Chapter Nine: Come What May
Talon Mehid was not used to being nervous. A member of the Shining Blade was trained to see past the feelings that could cause such things as the ‘jitters’ or even fear. But here he was, two and a half months after the absolute mess that had been the issue with Eldvin Monastery and Captain Tervelan...then Harley’s parents...and they couldn’t forget about the White Mantle and Alexander Reth. With everything that had been happening within a few simple days, Talon had asked Glinda to allow him to give her time to grieve so that they could enjoy their date at a later time. He hadn’t expected to be gifted with a quick kiss for his apparent ‘thoughtfulness’ before the four founding members of the NTSD disappeared from the public eye for the past week and a half.
From what he and Cerise had managed to dig up, Harley had uprooted the four of them and dragged them to the Ravenclaw family cottage in Southsun Cove. Knowing Harley, the blond had probably wanted them to be as far away from their problems as possible and so had wanted them to have time and space to just let everything be for a time. A note from Harley had thanked him, unnecessarily, for giving them the time and also for being willing to wait for his date with Glinda. Inside the letter had been two tickets to the upcoming Quidditch game between Gryffindor and Slytherin, which was apparently quite the grudge match. A postscript at the bottom in Selena’s familiar hand informed him to be sure to wear either Gryffindor or Slytherin colors if they were going to attend the game.
He hadn’t known what to think that he was going on a date with such casual clothing but then again...Harley had told him to go to the carnival and the game and apparently one did not dress in anything fancy while attending these events. He was certain that somehow his blond friend had been exaggerating the injuries that could happen from just being part of the audience in these games.
Shaking himself out of his thoughts, Talon took a moment to straighten out his black pants and thick-soled boots, white tunic with gold edging, black cotton high-collar jacket and a red-and-gold scarf wrapped around his neck to keep out the worst of the winter chill that had finally fully set in. Late winters were the worst. Unsure as to the decorum for such situations, the dark-haired Exemplar ran a nervous hand through his loose black hair before raising his fist to knock on the deep-blue painted wooden door. As soon as his fist made to hit it, the door slid open to reveal a familiar grinning face.
Harley looked much better for the time that their group had taken for themselves away from Divinity’s Reach. He actually looked like he’d gotten some sun. Surprisingly the blond wasn’t dressed in his usual armor or the casual black-on-black he tended to wear. Nope. A small smirk made its way onto his face, raising both eyebrows at the taller male. “Glinda got to you.” Soft black cashmere sweater just tight enough to showcase his muscles when he moved underneath a thick thigh-length jacket and khaki-colored pants with shiny black shoes all screamed Glinda...or Ra, either one.
“Yep! Have fun on your date, Talon. I’ll hopefully hear all about it after today…” Harley tugged his gloves on absentmindedly, patting the shorter male on the shoulder as he walked passed.
Talon’s smirk only got wider before he called over his shoulder to the departing blond, “Have fun with Queen Jennah and give the Master Exemplar my best.” The half-hearted grumbles about nosy, know-it-all prettyboy Ravenclaws made him chuckle before stepping in through the open door, shutting it behind him. There would have been a time that being called a ‘prettyboy’ by another man would have bothered him. Oddly enough from Harley he felt a little flattered as he recalled Selena at one point mentioning just how picky the blond tended to be when it came to finding others attractive. Knowing the people that he surrounded himself with, he believed Harley to be perfectly within his rights to be picky...his friends would never let him live it down if he dated someone that was physically considered ‘subpar’ unless there was some amazing mental or emotional connection that superseded all physical attraction. Making his way through the entryway to the smaller, family living room that led up to the groups’ tower and Common Room while buried in his thoughts, Talon heard the steps of Selena and Ra long before he could actually see them.
Selena looked as radiant as usual with her heeled knee-high boots trimmed in sumptuous black fur, her white skirt the only thing visible from beyond her thigh-length, double-breasted emerald green town coat with its shiny platinum buttons. Her usually loose, wavy hair had been braided to come over her shoulder while the top of her head was covered in a woven black wool snow cap. From what he recalled from Harley’s words about their group, both Selena and Ra had problems in the cold while Glinda and Harley were the eternally-warm space-heaters. Going from Southsun Cove where the air is practically tropical to the cold, crisp air of sudden winter in Divinity’s Reach would be a shock to anyone’s system. “Selena, you look beautiful today.”
That soft smile was worth the compliment, easily seeing how no one could see Selena as being one of the four heads of the most infamous gang in Tyria as a whole. Actually he was pretty sure that Anise was putting them at ‘mob’ status. “Thank you, Talon.” Ra’s presence behind her stole the Exemplar’s attention, musing to himself that it was no wonder Harley was head over heels for the dark-haired Ravenclaw youth. He seriously had to ponder how these four were younger than he was by two years, they certainly did not act like it...well, unless Harley and Glinda were---
All thoughts ceased their traversal through his mind. A normally sharp, witty mind that was the shining beacon in his field turned to an incomprehensible pile of brain matter. Glinda Gryffindor slowly but confidently came down the curving tower steps from behind Ra, the young man’s movement out of the way barely registering in Talon’s thoughts. She had taken the time to make the curls that bounced around her face more pronounced, the perfect peaches-and-cream complexion highlighting golden eyes surrounded by feathery black lashes with only the lightest dusting of natural-toned makeup bringing further attention to her face. He had never seen this vibrant pixie in anything but proper ‘lady’ attire and today seemed to be the exception. White leggings encased her legs, the black leather of her boots seeming almost red when she stepped, the tiny matching pom-poms attached to the laces bouncing against the smooth leather with each movement. A knee-length, three-quarter sleeve black cardigan fell off her shoulders to reveal the halter-style red mid-thigh dress she wore with a rather wide gold-edged black belt tying the whole outfit together and accentuating her small form and trim waist.
