginny was reminded of the muggle gangs that infested Central and South America. There was always the suave leader guarded by his mongrel thugs and tagalongs. For a moment, Ginny reconsidered her course of action. These were dangerous and well trained wizards. If they took her actions badly, she would be outnumbered five to one, maybe five to two if Wendal stepped in to help her.
Unconsciously, she played with a necklace under her shirt, taking reassurance from its weight and presence. Yes, it could go badly, but she had faced more Death Eaters than most aurors and her assistants were within shouting range. Even Satterfield would not harm a goblin appointed wizard or witch.
"Alright, Hexologist Satterfield," Ginny began, "I want you to split your team up. At the cardinal directions of the room, there are subtle shifts in the tile pattern in front of each of the gods. One member of your team must stand in the exact center of each of those patterns and face the image of the god, wands out."
Turning away from Satterfield, Ginny took Wendal's arm and guided him to a spot next to the south east center stone. "Wendal, I want you to stand here and point your wand directly at that stone." She indicated a spot on the stone near the top where several small carvings intersected.
Leaving Wendal in his place, Ginny took up her spot next to the northern center stone and then glanced up expectantly at Satterfield, who was standing silent with his arms crossed. His team stood smirking beside him. Narrowing her eyes in anger, Ginny mentally cursed the arrogant berk ten times before she forced a small smile. "I have all day, Hexologist Satterfield. You seem to be in a hurry to leave, so I thought you would be more than eager to get on with opening this tomb."
"There is nothing special about any of those designs," Satterfield argued. "If you had read my reports…"
"I read your reports, and have read them daily for the last month," Ginny snapped. "After I read the same one you submitted five different times, I decided to come down here. Now, you can either do as I say, or I will forget my promise to Senior Curator Smythe and dump the lot of you into the hands of the Egyptian authorities. Do I make myself clear?"
"Perfectly," Satterfield growled. He snapped a few harsh words in Arabic and his men dispersed to their appointed positions. "And where do you want me, Curator Weasley?"
Ginny pointed at the third center stone and smiled. "On the only open spot left, of course."
With everyone settled into place, Ginny stated, "Point your wands at the representation of the god. On the count of three cast the revealing charm." The charm was a standard one used by all curse breakers. It revealed not only the presence of magic but also the patterns of the different spells on an object. "One, two, three."
"Comperio!" All seven voices said the spell at the same time. For a moment, nothing happened, and then the four jaguar carvings of the gods and the three center stones began to glow with a soft blue light. True to her suspicions, Ginny watched as the blue encompassed each of the objects and then began to spread across the floor and the dome of the ceiling. Soon the entire room was glowing with a pale blue luminescence. Within the blue was a spider web of light green, purple, red, and black energy radiating out from the focal points where each of the curse breakers was standing.
"Amazing," Wendal gasped. "No wonder we kept hitting a wall. They interconnected the concealment wards. See how the activator lines connect each nexus to every other nexus. The moment we push magic into a single area, it is spread out among all the nexus points and dissipated so that we get nothing except that there is magic here."
Lord Satterfield glared at Wendal for a moment before shaking his head with a rueful grin. "I must say that you do surprise me at times, Curator Weasley. Although, it would have helped if you just mentioned this when my first reports hit your desk."
Grinding her teeth in frustration Ginny replied, "I would have, if you had mentioned that the revealing spell was being dissipated by the room. However, I was not aware of that little detail until I came down here and tried it for myself. The delay is your fault, Hexologist. I told you, when you arrived, that I would help in any way possible to make your transition easier… but you have to give me the information to work with."
"I highly doubt that…"
"I am not interested in your excuses!" Ginny gritted her teeth and glared at Satterfield. "I have my own deadlines, forty-eight sites still waiting to be explored, and only six teams to do it with. I was told you were the best in Egypt. That you always brought back gold, and quickly. That is the only reason I allowed your team to come here, Senior Curator Smythe or not."
"I'm sorry to disappoint you, Curator, but you hardly have the right to complain, as it is the curator's responsibility to police the teams." Satterfield sighed dramatically and glanced at his men. "We just didn't get the help we needed, boys." There was a rumble of support from the man's team. Only Wendal remained quiet, although he was engrossed in studying the spells sealing the tomb.
"This is a neat trick you have shown us, but there is still no tomb and no treasure." Satterfield's leering tone was almost maniacal. "And I am not so sure my team and I are up to working with you on the rest of the endeavor. We are very tired, and I think Tyler might have been bitten by one of those nasty spiders that keep crawling into his tent. He looks a bit flushed to me."
Ginny shrugged. "You can leave if you want. I'll still get the treasure, today. Besides, you might want the afternoon to pack. You are through with this site as of tonight."
