Chapter Three: The Papermaker and the Minister
The next morning, Harley woke, washed, and dressed as usual, dressing in his usual light clothing he wore beneath his armor, since he would be changing into it later on. He went down to breakfast, and found Ra already there with his parents, dressed and ready to attend the Ministry meeting later. As Harley settled in to enjoying his breakfast (scrambled eggs, buttered toast, and sausage links with orange juice to drink), the family discussed their plans for the day. Ra was, of course off to the Ministry after breakfast, and would be meeting with the Queen right after that. Both Lord and Lady Ravenclaw were heading to Ebonhawke, a human city that had once been part of Ascalon, but was now an extension of Kryta and was the Ravenclaw’s hometown. They would be there for the whole weekend, it turned out, and they were going to provide any support the people there needed, as well as gain useful information for Ra to pass on to the Queen.
A few minutes after Lord Ravenclaw had finished speaking, Ra spoke up. “Father, I received a letter from Captain Thackaray. He requests that we lend him Harley for the day.”
“Oh, whatever for?” Roderick Ravenclaw asked, not even looking up from his morning paper. Ra shrugged. “He wasn’t clear, so I guess he can’t really discuss it in public, let alone a letter. All he said was that there is a witness at the trading post past Shaemoor Garrison that he needs Harley to escort back to the city.”
“And why can Captain Thackaray not have his Seraph handle it?”
Lord Ravenclaw’s tone of voice suggested he didn’t like the fact that Logan was begging others to do such a simple task for him. Ra was already prepared for that point. “I imagine that the Seraph are still busy with the cleanup after the centaur attack on Shaemoor, and what with all the bandit raids and pressure from the government, it’s little wonder the Seraph are needing help.” He smirked. “Besides, Glinda, Selena, and I will be at the Ministry meeting all morning, so it’s not like we will be in any real danger, what with all the Ministry Guards around, and Logan said it should only take the morning, so I can collect Harley at the Seraph headquarters before I return home after this morning’s meeting. Or, if it runs long, he can collect us at the palace once it ends.”
Harley had to admire the way Ra could spin words to do his bidding. He was a master at saying just the right thing at the right time. This particular instance was no exception. Ra had carefully laid out the points in such a way that there was no argument to be had, and on top of that, the tone of voice he’d used was just the right level of sweetness with humility to get his mother on his side as well. Lady Rowena Ravenclaw, smiling adoringly at her son, said to her husband, “Oh Roderick, we can spare him for just the morning. And if it will help the Seraph, imagine the favors we will be owed and the influence we will gain.”
Roderick sighed, knowing when he was beaten. “Very well. Harley, you may assist Captain Thackaray, but please do not dawdle on returning to your regular duties once your service to him is finished. And please inform Logan Thackaray that he will indeed be owing us a favor of some sort for this service.”
Harley smiled, trying to contain his enthusiasm. “Yes sir, and thank you, my Lord.” Yes! He got to do some of the work he had been wanting to do since he was a young child. All four of them had gone through Seraph training at a younger age, even Selena, to smooth out their ability to use their aspects to the highest level. But he could act on behalf of the Seraph today and that would be amazing.
The blond rushed through the rest of his breakfast, gifting the Lady Ravenclaw with a quick kiss on the cheek that had become almost ritual to them since he had come into their house before running back up the tower stairs to his room. He didn’t want to wear his good armor for this...honestly he would probably have to. He had to make a good first impression on Cin Fursarai or the paper-pushing weasel probably wouldn’t cooperate. The Shield was practically vibrating in excitement as he stuffed himself into his armor, setting himself down on the edge of his bed to check all of his weapons. Sword, greatsword, shield, axes...Everything sharpened and ready to go.
Harley took a deep breath, setting his hands on top of his knees. He was actually going to be leaving Ra behind for something...in some way it didn’t feel right. Not having the other man with him, or even the girls at his back, would be strange. But they all had jobs to do. They were getting older, that meant some degrees of separation. Even when they were separated, they all were too closely ensconced in each other for it to be permanent. The Ravensworn pushed himself up off of his bed and shouldered his travel pack, turning on his heel to begin heading out the door only to yelp and jump half a foot in the air.
“Kormir-dammit, Birdbrain, are you trying to send me to Grenth before my time?” Harley growled, hand over his pounding heart.
Ra leaned in the doorway, idly checking his fingernails as if giving his sworn Shield a heart attack was a regular occurrence. “You seem excited. Looking forward to being a Seraph for a day?”
The truth was, Lord Ravenclaw had been given many different offers over the years from families and armies of every spectrum to permit them to take Harley off of Ravenlord’s hands, but the blond had always asked his Lord to permit him to remain with his family out of loyalty and a genuine love of the family. He especially hadn’t wanted to leave after Helena’s Seraph unit had disappeared. That, and the thought of being separated from a certain mesmer youth was a painful thought for him.
“Well, yea, I mean…” Harley fiddled with the end of his ponytail, looking remarkably small for a man who stood at 6’6” and couldn’t fit through some doorways. “We’re helping. That’s what I’m here to do, right? Help. Be of use.”
“You are of use, Harlequin. You have nothing to prove to Captain Douchebag,” even foul language sounded like a blessing from Ra’s mouth. “Unless of course you are wanting to impress someone...prove how strong and capable you are…” That shorter, lithe body pushed itself off of the doorframe, idly circling Harley in the small space that was his room. It was large, for a servant’s room, but there wasn’t much space to stand since Harley had long ago filled the room with his belongings, gifts, books, etc. He was forever grateful that Lady Ravenclaw had put him in on lessons with the other children when their tutors came by since the Lady was intent on making sure that Harley could both function in the higher class functions and defending his charges on the battlefield.
Harley could feel Ra’s presence around him like a brand against his skin. Sometimes it seemed like the man purposefully exuded his confidence and presence out in the air to get as much attention on him as he possibly could. Harley shook his head to try and clear his mind of everything swimming in it...Ra’s teasing comments from yesterday, the accidental kiss in the barn, being called ‘mine’ by Ra Ravenclaw of all people...it was enough to turn anyone’s head around. “N-No, I’m not trying to impress anyone. I just figured that...I could be helpful. I won’t be any good at the Ministry today and the Ministry Guard will be there, so will Logan and...I wanted to help.”
But he had to admit, even to himself, that if Ra became impressed with the information he found today it would definitely be a boost to his slightly battered ego. “But um...I, I gotta go.” Harley cleared his throat, making his way just past Ra until he was stopped by a hand on his forearm, right in the weak point of his armor. The tanned hand on his armor led him to look down at Ra, tilting his head in confusion.
Ra would refuse it to his dying day but the thought of Harley being out on his own in the world, even for a morning away from him, made his heart hurt and his stomach felt unbearably queasy. “I haven’t given you permission to die, Harley Hufflepuff. You have to come home after this is done, I will not accept anything less.”
A fond, exasperated smile came onto the Guardian’s face as he heard those words and stared down into those fathomless blue eyes. Those same blue eyes that always tore at his heart and made his insides tie themselves up in knots. A gauntlet-covered hand came up and covered Ra’s own, squeezing gently in reassurance. “I’ll be fine. It’s just a paper-weasel, what harm could he do?”
Unfortunately, Harley got to find out just how much damage one Cin Fursarai could do when he managed to get out into Scaver Plateau. Of course he had made sure to wave a hi and a goodbye to Sam when he saw that the Seraph was on duty near the gates but hadn’t stopped to have a conversation since he was in a bit of a hurry...he somewhat wished he had taken his time.
