"Follow the light please Philippa." Harry reminded for the second time to the woman. She looked at him in annoyance for a moment before doing as he instructed. She followed the small light Harry had on the tip of his left index finger. He moved it slowed and watched her eyes track it before moving it back the other way. He then cut the magic.
"Your tracking skills seem to be within normal parameters. Your pupil dilation is a little slower than normal but that's expected for another few days. Have you tried using your new vision ability?"
"I have. Is it supposed to give me a headache if I use it too long?"
"For now, it will yes. It's a whole new function of your body and your mind will need to adjust. I would use it each day until it becomes comfortable to do so. This will help you adjust to using it for longer periods. Within a couple of weeks, you should be able to use it as if you had the ability your whole life."
"I suppose I will simply have to deal with it until then."
"Well, with that, I can officially declare your eyes healed and you can move about again as normal," Harry said with his patented healer smile. Philippa rolled her eyes, a function she had taken to using a lot over the last week since her sight had been returned. Harry had kept her bedridden the week while she readjusted to her new eyes. She had not been pleased about his bossiness apparently.
"Thank the gods." She muttered, though not quite quiet enough for him not to hear.
"Oh, man up you big baby. It hasn't been that bad." He chuckled.
"I can see why your past patients would so eagerly make sure to avoid injury if it meant not having to deal with this kind of treatment." Philippa snarked back.
"Most of my patients are too busy being amazed by me accomplishing medical miracles to be too upset about my overbearing bedside manner." Harry subtly dug at her. It seemed to work as she closed her mouth at his response. She stayed silent for a moment before responding.
"Thank you… You were right. I can't even notice the difference between these and my old eyes except for perhaps a subtle sharpness that I don't remember." Philippa finished.
"That is likely due to the mutagen introduced. A pleasant side effect." Harry explained. This seemed to satisfy her curiosity as she stood up.
"Well, I am cleared so I suppose it's finally time we talked about what comes next."
"Yes. You said after the procedure that you had someplace in mind for me. Now that I am better, I wish to know where you had in mind." Philippa said. She didn't exactly seem excited about where he was thinking about placing her.
"You don't seem to be as happy as I thought you'd be."
"Shall I jump for joy for you, like a trained rabbit?"
"My, you're prickly. Is there something wrong Philippa?"
"I would just like to know where I am being assigned is all… Your grace." She said back. The added title seemed less out of respect and more to add a tone of sarcasm to her statement. Harry smiled for a moment before casually leaning up against a nearby wall. He adopted a thinking position as he eyed the sorceresses, enjoying what his delaying seemed to due to her.
"Yes, well… I thought for a long time about where the best place to put you would be… It wasn't easy either. Originally, I was thinking about having you be a part of a committee in charge of the restoration of Novigrad to its previous status as one of the Great Cities of the North. That being said, several people pointed out to me that such a position may be a waste of your talents…" Harry spoke easily as he looked at the woman who could now look back at him. Her face scrunched in displeasure, clearly thinking she would not like whatever anyone had to say about her.
"And just who was it who so graciously spoke on my behalf, Yennefer?"
"She was one of the said people, yes," Harry replied with a smirk. Her displeasure seemed to increase hearing that. They REALLY did not like each other.
"And where was it dearest Yen wished to put me?"
"As I said, it was not just her who counseled me on this… I reached out to several people who all told me similar things in different ways." Harry said as he temporarily thought back to the several other Lodge members he had stopped in to visit since his little talk with Yennefer. He wished to see what they would say of Philippa. Even the ones who seemed to not like the women seemed to agree with the same sentiments as the members who were more partial to her.
"Well? Are you planning to keep me in suspense?"
"I suppose not. No matter how fun it is to do so… As I was saying, it would be a waste of your talents to put you in such a position. Your experience lends itself to ruling nations, not a simple city, no matter how big. With that in mind and with the several people who I used as character witnesses for you, I have decided to place you as the new ruler of Redania on a trial period of one year. Should you do well in said position, you will keep it indefinitely until your death, you willingly give it up, or you unequivocally prove yourself unworthy of it." Harry announced.
That was one of the nice things about Philippa having her eyes once more, she was so much more expressive. He got to personally watch her go from apprehension to confusion, to pure shock. He knew she would deny it later but even her mouth was open in a small 'O' to show how truly the news shocked her. Harry couldn't help the smile that appeared on his face.
"Did you have trouble hearing me? Don't tell me I'm going to have to implant new ears onto the side of your head too." Harry couldn't help but tease. Who knew when he would get the chance to tease the legendary Philippa Eilhart again?
