A/N: Here it is at last. So not Beta'd and only slightly glanced over. I'm not totally happy with some of the transitions but this is as close to a final draft as I have time for these days so I've deemed it somewhat post-worthy.

I HAVE EDITED OUT A SMUTTY FLASHBACK WHICH CAN BE FOUND ON ALTERNATE SITES THAT I POST THIS STORY TO. LOOK ON MY PROFILE FOR LINKS.

Text Formatting:

'Character thoughts'

Emphasis, Article Heading

Foreign words, spells, letters, media text (newspaper/books)

- Parseltongue -

:: Telepathy ::

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Good Intentions

By: SheWolfe7

Chapter VIII:

Enterprise

(o)(0)(o) (o)(0)(o) (o)(0)(o) (o)(0)(o)

23 February 1975

Dear Lucius,

How are classes going? I am well, if extremely worn out. There are far too many things to do and not enough hours in the day. Mind you, Grandfather offered to loan me a Time Turner but it is not worth using, simply due to the fact that I would end up far older in body than in physical time. As such aging is worthless on a legal standpoint, using a Time Turner would be a pointless endeavor.

Most of my days comprise of making arrangements for my Guard. There are contracts to be negotiated with the appropriate suppliers, deliveries to be overseen, inventory to be stocked and accounted for, etc. It is a never ending task! And all of it must be done before the Guard Trials take place which leaves me less than a month to complete all these tasks.

Father and I are receiving quite the number of invitations to less formal gatherings. I have refused all invitations to dinners and teas, simply because I would prefer not to have to mingle and exchange pointless chit-chat. There were a few interesting invitations to see professional Dueling competitions which I accepted, along with a few theatre productions and gallery openings.

All the Anterior Courtship Ritual proposals have been received and the majority have been reviewed. It's likely that the acceptance notices will be sent out early, though that largely depends on selecting the final Courtship Trial. They will be very difficult but that's mostly to weed out the competition to a more manageable number.

On another note, Father has agreed to allow me a brief visit during the next Hogsmeade Visit. I think the next date was the twenty-ninth of next month, correct? Let me know a time and place and I'll meet you and Severus for a few hours at the least.

I hope to see you soon,

Anastas Evaristo Rafael Lund-Torres

Prince of Asturias, Heir to the Lund Family of Sweden and Scion of the Focalor Family of France

Memores acti prudentes future. (Mindful of what has been done, aware of what will be. Torres Motto.)

Aut concilio aut ense. (Either by meeting or by the sword. Lund Motto)

Varium et mutabile simper femina. (Woman is always a changeable and capricious thing. Focalor Motto)

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The Private Dining Room

Palacio d'Asturies, Oviedo, Asturias

Sunday the 23rd of February 1975

7:12 AM

Treasonous Love Affair Revealed!

By: Anonymous

Recent tensions in the Palacio d'Asturies have caused no little amount of curiosity by the public. The Torres Family has been under an enormous amount of pressure after recent attacks against the Family, preparations for the marriages of two of its daughters, what promises to be a Courting Season like no other, and the great Cuelebre slaying due to take place this Midsummer. As no official news has been released regarding any of these matters, one intrepid reporter for this paper decided to investigate the matter further.

After several conversations off the record with several contacts within the Court, this reporter has learned that Prince Cyril Torres, son of Warlord-Prince Silvio Torres and Warlord Presumptive, has been engaging in a treasonous love affair with his cousin Princess Ramona Torres-Schoesser. What is truly scandalous about this love affair is that not only is it forbidden by Royal Decree, as the two are of the Primary and Secondary bloodlines respectively, it also violates the Marriage Contract between Prince Cyril and his wife, Lady Magda, and there are rumors that Princess Ramona may be pregnant!

There is little doubt why no official news has been released by the Royals as the situation is tenuous at best. What fate awaits these forbidden lovers? The Executioner's block, most likely, according to historical records of previous violations…con't p.2

Anastas had not gotten more than a small glimpse of the front page of the Spanish Navigator before it had been quickly snatched away by his Uncle Apolinar who had scowled fiercely before incinerating it.

For over a week, the three had been closeted away dealing with some as-of-then undisclosed issue. Of course thanks to one nosy reporter at the Spanish Navigator, who very quickly would be out of a job and knutless, that 'issue' had been revealed to the public.

Idly, Anastas considered that this 'revelation' could not have come at a worse time. Within a decade's time, Cyril was to have taken over the position of Warlord from his father and this treasonous offense nullified his eligibility. That post would now be fought over by the most competent Generals whose loyalties may be questionable. That in turn, led to the possibility that a marriage between the new Warlord Presumptive and a member of the Torres Family may be required and that would cause no end of trouble.

The only members of appropriate age and rank, who were not already engaged, were Apolinar's sons, Alfonso and Guiomar (though Alfonso, as a future Sovereign Prince would not even be proposed as a possible spouse and Guiomar was far too young), Cyril's three sons Fausto, Agustin, and Guiomar (all of whom would likely be rejected due to the recent scandal), Prince Vasco's two daughters Angelica and Lucia (acceptable choices as they were seventeen and twelve respectively) and himself (who also would not be presented as a possible spouse).

All in all, the situation did not look good and solutions were slim at best. Not that it bothered him overly. He had plenty of holdings outside of Asturias and he was not squeamish about killing someone, General or not, should they prove to be an annoyance to his plans.

"What has the investigation revealed so far?" Anastas asked breaking the silence.

The three men glanced at each other and Apolinar sighed slightly before answering.

"They are irrefutably guilty; Ramona is nearly two months pregnant. Both had been taking measures to prevent such an occurrence so this pregnancy was not by their doing. Our guess is that Lady Magda discovered the affair and chose to 'reveal' it in such a way that the violation of the Marriage Contract would undoubtedly favor her."

Estavan smiled coldly, "Unfortunately she will find that even though the Marriage Contract was violated an act of treason committed by a Torres against a Torres automatically strips said violator of all their possessions, which are then remitted back to the Sovereign Prince to be dispensed. In this case, as she has brought about the deaths of two members of our Family, she will get not so much as a knut."

"They are to be executed then?" Alfonso asked quietly, looking troubled.

Evaristo frowned, "We have no other recourse. They have committed treason, that treason can be proven, and we cannot show them any mercy, lest it inspire others to think us weak."

"When will the act be done?"

"After our investigations are completed, I would say no more than two months at the most, within a week at the least."

Isabella set aside her utensils, "And Lady Magda?"

"Exile, possibly execution if her involvement can be proven." Apolinar answered eyes dark.

"Where are you keeping Cyril and Ramona, in the meantime?" Tiziana asked sadly.

"At the Royal Prison, in the East tower."

Anastas wiped his mouth with his napkin and pushed his chair out from under the table. "I do believe I'll pay them a visit, after I have a few words with our long-term 'guests'."

Evaristo shot him a look filled with warning. "Remember to join us for lunch; afterwards we have other matters to discuss."

"Of course, I won't forget." Anastas answered grimly before leaving the room.

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The Study

21 Mulberry Court, Camden, London, UK

Wednesday the 26th of February 1975

2:47 PM

Ghislain tidied the stack of papers and set it aside. Reaching for a sheet of blank parchment, he pondered what exactly to write in his letter. Never in his life had he ever thought he would need to write a Letter of Introduction that had nothing to do with marriage. Yet, that is exactly the situation he now found himself in, thanks to his treacherous mother. The quill in his hand snapped and Ghislain cursed as ink dribbled down his hand and onto the piece of parchment. Annoyed, he cast the quill and ink blotted paper into the waste bin and stomped over to the liquor cabinet across the room, intent on some badly needed scotch.

Two glasses later and he had mellowed down. Reaching for new parchment and a quill, he pondered what exactly to write. It wasn't as though he could write out his exact reasoning, as the Malediction effectively sealed his ability to communicate his circumstances with anyone other than the Caster. To everyone but his mother, Asce Proulx had never existed and so it would remain until she died and even then only if he managed to survive the reversion.

Ghislain greatly looked forward to that day because he had every intention of being the cause behind its occurrence. For all that he had endured and lost, he would not be satisfied with her death alone. He would destroy the Cohendets and his own brother before he was satisfied. And while he was infinitely patient as all true Proulx, the quickest and possibly smoothest path to his rightful vengeance lay with the young Asturian Prince, Anastas Lund-Torres.

While a variety of information had circulated among the public, about or concerning said Prince, very little of that information had been verified by a reputable source, and absolutely none of the verification came from the Prince in question. That alone had caused the general curiosity of the public to increase two fold especially as it became apparent that the young Prince was not the average Pureblood wizard. Many investigations were conducted, all very carefully so as not to incite the Torres Family, but little of it turned out anything other than the barest facts.