Talon gave her a what he hoped was a charming smile, and offered her his arm, which Glinda took, wrapping her dainty little arms around his forearm and returning his smile with her own coy little grin. “Well, Mr. Mehid, I am at your mercy. To what great adventure will you be leading me this fine day?”
Talon chuckled, planting a kiss on her cheek before whispering in her ear, “As if you don't already know, my little cheater.”
Glinda rolled her eyes, a slight flush to her cheeks from the close proximity from this handsome man. “I actually do not know, apart from the Quidditch game. I didn't peek.” What kind of cologne was he wearing? It smelled amazing...
Talon cocked an eyebrow, smirking. “Oh really?”
“Yes, really,” Glinda replied, coyly. “What, you don’t believe me? Me???”
Talon snorted teasingly, wrapping an arm around her waist. “It’s a surprise.”
Glinda’s smile turned into cute, girlish little pout. “Fine…”
That deep, throaty chuckle made Glinda’s half-nymph heart do somersaults in her chest, the diminutive redhead having to use every ounce of her self-control to not respond to the shiver running up and down the length of her spine. Maybe that intoxicating smell was meant to make her just want to cuddle into him and not move, that sounded like a good idea. It took her a moment to recognize the smell as pure cinnamon, her favorite spice.
As his date was not moving away from the arm still looped around her waist, Talon made no move to remove said limb before using it to gently lead her towards the door. He was too engrossed in the warmth seeping into his bones from the pure closeness of the object of his affections to worry too much about the teasing being tossed their way from Selena and Ra. Leading his date through the streets of Divinity’s Reach and out of Ossan Quarter, he couldn’t help but smile. “Is it just me or do you practically live in Ravenclaw Manor at this point?”
That soft, bell-like giggle was like music to his ears and warmed him to the core as Glinda snuggled a bit further into his side. “We all have rooms in each other’s houses but as both Ra and Harley live there, it is easier for everyone to remain there when we can, considering everything that has happened recently.” Especially since Ra’s parents were spending more and more time away from the manor with each passing moon. At this rate they would permanently live in Ebonhawke before the next Festival of Lyss, leaving the Divinity’s Reach manor to Ra. Oddly enough, she couldn’t remember the last time she had actually been home and remained there for more than a few hours.
Quiet conversation dominated their walk through Divinity’s Reach, enjoying the brisk cold around them as children ran through the streets with snowballs in hand and red-cheeked faces. He could imagine Glinda’s surprise if he told her that Wintersday was his favorite time of year just because seeing all of these happy children reminded him of his own siblings. A pang of longing arced through his heart before he decided that if tonight went as well as he hoped, he might be able to use the next date to introduce Glinda to his family. ...on second thought, leave that for a third date. Or maybe the fourth. No need to scare her off too soon with the insanity of his family. He didn’t know how she would handle that particular group of people at the moment.
Numerous blankets had been laid out along the grassy ground surrounding a shallow pool of water at the wooded niche just below the Plaza of Melandru. In the shallow, crystalline pool were numerous chairs at the base of the statue itself, holding musicians that were all playing soft, beautiful music to accompany the singers, each of the vocalists seated neatly on top of the stone columns in matching emerald green uniforms. The effect was such that it seemed as if the music was in the air itself but a few small signs littered near the performance area informed the watchers that the baskets of food that could be purchased to enjoy while enjoying the show would benefit local children to learn musical instruments. Talon had already spoken to one of the organizers and had set them up with a rust red blanket laid out off to the side of the rest of the larger clump of watchers. A large, wicker basket covered in a typical checkered blanket marked their spot as being reserved.
He knew it wasn’t something as fancy as what she was probably used to, but Harley had told him to show her something new. She always seemed so busy taking care of everyone else it seemed like a good idea to show her that there were people in the city that were attempting to do the same thing...it might give her a few other things that she could give to others that already aligned with plans of her own. Talon led her to their blanket, making sure she was comfortable before he let her really take in the scenery around them. Her nymph side would hopefully enjoy the fact that they were outside but the warming spells woven into each of the blankets would keep the chill from affecting anyone too terribly. Even though the Plaza was charmed to remain in a spring-like state year round, something that Talon appreciated greatly, he wished that it was more of an environmental bubble instead of just a charm that covered the trees, grass, etc.
Glinda took a deep breath of the brisk air, enjoying the sound of the music and voices swirling around them as well as the warmth emanating from the blanket. For the first time in days she felt...calm. There was no one asking her for an opinion, help with something, no Gryffindors and no friends. No matter how much she loved being at the center of everything, the one that everyone depended on to get things done...it was nice to not have to worry for a few moments. From what she had heard, Talon had planned the entire date but was glad that he had asked Harley for some confirmation of what he’d had in mind. Now she was even happier that she hadn’t peeked.