"Is this some sort of joke?"
"Did it sound like a joke?"
"You… you can't. I am not part of the royal bloodline."
"Lady Adda has stepped down and Radovid had no children. Even if he did, though, I would be unlikely to allow them to rule after dealing with their father. The truth of the matter is Redania is a mess right now and needs a strong hand who knows what they are doing to lead. They need someone who can lead them away from their primitive witch-burning ways and into the more modern age, which ideals sway towards tolerance of all freethinking beings. I need someone I can trust to do so. Perhaps I don't trust you as much as some others, but I certainly trust you more than any other to be able to do this." Harry turned serious as he made his speech. He walked over and started circling the shocked women who could do nothing but listen to him.
"I… I am not sure what to say," Philippa confessed, looking tongue-tied for the first time since he had known her.
"I will warn you now Philippa; I will be watching your actions closely. As I said, I still don't trust you at the same level as some of my other leaders but… I am willing to give you this chance to prove yourself." Harry told her sternly. Philippa processed his words for several minutes. Harry simply watched her face change rapidly from one expression to another. She apparently decided as it finally came to one of determination. She slowly got to one knee in front of him.
"I accept, your grace." She said with a tone that was both soft but firm. Harry nodded.
"Then, with the power that lies with me, I, King Hadrian of the Avalonian Empire, do declare that one Philippa Eilhart shall immediately be granted the title of ruler over the territory known as Redania. She will rule it in my name for as long as she holds it. Let all know and recognize her as such from this day onward." Harry said out loud. There was a small flash of light for a moment between them that was not missed by either occupant.
"Thank you, your grace… May I ask what that light was?"
"Hmm, I suspect it was magic recognizing you as my vassal from this day forward. An event that was more common from where I come from but… do not worry about it. It shouldn't change anything or make you more beholden to me than normal." Harry told her with a frown. He would double-check, but Philippa wasn't from a magical noble family like back in his world. That being said, she was powerful, so perhaps she could circumvent that requirement.
Philippa nodded slowly at that before getting to her feet slowly. She took a deep breath and for once looked a lot more relaxed than he had ever seen her.
"Are you okay?" Harry asked lightly. He almost stepped back in fright when she laughed with a foreign lightness to her voice. He looked at her in concern before she waved him off.
"Okay? This… this is everything I have wanted for as long as I have been a sorceress. Ever since I arrived at Redania and practically had to do everything for incompetents who wouldn't know one side of a bill from another. This is something I truly thought was impossible, something that would be out of my reach no matter. I figured when I tried to take control as Regent when Radovid took over, that would be the closest I would ever get. I just can't believe this is happening…"
"Yes, well… I am glad you are happy with this appointment." Harry said cautiously. She rose an eyebrow as she looked at him.
"No, it's just… I haven't heard you laugh like that before. It scared me." Harry said slowly. She rolled her eyes once more and her stereotypical small frown appeared once more.
"You have a real talent of ruining my good mood."
"You are not the first to tell me such and you likely won't be the last."
"Mm. Disappointing young Ciri so soon, are you?"
"Shove it Owl Head."
"And that should do it," Harry said as stepped back as he looked at the gateway he had built within a small room off the main hall of Kaer Morhen. With all the additions Harry had made to the ancient castle, Vesemir hadn't minded him commandeering a room for making such a thing.
"Hmm… You're sure this is going to work?"
"Of course. You know my entire Empire has just activated the gateway network. This, however, is a private one just for Kaer Morhen. Only those keyed to it can leave and arrive from it. That's what I used each of your blood for." Harry told Geralt. Geralt looked at the stone archway with skepticism while Yennefer moved in close so she could look at the various runes that went across the whole thing.
"This is truly remarkable. Incredibly complicated, though, I suppose if you have the blueprint for others to use, it shouldn't be hard to make en mass."
"Correct. Though it was very hard to make sure others wouldn't simply just be able to connect to the network with their gateway. That could be bad." Harry told her.
"How did you prevent that?"
"Mmm. There is a secret piece to the runic array that you need to know to activate a gateway. Think of the gateway as a giant keyhole. If you don't have the key to open it, it's useless. I gave several people the key without their knowledge. I trusted them, but once the network went up, I took the knowledge back." Harry explained.
"That sounds impossible… How can you simply take the knowledge back?"
"With a modified Fidelius Charm. A charm that hides a secret within the depths of one's soul. The secret can only be given to those by the secrets keeper and even knowing it, they can never share it. Magic itself prevents such. In the past, it was used to hide locations as an extremely powerful ward." Harry explained to Yennefer. Her eyes seemed to light up at that.
