Warrior of the Unforgiving Land
By C.F. Evangel
DISCLAIMER: Anything you recognize belongs to J.K. Rowling. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
There were other fantasy books that could have placed some influence. (Some have desert peoples featured in them but not all). Other books can be added on this list as the story continues: The Faded Sun trilogy by C.J. Cherryh, The Hidden Queen by Alma Alexander, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, books by Tamora Pierce, The Quickening series by Fiona McIntosh. Even so, I mostly used my own ideas.
WARNINGS: 1. Slash- HPDM and DMHP, some RLSB
"Change is the constant, the signal for rebirth, the egg of the phoenix."—Christina Baldwin
Chapter One: "Everything Will Change."
The desert is an unforgiving thing. Like many things in nature, its very danger held a beauty to it. Like everything else about it, it was a harsh beauty. An ocean of yellow for as far as the naked eye could see onto the horizon like waves of glittering sunlight. At daytime, the sun blazed down upon shards of endless sand with no sign of life. But as the sky darkened into night and the temperature cooled beneath the stars, the desert came alive. Snakes, birds, and other animals came out of their hiding places to hunt for food and go on with their nocturnal lives.
Gryffindor Desert was a mysterious land with an even more mysterious people. There was very little known about it and even the truth was hidden amidst the stories and rumors about the arid land. Three-fourths surrounded by mountain ranges and one-fourth the Silver Ocean; its entire geography was a formidable protection from foreigners. The only way merchants could trade was in a single port town situated at the eastern side of the realm called Diagon Alley. Beyond the town gates, no foreigner had ever crossed the desert and only the nomad tribes roamed across that dry land.
Now Gryffindor had always been a miniscule barb in its neighbor's side. The realm of Slytherin, northeast of Gryffindor, was a lush and fertile land. The royal family of the Malfoys had created an empire. The other surrounding realms had all fallen and accepted Lucius Malfoy as High King. It was not a cruel fate. At least, compared to what Slytherin could have done. These nations kept their royal families and sovereigns though their allegiance was to High King Lucius. He was ruthless yet fair, placing order and unity throughout each realm. The only one that Slytherin could not conquer was Gryffindor.
It wasn't like the Slytherin army could waltz into the desert. Even if they managed to cross the rocky perilous mountains, the desert and sun would surely kill them. Lucius didn't mind it though, making little effort at conquering the realm and let the land be. It would simply be too tiresome to manage the Desert, not to mention the barbarians that lived there. How they managed to live there was a mystery but the Gryffindors were reputed as a hardened warrior people.
Our story starts on an innocuous evening in Serpens, the capital city of Slytherin. High in one of the windows of the Royal Palace, a silhouette sat looking down into his world. Or rather, should have had if not for the tendrils of thoughts that left his gray eyes pensive but unseeing.
Draco Malfoy, Prince of Slytherin, looked down upon the servants and soldiers bustling about doing their own business. He did not really pay particular attention to any of them; his mind was too far off wandering. He sat down on one of the window ledges of the North Tower. It had always been his spot, a place where he could get away from everyone and everything to be in solitude.
He was one of those lucky and so damn infuriating people that had everything he could possibly want. Heir to the richest most powerful empire in the world, blessed in health, looks, intelligence, highly skilled in combat, and with the snap of his fingers, more luxuries than anyone could ever dream of. And he was utterly, utterly bored.
His father had trained him well in all manners of handling an empire. He had trained alongside the kingdom's soldiers and earned their respect. Lucius Malfoy, though he showed it in a subtle manner, was proud of his son. No, it wasn't his father that gave him any problems. It was one of every twenty-year-old male's problems at this day and age. His mother was constantly nagging him to tie the knot soon. Or at the very least get an engagement. His jaw clenched as he thought of his opinion on it…
Hell hell no.
He loved his mother dearly and was probably the only woman to enter his heart (with the exception of one of his best friends of course). No one among the women in his harem or any of his catamites managed to keep him interested for long. He wanted a lover that could always surprise him. Draco was bisexual and he didn't mind at all at marrying a male; the females were constantly bitching and simpering that he was certain it would turn him completely gay soon enough. As for producing an heir, male couples had no problems doing that. It just took a few adoption rituals.