Few of their ilk would be interested in how the young prince spent his formative years in the Muggle world and Ghislain knew that it was they who were the idiots for thinking thus. A Phoenix, after all, dies and is reborn. It does not become any more or less during said process and Ghislain knew that a mindset may alter over the years but its foundation it was built upon was rarely rebuilt. The Lund-Torres heir would have seen a great deal of the Muggle World and would, over time, compare it to the world he was now immersed in and would see the advantages and disadvantages of both. What he would do with them, no one could be certain but Ghislain knew that the odds of him doing nothing were very small.

If he was accepted into the Lund Guard, he would essentially give up thirty years of his life and much of his free will but he knew that it would be one of the best arrangements that he could make. Influence and power came to many by virtue of birth or circumstance and in this; the Lund-Torres heir was no different. So what made him different? He was an outsider, one who truly fit in neither world and would spend his life either strafing the borders of those worlds or he would create a place of his own that had the best of both worlds.

The future was uncertain but his revenge? Oh…that was a guarantee.

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The Royal Training Hall

Palacio d'Asturies, Oveido, Asturias

Saturday the 1st of March 1975

6:22 AM

Anastas caught the towel thrown to him by one of his father's Guardsmen. After he wiped the sweat from his face and neck, he tossed the towel back to the Guard.

"What time is it?"

"6:22, my lord."

Anastas frowned slightly, "They should be here by now. I wonder what's keeping them?"

"Not all of us are awake at such unholy hours every morning, Anastas." Fausto yawned as he entered the large room Anastas had long since claimed as his own.

Agustin and Cleto walked alongside their brother and to his right, while Alfonso and Guiomar walked alongside Fausto's left. Anastas' Aunts Eloisa and Elvira walked ahead of Yvette, Silvio's youngest granddaughter, with Angelica and Lucia, the daughters of Prince Vasco.

Anastas shook his head. "It's almost six thirty and that's hardly an unreasonable hour. Now…if I had woken you up when I got up this morning at four, then you might have room to complain."

Yvette made a face of distaste. "You've been here since four?"

"More or less," Anastas answered smoothly.

Alfonso gazed at him soberly. "You have more reason to be concerned about your training though."

"Even if I was not slated to kill the Cuélebre, I would still be training. People of our position cannot rely entirely upon others to rescue us in our moments of need. The Guardsmen serve us loyally but they are not immortal."

Elvira chuckled, "Let's get started before you get carried away and lecture us the rest of the morning."

Anastas rolled his eyes. "Well what are you waiting for then? Start your stretches and then I want you all to run ten laps. After that, we'll start with acrobatics and tumbling."

The others groaned melodramatically as they set off on the work he had assigned them.

Even though it had been a few weeks, Anastas was still amused at how he had ended up training his Aunts and cousins. He'd been training every morning since he had arrived in this world and had made no secret about it. In the beginning, his Granduncle Silvio had wanted to place him under the instruction of one of his subordinates but Anastas had proven too skilled and his methods, somewhat unorthodox. After a few weeks, the Royal Guardsmen had taken to watching him train and some had even started to pick up his habits.

Since his return from Asikis Hall, he had been asked to instruct his Aunts and cousins to help them learn something different from the conventional Dueling and self defense training they had received. Anastas had taken the request in stride and put them in their paces. In his mind, Western Dueling had placed too much emphasis on spellcraft and weaponry. He favored the Eastern style of Dueling which relied on the body as much as spellcraft and weaponry.

Anastas regularly practiced acrobatics, tumbling, and hand-to-hand fighting four days of the week, he practiced weaponry and spellcraft three days a week, and fine-tuned his Harpy training two days a week. Except for his Harpy training, he did all of his training here at the Royal Training Hall, which had been constructed to withstand varying levels of physical and magical damage. Until the Training Halls at Glitnir were completed, these would suffice for the time being.

"Anastas, we're done!" Cleto shouted, catching his wandering attention.

Mentally shaking himself, Anastas turned to face his students. "Let's run through everything that you already know and then we'll have a spar. We'll start youngest to oldest, Lucia you go first."

The dark haired twelve year-old stepped forward and ran through cartwheels, somersaults, handstands, handsprings, and several different tumbles. Cleto went next, followed by Agustin and Yvette. Angelica, Fausto, and Alfonso performed a few extra flips and tumbles, while his twin Aunts added a few graceful ballet techniques, to everyone's amusement.

It was nearly seven thirty when they finished so Anastas was quick to divide them into two teams.

"You've been practicing against each other for the last three weekends but now you need to incorporate what you've learned into a real situation. These exercises have been to enhance your speed, flexibility, and maneuverability. Now it's time to test how well you've learned what I taught you. I'm going to attack you and you've got to defend against my attacks as best as you can. I won't hold back on my blows and you shouldn't either because a real enemy fully intends to incapacitate if not kill you outright. Now we'll start this in groups and then individually. I'll give you five minutes to talk with your teammates and then we'll start. Remember, don't hold back!"

Anastas left them to their plans, taking a chance to drink some water and neaten his hair which was coming loose from the simple ponytail he had tied it back. When their five minutes was up, Anastas didn't bother to give them any warnings. He shot out at the first group which consisted of Eloisa, Cleto, Angelica, Alfonso, and Yvette. Angelica dodged his kick and grabbed his right arm, attempting to throw him but he simply kept hold of her and pulled her with him. They hit the ground with a thump and he quickly rolled off of her and kicked Alfonso in his stomach. When the older teen instinctively curled forward, Anastas struck him on the back with a powerful blow, sending him down to the ground.

A quick forward handspring got him away from Eloisa's attempt to kick his feet out from under him and instead, she knocked Cleto over who was attempting to help their two downed teammates. By that time, Anastas was engaging blows with Yvette who was the only one among the group who'd had any other training outside of Dueling and self-defense. While the sixteen year old was no match for him in skill, she at least put up a decent fight. Spotting an opening in his stance, she struck him in the leg, causing him to drop down to his knee. Anastas rolled to the side and lunged forward rolling back onto his feet neatly. He pretended to favor his left side and allowed Yvette to close in on him before lashing out with his arm, close-lining the girl who dropped to the ground wheezing.

Anastas straightened, knowing the others were beaten. He flexed his right leg a time or two to test it and found it undamaged. "Not too bad, you can sit out and watch how the other team does."

The Guardsmen, who had watched with varying levels of well disguised amusement, came forward and helped the fallen Royals back to their feet and out of the way. Anastas idly stretched as he watched Lucia, Agustin, Fausto, and Elvira cautiously approach. For a heartbeat they were all still, bodies waiting to spring into action.

And that was when a shower of daggers rained down on Anastas. Without orders, his therapontes reacted. The wind attuned slowed down the daggers, while the metal or gravity attuned abruptly twisted the daggers until they were point down and imbedded them into the ground. A pulse of aggressive Harpy energy shredded the Dissolution Charm his Granduncle Silvio had placed over himself.

The older wizard smirked. "Well done, Anastas."

"I thought you might test one of the others or I would have removed you sooner. Is there a reason why you've interrupted our training?"

Silvio's smirk faded away instantly. "We've received word that Boyar Sokolov will be arriving sometime this morning and the Sovereign Prince has requested that you all prepare for his arrival."

Anastas frowned. "I see, well we'll stop here then. Don't forget to do your stretches at least or you'll be sore tomorrow. Next week we'll work on Dueling so be prepared."

The others were quick to leave, happy with the reprieve. As everyone had such a busy schedule, they only met once a week and Anastas tended to work them for three or more hours depending on how much time could be spared. Today they had been scheduled for a four hour session so they had indeed been granted a reprieve today.

"I imagine you'll be taking your leave?" Silvio asked softly.

"I cannot avoid the Boyar indefinitely. It will be seen as a sign of weakness if I depart the Palacio, when he has gone to such efforts to make a formal visit. I don't know why he dislikes me so much and I don't particularly care but if he wants to play games, I will oblige him." Anastas answered darkly.

Silvio sighed, "Perhaps the two of you are in conflict so much because you are both too similar."

Anastas just snorted as he stalked away, not even needing to reply to that.

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The Throne Room

Palacio d'Asturies, Oviedo, Asturias

Saturday the 1st of March 1975

10:00 AM

Anastas strode confidently into the Throne Room, ignoring the whispers of the courtiers as he made his way to join the Royal Family on the dais at the back of the room.

The expandable Throne Room was currently set to be a hundred feet long by sixty feet wide and was, like many Throne Rooms, opulent. The floors and walls were the finest cream and gold Italian marble, the ceiling was nearly forty feet high and decorated with elaborate frescos depicting Cuélebre and Asturian Wizards locked in immortal combat. Gold and crystal wall scones, filled with a shimmering white flame, cast light upon the room giving it a bright ambiance. Banners woven of spun and dyed Acromantula silk, prominently displaying the Torres Family's Osprey and the Asturian Cuélebre heraldry hung suspended at the back of the Throne Room, behind the dais. Exotic flowers growing out of gold gilded plant boxes suspended at middle height along the walls perfumed the air with an invigorating spicy scent.

