Chapter 1 - Of Nobles and Bandits

The healing houses of Dwayna smelled strongly of medicine and old blood, a rather uncomfortable scent for those unused to it.

“Where am I? ...What happened?”

That voice sounded very familiar...scarily familiar. Harley groaned, shifting on the thin mattress of his cot to try and catch a few more hours of sleep.

Yet this was not meant to be.

“You were injured when the elemental exploded, Lady Gryffindor. Captain Thackeray brought you here personally. You’ve been unconscious for three days.”

There was the Priestess of Dwayna...probably talking to Glinda. That meant Glinda was okay. Good.

Harley forced himself up with a groan, the pain in his side still tugging at freshly regrown skin that would quite likely leave a scar. Just another to add to the collection. Gold eyes scoured the tent for three familiar faces and felt a wave of warm relief wash over him at the image of two black heads of hair and a redhead. No one was wrapped up, no one was segregated. Good. Very good.

The stitch in his side was effectively pulled at Glinda’s, “Three days? Captain Douchebag did what?”

The Priestess, Amelia, if he recalled correctly, merely smiled at the redhead brightly. “You’ve all had lots of visitors. Villagers wanting to thank you, some Seraph, even a noble from the city and a rather nervous, shady-looking character. They both came by several times.”

“That’d be my friend Quinn. You might want to check your supply cabinets.” Harley muttered, running a hand through his twisted blond hair before deciding to get it back into some semblance of neatness and listened to the Priestess with half an ear as he pulled his hair into a tight plait. That damned lock of hair wouldn’t get out of his face, though...that was the last time he let Glinda cut his hair.

He could see Ra and Selena standing near the entrance to the tent, watching Glinda with worried eyes.

Amelia laughed, pulling a letter from the bag at her waist and handing it to Harley, who took it gratefully. The quality parchment under his calloused fingers and flowing script along the front told him all he needed to know about where it was from. “I’ll make sure to do that, Harley. And your noble friend left this letter for you all. Now, fresh air and exercise are going to be the best medicine. The goddess Dwayna helped you. Perhaps you could help others?”

A quick glance at his fellows told Harley more than he was sure he was supposed to learn but he smiled at Amelia anyway. “Sure, priestess. We’ll do that.” Harley was a follower of Kormir himself,  while Ra and Selena were both devotees of Lyssa. Glinda, of course, prayed for strength from Balthazar. None of them were Dwayna worshippers (and rarely prayed to her without good reason), but Harley wasn’t about to argue with a priestess, nor take any chances.

Harley opened the letter, raising an eyebrow as he read the pretentious script in front of his eyes. “Well...he never fails to amuse.” He muttered, shaking his head. The other three pinned him with curious eyes, Glinda still reeling over the fact that they had all been unconscious for three days and that Captain Douch--Thackeray had carried her to the healing tents, muttering something about rape and murder. Damn those three and their infective word choices!

Clearing his throat, Harley began reading the letter aloud.

Of course as a Harlequin, the blond did his best to imitate their noble ‘friend’ with all of his faux bravado and naive arrogance. “Greetings, old friends! As soon as you manage to drag your heroic behinds out of those sick beds, your presence is requested, nay, DEMANDED back at your home in Divinity’s Reach! And if you come WITHOUT telling that dazzlin Priestess of Dwayna what a fine fellow I am, I will take it as a personal affront. Until we meet again, I remain your handsomest, most charming and most humble companion. Lord Faren…”

“....fuck my life.” Ra muttered, long lashes brushing his cheeks as his eyes fell shut and he lightly bonked his head against the support beam he was leaning against. “That fop.”

Perfectly shaped dark eyebrows raised over beatifically green orbs even as Selena shook her head in dismay. “I am tired and I would like to go home. Come along, Harley, you need to escort us all back into the city.”

The blond was busy checking over Glinda as he helped her out of the cot, watching her for any signs of a wobble but he gave a half-hearted, “Yes Selena,” to her statement to show that he was at least listening. “Are you feeling okay, Glinda? I’m sorry I didn’t get there in time just…”

The redhead lightly swatted his shoulder, putting a sting of air magic’s lightning behind it to make him wince. “Silly Harlequin. If I had wanted your protection I would have hidden behind you at the start buuuut,” she drawled out the last word, grinning up at him with that wide smile full of perfectly white and straight teeth, “if I thought you’d done it on purpose you would be in sooo much trouble. Now, you are to carry me home to make up for it. Understood?”

A slightly startled, half-amused chuckle escaped the Guardian before he merely nodded his head and gave her a Harlequin bow that started at the waist, one hand up almost behind him in the air and the other palm crossed over the left side of his chest, palm down. “Yes, my lady.” He allowed the small redheaded Gryffindor to clamber her way up onto his back, dainty arms around his thick neck before he hooked his arms under her knees to keep her balanced and in place. “Ready to go home, Ra?”