Of course, his mother wanted him to find a nice, beautiful girl. With a sizable dowry, a very high status, and preferably with extensive connections of course. Draco wondered why his mother wanted to be replaced by a younger woman to be Queen. In his experience, women were very jealous creatures. The backstabbing and social games in his harem were notorious among the servants and Draco was quite aware of them. Then again the men there participated too.
He sighed pushing away his thoughts and ran a hand through his hair. He stood up and walked to the full length mirror that hung in the circular wall. It had always been there since he had found it and Draco often looked at himself, more often for rather narcissistic purposes but it was there for scrutiny as well.
The grey eyes, flaxen hair, and aristocratic face were all a trademark to the Malfoy royal family. His layered hair fell elegantly to frame over his face, the tips ending at his shoulders. He stood tall and proud, his aristocratic blood and training showed in his poise. Underneath the all-black--and rather tight too--sweater, trousers, and knee high boots, his body was slender but toned. His skin was smooth and pale like white marble.
Idly tracing a pale finger across the cold surface of the mirror, he thought that white marble was a bit close to the whispers about him in the Palace, and everywhere else for that matter. It was a mere mask he wore and one that wasn't unwelcome when it came to politics. He smirked suddenly, as if to show he wasn't as cold as they thought he was. He was the arrogant Slytherin Prince after all. Not to mention incredibly amazing and so damn sexy.
He heard a chuckle from behind him, and he looked in the mirror to see the figure in the doorway. A young man, the same age as he, leaned there. His skin, unlike the fair coloring of his fellow Slytherins, was the color of chocolate. He had long, crescent eyes above high cheekbones and rather androgynous features. Blaise Zabini had been born by a Gryffindor woman, who had fallen in love with a younger son of a Slytherin lord. As a child, he had played in the palace and when he and Draco had met, they had become inseparable.
"Admiring yourself, again?" Blaise teased in a joking tone. "I would've thought that you have enough sycophants to do that for you."
"What isn't there to admire?" Draco drawled.
Blaise rolled his eyes and looked at him curiously. "So what exactly are you doing here by your lonesome self? I'd have thought to find you pinning a boy in bed."
Draco snorted. "I probably would have if my mind wasn't elsewhere."
Blaise looked at him understandingly. "I've been looking for you all morning," he said slowly. Draco recognized that tone. It made his eyes narrow.
"What business has he summoned for me now?"
"I suspect it would be an alliance of some sort," Blaise said carefully.
Draco's brow furrowed. He felt a small twinge of alarm. An alliance… with him called upon by his father. The only alliance he could think of—no that would be unlikely. Surely his father wouldn't do such a thing. But then again, royals had never married for love. After all, his mother and father had fallen in love only after their marriage. Even falling in love in political marriages was rare. It was always always for power.
Draco pushed away his thoughts after he saw Blaise's concerned eyes. They were practically brothers. Blaise could read him like a book and right now, Draco's body had grown tense. He forced himself to relax but Blaise had always been perceptive. He wasn't fooled.
Draco looked at him. "Let's go."
They walked through the marble hallways. They paid no mind to the lavish paintings, vases, and sculptures that decorated it and just as surely displayed the empire's power. Glass globes in silver chains hung down from the ceiling filled with shards of magically glowing crystals. During the late hours of night, it cast blue among the shadows in the walls. In the afternoon, like at the moment, it glowed merrily white.
They went to the upper floors which held the chambers of the royals--though Draco's had been moved at his insistence-- and the most powerful nobility. The guards in green and silver bowed their heads to them but stayed rigidly in their posts hands by their swords. The finally came across a polished wooden door, which was the entrance to the king's study and knocked on it.
There was a faint "Enter," before they went into the room.
Stroke. Stroke. Thrust. Stroke.
The young man stood outside paying no mind to the heat. He could have stood in the shade that the tents provided but did not. Instead, he continued to practice with his sword in graceful movements and steady even breaths. The others in the encampment left him alone in his daily exercises
The encampment held a number of tents, enough to hold about eighty to a hundred and more if need be. Almost everyone wore rather similar robes, most in the various shades of ocher, scarlet, and tan that camouflaged well in the sand. Only three wore black even in this intense heat and one of them was the young man.