A thick azure rug, half the size of the room itself, ran directly from the Throne Rooms doors to the foot of the dais. At the current room setting, the dais was set nearly two feet off the ground and took up about twenty feet. A pair of ornate thrones carved of rich Alder stood at the center of the dais, for the exclusive use of the Sovereign King and his Queen. A lesser paired set was for the use of the Hereditary Prince and Princess, but those were set five feet apart from the larger thrones. Padded benches had been arranged at an angle behind the sets of thrones for the use of other members of the Royal Family.

While Anastas was a Prince of Asturias, as he was not Trueborn nor appropriately acknowledged by Family and Country, tradition dictated that he enter the room from the front entrance like the members of Nobility or guests. His title allowed him to join his father and family on the dais but his lack of formal acknowledgement, made him go through a lot of pointless effort when it came to getting there. He had similar restrictions on entering the Formal Dining Room and the Royal Archives.

"Good Morning Lord Rufo," Anastas greeted the Royal Herald as he walked up the steps of the dais.

Lord Quincy Rufo, a handsome if somewhat stoic wizard, graced him with a half-bow. "Good Morning Prince Anastas."

Anastas bowed formally to his grandparents, "Good Morning Your Serene Highnesses,"

"Good Morning Anastas," Estavan greeted with humor dancing in his eyes.

Anastas exchanged greetings with his uncle and aunt and then retreated to sit next to his father. The courtiers milled about, gossiping as usual and the guards performed their usual patrols around the room. At an unspoken signal, Lord Rufo banged his ceremonial staff twice causing all chatter to die.

"His Grace Illarion Sokolov, Boyar of the 8th District of Russia, Head of the Sokolov Family of Russia. His Lordship Lyov Sokolov, Imperial Magistrate of the 8th District of Russia, Scion of the Sokolov Family. His Lordship Viktor Sokolov, Scion of the Sokolov Family."

Anastas narrowed his eyes slightly as he observed the three. Illarion was a tall, stern faced wizard who carried himself with a commanding and confident air. His black hair had long ago turned as gray as his eyes but he was as meticulous as ever with his appearance, his hair pulled neatly back, mustache neatly trimmed and his robes free of wrinkles. Behind him, his grandson Lyov was nearly a perfect mirror image of him, only being slightly broader in the shoulders and much younger. Viktor on the other hand had the same flaxen blond hair that Evaristo had received from his mother Anastasia, and had gray-blue eyes.

With well hidden disgust, Anastas averted his eyes as Illarion and Estavan greeted each other warmly, chattering away in a mix of Russian and Spanish. Lyov spoke, reminding the two of their presence and the rest of the formalities were quickly rushed through so the family could retire to their Private Receiving Room to talk away from the prying eyes of the Court. Anastas was greeted curtly, as he had expected and had answered similarly. In public, their distaste of each other was expertly hidden. Today especially, as it was the first public visit since last week's scandal was released to the masses.

For the next hour, he might as well have not bothered to remain at the Palacio as his presence was largely ignored by Illarion and Lyov. Viktor had only cast him a slightly pitying glance before being dragged into conversation with Alfonso about his Tour which would begin next month. Anastas was about to excuse himself when Illarion turned to Evaristo and inquired about White Peak Hall, the vast property he had dowered to his daughter before her marriage to Estavan. Evaristo had then inherited it from his mother after her death and had passed it to Anastas as one of his eventual holdings when he reached his majority.

"Have you visited White Peak Hall? It is a glorious sight in the winter."

"I'm afraid I have not had the opportunity this year dedushka. There has been much I have needed to attend to in Asturias."

Illarion frowned, "You refer to the priblooda, I imagine. Hmph, I wonder what your mother would think of that shhenok in her ancestral home." (1)

"I wish you were not so…antagonistic and disproving of my choice in son."

"I do not and could not disapprove of your choice in son; you are a Seer and could hardly choose wrongly. No, what I disapprove of is giving away your mother's home to a motherless mongrel of poor breeding!" Illarion spat, glaring at Anastas.

"Your words, as usual, only prove how hypocritical you are. For one who so greatly prides yourself on your illustrious breeding, your manners are quite terrible. While I may not be a Pureblooded Wizard any longer, at least none of my ancestors had their line broken. The Sokolov are quite cold blooded, is that not right? Was it not your ancestor Aristarkh who killed his uncle Timur to become Boyar? My blood may not be pure but at least it is not tainted by kin-slaying."

Illarion's face turned red and he was about to retort when Estavan quickly interceded.

"Anastas, are you not late for your meeting with Elder Asikis?"

"You know very well I do not have any more meetings with him, however I shall take the not so subtle hint and take my leave. There are, after all, far more pressing matters that require my attention." Anastas commented dryly before taking his leave, satisfied at having left the Boyar seething with rage at his remarks.

The guards standing near the doors shifted away from him as he calmly walked down the hall, his irritation quite discernable. What a bloody hypocrite! Anastas thought with a brief grimace. It was, of course, not the first time that his heritage had been belittled and he doubted it would be the last. No matter the time or place, it seemed the prejudices of Purebloods would remain the same.

Truthfully, he wasn't entirely sure what it was about the old Boyar that irritated him so much. It was not as though Anastas had not encountered other arrogant, hypocritical people before. Others, in their own way, had even had more right to insult him than his new Great-Grandfather.

As irritating as it had been to be so easily dismissed by Estavan, he could not blame the older man for wanting to keep the peace with his former father-in-law. Anastas was a double edged sword in the sense that he would either bring the Torres Family to new highs or possibly lead them into a downfall they may not recover from. The Torres', being of Royal blood, were used to being well spoken of and feared, Anastas on the other hand, truthfully could care less what sort of impression he made on others so long as they kept out of his way and could be bent to suit his needs when necessary. Of late, he had not conformed as much to the public mask of geniality that he had worn since his arrival in this new and strange world, and it was beginning to make the rest of the family wary. Evaristo had warned him that when he was distracted, he often released a subtle air of power that left outsiders feeling intimidated or outright fearful.

The Court was whispering about him again and Anastas found that he could care less what they thought of him. Someone clearly wanted to discredit him or get him killed outright and were spreading these rumors and nursing them, building more fear against him and his supposed future intentions. Now that Anastas had turned his full attention to training and studying more in depth for the future social gatherings he would have to attend, it seemed as if the saboteur was not content to wait until Midsummer. This saboteur, whether alone or a group of conspirators, were afraid that he would succeed in slaying the Cuélebre and that his loyalties would be irrefutably be proven innocent to all and sundry.

Someone wanted him discredited or dead and they were not so stupid as to try and use direct means to force either situation into coming into fruition. It was likely they had sent one of the attempts of kidnapping or attempted murder but he was almost certain that they were not working with the other outsiders. Asturias had been swept clear of spies and sleeper agents following the disastrous Christmas Eve Ball so that left the Court alone.

It was a chase that would prove to be long but Anastas looked forward to it. Voldemort was proving too elusive to catch but this idiot would be caught and when they were, Anastas would be all too happy to have a legitimate target to focus all his irritation and annoyance upon. Let them spread their rumors; let them work feverishly to turn all of Asturias or even the entire Wizarding World upon him if they had no other options. Anastas would endure the slurs and innuendos and then when he caught them, he would make them beg to be killed.

He took the quickest route out of the Palacio, eager to get back to finishing his true work. Social obligations could be damned for the moment, especially when they involved that hypocritical traditionalist! Ten minutes later, he stepped into one of the massive work rooms in the dungeons of Glitnir Hall.

Anastas walked around the workroom, checking the simmering cauldrons of liquid Whimsy Stone and the cold storage tanks where his molds were being solidified. While he could trust in the Cargenvens and the Liatos to properly forge his weapons, as they were experts in their respective crafts and heavily bound by magical contracts regarding secrecy, he fabricated his armor personally. He would trust no one with the formula for creating Whimsy Stone and armor fabrication was simple enough, if time consuming.

Experience in several hundred skirmishes and outright battles, had led him to perfect a seven layered armor. The first layer was made of Graphorn hide, which was tougher than dragon hide and spell resistant. The second and fourth layers were rectangular plates of Whimsy Stone held in place by Acromantula silk, pre-woven into the finest, strongest mesh. Leather padding made up the third and fifth layers, followed by a sixth layer of Graphorn hide, and the seventh and final layer, was made of a priceless Nundu fur skin.

This armor was designed specifically to absorb all magical and physical attacks and since he'd begun fabricating his armor, no spells or weapons had ever survived both layers of Whimsy Stone. Originally, he had worn a six layered armor but a single encounter with a talented Potions Master had revealed a weakness he had not anticipated. All potions were rendered useless due to the Whimsy Stone leeching out the magical properties of the magical ingredients. That however did not make the remaining ingredients inert and had led to the creation of an acid that had eaten through the Acromantula silk and the Graphorn hide.