He certainly wasn’t looking forward to it but there wasn’t anything he could do. He was going to be in SO much trouble once they got home. Harley had allowed his charges to accompany him, even though it wouldn’t matter to their parents that the three wouldn’t have gone home even if he had told them to (which he had….multiple times) and done as they wished anyway. The blond was the Shield of the Heir of Ravenclaw, but the other two families had been more than happy to place their daughters under his watchful eye as well...up until now at least, he figured.

Selena and Ra trailed behind Harley and his precious cargo as they made their way back up to the double doors and tall barrier walls of Divinity’s Reach. The Seraph at the gates saluted them sharply, passing them through without speaking yet with a rather awed feeling of reverence that Harley was frankly uncomfortable with. Did Faren really call them heroic? “Oh please dear sweet Kormir, do not tell me that everyone thinks we are heroes now.” He muttered under his breath, noting the looks that the four of them were receiving. Some bows were sent their way, waves and calls of thanks.

Harley hurried as much as he was able without running towards Salma’s Heath, passing through the wooden gates that were twice his height into the small city-within-a-city. The normal hustle and bustle was a familiar buzz in his ears, a comfort that he hadn’t realized he could miss.

Stepping closer to the garden gate assaulted Harley’s ears with music and No, he didn’t...did he?

Harley sighed, using his foot to push open the wrought iron doorway gate before passing through into a glimmering, shimmering association of faerie lights and milling nobles with drinks in hand. As soon as the four were spotted, every noble raised their glasses to them with a cheer before returning to their conversations as if this was a normal, everyday occurrence.

Glittering lights littered the perfectly coiffed and maintained garden, the tantalizing scent of various flowers and herbs in the air fogging his brain as the blond bent at the knee to allow Glinda a graceful dismount from her place on his back like a baby koala.

“Well it appears you are late to your own party, Glinda.” Harley couldn’t help the slight tease, earning himself an electric jab to the ribs for that one.  He glanced back to ask Ra something, only to find him gone.  He and Selena had disappeared into the throng of people, possibly to get alcohol.

“Glinda, my darling!”

Harley felt the insane urge to run bolt through his system, not unlike the shot of fear that filled him during the Battle of Shaemoor.  Based on the look the man before them was giving the four, running would be a good idea.  But it was too late.  

Faren was not tall but he was not short either, and the man was just pretty enough to be distracting for many suitably inclined persons. Fluffy curls of brown hair, hazel eyes, healthy skin and a fit form consistently shown off by carefully tailored clothes. It would definitely be better for Harley’s blood pressure if the man was not such a disreputable playboy and manwhore. Faren made it his daily mission to flirt with everyone...and yes, Harley did mean everyone.

“Ah, the Heroes of Shaemoor return! Come and see how friends and neighbors alike have turned out to welcome you home!” Faren spread his arms wide as if the whole party had been thrown by him at his own house instead of utilizing Glinda’s estate.

Harley could practically feel the sarcasm in Glinda’s voice as she pulled up her usually bubbly and overly-bright persona that made so many in Divinity’s Reach underestimate her as well as be reasonably terrified of her.  “A party, Faren? For me? Or is it just an excuse to get your friends together and see what's in my wine cupboard?”

Considering that they were all still in their clothes from three days ago, only a rather stringent set of scouring charms from Ra had any of them somewhat presentable...but scouring charms itched for some reason.

Faren merely waved away Glinda’s questions with an airy laugh. “Nonsense, my friends! Heroes are always popular. These nice people simply insisted on congratulating you and celebrating your brave victory.”

“And you insisted on breaking out her finest food and drink for the occasion…” Harley grumbled, offering a strained smile to a servant making his rounds with a tray of drinks.

Faren’s eyes landed on Harley with what could almost be called a leer. “You brave heroes deserve no less. Still, I can’t take all of the credit. Your household staff was most helpful, even eager, to facilitate the process.” He stepped closer to Harley with a dramatic sigh, placing one powdered and perfumed hand on Harley’s armor-clad shoulder. “I only wish my servants loved me half as much as yours seem to, Glinda. But then, I am lovable in other ways.” He let out a seductive chuckle at his own poor joke, that too-soft hand running a thumb over Harley’s bicep before the blond managed to scoot backwards.

“And the less said about that, the better.” Ra muttered from Harley’s left, although when he had gotten there Harley had no earthly idea.

“Now, Faren, why don’t you remove that smirk from your pretty face and let’s go enjoy some of Glinda’s best roasted duck and brandy…” Selena offered the brunette fop a sweet smile as she took hold of Ra’s arm possessively with both of her own. Of course, as Ra’s betrothed, it would be expected of Selena to remain close to him during a party, even one that was as unexpected as this.  But the way she clung to him like he was her possession and not a member of the Ministry still made Harley squirm in discomfort.  

The foursome followed Faren the Fop (Glinda’s favorite name for the dandy) into the courtyard of Gryffindor Square where they saw what he had done to the place in full effect-

“...fuck my life…”Ra breathed, disgust coloring both his face and his voice, as he placed his free hand over his face, sapphire eyes closed in discomfort.

Harley made a subvocal noise of discomfort, averting his eyes from the scene in front of him and trying not to think about anything at all.