The redheaded half-nymph watched as Talon sat down beside her, removing the blanket from the top of the basket to begin laying out some small plates and bowls of different foods and a thermos of what smelled like her favorite tea. A variety of small sandwiches with different types of bread and fillings, bowls of fragrant soup in varying colours, as well as a few different sweets ranging from cakes to twisted sugar art all joined the stoneware cups that Talon had already poured two measures of steaming hot tea into. The dark-haired Exemplar removed a piece of parchment from the basket, setting the wicker item off to the side of the blanket so that they had more room before letting her in on the secret for their lunch. “Each item from the basket is from a different culture. Part of what the musicians are trying to do is get people interested in the other countries surrounding our own. Main ways of doing that are, of course, music as well as food and dancing. After most of the people have eaten apparently there will be a small dancing class to learn some of the cultural dances from the different countries that the food is based from.” His heart was somewhere in the vicinity of his stomach at the thought of dancing since he doubted these musicians had anything as lively as what he was used to but...well, for Glinda he would at least try.
Both of them had a ball trying each of the smorgasbord of food laid out in front of them. Some of the soups were far too spicy for Talon’s sensitive tongue but Glinda adored them. He preferred the rice dishes that were full of chopped vegetables and spices. Some of the items Glinda could recognize but she was ecstatic to find that the rice dishes Talon enjoyed so much were from some of the local nymph villages.
To Talon’s eternal surprise the dance instructor was a rather large Norn male that looked like he would dwarf even Harley in size and girth. His earth-toned appearance with that long reddish-brown hair and eyes the color of tilled soil made Glinda believe that the Norn who introduced himself as Solif Heimdall of Bear would get along with Harley quite well. His deep, even-toned voice and happy demeanor gave him a very calming presence as he walked the couples that joined him in the grass through the steps for multiple Norn dances as well as those from Sylvari revels and even some that Glinda recognized from the Charr. It became very quickly apparent that Talon had about as much dancing ability as Harley himself...which was to say, none. Thankfully he was able to keep up and not step on her feet too terribly.
A few hours of being held in Talon’s arms, twirling around, enjoying the warmth and energy flowing through the Plaza at everyone’s joy of the day flooded away whatever vestiges of depression that might have lingered after the past few weeks’ events. Group dances from the Norn had everyone in stitches as they danced, especially since Solif himself was such a large man and yet had no shame in performing either the women’s or men’s part of any dance that someone wasn’t clear on. Her favorite part of the afternoon was a toss up between the slow, waltz-like dance from Ascalon that let her stand within mere inches of her date’s ‘personal bubble’ (damn Harley’s infectious word choices!) or being hand-fed those nutty, layered pastry confections covered in sticky honey.
Pleasantly full and practically glowing with contentment, Glinda tucked herself back into Talon’s side as they left the Plaza of Melandru and a few moments of quiet conversation saw them out past the gates of Divinity’s Reach and towards the outskirts of Shaemoor. An open-ended oval of raised benches had been erected at some point during the day, the lowest bench still a good distance above Talon’s head.
“This is just the first step in creating a true Quidditch pitch for Queensland.” Glinda explained, smiling at the young Mesmer that was portaling everyone up into the bench seats since no one had had the time to complete the stairs before the beginning of the game. “Our teams have been having to practice in Triskellion Vale and well, needless to say, we weren’t too happy with that…”
Considering what Harley had told him about how seriously Glinda and the others took Quidditch, of this he had absolutely no doubt. Uncomfortable at the nearly-electric feeling being Mesmer-portaled left on his skin, Talon wrapped his arm just a little more tightly around Glinda’s trim waist as he led the way up the rest of the stairs to what looked like a boxed-off area with colored seats reserved for a very specific group of people. The chairs had all been painted red, blue, green, yellow and white so he had a fairly good idea of who the chairs belonged to since a blue and green chair were each already occupied by Ra and Selena.
Talon couldn’t help but notice that the green chairs were on the farthest left, followed by the blue, yellow and then red with the white chairs in a line behind the colored ones. It looked like you couldn’t fit more than maybe eight people in this little rectangle of comfortable seats stuck in a square of open floor. Considering magic, he was pretty sure Ra or one of the others could conjure more chairs if necessary. He was grateful that Glinda didn’t remove herself from his side as they sat in the two red chairs available, it was far too enjoyable to have her this close and he didn’t really want to let go just yet.
Unfortunately once he noticed a very familiar group of people, his body moved on its own and the dark-haired Exemplar was on his feet with a bow towards the four coming their way. He had been ingrained to stand and bow in the Master Exemplar’s presence, not to mention the Queen’s...Queen Jennah laughed daintily from behind her gloved hand, waving him back to his seat with a kind reprimand of not depriving Glinda of her handsome space heater. A soft flush made itself apparent on his tanned face before he managed to sit back down, slightly happy when Glinda merely snuggled herself back into his side, tucking her legs under herself to get more comfortable so that his arm could come back around her.
