About 5-6 years ago I was inspired by Harry Potter & the Methods of Rationality, a very good fic I’d still recommend even though I haven’t checked in on it in half a decade. I saw someone applying logic and more mature (actually mature, not “adult”) themes and writing style to Harry Potter. I loved the Potter series (still do), but it’s ultimately a YA series and ultimately follows tropes and failings of the genre. I decided to do the same with a twist. I chose point in the past, WWII in this case, to create a divergent timeline and explore how the world is changed by the “outing” of the wizarding world about half a century before Harry’s coming of age. The story fizzled only a handful of chapters in, but I’m admittedly still proud of what I produced, even with its flaws. This is the first of a trio of prelude short stories (damned near “flash fiction”) to establish the setting. This is “Green Skies.”
It was nearly over. I had spent months trudging across this godforsaken patch of rock and snow. There was nothing here that mattered except dark black stones, ugly brown mud and dirty grey snow. For some reason, the Germans claimed this terrible country early in the war and they refused to give up on it, despite having lost ground all across the continent. They fought on, knowing that it was all over, their stubbornness almost felt noble if it wasn’t keeping me from finally going home.
This morning started out well. The boys came charging into my tent, one of them clutching a radio and another a bottle of champagne. They cheered, rejoiced at the news that Hitler was dead and the war was over. I could not hold back my own smile, but I ordered the boys back to their tents to suit up. The war wasn’t over yet. It would be soon, and we would have to be ready to accept the surrender here before we could truly relax.
I took my own advice and straightened my officer’s jacket, before stepping out into our encampment. The small city of tents circled a central clearing where we had rallied months before, when the fighting remained hot. Things had cooled, though, in the recent past. As the Allies swarmed over the Nazi’s empire and toppled it wherever they went, the Germans across the way lost their drive. The last two weeks hadn’t seen a single shot fired, having become little more then a pair of enemies staring angrily across an empty and bloodstained battlefield.
Now that their leader had been found dead, I expected a response from my German counterpart within the next few hours and I wanted to look the part of the conquering hero. I ordered a pair of young lieutenants, still giddy from the morning’s news, to rally the soldiers and organize the camp for our guests. I did not order them to stifle their joy, as I knew that everyone here would be unable to contain the simple excitement of returning home victorious. I momentarily considered visiting the makeshift mess hall to check if there were any sweets I could enjoy, when the German’s messenger arrived.
With a bright flash and the crash of thunder, the command tent behind me ceased to exist. My ears were ringing as I scrambled to my feet. I glanced around the camp in momentary confusion. Mortar shells fell on the troops like terrible meteors falling from heaven. I couldn’t even hear my own voice as I barked orders to the troops to mobilize, but I saw them begin to scurry to their weapons and out onto the rocks and snow of the long abandoned battlefield. I shook my head before grabbing a rifle from a passing private, and marching after my troops with grim determination.
The Germans had no doubt heard that their leader had fallen. I still did not doubt that, but I had sorely misjudged their reaction. I expected their morale to break, and their surrender to follow swiftly. Instead, they seemed to have gone berserk. They wasted the last of their mortars to send us a message, their desperate battle-cry as they swarmed towards our camp, “We will not go gentle into that dark night.” Again, I could almost respect their grim sacrifice, if they were not trying to kill me and my boys. I could not count them in the confusion, but I knew at least a half dozen men had died in that initial burst, and I was determined to not let another soul perish for the Germans’ foolishness.
My soldiers, these noble young men who had only moments ago been rejoicing in seeing their families again, marched boldly into a storm of bullets and smoke. Men fell, on both sides, but I ignored them. I had but one goal. I was going to find the petty officer that had ordered this final German assault, and end him, and this war, once and for all. The sea of blood and bodies seemed to part before me, as I saw my target looming in the distance. We locked eyes, and we immediately knew how this would end. One man would walk away, and his soldiers would live, while the others would fall. I blinked deeply, preparing myself for a final charge, and I heard the universe crack open.
I opened my eyes to see a strange new world. The rocks were still there, as was the snow, but the chaos of battle had momentarily ceased. We now stood surrounded by chaos, but here, in the center, the world came to a stop. There was an unearthly calm that descended upon us, pregnant with potential. The world swirled madly outside the calm of our battlefield, but all we could see was the army of hell itself.
Surrounded by an unearthly green haze stood a dozen robed figures. They were in a clearly military formation, with their leader positioned at the point of the wedge, flanked by his soldiers. Stretched before them, forming a precise border separating the two halves of the now forgotten firefight, were a line of bodies. The young corpses stared out at the world in shock, many of them with no apparent wounds that could have detached their souls from this mortal coil. The robed leader boldly stepped forward and into the macabre chasm between us and the Germans, pulling off the hood of his cloak.