Selena’s soft, shocked gasp was almost covered by the hand that covered her mouth, mimicked almost perfectly by Glinda.

Harley knew they were getting older but this...what in the name of the Six did Faren think he was doing?

The Gryffindor Courtyard had been turned into a veritable den of iniquity. Where the garden was fragile grace, satin fans and silken flowers, the Courtyard was now home to the smell of leather, musk and powder. More lounges had been thrown about, artfully draped women and men placed upon them like decorative pillows on the cushions or the laps and arms of those seeking their attention. There were already a few of the parties ‘guests’ who were getting a bit tactile with the evening’s entertainment yet even the men who had been brought in didn’t seem to care.

It was the first time in years that Glinda Gryffindor had been struck dumb, as her mouth worked soundlessly, her fingers clawing slowly towards the sex-driven noble’s throat.  Her eyes were alight with a fire of hatred that would make Balthazar proud.

Selena beat the little pixie to Faren first.  She shoved him bodily against the stone wall, and snarled, “Look, you sinful slut.  I hate you in general, but this is an all-time low, even for you.  Either get rid of the whores, or I turn Glinda loose to demonize the population of the seedy side of Divinity’s Reach. Then I'll have Harley cut off your testicles if you still don't get the message.”

Lord Faren turned whiter than snow in the Shiverpeaks.  “You don’t mean that surely, Lady Slytherin. I-”

Selena turned her head slightly to the left, towards Harley and called, “Hufflepuff?”

Harley smirked, and drew his sword.  Faren almost fainted in fear.  He wrenched free of Selena’s delicate grip (which impressed Harley greatly; he’d never considered the dandy have any physical strength of his own) and rushed over to the scandalous scene, working to clear them out.  

Once the trash was gone, Glinda collapsed at the foot of her father’s statue, gently straightening the silver moonlilies that were planted around them, the last flowers her mother had procured and tended before the dreadful illness had taken her from them.  Glinda was in tears slightly, as she worked to fix the flowers.  Ra knelt beside her, placing a comforting arm around her shoulders, and rubbing her arm comfortingly for a minute before he  picked up one of the fallen moonlilies, placing it carefully in her hair, tucking the stem of the flower behind her ear.  “There, now we all can see those beautiful golden eyes and silver of the moonlily dance together.”  

Glinda smiled through her tears.  Ra turned to Selena. “Take her inside,” he ordered the Slytherin.  “Help her clean up her face and then bring her back so we can celebrate properly.”  

Selena nodded, helping life the little Gryffindor countess off the ground and cradling her in her arms as the two young women made their way inside.  Ra stood up himself, dusting off his slacks, and looked at Harley.  “Grenth might get a new soul tonight.”  

The usually cheerful man’s answer was a somber nod, eyes fervently refusing to remove themselves from the area where a still-flustered and pale Faren was trying and failing to soothe the ruffled feathers of dissatisfied Lords and Ministry workers who had been heartily enjoying their...entertainment. Harley’s lip curled in disgust, sheathing his sword as he parted from the black-haired Ravenclaw to make his way across the courtyard to Faren’s side. “Lord Faren…”

The brown-haired fop waved his hand at the blond, that same simperingly seductive smile on his face. “No matter, Harley-kins, I know you would never actually do such a thing to me for a small thing like this. I apologize if you were looking forward to working out some of that aggression on one of the workers but I am certain there are...others who would be more than happy to help you.” Ugh that smile sincerely made him just want to throw up. Gods be good this was harder than he thought.

“...thank you for that, Lord Faren but I’m afraid I need to be frank with you. You really should be leaving before Lady Selena gets back. We will take care of the guests, of that I assure you and I will make your excuses.”

A pout overcame Faren’s face and his slender arms came up to cross over the silk-clad chest as if Harley’s suggestions were a personal affront. “Harley, you are hurting my feelings.” That pout deepened, staring up at the tall blond with doe brown eyes as if begging him to say yes to something that Harley didn’t want to know about.

“We do appreciate the sentiment, Lord Fa-”

“Ah! My dear Harley, I’m sure you can call me just Faren. We are
very good friends, after all...aren’t we?”

A discomforting feeling of ice swam through Harley’s stomach and it sincerely felt as if bugs were crawling underneath his skin. He honestly didn’t think that being known as one of Faren’s ‘very good friends’ was something he was comfortable with. He really needed to tread lightly on this. Even if they didn’t like him, he had the ability to be a problem...and Ra couldn’t afford problems right now with everything else that seemed to be going on. “I am honored by the esteem you hold for me, thank you, Faren. you well know, I must remain with my charges.” Harley bowed his head just low enough to show deference to the differences in their position before he turned back towards the house to check on the girls. He couldn’t stand seeing Glinda so upset…

Faren looked a little awkward and bereft for all of a moment before the brunette cleared his throat, looking towards Ra as the party in the garden continued in all of it’s high-class splendor now that the trash had been removed.