The black robes fit his upper body enough to show the muscles that rippled beneath it and yet flared out in his lower body to flow down his lithe form. The long sleeves and trousers were loose to allow air into the body. His knee-high boots dug firmly into the sand. He was bronze-skinned, tanned by the sun. The special hood and veil that was worn in combat and when faced by strangers or foreigners was down to reveal a young man. Jet black hair fell messily over green eyes that were at the moment, completely focused. A slender scarlet feather demurely adorned one of his ears.
A slim leather scabbard hung in his gold sash and it usually held his sword, Patronus. Beautiful and deadly as its master, a wire twined around the crystal hilt to provide grip. The blade was made out of very fine steel that glowed with a slight blue sheen. It was diamond sharp, with what appeared to be ancient runes that were engraved onto the blade. It was a very fine weapon though not the only one he carried. His sash also held a dagger and unseen, several knives strapped to his body. He even had garrote, a thin wire-like metal bracelet for strangulation.
Ever since he took his first steps in the desert, Harry Potter had learned to use the sword. In truth, no one had expected him to be so good. Maybe it was because no matter how hard he tried, he still remained rather petite than most men. Much to the chagrin of his other fellow warriors, he was among the most diligent and there were various who enjoyed the chance to mentor him. Eventually as each year passed, his style became composed of several different ones, combining to form a deadly beautiful dance unpredictable to everyone except himself.
A brief shadow flitted across the sunlight as a messenger hawk flew over his head and he paid it no mind. By the time the night had fallen however, he was cursing the gods that he had not the foresight to shoot it.
Lucius Malfoy sat calmly behind his desk and waited for his son to enter the study. Blaise hesitated as he stood at the doorway and made to leave. "You might want to stay Lord Zabini," Lucius said. "This does not directly involve you, but you may find it of interest as well." Blaise bowed his head and walked in.
The study was an elegantly well-furnished room, complete with leather furniture. Draco and Blaise sat in leather armchairs in front of the king. There was plenty of resemblance between father and son. Lucius Malfoy was broader than his son, experience and age making his face more calculating and mature.
"What do you know about Gryffindor, Draco?" Lucius asked finally when the silence was growing to be unbearable.
Draco and Blaise exchanged glances. As a boy, Blaise had been curious about the mysterious half of his heritage. When they were younger the boys had heard tales from travelers and merchants that had visited the Gryffindor port, Diagon Alley. Extraordinary warriors, veiled people, nomad tribes, wielders of magic, the ocean of fire they called the desert... As children, the stories they heard were the stuff of adventure and wonder and dreams. Growing older, the two had left those fairytales, though Draco knew that Blaise still sighed wistfully over them. Draco told his father some of what they had learned and looked at him suspiciously. "Why?"
Lucius smiled faintly. "Because I have made an alliance with them. One that involves you."
Draco's heart leapt in his throat. His face froze before he smoothed it. "A marriage then?" he asked in a cool tone.
Lucius looked at him almost amusedly. "A marriage?" he repeated. "Is that why you're so tense? ...No."
The snake uncoiled in Draco's stomach. "Then how can I be possibly involved?"
"The Gryffindors have decided to send two people to us, to stay for nine months. We will show the around, let them see our customs, and our culture. The one called Remus Lupin, will handle all the diplomacies," Lucius paused for effect.
"What about the other one?" Draco asked somewhat impatiently.
"The other one will serve as your bodyguard."
There was a heartbeat of silence.
"A bodyguard." Draco repeated. His eyes narrowed. "Why the hell do I need a bodyguard?" He had not had one since he was a child. Not since he was able to defend himself. The thought of someone constantly watching him was disconcerting at the very least.
Lucius looked at him steadily. "I never said you needed one. But you will keep him. This is an act of trust. He will swear to serve you."
"You want me to trust a barbarian!?" Draco asked incredibly.
Beside him, Blaise flinched slightly.
Draco turned towards his friend and winced. "I didn't mean that Blaise," he said. "I meant ...I'm sorry." For once, his temper and his tongue got the better than him. He inwardly cursed. This was not how he acted.
