Chapter 1 : Prologue: The Defense of Shaemoor
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Prologue: The Defense of Shaemoor
The city of Divinity’s Reach was a shining beacon for mankind. The beauty and splendor just barely outweighed the dark and stagnant underbelly that consistently festered outside of the upper city’s glow. Harley Hufflepuff wove his way through the cobblestone streets, dodging merchants and priests all yammering to be heard.
At 6’ 6” the blond stood head and shoulders above many, his golden hair pulled back into a ponytail but a stubborn lock of hair consistently remained in his face. His eyes glittered amber in the weak morning sunlight filtering down through the church steeples and smoke of food carts. A strong jaw, button nose and cupid’s bow lips made up a distracting image for many that matched perfectly with his strong and muscled form. Although the severe scarring around his right eye, purpled and bruised in appearance despite it’s age, tended to send that attention right back where it came from almost as much as his usual entourage did.
A Shield and valet to the Heir of Ravenclaw House, Harley remembered his years on the streets before being given a place just on the outskirts of the glittering balls and weighty responsibilities of the nobility of Divinity’s Reach. His armor was a gift from the Lord of Ravenclaw himself, a sign of the young man growing into his responsibilities of valet and bodyguard for his three friends and confidants.
Harley’s sword and shield proved him to be a Guardian, the perfect balance of offense and defense that would allow him to blend in with his surroundings in higher society and also send any threat home with their tail between its’ legs. A friendly wave and bright smile that bordered on boyishly charming caught the attention of the Seraph guarding the large double doors leading out into Shaemoor as Harley walked towards them with his steps full of purpose.
“Hey, Harley! What’s up, blondie?” The Seraph officer asked, blue eyes shining at the sight of his life-long acquaintance.
“Not much, Jared,” Harley fiddled with his ponytail nervously, a sight that never quite meshed with his large form. For being such a mountain Harley could be a bit of a mouse.
“You not bringing along your charges? What, Ravenclaw finally cut the apron strings?” Jared’s partner, a dark-skinned woman named Eliah, asked, voice slightly amused as she raised an eyebrow over coffee brown eyes at the Ravenclaw valet.
A light pink tinge overcame the Hufflepuff’s cheeks, darkening over the bridge of his nose in embarrassment. “Just heading out to help, I heard about the centaur attacks in Shaemoor.” Of course it had taken him longer than he liked to be able to even head out, since he had had to ask Lord Ravenclaw for permission before he could even get into his armor.
Jared and Eliah shared a knowing look before opening up the gates, wishing him luck as he walked out into the veritable battlefield of Shaemoor.
Harley was partially terrified deep in the pit of his stomach as he stepped outside of the walls of Divinity’s Reach for the first time in a long while. It had been far too long since he had been outside of Divinity’s Reach, he just wished it was for a happier reason.
“Well don’t dawdle, Harley! Let’s go!”
Great. Pain-in-His-Ass #1. The bright and cheery voice of Glinda Gryffindor vaulted Harley a few feet into the air in his surprise, doing an abrupt about-face to stare down at one of his three friends. Short, brightly-colored Glinda with her bobbed red hair and bright smile. She barely came up to his clavicle and her red and gold clothes gave her the image of a fire sprite...considering the fact that she was an elementalist, the connection made sense.
“....Glinda, dammit, what the hell are you doing here?” Harley asked, glancing around furtively. Wherever Glinda was…
“I sincerely hope you didn’t think we were going to allow you to run off willy-nilly without us.”
...Yep. There it was. Pain-In-His-Ass #2. Selena Slytherin. Tall and pale with all of the right curves in the right places, long dark hair that was just nearly green it was so black...and Ra Ravenclaw’s betrothed of many years. Also an Elementalist bound in black, green and silver.
“Well I can hope,” Harley couldn’t stop himself from snarking, his hand going down to the hilt of his sword to keep himself calm. Selena had a tendency towards being able to push every single button that he had available and even some that he wasn’t aware existed.