Harley with all of his slabs of muscle built onto that tall, strong frame was far more his type when it came to men but Ra’s lithe, disarming strength and gorgeous sapphire eyes were definitely something he could get used to having on his arm and in his bed. Considering that Ra was betrothed to that Slytherin noble, this would have to be handled delicately.  Faren smiled, watching the young Ravenclaw taste of his tea.  Yes, having of the most powerful (not to mention one of the youngest) ministers as… well, his would be both useful and enjoyable indeed.  He might even consider making it more long term, if he could pull it off.  

Faren cleared his throat a little louder, offering a more demure version of his seductive smile towards Ra. “Lord Ravenclaw, I wondered if I might be able to speak with you a moment.” Faren watched the other cock a perfectly-shaped black eyebrow before tanned hands placed his tea cup and saucer on a nearby garden table and moved to join the brown-haired Lord where he and Harley had stood not but a few moments ago.

Faren did enjoy this garden. It would be so hard for anyone to see what was going on unless they were specifically watching this area. The statues, beautifully crafted bushes and trailing vines created wonderful little coves and niches in which for someone to refrain from being seen.

Ra had never seemed to show much of an interest towards anyone in particular, although he had heard a rather scandalous rumor about the man and Countess Anise at a point...hopefully this meant that the man shared some of Anise’s proclivities towards being very open minded about where they received their pleasure and relieved themselves of their stress. For all Faren knew the Ravenclaw Heir made frequent visits with his Shield, which would explain why the blond was so very overprotective of him, even over his other charges.

Allowing his thoughts to bolster his already overinflated sense of self,  Faren raised a glove-free hand to trace along the soft, closely-trimmed hair of Ra’s goatee. “You are such a beautiful man, Ra. All cool logic and icy beauty, not unlike your betrothed. I do wonder what someone suitably inclined could do to...warm that beauty up a bit.” Not waiting for an answer, since he felt that words tended to get in the way more often than not, Faren allowed his hand to grasp Ra’s chin and tilted that pretty head up so that he had unfettered access to those beautiful blue eyes and not-quite pouty lips before giving into the urge and covering those lips with his own. He could taste the sweetened tea that Ra had been drinking on those lips, soft yet slightly chapped against his own beeswax-treated lips until he decided that he wanted a better taste and forced his tongue past the barrier of the closed mouth to deepen the kiss.

The fingers on Ra’s chin slid to the back of his head, carding through the thick black hair even as Faren’s free hand went further to slide down along the line of his spine to grasp a blatant handful of his delectable armful’s tempting behind.

Just as suddenly as the assault had started it stopped but not by Faren’s own choosing. Faren was summarily ripped away from his momentary conquest by a rough, craggy man wearing a mask to cover his features while the other mask-wearing thugs grabbed Ra as well.

“Unhand me, you foul beasts! Help! Mayhem! Murder!” Faren’s panicked, slightly pitched cries brought a different kind of trouble running their way as Harley tore himself away from their two friends inside to wonder what the hell was happening in the garden only to see Faren and Ra both being dragged away by Widowmakers.

Trying not to think about why the Ravenclaw youth  wasn’t fighting his way out of the situation or even just apparating away, Harley sped towards them with a haste that did not belong on a body as large as his own. The flash of his sword and heavy weight of his shield seemed to be enough of a deterrent to the would-be kidnappers even as Harley managed to knock the ones holding two of the attending Lords hostage unconscious with two quick swipes of his shield against their heads.

Guardian magic wrapped debilitating chains around the two unconscious Widowmakers for the Shield to pass over to Thackeray for questioning before he turned to the two nobles beside him and began immediately looking them both over. “Are you okay?”

They nodded, and Harley turned his attention to looking for Ra and Faren.  Damn it all, they were nowhere in sight.  Glinda and Selena both joined him outside, looking confused at the damage and injuries.  Glinda was the one to speak the question all were thinking.  “What happened here?”  

“I heard Faren shouting,” Harley said, turning his head left and right in alarm.  Still no sign.  One of the servants spoke up, her soft Sylvari voice shaking in fear.  “They’re gone.  I saw those ruffians grab Lord Faren and Lord Ravenclaw and drag them off.  I think they’re gonna kill them!”  

This information did nothing to soothe Harley’s nerves.  He was surely in for it now.  First the incident out in Shaemoor, and now this?  Grenth must really hate him right now.  Or maybe he should pray to Dwayna more, or...oh gods…

Glinda’s unnaturally calm, clear voice broke him from his thoughts.  “Calm down, Hyacinth.  Go and see to the other guests and tend to any who are wounded.  I will take Selina and Harley and go after Lords Ravenclaw and Faren.”

The sylvari woman nodded, calmer now, and went over to join her fellow servants in caring for the guests.  Glinda turned to her two friends, and led the way out of her courtyards to the streets.  “That was rather Ra-esque of you, Glinda,” Harley told the little nymph.  She just smiled.  “Someone has to be in his absence.  It clearly wasn’t gonna be you.  Besides, if I don’t stay calm right now, after how these past three days have gone,  there won’t be a Selma District left.  So…”

Selena raised her eyebrows.  “That’s all well and good, but how do we find them when we can’t find a trace of even the bandits?”