After that valuable lesson, Anastas had spent a veritable fortune to buy a Nundu fur skin. Nundus, being creatures that literally breathed pestilence, had a natural immunity to all types of bacteria and chemicals. Thus the seventh layer of his armor protected him from any strange potion remnants. It had taken his shadow agents nearly a month to locate a dealer who had two full Nundu fur skins that were perfectly preserved. Anastas had never been so relieved to have full possession over his Lund vaults as the purchase cost him two million Galleons.

During his time on the island, he had crafted a set to be worn on a day to day basis, which would also not limit his wings. It had been a vexing challenge as he could not completely protect his back without impeding the movement of his wings but he was satisfied. Altogether, it was somewhat heavy to wear but it was a familiar weight that he had actually missed. Granduncle Silvio had told him that he had an obvious broad and slightly bulky appearance now that he had taken to wearing it underneath his robes but Anastas would rather re-size his wardrobe to accommodate the armor than go without it.

The armor he was working on now was a formal, full set of armor, one that would be seen by the public and worn on occasions that merited it. He had started with fabricating a torso piece first and then proceeded to leggings and arm guards. It would take another sixty or seventy hours to finish the boots, gloves and numerous belt pieces to be wrapped along outer seams for full body coverage. After he completed his formal set of armor, he had agreed to make sets for his Family as well. All of them would be sworn to secrecy about the true nature of the armor he crafted and for Anastas, that was enough.

Unfortunately he would not have enough time to complete any pieces for his armor, as he had other obligations in the next two hours, so he would have to turn his attention to taking inventory of the raw materials he had purchased to outfit his Guard. At the end of the previous year, he had claimed the Adamantine mined during the last quarter of production to outfit his Guard with swords and arrows. Arrangements had been made with the Lafayette, Li, Najafian and Moreno Families for more wood, magical creature goods and rare magical ingredients. Outfitting his Guard with weapons had proved to be a costly endeavor and there were still armor, clothing and other general living supplies that would need to be purchased.

By his estimations, he would have exactly a month to get his Guard fully kitted out by the time they would make their first full appearance to the public at his first Soiree Ball in April. It would be a tight, aggravating month but he was sure it could be done.

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Private Receiving Room

Palacio d'Asturies, Oviedo, Asturias

Sunday the 2nd of March 1975

10:22 AM

No one looked pleased to be gathered today, though Anastas could not blame them for that. There were many subjects that would need to be discussed and few would be pleasant.

"What have you discovered?" Tiziana asked sipping a glass of wine.

"The only good discovery we have made this week was that Lady Magda was indeed involved in the whole sordid mess. Nothing can be done for Cyril or Ramona, the law is clear on this, but at least Magda will lose everything for what she has wrought."

Ariadne sighed heavily, "When will they be executed?"

"At the end of this month, to wait longer would be cruel."

There was a moment of silence.

"What are we going to do now?"

Silvio frowned, "Estavan and I have agreed that it would be best to wait at least five years before naming a new Warlord Presumptive. During this time, we will evaluate the current Generals and any other worthy candidates. This scandal could not have come at a worse time to be truthful but in a way it was inevitable. If only Cyril had mentioned something, then we might have had the time to make other arrangements but he kept silent and now he will pay the price of such foolishness."

"Aside from the Generals, who else are you considering?" Alfonso asked curiously.

Several gazes locked onto Anastas, though no words were spoken. Of late, the newest addition to the family had not conformed as much to the public mask of geniality that he presented in public. His brusqueness, obvious absorption in his own thoughts, and frequent absences were beginning to make the rest of the family feel uneasy. Almost all of them had noticed that when Anastas was distracted, as he often was these days, he unconsciously released a tiny fraction of power that left outsiders feeling intimidated. The change had been noticeable, leading many to wonder what exactly occurred during his training at the Asikis Hall.

Anastas, who had been staring out the window, answered. "I will make no promises."

"We are aware of that but you would have the majority of the abilities required to be Warlord Presumptive. Five years from now you will be nearly eighteen and in ten you will be close to twenty-three, a suitable age to become Warlord. You would be a far safer choice than one of the Generals."

"The future is uncertain. I will consider it but as you know, there are other concerns that I must attend to." Anastas replied glancing over his shoulder at them, his eyes filled with a light that caused shivers to crawl up their spines.

Silvio nodded and then turned his attention to the room at large. "Due to the circumstances, there will be several changes to the regular security details around the Palacio and other estates. In addition to that certain projects that Cyril was overseeing will need to be reassigned to appropriate parties. I will arrange individual meetings to take place later this week to let everyone know the changes."

"You will not have to reassign my projects, I will finish them personally." Anastas stated, mentally shifting his schedule in his head.

"Are you certain you can handle all of that?"

"Truthfully, I had intended to add my own protections around Glitnir anyway so Cyril's absence will have little impact, especially as his are mostly completed. I will have to cut back on a few other matters but none of them have high priority so there will be no problems."

"Will you still be able to begin the alteration to the Palacio?"

Anastas nodded, "The initial renovations will begin on the first of April, as originally planned."

"Very well, if you have difficulties you may consult me at a later time." Silvio agreed before beginning to list all the changes in security around the Palacio. When he finished, the discussion turned to the reactions made by the public and other foreign entities after the scandal. Thirty minutes later, the topic shifted back to the major social obligations taking place in the spring, the highlight being the wedding of Elvira and Eloise.

"The preparations for the ceremony will not be disturbed thankfully and we've agreed upon the participants, the guest list, the menu, the music company and the music, the decorations, and the party favors. We'll be having several designers here on the weekend of the 15th to see samples. All of you will be present of course," Eloise explained eyes bright.

Estavan sighed, "Who have you narrowed the choices down to so far?"

"For robes Eloise and I insisted on having the Genesis line of the Liatos fashion house, Mother invited Calogero Carrara, Baldassare's family would prefer Travanti and Miles has no particular preferences. The jewelers that were invited are Smethwick, Vargas and Lebrun."

Guiomar scowled. "We don't have to be there both days do we?"

"Only for a few hours," Elvira promised.

"That's good, I can only spare you a few hours that weekend anyway." Anastas replied with relief.

Eloise rolled her eyes. "Not that it matters, you aren't the least bit picky about what you wear."

"As long as it fits and is appropriate for the occasion it is worn, all clothing is the same no matter what name is emblazoned upon the collar."

"Men," Eloise muttered with annoyance.

"If it were a practical matter like armor or ritual clothing, it would be a different matter but I don't particularly see the point in making a fuss over an outfit I'll wear once in my life."

Evaristo sighed as the women in the room almost instantly pounced on his son, lecturing him on the importance of clothing, weddings and the like. How could he have survived as long as he had and not known never to provoke women during wedding preparations?

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Luarca, Asturias

Tuesday the 4th of March 1975

10:12 PM

Anastas strolled along the stone paths of a desolate garden, snow falling in a steady flurry around him. He had little problems navigating in the darkness, partly because he was so familiar with the abandoned garden and partly because of his great vision.

He had had little time to himself the past month, what with so much needing to be done in preparation for the eventual Anterior Courtship Rituals and the selection of the Lund Guard. So the short hour he walked this abandoned garden was the only time he had to himself where he did not have to mask his every expression and could brood as freely as he wished without curious eyes observing.

Fanned around him in a large dome were his therapontes, constantly observing and interacting with the world around them. They were invaluable, both as invisible spies and as foci for his Harpy abilities. What he lacked in natural aptitude, they more than made up for simply by their inherent nature.

They let out a wordless cry and in seconds Anastas was ready.

:: Bombard them and then Weigh them down. I will do the rest. :: Anastas ordered as his wings burst from his back.

His therapontes did as instructed, combining their powers to blast his enemies away and off their feet before shifting their powers to make them slow under the weight of an invisible force. While they did that, Anastas used his Wind affinity to lighten the air resistance around him enhancing his speed as he drew a pair of daggers from his boots. A quick consultation with his therapontes gave him the approximate number of attackers, their location and their individual conditions.

Two of them he cut down before they staggered to their feet and a third was mortally injured before a fourth set upon him with a knife. Anastas dodged a stab, taking a light graze along his left bicep. The heated stinging from the wound alerted him to the fact that it was poisoned, a fact that did not surprise him. Annoyed and uncertain how long it would take his parasite to combat the poison, if he wasn't immune to it already; Anastas gave his therapontes a curt order.

:: Lock them into Stasis, put them under Knockout, and Drain them of magic. The Sword bearer should be here shortly. ::

While his therapontes carried out his orders, Anastas ripped off the remains of his coat and shirt. A quick spell allowed him to get a better glimpse of his injury and he deemed it fairly harmless. He couldn't feel any effects from the poison affecting his body and the bleeding was already beginning to slow down.