The final side of the square that made up this rather unorthodox friendship was none other than Ra Ravenclaw. He wasn’t the tallest man as his height only brought him level with Harley’s nose but that thankfully made him taller than both Selena and Glinda since Selena herself came up to his chin. Dark hair styled in an artful wing over one side of his face, perfectly tanned skin from birth and a neatly trimmed goatee framed his almost pouty mouth under a sharply defined nose. “Really? What kind of friends would we be if we allowed you to do this on your own, Harlequin?”
Aaaand there was the nickname. Harley’s face flushed anew, clearing his throat as he tried and failed to not react to Ra’s presence. Ra always seemed to radiate a sense of control and ease in everything he did, from magic to manipulating politicians, nothing seemed to be out of Ra Ravenclaw’s reach...especially not the heart of his valet. Ra had been in unwitting possession of that particular item from a very early age.
Harley had made it his life’s mission as a child to make Ra smile at least once every day and so the boy had done many things in his young life from the idiotic to the extreme to get a smile or a laugh...like a harlequin. It didn’t help that it used his first name and no one had ever taken the nickname into question except for Harley. A Guardian wasn’t a harlequin; to him that was a mesmer above all else. Illusion, trickery and misdirection. In short….Ra.
Thankfully, Harley’s answer to his friend was as quick as ever. “The kind that aren’t trying to get me flogged. Do ANY of you have permission to be out here? Actually, scratch that, I know you don’t. Go home. It isn’t sa--”
Unfortunately Glinda seemed intent on not listening and merely drew her staff from its holstered place against her back and charged forward with a battlecry and an arc of fire blazing from her dainty fingers.
...nope. Not listening to him at all, as Ra and Selena both made their way after their shorter friend, drawing their own weapons as they went.
Trailing after them nervously, Harley kept his eyes peeled for anything that could harm his charges. His foray out into helping the Shaemoor Garrison had suddenly become a lot more complicated. Yet he knew that he wouldn’t be able to stay angry at them for long...he never could. Protecting others and harming those who hurt the innocent brought a sparkle to Selena’s eyes that made her downright breathtaking to watch as she spun the very air to her whim. Glinda was a blazing whirlwind of activity, ushering centaurs away from injured townspeople. Ra wove magic and illusion into a maelstrom of confusion that had the centaurs running after their own tails.
Harley honestly felt a little lacklustre against the backdrop of his friends but the Guardian did not see himself the same way Corporal Sam Beirne did. Aglow with a thin blue sheen of protective light spreading out around him in a dome humming with power, muscles bulging under chain mail and gleaming metal armor. His warm and shy demeanor overshadowed by a battle-rage that burned through him, screaming to protect those who could not fight for themselves.
Sam pointed the three who were still dressed in upper-class clothing, even if it could be considered ‘battle-ready’ attire they still stood out like gems in a coal mine, in the direction of the Seraph in charge of the soldiers that were milling around like startled ants. His gauntlet-covered hand landed on Harley’s bicep, pausing the blond’s procession after his friends.
“Hey, Harley, I was wondering if you wanted to, I don’t know, talk over drinks after this was all over?” Sam’s voice was practically tremoring with nerves, trying to keep contact with those whiskey-gold eyes that seemed to burn into his blood and bottom out his stomach every time they looked at his own more common hazel.
“Harley, hurry up!” Ra Ravenclaw hardly needed to raise his voice to be heard over the clamor and clang of battle, already standing with the Sergeant who was sending them to the Shaemoor Garrison to assist the Captain.
Harley could barely resist rolling his eyes, shaking his head as a bemused smile crossed his mouth. “Coming, Ra! Sorry, Sam, we’ll talk later, okay?” That slightly lopsided grin turned Sam’s knees to mush and he had to use every ounce of Seraph training to keep himself upright before he nodded mutely.
“Y-Yea, sure…good luck!”
Sam’s reply was barely heard as Harley ran after his friends faster than a man in chainmail should have any right to, skidding to a stop next to the three.
Their friendship was a study in contrasts from an outsider’s perspective. Three nobles of great magical power and a highborn-associated gutter rat with brute strength and more street smarts than actual brains. Green and silver, red and gold, blue and bronze and gold with black...each with different crests sewn into their clothing, although the valet with his gold and black armor was tinged with a few blue ravens to denote which house he served.