"What are you talking about?" Satterfield demanded.
Ginny, however, was already kneeling next to Wendal. "You are not going to figure this out, Wendal. Do you see those black lines that intersect the purple and red?" Wendal nodded. "They are the curse that actually protects the tomb, but what does black usually mean to you?"
"Black is a reset curse. It cancels all the effects of the curses on an area and then recombines them according to the runic symbols that it is tied to. In this case, it is applied to that labyrinth illusion," he lightly brushed the purple line, "and surprisingly to that transfiguration spell," he touched the red line. "Although, I am uncertain on the transfiguration spell as it does not seem to be directed anywhere except at the center of the room.
"The labyrinth illusion is difficult enough to deal with, as it will confuse the mind and warp reality, creating a psychological labyrinth that traps the victim. But they are easy to unravel, once you isolate the reset. Here let me show you…"
"No!" Ginny grabbed his wand and pulled it back. "That is not black. It only appears black. That is a Maya Death Curse. It is tricky because it appears to be something it isn't. It's actually four separate traps laid directly on top of one another, which make it appear black when revealed. If you try to unravel it, it will kill you and everyone in this room."
Wendal quickly backed away from the stone he was kneeling beside, his eyes wide and frightened. "But… that's…if you touch any of the strands… how can you break a curse that will activate if any of its components are broken?"
Ginny nodded in understanding. "I ran across this when I first came here. I told my hexologist to be careful. I thought it looked odd. I had gone up to get some research material when he decided to just go forward. There were two teams in that room when he unraveled it. All eleven of them died instantly." Ginny swallowed hard. It had been her first day in the Yucatan, and they had not been interested in the opinion of a twenty-three year old. But the black lines had been hauntingly familiar to the curse that had protected Ravenclaw's staff.
She had been so certain the curse guarding the staff was a simple reset curse, like the one Bill had taught her to unravel a week before the expedition. If not for Harry's intuition, she would have died in that dank chamber. If not for Harry, she would have died with those two teams. She had learned more about curse breaking from him in his hunt for the pieces of Voldemort's soul than all her years apprenticing with her brother. Clutching her necklace tighter she stood up and stepped into the center of the room. She hoped that experience would pay off again today.
"Like I said," Ginny said, staring at Wendal and then glaring at Satterfield who looked uneasy. "You need to understand the culture. Death was not something the Maya feared. They embraced it." She raised her wand and pointed it at the floor, drawing as much power as she could hold before breaking the number one rule of curse breaking. She blasted her way into the tomb. "Reducto!"
Time slowed as she watched the horrified expression on Wendal's face and the ashen pallor of Satterfield as he dove for cover. The first layer of protection in any tomb was against physical assaults. Physical wards could never be broken. They would always react. Due to their simplicity, they could not be overloaded or manipulated. So, a curse breaker learned to circumvent them and find the back door that released the physical wards when the main wards fell.
Exceptions existed for every rule, and Ginny was aware that this was one of those exceptions. Her spell slammed into the center of the room, where the black currents of magic swallowed the light in a mass of darkness. Instead of shattering the stone, the spell was swallowed by the black mass. For a moment, it pulsed and writhed like a nest of devil's snare, a pale light leaking out from between the separate strands.
For a moment, the tendrils held the light tightly before, with a crack like a dozen apparating wizards, it unraveled like a taut rope under too much strain into a blurred pattern of cyan, black, yellow, and magenta lines. A discordant insectile buzz filled the room as the strands of the spells oscillated under the strain of the dissipating power of her blasting hex.
Ignoring the cacophony of curses and shouted questions that arose around her, Ginny began isolating the separate spells. The energy dumped into the spell grid by her blasting hex would only repel the curses from each other for a few minutes. If she did not finish her work, they would snap back together and then activate.
The Maya Death Curse was simple and complex at the same time. The dangerous curse was the transfiguration spell that would change oxygen into a mist of corrosive acid. Such a spell would only be deadly to the person directly next to its focus, but the transfiguration was tied to an engorgement charm that would fill the entire chamber with acid. A time delayed canceling spell finished the sequence, tying the curse to the runes, and resetting the wards. All three curses were bound together with a triggering charm.
Curse breaking was as much art as it was skill and knowledge. Although every culture had its own form of magic, at the base, they all followed the same unbreakable principles. The triggering charm was the core of the spell before her. To get to it, she had to peel back the layers of the other spells. Ignoring the standard rules in favor of speed, Ginny began working on the engorgement charm. As the simplest charm, it was not woven in with the others, and thus easy to separate with a few spells. It was a few seconds work to isolate the curse. The cyan line solidified and a pure ringing tone filled the chamber, oddly complimentary to the buzz of power.