The blonde took a moment to fix his scabbard more firmly to his belt, listening to the rat-faced weasel ranting and waving at a norn that he could see walking away.
“You there! You look like you can handle yourself in a fight. I need to get to the garrison, and my oafish guards just turned coward. What do you cost?” The puffed up little man barely came up to the top of Harley’s chestplate and had an ego that surely made Ra Ravenclaw seem like the most humble of human beings. The blonde made sure to look down at him with a raised eyebrow.
“Cost? I’m no mercenary, sir.” Harley’s hand immediately went to the hilt of his sword, his normally smooth voice taking on the gravelled and accented cadence of the lower caste in Divinity’s Reach. “I’m here to help identify the maker of some handmade paper.”
Fursarai’s face twitched at his talk but Harley would take whatever small victories he could against the man that he could. “If you found quality paper in Divinity’s Reach, boy, I can assure you -- I made it. Reams of paper are like snowflakes. I know my pages as well as most people know their children.”
Okay this man loved paper just a little too much. It was creepy. Blech.
“Nice ta know. You wouldn’t be able ta tell me if’n a specific piece o’paper was bought by a particular person, would ya? The Seraph’s interested, is all.” It felt odd, talking like this again. It had taken him a long time and many painful lessons with an elocution tutor to cure him of his trash talk. But...needs must.
“I could but that doesn’t mean I will. I’m a resident of Lion’s Arch. Your queen and your Seraph have no authority over me, and my clients expect discretion.” By Grenth’s teeth this man made him want to beat his face in. He seriously needed a good fight, all of these skirmishes weren’t doing it.
“C’mon, friend. Make an exception? I’m dyin’ here…” The large blond gave his best grin, watching the wheels turn in the other man’s head. Gods above, compared to Glinda and the others this guy was an open damn book. He’d been spending way too much time in the Ministry circles, that was for shit damn sure.
“Fine. I’ll make you a deal. Protect me until I reach the garrison and I’ll tell you what you want to know. The road to Shaemoor is dangerous these days, you know.”
Perfect. Hook, line and sinker. “Okay then.” Harley held his hand out to Fursarai, shaking the man’s sweaty and overly-perfumed hand to end the deal as a gentleman’s agreement. “Let’s go, I need the Seraph off my back as soon as possible.”
The actual trip down the road to Shaemoor Garrison was a lot easier than he anticipated. A few drakes trying to attack the bull more than Fursarai were easily dispatched. Harley knew he didn’t technically have to defend the bull since the agreement had been to protect Fursarai...not Fursarai’s interests or belongings. He just had to make sure that the man got to the Garrison in one piece. The centaurs were a little more fun to deal with, making Fursarai cower in fear by his bull like a mouse cornered by a cat.
By the time they reached the gates, Harley’s shield and sword were both a bit more bloody than they had been in recent years. It wasn’t often he actually had to kill stuff instead of just knocking them out and handing whoever it was over to the Seraph.
“The centaurs have erected catapults! Secure the gates!” A Seraph yelled from the top of the watchtower, signalling to the guards in control of the gates to pull them down, securing the entryways into the area good and tight.
“You can’t make me stay out here! The centaurs will eat me!” Fursarai was fit to be tied, red in the face and spittle flying as he screamed up at the Seraph guarding the wall.
“Our orders are to seal the gates until those catapults have been destroyed!” One of Harley’s friends, a Seraph by the name of William Korden, verbally flayed the man trying to kowtow his compatriots. Will was never one to take things lying down, it was why he and Harley got on so well...that and they both were able to keep up with each other in drinking games.
“Well?!” Fursarai rounded himself on Harley, who was staring at the balding man blankly. “Why are you wasting time? Destroy those catapults!”
Harley hadn’t even made it to the end of the bridge before one of the centaur catapults loosed itself on the garrison, urging the blond faster into the fray of centaurs, Seraph and flying clumps of earth. Apparently a centaur could get some pretty nice speed build up when trying to ram you with it’s horns...especially if you weren’t there anymore and it ran straight into one of the damned catapults. One down, two to go.
“Die, two-legs!” A Tamini screamed at him, rushing at him with twin daggers in hand and murder in it’s eyes. These damned Tamini were fanatical in their hatred of humans and he really didn’t understand it.
“Not today.” Harley grunted, swinging his body around in a tight circle with greatsword in hand, watching the swirling energy fly towards the bastardized horse like blades of air, chopping it into bloody pieces at the Guardian’s feet. A few swings of his greatsword brought down the last catapult and he walked, exhausted, back towards the garrison and Fursarai.
Well, great...the bull was dead. Tattered and shredded paper flew through the air like confetti in a parade but the blond didn’t care. He would pick it out later. “Alright, deal’s a deal, Fursarai.”
“I’m ruined! Thanks to you and your bungling, all my paper’s been destroyed!” Huh. Did he ever turn that particular shade of purple?
“I said I’d get ya safely to the city, and that I did. Those supplies were less important than yer life.” Harley drawled, greatsword laid across his shoulder as if it weighed nothing at all. Considering it was still dripping blood and wood chips, he was pretty sure he made for a horrifying sight. Blood splattered and messy, his hair half-tugged from his ponytail...he probably looked more like a Norn after a moot than a Guardian that had just fought a battle.
“I don’t owe you. I won’t tell you anything. You can’t make me!” Did he seriously just stomp his foot? What was with these fussy little bastards from Lion’s Arch?
A growl resonated in Harley’s chest, sounding ominously close to one of the wolves that could be found in the forests around Shaemoor and Claypool. “If ya don’t, I’ll have ya arrested fer obstruction o’the law, ya snivelin’ little toady. Now, tell me who bought that paper!”
Most of the Seraph nearby had backed up considerably, knowing better than to get in the way of the Ravensworn Guardian and his quarry. If Ra Ravenclaw had sent out his personal valet for something, it had to be important and way above their pay grade.
“Y-You wouldn’t…” One look at Harley’s eyes and that disfiguring purple scar put paid to that right quick and the previously-called ‘toady’ sighed. “You...all right, fine. The paper belongs to Minister Zamon. Are you happy now? Am I free to go?”
The usually kindly smiling lips twisted into a smirk with absolutely no humor in it, only dislike and malice. “Ya can expect ta be called as a witness if’n Zamon is brought to trial, so I don’t recommend ya leaving Divinity’s Reach.”
“How very...quaint. If the ministry sends a formal summons, I’ll come. At least they’ll use decent parchment on the subpoena.”
Harley gave a mocking two-fingered salute to the man before turning on his heel and walking back towards Divinity’s Reach and Seraph Headquarters. He needed to get this information in and go to fucking bed.
Of course, nothing could ever be that simple.
“Oh Harlequin, did you really have to let the bull die?” Ra asked from his seat in front of Logan’s desk, surrounded by similarly seated Glinda, Selena and Countess Anise.
In Ra’s own words, “Fuck my life…” He muttered, throwing himself down onto one of the hard, wooden-backed chairs near Logan’s large desk and letting his eyes remain on Logan himself. “My job was to protect Fursarai, not ‘is damned bull.”
“Well we’ve been hoping to see you soon. What did you find? What did the papermaker say?” Logan asked, looking excited and slightly trepidatious.
“Fursarai admitted ta makin’ the paper fer Zamon. He also agreed ta tes--” Harley coughed harshly into his hand, shaking his head. “Blech. Sorry. He also agreed to testify to that effect.”
Logan looked shellshocked. This was far worse than he had been expecting. “Zamon...I knew he was shady but...organized crime? Setting up citizens to be robbed and brutalized? That’s out-and-out treason!”
