The year is 647AD, in medieval England. The city of Magnolia is a bustling city. The King's castle was an enormous stone fortress overlooking the rest of the city. Pennants flew from every spire, proclaiming the kingdom of Makarov Dreyar.
From the castle was a sprawling city. The closer to the centre you got, the higher the class of the buildings. Nearest the centre were expansive stone buildings, the provinces of the Lords and Ladies. Amongst them were Lady Scarlett, a great proponent of female knights, and Lady Heartphilia, the daughter of a famous merchant.
As you came outwards, the buildings became poorer and poorer, until you got to the dingy hovels of the peasantry. One of them belonging to the family of the little Levy McGarden.
Levy had messy short blue hair that she tied back with the cleanest rag that she owned. Her tiny frame was clothed in more loose rags, which were not particularly clean. Levy lived the life of a peasant's daughter, miserable. Her life was filled with filth and poverty, and she spent her days doing back-breaking labour and trying to avoid beatings from her father.
Levy's one break from the harsh cruelty of reality was that she had learned to read. A kindly old man across the road had helped her to learn when she was a child, though he had sadly passed away several years ago now. She was a bright young girl and did what she could to get her hands on any kind of reading material, which often meant that in the more dire times that she scoured dumps and tips for thrown away books. They were not prevalent in the peasant's district, after all.
She did not have a bedroom, or even a bed. Her entire universe was one corner of the family's main room, a bundle of straw with a blanket, and a stack of five grimy novels that she'd collected. Periodically, her father drunk or just angry would turn on her and beat her, and often destroy the collection.
One day, Levy had been sweeping while her mother slaved over a cauldron. Judging by the smell, it was rat stew again tonight. The door had opened and her father returned from a day's toil in the fields. Levy prayed that today had been a good day.
"Good afternoon, father!" She said brightly and politely. His backhand struck her across the cheek, hurling her to the floor. Over the pain she very quickly noticed the smell of alcohol. Today had not been a good day for him, so it was about to become unpleasant for her too.
"Stupid Runt!" He bellowed down at her. That was the usual noun that he applied to her. It summed up his feelings well. Her mother stayed at the cauldron, her back turned silently to the display. "Couldn't have been a boy, could you? No, had to be a bloody girl! Too plain to marry into nobility, too weak for any real labour!"
He reached down and grabbed her hair, dragging her painfully over to her sleeping area. "Where were you while I was working? Why weren't you helping?" He roared drunkenly.
"F…father…I'm sorry that I'm too weak to work with you…" She sobbed, knowing that nothing that she could say would alter the pain that was about to descend on her.
"Oh it's alright!" He sneered. He picked up a book. "You've learnt to read! That's really useful, really puts food on the plate! I never learnt to read; no I learnt to work, to feed my family! You think that you're cleverer than me?"
"N…no…," she stopped abruptly as the book was slammed into her ribs. He hurled it to the wooden floor with the sound of a thunderclap, and laid into her with his fists. She squealed with pain, but tried not to plead. It was pointless and she loathed him. Asking him to stop stuck in her pride – what little she had left.
But perhaps God is merciful for a sound rang out. A trumpet fanfare, rising in crescendo. Her father's expression changed in a heartbeat, and he dragged her out of the house.
"Maybe you have a chance to earn your keep," he spat. Her mother stayed with her cooking, never speaking or acknowledging. That was far more painful than her father's actions.
The main thoroughfare from the city gates to the castle keep was lined with villagers desperate to get a look at the passing procession. Squires moving ahead of the formation urged people back, to make as much room as possible.
As the Knights of Fairy Tail returned home.
Whether you loved them for the possibilities they presented, or hated them for their superiority, the peasantry turned out in their thousands. It was a welcome break from the drudgery of everyday life. Mighty snorting destriers bore the knights through the winding road. In contrast, Levy was borne aloft by her father, to see over the backs of the crowd. It was not a nicety.
She was being offered as a wife.
Her father bellowed to the knights, extolling her virtues. His voice was accompanied by a hundred others. Marrying a knight was the quickest way out of poverty.