The transfiguration curse proved to be more difficult. Wrapped tightly within the triggering hex and the reset charm, she was forced to step back several times and allow the spells to calm down. Almost a minute had passed and she was getting frustrated. Every thing she did caused the reset charm to react as well as the transfiguration spell. She could try and hold the reset charm with a wandless spell, but doing two spells at once was a recipe for disaster, and her wandless skills were mediocre.
Gritting her teeth, she cast a holding charm on the reset spell, but before she could touch the transfiguration spell, a second voice joined her muttered incantations. Wendal had stepped next to her and was neatly flaying the transfiguration spell apart with the skill of a well trained chef. The spell separated and a second pure note joined the first.
With a sigh of relief, Ginny pulled apart the reset charm with a few deft slashes of her wand and several muttered incantations. It solidified and a third distinct tone joined the other two in a haunting chord. The sickly yellow of the triggering charm pulsed and writhed independent of the other curses. It was becoming more erratic with each passing second, and Ginny had little time.
Biting her lip, she knelt down and followed the yellow energy to a rune carved on the stone she had been standing beside. Runic anchors took time to unravel, time she did not have. But they could be fooled. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a charmed mirror. Although it held little magic, it could attract a severed energy line for a moment. Holding it next to the anchoring rune, she placed her wand tip on the rune and said, "Transferro." The rune glowed for a moment and the yellow spell line separated. Slipping the mirror between the spell and the rune, she released the spell.
The triggering curse leapt toward the rune but was intercepted by the polished mirror. The mirror shuddered in Ginny's hands and began to glow yellow and heat up. Ignoring the pain in her hand, she slashed her wand at the rune and said, "Diffindo!" A gouge appeared across the rune as the mirror seared her hand. Dropping the mirror with a cry of pain, Ginny stumbled backwards. The triggering spell leapt for the runic anchor, but finding no purchase on the damaged rune, it flailed away from the rune like a snapped hawser line of a heaving ship. It flew toward the previous rune and then collapsed as the circuit of the spell fed back into itself. With a blinding flash and a crack, the triggering spell collapsed in a wave of magic that knocked Ginny off her feet. The soaring music filling the chamber died as the other curses became inert.
Climbing to her feet, Ginny saw that the room was empty except for Wendal and herself. Wendal was moaning from his position on the floor. The blast had thrown him over one of the rocks, and the way he was sprawled, it was obvious that he had hit his head on the floor. Moving around the center of the room, Ginny kneeled beside the tall man and shook his shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Wendal said, allowing Ginny to help him into a seated position. He rubbed the side of his head. "You certainly know how to break into a tomb."
"It was a difficult one," Ginny said. "And thanks for the help. I was struggling at the end. That effing reset curse just wouldn't let go of the transfiguration."
Wendal shrugged. "That's why we work in teams."
Ginny frowned. "Speaking of teams, where is Lord Satterfield?" She glanced pointedly about the empty room.
"Oh, they shimmied up that ladder the moment you started unraveling those curses. Something about not dying so you could prove yourself."
"Berks," Ginny said under her breath. "So, you ready to see your first Maya treasure?"
Wendal grinned like a third year in Hogsmeade for the first time. Standing up, Ginny offered her hand and pulled him to his feet. She turned toward the center of the room and pointed. The intricately designed stone floor between the three center rocks was gone. A dark opening now leered at them from the floor, a set of steep steps descending into the gloom. "That is the entrance to Xibalba. The after life. It should be…"
"So, you're still alive?" Lord Satterfield asked.
Ginny glanced up and saw his head protruding from the entrance to the chamber. "It will take more than a few Maya curses to get rid of me, Hexologist. We are heading down to the burial chamber. You can come if you're interested." Ginny turned to Wendal. "Do you have any light crystals on you?"
He nodded and dug out half a dozen of the snitch sized turquoise crystals from his pockets. Taking a crystal from him, Ginny tapped it with her wand. The crystal flared and then settled into a cool glowing blue. Kneeling down beside the burial chamber entrance, she let the light crystal illuminate the hole. What she had thought was the beginning of stairway was actually a narrow ledge a foot down from the lip. Beyond that was a stone floor about six or seven feet down.
She dropped the crystal to the floor. It landed with a soft thud in the dirt. Nothing happened. Around her she could hear Satterfield's team descending from above, and surrounding the entry to the crypt. Ignoring them, she pointed her wand at the floor and said, "Comperio." The room did not react, but the crystal flared once again.
"The room is clean. No magic," she said, glancing at the assembled team. "There is a ledge just inside the hole. You can use it to lower yourself to the floor." Grabbing the stone ledge with one hand, she swung through the hole and landed lightly on her feet. A cloud of fine dust rose about her as her boots hit the floor.