Ra and the girls didn’t appear too shocked with the news, although Anise looked fairly less than pleased.
“Nevertheless,” the dark-haired Ravenclaw youth cut in, setting down his cup of peppermint tea onto the small table by his chair, “he’s a Ministry official. We cannot call him to trial without more evidence. But, more evidence is easy to gain if we know where to look.”
Anise perked up at that, a slow grin spreading across her pretty face. “Minister Wi is hosting a party tonight. It would be a good opportunity to eavesdrop on ministers, their allies and their enemies.”
Ugh, that plan sounded less than palatable to Harley but there was a high chance he’d have to go to the party anyway. Lady Ravenclaw had been slowly shifting him towards being more active in the Ministry as a whole, attending parties and meetings with Ra and being quizzed on if he was paying attention.
“Or we could search Zamon’s house.” Logan offered up a different option, knowing that not all of them were suited for Ministry parties and schmoozing. “The law allows it if someone’s in danger or we suspect treason...and we have definite reason for suspicion.”
The entire party looked thoughtful, although Harley’s eyes were shut and he could have easily been asleep if it weren’t for the fact that he wasn’t snoring. Selena shocked the man with a small flick of Air magic, making the blond twitch and groan, glaring at the green-haired woman before he forced himself upright. “Fine, fine, I’m up. I vote for Logan’s plan.”
Glinda nodded in agreement. “I do too. Besides, Logan isn’t enough adult supervision for Harley-kins, so we can’t just let those two go off on their own.”
Ra sighed, running a hand through the thick black bangs hanging into his eyes as if he was bored with the whole thing. “So that leaves Selena, Anise and I to attend the party and get the information we need from there.” If one of his fellow Minister’s was using his influence to harm local innocents and strengthen the area’s criminal element, Ra wanted them taken down with extreme prejudice.
Logan got up from behind his desk, gifting Harley with a fist-bump and a small smile full of boyish mischief. “Your nobles seem to have a knack for making my life interesting. Let’s see if we can’t return the favor, hm?”
Anise was doing her best to look disapproving but the humor shining in her eyes gave her away rather clearly. “Burglarizing a minister’s home? How daring, young Harley! I can see why you and Logan mesh so well. Glinda, dear, I look forward to tales of your success.” The woman with her feathery dress leaned forward and traded cheek kisses with Glinda before waving farewell to the other nobles in the room. “I will meet you at Minister Wi’s house later, darlings. It wouldn’t do to make us share the spotlight during our entrance.” A kiss was blown in Ra’s direction before she disappeared from view.
Logan looked between Glinda and Harley, shaking his head. He would never understand Countess Anise, even with how much time they spent together due to Jennah. “I feel better with the two of you on this mission. Meet me at Zamon’s after the party’s started. We’ll find the evidence we need to convict him.”
The redhaired pixie offered a sarcastic, biting smile to the brunette Captain. “Well I can’t leave you boys to take care of yourselves, can I? Like I said, who knows what trouble you two could start…”
“Aaaaand, I rest my case.” Glinda chirped cheerfully from her place leaning back against the gate of Zamon’s front lawn, watching Harley knock out a few of the Ministry guards playing tough at the door.
“Oh, ha ha.” Harley drawled, keeping his shield on hand in case he needed to liberate a few more brain cells from the confines of some dunderhead’s brain case. “After you, Logan.”
Harley had to make sure to stay between Logan and Glinda as best he could...leaving those two alone was a recipe for disaster.
The inside of the house looked as if Minister Zamon had been attempting to appear as if he was as rich and influential as any of the other families...specifically the Ravenclaws, Gryffindors and Slytherins. He had failed, as far as Harley was concerned. Everything in the three houses was done tastefully, even if it was all ridiculously expensive...this just looked gaudy… baroque, and ot in a good way.
Harley pulled a face at Glinda, making the redhead give a soft giggle.
“Stay alert, be swift and be thorough. If Zamon really is a traitor, we’ll find proof of it here.” Logan warned them, looking around the first floor of the house as if something was going to come out and bite him with unsolicited pretentiousness. Harley could understand, he had felt that way for the first few years at Ravenclaw house.
Glinda placed a hand on Harley’s shoulder, offering up a small smile. Breaking into someone’s house wasn’t that great of a thing for them to do, but at least it would be helpful and none of the Ministry guards would be willing to try and point fingers at them, not with Ra calling the shots in the Ministry. “Look for suspicious papers or letters, anything that links him to the bandit attacks. Keep your eyes open Harley...even the most innocuous thing could be important.”
“I’m heading towards the kitchen. The staff always knows more than people think.” Logan muttered under his breath, trying to ignore the lancing pain in his chest at the sight of his best friend so close to his ex-girlfriend. He still didn’t understand why Glinda had broken off their courting but...she had obviously made her choice and he was going to do his best to support that. “Let’s break anything we find that isn’t too important to this. This dandy needs a few more setbacks in his life.”
Logan broke away from the two as Harley followed Glinda’s bouncing form up the stairs.
The few servants they ran into were no match against Glinda’s glittering charm. The ones who could possibly be defiant in the fact of such a thing usually stood down once they took in Harley’s hulking form...especially with sword and shield readily at hand. The blond was not ashamed in admitting that he was waiting for Glinda to find something important. She knew about this stuff in ways he would never understand.
He could hear some of the servants grumbling about this, that and the other. It was something he wasn’t used to hearing in the service of the Ravenclaws. The servants they had were all treated like family, although not to the level that some of them treated Harley of course. If Harley had ever wanted, he could have asked for his own servant as a sworn shield of the house...but the man honestly preferred taking care of himself and his own space.
“All of these fragile things make me afraid to turn around,” Harley paused, holding up a hand to pause Glinda in their perusal of the upper floors as he shifted closer to a door, hearing the talking of two people who weren’t trying to keep quiet. Obviously they felt comfortable here, enough to not feel the need to remain unnoticed.
The door was already cracked a bit so Harley put a little weight on it, grateful that Minister Zamon’s servants did their jobs almost too well and the door slid open without a sound.
“Hey, look at this fancy cup! Think it makes wine taste better?”
“Don’t move! With our luck you’ll break something, then the boss’ll break us both.”
It appeared that at least one of them was somewhat smart...or at least had a sense of self-preservation around him.
Harley held up two fingers to Glinda, keeping his eyes on the servants in the room. Both were male and almost painfully ugly to look at. Either that or Harley was getting too used to being around beautiful people all the time that anyone that wasn’t appeared harrowing. He sincerely hoped he wasn’t becoming that shallow. Forcing the thoughts out of his head, the blond Guardian stepped into the room and swiped the cup the two had been talking about, letting Glinda attack them both with Air magic to shock the two into unconsciousness.
Glinda looked at the chalice in Harley’s hands, watching the larger of the two roll it between his gauntleted fingers. “I know that. It was awarded to the Corone family by Queen Jennah…” Realization entered those pretty amber eyes before she took the cup from Harley’s clumsy hold. She knew eventually he’d break it if she left it in his hands. No matter how much she loved the boy, he was incurably clumsy at times. Adorable, but regrettable in these situations. “And the Corone family was one of the houses that were burglarized recently. How lucky for them that Zamon “found” their heirloom…”
“I’m sure the good Minister was just holding onto it until the ‘mysterious’ rash of thefts died down.” Harley grumbled, feeling no shame when he let his boot catch on the edge of what he recognized as an almost irreplaceably expensive vase on a spindly pedestal and listened to the shattering crash fill the room. “Oops.” Harley shrugged, that slightly wickedly rotten grin coming onto his face as he followed Glinda out of the room. “I’m just so clumsy sometimes, how can you stand it, Glinda-Glitter-Glimmer?”