Harley smirked.  For once, he knew something about tracking that even Selena didn’t.  He was all well prepared to rub it in her face, despite being utterly panicked and stressed, but Glinda spoke first.  “The bandits are using a cottage near the District Square,  and they have both men tied up there.  We should head there immediately and rescue them with all haste.”  

Both of the other two blinked, utterly dazed and shocked that she could possibly know this at all.  Glinda completely ignored their amazement and began skipping down the street unconcernedly, holding her scepter and focus in hand, ready to fight.  The other two trailed after her, not sure what to do.  Any time a bandit would jump out of hiding to attack, said bandit found himself (or herself) on fire.  Glinda was having way too much fun with this, Harley decided.  That was for shit damn sure.  

All of a sudden, the tiny redhead came to a halt in front of a three story cottage in the District Square.  “We’re here,” she said in her usual airy-fairy tone, as if she were announcing her return from a long trip.  “Let’s go in and introduce ourselves.”  

Before the trio could reach the door, however, it burst open and members of the Widowmakers gang came flooding out, ready to fight.  Not that any of this (or the bandits’ choices in weaponry, for that matter) seemed to phase Glinda.  No, no, she just let out a sigh of boredom and drew her own sword and dagger.  All Harley heard was a singsong “Ashes, ashes, they all fall down…” and then Glinda pounced.  For Harley, watching Ra fight was somewhat sensual, like watching an artist paint a picture or a musician play a sonata on the piano, but watching Glinda fight hand to hand was comparable to watching a professional dance troupe put on a ballet.  She used every motion to her advantage, never once being touched by her adversaries unless she wished it.  She never needed to stop moving.  Everything literally just seemed to fall into place for her.  

In a few short minutes, it was over.  Where once there had been a dozen bandits and their leader, now only were piles of ashes.  Harley felt a shiver travel down his spine, remembering what Glinda had said in a sing-song voice, like a child’s nursery rhyme, before she’d begun this massacre.  “Remind me never to upset you, Glinda.”  

“Oh silly Harley,” Glinda giggled as she sheathed her weapons, “I know you’d never, ever be foolish enough to warrant this level of fury from me, right?”

Harley nodded vigorously and Selena added, “That goes for all of us, Pixie.”  

Glinda merely beamed at them before leading the way into the cottage and up to the top floor.  There, on the floor and bound together, were Lord Faren and Ra Ravenclaw.  Faren let out a cry of joy to see the trio, but for some reason, Ra didn’t look happy at all.  Harley knelt and untied them one at a time, then assisted pulling them up.  Faren the Fop dusted off his trousers and said to Harley, “Ah, thank you, dearest Harley.  I’m most grateful for this assistance.  I-”

The blond barely had a moment to react before the dark-haired Mesmer’s eyes darkened from sapphire blue to near-obsidian black in a fit of rage and had his hands around Lord Faren’s throat. Harley had his arms wrapped around his Lord as quickly as he could, dragging the other back and away from the brunette fop that had apparently driven his friend to murder, strings of curses, jinxes, profanity, and other vindictive words issuing almost incoherently from the smaller man’s lips.

Ra was hissing and spitting like a deranged tomcat, fighting and thrashing in Harley’s arms to try and get to Faren’s jugular, clawing at the air like he was attempting to magically suffocate the playboy.  It took literally everything Harley had to keep hold of him. “Ra! Ra, dammit, calm down!” He tugged the other just a little further away and put the Ravenclaw heir on his own two feet, large hands grasping either side of Ra’s head to make the other concentrate on him instead of whatever had enraged him so. “Ra, what happened? Look, LOOK at me. Look at me, concentrate on me…”

Harley’s thumbs gently brushed over those sharp cheekbones, feeling the tips of his fingers brushing against that silken soft black hair. “You’re safe. I have’re safe with me. Just...come on.” Without thinking, Harley wrapped an arm around Ra’s shoulders and led him back through the city and into Glinda’s garden towards a break in the hedges.

This round area of garden was full of different breeds of lilies, daffodils and daisies in a veritable riot of color that Harley had planted with Glinda when they were younger. Harley had even installed the stone bench that took pride of place in the center of this hidden garden for Glinda’s birthday some years back.  The bench had other significant meaning too.  Each year since it’s installment, Glinda came here and planted some special flower that meant something to Glinda herself, about each of her friends.  Glinda’s own favorite, roses of all shapes and colors, were there, beautiful blue forget-me-nots for Ra, stunning magenta gladiolus for Selena, and even some of Harley’s favorites, daffodils.  

The Ravensworn shield gently placed Ra on the bench so that he could kneel on the soft grass in front of his liege, and holder of his heart.  Ra was still muttering an endless stream of curses and jinxes under his breath, eyes hard and black with pent up rage.   Harley’s concern was beginning to grow.  The last time Ra had gotten like this, he had lost control of his magic and had had to be moved to a safehouse to regain control.  Ra had maintained a detached behavior since then for that very reason.  Whatever the fop had done, it had to have been really bad.  Or, was it just the fact that he had been kidnapped?