The room was smaller than the chamber above, but similar in proportion. The walls curved upwards to the opening in the ceiling. Instead of smooth carved stone, the walls were rough hewn and several piles of human bones littered one corner of the room. Ginny shook her head. As much as she loved the Mayan culture, they were a brutal people. Slaves who carved out the tombs were sealed inside to preserve the secrets of the wizard buried within.
Turning away, she scanned the room. An arch was carved into a section of the wall, and a disk of stone, carved with dozens of scenes of every day Mayan life, sealed the arch to intruders. The entrance to the burial chamber would lie beyond it.
Two sharp staccato raps of a hammer echoed through the chamber, and then with a shower of dirt, a rope ladder was flung into the chamber. Ginny was disappointed but not surprised. Satterfield was too pampered for life in the Mayan tombs. As Satterfield's team entered the antechamber to the crypt, Ginny moved to the door and touched it. There was active magic on the door, a sealing spell of some kind. She whispered the revealing spell and watched the distinctive lines of energy crisscross the door. A sealing spell with a nasty surprise.
It was the work of a few minutes to disable the labyrinth curse on the door, and then she began working through the standard series of unlocking spells all curse breakers used. It took several minutes to remove the sealing charm. When she did, the magic sputtered and died. Glancing around, she noticed Satterfield's team was packed into the antechamber. "I'll need a couple of your team to move the stone."
"Just levitate it out of the way, child," Parkinson said, dismissing her request with a wave of his hand.
"I would, old man, but the Mayan wizards were a lazy lot," Ginny said, her anger simmering. "They would never engage in manual labor, and their traps take that into account. That stone is a massive disk of granite with quartz veins. The moment magic tries to move it, the quartz will line up with a series of traps. Your magic will activate them, and we will all die. The only way to avoid that is to move the stone manually."
Ginny walked over to the stone and slipped her hand into an indentation along the lower edge. "There are two more hand grips," she said, pointing toward the midpoint of the stone. "Get on them and help me move this thing."
The team looked to Satterfield who shrugged. "Humor her."
Scott and Kastner ambled forward and grabbed the stone. Ginny cast a bubblehead charm on herself and then glanced at the others. "I would recommend the same for you all. The air in the burial chambers is sometimes foul." She turned back to Scott and Kastner who had cast bubblehead charms as well. "On the count of three, turn it counter clockwise," Ginny said. "One, two. three."
Digging her feet in, Ginny pulled upwards on her hand hold. Though small, years in the field had given her a rock hard, wiry strength. For a moment, her arms, legs, and back strained against the weight of the rock. But with the help of the two grunting and swearing curse breakers, the massive stone broke free from its centuries long rest and ground slowly open. As the seal on the door broke, an ice cold gust of greenish air rushed into the antechamber. Ignoring the trap, Ginny continued to move the stone until a dark portal was created big enough for even Kastner to easily fit through. Behind her, one of the curse breakers said, "Evanesco." The air cleared within moments.
Letting go of the disc, she stepped back and turned around. The team was watching her, all of them still encased in their bubblehead charms. "I would leave the bubblehead charms in place until we reach the actual burial chamber."
"We aren't amateurs," Satterfield said in a curt tone.
"Well, that's good to know," Ginny said and then turned around and slipped through the doorway, after checking for any additional traps.
Pulling out another light crystal, she activated it and held it in front of her chest. She was standing on a small landing in an arched stairwell that descended and curved into the darkness below. The walls of the stairs were polished smooth, either by magic or hundreds of slaves. Alcoves and small niches interrupted the smooth walls every few feet. They were filled with bones, both human and animal, as well as the occasional glint of gold or turquoise.
Glancing back, Ginny's light reflected off some gold in the ceiling. Raising the crystal higher, she found her self staring into the emerald eyes of a full size golden jaguar, perched above the exit. It was an exquisite piece. Even if the rest of the tomb was empty, the statue alone would make this a profitable dig.
Ginny waited as Satterfield's team entered the stairwell. Wendal quickly descended the steps to stand next to her, gazing curiously at a golden necklace shaped like a coiling snake he found in one of the niches. As Taylor stepped into the stairwell, he glanced up and whistled. "If that son of a bitch is guarding this place, we've hit it rich my friends. She can have first rights for opening this one."
Satterfield, who had been gazing with unbridled greed at the statue, stiffened at the words and snapped his head toward Ginny. Ginny grinned and winked at him before turning and descending the stairs. The others followed at a slower pace, and Ginny could just make out the whispered voices of the Egyptians. Glancing around, she saw Wendal still tailing her like a lost puppy, but the others were several dozen stairs above her, the only sign of their presence the bobbing light of their crystals.