"You HAVE to teach me this charm." She immediately said back. Geralt groaned behind her, likely at all the trouble his significant other could get into if she had such an ability.
"I can though I should warn you. The more people who know about the thing you are trying to hide, the more power will be needed to hide said a thing. For example, if you tried to hide say… Novigrad, you'd drop over dead as soon as the spell left your lips. A very powerful but dangerous ability. I would have your word you will not abuse any magical knowledge I may give you at some point.
"You have it. Now, when can you teach it to me?"
"I am sure he can teach it to you later. For now, can we see if this gateway works or not." Ciri said as she entered the room with an amused smile. Harry smiled upon seeing her and quickly made his way over to her. As he reached her, he wrapped his arms around her and gave her a small kiss in greeting.
"Look who finally decided to join us."
"Yes, well, unlike some people, I still have training to do."
"Avallach still drilling you hard?"
"Not too hard, I assure you." The Elven Sage himself then entered the room.
"Still here? What's the occasion? You usually leave as soon as your training with Ciri is over with."
"I had no rush and I wished to see this gateway Ciri spoke to me about. I was wondering about the differences of this to a portal?"
"Several. The first is this isn't linked to one specific destination; it can go to any location that is part of the network. So, any place that has this gateway can be accessed from here. The second main difference is that it is self-sustaining so one wouldn't need to have a mage with them to access it, normal people can use it.
"And you accomplish this with a long series of runes?"
"Yes. Where I come from, runes are a lot more advanced with what they can do. Here they seem to be limited to simpler actions."
"Well… I can't wait to see it in action."
"Right. Well, let me no longer keep you in suspense." Harry said as he unwrapped himself from Ciri and walked over to the gateway. He pressed his hands for a moment as he started channeling magic into the runic array. Within a moment, a blue light sprung to life within the stone archway and a blue swirling wall appeared under it. Harry smiled.
"And, it's activated. You are looking at the official gateway of Kaer Morhen." Harry said as he stepped back and admired the gateway. Both Yennefer and Avallach moved forward to examine it.
"Hmm, it feels very similar to a portal and yet…" Yennefer started.
"It's also different. Almost as if it has been more refined yet simpler at the same time. Remarkable." Avallach said as he moved his hand forward to touch the blue swirl.
"Nothing happens if you touch it without saying a location before entering. Your hand will simply go through to the other side." Harry called out. It wouldn't work for Avallach as he had not been keyed to the gateway anyway. The sage moved his hand back slowly as he continued to observe the portal.
"Truly impressive. I don't suppose you'd be open to teaching others how to do this?"
"Not at the moment, no. I wish for it to be something only known by my Empire." Harry said easily, not trying to insult the elf.
"Does it feel like your method of travel?" Geralt asked with a cautious look on his face. He looked like he didn't want to be anywhere near the gateway. Harry rolled his eyes and he moved over to the man and pat him reassuringly on his back.
"You will be happy to know that there is no uncomfortable feeling with this method of travel. Due to being supported by such an intricate method, its stability is unmatched. Even you couldn't complain about this one my friend." Harry told him with a frown. Geralt frowned.
"We'll see." Geralt replied with some disbelief in Harry's words.
"Well, you'll have to try it eventually if you ever plan to come to visit me and Ciri," Harry told him. This just caused Geralt to frown even more.
Both Ciri and he had decided that they would be leaving in a few days back to Avalon. Harry really couldn't afford to be away for much longer and Ciri had said she would be going with him. To make sure she could see her adopted family, Harry had built this gateway for easy access. He wasn't sure how much it would help though, as Yennefer had told him that she and Geralt had been possibly thinking of traveling together, seeing new things, and simply enjoying each other's company. Still, this was the best he could do for them.
Several Days Later
Harry finished placing the last of the chests containing Ciri's things in his private suite before un casting the magic that made it weightless. He looked around the room and nodded in satisfaction. Ciri didn't have much in the way of clothing, most of it coming from clothes Yennefer had recently gone out and bought her. Most of it was either a combination of casual shirts or jackets. She even had a new leather outfit that was as good as light armor, but also accentuated quite a few of Ciri's… other features. He had to remember to thank Yennefer at some for getting it.
"Well, that's everything," Ciri said, bringing her last chest into the room. Harry smiled at her and couldn't keep the happiness from his face. They were moving in together under Ciri's suggestion. He had initially been a bit wary about moving in together so soon, but she pointed out that such things were common here and with the betrothal, it would look better. That was the logic she used, but the smirk and glint in her eyes suggested she had other reasons for wanting to move in together.
