Mini-Interlude 46 – Harper Hayes

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The following is a commissioned mini-interlude focusing on the the bubbly and cheerful student Harper Hayes, whom Flick interacted with when she was partnered with Doug during the hunt for the Aswang known as Hyde. 

“Wheee!” Harper Hayes, the bubbly young woman whose pigtailed hair would have been blonde if she hadn’t dyed it bubblegum pink, held both hands out to the side like she was an airplane as the motorcycle she was on all-but flew along the road and down the hill.

“Damn it, Harper!” the boy in front of her, who was actually driving the motorcycle, cursed. “I told you before, hold onto me!” He brought the motorcycle to a stop at the base of the hill. “You wanna fall off and break every bone in your body or something?”

“Sorry, Eiji,” Harper recited in a sing-song voice, still smiling at her teammate. “But I just had to do that one more time, we were almost here. Come on, we have regeneration, you know? And all kinds of powers. I’m not gonna break just by falling off a motorcycle. I got punched in the face by that ogre the other day and I was okay!”

The boy grunted, then stepped off the motorcycle and gave her a long look, which she returned with a bright smile. Eiji Ueda was a Heretic-Born boy who was Japanese by way of Canada. Not that he spent much time there. Harper still wasn’t clear on the whole situation, but there was something about some powerful Stranger basically ruling most of Canada, who didn’t take kindly to Heretics being around. They were very much a minority up there.

Standing slightly under six and a half feet tall and built pretty much like a linebacker, Eiji was also one of the smartest people that Harper had ever met. The only person their general age she had seen who was better at the regular school stuff was Vanessa Moon. Sometimes, she thought that at least half their grade had a crush on the boy, male and female alike.

Stepping off the motorcycle as well, the girl turned to pat it. “Thanks for the ride, Raphael.” In turn, the lights on the front of the motorcycle blinked on and off twice, while the engine made a noise that sounded like a purr.

The motorcycle wasn’t just Eiji’s personal transport. It was also his weapon, a cyberform with the ability to transition between four separate modes. He could be the motorcycle he was now, a large hiking backpack that let the boy carry him around, a suit of power armor that he could wear into battle, or a massive rhinoceros that fought alongside him.  

Harper had been the one to suggest naming him Raphael, after finding out that the Japanese word for a rhino was sai. She thought it was cute.

“And thank you!” she chirped then while bouncing over to hug the boy himself. “You know, for the ride.”

He nodded easily. “Of course, I wasn’t gonna leave you stuck taking the bus to get home for your birthday. Eighteen, huh?”

Her head bobbed eagerly. “Uh huh! But not til tomorrow, technically.” That was one of the rules that Crossroads had. As a Bystander-kin student, you were allowed to go home for a day or two on your birthday. It was easier than trying to have Bystander parents visit the school. Which would… yeah, that would be pretty hard to explain.

Eiji was already turning to look around. He paused, squinting at the nearby wrought iron gates and the sign above them. “You live next to a cemetery?”

She laughed, giggling merrily as her head shook. “Don’t be a silly goose. I live in the cemetery.”

The boy had been starting to nod, before making a slight choking sound. “You what in the who now?”

“Come on!” Pivoting, Harper started to skip to the gate. “I’ll introduce you to my mom.”

“Uh.” Eijin’s feet stayed firmly planted where he was. “This, this mom of yours, is she of the breathing type?”

If anything, Harper laughed even more. “You’re goofy, Eijin,” she informed him while pushing the gate open. “C’mon!”

Behind her, she heard the boy mutter, “Didn’t actually answer the question…” But he followed after her anyway, slipping through the gate before pulling it closed after himself. Then she led him along the path next to the perfectly trimmed grass, leading her friend and teammate to a simple brick building off to the side. It looked like a small church there at the front of the cemetery.

The two them had barely reached the entrance before the door opened and an older woman in her late forties with styled blonde hair and a pair of very jangly earrings that made noise with each motion of her head rushed through to scoop Harper into a hug. “My baby’s home!”

Giggling, Harper hugged onto the woman tightly. “Hi, Mom!”

Somewhere in the background, Eiji muttered what sounded like an excessive amount of gratitude to whatever deity was listening.

Finally letting her daughter down, Harper’s mother beamed at the boy. “And is this your boyfriend?”

“Mom!” Harper blushed, still giggling as she shook her head. “Eiji’s just my friend. He gave me a ride.”