A chill descended on Ginny. Tightening her grip on her wand, she gave it a complicated wave while she spoke under her breath. "Itzma xial." For a moment her clothing glowed green and then the light cotton fabric thickened and became stiff, heavy and coarse on her skin. Her clothes were now more akin to an iguana's skin than fabric. It would not protect as well as a shielding charm, but it would keep her alive if they got the drop on her.
Forcing herself to ignore the danger lurking behind her, she descended further down the stairs until they ended at a blank stone wall, carved with images of the wizard who rested beyond it. "What do we do now?" Wendal asked, as he came up beside her. "Is this another one of the devilish traps you keep breaking?"
"No, there is nothing magical or significant about this wall. The crypt is behind it. We just have to open the wall."
"A blasting curse?"
Ginny shook her head. "Just because the wall is free of magic, doesn't mean the room behind it is." Running her hands along the stone and following the mortar joints, Ginny grinned in inspiration. "No, there's an easier way."
Stepping up to the wall, she tapped her wand against the mortar holding the stones together. A slithering sound filled the room as sand began to pour from between the stones. Tapping a few more mortar lines, a shimmering curtain of sand spilled down the face of the wall. After a few moments the sand ceased, and Ginny pushed at one of the blocks. It wiggled in place like a loose tooth.
Searching for Satterfield's team, Ginny found them lounging on the stairs. Most of them looked bored, but Hastner and Aswad were fingering their wands and watching her with an unwavering intensity. Kneeling down, she motioned for Wendal to join her. "We need to loosen these as well. Just transfigure the mortar into sand." They began working together, and as the sand began slithering to the floor, Ginny leaned closer to Wendal. "Don't react or say anything. Just blink your eyes if you understand. Once for yes, twice for no. Do you understand?"
Wendal blinked once, his face tight. Ginny tapped the next stone, and she leaned down to pry the stone free. "Good. Things are going to get ugly real quick once I get into this tomb. I'll be invoking my right as curator to apportion this find out as I see fit. I opened this tomb. I get to decide. So when the trouble starts, keep down, okay." Wendal blinked once. The wall was visibly sagging now, and a few levitation charms would open it up.
Glancing at his nervous expression and remembering his lack of backbone earlier, she decided to sweeten the pot. "My assistant curator is being promoted next month. If you want it, the job is yours, if you help me get out of here." Wendal froze in the midst of prying free one of the stones. His eyes flicked towards her. The muscles along his jaw tensed, and he swallowed visibly before blinking once.
"Alright," Ginny said, standing up. "I think a quick levitation charm will open this mess up." Drawing her wand, she swished and flicked it. "Wingardium leviosa." The wall trembled for a moment, before the center of it came free and floated toward Ginny, a rush of cold dry air flooding outward from the crypt. Keeping her concentration, she directed the stone blocks to the side, and then cast a sticking charm to keep the blocks aligned against the wall.
"We'll need to close this back up," Ginny said as she caught Wendal's puzzled look.
Wendal shook his head. "You make this seem so easy. We've spent weeks in that chamber, and you unlock it in a couple hours and then dismantle a trap I've never seen in two minutes."
"You did help me."
"I've isolated spells like that hundreds of times."
"And I've been through hundreds of these tombs. It all comes down to experience."
"I think it is more blind luck," Lord Satterfield said, as he walked to the now open wall and chucked a light crystal into the tomb.
The crystal bounced across the stone and dirt floor. A riot of dancing colors and shadow erupted in the room as the cool light reflected off gems, gold, and dark stone. It skittered to a stop along the far wall, and Ginny's angry retort died as she beheld a wonderful sight.
A mural of the tree of life grew out of the rear wall. Its trunk was made of dark polished obsidian that shimmered like a waterfall of black ice. Dozens of thick branches, covered in jade and turquoise leaves, crawled up the curved wall, spreading over the floor as if it had been growing for centuries in the dark. Each branch ended in a single white flower that glowed in the soft blue light.
Beneath the spreading branches of the tree was the bounty of the tomb. Pots and earthenware jars were stacked neatly together. Despite the years under the earth, the paints and carvings were bright and crisp. Wooden chests held ropes of braided gold and jewels. A statue of the entombed wizard was seated beneath the tree on top of a stone. Adorned with the ceremonial trappings of a Mayan king, the feathers and jaguar skins still intact, it marked the sealing stone of the tomb's occupant, who was buried in the ground beneath the statue.