He had no problem with it, but Ciri was a bit… perverted. Ever since they had moved forward to more sexual activities the other night, she proceeded to want to continue them every night since. They hadn't yet gone much further but the amount of time they had done it had certainly increased.
"Shall we celebrate this momentous occasion."
"You seem to be pretty horny lately, you feeling alright?" Harry asked with a raised eyebrow. Ciri shrugged.
"I don't know I just feel so… Light recently. Like I don't have a care in the world. I just feel like having fun is all… Do you not like it?"
"Oh, I definitely like it. Don't doubt that for a minute. I just want to make sure you're not pushing yourself for some reason. I don't want you to think we have to keep pushing forward to keep me interested or something." Harry explained. Ciri smiled.
"I don't feel pressured. I just enjoy our time together. It's… fun."
"Okay then. Well, why don't we…" Before he could finish his suggestion, there was a knock on his door. He turned and frowned. He couldn't sense anyone at his door. That was very concerning. He gave Ciri a disturbed look which caused her to immediately tense, go to one of the chests and open it. She pulled out her sword and quietly unsheathed it. As she did so, Harry moved down the stairs and towards the door to his manor. He prepared a spell in one hand as he reached out to open the door with the other. Ciri braced herself nearby in case of danger. He then swung it open.
"Hello, Harry dear."
Harry looked out for a moment and took a second to realize who was looking back at him with a deceptively friendly smile.
"Isadora." Harry greeted, calming down. Ciri seemed to take this as a good sign as she lowered her blade and adopted a curious look.
"It seems you're back and you didn't find it necessary to come to say hello," Isadora said with a tone of annoyance. Harry couldn't tell if it was a real annoyance though or not.
"I just arrived back today." Harry shot back.
"You were here not long ago as well."
"Only for several hours to take stock of my Empire's situation. I then left again almost immediately." Harry told her. Isadora tutted in annoyance. Her eyes flickered to the side for a moment before turning back to him.
"Is this the girl who seemed to capture your heart?" Isadora asked with amusement. Harry rolled his eyes. He looked to Ciri and gestured her to come over. She did, though, she didn't exactly look pleased. When she stood next to him, he introduced her.
"Isadora, this is Cirilla, the woman I told you about before leaving," Harry said. Isadora held out her hand, which Ciri took politely.
"A pleasure," Isadora said, looking Ciri right in the eye with an almost predator glint in hers.
"The pleasure is mine. So… Are you a friend of Harry's?"
"You could say that."
"She tried to kill me originally because I accidentally destroyed her home so I had to make amends. After that, we maintained a sort of working relationship. She helps me occasionally and I do her favors in return. Oh, she's also a High Vampire."
"I appreciate how highly you seem to think of me," Isadora replied. Harry rolled his eyes while Ciri just seemed confused.
"You're… friends? With a High Vampire?"
"Sort of. I give her some blood to drink on occasion too. Makes sure she doesn't go off on people." Harry told her.
Harry just looked at Ciri confused for a moment. What does 'Directly' mean?
"What do you mean?"
"Do you give her the blood directly from you?"
"Oh, no. I just give her a bag full of it. Not sure I want to be sucked directly by an Unseen Elder. It would probably drive me insane." Harry reassured her. Ciri seemed to calm down at that. Isadora just smiled.
"May I come in?"
"Sure," Harry said as he moved to the side to allow her to pass. Isadora walked in and looked around.
"It seems like I haven't been here in so long," Isadora commented as she looked around. Ciri didn't seem to like that comment.
"Oh? Have you been here many times?" Ciri pressed. Harry decided to stay silent for a while as he got the feeling that if he said anything, he would be getting in trouble.
"Not too many times, I suppose. Usually just when I needed a little… pick me up." Isadora said with a smile. Now, logically, Harry knew she was talking about his blood, but the way she said it with a hint of… something made him suddenly think they were approaching a very dangerous area.
"Oh, is that so," Ciri asked back with a glare now being sported on her face. Her right hand was twitching and Harry couldn't be sure, but he had a feeling she wanted to reach for her sword. Perhaps, it was now time to step in.
"Isadora, please do not aggravate my betrothed with suggestive language," Harry told her blandly. Isadora simply smiled in amusement. Ciri looked at him for a moment, then back at the vampire.
"So… Betrothed huh? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, given how obsessed with her you were." Harry frowned at the words.