“Well,” the woman gestured. “Thank you for that, Eiji. Would you like to come in for some lunch? I made fried chicken.” She winked then. “It’s super fresh. And I promise, there’s nothing strange or creepy inside. Our family may own the cemetery, but we try not to fall into those kinds of cliches.”

“Ah, no thank you, Mrs. Hayes.” Eiji shook his head. “It sounds great, but I’ve really gotta get back on the road. I’ll be back in a couple days to pick up Harper though.”

“Ms. Hayes, actually,” the woman corrected gently. “I’m afraid it’s just Harper and me.”

“Oh, uh, right. Sorry, Ms. Hayes.” Eiji blanched a little, clearly curious about what had happened, but too polite to ask.

After another minute of brief small talk, the boy apologized again for not being able to stay and made his way down the walk and back out of the gate. As he disappeared,  Harper watched him go. Her smile remained. “I like Eiji,” she announced. “He’s a good friend.” For a few seconds, that smile held. Then she turned to the woman beside her. “And so are you, Karlee.” Her voice, once bright and chipper, had softened, taking on a maturity it had lacked before.

The woman who had been posing as her mother gave a little curtsey. “You know I’d do anything to help. We all would. Have you… have you had any luck?” Her voice was tentative.

“No.” Harper’s head shook. “They’ve hidden the pieces rather… thoroughly.”

“You’ll find them.” Karlee gave a confident nod. “We know you will. But I was serious about the chicken. It’s waiting inside, my–”

“Thank you, Karlee.” Harper touched the woman’s arm briefly, smiling faintly. “I’ll be right in. I just… I need to visit him.”

Nodding in understanding, Karlee moved back inside the house, leaving the girl alone there.

Harper stood there, taking a deep breath before she started across the cemetery grounds, picking her way around the headstones. Eventually, she reached a large stone crypt with a heavy steel door. In the center of the door was a simple engraved circle. She put her hand out, laying it flat in the middle of that circle. After a couple of seconds, the circle began to glow. Then, with a low, grinding rumble, the door slid open. Not outward or inward. Instead, it slid sideways into the stone doorframe, revealing the tomb inside, where a single heavy sarcophagus lay on a stone altar.

She stepped inside the crypt, waiting until the door had rumbled shut behind her. Yet, the room remained brightly lit, through an unseen source. The sarcophagus lay in the exact center of that light, and the girl approached it reverently.

“I’m very close, my love,” she whispered, reaching out a hand to place tenderly against the elaborate coffin. “So very, very close. The Seosten have no idea that I’m there, or that I’m looking for the pieces they stole. I’ll find them. And when I do… when I do, I’ll bring you back.”

It was strange, talking like this after spending so much time adopting the personality she had chosen to convey while pretending to be a simple Heretic student. But then, that was the point. If she was going to remain under cover, no one could suspect she was anything special. She purposefully kept herself around the middle of the pack as far as both grades and their combat training went. She had chosen weapons that would give absolutely no hint as to her true identity. Every move she made was carefully calculated not to give the Seosten any reason to suspect that she was more than she seemed to be.

Thankfully, she had more than enough experience when it came to adopting different personalities. Throughout her long, long life, the girl who now called herself Harper Hayes had worn many identities. Even from the very beginning, from the start of everything, she had been two people: the person others expected her to be, and the person she chose to become. And though there were many differences between the two, one thing had been constant. She was, and would always be, loyal to the man she adored and loved with every ounce of her soul.

After all, whether she was Guinevere or Lancelot, both served their king.

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41 comments

  1. Yay, mini-interlude! Clearly, this will have no bearing on the future plot of the story at all, I’m sure. *nods sagely*

    Anyway, thanks to EVERYONE for reading, and thanks to the commissioner for purchasing this mini-interlude. It was quite fun to do, and I rather enjoyed it. I hope you guys did too, even if I did purposefully work to fake out those of you who were trying to guess what was special about her. 😀

    Tags for this chapter are: Eiji Ueda, Harper Hayes, I Refuse To Apologize For Misleading Those Of You Who Saw Cemetery And Went ‘AHA I KNEW SHE WAS A REAPER-HYBRID!’, Karlee, Something Something Dirty Joke About Harper Looking For Arthur In Avalon.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow. I was definitely not expecting that. At all. That’s… wow. I was just expecting a student perspective. Part of me is actually a little sad. I was getting attached to Harper the bubbly Crossroads student.