The statue sat behind a stone altar, which to Ginny's amazement, had a bound book resting on top of a bundle of misshapen rags. The Maya usually used their stone work, carvings, and paintings to tell their tales, but they also had many references to books filled with their knowledge. The books, bound in jaguar skin and with tree bark paper pages, were fragile and rarely survived being buried. Only partial books remained, and most of those were in the hands of muggle collectors. To find an intact book was a historic moment. In her excitement, Ginny almost rushed into the tomb, but stopped herself at the door.
Behind her, there was a continuous murmur of voices calculating the worth of the tomb, but Ginny ignored them as she began testing the room for traps. Wendal joined her, and they fell into the rhythm of experienced curse breakers, each taking an alternate spell in the Standard Progression of Counter-hexes and Revealing Charms.
Her brother Bill once told her that the Curse Breaker Manual could open a site and get you across the final threshold to the treasure. Everything in between was intuition and luck. For Ginny, it was the worst part of the job. It was monotonous going through the hundreds of spells in their proper order. She preferred the cunning traps left in between the entrance and the tomb that actually caught the interlopers. In many ways, the wizards of the past took a perverse pleasure in making the tombs easy to get into. They were almost testing the next generations. If you could survive and figure out their twisted labyrinth, then you could have the prize. And for Ginny, the seeking was more important than the prize.
It took an hour to check the tomb itself using the manual. After casting the final charm, Ginny stretched and took a step inside the door, before turning around and facing the curse breakers. Most of Satterfield's team were throwing dice, and joking and talking in Arabic. Satterfield was reclining several steps up the stairwell, observing her with a half smile.
"I have opened this tomb, and as Curator of this site, and Central America, I claim first rights," Ginny said, her voice resonating with the authoritative timbre of a leader accustom to having her way.
"As is your right, Curator," Satterfield said, standing up and descending the steps. "There is more than enough to share in this tomb."
Ginny allowed a malicious grin to tug at her lips. "I opened this tomb as Curator. It will be shared among every curse breaker under my direction."
The room erupted into angry mutterings, and Lord Satterfield's face reddened in anger. "You go too far. We've done all the work to open this tomb, and you just come along with your fancy tricks and just decide that our work is worth nothing because you got to interfere?"
"You decided your work was worth nothing when you failed to take this tomb seriously. Without me, you never would've opened it, and you probably would've died in it without my interference," Ginny said, a tiny voice in the back of her mind told her it would have been better to let them kill themselves. She shuddered at where that thought led. She had a responsibility to her curse breakers, even the ones who did not deserve it. "Be grateful I'm giving you the same share as the rest of the teams."
"Besides," Wendal said, stepping into the tomb. "This is the richest tomb we've ever opened, Hexologist. We'll all make more than the last two tombs combined."
Satterfield ground his teeth and then nodded. "I'm going to appeal this, Curator. Make no mistake about that."
"You're welcome to," Ginny said, "But at the moment, you have a tomb to catalogue, or else you will receive nothing."
Turning around, Ginny moved to the altar in the room where her prize lay. It was a chest high table carved from a solid block of limestone whose legs merged with the floor as if they had grown from the rock. The limestone was stained black from blood sacrifices, and bones littered the floor around it. On top of the altar rested a rectangular book. Instead of resting on a pile of rags, as she had assumed, it was clutched in the desiccated arms of the final sacrifice to the Mayan wizard who was buried beneath the floor. The jaguar skin was still intact and Ginny was certain a preservation charm had been placed on it, which meant that the tomb was no more than eight hundred years old.
"What is that?" Wendal asked, walking around the altar to stand on the other side.
"A Mayan book," Ginny said. "They are incredibly rare. And the ones that we do have are decayed and partial copies. This specimen is perfect." She reached out to the book but stopped her hand a finger's width away from it as she felt a stirring of wind and a sudden urge to open the book. Shaking her head she pulled her hand back until it was resting beside the book. She was being stupid. There could be a dozen different traps on the book itself, and in her excitement she was just going to open it like some childish diary.
Sighing, she withdrew her hand, but a flicker of light caught her eye. Glancing at the skeleton, she saw a green gem nestled in the rags covering the corpse. Curious, she moved aside the dried clothing that still stuck to parts of the mummified body. Nestled in the hollow of the corpse's chest was a palm sized amulet of jade. There was something hauntingly familiar about the amulet, like she had seen it before or maybe a part of it.
A stylized white flower was carved into the center of the amulet and was surrounded by intricate hieroglyphs. The white flower was connected with death and the soul in the Mayan culture, but the symbols around it she had never seen before. "Does that amulet seem odd to you, Wendal?" Ginny asked.
"What was that, Curator Weasley?" Wendal asked. He was busy casting revealing charms on the book, testing for traps and curses.
