Of Harpies and the Occasional Succubus
Author's note: This was the result from the following prompts on my Tumblr: An exasperated Julien trying to get away from fangirls, aka, young female nobles in the court waaaay too eager to get his attention. Bonus points for a highly amused Mercedes and/or Arisen.
There were times when Lord Julien felt that perhaps he should not have bothered with plotting against the Dragonsbane, but instead should have focused on a more vexing problem in Gran Soren, namely the simpering young women of the duke's court.
At least the women at the markets or even the Venery merely indulged in some flirting with him, and he did not mind returning the favour, for both parties knew that it was all simply a harmless game to amuse themselves. The young ladies of the court however, hung on his every single word, practically stalked him during the duke's many fêtes, and always managed to include the topic of betrothals and marriages in conversations.
He had not minded it much when he first arrived in Gransys as it was typical for any court to be excited over some new arrival, especially one from a foreign land, and had expected all the enthusiasm to die down after a week or two. However, it had been months now and the young women of the court still pursued him almost wherever he went in the capital, which was why he preferred to spend most of his time in the small chamber that served as his workplace. Nevertheless, he was still not in the position to refuse to attend any one of the duke's balls – like the one tonight – and thus had resolved to make an appearance long enough to satisfy decorum before fleeing back to the safety of his own chambers.
"Good evening, Lord Julien," greeted one of the young female nobles, a rather pretty brunette in a red gown.
"Good evening," he replied, at the same time frantically trying to recall her name and her title. She had mentioned them to him several times in their previous conversations, but he had never actually paid much attention then as he was too preoccupied with trying to find a way to excuse himself.
"Why, ser," she said in a tone that was meant to be teasing, but her jarring voice merely made him want to strangle her, "have you already forgotten who I am?"
"Of course not, madam," he said, while at the same time casting a helpless look at Mercedes, who stood nearby and fortunately, pitied him enough to silently mouth the woman's name. He then quickly added, "Or should I say, Lady Jolette?"
Said lady beamed in pleasure, and took a step closer to him. He instinctively stepped back, and found himself trapped in a corner of the hall.
Mercedes winked and raised her goblet of wine in a mockery of a toast.
"What can I do for you, madam?"
"Oh, I can think of plenty of things of what you can do for me, ser knight," she whispered, "and of what you can do to me."
"I'm afraid I do not quite understand," he said, purposely obtuse, at the same time silently cursing at how he allowed himself to be cornered so.
"Oh, I think you do, my lord," she replied, and suggestively placed a hand on his arm.
"Lord Julien! There you are. If I may have a word with you, ser?"
"Please excuse me, madam. Duty calls," he said, and somehow managed to squeeze himself past the lady, who literally had him pinned to the wall with her admittedly ample and perfumed bosom, before he headed in the direction of his saviour.
"Arisen," he muttered when he reached the younger man's side, "by the Maker, I swear that you are now our most darling and trusted friend."
The Arisen allowed himself a quick snigger before he realised that such an uncouth gesture was not quite appropriate in his current company of nobles, and somehow turned it into a brief fit of awkward coughs. "Why Lord Julien," the Arisen said, grinning, "I thought you only tolerated my company because I keep bringing you those pies you like so much."
"Oh, don't you start," he said, and then sighed. "You would think they would be pursuing you by now, instead of directing their attentions at me. You are after all, my dear Arisen, the saviour of Gransys."
"Ah! Surely you jest, ser. I am but a simple fisherman from Cassardis, with no title to my name, and nor am I in possession of peerage or fine lands. Unlike you, of course."
"You, ser," he growled, "are not helping."
"I know," the Arisen said with a smirk, which only made the knight want to punch him in the face.
Mercedes then joined them, and before she could open her mouth, Julien raised one finger and glared at her. "Not," he growled, "a word."
"Why, whatever did you think I would say?" she said with an expression of overly-feigned innocence.
"I think I have heard enough jokes about the charms of mysterious foreign knights from you."
The Arisen snigger-coughed again, and when the knight glared at him, he grabbed a small pastry from a passing servant with a tray of food and shoved it into his mouth.
"Well, you are one of the most handsome men in this court, and one so nicely clothed too. Wearing blue does suit your colouring."
"Ser Mercedes, I cannot help it if my house colours are blue."
"And it does not help that you are yet unwed, which is why these young women are pursuing you so eagerly, just like…" She frowned, trying to find a suitable metaphor.
"A pack of starving direwolves on the trail of an injured deer?" offered the Arisen.
"Harpies," he grunted.
Mercedes blinked. "I beg your pardon?"