    This is… well, it adds a whole new level of intrigue to a class that’s already stuffed full of it. The Heretics stole the “pieces.” All of them? All of Crossroads? Was/is Percival involved? It’s hard to say.

    I’m super curious about what Harper/Lancelot/Guenevere (I’ve never seen that spelling before) knows about Flick’s ancestry. Is she an enemy to Clan Atherby? Maybe even one of the people Prosser wanted to protect Joselyn from? Does she feel a mite protective of the descendants of the knights? Or does she expect Flick and her relatives to swear fealty to Arthur when she revives him?

    Also, some Heretics live in Canada. That’s surprising.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m super curious about what Harper/Lancelot/Guenevere (I’ve never seen that spelling before)

      Probably explainable by Linguistic Drift.

      Oh, how tempting it is to use that excuse and just run with it. But no, occam’s razor, I just misspelled it.

      And she is most definitely not an enemy to the Atherbys. She may not know who to trust and have an independent streak a mile wide, but she is not an enemy.

      Edit: She enjoys ‘playing’ Harper not because she likes tricking people, but because she genuinely enjoys the personality and fun. She’s a good person, just… intent on saving her husband.

      Like

      1. Hmm. I guess that independant streak explains why she didn’t join up with the Atherbys way back when.

        I’m excited to eventually see her interact with Flick (or any of her relatives, really) in this context. I should reread her earlier scenes.

        Huh, now I’m really curious about what she thinks of Russel. It’s obvious now that they were never in any real dangerous from Hyde’s partner, but I wonder if she feels at all protective of the guy.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. > Harper still wasn’t clear on the whole situation, but there was something about some powerful Stranger basically ruling most of Canada, who didn’t take kindly to Heretics being around. They were very much a minority up there.

    I’m surprised Crossroads and/or Eden’s Garden haven’t been able to take care of that Alter. Did they try and fail completely. or did they come to a grudging understanding/deal? Something else? Anyway, I am curious if this Alter personally hunts Heretics, given the implications in this.

    >The motorcycle wasn’t just Eiji’s personal transport. It was also his weapon, a cyberform with the ability to transition between four separate modes. He could be the motorcycle he was now, a large hiking backpack that let the boy carry him around, a suit of power armor that he could wear into battle, or a massive rhinoceros that fought alongside him.

    I know it’s been remarked upon by others in the past, but Heretic tech is absurdly versatile.

    >Eiji was already turning to look around. He paused, squinting at the nearby wrought iron gates and the sign above them. “You live next to a cemetery?”
    She laughed, giggling merrily as her head shook. “Don’t be a silly goose. I live in the cemetery.”

    Wait, what? That’s…odd. What is the purpose for this?

    >Harper watched him go. Her smile remained. “I like Eijin,” she announced. “He’s a good friend.” For a few seconds, that smile held. Then she turned to the woman beside her. “And so are you, Karlee.” Her voice, once bright and chipper, had softened, taking on a maturity it had lacked before.
    The woman who had been posing as her mother gave a little curtsey. “You know I’d do anything to help. We all would. Have you… have you had any luck?” Her voice was tentative.

    Hm, things are becoming a little clearer to me now. It’s a deception/act of some kind.

    >And though there were many differences between the two, one thing had been constant. She was, and would always be, loyal to the man she adored and loved with every ounce of her soul.
    After all, whether she was Guenevere or Lancelot, both served their king.

    Oooooooohhhhhhhh. Well-played, Cerulean, well-played.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pretty sure they have gone after the King of Canada. It’s just that he’s powerful enough to beat down committee members.

      Cerulean’s confirmed he’s on the same level as Prossor, Fossor, Bastet, and Grandfather.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m surprised Crossroads and/or Eden’s Garden haven’t been able to take care of that Alter. Did they try and fail completely. or did they come to a grudging understanding/deal? Something else? Anyway, I am curious if this Alter personally hunts Heretics, given the implications in this.

      Basically he’s too powerful for them to easily take on without taking too many resources away from other places.

      I know it’s been remarked upon by others in the past, but Heretic tech is absurdly versatile.

      It really is.

      Oooooooohhhhhhhh. Well-played, Cerulean, well-played.

      😀

      Like

    1. Almost certainly not.

      In fact, this chapter throws some doubt on the existence of the Key of Merlin IMO, because if there was an easy way to bring him back she’d have used it.

      Like

    2. Possibly. We have basically no information on what the key actually is beyond it beyond it being a person. No statement I’m aware of says it’s Arthur’s descendant.