"I wasn't obsessed…"
"In one of our first meetings, I recall you falling asleep and dreaming of her while resting on my lap."
"That was a different very specific situation!"
"Mm… Was it? If I remember correctly, you dreamed about her several times after that once I came over. I remember because I kept thinking to myself 'This man literally has ME in the same room and all he can do is dream about some girl he hasn't seen in years'. It was both funny and vexing." Isadora admitted with a myriad of emotions playing on her face as she casually spread out on his couch.
"I don't… That's not… Ciri, this woman is obviously crazy, you should not listen to anything she says." Harry said very seriously to his significant other. Ciri had stopped glaring at this point and had started laughing at him.
"Well… I guess she's alright." Ciri said, looking appreciatively at the vampire. Now it was Harry's turn to frown. This is not how he wanted this to go.
"So, Isadora, you're probably pretty busy. Did you just stop in for a visit or did you need some blood or something?" Harry said, feeling a lot less welcoming.
"Nope. Just came to visit you and see the girl that all the fuss was about. I must say, I can see why you chose her. That power emanating from her… Almost intoxicating. If I were you, I'd keep her away from some of the lesser members of my kind."
"Aren't you the highest member of your race so… Aren't all other vampires lesser to you?"
"… So, just don't let any vampires near her?"
"I would recommend that, yes."
"That does explain a lot. It seems like every time I deal with a vampire; they seem to go a little feral."
"I've never noticed anything like that," Harry commented with a frown.
"Well, you don't smell nearly as good as she does. Your blood certainly tastes better than it smells, but it's nowhere near hers." Isadora tells him.
"But… I'm more powerful than she is."
"Maybe, but your magical power isn't the only thing that affects the blood taste. Some people just taste better than others naturally. Ciri most likely is one of them and her magic just amplifies that. Your blood was probably just average and your magic just improves it enough to be good." Isadora explained to him. Harry frowned, feeling slightly insulted.
"Well… you're only getting my blood." Harry told her sternly.
"Oh, Harry dear. There's no need to be jealous. Yours is the only one for me." Isadora said as she stood and patted him on the cheek in a gesture that was probably meant to be comforting. Unfortunately, Harry came back to reality and realized he was being comforted by a vampire because his blood wasn't tasty enough.
"Right… Well, this has been an enlightening conversation about the woman I keep around me. Isadora, feel free to stay as long as you want. Ciri, I am going to go to bed." Harry told them both before leaving up to his room. As he left, he heard Ciri strike up a conversation with the vampire on what sounded like how she killed her victims. Harry frowned and tried not to think too hard about that as he ascended his stairs.
The Next Day
Harry blinked his eyes open and was immediately greeted with another pair of green eyes staring right back at him.
"Um… How long have you been watching me sleep?"
"Like three minutes. I just got to bed." Ciri told him with a shrug. Harry looked at her for a moment, then his eyes flickered over to the clear daylight streaming through one of his windows.
"What time is it?"
"I don't know. Probably around eight in the morning."
"Do you mind if I ask where you've been?"
"Sure. I and Isadora decided to do some bonding and hit the town together as you call it." Ciri said with a tired smile. Harry looked at her and a horrifying question popped into his head.
"… If I leave this house… Will there still be a city to greet me?" Ciri just rolled her eyes at that.
"We didn't break anything… Much. We didn't break much. We just hit a few taverns together and talked for most of the night. It was very enlightening. She gave me a more in-depth understanding of what's been happening around here since I have been gone and how you made your little empire."
"I see... Did I not provide a good enough explanation?"
"No, it was fine. I just enjoyed getting it from a different perspective. Also, we broke into your private alcohol cellar and Isadora drank an entire cask of what I believe was Firewhiskey. She was able to get drunk off of it."
"I have a cask that was given to me years ago, but it was from an old friend of mine who was a half-giant named Hagrid."
"Hmm. The name doesn't sound familiar to me."
"I'm not sure if I ever brought him up to you. Either way, he brewed a cask, because his proportions made sure he couldn't get drunk easily. As was common with him, he didn't think too much of it when he gave it to me. It's a little much for any but someone with a giant's constitution so I suppose it makes sense that enough of it would cause even dear Isadora to become inebriated."
"Well, she enjoyed it. She had never been able to get drunk before. She seemed to like the buzz though if she gets a hangover later, she probably won't be nearly as happy about it."
"Sounds like you two had a fun night. Well, it's still rather early. I think I will be able to get a few more hours of sleep in me. Wanna cuddle?"
"Sure. But I want to be the big spoon this time."
"What, why? Everyone knows that being the little spoon is better."