"Ginny," Ginny muttered with an absent wave of her hand. "This amulet. It's… well, it's almost like I've seen it before. But I've never seen an amulet like this in any of the tombs I've opened."
"Maybe it has an attraction charm on it?"
"Comperio." The amulet glowed briefly from the light of the spell but there were no spells on it. "It must be decoration, or a personal item," Ginny said. Reaching out, she picked up the amulet. It was heavier than it appeared and colder than the room, but jade sometimes was. It was attached to a braided gold rope that pulled free from the hands of the mummy.
Rubbing her thumb along the carvings, Ginny turned back to Wendal. "Anything on the book?"
"There is something tied to it, but I can't figure out what," Wendal said. "I'm sorry, Curator… er, Ginny. I'll have to spend more time on this one before we can do anything."
Ginny shrugged. "Not that it matters. I wish that I could take it as my first right, but something this rare will fall under the exclusion policy."
Wendal nodded and glanced around the small tomb. "I am sure you will find something. Once this tomb is cataloged, there are bound to be dozens of items that you would want."
"No, I'm going to take this amulet," Ginny said, fingering the carved white blossom. She could still feel the clinging magic of the piece and the haunting familiarity of it, like she had held it before, or a piece of it. For a moment she held it before her eyes, watching the jewel sparkle in the cool blue light. It was hypnotizing. Shaking her head, Ginny slipped it into her pocket and then turned to look at Wendal. "This is something special. I want…" Her voice died as she watched Wendal's eyes widen.
There was no sound, but the hairs on the back of her neck bristled, and a chill passed over her body. Without thinking, she dove over the altar. Her shoulder hit Wendal with a jarring thud that sent pain coursing through her arm and chest. They fell toward the ground in a tangled heap, but something caught the edge of Ginny's shirt, traced a line of fire down her side, and sent her tumbling over the grave and past the seated statue. Stone fragments showered about her, and her skin burned as the rough stone scraped away at her palms and forearms.
Ignoring the pain and the ache in her side, Ginny rolled with the blow and swung around to face her assailants. She raised a shield in front of her on instinct, and two curses splashed against it and the shield fizzled but blocked the spells. Any other person would have been hit by the second curse, and so Ginny crumpled to the ground in a boneless heap, falling in such a way that her wand was free to move.
It was a trick Ginny had used against Death Eaters several times during the Second War. They expected an easy victory, and so when they were given it, they did not question their prowess. Satterfield and his cutthroats appeared to have the same flaw.
"See Aswad, I told you it would work. Even one of Potter's famous companions can't stop two spells at once," Parkinson was lecturing.
"My cutting curse tagged her good," Scott said in his thick twang. "She ain't getting up anytime soon."
The voices were getting closer, and Ginny could make out footsteps and the crunch of shattered pottery. There was a thud and a grunt of pain. "Get up, Coombs," Satterfield said. "It was very nice of you to distract her for us." Ginny's heart chilled in her chest.
"I'm not involved in this," Wendal said, his voice heavy with anger. Ginny tried to control her elation. She still had a chance.
"Oh, but you are, Coombs," Satterfield said. "Whether willing or not, you're part of my team, and it's not like we can get into any trouble. Accidents happen in every tomb. And you will do well to remember that."
"So what are we going to do with her?" Kastner asked. "It'd be a shame to just dispose of a pretty thing like that."
"True," Satterfield said after a moment, "But curses kill. We have to make it look natural. Pick her up, Scott."
Ginny remained relaxed as the soft footsteps of the American padded up to her. He knelt down beside her and grabbed her shoulder, pushing her onto her back. Ginny struck like a viper. Snapping her shoulder backward, her right knee connected with the side of Tyler's head. There was a solid crack, and the man crumpled to the floor in a silent heap.
Allowing the momentum of her kick to turn her upright, she brought her wand to bear and sent several silent stunners in the direction of Satterfield and his men. There were angry curses and shouts as the men dove for cover. None of the stunners hit, but Ginny was not trying to take them down, but to get into a better position.
Her stunners worked admirably. Satterfield's men dove aside, leaving the center open. Wendal was sitting on the floor in front of the arch of the altar, his face a mixture of rage and confusion. It was also an expression Ginny had seen on too many of her classmates before they died from a Death Eater's curse.
"Wendal, down!" Ginny yelled, making a hasty decision. The tall man acted instinctively and ducked to the floor as Ginny cast a banishing charm. The charm hit Wendal and sent him skidding under the altar and across the room toward the entrance. Ginny followed him, diving over the top of the altar.