Blaise nodded and smile faintly. "It's alright. You're upset. It was a careless comment."
"Yes, a very careless comment indeed," Lucius frowned, a sternness almost settling around the corners of his lips. "That barbarian might just save your life . . . This court is full of simpering fools, and among them hide the more dangerous. The ones who covet for power as much as they can. Those that will bring ruin to what the Malfoys have worked so hard for should they get that very power." Lucius looked at his son seriously.
"There is very little known about Gryffindor, but the precious few entries found about them tell of a people that would move heaven and earth to guard what they seek to protect."
He heard a low murmur of voices talking before Harry flipped the flap and entered the largest tent in the tribe. He felt himself tense as three pairs of eyes immediately focused on him.
"Sit down Harry."
In the twenty-by-twenty paces tent, three people sat on one side of the low table at the center. The floor was covered in elegant brilliant colored carpets and large cushions. Overhead, beautifully crafted lamps hung unlit, their delicate ornamental work glittering dimly. Harry sat down cross-legged on the other side of the table and breathed in the subtle spicy scent that filled the place.
A woman with his emerald eyes sat in front of him. Her red long hair cascaded on her green Healer's robes. Next to her sat two men. They were the only other two that wore black robes. The man next to the woman had messy jet black hair and his usually merry hazel eyes peered at Harry in concern. On his other side sat a man with brown hair and amber eyes.
"We've received a message from Dumbledore," the black haired man said. James Potter looked at his son. "The alliance has been set."
Harry nodded slowly. "I know what to do."
Lily Potter sighed heavily. "I don't like this."
"Neither do we. But I agree with Dumbledore that Harry is the best choice at making this succeed," James said and turned to Harry again. "You'll be staying there for a year to show that we want no hostilities. We have no desire to be part of Slytherin's empire."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "You also want me to show them that we're not barbarians." Amber eyes looked at him seriously, but with amusement as well. "That too," Remus Lupin said. "But it won't be just you doing the convincing. We feel that as a prince's guard, you are better off guarding him as your main priority. Be the warrior and leave the diplomacies to me."
"Plus," James interjected teasingly, "Remus will make sure you keep out of trouble."
The other three snorted. "That said by the man that breaks rules just because they're there." Lily grinned wryly and the small tension in the room lessened somewhat.
Harry looked at them thoughtfully, and shook his head ruefully. "From what I've heard of the empire, it's impossible for me to avoid politics completely," he grimaced. "I'll be pulled into it no matter what. An empire that big-- there would be plenty wanting power and I'm guarding their precious prince."
Lily looked at him. "Should that happen, you're well trained in handling those situations. It gives you the advantages. Nobody knows your capabilities. All they have heard are tall tales about our people." She smiled at Harry lovingly. "You'll do well and we're proud of you no matter what."
Harry ducked his head and tried not to blush.
James looked at him with a wicked gleam. "I'm sure you'll be able to keep them guessing, son."
They discussed the trip further. It was already the ending of August, and it took would take two weeks to travel to Slytherin. Harry and Remus would arrive in Slytherin in the middle of September and stay until the middle of June.
"It'll be a little over nine months, and you'll return in time for your birthday," Lily explained.
A grin broke out of James's face. "The tribe will make it a whole month of celebration."
Harry returned his grin. He could practically see the ideas that were shooting in his father's head.
"Well it's been a long night," Remus said, his eyes on his godson. "You and I both need as much rest as possible if we're going to trek across the desert to Diagon Alley. We'll be leaving in three days, so I suggest you get ready."
Once outside the tent, Harry breathed in the rapidly cooling desert air. He stood there for a few more seconds before walking slowly away. There were still people outside. Most were sitting around in small fires throughout the camp, talking and telling stories now that dinner was over. Occasionally, Harry could hear musical instruments playing merrily. Laughter and singing burst over their heads and into the desert night. He declined politely their offers of invitation.