"Then no problems, right?"
"Your loss. Sure." Harry said as he turned around and felt Ciri wrap her arm around him. The fool, everyone wants to be the little spoon. It offers a level of comfort and security that is unmatched.
Harry drifted off for several more hours, though he never went back into a deep slumber. He stayed partially conscious and simply enjoyed the peace associated with laying with his lover. Ciri, on the other hand, was softly snoring after her long night adventure. He wasn't sure how he felt about her getting along so well with Isadora but he wouldn't interfere. It was good for Ciri to connect with more people. She already spoke about possibly reaching out to go talk with Ves again soon.
He grunted as he saw the sun was nowhere in sight anymore as it was too high in the sky. That meant it was most likely close to midday. It was likely time for him to get up as he had a meeting with a certain Elven Queen today.
He sighed as he unwrapped himself from his white-haired companion and sat up slowly. He gently rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. He looked around for a moment and summoned some of his more formal wear before taking it into the bathroom and washing up.
Once he was done, he easily puts on his clothing before looking at himself in a mirror. He looked very good in his own opinion and it was honestly a little nice to be back in his Kingly attire. He looked quite intimidating.
"You look quite good in that…" Harry looked at a different angle and saw Ciri standing in the doorway eyeing him.
"Thank you. My meeting is in half an hour. I don't suppose you will want to join us?"
"No thanks. I have never met Francesca and I don't see any reason to change that." Ciri said back. Harry smiled and made his way over to her. He looked at her wearing her nightclothes which was simply a pair of panties and an undershirt. She found them more comfortable than the nightgowns of this time and he was certainly not going to complain.
"You are seriously having me contemplate blowing this meeting and simply staying here," Harry said with a smile as he looked her over. Ciri smirked back at him but shook her head.
"Cool your engines lover boy. I am still rather tired, so the most you would get would be some more cuddling."
"I don't see anything wrong with that."
"I am sure you don't… Go. Don't blow off your responsibilities just to stay with me."
"There's no better reason to blow off such things that I can imagine."
"Enough flirting. Get out of here. I will still be here when you get back."
"I sincerely hope so," Harry said back as he watched her turn and walk back to their bed, his eyes firmly planted on her posterior. As he finally watched her slide back into the bed, he finally sighed and decided to head to his tower. With a simple twitch, he apparated from his comfortable manor into his Capitals tower.
When he finally reorganized himself, he noticed himself in his office, which was now empty since Merri had left on her promised vacation yesterday. She had wasted no time from seeing him arrive to leaving almost immediately with barely an audible goodbye.
He sighed before sitting behind his desk and started looking at the various paperwork she had left behind for him. Some of it was simply for him to review so he could catch up on what he had missed. Other things were new bits of legislation Merri had thought it would be best for him to look at himself.
Harry started looking through several of the papers and was pleased to see most were simple budget reports and most showed the increase in profit that Merri had spoken to him about already. He would have to double-check all the numbers since he knew for a fact, that many businesses liked to sneak little bits on the side that would turn into larger numbers down the line.
He was interrupted from his musings when he heard a knock on the door. He looked up lazily for a moment as he took the time to reach out with his senses and see if he could figure out who was outside. It would seem it was one of his guards and judging from the large amount of magical power that one of the people who were with him had, his guests had arrived.
"Enter," Harry called out. Said guard entered and bowed to him.
"Your Grace, the guest you anticipated for, have arrived." The guard said to him. He nodded at the man.
"Send them in then." He spoke sternly, making sure to switch over into his kingly voice. The guard exited the room and, not a moment later, three people entered in his steed. Two were guards wearing light ornate armor that was not of a common craft. They were also both elves which were rarer to see in these times outside the Socia'tael. However, it was the woman they were flanking that truly caught his attention.
At first glance, Harry could already tell the rumors about Francesca were true. She was most certainly one of the most beautiful women he had ever laid his eyes on. Her hair was up in twin buns though he could tell it was shiny and most likely as soft as silk. Her face had smaller, more cute features that looked equally as soft like it was something that had been sculpted rather than birthed. Her eyes were a blue that was even brighter than the sky itself. To finish her look, she wore a purple dress that seemed to be both flowing and tight to accentuate her flawless figure. She looked every bit of what one would expect from an Elven Queen.
"Lady Enid an Gleanna. It is… a pleasure to see you." Harry spoke in elder speech politely to her. She smiled at his words and moved to him so she could give her hand. He took it and kissed it politely before letting it go. He idly noticed that although she had no allure, her mere presence almost felt intoxicating in a similar way as veela was described back on his homeworld. He made sure to keep his mental barriers tight to make sure he acted correctly.