Harley’s large hands came up of their own accord, gathering those soft and tanned hands in his own on Ra’s lap. He could feel the other practically quivering in rage and he tightened his fingers over that warmed skin. “Ra...Ra, look at me. Look at me, Prettybird, I’m right here.” Harley kept his voice even and calm, staring into those fathomless eyes. “Come on, bring back those pretty blue eyes, Ra…”

A faint, shimmering energy radiated out of Harley’s skin, a pale gold glittering aura that slowly stretched itself towards Ra, encompassing the black-haired Raven in a calming blanket of Harley’s Guardian power. The blond had learned early on with Glinda and other small children that he could extend a calming, protective aura that would and could calm almost anyone. He enjoyed sending it out to keep others emotionally calm and wanting to share that feeling of protection towards the object of his affections. Harley kept his thoughts calm and warm, trying to ensure that he irradiated those thoughts to Ra. He couldn’t let that happen again...He had to find out what happened and do something about it before they went after those damnable Widowmakers.

The blond had to do this for both of them. He had to keep himself calm so that he didn’t fly into a berserker rage. It was one thing to try and kidnap a lord or was another thing entirely to so much as look at Ra Ravenclaw with even a modicum of intent to do harm...Harley was likely to tear someone’s arms off and beat them with said arms.

Ra’s breathing was starting to slow down, the shaking diminished, the blue beginning to return to his eyes.  His eyes fluttered for a moment, then they were their stunning sapphire as he looked at Harley, comprehension on his face.  His jaw set, and all he said was, “Harley?  I’m going to kill him.  Lyssa won’t even be able to hide him from me.  I’m literally going to kill him!”

Well that was not exactly normal. Not in public at the very least, Ra tended to try and keep his death threats and promises of harm to the safety of their Tower where no one would be able to hear him or hold it against him in any way. Gods above were certain that Harley would never do such a thing.

The blond did his best to keep those calm feelings going, even though he knew that whatever was going to leave his charge’s mouth in the next few moments would probably mean the death of his self control and not just the end of someone’s life. “What? Did the Widowmakers touch you? If they did, there’s nothing left of them, they barely even ha--” Harley paused, seeing the look on Ra’s handsome face.  He knew THAT look all too well, hadn’t seen it in months.  

The Hufflepuff youth took a deep breath, shoring up the last vestiges of control even as his shield of calm began to flicker and fade. “Whoever it was, whatever they did...ask it of me and you know it’s yours.” It was a promise Harley had made to him years ago that Ra would never have to get his hands dirty, that Harley would handle anything that he had to so that Ra could do as he wished, would do as he pleased and do whatever needed to be done.

Anyone looking in on the scene between the two would not have seen a Sworn Shield with his Guarded. No, they would see the tender, concerned look in whiskey eyes and the large hands tenderly holding those tanned digits within his own, kneeling in the grass in full armor like a knight in a fairytale. “Do I need to kill Lord Faren? Did Faren touch you?”

...okay yea, there went the final shreds of his calm. The aura flickered away like the embers of a fire and his hands tightened around Ra’s own. “ All Six Gods, do not tell me that Faren of all people touched you. I will tear his arms off and feed them to him before burying him alive in a grave of his own shit if that is what you are going to say happened.”

Ra closed his eyes, lashes falling to his cheeks (Harley was glad Ra didn't see him blush).  He let out a sigh, then said through clenched teeth, “Not if I get there first.”

Harley felt a slight wave of relief. If Ra was beginning to think clearly then maybe it was getting better. Hm, maybe he needed to start threatening people with obscene deaths more often. “Now that’s not how the deal works, Ra. Remember? You point where and I shoot.” A gauntlet-free hand lightly tapped the Ravenclaw heir on the forehead, flicking a few stubborn black strands away from his face. “Sword and Shield, remember?”

“He kissed me.”

...yep, the Fop was dead. The Fop was beyond dead.

Harley had been raised alongside Ra, had been fighting that very same urge every time he saw the black-haired man so much as smile, pout, cry, glare...hell, walk in a room!  Literally everything Ra did was  beautiful and awe-inspiring to the Guardian.

Harley’s hand fell on Ra’s slender shoulder and clenched, twisting into the fabric of the younger man’s shirt even as he tried (failing) to keep himself calm. Already there was a visible lick of blue and honey-colored flames licking at the Hufflepuff Shield’s boots. “...he what?” He sincerely must have misheard. He hoped he misheard. No. No, he didn’t.

Faren...Faren had kissed Ra.

“ wouldn’t be so pissed if he had JUST kissed you. How many pieces do you want him in and how would you like it served? Publicly humiliated, mysteriously gone missing or just roasted?”

He was holding onto his control by the shreds of his fingernails at this point and needed to concentrate on keeping Ra from running off and causing himself some harm. No one would really care what happened to Ra if the youth went off on the other man where anyone else could see.

“He grabbed my ass, Harley.  I have never -NEVER- been so humiliated by anyone.” Ra seemed on the verge of tears, both hurt and frustration coursing through him.