“Very carefully, Harley-kins. With lots of love and patience. And prayers.”
“Lies and slander. You know you love me.” Harley gave the shorter member of their little guild that same unrepentant grin before pecking a kiss to the top of her red head.
A happy little glow almost seemed to emanate from the elementalist’s eyes before she decided to focus on the task at hand, heading into the farthest door at the end of the opulently gaudy hall. The two of them pushed open the door quietly, Harley ensuring that Glinda stayed at least somewhat behind him as he listened for anything that could ensure a problem for them…
Then again Glinda could handle almost anything headed her way with a flick of those dainty fingers that packed an unfair wallop...usually against his unsuspecting skull.
“Why are we even watching this place? This is the only house the thieves aren’t going to ransack.”
The room, what appeared to be a bedroom and considering it’s size was probably Zamon’s, was empty but Harley could hear someone talking...ah, open window. Must be the guards at the side of the house. “Seriously, whoever is guarding this place isn’t worth their coin.”
“Shut up. We’re paid to pretend. Do your job and act like you’re guarding something.”
Okay so Irritated Guard #1 and Lazy Not-A-Guard. Good to know. Easy to take care of when they had to leave, then.
“I’ve got a better idea, I’m taking a nap. Wake me when it’s your turn.”
...Zamon was a Grenth-damned moron if he seriously thought any of this was going to help him.
Glinda had already slipped past Harley and bounded over to the dresser, scouring whatever she could see for something incriminating. They already had stolen property that should have been returned to it’s rightful owner but they needed more than that.
The redhead grinned, grasping what looked to be expensive parchment in her hand as she tucked it into the pouch at her waist. “Got it, let’s keep moving.”
A trip back down the stairs brought them face to face with Logan, who was holding his own papers in hand and practically vibrating in place. “Found blueprints of all the homes that have been robbed in the district. It looks like Zamon planned the burglaries. What did you two find?”
“Chalice from the Corone family and some papers Glinda found in Zamon’s dresser.” Harley muttered, sitting down on the stairs with a wince. Ugh, he was barely past twenty and he was already feeling old. Damn kids.
Glinda held up the letter in her hand, flipping it open to show it for what it was.
Logan leaned in, tilting his head as those puppy-dog like eyes read over what he could see in the loopy, feminine scrawl. “It’s from Lady Madeline, Zamon’s sister. She demands that...he stop leaving packages at their mother’s house for unsavory types to collect. She says that if he doesn’t stop trafficking with lowlifes, she’s going to bar him from the premises and inform the Seraph.” Logan grinned, plucking Glinda up into his arms from off the stairs into a tight hug before setting her back down on her feet, ignorant of the “Put me down, now!” that was hissed from the tiny redhead. “This is perfect! I’ll send one of my Seraph around to call her to trial. She’ll have to testify, or I’ll have her charged with obstructing justice.”
Glinda’s pretty, thin red eyebrows were twitching in irritation against that cream-peach complexion she was so proud of.
Harley immediately took a scoot back onto another couple of steps, trying to clear himself a bit from the localized blast radius.
“Oh yes, that’s definitely the best way to prevail upon a lady to see things you way, isn’t it, Captain Douchebag? She’ll be putty in your hands after a statement like that.” Oh yea, he definitely needed to be between those two right now before there was a fire destroying Zamon’s home. If that started, he wanted to at least be outside before anything ignited.
Harley cleared his throat, watching the both of them closely as Logan’s own eyes narrowed at Glinda’s words, opening his mouth to say something that was undoubtedly not going to be very wise and would get him into a heap of trouble.
“We’ve got three pieces of evidence,” the Ravensworn broke in, placing a hand on Logan’s shoulder as he stood up from his place on the stairs, distracting the brunette Captain sufficiently from making such a suicidal mistake, “We have the chalice, a damning letter from the victim’s sister and blueprints of the robbed houses. Do you think we have enough evidence to convict Zamon?”
A thoughtful look had overtaken Logan’s face at Harley’s words, running through everything in his head. “Krytan law requires three pieces of evidence to even bring an accusation against a Minister. I wish we had more...but yes, it’s enough.”
With Ra leading the charge, it would be more than enough, Harley mused. Although he could see that Glinda appeared concerned.
“I’m worried, Logan. I know Zamon by reputation in the Ministry and he’s slippery. No matter what we say, he’ll find a way out of the conviction. Or try to, at least.” Perfectly straight, white teeth nibbled on her lower lip to try and work out her nerves. Glinda knew that Ra would be able to take care of everything but still...men like Zamon were dangerous. If he got out of the charges they would never be able to bring them against him again, even if they received new evidence.
Harley wrapped an arm around her, squeezing his petite friend snugly into his side as they made their way outside, looking around for any of the guards before making a hasty getaway as quietly as possible down the street.
“We have the evidence and we’ll have Zamon in custody in short order. If he gets away, it’ll be because he has allies in the Ministry. We’ve done all we can.” Logan offered, trying to make the redhead feel better in some small way.
Now they just had to get the information to Ra.
The carriage marked with the Ravenclaw crest came to a smooth halt outside of Minister Wi’s home, and the footman leapt down from his perch to hold the door open. Ra Ravenclaw, dressed in his finest attire, stepped down, straightened his coat, and turned, extending his hand to Selena Slytherin, also wearing a stunning gown of green and silver, her hair done up in an elegant knot. The carriage then moved away, to join the others at the stables until the party was over. Or until Ra got bored. Whichever came first.
Ra smiled at Selena, and extended his arm to her. She returned the smile with one of her own, and took his arm, whispering, “Thank you, my lord.”
The pair entered into the Wi’s elegant home, and were met at the door almost immediately by Countess Anise, also dressed in her finest gown. She smiled, seeing the two together. “Don’t you two look stunning. Well, shall we get to work?”
Anise turned and led them into the main hall, walking straight up to Minister Wi. Selena turned her attention to Ra, and voiced her biggest question. “So, you do this all the time, but not all of us have your silver tongue, my dear. Any tips or advice to help a girl out?”
Ra smiled at the compliment, and replied, “Absolutely, dear. First, mingle. Speak to everyone. You never know who will say something they will regret later. And second, don’t limit your conversations to the gentry. Servants and guards see and hear much. Oft times, they are willing to rat someone out… for the right price.”
Selena rolled her eyes. “You are way too good at this. I suppose it goes without saying, though, to be discreet?”
Ra laughed lightly, tucking a stray lock of hair back under her tiara. “Hey, you catch on pretty quick, milady. Now, shall we go charm the masses?”
“Yes,” Selena’s smile became a bit fixed. “Let’s.”
The creme de la creme of the Ministry, the glittering jewels of aristocracy and above all most powerful beings in Divinity’s Reach were in these rooms. There was no room for error here. A single misstep, a wrong word or miscalculated action could ruin someone for life.
Yes, these were the reasons that Selena understood how important this was. She could see why Harley hated being here so much...he wasn’t good at being coy, misleading or lying. The mountainous mouse was so straight-forward and just so nice that it physically hurt sometimes.
The forced bit of Selena’s smile faded away as she caught sight of a few of her afternoon-tea friends scattered about with their betrotheds, husbands, etc. on their arms. She could even see that a few of them had brought beaus that were neither on their arms. Oooh, arm-candy was always so much fun to watch. So very pretty but on the other hand there was never much up there to concentrate on other than a pretty face and a proficiency in the bedchambers. She was certain that some of her ‘friends’ would have many scandalous tales to tell come their next meeting.