"Not direwolves, but harpies. And here come a flock of them in this direction."
"Ah," the Arisen said – the rotten little imp – with his eyes twinkling in mischief, "we will just leave you to your admirers then."
"Don't you dare," he hissed.
"Lord Julien, Ser Mercedes," greeted the leader of the flock of young noble harpies, a blonde in a tawny gown, "and Ser Arisen. May we join your conversation?"
"Of course. We were just discussing the most efficient way of killing harpies," replied the Arisen blandly.
Julien shrugged. "Set their wings aflame."
"Aye! My pawn likes to rain bolides upon them." The Arisen made a face before he added, "But their feathers make the most ghastly stench when they burn."
A few of the girls turned pale.
"Not all are versed in the ways of magick," Mercedes commented, "but I find that arrows work wonders too."
"Yes, force them down. And when they're on the ground, just bludgeon their heads with a mace. Just remember to correct your aim so you do not get their brains splattered all over your clothes."
"Better that way, I think," replied the Arisen, "it makes looting their carcasses for trophies much easier. Setting them aflame is easy, but the smell of burnt flesh and feathers can stick to your clothes for days."
One of the young ladies moaned. Two turned green, and the others but for their leader looked about to faint. The blonde bravely stammered, "Ah, we - we are not quite familiar with the – uh, barbaric art of soldiering. If you would excuse us, sers."
The flock then fled for relative safety, or more likely, to the nearest chamber pot for them to heave into.
"Nicely done," Mercedes complimented the Arisen, who then made a mocking bow.
"Thank you, Arisen. Now if only they would stay away."
"Maybe it would help if you did not do all that brooding so much," the Arisen offered his advice.
The knight however, blinked. "Brooding? I most certainly do not brood."
"Yes, you do," the Arisen insisted. He then proceeded to make the most outrageous frown on his face; wrinkled forehead, narrowed eyes and pursed lips. "You look like this half the time, and I wager that merely adds to that air of mystery of yours."
He rolled his eyes. "You look like a fool doing that."
"Perhaps, but you do not, and that is apparently part of your charm," Mercedes remarked. "Still, there must be a way to ward them off permanently. Why not have a word with their parents? Surely they would be appalled at their daughters' scandalous behavior."
He gave her a wry look. "Who do you think actually encouraged them?"
The Arisen was about to snigger again, but was saved by a passing servant and another pastry.
Mercedes at least had the decency not to laugh in his face, or at the very least, would probably do so later elsewhere and more quietly. "Ah, why not tell them that you are more interested in men than women? That surely ought to throw the harpies off your most foreign, mysterious and appealing scent."
He ignored the last part of her comment. "I did."
"And I found one of them waiting in my bed one night, ready to convince me of the benefits of bedding the fairer sex," he grumbled, and then calmly thumped on the Arisen's back, for the younger man was choking on his pastry.
"Really?" the Arisen gasped.
"Aye. And here she comes now," he said, and then looked meaningfully at a young woman clad in burgundy walking in their direction.
The other man grinned. "Ah, a succubus!" he exclaimed, while Mercedes tried to hide her grin behind her wine goblet.
"That she is."
"Good day, Lord Julien," the young noble succubus greeted with a coy smile. "Ah. And to you, Ser Mercedes, and Ser Arisen." Her greeting to the other two was noticeably not as enthusiastic as her first.
"Good day, madam," he replied, distantly polite.
"Have you given more thought to my… proposal?" she said.
"I have given it some consideration, madam. Alas, I have not changed my mind."
"Oh, I'm sure I can easily persuade you to do so. Repeatedly, even."
"I'm afraid not," he replied, and then as the simpering succubus showed no sign of giving up, desperately improvised and added, "I am already promised to another."
"Oh?" she snapped, her eyes flashing with great annoyance, "and just who is this lady?"
Mercedes' glare promised him a very, very slow and painful death if he so much as thought of mentioning her name.
"This young man, actually," he replied, and slung one arm around the Arisen's shoulder. "He's one of finest warriors I've known."
"Aye! Wait – what?" the other man blurted in wide-eyed confusion. Said confusion was easily solved by stepping firmly on his foot.
By then it was highly obvious to all that the Captain of the Enlistment Corps was trying, and failing to curb her laughter.
"Well, I – I – ooh!" The succubus stomped one dainty foot and stormed away in a huff, clearly uncaring in her foul mood as she shoved people out of her path.
Mercedes was about to open her mouth, but her words were quickly stayed.
"Not a word!" the two men hissed.
She laughed at them anyway.