      That said, I’m inclined to doubt it’s Harper. I think it’s what she’s looking for.

      Like

  4. Wait so in this universe Guenivere and Lancelot are the same person. And wants Arthur back well that’ll be an interesting plot point or completely irrelevent but it’s nice to remember not everything is a conspiracy centered around Flick and there are other conspiracies about

    Like

    1. Thanks! yeah, exactly. Part of the reason I went ahead with this reveal was to show that not everything important is centered around Flick. I mean, she’s connected to it by way of the Atherby clan, but there’s all this going on outside of her sphere of influence/action.

      And yes, Lancelot and Guinevere are the same person. Like Zelda/Sheik.

      Like

  5. So… Guenivere and Lancelot were/are the same person? How does *that* square with the legends? B/c the only two answers that leap to mind are Bystander Effect Shenanigans, or Extreme Narcissism. 🙂

    So… is it going to turn out that Flick’s year at Crossroads has more hybrids/traitors/ringers than “normal” Heretic students? Because it’s beginning to look that way. 😛

    Although… if “nexi of fate,” or “Ta’veren,” or something equivalent, works in the HereticVerse, that could explain it — all these various threads converging isn’t simple coincidence, or just the author Gendo Posing and muttering “just as planned” over and over in the background….

    Like

    1. The legends probably grew from ‘Lancelot’ being seen sneaking into/out of Guinevere’s chambers. She invented Lancelot so she could go adventuring with Arthur and the boys (not exactly a noble woman thing in that era).

      Also in case you’ve forgotten, Merlin is Arthur in disguise.

      Like

      1. If he exists, he’s probably still Lancelot’s son. She might just be his mother instead of his father.

        Apparently Galahad was a relatively late addition to Arthurian legend in real life. In light of that, my theory is that Galahad was born way later, possibly among the Atherbys, and eventually grew famous enough to be conflated with the original stories.

        Like

  6. So, after reading this chapter and the comments, it seems that I have missed a lot of information that I’m assuming has been told in the discussion thread over at SB? There are also no threadmarks for Cerulean’s WoG so it’s a bit hard to catch up.
    Could someone give me a summary on Arthur and what Harper/Guinevre/Lancelot here is trying to accomplish?

    Like

    1. If you go back to the Fossor/Fahststh Nini-interlude, they briefly talk about the “key of Merlin” and how neither one of them or the Seosten want to do anything to endager whoever that is because they want to “let sleeping dragons lie.”

      And if you go back a little before thay, to when Flick was in the Atherby camp in arc 23, Gabriel Prosser tells her about his King Arthur was a dragon Hereric, and the Percival MI talks about Arthur a little bit.

      So here’s the cliffnotes version of what’s been said on SB:
      -Dragons and dragon-Heretics are insanely powerful, Arthur himself was/is stronger than Prosser.
      -Merlin was an identity Arthur would occasionally assume, rather than a seperate individual.
      –Guinevere and Lancelot are similarly two identities used by the same person.
      -Arthur had some level of future sight.
      -Again, no one really wants to mess with him. Both Fossor and the Seosten want him to stay asleep or dead rather than risk dealing with him.
      -Guinevere/Lancelot/Harper here is originally a Griffin-Heretic who Arthur shared some of his power with, and is an incredibly high-tier fighter herself. Beyond the Committee and I think Prosser, at any rate.

      That’s more or less all the essential information.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you for detailing all that! The only correction I really have is that Harper/Guinevere/Lancelot is really on par with Prosser to the point that it’s a toss up about who would win. 50/50, flip a coin, etc.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. On one hand, this class is reaching levels of “stuffed full of people hiding their identities” that’s a bit silly.

    On the other hand Guinevere and Lancelot being the same person just boarded a rocket and blasted its way straight to the top of my “favorite takes on the Camelot canon”. There are half a dozen different ways that could work, with Arthur knowing or not, and I’m super interested to see how you reinterpret Arthur private acceptance of Guinevere and Lancelot’s love affair and his (forced) public condemnation of it. Actually I’m especially interested to hear how you explain Lancelot’s rescue of Guinevere. That … that’s probably a hell of a story in this canon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seriously though, King Arthur’s lover being a gender-fluid shapeshifter who is both the quintessential diplomatic courtly lady and the quintessential badass paragon of knighthood is just … it’s a good canon.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks, I thought it was a cool idea. 🙂 And to be fair, most of those ‘hiding’ their identities are hybrids who were deliberately brought on by Gaia as part of her ‘fill the ranks of Heretics with human-alter hybrids’ plan.