While the Queen and Master Exemplar took their seats behind Selena and Ra, Captain Thackeray joining the two as well, Harley took his usual seat between Glinda and Ra. The blond, immediately upon seating himself, dug into the black canvas bag that had the NTSD crest along the front flap to dig out scarves and flags for the group of them. He passed Slytherin green and silver to Ra and Selena, knowing that Ra would cheer on the Slytherin team before he cheered for Gryffindor and making sure that he had given himself, Glinda and Talon the red and gold scarves to wrap around their necks so that everyone could see exactly who was cheering for who. Upon closer inspection of the surrounding group in the seating area beyond their own, Talon noted that many were wearing similar things to show their chosen team support. ...unless you were that odd-looking man with the rather large lion hat on his head. But he was certain he had probably made it himself. Another glance through their group brought something else to his attention. A flash of black and gold on Harley’s right index finger was a surprise...the blond wasn’t a ring-wearing type. Actually he had never seen him wear jewelry before other than that pendant from the White Mantle attack. Hm.
Apparently he wasn’t the only one who noticed as Glinda immediately took hold of Harley’s hand and stared at the ring. The ring itself was shiny hematite with a thin band of topaz bars creating an almost seamless divot in the metal. Carved into the top of the band were the too-familiar words that Harley had been using for years with his Hufflepuffs, ‘Honesty Faith Loyalty Diligence’ in a scrawling script. The ring looked old...like a family ring. A soft gasp escaped from the redheaded girl as new branches of their future became clear in her mind before she was practically dancing in her seat with excitement. “You have to tell me everything.” That tone brooked no argument but the resigned look on Harley’s face showed that he was only here in the crowd because it was tradition for them to all watch the game together, no matter what. He had the eyes of someone that was emotionally overwrought but he was doing what he always did, shoving it down and concentrating on his friends instead of wallowing in whatever was going on. Talon honestly hoped that his friend would be alright...he didn’t like it when he didn’t see a smile on that handsome face.
Still, Harley nodded before turning their attention to the game. A game between Gryffindor and Slytherin always promised to be a good one, although Harley would admit he preferred the sniping and rule-debating that went back and forth during a Ravenclaw-Slytherin match. These games were always long as Slytherin tended to play dirty and Gryffindor had a bad tendency of playing ‘keep away’ from the Slytherin chasers. Although Harley swore that the new Gryffindor seeker was going to get a boot up his ass if the tiny, dark-haired thing didn’t get a move on!
Harley spared a glance over to Glinda, shaking his head in commiseration as, once again, the Slytherin Keeper blocked another goal. The Gryffindor chasers were not having much luck today and Harley swore that the Gryffindor Keeper was asleep on his broom for all the good his large form did for his blocking ability. The game did inspire a small smile from the blond when Glinda jumped up out of her seat, yelling at the Slytherin team about a foul that Selena immediately tried to refute with some archaic rule that no one listened to at any point and time unless it perfectly suited them. Otherwise known as: Slytherin bullshitting. Ra gleefully added fuel to the fire and Harley watched as Talon just shook his head, grinning as he tugged his beloved down into his lap so that he could snuggle her into his chest as they watched the game. He could still see her lips moving as she muttered about dirty rotten cheaters under her breath. He hoped she didn’t intend on utilizing any of those threats...they sounded rather nasty. Damnit, Glinda was listening to him too much at this point.
Four hours, thirteen fouls on both sides, two time outs and a lot of screaming on either side of the red and green contingent found the Gryffindor fans pouting as Slytherins Seeker managed to catch the snitch, ending the game with a score of 370 to 210. It had obviously been Talons’ first game as the boy had winced with each collision and tugged Glinda tighter against him as the game went on. Harley was surprised Glinda wasn’t permanently molded to Talon’s frame at this point but well, he supposed it would happen sooner or later. Talon was firmly dragged into conversation with Selena and Glinda, talking about the game in detail and what he’d thought of his first Quidditch game as they all made their way through the mesmer portal to the ground and back towards Divinity’s Reach for a late dinner.
Ra led the way to their usual restaurant near the Plaza of Lyssa, the hostess hardly blinking at the group of five before making her way through the small restaurant to a horseshoe-shaped booth in the back of the establishment that immediately gained a web of magic arcing over the table in an Imperturbable Charm. Glinda showed Talon how to order his food from the menu laid out over each of the plates, tapping each food item that he wanted as well as his drinks before the menus disappeared with the completion of each order. As soon as their food was ready it would appear on each of their plates. Talon had to admit that magic was a wonderful thing…
Harley and Talon each sat at the end of the table, the dark-haired Exemplar noting that Ra was currently stuck between Selena and Glinda in the very center of the booth. He was used to seeing either Harley stuck in the middle or Harley and Ra seated together...why would Harley force himself to the edge? Glinda’s curiosity could not be abated any longer as she turned her kohl-lined amber eyes to Harley’s own gold orbs, trying to pin him in place with just her stare. “Spill. Now.” This had the unfortunate reaction of Harley being under the strict attentions of Ra and Selena, both wondering just what Harley had done to gain this level of bossiness from Glinda.