Harley pulled his mind out of the contemplation of the thoughts of others and concentrated on his friends...more specifically the conversation between Glinda and Selena.
“So did he ever actually apologize for being a douchebag?” The slightly crass words from beautifully elegant Selena Slytherin would have shocked anyone else but that just told Harley how extraordinarily hacked off she was, and Harley was fairly certain he knew just which subject had her so pissed off at the moment.
Glinda had been courted by Logan Thackeray, now Captain, throughout their time in Seraph training until Logan had been consigned into direct service of the Queen and found himself in a relationship with her, ending his courtship with Glinda rather abruptly.
The redhead shook her head, slightly curled hair swinging against her cheeks. “No, no he has not and we are not talking about it.”
Ra winced, “Ouch. This could get awkward fast.” Very fast...Logan had a very high chance of becoming barbeque via friendly fire.
A soft laugh escaped from Harley as he shouldered his shield. “Hey Glinda, maybe we’ll get lucky and some centaur will give him a good dose of cognitive recalibration.” It would serve the indecisive bastard right, that is for shit damn sure.
“Or just killed him.” Selena threw in her two cents, hands clasped behind her back, paying attention to the flash of gunfire and the shouts of Tamini archers further ahead of them.
“Selena!” Admonishment and slight shock colored Ra and Glinda’s voice, even if they honestly didn’t think it was that bad of a suggestion.
Harley tightened his ponytail with a sigh, raising an admonishing eyebrow towards Selena. “If he dies, my only drinking buddy whittles down to Quinn. If you’re going to try and kill him, maybe you could miss so he’s just...incapacitated.”
Not a chance that Selena Slytherin of all people would EVER miss, but still...he could hope. “I’m just saying. He’s being a douchebag and Glinda can do better than a douchebag. I am just looking out for her best interests.” A flick of nimble fingers slid loose strands of green-black hair back over her shoulder, walking as if she was still inside her family’s home and traversing marble walkways instead of a rough dirt path leading up to a wooden drawbridge.
“Oh-ho! It’s Harley!” A Seraph crowed, grinning widely as he held up a hand to high-five the blond guardian. “Dragging your minders with you, blondie boy?”
“Shove it, Darrow. They followed me out of the city because they’re trying to get me killed.” He muttered, turning in place to grasp his sword and shield with the incoming sound of hooves on hard-packed earth.
Ra and Glinda could not seem to hold back the urge to snicker, pulling their own weapons out in unison with Selena.
“We are here as his chaperones,” Glinda grinned, flipping a little further away as she rained down elemental fire magic on the few centaurs still on the bridge.
“Because little Harlequin can’t go anywhere without adult supervision.” Ra finished, prompting them all into laughter outside of Harley himself.
Bringing down his shield like a battering ram against the horned head of a centaur, a pout on his lips as the doors opened for them to enter the Garrison. “I hate you all.”
“Lies and slander, dearest Harley. Lies. And. Slander.” Ra couldn’t help but smile at the blond, the very same smile that never failed to turn Harley into a pile of mush and disconnected his brain. He swore that Ra did it on purpose. Every bloody time.
“Lies and slander, my shield. Damn prettybird.” Harley shook his shield sharply to loosen some blood off of it, refusing to look at his friends due to his reddened face.
Selena let out a faux gasp, a gloved hand coming up to cover her pretty mouth as her eyes glimmered with glee. “Why Harley, you are looking a bit pink and flustered, dear. Are you okay?”
“He’s just lovestruck, poor boy.” Glinda grinned, reaching up her own red-gloved finger to poke and prod at Harley’s reddened face.
“The hatred is real, I assure you.”
“Oh look, now that pink is a deep red! Oooh, can we make him turn purple? I wonder if we can turn him purple, Selena!”
“Harley!” Logan Thackeray bellowed across the yard, “Get your blonde ass over here and help us!”
“....aaand there’s Captain Douchebag.” Selena drawled, fingers curling tighter around the length of her staff as if just holding it could electrocute the Seraph Captain. Even Glinda, ever-so sweet and ever smiling, seemed to be forcing her smile to stay on her face, a now-glacial tone to her gaze as she glanced at her former flame.