The dark-haired young Slytherin Countess glanced towards her betrothed, seeing his own eyes going this way and that. He truly did cut a fine figure in this crowd. Due to who they were, who they knew and what everyone now knew they could do, everyone’s eyes were on them. Everything they did and said would be noticed tonight and be the talk of the town for weeks to come.
“Selena!” An older woman that still held onto her youthful beauty by way of her grace and vicious tongue came towards Selena, taking the girl into a slight hug before brushing air kisses over her lightly made-up cheeks. Desdemona Devon was not a woman to cross. She had been the most beautiful flower of her debutante days and no one had yet been willing to take that crown from her, even with the graying woman going well into her fifties. Steel-grey eyes set into an aristocratic face and hair that had once been the most pure chestnut brown but was now peppered with grey and white refused to bow to age and remained one of Ra’s most steadfast supporters in the Ministry and a long-time family friend.
“Oh dear Duchess!” Selena couldn’t help but smile a bit wider, mimicking the woman’s actions with a far more honest warmth in her eyes than many were able to see. “How are you? I have heard that daughter of yours is causing quite a stir.”
Desdemona waved away the talk of her daughter like a fly in her face, never having been one to care about her silly daughter one way or the other. “Yes well, she is keeping that young man of hers running in circles and I fear the poor man will have no reprieve any time soon.” She turned to Ra and embraced him as well, allowing him to do the customary kiss to her hand. “But I see you have your man quite well in hand. You be sure to keep an eye on this one, dear Selena, I fear he will be keeping you well on your toes for a while.”
Selena laughed, her mind automatically jumping to Harley before she pushed the thought away. She was here and alone with Ra for the first time in a long while and she was going to enjoy it, even if it was an information-gathering mission. “Of that I have no doubt, Duchess. Come, come, you must simply tell me everything.” Selena released Ra’s arm, linking elbows with the elderly woman before they were both fairly dragged into the ‘ladies’ corner of the room that was filled with gossip and the twittering of various generations of women.
All as Ra had hoped. He didn’t know the Duchess personally, only by reputation and due to Selena counting the woman among her dearest of friends. And it was due to this close kinship that he knew she would talk Selena’s ear off. This would leave the raven-haired minister free to gather information. Ra made his way over to the kitchens, careful to avoid Lord Faren (he’d leave the trollop in Selena’s capable hands) as he went. Once there, Ra began to converse with the kitchen staff, in particular, the cook. From him, Ra learned that Lady Madeline, Lord Zamon’s sister, had had a terrible argument with him, and she was most distressed about the incident.
With this information in mind -and a fresh pastry in hand- Ra returned to the party, weaving through the crowd, doing his level best not to vomit at some of the attendees. Really, he would need to learn what Minister Wi saw in some of these idiots. Like Faren.
And speaking of Minister Wi…
“Ra, my boy!” The older man’s booming voice, Santa-esque face and beard, caught Ra’s attention, and the young noble made his way over to his mentor. Back when Ra had just turned 13 and had expressed an interest in politics, his father had arranged for the boy to be apprenticed and tutored by Minister Wi and his wife. They were truly a wonderful couple, and were like grandparents to Ra, spoiling him and constantly seeing to it that the young man was well cared for. They were also his staunchest allies in the Ministry, constantly at his side and providing validation, counsel, and support to his decisions.
As Ra approached, he saw Selena standing there as well, laughing daintily at some joke that Minister Wi had told. It seemed that she had lost interest in her duchess friend far sooner than Ra had calculated. Damn.
“Ra, my dear boy,” Minister Wi said, jovially, as Ra reached them, “What a great pleasure to have you and your betrothed here at my party. Simply a dear pleasure!”
Ra smiled and inclined his head slightly to Minister Wi, clasping hands with his mentor, before turning and embracing Lady Wi, gracing her with a loving kiss on the cheek, the kind given only to his mother. “You are far too kind, Minister. Besides, I wouldn’t miss your party for all of Tyria. It promises to be quite an exciting evening, of that I have no doubt.”
Minister Wi chuckled. “Well, I certainly hope the evening lives up to your expectations, nay, blows them out of the water, my boy.”
Seeing Selena’s surprised at how well he seemed to know the older gentleman, Ra hastened to explain. “Minister Wi has been my mentor and counsel in the Ministry. I was apprenticed to him when I was thirteen, as you might recall, my dear.”
Realization dawned on Selena’s face. “Oh yes! I do remember that!”
“Word has reached us of your daring exploits in the defense of Shaemoor, my dears,” Lady Wi added, sweetly. “Ra, don’t be so modest, I always knew you were destined for greatness. What is next? Marriage to this sweet girl? The next king of Kryta? Or more?”
Ra laughed, lightly. “I fear my interests lie outside of Divinity’s Reach, milady.”
Lady Wi’s eyebrows raised slightly, a ladylike giggle escaping her lips. “Oh to be sure, we love the countryside as well! We have holdings near Claypool, such a quaint little hamlet. I love to take walks through the vineyards, seeing the villagers hard at work making wine, even getting to taste some of it. But, that isn’t quite what you meant, I’m sure.”
Ra’s smile was so hypnotic at times. “Indeed. I enjoy being of aid to my people, not just watching them. It endears them more to me, and earns me no small number of favors.”
Lady Wi, smiled fondly at him, then said to Selena, “You can see why my husband and I took such an interest in your betrothed, Lady Selena. He is so cunning, charming, and smart.”
Selena smiled at Ra, reaching over to take his hand for a moment and squeezing it gently. “I am fully aware of all those wonderful qualities in him, milady.”
Ra planted a kiss on Selena’s temple, and whispered in her ear, “Lord Faren is over by the doors to the gardens. On my way to the kitchens, I heard him mention something about Zamon, but I couldn’t quite tell what. Would you mind procuring it for me, Selena? After the incident at Glinda’s party, I can’t stand to be near him. There’s no need to be gentle with him.”
Selena nodded, excused herself, and headed in Faren’s direction. Ra then turned back to the Wi’s, kissed Lady Wi’s cheek, clasped Minister Wi’s hand in his own, and excused himself to enjoy the party. Ra headed to the upstairs lounge. He found it -surprisingly- empty, except for a single Minister’s Guard, standing at attention near the door. The guard looked to be about Ra’s own age. He had pale skin, baby blue eyes, and steely brown hair that was messy and unstyled. He was clearly in good shape, despite the fact that the armor tried the mask that. He had a quiver and bow strapped to his back.
Ra smiled and nodded to the guard, then said, calmly, “Busy night for you.”
The guard sighed. “You have no idea, milord.”
Ra could tell the guard was trying not to talk. That only made him smirk, and made the guard turn a soft shade of pink that looked quite fetching on him, if Ra was being perfectly honest with himself. Well, if the guard found him attractive -as so many others did- then Ra was going to use this to his advantage. Turning on the full effect of his charm, he said, calmly, “So. Is it normal to have this many guards to a formal event like this?”
“I… I’m afraid it is not. I’m not really sure why we are here, precisely. It isn’t normal procedure,” the guard managed to say. Ra could see the him struggling to remain composed and in complete control. He truly had to admire the discipline the guard was showing, but even the most determined minds had their breaking points. He smiled even more seductively, and took a couple more carefully calculated and slow steps towards the now very flustered guard. “It sounds like you have your suspicions, guardsman…”
“R-Reth, sir, A-Alexander Reth.” The guard stammered, as Ra came to a halt just inches from the guard. Reth was Ra’s exact height. And he was very handsome up close. Reth broke eye contact first. “Look, I probably do have my own ideas, but it… it’s risky for us to be seen talking.”