Clearing his throat after taking a swig from the glass filled with what appeared to be some kind of juice in front of him, the blond finally began to speak to clear away Glinda’s incurable curiosity. “I was invited to the Palace this morning and, as you know, I stayed there until the game and arrived with Jennah and the others…” Harley laid his right hand out on the table, showing Ra and Selena the Hufflepuff family signet ring seated on his finger. “They wanted to speak to me about this. Jennah is reinstating my family as a noble house here in Kryta…”
Selena lifted his hand into her own, marvelling at the differences between her snow-pale skin and Harley’s own not-quite-tan complexion and the size of his one hand as she inspected the ring. It was beautiful, of that there was no doubt. “But that would mean you would be gaining a title…”
Harley’s nod finished her thought, the blond taking his hand back and hiding his hand back under the table as if he was afraid of the ring on his finger. “Due to the inactivity in the family, Jennah had to demote the original line down to the bottom of the ladder, of course, but...she said with the things I’ve done for her and for Kryta in my life so far that she could easily raise my family up to at least Baron status without raising any eyebrows or cries of favoritism.”
Talon couldn’t help his snort from escaping, immediately putting down his mug of hardened cider. “Anyone who knows the Queen is absolutely certain you four are her favorites in the Kingdom. You make her job a little bit easier with everything you do and considering Harley’s Hufflepuffs are one of the more visible facets of the NTSD, it makes sense that she could use his position as the Hufflepuff Head of House to elevate his family’s noble status.” He didn’t understand why Glinda and Selena both looked a little...well, shell-shocked at the news.
“Talon, darling…” Glinda intoned, her dainty hand landing on his bicep to garner his attention. As if she hadn’t had that since speaking, the silly girl. “If Harley is a Baron, he can’t be a servant to Ravenclaw House. No Noble House would allow their only Lord to be the...servant of another. That means Harley would have to leave House Ravenclaw and Ra’s father will have to dissolve Harley’s contract.” Glinda concentrated on Harley, watching his face for any hint of what was going on since Harley seemed so calm about the situation. “Didn’t Lady Ravenclaw do anything about this?” Everyone in the group knew that the real power in Ravenclaw House was Rowena if someone couldn’t ask Ra himself.
“Lord and Lady Ravenclaw were both there.” Harley muttered, fiddling with his ponytail as he concentrated more on his glass than anything else. “Lady Ravenclaw had to find a...solution for that since she and Lord Ravenclaw are not willing to lose me from the family.” It had made his heart warm to see Rowena Ravenclaw doing everything she could to keep Harley right where she’d had him for years. “Unfortunately there were very few options available considering...everything.”
“What options?” Selena immediately asked in unison with Glinda, both sets of eyes wide as their minds raced with possibilities.
“Of course the first one that was thrown out was dissolving my contract with House Ravenclaw so that I would have to move to Wizard’s Fief where Jennah has proclaimed my new holding to be as they have been asking to be under the Crown’s purview for a while and they found me to be a suitable placeholder, I guess. The second option was for me to marry Ra, provided we both would have to have heirs named for both houses--”
Unable to keep herself from popping up, Selena was practically grinning, “Please tell me you picked that one!”
“No.” Harley shook his head, unable to look at Ra as he said this. “It was...kept as an option in the ‘Plausible’ category but Lady Ravenclaw and Jennah weren’t willing to toss it out of hand so apparently no matter what I pick that particular option is remaining on the table until I turn twenty-five. The third option...was the hardest to swallow for Jennah, Anise and I. Rowena insisted on it being one of our few choices. There is a ritual known as Tenetur Fata, or Bound Fates--” he could see Glinda and Selena’s eyes widening in comprehension, their food going unnoticed as it popped into existence on their plates, “a Ritual of Lyssa to be held tomorrow night during the blood moon. It’s the option that allows me to keep my position as Ra’s sworn shield but it also means that instead of swearing myself to the family, it would be just Ra.”
Ra knew perfectly good and well what the Tenetur Fata was, as did Glinda and Selena...unfortunately poor Talon had completely lost the plot at this point. “Um...Krytan, please?” Talon joked half-heartedly, nudging his blond friend under the table to explain.
“The Tenetur Fata is a ritual from the Faith of Lyssa. It creates...a bond between the two that are participating in the ritual.” Ra explained quietly, not about to call it what Jennah no doubt had told Harley it was, not in public at least. Harley doubted Ra would go along with something nicknamed the ‘Soulmate Bond’.
“Their spirits, bodies and minds become one,” Glinda continued, when Ra didn't. “Each member of the Fata would gain something from the other. They would feel each other’s emotions, thoughts and pain. It also means there is no way that they could betray each other, or what Lord Ravenclaw was most concerned about, Harley betraying Ra.”
Selena had to give an unladylike snort at that particular statement. Harley would rather cut his own leg off than betray Ra. She was pretty certain he’d be struck blind before doing such a thing...he was Harley, for crying out loud! The boy was more loyal than Minister Caudecus’s own prize-winning Krytan drakehound! Taking up her moment to elucidate, Selena offered Talon a small smile. “The two who participate in the Tenetur Fata would swear to be with each other wherever they go, to never leave them alone and to follow them if they were to die. The bond has encompassed brothers-in-arms, siblings and even soulmates.” She honestly hoped that this bond would lead to the latter of the options, she was tired of these two dancing around each other. “It has to be performed on a night of significance. I would guess that Lady Ravenclaw would want to use the blood moon that is supposed to be over us tomorrow night…” Selena’s dark green eyes slid over to Harley for confirmation, registering the blond’s slightly checked-out expression as he nodded while picking at his food.