“Coming, Captain!” Harley answered, scuttling away from his friends and tormentors both to answer his friend’s call. Part of him had always felt bad for remaining friends with Logan after he had broken Glinda’s heart but well...it wasn’t like he could go drinking in town with Ra or the girls.
Of course his scuttling became another source of laughter for the three he left behind, Ra most of all.
“Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him move so fast… except at dinner time,” Ra chuckled, following behind their guardian at a much more sedate pace even as many of the Seraph and Harley took care of the Tamini Chieftain before it turned tail and ran back towards the nearby hill with Harley closing in on the damned horse-lord.
A burst of yellow-tinted earth magic almost blew him off of his feet and he could just barely hear Glinda’s faint, “Oh look, he broke it.”
“Broke WHAT!?” Harley snapped, head still hurting from the chunk of rock that clonked him on the head. “No, nevermind. I don’t want to know.”
“By all six gods, what is that thing?” cried a terrified Seraph. “It's huge!”
“THAT, soldier,” shouted Logan over the noise of the wind whipping about, as two large earthen hands took form, building up magical energy, “is a threat. We’re gonna take it down. FORWARD!”
Behind him, Harley heard Selena whine, “Do we have to?” He smiled to himself, imagining her pouting look that would not phase the captain one bit, if he even noticed it.
Logan gestured furiously for the Seraph to form up on him and Harley, attacking both of the elemental hands sticking out of the earth with everything they had, trying to bring it down before anything else could try to come up with it.
Harley whispered a prayer to Kormir for strength, stabbing his sword down in a final blow against one of the elemental hands that almost sent him to his knees, shield coming up to protect himself and the others as he heard Logan shouting something at them.
He could barely hear Logan’s words through the harsh whistle of wind and rock battering against his shields. He drew his sword and charged in, avoiding debris and magic as he made his way to the left arm. All of a sudden, Harley felt a twinge of magic starting at his navel and spread around him. The blue-white steams that surrounded him were familiar: Ra’s magic at work. Harley looked back, seeing Ra near a tree, staff in hand, face set and focused. The Ravenclaw saw him looking, and nodded at Harley, not cracking a smile. Harley sent his secret crush a small smile, in thanks. As he watched, several lesser earth elementals spawned around the smaller man, and Harley almost ran to help him. Before he could, however, Ra’s staff dissolved into hundreds of small blue-white butterflies, and in that same second, those same butterflies, returned to their master’s hands, reforming into a sword a shield, and Ra was then engaged in combat with the elementals.
There was something magical, hypnotic even, about watching Ra fight. Harley had never been able to master the elegant sweeps and strikes, parries and lunges, the dance like footwork that Ra was a natural at. Each movement was carefully calculated and timed. Nothing was done in excess. Harley felt himself flush as he watched the Ravenclaw dance lithely around the battlefield. That dazed look he must have on his face became horror when he saw Ra turn to him, and throw his sword at him, like he was aiming to kill the Hufflepuff. Harley raised his shield, ready to shout profanities at his charge, but the blade soared past him, and a scream made him turn. The sword had embedded itself in an elemental that was about to clobber Harley and the Seraph next to him. Ra vanished and reappeared beside Harley in a burst of butterflies and raven feathers, pulling his sword out of the dead elemental with almost disgusting ease. “Do pay attention, Harley,” Ra said, breathlessly, a smug smile on his sweaty face. “Isn’t it YOUR job to protect ME, not the other way around?”
“Oh, haha,” Harley retorted, scathingly as Ra sniggered.
Behind them, they heard a whoop of triumph, and they turned to look at the source of the sound in unison. Glinda stood facing them, both arms raised above her head in triumph, as the last of the giant hands crashed down behind her. “I WIN!!!!” She screamed, taking a deep and theatrical bow to her comrades and friends. She clearly didn’t hear Logan’s shout. “Glinda! Get out of there! It’s not dead yet!”
Horror dawned on the two boys’ faces and they began racing over towards the little redhead, intent on reaching her before it was too late. Before they could reach her, Logan shouted, “Brace yourselves, I think it’s gonna -”
With a boom like thunder, the massive collection of magic and debris that the elemental had gathered blew apart, exploding in all directions and sending Ra, Harley, and Glinda flying. Harley hit the stone wall of the fort, and fell unconscious.