- A paralyzing poison which you already have immunity to. -

Anastas did not reply to the comment, already loosely binding the injury. Normally he'd have just healed it but if he had proof of an attack, then it was all the better when it came time to press a formal investigation.

A loud crack signaled the arrival of his father's Guardsmen, who arrived in three eight man squads. Captain Renaldo, recognizable in the dim lighting by his helmet, quickly signaled his men to surround the downed figures as he headed directly to Anastas.

"Are you injured Prince Anastas?"

"A minor wound only Captain. When my therapontes finish Draining them of their magic, I will have them release the Stasis and you may collect them for questioning."

Captain Renaldo nodded, "Understood. Have you tended to your wound?"

"No, I thought it best to have it tended by a Healer so a formal report may be written. The bleeding has slowed so I am in no danger."

:: It is done Master. ::

:: Release the Stasis and allow the Sword bearers to collect them. Two will follow and Observe. Take action only to suppress them if they attempt escape or suicide. ::

Anastas gestured for Captain Renaldo to continue and the Guardsmen set to work striping the hooded figures of their weapons and then Binding them. The wind shifted and Anastas became aware of being under Observation. Without a moment's hesitation he struck out, encasing the trespassing therapontes in solid confining balls of magic. The Guardsmen all tensed as one, the dim light replaced by the bright light of his magic.

Anastas narrowed his eyes as he turned, quickly evaluating them. They were all Air therapontes unsurprisingly and none of them belonged to any of the Harpies he had come into contact with. Not that the Gravari or Asikis Harpies would have slighted him by sending their therpontes to spy on him.

"You will tell your Masters that I do not appreciate being spied upon. The next time I catch foreign therapontes in Asturias or my established territories again, none of you will survive the experience. Begone!" Anastas commanded, banishing them just outside the borders of Asturias.

Caged as the therapontes were, they could do nothing but wait until they were retrieved and then, Anastas would know just who had dared to spy on him.

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The Wastes, Atlantis

Wednesday the 5th of March 1975

6:38 PM

Thousands of years ago the Wastes had been an untarnished territory of Atlantis, famed for its rich farmland and sprawling, open land that stretched into the horizon. After the cataclysmic Maelstorm that had erupted from the capital, all due to a domino effect of magical experiments gone wrong, vast stretches of Atlantis alternately sank or were twisted. In its present form Atlantis was made up of four islands.

To the east was the second largest island known simply as Haven. It was covered by a lush tropical rainforest inhabited by the most vicious beasts and exotic plants a person could imagine. It was said that the variety of life that thrived there was greater than the Amazonian rainforests and best of all, it was entirely magical. Herbologists, Potions Masters, and Magical Creature experts all around the world visited the island year round to study its subjects.

The northernmost island was the only island of Atlantis where food and goods were grown and produced. Its most famous export was Atlantean Glass, which always had a vibrant rainbow-like sheen.

In the center of the three larger islands was a small crescent shaped island known simply as Hades' Veil. No life existed on the island; the earth was hard as rock and its ambiance was unsettling. Soaked in magic, it was a strip of barren land that was a boundary between the physical world and the numerous realms that lay beyond. Many wizards and witches, and the occasional Magical Being, came to the island but none of them could stay longer than a few hours before fleeing. While no actual animal or being manifested on the island, a person could not help but feel something watching and weighing them and that constant observation only grew until night fell and it became unbearable. No one claimed to have visited the island at night and rumors were that anyone foolish enough to do so vanished, devoured by that omniscient presence.

The largest of the islands was called the Wastes and lay to the far southwest. The Wastes had borne the brunt of the Maelstorm and as such, was the most changed. Rich green farmland was twisted into barren steppes and ragged, arid mountains. Only the strong survived in the Wastes, which quickly became home to the Lords of the Illicit. They numbered seven and controlled a vast organization that spanned the majority of the Wizarding World.

The Lord of Flesh was a sadist that peddled prostitutes and slaves, the Lord of Spies commanded a network of information that had caused the greatest empires to fall, and the Lord of Pirates had an entire armada of white ships that smuggled illegal cargo as their counterparts the black ships robbed seafaring vessels. Blue robed minions of the Lord of Wisdom horded their forbidden and lost knowledge like mother lionesses protected their young, the servants of the Lord of Thieves kept his treasury overflowing with priceless treasure, and the green robed minions of the Lord of Synergy created concoctions that meted out death, life and all stages in between. Finally the loyal servants of the Lord of Death numbered twofold; those who plied their skill in the art of killing and those who could command the restless spirits of the dead and the creatures who existed beyond the physical world.

Without question the seven Lords ruled the Wastes and those who lived within its boundaries. All who were born to the Wastes were their subjects and lived by their laws. Since the announcement of the forthcoming recruiting of the Lund Guard, the Lords of the Wastes had gathered their soldiers to hold a competition. The winner would have the honor of leaving the misbegotten Wastes and their Lord's service. All the men had fought viciously to earn that honor but then, anyone who grew up in the Wastes would have done the same. The only way to leave the Wastes was on assignment, earning your freedom, or death. Few Lords would allow the men in their service to leave with their secrets, so any who could be suspected of conspiring to leave were killed.

Blood was splattered all over the flat sandy ground. Torches and a ring of men watched eagerly on the sidelines as the two final combatants fought. One of them was a grizzled veteran who had served Alwyn, Lord of Thieves, for close to thirty years, and the other was Dryhus, youngest son of Dmitar, Lord of Pirates.

Sweat and blood dripped from both men who slowly circled each other, looking for the slightest weakness and an opening in their opponent's guard. The two were exhausted and battered having fought consecutively for the last week to earn their positions but their eyes were both alight with a feverish want. Freedom was worth any price.

A slight shift in the older wizard's stance was the only warning Dryhus had but it was enough. He parried the sword slice, dodged a Bludgeoning Curse, and closed in on his opponent. They exchanged a few punches and kicks, Dryhus disengaging quickly with a twist of his body and then it was over. His opponent was dead before he hit the floor, a single blade thrust into his spinal column.

The crowd of onlookers howled their approval at his brutal action but Dryhus ignored them as he recovered his blade and cleaned it. Turning, he walked to the tent the Lords of the Wastes were sitting under. Without looking at them he knelt before them and awaited their judgment.

"He did well," A silky tenor commented.

A raspy chuckle, "A pity really, I had hopes to trade one of my girls for him."

Dryhus mentally shuddered; the Lord of Flesh loved nothing more than breaking his toys.

"This is your youngest son Dmitar?"

"Yes, this is Dryhus." His father answered the Thief Lord gruffly.

"Whelped him from that girl you stole off the Moroccan frigate, if I remember correctly?"

Dmitar smiled faintly, "I'm surprised you remember Lord of Flesh but then, you bought the sister didn't you?"

"It's a shame she died in childbirth, the spitfire was worth every scratch."

Some of the Lords laughed while Dryhus remained utterly still.

"Well your boy won and proved himself worthy of freedom. Do you think he stands any chance of earning rank with the Guard?" The Lord of Spies inquired, turning attention back to the matter at hand.

"He grew up in the barracks and was on his first ship when he was ten. My son is as prepared as any of the other formally trained applicants. What's more important is that he's got the experience. Knowledge is worth shit unless you know how to use it." Dmitar answered matter of fact.

The Lord of Thieves hummed his approval. "That's good then. We wouldn't want to send a bad offering to the Prince now would we?"

"He's a Harpy; all he's interested in is fighting. As long as your son puts on a good show, he's in." The Lord of Wisdom interjected, her fingers absently stroking the cover of a heavy tome that she was rarely seen without.

"I do not think it will be that simple. Your son may infiltrate the ranks but I do not think we will get much information from him. There is that Unbreakable Vow to consider." The Lord of Death reminded them.

Dmitar sighed, "Let us worry about that when that time comes. Dryhus you are to go to your rooms for the evening and will be presented with your winnings tomorrow. I'll remove the collar the day before you leave."

"As you wish, Lord." Dryhus answered as he got to his feet and walked away.

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Clowes Manor, Brittany, France

Saturday the 8th of March 1975

9:37 AM

Maugier Clowes had been the Patriarch of the Clowes Family for fifty-seven years, had been the late King Thibault's closest friend and advisor, and was Godfather of the current monarch, Queen Marie.

The Clowes Family was the first Pureblood Family in France to be granted a Dukedom outside of the Royal Family. They had been among the foremost strategists and front line commanders during the war against Grindlewald and the few Clowes that survived were viewed with great honor and respect. Rightly so in his opinion, they had paid a most bitter price in service to their King and Country.

The Clowes Patriarch had no remaining Heirs, having lost all three of his sons and all five of his grandsons during Grindelwald's War. There were no chances to sire a new Heir either as he had taken a Sterility Hex in the months before Grindlewald began his campaign. Maugier would be celebrating his hundredth birthday this year and would announce his selection of Heir at that time as well.