Ra snorted. “You worry too much, Alexander. No one ever questions why I talk to someone. And I can provide the best protection and cover for your help.”
Reth looked like he was about to pass out. “Even so, sir, I don’t want trouble. Also, I’m parched.” He gave a sheepish smile to the Ravenclaw heir. “Now if you were to offer a hardworking guard a drink, then us talking would appear more natural.”
Ra fought the urge to roll his eyes. Honestly, sometimes people made this way too easy for him. “I’ll arrange that drink, then.”
Ra headed downstairs and obtained to glasses of wine from the servants, then returned to Reth who was still alone in the upstairs lounge. Once back, Ra handed the glass to the guard, that charming smile back on his face. “There now, Alexander. You have your drink. As far as anyone else could be concerned, should they see, I am just a humble noble, offering a beverage to a parched and dutiful guard, who is very grateful.”
Ra turned and walked over to the loveseat, followed by Reth. Ra took a seat, and beckoned for Reth to join him, but the guard hesitated. “I really shouldn’t, sir,” he stammered, “I am only a guard, after all.”
Ra rolled his eyes. “Oh, Alexander. You are far too shy. Come. Sit, and let’s chat.” Ra waved his hand, and the sound of a lock clicked. “There, now we are truly alone, and even if the Wi’s walked in, I will be able to convince them to see things my way. After all, I am like a grandson to them.”
Hesitantly, Reth took a seat, then slowly began to settle in, sipping the wine. Ra smiled cordially at the other man, and said, “Now then. Why don’t you tell me what you know, Alexander?”
Reth set his drink down. “Well, burglaries and kidnappings are increasing, yet here we sit, idle.” Reth sighed, and leaned forward on his knees, in disappointment. “It seems we are never where we are most needed, nowadays.”
Ra gently placed a comforting hand on the guard’s back and rubbed back and forth on his spine, gently. Strangely, it felt natural. “That drink was meant to loosen your tongue, but you still sound like you know more than you are letting on, Alexander.” Ra tucked a finger under the other young man’s chin and raised his head til their eyes met. For a moment, Reth looked a bit surprised, then his eyes relaxed and he leaned closer to Ra, who wrapped an arm around the guard’s shoulders and embraced him, letting the young man use him as a pillow to rest on. Absentmindedly, Ra began carding through the other’s soft, steel-brown hair. Reth sighed. Ra placed his lips close the the guard’s ear, and whispered, “Come on, Reth. Do me a favor, and tell me what you know.”
Reth sat up a bit, and sighed again. His cheeks were a bright red. “Look,” he muttered, “I know what you did in Shaemoor, and I know you have Captain Thackeray's ear.” He turned his grey-blue eyes to look into Ra’s sapphire ones. “What I’m about to tell you could get a man killed, so please use it well.”
Ra smiled warmly, and ran his fingertips along Reth’s jawline, gently. “I promise it will be put to good use. I will protect you, I swear.”
Ra then leaned in, his nose sliding alongside Reth’s own, a finger running down Reth’s breastplate, and he pressed his lips to the guard’s. The guard didn’t even resist, but returned the kiss willingly, but carefully. After a couple seconds, Ra pulled back, looking deep into Reth’s eyes. “Now, what do you know, Alexander?”
“Our orders arrived just before the raids,” Reth explained, breathless and not taking his eyes off of Ra’s. “It’s almost as if someone was sending us away so that the bandits could swoop in, unchallenged.”
Ra leaned slightly away and settled back into the seat, thinking. “So you think there is a deeper connection? Someone within the Ministry Guard who is working directly with the bandits, perhaps?”
Reth shook his head and leaned back too, turning to face Ra, settling an arm on the back of the couch behind Ra’s head. “Higher than that. The orders came from Minister Zamon himself.” Reth leaned in closer, and ran a finger along Ra’s cheek. “Look, I’m taking an awfully big risk here, but those bandits are scum. Please do something with this information, alright?”
Ra’s smile was back. He looked back to Reth’s eyes, and found he really did enjoy this. It felt strangely… natural, like breathing. Maybe he should see what came of being with the guard. There was no harm in experimenting, surely. “Don’t worry, I will make sure this is brought to the right authorities.” He leaned in and lightly kissed the guard's lips again, chaste and teasing, a coy smile on his lips. “And you have not seen the last of me, Alexander, that too is a promise.”
Reth looked very happy to hear that as Ra got to his feet. “Now,” the noble said, cheerily, “Enjoy the rest of your drink. I have a few other people to chat with. But don’t you worry, Alexander. I will be sure to come and fetch you before I leave.”
With that, he went back to the party.
Meanwhile, Selena had her hands full with Faren the Fop, and was getting annoyed easily.
The moment Selena neared the brunette playboy, the Lord gave her the widest grin she had ever seen...she was almost certain that should have cracked his face. Or at the very least hurt.
“Ah, there is my heroic friend! Say, could you hold off on the acts of valor for a bit? Makes it hard to strike up a conversation with a pretty lass when she only wants to talk about you and your friends!” The man appeared most put out with the fact that the object of his current affections would rather talk about something that wasn’t him but Selena barely managed to keep her composure.
“I’d never knowingly stand in the way of your conquests, Faren, you know that.” Selena smiled, shifting to lean back against the tall white pillar behind her, hands daintily folded in front of her as she watched her overly-amorous ‘friend’. She hadn’t found out what had happened in it’s entirety but she knew eventually she would. Harley would have to tell her eventually.
“Ah! Burn me, as the charr say. I have some interesting information for you, my dear! But I need a small favor first. Please?” Oh gods if that smile got any wider he would be a broken clown doll. “I've been dying to speak with Baroness Jasmina all night, but she keeps talking about you and won't believe we're friends! Can you believe that? Would you put in a good word for me?”
A slightly smug smile tilted Selena’s lips before she nodded to Faren. “Anything for an ‘old friend’. I’ll charm her silly with lies about you.” The aristocratic beauty straightened up, brushing imaginary dust off of her silken skirt before heading out into the courtyard where she could see Baroness Jasmina. She personally didn’t find the woman beautiful enough to truly turn Faren’s head since he tended to concentrate on her and the other three but still...she supposed he was desperate after Harley saved him from Ra’s fury.
“Oh! I'm so pleased to see you. I was telling Lady Madeline I didn't know if you would make it, but here you are. I'm almost breathless.” The Baroness gushed, a hand going to her chest to show off a rather sizeable ring Selena was fairly certain was paste but that wasn’t her concentration at the moment. She had to get this information for Ra and get back to the party so maybe they could have fun before Harley and that lout showed up with Glinda to crash everything.
“You flatter me,” she laughed, covering her mouth with a gloved hand. “But I have something to tell you. A good friend of mine said I should speak with you.” Oh the things she did for information…
The Baroness and her companion, Lady Madeline, looked confused for a moment before understanding dawned. “A friend? Oh, you mean Lord Faren?”
“Assuredly. Why, he’s been my stalwart companion in all kinds of adventures!” Ugh, these sickly sweet lies were rotting her teeth. Lying to Harley was never this hard. Then again if she got Ra to tell him the sky was green, the boy would believe it so long as it came from Ra.
“Truly? So, he did bravely follow you into the bandit cave as he claims? Remarkable. Would you be so kind as to give him my regards?” It was undoubtedly amazing what could happen when you threw a few charming words in with an outright lie. She almost wished that damned blond had allowed them to let Faren get hit with that turret. But no, he had to be Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes.