“Harley, Harley, get up! Are you okay?”
Harley’s eyes fluttered open, and his hand flew to his head. “Ow…”
Logan Thackeray’s face broke into a look of relief, and he offered his hand to Harley, pulling the younger blonde man upright. “Man, I was so worried about you. I was fearing the worst.”
Harley tried to grin, but winced, as he still was sore all over. “I’m tougher than I look.”
Logan chuckled, shaking his head. “Clearly.”
Then Logan’s face became serious. “We are having trouble finding your friends in the debris. Selena is ok, back at the Fort, but Ra and Glinda -”
Harley’s face became quite panicked. Headache forgotten, soreness and fatigue left on the ground, he staggered/ran as best he could to the crater and debris, joining the search. He approached the tree near which Ra had been fighting the elementals, seeing a pile of dirt, and broken bits of farmhouse. As he drew nearer, the panic became dread. He recognized the clothe. “Oh gods, no!”
Harley threw himself on the ground at the pile, and started to dig. He stopped digging only when he saw Ra’s head and chest were uncovered. Immediately, he began to administer to the young man, trying to resuscitate him. “Come on, wake up, Wake up, damn you!”
It was no good. Ra was… was…
Harley cradled the Ravenclaw heir close to his chest, and felt himself begin to weep, his heart aching. “Please Ra,” he whispered, “Please come back to me. Don’t do this.”
“What the hell are you crying about?” someone said behind him.
“What do you think,” shouted the Guardian, choking on his tears. “I’m so dead for this!”
The man behind him let out a long exasperated sigh, and said, in a tired, aggravated tone, “Look at me, you daft, delirious dumbass.”
Harley struggled to pull himself together, and looked at the man. His eyes widened, and his jaw dropped. Slowly, he stood to his feet, his knees shaking. “But.. how-”
Ra Ravenclaw smirked and rolled his eyes, leaning back against the tree behind him, completely unscathed and in perfect health. “Always the tone of surprise. Honestly, do you really think me dumb enough to die that easily?”
Harley struggled to wrap his head around it. “But-” He gestured back at the Ra on the ground, clearly dead, and it shattered, dissolving into blue-white butterflies which faded from existence, leaving no trace of the corpse. Harley’s hand slowly dropped to his side. He looked back at Ra, who was trying not to laugh.
“It was an illusion.”
Ra’s smile faded, and a look of incredulity crept onto his noble, far-too-perfect features. “WOW, you are unobeservant. How could you not see or expect that from me, Harley, I only do that- hey!”
Harley wrapped his arms around the smaller man’s middle and lifted him off the ground bodily, and hugged him, spinning him a couple times before setting him down, Ra’s gloved hands on Harley’s breast. “Ra, thank Dwayna. I was so scared, I was about to… to…”
He paused, a flush creeping onto his face. He’d always wanted to have Ra in his arms like this, their faces this close or closer… Then he heard the sniggers and whispering of the soldiers around him and Ra, then the catcalls and wolf whistles began, along with the shout of, “Oh, just kiss him already, Harley!”
Ra’s slightly flattered and flustered face turned pale and he shoved Harley away, looking slightly disgusted. The Ravenclaw tossed his head aside, making his long bangs dance in the still air, before he turned and stalked away, shoving a few snickering soldiers aside. Harley watched him go, sadness and regret coloring his eyes as the handsome nobleman sat down by the river, an ice cold look in his eyes as he watched the river in the moat go by.
Harley was thankfully dragged out of his darker thoughts by the sudden slap of Logan’s hand down on his shoulder, the brunette Captain’s eyes scouring the battlefield frantically. “Harley, you haven’t seen Glinda yet, have you? We still can’t find her.”
Well that tore away any remaining vestiges of fatigue in Harley’s blood! The blond ripped himself away from his friend and threw himself in with the Seraph digging out piles of displaced earth and splintered wood. If he couldn’t find Glinda...no, he didn’t even want to think about it. Kormir be praised that Selena was safe back at the tents and Ra was still pouting over by the river.