At the head of the procession came the Seneschal, Lord Dreyar. Grandson to the King himself, he was leader of all of the knights, decked out in a yellow livery incorporating a lightning bolt. Sir Laxus of the Lightning. He looked down on the peasantry with nothing but contempt. Still, women swooned under his gaze.
Next came his two bodyguards, Sir Justine and Sir Bixlow. If any dared come to close to their liege, they would beat them back with the hafts of their lances. It didn't stop people as they threw flowers under the hooves of the horses.
Then there was one of the oddest knights, Sir Dragneel. Too many thought he was Welsh, due to the red dragon of his livery, displayed on his shield. He was clearly truculent to Laxus, but he waved to the crowd, much more affable than most. The Fire Knight exemplified the best aspects of fighting for the people, and they loved him for it.
Then there were others, Sir Connell, the Arbalester Knight. Most doubted the concept of gunnery from horseback, but Alzack made it work. Then there was Sirs Jet and Droy, bickering aimlessly over something. The Swift Knight and the Bracken Knight. To Levy's absolute amazement, they both noticed her out of the crowd and stared. A blush crept onto both of their cheeks. Then they noticed the other and started bickering again.
"See that, Runt? Maybe you'll do something useful in this life after all!" Her father said happily. Levy didn't respond. It was hard enough to ignore his fingers clutching her bruised ribs.
The next horse strained under the weight of its occupant, Sir Strauss, the Beast Knight. He bellowed to the crowd, assuring them that Men (with a capital m) cheered for their knights. Sir Fullbuster, the Ice Knight seemed bored by the proceedings, but waved nonetheless. Then there were the lesser knights, Sir Jonah, Sir Alors, Sir Rocko, who all had their share of admirers, but none so much as the front runners.
But then just when Levy thought the procession had passed, the last knight sauntered lazily through, on an enormous black horse. She gulped. Sir Redfox, the Iron Knight. Famed for his bloodlust on the field of battle, for his utter lack of mercy or empathy. Long, raven hair flowed down his silver armour. He scowled at the assembled humans as he passed.
Suddenly, those crimson irises locked onto her hazel eyes. Levy had never felt more scared in her life – they were the appraising eyes of a predator, not those of a human. She defiantly held their gaze. She was not interested in being subservient to any more men. The moment passed and he was gone.
She had a moment to sigh in relief from her father's shoulders before she was face first in the mud.
"You had better hope that one of those knights comes back for you in the next couple of days," he hissed, clenching his fists.
It was not a hard threat to understand.
"Did you see her?" Jet asked excitedly. "She was so cute!"
"I saw her first!" Droy replied indignantly. The two old friends bickered endlessly.
"She's mine," a terrible voice said from behind them. The pair froze, slowly turning to look over their shoulders, their faces written with fear. Gajeel had pulled up behind them, and was glaring with those evil red eyes of his.
"You, Sir Redfox?" Jet asked politely. "But you could have your pick of any of the ladies in…"
"No," he replied. He had no interest in explaining himself to these lowly idiots.
"She…doesn't seem your type…," Droy ventured boldly. In fact, Gajeel's record consisted only of busty concubines. He only took women for sex, and not for marriage.
"Maybe not, but until I decide that I don't want her, she's mine. Got it?" It was not a question, and the pair quickly affirmed that yes, they did indeed understand.
Gajeel thought on the little blunette. When he had first laid eyes on her, she had looked so little, so fragile that she might break from the wind blowing too hard. But she alone had held his gaze. No other human in the crowd, no man even, had dared to do that.
Ah well, worst case scenario, he would break her, rape her and ruin her life if he let her live at all. No loss, he considered. He was the Iron Knight. Nothing mattered to him save for strength. If she was so fragile, she mattered naught.
Well, that's the start of my first AU tale!
One quick note, I had hoped to name all of the knights by their surnames, but Bixlow, Jet and Droy don't have any. So I'm glossing over it, sorry! See if you can tell who all of the odd surnames are! I had to look up Jonah…
One thing I haven't noted is that Gajeel now talks normally (because he's a knight, not a vagrant) and he has no piercings, because I don't think they could do that back then – at least not like he has!
Please review if you're interested, it'll help me gauge if it's worth putting a lot of effort into this.