Glinda’s heart took up residence somewhere in the vicinity of her stomach as her mind swirled with possibilities. There were so many good things that could come from this bond but...the few bad roads that she could see would not end well for anyone in the group and she feared that if either of those roads to the darker side of her mind were to be followed, Tyria as a whole would pay the price. Hopefully Ra wasn’t--oh good, he wasn’t moving. Glinda was grateful to the very seat of her soul that Ra was staying put and allowing them all to finish their meal.
Attempting to keep the mood light, Harley let out a soft laugh. “Guess this is what I get for being so ‘nice’ all the time, right Selena?” He remembered all too well how many times these people he called friends had pointed out just how ‘nice’ he could be with a certain level of disgust. He didn’t always like being the nice one but when he looked at the situation from an outsiders perspective he couldn’t really deny the fact.
The dark-haired girl couldn’t help but shake her head, taking a spoonful of her lobster bisque before scooting the bowl closer to Harley, gesturing for him to try it. Harley was a spectacularly picky eater and they did not have many chances to expand his palate. She and Glinda had taken it as a personal quest to make Harley try different things from their own plates since the boy was adamant about not ordering something he wasn’t certain he’d like for the sheer reason of not wanting to waste food if he happened to not enjoy the meal. Although her amusement was palpable when she noticed the face Harley made when he tried a spoonful of the bisque before he nudged the bowl closer to her and returned to his roasted mushroom chicken and root vegetables.
Talon meaningfully squeezed his arm more firmly around Glinda’s waist as he tried to push along Harley’s badly-placed joke. “Well, since it appears that the Lady Rowena has everything well in hand, what all do we need to do?”
“Lady Ravenclaw has received permission to cordon off the Palace Gardens tomorrow night after dinner. She’s stated that under no circumstances is there to be anyone else involved in the ritual but those of us here at this table. She’s already told me everything I need to do to get it all set up…” He just had to memorize the words and make sure he didn’t mess up the design he was supposed to be laying out on the mossy brick tomorrow night. Chalk and candles, thankfully the words seemed easy enough but they were what he was really worried about. Part of Harley prayed that Ra wasn’t going to be mad at him for making the decision to say no to the marriage proposal instead of doing the Tenetur Fata. From what he knew of his raven-haired pain-in-the-ass, he’d be most upset with the fact that he hadn’t been consulted on any of this. Unfortunately for Ra, the young Minister wasn’t yet twenty-one and still had to technically allow his parents to speak on his behalf in matters such as this.
The blond hardly even glanced at Glinda as the redhead forced a piece of her lamb onto his plate. He dutifully placed the bite into his mouth, giving a small smile at the taste. Okay so the lamb here was something that he could easily eat. Good to know since he was getting somewhat tired of only ordering one of his three ‘safe’ plates. In retaliation, both Glinda and Selena stole a piece of roasted mushroom chicken as well as some of the herb-roasted root vegetables. Proving indeed that the dark-haired Exemplar was fitting into their group as quickly as he had been invited in, Talon swapped out some of Harley’s food for some sort of sauce-drizzled ravioli. He normally wasn’t one for pasta but well...he’d made this deal with Glinda and the others a long time ago and he knew better than to try backing down from any sort of agreement in this group.
It took Harley a few moments of quiet thought while he chewed to glance over to the object of his thoughts, the person he had been thinking about all day long. There didn’t seem to be many moments when his thoughts were free of the topic of Ra-bloody-Ravenclaw. Unfortunately, as he sat there chewing on a rather distasteful mouthful of butternut squash ravioli that he swallowed as quickly as he safely could only to chase it with a mouthful of cider, it didn’t seem as if those thoughts were going to abate anytime soon. The ritual certainly wouldn’t allow that to happen…The two of them would spend days, if not weeks, trying to figure out which thoughts belonged to whom and untangling their emotions from the mess they were going to become.
A mere hour later found the group of five dispersing from the restaurant in three different directions. Harley headed with Selena to Rurikton to deliver the dark-haired girl home while Ra disapparated to Lyssa-never-knew-where and Talon had stolen Glinda’s arm to wrap it around his own as he made the slow trek to Salma District so that Glinda could go home and stay there for the first time in what was probably a month or more.
Neither one of the walking teens wished to break the silence as it felt so comfortable but Talon couldn’t help but smile as they stepped through the fates of Salma and he heard the slow, rhythmic playing of a group of bored artists with a harp, violin and flute. The tune sounded familiar to him somehow…
Unwilling to let go of the bravery that flooded his system on the coattails of utter surety in his feelings, Talon found himself doing something he could never remember doing around anyone but his siblings.
“Never knew...I could feel like this
Like I’ve never seen the sky before.”
More than slightly shocked at the sudden turn of events, Glinda couldn’t help but pause in her step down the cobblestone street, her arm still tucked around Talon’s own as she heard that noise. It just wasn’t fair for him to be this perfect. Handsome, smart, conscientious...and now with a gorgeous singing voice? It was untrained but she could hear that wonderful, soothing tenor resonating in her ears. Talon visibly took a deep breath before the soft smile came back to his face to cover his nerves, moving her hand from his arm to twine her fingers between his own and leading the way further down the street. The words left him as if they were coming from the very seat of his soul, a soft look in his eyes that no one had seen outside of those he considered family.