A clatter of focus and softwood hit Harley’s hand, bringing stark relief to the image of Glinda’s staff. Gauntlet-covered hands cared not for the dirt caking into his armor as he dragged rocks and debris off of the atrocity that almost certainly was suffocating his friend. A glimpse of red and gold fabric almost gave him a heart attack as he began dragging Glinda out of the bloodied earth by her shoulders, Harley felt his heart disappear somewhere down into the vicinity of his stomach.
She was bruised and pale, bloodied and tattered. Her beautiful, bouncy hair was caked to her cheeks with sweat and blood and he could see blood leaking down onto his arms as he finished pulling her to safety, cradling the small redhead like a child in his arms. “Glinda! Glinda, wake up!” The slight shaking of his arms didn’t wake her, nor did his voice. He could tell she was still breathing and her heart was still beating but it felt weak.
“LOGAN!” Harley’s bellow caught the attention of the entire yard before the Guardian was on his feet, pushing his way towards his brunette friend. “I found Glinda. I’ve got to get her to the healing tents, now!”
The sudden sound of a body hitting the stone of the garrison yard made Harley turn around, taking in the sight of Ra passed out on the ground. Great. Of course he would have overdone it, stupid bloody mesmer. Sighing, the blond gently deposited Glinda into Logan’s arms. “Carry her there as quickly as you can, she needs immediate help. I’ve got this moron.”
Logan nodded and turned on his heel, rushing back to Shaemoor as quickly as he could with such precious cargo in his arms.
Harley lifted Ra into his arms bridal-style, unable to think of how else to carry the Ravenclaw without embarrassing him. The warm weight of his crush in his arms was something he had learned to ignore a long time ago and thankfully he managed to get them both back to the Shaemoor healing tents that had been set up by the Dwayna priesthood.
Of course once Ra had been deposited on a bed by Harley, the blonde was immediately ushered to his own cot by a fussy priestess. The blue-and-gold dressed priestesses of Dwayna flittered this way and that, healing magic humming through the tent as they worked their magic and prayers over the injured.
And, as per usual, the moment Harley’s priestess had shuffled away to help someone else, the blond had to look up into the furious eyes of Selena Slytherin.
Which meant, of course, she blamed HIM for all of this...again. “Well I hope you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. Almost getting Ra and Glinda killed with your stupidity.”
A subvocal growl escaped from the Guardian, amber eyes glaring up at her with a taste of hatred he felt for very few people. Then again, she was the reason his eye was ruined so he maintained that he had reasons. “My fault? How in the fucking Six is this my fault? I told you all to go home! I got permission to be here from Lord Ravenclaw, I didn’t ask for the three of you to come with me! Just because YOU were too stubborn to take no for an answer, the THREE of YOU almost got yourselves killed.” Harley’s words were hissed out, not wanting to bring the attention of the priestesses down on them.
An angry priestess was NOT something that was good for your health.
Through these words and the aborted argument, Harley’s eyes refused to leave the side-by-side beds of Glinda and Ra. Glinda had a rather large gash in her side that had to be stitched back up but would thankfully not scar with the healing powers of the priestesses. Ra was merely exhausted but it might be a while before the dark-haired man woke up.
Harley stood up from his bed, a hiss of breath sucked in as the pain lanced through his side. “I need to go report to Lord Ravenclaw. Please remain here where I know you are safe, milady.”
It was time for Harley to face the music for not keeping a better eye on his charges. He wasn’t worried about Lord Ravenclaw. No, he was worried about Lady Slytherin. She was the one most likely to spin everything out to be the worst of the worst and try to get Harley executed for being part and parcel to the harm brought upon three nobles of such storied personage.
Unfortunately his attempt for the door was stopped by a dark-skinned priestess pushing him back to his bed, a gimlet look in her eye as he tried to say that he was fine and had to report back into the city.
“You will report back when I say you can report back, Harlequin Hufflepuff.” She actually nudged him back onto the bed and refused to leave his side until the blond had fully removed his armor and laid back down on the bed. Before the Guardian knew what was happening, he was fast asleep.
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