Well, there went that last bit of calm he had  but he couldn’t run off and kill the bastard. No, not with Ra so upset...Those tears clinging to thick and sooty eyelashes like diamonds tore at his heartstrings. Harley cupped Ra’s face between his hands, using them to force Ra into looking at him. “And he will pay for it. He will. We will make him rue that day sometime soon but it would be far, far sweeter if we just let him stew for a while. Threaten to tell the Queen, or Anise...Anise would make his life a living hell and we can watch him deteriorate until there’s nothing left.” There, all that time spent around Ra and Selena had finally started to pay off.

Harley took a deep breath, keeping his calloused fingers on that tanned face and feeling the dampness there from the tears that had managed to fall. “Did the kidnappers say anything, Ra? Once morons like that have a hostage they can’t shut up. What were they going to do? Did they say what they wanted?”

Ra seemed to regain his composure slightly at this, his perfect Ravenclaw memory kicking in. “They were discussing a farmhouse in Shaemoor. There are other hostages and we were to be locked up there with the rest of them for… Gods only know what reason.”

Nodding, Harley removed his hands from the other’s face and stood up, dusting off his knees before holding his hand out to Ra. “Well then it seems we have work to do. Can’t save you and leave the others to rot. Bad form, you know. I’ll get accused of favoritism.”

That got a small smile out of Ra and set Harley’s already racing heart into a burst of motion he thought might kill him.  Damn that smile.  Why was it so beautiful and hard to resist?  Harley closed his eyes, forcing himself to focus on what Ra had said about the bandits.  He had heard a good bit of information about the bandits getting more and more brazen about attacking the countryside of Divinity’s Reach.

Harley helped the smaller male up onto his feet from the bench, removing his hands quickly before he gave into the urge to hold on for far longer than would be appreciated. “I’m going to go and get Glinda and Selena. Hopefully...that already went home.”

Stepping out into the main courtyard, Harley sighed before tugging his gauntlets back on so that just in case he had to punch someone it would hurt just that little bit more. Thankfully he didn’t have to look very far for Glinda, Selena and Faren. The sight of the brunette fop standing outside the entryway of the hidden alcove next to the other two brought a fire into his eyes but he focused his attentions on the girls so that he didn’t commit murder. “The bandits that have been plaguing the countryside around Divinity’s Reach for the past few months have decided to step up their game. They’re getting more political and bloodthirsty if they’re grabbing Lords and Ministry officials. I’m going to tell Logan in the morning and we can head out and deal with it before anyone else gets hurt.”

Of course the blond hoped, prayed, and mentally begged in his mind for the two girls to be far too tired and overwrought from the past few days to be willing to go along with such an adventure. He honestly hoped to hear that they were going to spend the entirety of tomorrow at the Ministry in the company of Queen Jennah and Countess Anise so that he wouldn’t have to worry about them...again.  He knew it was a small hope, but still, he hoped.  

“That’s if you’re even alive tomorrow.” Selena snarked, raising an eyebrow at the blond as she watched him fiddle with his armor. She must have overheard everything said in the hidden garden but thankfully Faren didn’t have the magic that she and Glinda did. They could use Air magic to bring the sounds closer to them and hear whatever was said. It only worked in a semi-enclosed area like this or they wouldn’t have been able to hear at all due to the thick hedges surrounding the bench. “You still have to get Ra and myself to our homes and explain yourself to Lord Ravenclaw and Lady Slytherin.”

Harley felt a slight twitch develop in his eye before he offered her a small smile. “I think right now I have bigger things to worry about than a flogging, Selena. Now, Lord Faren, I am going to assume that this bit of excitement hasn’t scared away your sense of direction and that you will be fine heading home on your own. You’ll have to forgive me but I have a very busy day tomorrow and so do my friends. I believe Ra will be spending quite a lot of time with Queen Jennah at some point tomorrow...good night.” Harley turned back to Ra, moving aside so that the black-haired youth could exit the garden.

“Let’s get you two home. Goodnight Glinda. Do you want me to come by tomorrow?” Harley always made himself available for all of them at any point in time, although Ra always took precedence and Harley made it a personal vendetta to make sure that he got to whatever Selena wanted from him last. It wasn’t his fault that Glinda was his favorite girl.

Glinda shook her head, looking much better than she had a mere hour previous. “No, thank you, Harley. Safe travels and good night.” She hugged both Selena and Ra, hopping up a bit to plant a kiss on Harley’s cheek as a farewell before she turned and disappeared back into her mansion with the patio doors now firmly closed behind her.

A glance around the garden showed that the party was well and truly over and the servants had already cleared most everything up. Good, that meant that Harley’s night was almost over. It felt like it had taken far too long to get to the point of getting Selena home and report back to Lord Ravenclaw.


“You did what?”

Harley winced slightly.  Recounting the past three days’ adventures (nightmares) to his master were somewhat more painful than he’d imagined.  Lady Ravenclaw sat next to her husband, delicate hand over her heart, her mouth slightly open in shock.  Her husband looked less controlled.  He was furious, and for a number of good reasons.  First, he had been woken up because the boys had come home. Finally.  Second, he’d had a bad day at the ministry, most likely the fault of one of the junior ministers.  Lastly, this news from Harley.  