The young man who stood revealed seemed so powerful and striking. His gentle brown locks fell casually across a fair face, a face which was deathly calm. He showed no fear, no hesitation, for having interrupted an active battle. Instead he stared down his nose at all of us, covered in dirt and blood in the short combat, as if we were lower then the grime that coated our bodies. We were insects before this young man, and he did not care if we lived or died. He locked eyes with me for the briefest of moments, and I felt the power of a god, or a monster, stare directly into my soul. He turned and glanced towards the Germans for a moment as well, before drifting slowly up off the sullied ground of Earth. There he floated for a moment, and regarded the rabble beneath his divine feet and he began to speak. I heard his foreign tongue faintly, as if it were far away, but the words simultaneously formed into English, which seemed to come to my ears, as if the man stood right next to me.
“Hear me, mortals. You stand here, before me, upon the precipice of a new age. For too long, we wizards hid in the shadows of your mortal nations. While your pitiful leaders rose and fell, we watched from the darkness with fear. Your numbers made you seem powerful. Mere illusions! We hold the power. We are your gods! While you scrape in the dirt, trying to claim the birthrights of your betters, we hid, but no more! We have come to claim the birthright that you have stolen… We have come to rule this world, for we have grown weary of you. We hold the power! And we will hold the crown of leadership!” He paused for effect, before continuing. “I, Gellert Grindelwald, hereby declare this place as the seat of my new kingdom. My new nation, ruled by witches and wizards, shall restore the natural order to this world. You mortals have your place amongst this new mystic nation, as you are as much human as the rest of us, but your inferior nature places you under the noble rule of your betters.” He now turned and addressed the soldiers directly. “You, fighting a petty war for your foolish mortal leaders, you have the honor of being the first to take your rightful place in this new world. Submit to me and my disciples, and you shall be honored as the first amongst mortals. Those who refuse, shall be executed, for the Greater Good!”
The man pulled a stick out of his robes with a dramatic flourish and pointed it at the nearest soldier, one of my young lieutenants from that morning, seeming like eons ago.
“Do you, mortal, submit to my dominion?”
The lieutenant, bless his soul, hesitated before sneering at the would-be god and spitting at the ground beneath his feet. He stared boldly into the eyes of the man, defying him in both action and in his booming voice. “I’d rather die, if you don’t mind. I’m an Ameri-” His statement was cut short with a crack and a flash of green light. The poor young man dropped to the ground, his body now empty of that youthful spark. The remaining soldiers, on both sides, stared in shock. If there was any doubt of this man’s power before, they had just been murdered alongside that young man, who’s only crime was to stand up to this Lucifer.
“Do you, mortal, submit to my dominion?” The man had pointed his stick at another soldier, a German this time. The only response he got was the young soldier dropping to his knees and staring at the ground beneath his new god’s feet, refusing to meet eyes with such power. “Good, child. You shall be remembered as the first to restore balance to this world.” With those words, the other robed figures each pulled back their hoods as well. Revealing men and women, many with smug expressions equalling their master, who then spread across the field, demanding submission or offering death.
I stood there in shock, staring at the self-proclaimed god with rapidly growing hatred. I was about to go home, we were going to be heroes. The war was over, and now this overblown magician sought to inflict a terrible reign of terror across the world. It made me sick to my stomach to realize that he was not the only one with such power, as his own soldiers marched through my troops, and those of my enemy, dispatching impossible death upon any who dissented. I spared a glance at the German commander, half expecting to see him already submitting. Instead, we locked gazes and wordlessly learned of our shared rage at this usurper. In that brief, and silent, second an unspoken peace was reached and a plan formed.
With a loud bellow of unleashed rage and indignation we both cried out against the devil made flesh. We roared orders to those who were still loyal to their own humanity, to raise their weapons to this terrible man and cut him down before he could be unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. American or German, Ally or Nazi, it didn’t matter in that moment. We were human beings, mere “mortals” united against an alien threat that loomed over us all. Our allegiances and our homelands melted away, to be replaced with a desperate shout of defiance against the dark.
To my surprise, our rallying cry rose to a roar, as our soldiers joined us. Well over half of both sides rallied and raised their weapons against a common enemy. In a terrible symphony of gunfire, bullets rained down upon this so called deity. There was no way for him to dodge such a bombardment, and for a split second, my hopes rose. Only to be dashed upon the rocks of impossible reality.
The man continued to float effortlessly in the air, a bored expression painting his face. He held his stick calmly before him, and as if stuck in gelatin, the bullets that should have torn him to ribbons were stuck in the air around him. Not one slug had gotten within a foot of the man. With a casual wave of his hand, the bullets dissolved into a fine powder, which floated away on a gentle breeze.
“A noble, if foolish, attempt. I often forget how foolish Muggles can be in large groups.” He sighed and brought his stick to bear against us, and his soldiers followed suit. A young woman, standing mere feet away, turned to face me. She pointed a jet black stick in my direction and we locked eyes for the barest moment. I saw two eyes, one bright green and the other deep brown, that silently apologized as his army said in unison, “Avada Kevadra.”
The world once again cracked open and the universe ended in a flash of green.