      Deveron was not known to her, but that was because of Prosser. Isaac being a piece of shit psycho murderer and the shapeshifting Fetch taking over Paul’s place were not known to her because of the Seosten. And Harper’s true identity may or may not be known to her, I won’t spoil that much.

      The point is, 90% of the ‘hidden’ characters were deliberately brought into the school by the headmistress, who DELIBERATELY planted more hybrids than usual in the year that Flick is in. It’s not an accident.

      But yeah, when we eventually (it’s not a plot that we’ll see much of this year) see more of Harper/Guinevere/Lancelot, it should be interesting. 😀

      Like

      1. Honestly, just assume that Gaia knows of and is involved in any and all weirdness that’s aligned with her agenda until proven otherwise. She may well be the best spymaster in the verse. Jophiel and Sariel are probably better spies than anyone on her payroll, but Gaia’s far, far better at employing spies than the Seosten management.

        There is a very good reason she’s kept ahead of Gabriel Ruthers in their spy war despite him having covert Seosten backing and a culturally accepted agenda.

        Remember, this is the woman who unleashed a master stroke in an ideological conflict that makes it outright impossible for her side to permanently lose unless the other side admits she’s partly right. As long as the Edge keeps letting in hybrids, the Revolutions will never, ever stop, and there will be an infinite supply of internal reformists with the deck rigged in their favor. Ruthers and co can’t even comprehend that particular plan, much less fight back against it, without first admitting hybrids exist, which means admitting that the line between Heretic and Stranger isn’t really that hard and fast in the first place.

        Gaia Sinclaire is a very, very scary woman.

        Like

  8. How is most of Canada ruled by a single Stranger? Canada is practically Crossroads’ home ground, along with the US. And there’s the Committee, plus the Victors–I thought the whole point of them was that they were powerful enough to take on and overwhelm any Stranger in a straight fight (barring Fossor, who is kind of on his own level). The advantages Strangers tend to have are based around having overwhelming numbers.

    It seems really strange to me that Crossroads and Eden’s Garden, despite having at least half a dozen superweight-tier powerhouses each, allows for most of Canada to be clearly (almost openly, as far as the Bystander Effect allows) ruled by a single powerful Stranger. Hell, even Fossor has to keep himself in hiding, which implies that not even he likes his chances against the Committee and/or Victors in a fight.

    Also, how could Harper be both Guinevere and Lancelot? Isn’t one of the key elements of King Arthur’s story Lancelot and Guinevere having an affair, which sets off a whole series of events that shakes Camelot to its core?

    Like

    1. This is a bit old … but it’s so fractally wrong I can’t help comment on it, and it was a late comment anyway.

      Other known non-Heretics who can play at Committee levels or higher: Denevus, some Olympians, Bastet, Grandfather, any Dragon, high end Reapers …

      The Committee is powerful, but they’re NOT the top of the pecking order. And the risk of dropping the entire committee on someone is that each time one member goes down all the rest get weaker.

      And the Committee has tried to kill Fossor, at least once. He’s still alive.

      The King of Canada just needs to be strong enough that the risk of going after him isn’t worth it given what he does. Which is pretty easy if you can play on that level and aren’t a horrific villain.

      —–

      And why on earth are you assuming that the later versions of the Arthurian Mythos are accurate? First: Lancelot’s not in the earliest renditions. Second: The Bystander effect means that the RL versions cannot be accurate. It would be a plot hole if events went down precisely as described in the RL pop culture version.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. He may have posted that message after that last paragraph of info was revealed, but…

        A. He might have been catching up after not reading for awhile and hadn’t read that part yet.

        B. Other people reading these comments for the first time probably haven’t gotten to that part.

        Like

  9. After all, whether she was Guinevere or Lancelot, both served their king.

    Wait, so if I’m not wrong, Arthur’s wife was also his most trusted knight.

    … This story really throws me for a loop sometimes.

    Like

  10. Oh… God…

    With the whole Guinny/Lancelot chivalrous romance thing that got added in the late middle ages/early renaissance this takes selfcest AND love triangles to a previously unexplored level. She/He is both their own lover and Arthur’s best friend/wife while also cheating on Arthur with themself.

    By itself the implications of this reveal would be a story…

    Sidenote: only just a couple days ago found this story. Loving it enough that I’m going to be at least a couple weeks behind all the other serials that I read.

    Like

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