When he got the outskirts of the camp, Harry greeted the scout who nodded but kept at his post. Going alone at night in the desert was a fool's death. And a painful one at that. Sometimes, particularly in windy days, one could get lost by simply wandering away too far. Eventually or not, their bodies would be found buried in the sand. Harry made sure to stay within the scout's sight but far enough that there was space to move. He unsheathed Patronus from his waist, and began his normal exercises.
He thought of what had been said tonight, and what might happen for coming nights. He hated the thought of leaving behind everything he knew and loved, for a land far different from his own. Word of Slytherin's conquests came to Gryffindor long before Harry was born. Abraxas Malfoy began the empire building, and his son Lucius, continued it. Such things did not come to be without resistance and bloodshed. Despite Slytherin's claims that those under their rule were becoming more prosperous because of them, Harry thought, countries were never happy until they were independent.
And Gryffindor had not cared. After all, such things had never interfered in their lives. But slowly, slowly, they were the only country left in the continent free from the Slytherin Empire. Harry knew he'd do anything to keep it that way.
Eventually the beating of his heart matched his exercises: steady, calm and even.
Inside the tent, James held Lily's hand consolingly and smiled at his wife.
"If anything else," he said, pride leaking into his eyes. "Warrior or not, Harry's always had that charisma that made others look to him."
Remus made a noise of agreement. "The way the tribe adores him can attest to that."
"Of course they would be," Lily murmured. "Slytherins are different."
"Well, they like green," James said jokingly. "Who can resist those green eyes?"
Lily glanced fondly at her husband and sighed softly, leaning in to him. James beamed. Remus rolled his eyes, but he too was smiling.
Draco stared morosely at the canopy of his bed as he lay there motionless.
He would never match his father's military prowess or his ambitions but he could come close. He knew that there was a thread of discontent, a sense of incompleteness in his father and king and emperor, when Lucius Malfoy looked at the map.
To that great expanse of desert called Gryffindor. There nothing there but sand, in Draco's opinion. Surely, what little riches--if there were any at all--were not worth the trouble of attempting to conquer it. And his father must have thought that too, but he still wanted some semblance of authority and control there.
Draco's lip curled into a slight frown. It was a troublesome thought, but for once he couldn't help but think that that was foolish. Of his father.
But it was the idea of being watched and minded like a child that infuriated him. He could protect himself. Besides, such an "act of faith and trust" to have a completely foreign stranger to guard him was completely foolish. So Draco was going to be stuck with some barbarian that probably had never even seen proper civilization.
It was going to be humiliating.
He shoved his thoughts ruthlessly away and looked at the clock in his bedroom. In a few minutes, a catamite would knock on his chambers. He got up, and walked towards his sitting room.
A body to warm him, pleasure him would do for now.
Three days later, Harry emerged from his tent and looked out into the sky. It was still dark and chilly but that would rapidly change in a few hours. The few belongings Harry wanted to bring were packed in his horse, a red stallion with black legs named Firebolt. Likewise, Remus and his golden horse, Canis were packed as well.
Harry had already finished exchanging words with his friends and family. They would miss each other but no one said goodbye. They would see each other again after all.
The rest of the tribe had gathered this early in the morning. Before the sun would be up, the two of them needed the head start to ride as fast as they could towards Diagon Alley. It would take them about one week to get to the port. A merchant ship from Serpens was already waiting for them to board and set sail. It would take another week to get to land.
"Ready to go?" Remus asked as they were ready to mount.
Harry looked at him for a moment. His face betrayed none of the nervousness that he felt and even the green eyes that usually showed everything was dark. His eyes slid shut and something cold rose inside him. His voice was unexpectedly calm and soft.
"Everything will change."
Harry turned around and looked back at the home that was slowly shrinking farther and farther away. They rode over a dune and the tribe disappeared from sight. He was doing this for them, and for all his country. And he wasn't only carrying his own hopes, but many others' as well.
Next to him, Remus covered his face with the veil and Harry followed. For hours, they rode, sandy winds blowing at them for speed they were going. But not before the sun rose, bright and clear over the Gryffindor desert.
1. "Serpens" in Latin means "snake" or "serpent.'
2. Harry's outfit was inspired by the cover of the omnibus edition of The Faded Sun trilogy by C.J. Cherryh.
CHAPTER ONE REPOSTED 7/5/07.