"A true honor to meet you, King Hadrian. I have heard many good things." She responded still in elder speech. He smiled politely at her words and nodded. He then turned his eyes to her guards who were looking at him sternly.
"Your guards may wait outside during our discussion." He told her politely. Though it sounded like a suggestion. It was very clear that it was not one. Both her guards didn't look happy to hear his words, but Francesca made a small motion and the quickly listened to her as they headed towards the door.
"Why don't you sit down, I am sure you have had a long journey and are tired," Harry told her gesturing to the chair that sat opposite his desk, she thanked him before smoothly sitting in the designated chair. He idly noticed that all her movements up to this point had been unnaturally smooth. Almost like watching a vampire, though not quite.
"Your elder speech is quite good. Who taught you if I may ask?" She inquired politely.
"Oh, I couldn't give you one person. I have had many teachers and simply using it helped more than anything to refine it to this level." Harry responded easily as he pulled out two glasses and summoned a bottle of wine. He poured both and handed her one which she took. He took a small sip before setting it down, just enough to show her it wasn't poisoned. That seemed to work as she took her sip as soon as he did so.
"It's very impressive. Possibly the best I have ever heard from a human."
"Thank you… So, as you know, I am not one to waste time. Shall we get right down to business?"
"That is fine with me."
"Good. You spoke in your letter about possibly setting aside some land for some of your elves to settle in within my Kingdoms. To be perfectly honest, I see no reason at all for why I should do this or what I could possibly get out of it." Harry told her losing some of the friendliness in his voice and turning it slightly colder. Francesca stiffened at his words but didn't look out of place from them.
"It was my understanding that his grace strove for diversity and unity within his kingdom for all who decide to call it their home. Is this not the case?"
"It is. I simply don't see how giving elves private land for no reason, contributes to the diversity within my Kingdom nor its unity. If anything, it will cause the opposite as other races wonder why yours will be treated differently."
"Other races have not lived in these lands for millennia only to be pushed out by foreigners."
"I doubt that matters to them and it certainly doesn't matter to me. Population wise, pure elves only make up around nine percent of all the races within my kingdom. Furthermore, out of that nine percent, nearly fifty percent are part of the Socia'tael that kills innocents and will likely continue to do so even if I do make a deal with you."
"You would punish all my people for the actions of a few?"
"Obviously not considering I have not ethnically cleansed the ones who simply wish to live in peace. And I will admit that both Pure Elves and Half-elves face many issues due to prejudice even within my borders. Still, I am not sure building a reservation for them will do much to change that.
"It would give them a safe place to grow and live away from the prejudices of others who would seek to hurt them."
"Or it might embolden their enemies who see such legislation as unfair."
"I simply want that which is best for my people. One can look no further than Dol Blathanna to see that a safe place benefits both those within my Kingdom and those outside of it. It has come to my attention you have made a treaty with Emperor Emhyr and have taken his daughter as your future bride. Your father-in-law saw reason and allowed such a measure."
"I am not my father-in-law." Harry shot back with steel in his voice. Emhyr and he had certainly settled some of their differences for Ciri but that did not mean he suddenly liked the man and he liked being compared to him even less.
"I meant no offense. I simply wished to point out that there was logic in such an endeavor." Francesca said soothingly. Her voice sounded as sweet as honey and yet Harry couldn't help feeling somewhat annoyed. It almost felt as if she thought she was pacifying a child throwing a temper tantrum. Almost demeaning in a sense.
"Logic… Is that why you are doing this? Because of logic? Tell me something, since you like logic so much. Why is it you decided to send a spy into my midst all those years ago?" Harry asked as he leaned back into his chair and looked at her. To her credit, Francesca didn't even twitch as he brought up Asal.
"I don't know what you speak of. I would never send someone to spy on you, your grace."
"Is that so? Let's move away for a moment from the obvious lie you just told. Spying is a very common practice amongst kingdoms, especially nearby and neighboring kingdoms. For one kingdom to claim they have made no attempt to spy on one of their neighbors is almost idiotic. Like trying to convince someone the sun is green. So, not only have you lied to me, but you're also implying I am a fool as well, as that it?" Harry asked coldly.
In truth, he cared nothing about the spying. After all, he spied on Francesca as well while she ruled in Dol Blathanna and found information on her. No, this was simply about putting her on the back foot so she would be in a more desperate position. Plus, he wanted to make her sweat as punishment for not aiding in any way during the Battle of Kaer Morhen. At this point, Francesca looked rather uncomfortable as clearly, the conversation had turned against her quite quickly.