He had never felt so bitter in all his years.

That his Family, the most highly esteemed in all of Magical France, had been brought so low was both a blow to his pride and a mistake he would take to his grave. With no Trueborn male Heirs left, Maugier's only option was to formally Adopt an Heir. He needed a prospective Heir that was still young enough to be properly trained and not already Heir to a Family.

His daughters' offspring had not proven themselves worthy so he had been forced to search among his brothers' children but again, he found no one worthy. So many years he had spent searching for an appropriate Heir and now he had found the last link. His sister Perrine had married into the American Gundersons and her oldest daughter, his niece Ragna, had married Tiberius Malfoy. The Malfoys were Pureblooded although they were not nearly as established but most importantly, there were two possible Heirs among their line.

The oldest was fourteen year old Lucius Malfoy, second son of the current Patriarch Abraxas Malfoy. Andrew Malfoy was twelve years old and the youngest son of Vitus Malfoy, whose father Severin had been brother to the previous Patriarch Hadrian.

Today he would meet with Lucius and evaluate his worth, though he had little hope that he would be suitable. What information he had gathered had led him to the impression that Lucius, while intelligent and observant, had more ambition than sense. Lucius' interest in the Lund-Torres heir was expected but a mostly pointless endeavor with his current standing. It would take someone with an elite pedigree and even better magic to capture such a prestigious alliance. Normally Maugier could respect such ambition but in this case, he was uncertain whether to blame such ambitions on immaturity or character flaw. The former could be tempered with careful schooling and growth but the latter was almost always irreversible.

Maugier would have an Heir but he wanted to work with the best material, only then could he help sculpt an Heir that would revive the Clowes Family and bring them back to the glory they had had in his prime. That was the only goal he had and he would endure another twenty years or more to see it fulfilled.

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Lucius stepped out of the Thestral pulled carriage and looked up at the colossal stone fortress in front of him. Since its construction in the early Thirteenth century it had served as the ancestral home of one of the oldest Pureblood Families in France. He could barely believe that he had been summoned here and he was, for the first time in his life, extremely nervous. He had been pushing himself to his limits and beyond them for the last few weeks but this summons had not been something he had expected to receive.

In retrospect, it may not have been anything he could have expected. It was extremely rare for a Patriarch to look for an Heir outside of the paternal line after all. If the Clowes Patriarch had not found a suitable Heir among his daughters' children it would have been more than likely that one of his brothers' children would have suited. For the Patriarch to continue searching meant that he was looking for something specific and Lucius could only hope that he had whatever it was the powerful Patriarch was looking for.

Taking a deep breath, Lucius quickly straightened his robes and then approached the grand double doors. They swung open before he could even touch them and a House Elf dressed in a violet and silver pillowcase quickly divested him of his fur lined cloak and gloves. Another House Elf quickly led him through the cavernous halls until they arrived in front of a pair of ornately carved doors. The doors swung open and Lucius stepped inside.

It was a study, he would guess. There were bookshelves along the left wall, a massive chestnut desk directly in front of him and several windows along the right wall with wooden benches under them. Two plush armchairs covered in supple calfskin sat in front of a fireplace to the right of the door. Sitting in one of the chairs was a silver haired wizard wearing dark blue robes and looking at him with piercing violet eyes.

Lucius immediately bowed, "Good Morning your Grace, I thank you for your invitation to call upon you at your home."

"Monsieur Malfoy I hope you have had a pleasant journey, please join me here by the fire." Maugier greeted, gesturing at the chair opposite him.

Once Lucius was seated, the older wizard offered him his choice of beverage and then summoned a House Elf. A few minutes later, both of the wizards held a glass of red wine and were discussing polite necessities. After the necessities were set aside, Maugier settled down to begin properly evaluating the young wizard in front of him.

"What would you say is your greatest ambition?"

Lucius didn't hesitate. "It is my greatest desire to marry Anastas Lund-Torres and I have been working very hard in preparation for the Anterior Courtship Trials."

Maugier was slightly surprised, though he hid it well. "May I ask why that is your greatest ambition?"

"It goes without saying that for someone of my current rank to win the hand of a Prince of the Blood would be very difficult. I have known Anastas since the previous summer and our acquaintance has deepened during our shared time at Hogwarts. Over the past four or so months I have developed feelings beyond mere friendship for him and would like to not only pursue those feelings but have a long lasting relationship with him."

Maugier gazed at him thoughtfully. "We Clowes are a Noble family and with that come many responsibilities. My sons and grandsons died in service to our monarch and our country, and a great many others were lost in the War. It takes a great Patriarch to lead his Family during War and an even greater one to bring it back from the brink of destruction. I have spent over thirty years looking for an Heir and rebuilding the foundations of my Family. Our power has never been diminished but our influence has considerably suffered a blow as there are few of us to manage the Court intrigues."

"If you pass the Anterior Courtship Rituals, you must still pass Courtship Rituals and that means a great deal more interaction with the Asturian Royal Family and its Court. Alliances play a great importance in Court intrigues but you lack the training to survive such situations and while I may offer that training I do not know if being Heir to the Clowes will aid you or if you, will aid us. The Sovereign Prince was clever. He enacted the Amello Clause to test the potential suitors; those who were too overeager will make mistakes and can be more easily eliminated. The truly worthy suitors will spend years passing each stage of Courtship until only a select few are left and by that time, they will have proven themselves beyond a doubt."

Lucius was unsurprised by the older wizard's evaluation; he himself had suspected something similar.

"I have but one question for you Lucius, how long are you willing to wait and what are you willing to sacrifice?"

"I will wait as long as it takes and I will sacrifice everything for this chance."

Maugier studied the younger wizard intently and liked what he saw so far. "A daring gamble, some might say but…one that I can admire. Tell me more about your plans."

Lucius relaxed minutely and began to explain his intentions in depth.

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The Prison Block

Glasir Castle, Sweden

Tuesday the 10th of March 1975

7:56 PM

Kiyan had never questioned his decision to serve the League of Seers and Prophets but now he was having serious misgivings. Ozan had warned them before they left that none of the previous operatives had survived the initial conflict and now he was wishing the same could be said of his own team. They had been a veteran team, experienced in combat and a few even had experience as captives but that was no preparation for what lay in wait.

They had been first taken to the Royal Prison in Asturias where they had been stripped of their weapons and clothing and questioned. As service to the League required, they had all had their tongues cut out and were well trained in Occulmency and had resistance to most potions. After four pointless days, they had been transferred again.

At first they had not known where or who would be in charge of them. They had awoken in clean cells with limited necessities. Food arrived at random intervals and they seemed to be alone in this prison. Kiyan had known then that death was coming. This isolation was the first indication of it.

Last night the almost frightening silence had been broken with the sounds of guttural screams that went on and on. Kiyan had wondered at the agony that took place and was uncertain whether to be relieved when the screams ended or afraid. It wasn't long after the first set of screams died that another set began and so it had gone, hour after hour.

The door to his cell swung open and he was dragged to his feet and out of the cell by an invisible force. He was thrown at last into a brightly lit room, empty of furniture and common torture devices one might expect. It was clean, not a speck of blood or hint of dirt marred the smooth stone floor and walls. Kiyan calmly got to his feet and prepared himself for what was would most likely be the most painful and last hours of his life.

A figure stepped out of the northernmost wall, one that Kiyan was very familiar with. It was the Vega, the youth that Ozan had ordered him to capture.

"You are the last. All your comrades have perished but not without giving me all that I sought. You will be honored to know that they viewed you as unbreakable so it will bring me much pleasure to remedy that belief."

Then without any warning something surged into him and he collapsed to his knees, the sensation of being torn asunder filling every part of his body. The farther the pain spread so too did the sense of invasion. Dual sensations of fiery pain and ice cold Other cycled around and around inside his body and his mind for an eternity. When the presence faded the husk of flesh and blood that had once been Kiyan lay limply on the ground, only the subtle rise and fall of its breath indicating that it was alive.

Anastas stepped forward and lay his hand on the body. The hairs on his arm raised as he 'felt' his parasite flow back into his body, bringing with it all the memories and knowledge of the body it had just invaded. After a few moments of absorbing the new information, Anastas sighed.

"I hate Seers and their bloody Prophecies almost more than I hated Voldemort. Now I learn that there's an entire league of them banded together and working towards a common cause! That, surely, is a vast difference between this world and the original."

- It is strange that they would challenge you again after so many months of inaction. I wonder if something has not changed that frightens them enough to take such risk. - The parasite commented thoughtfully.

"I have done nothing and merely chose to bide my time. What possible danger is there in that?"