Selena gave Baroness Jasmina a conspiratorial wink, making the two girls twitter between themselves. “I'll do that right now.”
Grateful to be free of the two women, Selena turned on her heel and walked back into the manor and headed straight for Faren. The man looked as if he had been struck across the face with a haddock.
“I saw it—Kormir strike me if she didn't look impressed! You're a true friend!”
“Right, right. Now tell me that important thing, and give me the short version.” Selena waved away the praise she would normally be soaking up like a sponge and let her eyes wander around the room for any sight of Ra. She could see Minister Wi and his wife but no sight of Ra...strange, where did that man go?
“Recall our escapade in the bandit cave, and your suspicion that a minister might be pulling their strings? You're in luck, because I've confirmed said suspicion.”
Selena was pretty certain her eyebrows couldn’t go any further up without disappearing into her hairline. “How did you manage that?”
“I believe it's Minister Zamon! I was out with a, ah, lady friend, and I saw him leaving the woods near Gibson Portage. Alone! And most suspiciously!”
Selena’s eyes narrowed in thought, fiddling absently with the end of her hair in a nervous habit she had never seemed to grow out of. “Those woods are infested with ruffians and criminals. You're certain he was alone?” There was no way that Ra was going to believe this, something coming to them quite this easily, without an assurance from the source...even if the source was Faren the Facetious Fop.
The brunette Lord puffed himself up even more, attempting to make himself look important but merely making him seem as if he was trying to get a look at someone over everyone else’s heads. “Certain enough to testify! He was dressed for a dinner party and sauntering through the woods like he was at a ball. Might that help your investigation?”
“It definitely does. Thanks, Faren. I'll find you later.”
As soon as Selena turned in place to go and track down Ra so that she could share the news, the entire party erupted into scandalized whispers as Logan Thackeray, Glinda Gryffindor and Harley Hufflepuff came marching into the party as one, coming to a stop in front of Minister Zamon. The asshat of a Minister had only just recently arrived, as evidenced by the fact that he was speaking with the Wi’s and Selena hadn’t felt an overwhelming urge to vomit for more than a few minutes.
Harley and Glinda both showed signs of deference to Minister Wi, Harley’s murmurs of apology at showing up uninvited to the party hitting Selena’s ears with a few small swipes of Air magic bringing the sounds closer to her until she was on the inner circle of onlookers.
Zamon had a jaw that was a little too wide and his nose was not well-proportioned to his face with such small eyes and his thin blond hair slicked back so severely...it was also easily noticed that he was dressing to impress, but with little success. “Ah, if it isn’t Logan--oh, I’m sorry, Captain Thackeray. To what do I owe the honor?”
Logan’s raised eyebrow showed a lack of care to the man’s words before he cleared his throat, “As Captain of the Seraph, in the service of Her Royal Majesty, Queen Jenna, I call you to trial.”
And now Selena and the others knew full well the meaning of the term ‘you could hear a pin drop’. Glinda was pretty sure a servant had dropped one just to see if anyone would hear.
The blond went a rather unsettling shade of puce in the face, puffing up in outrage and his jowls shaking like a rabid bulldog. “What? This is an outrage! I demand to know the charge!”
“Treason against the crown and citizens of Kryta. May Kormir judge your words justly and may Dwayna have mercy on you.” Logan said the necessary words as he led the man out of the manor and into a Seraph-driven carriage that would take the man to rooms in the Ministry Halls so that he could not take the night to escape from going to trial. It would have only just make him appear more guilty, that was for sure.
Harley breathed a deep sigh, a hand coming up to clap Glinda on the shoulder. “Well, I’m beat after all of that drama. Feel like allowing me to escort you home, Glinda-Glitter-Glimmer?”
The redhead found herself nodding before she could stop, curtsying to the shellshocked Minister Wi. The man had always been very kind to her as a child and she didn’t like having to disrupt a party with things like this. “We are very sorry to have disrupted your party, Minister Wi. Please accept our sincerest apologies and assurances that this was necessary.”
Minister’s Wi’s wife glanced at Harley before she broke into a smile. “Well if it isn’t little Harley, we haven’t seen you in the Halls recently. I am starting to believe you don’t love me anymore.”
Harley flushed a little at the attention, remembering the affection the woman had given so freely to himself and Ra when they were going through their teen years and even through today. “You know that could never be further from the truth, my lady. Lord Ravenclaw has been giving me more duties recently and Ra is such a handful sometimes…”
At this Glinda and Wi’s wife couldn’t help but laugh, knowing that Harley was the real handful out of their group once he got his dander up...but Ra had always been either two steps ahead of him in trouble or doing what he could to keep his blond friend out of jail. “Well, don’t let us hold you. I am sure little Glinda would enjoy having such a handsome man walk her home. A young lady can never be too careful these days…” She offered a wink to the slightly pink-cheeked redhead before concentrating on something just behind Harley’s shoulder. “Ah, Ra, darling! There you are, I’ve been looking for you! You just missed the excitement, silly boy.”
Harley just barely managed to keep from hitting Ra with his pauldrons as the blond man turned in place, staring down at the dark-haired Ravenclaw. “Ra...enjoying the party?”
But there stood Ra Ravenclaw in his finest party attire, all blue silk with bronze and black trim, hair as black as a raven’s wing perfectly styled to play peek-a-boo with one of those entrancingly sapphire eyes. Eyes that were currently telling Harley a clear message of ‘I am NOT amused’, arms crossed over a lean chest and a pout evident on his face.
Harley cleared his throat, golden eyes glancing around like a nervous puppy trying to find a place to hide before his eyes caught sight of a familiar form coming down the stairs. “Lex!”
‘Lex’, otherwise known as Alexander Reth, caught Harley’s eyes and couldn’t help but grin. “Ley! Damn you are a sight for sore eyes, brother.” Reth made his way over to Harley, taking the larger man into a manly ‘bro-hug’ before the brunette flushed, noting Minister Wi’s presence as well as Ra and three other nobles around them. “Sorry, ma’am, sirs.”
The eldest woman in the group was too busy giggling behind her hand to mind much, waving away the apologies at the same time as her husband. “No, no apologies necessary, Guard Reth. Please, do continue…” The woman hooked her husband’s arm with her own, turning him towards the still-murmuring partygoers. “I believe we are needed in the festivities. Ra, darling, I do hope we shall see you tomorrow afternoon for the trial.”
Ra gave a quick kiss to her cheek, eyes flickering over to where Reth stood with Harley. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
A raised eyebrow was all the warning Harley needed before the blond shifted forward and did the same as Ra, allowing himself to bend down enough so that the woman he considered a grandmother could press a loving kiss to his forehead, smoothing his blond hair before she headed back into the fray with her husband to soothe ruffled feathers.
Reth had his arms crossed over his chest, shaking his head at the larger man. “So, these are the friends I’ve heard so much about.” Those baby blue eyes were pretty firmly trying not to focus on Ra but the man was like a beacon for attention...you couldn’t not look. Focusing on Harley was much easier as he bowed to the two ladies, offering them a kind smile as his friend wrapped an arm around his shoulder. “We’ve missed you on the training grounds, Ley, some of these new recruits need a serious whooping.”
Harley couldn’t help but laugh, “And let me guess, Logan doesn’t have the time to whip them into shape so he’s using me as a threat. Great...just like ol’ Captain Douchebag.” He winced once the word passed his lips and he laid his head on Reth’s shoulder with a groan. “Ugh, damn you three to Grenth. Bad influences, the lot of you.”