Unwilling to give her a moment to talk him out of this impromptu confession, something that Talon was honestly embarrassed over but he refused to give himself time to even think about how this could go wrong. Professing love on the first official date? Honestly, he couldn’t imagine a better time for this at the moment. He wasn’t one to just go with his emotions but...maybe taking a page out of Harley’s book would be for the best.
His heart managed to find itself a place to rest in his throat as Glinda stopped their trek down the street with one gentle tug on his hand, the music swirling in the air around them as she smiled brightly at him through the light flush lending that pixie-like glow to her cheeks. The mezzo soprano of her own singing voice entranced him as much as her vibrant personality and beauty. Although the words she sang to him, standing there in the street, threatened to knock his knees out from under him.
Knowing that with each step he took backwards meant he would be leaving her sight for the foreseeable future, Glinda holding tightly to his hand as she walked with him through the streets of Salma to her mother’s beautiful garden and smiling at him with that beatific bend to her lips, he couldn’t bring himself to care as they stood at the foot of her mother’s statue with the lilting scent of moonlilies mingling along the edges of the music he could still hear from the street.
Their voices melding perfectly as they lost themselves in each other’s eyes, both perfectly unaware of the golden gaze watching them from the parlor window with a saddened expression. Godric Gryffindor was not ready for his little nymph to be falling in love so soon...but who wouldn’t love his perfect daughter? He had known for a long time that this was coming, especially after the fiasco with the Ravenclaw stuffed shirt and that duffer of a blonde. Still, he couldn’t make it easy on them, could he? For now, he would enjoy the sound of singing and music in the crisp, cold night air. It wasn’t often he got to hear Glinda singing anymore.
Their voices rang with a promise, something sweet and tangible that would make even the most hardened soldier stop and take notice. This was the kind of fairytale beginning of a romance Glinda had had read to her since she was old enough to receive bedtime stories...the way she had always wanted to be able to fall in love.
His mind screaming at him to do something instead of standing there, flush-cheeked in the winter night like some kind of half-wit, Talon wrapped both of Glinda’s tiny hands in his own sword-calloused fingers before he pressed a soft kiss against the ensconced digits. His flushed face was not merely due to the cold now, inwardly marvelling at the fact that he had dared to do such a thing to a Countess, even if it was something as simple as a chaste kiss to her hands....
That sweet smile still in place on her face, the same cold-induced flush coloring blemishless cheeks, Glinda used their conjoined hands to tug him closer even as she went up on the balls of her boot-covered feet. While she could always steal away his ability to pay attention to much else, Glinda proved that she could also impair his ability to think in any sort of logical manner when those golden eyes were all he could see before he was forced to close his eyes under the onslaught of something so simple yet thought-impairing and breath-stealing as the press of soft lips on his own.
Of course Glinda wouldn’t hold herself so strictly to social norms. Before the dark-haired Exemplar’s mind could fully comprehend what had happened, the redheaded menace had pulled away and took that wonderfully comforting scent of baking treats with her. The kiss had barely been more than a press of lips, something that shouldn’t have amounted to much in the greater scheme of things….and yet that one brief sensation had rocked his very soul for the few precious seconds that it had lasted.
Glinda’s murmured goodnight almost went over his head but he managed to give her a small smile through the haze in his mind as he watched her make her way the final few steps through the moonlit garden, only for the bi-fold glass and wood doors to slide open before Glinda’s hand could tug it open. Framed in the doorway was a man that, for all of a moment, Talon thought could easily have been related to Harley. Upon closer inspection, it became obvious that the rather large man was in fact who he assumed to be Glinda’s father...if that wild mane of red curls was any indication.
Godric Gryffindor topped out at just an inch shy of Harley’s height but a nonetheless impressive 6’ 7”, red curls brushing his shoulders to frame a surprisingly handsome face. Prominent cheekbones, a short but broad nose and neatly kept beard. But the man’s bright gold eyes underneath those expressive eyebrows gave insight past the rough, hardened battle-axe appearance. Talon’s many years in the Shining Blade had given him a good ability to seeing what people did not want him to see and he could easily find that shine of genuine laughter and mischief that ran rampant in the solidly built man.
“Daddy!” Glinda grinned, immediately swept up into the man’s arms for a quick but tight bear hug before her booted feet finally hit the ground again. “I didn’t know you were back home already...how was the meeting in Ebonhawke?”
Selena’s father was another that continuously disappeared to Ebonhawke with Ra’s parents, leaving the four of them to usually do as they pleased since Selena’s mother was too busy being a socialite to pay her daughter’s actions much attention. The entire group was grateful that Selena had broken away from her mother’s aspirations for her daughter a long time ago. Of course, being who she was, Selena could still do a very good approximation of being what her mother wanted her to be when the time called for it...although every time he had to see her being so twittery and insipid Glinda swore Harley looked visibly ill.