A chuckle fanned across the back of his neck. - There is always danger when one seeks that most mutable thing called information. It is a capricious thing, as it is often shaped by the one that collects it and is further twisted by the interpretation of others. There are few single truths that can remain unchangeable even by interpretation. -

Anastas frowned. "Perhaps. This is an opportunity I cannot pass. Copy a small portion of yourself and ride that husk back to the League's Headquarters, I think I shall send them a gift."

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The Anteroom

Glitnir Hall, Sweden

Wednesday the 11th of March 1975

9:00 AM

- I never thought I would see the day where you could be so vain! -

Anastas idly shifted in place, ignoring the soft murmur of conversation and the noise of the sketching. - This isn't about vanity. -

Fingers ghosted along his naked back. - Then why go to such efforts for such a fleeting immortalization? I offer you much grander things for little to no price. -

- Indeed, after all my body and what tatters of my soul remain, have very little value in the grand scheme of life. - Anastas retorted dryly.

Hands gripped his hips lightly before they trailed around to caress his stomach. - I could not have said it better myself! Still, you haven't answered my question. -

Anastas stretched, pulling away from the hands exploring his body. - Humans, as you should very well know, are obsessed with time as every minute brings them closer to death. You've told me many times how you devoured those that sought your unimaginable powers. They may not have known what powers you could have granted them but they didn't care because they wanted one thing and one thing only-- a legacy that would never be forgotten. I can honestly say that I have left an irrevocable mark upon the world we departed, one perhaps that even time may not have been able to heal. -

- So? -

- Times were dire then, and I had little thought beyond the next battle. As things are different, I would like to have some sort of record which I may look back upon. -

- Wouldn't a journal work best? Then you can be as candid as you'd like without fear. -

Anastas sighed softly. - A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. Mortality is precious because it is fleeting and humans have immortalized it in pictures, words, and songs, for thousands of years. I may not be mortal any longer but my mindset has not changed overmuch. -

"Prince Anastas? We will end the session for today." A curly haired Liatos artist commented, bringing him out of his thoughts.

"Very well, the next session is tomorrow evening correct? Perhaps you could do some sketches while I have my evening training at the Palacio?"

The artist smiled, "We will have the session wherever you think best, Prince Anastas."

"Then tomorrow evening I will expect your party at the Palacio. Thank you for your efforts today."

"I think it is I who should be thanking you for offering us this opportunity."

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Number 12 Grimmauld Place

Saturday the 15th of March 1975

5:00 PM

Orion lingered in the foyer of his townhouse, waiting for the last of his guests to arrive. He had been very happy to see his old friend accept the offer to join his dinner party. Walburga and he usually hosted two or three of these parties a month and had decided at the New Year to invite a broader list of guests.

The Malfoys had been invited of course, Abraxas and Constantine of the primary line and Vitus of the secondary line. Cuthbert and Tancred Peverell had also agreed to attend, which was something of a coup. The Rosier brothers, Daniel and Eloy, were in attendance with their families. Macmillian and Prince brought their passel of shrewish daughters and dignified sons, though Orion often wondered how it was that the Half-blooded boys possessed more power and manners than the Pureblooded girls.

Aside from those close family friends, Orion had invited several of his acquaintances from the Ministry. Included among them was Minister Bones' immediate Family and that of his brother Edgar, Morgan Potter of the Aurors, Lionel Potter of the International Magical Cooperation Department, the Arquettes of the Department of Mysteries, and the Bagnolds of the Department of Magical Transportation. Invitations had also been sent to several Foreign Ambassadors, though only the German and Italian Ambassadors had accepted.

Altogether they had a total of sixty-three guests, twenty-seven of which were unspoken for.

A knock at the door brought Orion out of his musing. Kreacher, his wife's favored House-elf, opened it and admitted their final two guests. Evaristo was dressed in royal blue robes with a silver shirt and black slacks underneath, while Anastas wore dark green robes with an ivory shirt and gray slacks. The older wizard wore his long hair in a braid while Anastas wore part of his hair braided and tied back in place with a long chain of silver studded with clear Siphon Gems.

"Good evening," Orion greeted as he stepped forward.

Evaristo smiled widely, "Good evening to you too Orion, you're looking well. How have you been since I last saw you?"

"I have been well, and you?"

"My health has been wonderful but the last several weeks have been very draining and quite mentally stressful. Ah well, I doubt it's going to get any better." Evaristo answered frankly.

Orion chuckled and turned his gray eyes to Anastas. "How have you been Anastas?"

"I am quite well, thank you for inquiring."

"Let us join the rest of the guests then," Orion said as he led the two back to the large Drawing room.

It took close to an hour before all the introductions were finished with and the two Royals would be allowed to mingle freely. Anastas joined his two friends while his father was quickly engaged in a conversation with Orion Black, Abraxas Malfoy, Morgan Potter, and Lavante Frassetto.

"Are you accepting invitations already?" Lucius inquired curiously.

"We are attending general functions but we can't accept any private functions until after the April Courtship Ball."

Severus frowned, "What falls under the category of 'general function'?"

Anastas looked amused, "Anything that cannot be viewed as an attempt to monopolize my attentions by an approved suitor. Basically, as long as it's not anything that would require a chaperone or an escort, it is suitable."

"Hmm, there's a lot of leeway then."

"Unfortunately but what is done is done. I can evaluate potential suitors informally while the Trials will weed them out appropriately. As much trouble as all of this is going to cause, I highly doubt that I'll settle on someone within the first year."

Severus looked amused. "Going to take after your father?"

"Not really, I'm just not interested. I'm not lacking for money, assets, influence, power, or companionship so why bother rushing? Let them come to me if they want, I'm not going to actively pursue things I have no interest in." Anastas explained simply.

"Well said!" Evan Rosier applauded as he came up behind Severus and Lucius.

"It's merely the truth,"

"You're a lucky devil, not having to worry about minor things like the rest of us. Though in the end, your Family is going to give you the most trouble. They'll want you to make the best connections possible and they won't allow you to settle for anything less than that."

Anastas shrugged, "I already know that and I have more than enough alternate measures in place to deal with that eventuality when it arises. I've even got a lovely little plan that ought to cut half the number of those who pass the Anterior Courtship Rituals."

"Oh, do tell," Evan asked with a grin.

"If I told you, I'd have to kill you." Anastas answered with a smile that did little to hide the utter seriousness of his statement.

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Dinner was a lively affair. Anastas could only wonder whether it had been Orion or Walburga who had come up with the seating arrangement. His father had been seated at Orion's left and he some eight chairs down and surrounded by adults. To his left was Katherine Arquette the Head of the Department of Mysteries, to his right was Constantine Malfoy who was a chairman on the Council for Experimental Charms, and directly across from him was Cuthbert Peverell, a Charms Master and a Wizengamot member for both the British and German Ministries.

"So do tell Prince Anastas, what are you plans for the year?" Cuthbert asked bluntly.

Anastas was amused with the man's honesty, everyone had attempted to gauge his plans all evening in more subtle ways and he had been as evasive in return. "My plans are many and varied Patriarch, perhaps if you were more…specific?"

Cuthbert smiled slowly, "How about your plans regarding the Anterior Courtship Rituals scheduled to be conducted this Season? Is that specific enough?"

Anastas laughed. "My plans are simple. The formal Ball to open Anterior Courtship Rituals is scheduled for Saturday April 19th, trials have been slated to occur for the entireties of the months of May, August, and November. The Trials I have chosen will cull the number of suitors to a more manageable number, after that I will personally evaluate the remaining suitors and, should I find one worthy, accept a proposal for marriage. I doubt that such a proposal will be accepted this year and in fact, I am certain that the Amello Clause my Grandfather enacted will never actually be put to use. I have the world at my fingertips and Harpy blood in my veins, there's no need to rush by any means."

Constantine smiled, gray eyes approving. "I imagine that you have focused most of your time into preparing for the test that awaits you this Midsummer?"

"My preparations have not increased or decreased dramatically. I train daily each day I am capable of such rigorous exercise. In my heart there is no fear and no doubt, I will slay the Cuélebre."

"A daunting task," Katherine commented. "It has been several hundred years since one was last slain."

"Do not mistake my son's words for arrogance or youthful naivety, madam." Evaristo said, cutting into the conversation. "There are few who drive themselves to excel in all things, no matter the effort or obstacles. My son is one of them. I do not lie when I say that someday, should he desire it, Anastas may earn the right to wield the Sword of Asturias."

Anastas chuckled, "You are assuming father, that I would want the position."

Lavante raised his eyebrows curiously, "To be the Warlord of Asturias is a position of great power and prestige."

"You suggest then, that I lack power and prestige?"

There were a few chuckles as the Italian Ambassador backpedaled hastily.

"No, that is not what I am implying at all! I merely point out that such a position has special honors."

"I do not dismiss those honors lightly, Ambassador. Prestigious as it is, only one who loves Asturias with the entirety of their heart would serve that position well. While I have been welcomed there and it is a beautiful place, it is not the home of my heart."