Slowly, not looking at either of the nobles, Harley recounted what had happened, trying not to say anything to get Ra or the girls in any trouble.  He made it all out to be his fault, even Glinda getting hurt.   He saw Lord Ravenclaw stand and start pacing, so he stopped talking, waiting for the hammer to fall.  

“It was my fault, father.” Ra’s quiet voice spoke up from beside his mother, where the other had perched on the end of the sofa like his pet raven.

That simple statement brought Lord Ravenclaw up short, turning in place to stare at his son. “And yet, young Harley here has said that it was entirely his fault. That HE was unable to get the three of you out of there in time before Glinda was injured, allowed you to fight centaurs and become kidnapped by bandits along with Lord Faren and failed to report back in for three whole days.” The Ravenclaw Lord’s tone was liberally sprinkled with a heavy dose of ‘was there anything else you would like to add?’ that made Harley more than slightly uncomfortable.

Lady Ravenclaw adored and doted on the Ravensworn for everything he did for her son but her husband was less attached, even if he did sometimes go a little lenient on the boy...although usually that was in repayment for nearly fifteen years of loyal service.

“I heard, father, and I applaud Harley for doing his job but that does not change the fact that I am the one who brought the Ladies with me, I did not listen to Harley when he told us to go home and I told him to listen to the Priestess of Dwayna so that he could be healed. He remained with us at the party that Lord Faren so kindly threw for us and went to attend Lady Gryffindor after a momentary wobble broke her composure and I told him to take care of her.” Each and every point this damned, infuriatingly calm and pretty bastard brought up poked a hole in every single one of Harley’s earlier statements about it all being his fault. But this would also mean that Lord Ravenclaw wouldn’t know who to believe and, therefore, who to punish.

Ravenslord sighed, his aged hands coming up to pinch the bridge of his nose as if his head were hurting and waved the both of them away. “Harley, whether ordered by your Sworn Lord or not, you will be attending to Lady Gryffindor and Lady Slytherin as they wish until I feel that you have repaid the danger both of your actions brought down upon those girls and their families are suitably mollified. You will report to them at the end of the week. Now go, both of you.”

Harley moved to stand by the door, holding it open for Ra before bowing to the Lord and Lady of the house, following his dark-haired friend up the stairs to their Tower in a state of shock.

Ra and Harley had been given the Tower as their space in the mansion at a young age since Ra had wanted Harley always at hand and Harley hadn’t wanted to be far away from his friend. Each corner of the Ravenclaw mansion had a Tower that swept up into the heights of the city and their Tower was at the far end of the floor plans. Stairs led from the main floor up and up through the main three stories of the mansion until anyone would hit their general meeting area, a place Harley had set up at Ra’s instruction that was full of bookshelves, a fireplace and comfortable chairs with small tables where they repeatedly entertained friends or just sat in quiet with each other. Further stairs led up to their bedrooms but Harley’s was the main room an intruder would have to go through to get to Ra’s room unless they were one of the few in the house who knew the way into Ra’s bedroom as it was hidden by the stone wall that made up the outside of Harley’s room. Just beyond their bedrooms was a shared bath that was easily the size of Harley’s room or larger with cool marble and soft cotton towels for their use.

Ra had always made a habit when they were younger of  bathing together and there were no exceptions made as they got older since Ra still expected his friend to help him at any point that he asked.

Pausing outside the door to his room, Harley cleared his throat. “Why did you lie? It was my fault, Ra…” He didn’t understand it. Ra was never afraid of throwing him under the oncoming cart before, it was what he was there for, for Kormir’s sake!

The raven-haired heir merely smiled at his friend, a glittering sense of amusement in those bright and pretty eyes that always made Harley weak in the knees and jelly-brained. “You are my friend. You would do it for me.”

“Well of course, I’ve been doing it since we were little for all three of you.” And that was the Grenth-damned truth, wasn’t it? Harley had been taking the blame for all of their mistakes since he had become a part of their little group at age seven and they had been five. Good gods had it really been thirteen years? “In fact, that's what I was just doing in there, too.  Until you poked holes in my story faster than I could blink.”

Ra’s smile grew bigger, more mischevious.  And Harley felt his mind go blissfully blank, nearly missing Ra’s soft chuckle and comment of “Oh yeah?  Well, how about that.”

Harley rolled his eyes.  The boy was lucky he was so beautiful.  “Damn pretty bastard.” Harley grumbled, thankful his brain was at least somewhat still able to work through the visual overload. “I’m going to bed.  Goodnight, Prettybird.”

Ra Ravenclaw smirked, and proceeded to mimic a pigeon, which only made Harley melt even more, forcing the blonde to retreat into his room before I tried to rush over and plant a kiss on that lovely man’s lips.  As his door closed, he heard Ra’s laugh.  He swore the young man was trying to make Harley flustered on purpose.

As he rolled over and fell asleep, Harley decided that if the Ravenclaw did it again in the morning, he’d pluck up the courage to ask Ra about it.  

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