“Boring, as usual. You would think Rowena would have talked her husband around to sense by now but that old fuddy-duddy is so mind-numbingly boring, I don’t think even an axe to the brain could help.” Talon couldn’t help the small smile on his face as he listened to the man talk. His voice was a large as he was, booming and attention-grabbing, full of good humor and easily able to stir up bravery and strength into the hearts of those that heard it. “But what I would like to know…” Those large hands fisted themselves at Godric’s hips, bringing attention to the black, red and gold traveling clothes her father was still clad in, “is exactly where you have been, young lady. Mrs. Prewett told me you haven’t been home in two months!”
Glinda let out a soft sigh, shaking her head. “Daddy, Ra and Harley have both been in a bit of trouble lately. They took us to Southsun Cove for the past few weeks to...get away.” Losing Helena right after finding out about Reth and now with everything going on with Harley’s family...it was enough to make anyone’s head spin and make her very grateful that they had spent that time in Southsun Cove with just the four of them.
Godric laid a hand on his daughter’s shoulder, tilting her head up from where it had ducked her chin down to her breastbone with one finger so she was forced to connect gold to gold. “I am glad that you have such good friends. I heard about what happened to young Ravenclaw’s betrothed and his sister and everything that has been happening so far.” The four of them creating something so large and life-altering as a gang that controlled more in Tyria than Godric could remember them ever being able to do was heartwarming...he just wished old Helga could be here to see it. “Did I hear correctly that you were on a date today, my little sprite? You recall you aren’t allowed to date until you’re forty, right? Remember what happened last time?”
Glinda’s jaw nearly dropped in shock before she got hold of herself, “Daddy! He’s right here!”
“Oh, I can see that, your old man isn’t blind yet, young lady.”
Talon suddenly found himself rooted to the spot under the gaze of a man that seemed to be the human embodiment of a lion. Large, powerful and capable of rending your head from your shoulders without much effort.
“Shining Blade Exemplar Talon Mehid,” Godric’s voice had gained a thoughtful hint to it, stepping around his daughter to walk a careful, stalking circle around the dark-haired young man who had so thoroughly caught his daughter’s attention. That in itself was hard to do. Catching her attention was one thing, keeping it was even harder. “Why should I let you continue to see my daughter? You have not asked for my permission to court her, nor have I been given a notice of formal introduction from your family…”
What came next was proof positive that Talon had been spending far too much time with the NTSD as a whole...more specifically Ra and Harley. The both of them were bad influences, of that he was sure, as he normally would not have stated what came out of his mouth otherwise. “My apologies for the slight, sir, it was not my intention. But I do believe the main person that I need to gain approval from is your daughter as I am certain that if she wants to do something there isn’t much that can be done to stop her. It was my foremost intention to be able to set aside time to speak with you after you had returned from Ebonhawke to gain your blessing,” blessing, not permission, “but considering the sadness your daughter has experienced over the past few weeks I felt that lunch, dancing and a Quidditch game followed by dinner surrounded by her friends would be the best medicine. Do you not agree?”
And this was the Shining Blade that Glinda never got to see. Godric knew it all too well after the recent overhaul of the Seraph and Shining Blade with Minister Arton still under house arrest due to a lack of evidence, the Gryffindor family had stepped in to take formal control of the militant areas of Divinity’s Reach. A moment of tense silence filled the garden as Godric stared down into the deep brown eyes of the man who apparently thought he was good enough to court his daughter. Unfortunately, he was all too right and his answer had been exactly what Godric had wanted to hear. His daughter needed someone with a spine, guts and the sword arm to back it all up. An Exemplar of the Shining Blade might just be able to do that. The moment was broken when Godric’s trademark booming roar of a laugh echoed in the air and one of those large hands slapped down onto Talon’s shoulder with enough force to buckle the knees of a lesser man. “Balthazar’s Beard, kid, you’ve got balls. Good, good. Alright well don’t stay out here in the cold, come in, come in!”
Talon didn’t have a chance to say no as Glinda’s father dragged him into the house and immediately set placing the three of them in a warm, very cozy sitting room filled with books, squashy armchairs...and a rather disconcerting array of weapons. Godric kept up a steady stream of questions and conversation, constantly digging for more information on Talon and what they had done that day. When a frosted glass of whiskey that smelled distinctly different from what he was used to was shoved into his hand, Talon had to mentally admit that it was going to be a long night. The look of exasperated happiness on Glinda’s face made it worth the smoke that came out of his ears from the first sip of what Godric laughingly informed him was known as Dragon’s Breath Whiskey. The things he did for love...
Author’s Note: Thank you everyone for hanging in with us and the long wait for that last chapter. This chapter will be a bit more fun, as will the next chapter before we move on to more of the in-game content. Ravenclaw specifically asked for this chapter to be added so Hufflepuff had better get to it before someone gets killed.
Disclaimer: We here at the NTSD make no claim of ownership over the realms of Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling and Guild Wars by ArenaNet. We are just grateful that they are allowing us to play in their sandbox. We also do not own the song that is featured in this chapter. “Come What May” is the property of David Baerwald and Kevin Gilbert from the 2001 film Moulin Rouge. Our inspiration for the scene in the chapter, though, was in fact the performance video of Peter and Evynne Hollens performance. If you haven’t seen it, they are amazing and it makes the scene so much better if you play the song while you’re reading it.
Enjoy and please remember to let us know what you think!
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