Cuthbert raised an eyebrow inquiringly. "Then where would you say your heart lies? Sweden? France? Greece?"

"I do not know as of yet, Patriarch. The world is a vast place and I have not had the pleasure of taking in all the marvelous sights."

"My nephew says that you have not returned to Hogwarts to complete your schooling this year, what then, are you doing with your time?" Constantine asked curiously.

"There are things I must learn that are not taught in a classroom and so I have chosen to pursue those lessons instead. With the forthcoming Season approaching, I will not be lacking in social obligations either. I thought it best to accustom myself to the busy schedule this year so that I might continue my magical education next year without issue."

Katherine nodded approvingly, "A wise decision. What is your opinion on the proposed Muggle Security Laws the IMC is championing?"

"Well, I personally think that…"

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Glitnir Hall, Sweden

Saturday the 15th of March 1975

11:19 PM

Anastas found no peace in the elaborate indoor gardens of Glitnir Hall, though he knew such a thing was impossible. The Ides of March was slowly but surely creeping up and all the memories he had of the accursed fifteenth day were bloody and bleak. He was not fit for company and had balked initially at having to attend Orion Black's dinner but had gone regardless.

Now he was alone in his fortress, his only company a bottle of mostly empty Firewhisky, a Parseltongue speaking parasite, and his ugly memories of the accursed day. It was never too early to get drunk but he was cutting it awfully close on this occasion.

Today was the only day his parasite and he ever got along. For Anastas, it was the only day he relied entirely upon the aid of his parasite to get through the accursed day, mind intact. He couldn't be sure what the other made of this day but it was an unspoken agreement on both their parts simply to leave their differences behind them, if only for a day.

One of the worst battles in the entire war had occurred on the fifteenth of March, just a few weeks after he had gone to Rasha'ule. It was easily the bloodiest, most horrific battle he'd engaged in at the time. Five hundred Death Eaters and nearly four hundred dark creatures had fought against a hundred Order members and nearly a thousand Aurors from several Ministries.

The battle had raged all afternoon and when the sun set, a literal army of Redcaps and other unsavory magical creatures surged onto the battlefield, attracted by the blood and death that had taken place. At that point, both sides had had little choice but to abandon the fight and try to destroy the mass of bloodthirsty creatures. It hadn't helped any that the Dementors had decided to betray Voldemort and had started Kissing whoever they could capture in the confusion. In the end Voldemort and he had been the only ones to leave the field alive, though both had been gravely injured.

Anastas shuddered; he had some truly horrific memories of that battle that had nothing to do with fighting Death Eaters. As he was doomed to remember for the rest of his days, there were far more frightening creatures capable of a whole lot worse than a few hexes. He'd seen people torn apart and devoured by the hungering creatures and they had been the lucky ones!

Eventually his drunken wanderings had led him back to the security of his elaborate bedroom. Anastas stripped off his formal robes and climbed into his bed, drawing up the covers around his chilled body. Closing his eyes, he lost himself in the memories of a time where he had been far away from any battlefield and safe from those nightmare inducing monsters.

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FLASHBACK

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EDITED SCENE (just imagine smut prior to this)

- This act of love…it consumes me. I do not know how mortals bear it, their desire ready to enflame them at any moment. -

With those words, his eyes fluttered open and the illusion was broken. There was no lover to hold him close, no warmth from another body pressed against his own. In their place were cool, weightless phantom sensations. Lifting his head he stared into the reflection of the mirror and caught the gaze of his confidant.

"It's only fair. Your power drowns me each day. I can hardly recognize the person I see in the mirror."

Fingers caressed his hip. - All I see is beauty. -

"Your concept of beauty comes from millions of diverging opinions, most of them belonging to those who craved power above all the hedonistic pleasures available to mortals. Forgive me, if I look down at your opinion."

- Beauty is transient and mutable, love lasts a lifetime. -

"So does hate…so does death." He murmured, closing his eyes.

Obligingly, soft kisses were pressed along his back and the conversation was dropped in favor of pursuing illusionary pleasure.

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END FLASHBACK (2)

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When the first memory ended, another spawned in its place. No words were exchanged between host and parasite. This was a familiar ritual, one they practiced every year on this date and one that was never spoken of aloud. For this act of mercy alone, Anastas could tolerate all the innuendo his parasite spouted the other 364 days of the year.

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Unknown Location

Sunday the 23rd of March 1975

11:55 PM

The cavernous room was dank, dimly lit, and teeming with wizards, witches and numerous magical beings. As midnight approached, more and more invitees began appearing throughout the room. Despite the tense atmosphere there were no hostilities exchanged. Everyone who had been invited had gathered for a single purpose, to gain entrance into the Lund Guard. No one could afford to hold back in the competition but there was no point in creating enemies any sooner than necessary.

Precisely at midnight, runes running along the walls of the room began to glow. They pulsed three times and then the floor rippled and vanished. Shouts of surprise filled the air as the invitees fell, spiraling into a dark abyss. An eternity later and they tumbled into a brilliant world of nearly blinding light and color. Splashes filled the air as a flood of warm water cushioned their fall. Disorientation did not last long and soon everyone was looking around and wading to the shore of what appeared to be an island.

As they piled onto the shore, wringing out their clothing and checking their weapons and gear, a figure emerged from the tree line. Clad in dark dragonhide trousers and a loose Acromantula net shirt, Anastas Lund-Torres looked more like a miscreant than a Prince of Asturias.

"From this point on, everything that you bear witness to will fall under the Unbreakable Vow of Secrecy that each of you agreed upon when you accepted your invitations to take part in the Lund Guard Recruitment. Nothing that occurs from this point forward can ever be communicated to anyone who is not currently present. This Unbreakable Vow of Secrecy protects each competitor's identity and skill from anyone who might take advantage of that in the future as well as safeguarding the Recruitment process from outsiders."

"Before the evaluations begin, I would like to give a final warning. I will outfit you as if you are a God of War descended from the heavens and I will grant you secret teachings that could turn even a Squib into a Mage. There are no limitations that cannot be broken and I guarantee the training that I will require you to master will push you to a level of skill and ability that you may have thought never existed or was within your reach. In return for all of this, you will pledge your bodies and your loyalty to me, and do whatever I ask of you without question and without hesitation. Essentially you will belong entirely to me for the duration of your contract. I warn you that if you have even the slightest doubt that you will not be able to commit your best to me, that you beg out of the evaluations right now."

After several moments, he continued. "The evaluations consist of seven separate tests. Two of these tests will consist of a written exam and a practical exam to insure that everyone taking part in the evaluations are of appropriate skill. Do not treat them as school exams or you will pay the price for it later. Once these tests are scored, they will determine which version of the third test you will participate in.

"The test following the written and practical exams consists of a live action simulation. You will be assigned into groups of ten and given a task that must be completed within a certain time frame. This is a mass simulation, meaning that you will be competing against other groups who will be assigned other objectives. Points will be awarded to the group which best completes the task assigned to them in an appropriate manner. By no means is death or permanent injury allowed during the course of this test, anyone who violates this rule will be punished. There will be other rules that each group must abide by but that, as mentioned, will depend upon which group you will be assigned to. This test will be worth 1,000 points total and any group that fails to score at least 250 points will be automatically eliminated."

"There are two tests that will remain undisclosed until the completion of the live simulation. The first test has already been conducted so let us begin with the second test. As you may have already guessed, our current location is nowhere within the Wizarding or Muggle Worlds. Time passes here at a much faster rate than in the world we have left behind. So the first task is quite simple, for one month I will leave you within this world and you will do your best not only to survive but thrive. There are no tools available to you except what you have and it is entirely up to each of you whether you wish to endure this test alone or with others. Be assured I will be observing and evaluating each of you. If there is any sort of dire life threatening emergencies, you have but to speak my name and you will be whisked back to the normal world but be aware that points will be deducted for rescue. I have taken the liberty of preventing all but the most minor of magics to be performed within this area. There are more islands than this one which may be freely inhabited and all are well stocked with supplies and game. Identifying them and utilizing them I leave to your discretion. Good luck, I will see the majority of you all in one month's time."

Without another word, the Lund-Torres heir vanished, leaving behind several thousand invitees to figure out how to survive for the next month.

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Notes:

(1) Russian translations provided by Tahy.

Dedushka- Grandfather

priblooda- a word to describe someone who is of different social class

shhenok- whelp

(2) Regarding the flashback- As much as Not-Fiend would like to screw his host, he actually can't in a physical sense. He can however manipulate his Host's body. Thus Harry fantasizes, Not-Fiend 'makes' it happen and they both get off on it. In so much as a non-corporeal entity can get off on a purely corporeal stimulation. Lol.

As a final notice, I am on HIATUS for an undetermined amount of time. Details are on my Profile if anyone is curious. Please drop me a review, I can use any bit of positive comments and/or encouragement these days.

-SheWolfe7

First Posted: 8-2-09