"Diffindo!" Another curse tugged at her clothes, and although it nicked her, her enchanted clothes absorbed the damage. With the help of the cutting curse, her momentum carried her over the altar and into the open area of the tomb. Rolling as she hit the ground, she leapt to her feet, spun around, and cast another silent shield charm. Her luck held out as two more stunners struck her shield. This time, however, her shield held, reinforced by her rage and adrenaline.
Behind the altar, Satterfield, Parkinson, Aswad, and Kastner were climbing to their feet. In the confusion, someone had crushed the light crystal near the altar, and only the light spilling in from the entrance way lit the faces of the men. Ginny hoped that Scott was still unconscious in the back of the room. But, even without the American, it was two to one odds, and Wendal was still trying to catch up.
Ginny could see him in the corner of her eye, struggling to his feet and drawing his wand. Although he held his wand steady, his eyes were terrified and Ginny knew that this was the first real duel he had ever been in. Why did she always pick the difficult ones?
"You can't win this one, Curator," Satterfield said. "Wendal is useless in a fight, and my men are not going to be fooled by your tricks again. Lay down your wand, let me obliviate you, and you can go back to your office, alive and ignorant of all this ruckus."
Searching the room with her eyes, Ginny stalled by considering his request. "Seems like I would be taking a big risk agreeing to that, Lord Satterfield. I'm not a silly eleven year old girl. Besides, I think I would like to remember your humiliation."
"And how do you propose to get out of here alive, Curator?" He waved his hands around him, indicating his men who were edging around the outside of the room.
Swallowing nervously, Ginny settled into a solid stance. She had faced Voldemort and his inner circle without flinching. Shifting her stance, she whispered to Wendal, "Get against my back. Watch the left and just keep a shield up. When I make a move, we need to head for the door."
"S-s-sure," Wendal said, swallowing nervously.
Ginny watched Satterfield, Hassan, and Parkinson as they moved around her. They knew she was the threat. Kastner was more than equal to Wendal. Clutching the necklace around her neck tightly, she sent out a silent plea for help and counted out the steps until Aswad would be in front of her.
"Curator Weasley!" The voice of her assistant floated down the stone steps like a guardian angel. The menacing presence of Lord Satterfield's jackals slunk back into the darkness of the tomb, but Ginny could still sense the violent undertow waiting to grab at her once her attention wavered.
"Your luck will run out one day, Curator," Satterfield hissed.
"Curator Weasley?" Her assistant sounded anxious, and tentative footsteps began to descend the stairs, echoing like measured drum beats in the silent tomb.
Ginny tightened her grip on her wand and gathered all of the Gryffindor courage that had taken her through the Second War and into the very presence of Voldemort himself. "You were lucky today. And you have lost your chance. I don't make mistakes twice."
A light filled the stairway and Ginny's assistant, a young witch with short cropped brown hair stepped into the room. "Curator Weasley? Didn't you hear me? There is a message from London that just came for you."
"Thank you, Sarah," Ginny said, pushing down the adrenaline to keep her voice steady. She would not allow her brush with death to affect her. "I was just leaving. As for you, Hexologist Satterfield," Ginny said, turning to face the hate filled eyes of her adversary. "For your insubordination and threats, you and your team are suspended without pay for the remainder of your stay in my region."
"I dare, because you dared to attack me!" Sarah gasped in shock. Ignoring her assistant, Ginny took a step forward from Wendal's side and cast a silent disarming charm. Satterfield's wand flew from his grasp to land lightly in Ginny's. She gripped the dark mahogany wand and forced herself not to snap the tool that had been pointed at her heart only a few minutes ago. "Additionally, you have forfeited all rights to this claim."
Turning on her heels, Ginny grabbed Wendal's arm and strode toward the stairs, dragging Sarah and Wendal in her wake like a leaf in a breeze. "You'll regret this, Weasley!" Satterfield shouted. "You will regret that you ever crossed me."
Stopping a few steps up, Ginny ground her teeth and fought the burning pain in her side. "I have regretted many things in my life, Mr. Satterfield. But this will never be one of them." Casting Satterfield's wand to the floor, she hurried up the spiraling steps leaving the den of jackals behind her.
AN: Many thanks go out to Velvet Mouse who is my beta and is responsible for keeping me focused and in line. Also thanks to Sovran who proofreads these to keep those annoying mistakes to a minimum. This story has been gestating in my head for about ten months now and has gone through several false starts before I got to this point. I need to thank kjpzak and her stories "Ancient Magic" and "Blood of the Heart" for sparking the initial idea for this story. I will be posting about once per month with updates on this story, faster if I can get further ahead in the story itself.
For those who check mythology and such, I have taken and compiled from several different Maya mythologies to create a custom one for the Mayan wizards.
Also, thanks to Sherry for her help in getting my work onto PhoenixSong.