"I meant no implication. I simply meant that there may have been a… misunderstanding. While I did receive information from young Asal, I sent him to give aid so you would one day perhaps be more open to the idea of working and helping elves."
"Is that why he came under disguise?"
"We needed to first ascertain if you had a predisposition to our kind before we decided to reveal ourselves is all. We never meant to deceive."
"To be frank. I don't believe you." Harry said as he stood and looked away from her as if in thought. He could feel that the woman was now feeling a bit more nervous from his words. And he would be to in her position. It looked like not only would she not convince him, but that he might actively take an aggressive action against her and her people.
"You know… I have spoken with your sisters in the Lodge about you. So strange how barely any of you seem to get along yet you all seem so loyal to each other in the face of an outsider. I got told many benefits I may one day gain should I allow what you have asked of me. Yet, it occurred to me that of all the members of the Lodge I spoke to, never have I done so with you. Nor have I done so with Ida Emean the only other elven member besides you. And when we requested help, you were the only two sorceresses to offer none. Now, I can't hold such a thing against you, but it certainly does not paint you well in this conversation as you have now come and asked me to willfully sacrifice some of my kingdom to you and your people."
"Your Grace, I am a monarch of my own people. Surely it couldn't be expected that I would come down personally to aid in such a risky venture."
"Expected, no. Though dealing directly with an issue is not the only way to offer aid for a monarch. Further, I have already gifted you a favor by not killing your little spy, I don't see a reason why I should gift you another. In time and with strict enforcement, the prejudices of the past WILL be forgotten with or without your help. It'll just take longer and have a little more fuss accompanied to it." Harry stated as he eyed the woman. At this Francesca went quiet and seemed to be thinking over a mile a minute on a way she could likely persuade him. Harry simply stayed silent as he watched her think.
"I see your perspective and understand you will not wish to do this out of the simple goodness in your heart."
"I shall not."
"Very well, what is it you wish of me to convince you?"
"Hmm… Now that is an interesting question. Well, let's see what I can think of… Hmm, yes. I know. I will make you a deal. For the first, I wish you to contribute to the Avalonian Empire's magical knowledge. I will give you an alphabetical list of our tomes and you must add at least ten to the list. We have means to copy the book so you will get the original copies back. Two, the land I give will only be allowed to be settled upon by elves exclusively for, let's say two hundred years. That being said, visitors are allowed free entry into the land for both trade and to interact peaceably with the people. The third and final stipulation… this location would fall under the Kingdom of Dol Blathanna. That means it would fall under your rule. However, just like with Emhyr, issues with your kingdom in my territory may default to me if you aren't handling them productively. If you meet these requirements. I will grant another piece of land, this one beyond the Dragon Mountains and near this very capital." Harry told her. The elven Queen frowned as she thought on his words.
"I would be able to pick which tomes we send?"
"As long as they are not on the list. And let me be clear, ten tomes are a REQUIREMENT. Do not come to me later claiming you don't have ten tomes we don't already have because I will not care nor will I believe you. And I will personally check the authenticity. If you have sent fake knowledge you can expect more than simple reprobation. Dol Blathanna itself will be punished, not just you. I do not suffer cheats." Harry said. In truth, Harry had almost all common and uncommon tomes of magic in his library. Anything Francesca could give would likely be rare simply for the fact that she wouldn't be able to come up with anything else
"I understand. You said this area you give will have to have open borders… What should happen if some of your citizens enter the land and break this peace?"
"They will be punished to the fullest extent possible. They will be tried by a court consisting of half its members coming from this new land you would settle and a half from mine."
"Finally, you say it will fall under Dol Blathanna control but how could I rule over a country so far away?"
"I will create a gateway between the two places for instantaneous travel. Similar to the ones you and your guards used to arrive here so quickly." Harry said casually. Her eyes lit up when he told her this and he assumed she wanted a chance to study such a gateway to possibly recreate them.
"I see… I will need some time to think about it.
"Of course. Take all the time you need."
"How did the meeting go?"
"Exactly as planned. She'll certainly agree to my terms within the next couple of weeks."
"Did she live up to your expectations?"
"Was she an Elvish brat who was used to getting her way with pretty words? Somewhat. She had a little more backbone than expected. Her intelligence was never in question though. I suppose your father's words describing her were accurate."
"Mmm. That means we'll have to stay here until you finish with that. What shall we do to pass the time?"
"I have a few ideas if you're up for them…"