It was as the blond was glancing around their group that he realized something. Cripes. He had already offered to take Glinda home but he still had to escort Selena and Ra home as well. Damnit. “Hey, Reth, could you do me a huge favor?” Harley shifted his hands to the man’s shoulders, forcing those baby blue orbs to look up into his own with a slight flush on Lex’s face.
“Depends on the favor. Last time you asked me for one I wound up getting chased through Claypool by an angry pink moa.” Lex raised an eyebrow at his friend, trying to clear up the rush of blood that made his face fairly glow. Damn prettyboys were going to be the death of him. First Harley, now with Ra, then back to Harley again. They were trying to kill him, he knew it.
“Could you drive the carriage home for Selena and Ra? I already promised I would take Glinda home directly but…” He gestured to the party. “Looks like the party isn’t really over yet.”
Yes! Selena inwardly did a dance, wrapping her arm around Ra’s with a slight smile. Until Ra detached himself from her and said, “Actually, I’m feeling slightly exhausted, and since I have a trial to win tomorrow, evidence to review, and witnesses to question, I’d like to get home now, if you don’t mind, Alexander. We will take Selena home first, then you can… escort… me home.”
He said that last word with a coy smile and a wink that made the Ministry Guard flush a pinkish color and avert his eyes, trying to mask his own excitement.
Glinda’s eyes flickered between Ra, Harley and Reth before giving a rather unladylike sounding giggle. The girl wrapped her own arm around Harley’s bulky forearm and tugged him towards the door, although for all the good it did she might as well have been a mouse tugging on a boulder.
The almost coquettish actions of his Ravenclaw lord went straight over Harley’s head before he wished them a good night and saying he would meet Ra at home once he was done. Harley and his friend exchanged ‘manly’ hugs once more and Harley took the moment to hiss a warning in Lex’s ear. “Anything happens to either of them and you are my personal sparring dummy for the foreseeable future.”
Well, there went the warmth of Lyssa’s stare going through his system and it was heartily replaced by a healthy fear of Grenth settling like an iceberg in his stomach covered in bouncing skelks. A low gulp was Harley’s answer before the brunette nodded, “Understood. See you tomorrow?”
“Bright and early.” Harley promised before turning back to Glinda and escorting her out of the party so that they could make their way back to her estate. “Well that was fun, wasn’t it?” The blond sworn shield muttered, reaching up and tugging his hair out of it’s ponytail to run his fingers through the thick blond strands and tugging the whole of it over his shoulder so that his bangs hid his ruined eye from view. After a day like today he did not want to deal with any of the traditional stares in Selma District.
“Oh yes, absolutely.” Glinda drawled out the words, golden eyes so similar to his own focusing on him instead of the road. Thankfully she knew these roads like the back of her hand and rarely ever did something seem to change that could take her attention from where she wanted it. Walking through the darkened streets like this with Harley was an enjoyable experience for her, just being able to enjoy the blond’s company without him having to do his duty...even though sometimes he saw them as ‘charges’ first and friends second. But from this angle, that golden hair like concentrated rays of the sun shining on liquid gold and those sharp, handsome features...sometimes she found it hard to believe he had been raised a street urchin. She could see his previous experiences with the harder side of life, even while he was under the protectorate of Ravenclaw house...you could take a boy off the street but you couldn’t take the street out of the boy.
Taking a small chance, Glinda stepped a little closer to Harley, sidling up against the warmth of him even through the armor he wore. The blond seemed to wrap an arm around her almost absent-mindedly, glancing down at the pretty redhead. “Cold?” He asked, wrapping his arm a little tighter around her, mistaking the shiver that ran down her spine for a chill.
Harley reached into the bag at his waist and tugged out a deep blue sweater he carried in his bag in case Ra got cold while they were out. Skinny boys with their fancy clothes tended to catch a chill quite easily. Unfortunately since he was the one that carried it around, it tended to smell like the herbs and bottles of ointments that took up the bottom of his bag. “Here.” Harley removed his arm from her and let her tug the garment over her head, pursing his lips to keep from laughing out loud.
The sweater had practically electrified her hair and it swallowed her whole, going almost down to her knees and completely hiding her dainty little hands. “Well don’t you look adorable.” It looked like a little girl stole Daddy’s favorite shirt and was running around in it. That mental image, paired with her fluffy curls and large eyes, made him want to reach down and just pluck her up in a hug. Instead, he made due with pressing a kiss to her forehead and wrapping his arm back around her tiny shoulders to lead the way back to her family estate.
Once the two had finally made their way through the back garden gate, Harley happily handed his friend over to her housekeeper. “I shall see you in the morning, Glinda. Ra will probably heading to the Ministry without me, I have training first thing…” Thankfully that was one thing that Ra’s father allowed him apart from the household and his duties.
Glinda nodded, a slightly sleepy slant to her smile before Mrs. Prewett ushered the girl inside, fussing over her and exclaiming over the soft sweater she was ensconced in while thanking Harley for bringing her safely home.
Stepping out of the garden gate, Harley paused and took a look around the quiet District. Maybe he could take his time getting home...yea, that sounded like a good idea. He had to be up early but the cool evening air would help calm his mind before having to go home and deal with Ra’s questions about the day. With that, the blond decided to head back out into the city and spend a few quiet moments at the statue of Kormir.
Ra enjoyed the crisp night air. The lamps were lit and the city was mostly silent. For a few minutes, he and Alexander Reth walked in silence, heading back towards the Ravenclaw Estate in Ossan Quarter. Ra glanced over at the handsome guard and noticed the guard staring at him. “Is something the matter, Alexander?”
Reth started out of whatever fantasy had overtaken him, muttering something about the night breeze. Ra smirked. He had the young guard practically eating out of the palm of his hand. “Shall we take a shortcut?”
Reth shrugged. “Sure, I don’t see why not.”
Ra led the guard into an alley, and around a corner, where no one could see them before he came to a halt and turned to face the Reth. “So, let’s talk real quick.”
Reth looked slightly surprised. “Talk? Here, sir?”
Ra rolled his eyes, and eyed the guard smugly. “Yes, Alexander. Talk. Unless you’d rather skip the confessional and go skip right to what you’re really after.”
Reth sighed, and looked rather sheepish again, saying shyly, “Was I that obvious?”
Ra snorted. “My dear Alexander, I’ve known skritt who show more discretion than you just now.” He smirked triumphantly. “Besides, that tent in your pants seems to speak volumes on the subject.”
Reth turned a shade of red, like cherries, and began trying to handle the matter, but didn’t make it very far. Ra moved closer and cupped the guard’s face in his hand, pressing the flustered young man to the alley wall before pressing his lips to Reth’s. Reth seemed like he wanted to try to resist, but lost that battle once Ra ran a hand down the guard’s chest to his belt, but didn’t undo it, only teasing him. Fully giving in, Reth encased the noble in his strong arms, and kissed him in return, their tongues dancing between their mouths. Reth felt absolutely alive, and Ra was clearly enjoying himself as well.
A minute or two later, Ra pulled back, leaving the Reth against the wall, gasping for breath.
“D-damn…” Reth gasped, looking at Ra, impressed. “I had heard from Countess Anise that you were a good kisser, but I guess it’s better to know for oneself.”
Ra smirked, hands resting on his slender hips. “Well, why don’t you get me home, and then you can see what else I’m good at, hmm?”
Reth laughed, standing upright. “I like the sound of that.”
With that, they headed out, back to Ravenclaw Estate together.
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