It was the dreary stormy night that so often went with nights of terror. It seemed a cliché that had a base in fact. It gave Llandra something to think about, staring out the window of a blank, depressing room. The black the walls and floor had been had since faded to gray, matching the storm clouds washed the walls of the castle with an icy rain. Llandra supposed she should be grateful she was able to stay in this blank room, rather than the dungeons, the normal place for thieves. She had stopped wasting her breath explaining that she had been framed. No one listened to a woman.
Eric stepped through the gray steel enforced door. While the castle's mannerisms were medieval, the technology wasn't. It was this fact that landed Llandra here in the first place. He cleared his throat, fidgeting with the pale gray tie at his neck. The three piece suit he wore looked as out of place as a thing could be. Eric, the nephew of the man who put her in this room against her will, spoke.
"Mr. Grue will see you now."
Llandra smiled, bit it turned into a grimace of sorts.
"The Old Man finally found the time to deal with a petty thief?"
Anger flashed in the steely blue eyes beneath Eric's neat black bangs.
"You're not petty, and you're not a thief. Never were."
Llandra smiled again, this time it was not a grimace.
"You'd think the Old Man would take the word of his future in-law over the word of his servant."
Eric glanced away. He was still embarrassed that she was going to marry his late brother. The marriage would have brought both families considerable wealth. The Northerners were trying to buy them out, but joined, the two companies would have no need of them. The Tigres and the Grues had been rivals in the way that they both owned separate sides of the same mountain. They had both done very well for themselves, providing logging rights, skiing resorts and other prestigious accomplishments. The Northerners wanted to buy the whole mountain. Turn it into some sort of Adventure Park. Both families were appalled at this idea but could see but one way out of it. Their partnership would make the mountain indomitable. The Tigres were well known for their fighters. They had some of the fastest men and women on the mountain, and advantage over the Grues, who still saw woman's main place to be in the home, not the battle field. Their rival, the Grues, whose strategic skills, while not as strong as the Tigres, who had their own preferred mastery, was equally skilled in all variations of fighting. Llandra, in her slim gray dress and soft souled shoes looked very innocent and demure. If Eric had not known better, he would never have guessed the skill she possessed with daggers, and in the lesser known martial arts. She had been raised a fighter. Her, along with her four brothers, had a training site on their side of the mountain. Occasionally they took on students. Children of rich clientele that wanted their child to know how to protect themselves. This was a smart move, as the Mountain was thick with thieves. These thieves, either after family jewels or the coin in the pockets of the clients, were forever attempting to mug people on the roads. Even with the Tigres' and the Grues' dissuasion, they had grown bold enough to start a clan of their own. The Voleurs. It was a great nuisance for the two families. It was their future joining that would make the Voleurs think twice about stealing from their houses. It was a Voleur that had framed Llandra. Eric cleared his throat again, drawing Llandra's thoughts back from the slime that had framed her.
She nodded and followed him through to the room down the hall. The room was crisp and neat, a minimalist kind of style.
Luis Grue, though old, was nowhere near feeble. He still got up to "show the youngsters how it's done" in training every morning. This room was gray, like everything else in the castle. Llandra longed to see some color. The castle Grue was nothing like Tigre Mansion. Bold colors and striking patterns were the theme there. She also longed for her own wardrobe. She felt like a ghost, wandering around in such drab clothes. Back in Tigre Mansion, she had her new dress. A bold red gown specially made for her, Along with her stylish long black gloves. Were she to remove the second fabric at the tips of the fingers, there would be small knives set into the cloth, styled to be like claws. She wore these so often that her brothers had taken to calling her Griffu, meaning, "claws". Mr. Grue was a thin, straight sort of man. His silver white hair short, and feather short. His back was to them, facing the fireplace. The fire was going with an oddly cheerful crackle and pop of the firewood. Llandra was very relieved to see something cheerful in the gloomy gray castle. Eric knocked on the side of the doorframe. Mr. Grue turned to them.
"Well, Miss Tigre, what do you have to say for yourself?"
Llandra straightened her back, and had to work not to fist her hands at her sides.
"What I say won't matter. Whatever I say, you will take for folly and believe the opposite."
Eric stepped forward.
"Llandra, that's not true."
Llandra turned to face him, the fire and her defiance made her eyes glow.
"Isn't it? I tell you that I'm innocent, and yet you keep me here and dress me like the thief you seem to believe me to be."
Mr. Grue looked at her, assessing her stance and posture. She did not hold herself like a thief. Not shifty and uncertain as smoke. Rather, she held herself with caged strength and a leashed temper. It wouldn't have surprised Mr. Grue in the slightest if she started pacing. In the semi darkness her hair and eyes looked dark, but Eric and Mr. Grue had seen her by sunlight. In the sun, her hair was most peculiar. While the whole of it seemed black as onyx, in the sun, it highlighted with an almost orange bronze. Her eyes, not dark with the gloomy surroundings were normally a vivid bottle green. After a lengthy pause, Mr. Grue spoke.
"I may have been a tad rash earlier, my dear. But perhaps we can get past even the death of Richard, and the marriage can go on as planned."
Llandra's eyes widened in shock. She glanced at Eric. Was he to be the groom now? She sincerely hoped not. Nothing against Eric, but they would never do as a couple. They were complete and total opposites.
Llandra turned back to Mr. Grue.
"And who is to be the groom?" She asked, glad that her voice remained steady.
"You will be marrying Richard's cousin, Chase Grue."
Hunter? That was all she needed. This was not going to end well.
Chase Grue stormed into his modest cottage. The nerve of his uncle never ceased to amaze him. The Grues were doing just fine on their own without the help of the Tigres. First he was going to force Richard into the marriage, until that blasted Voleur had gone and killed him. Now his uncle was roping him into it! The letter explaining it still lay on the desk on the other side of the room. The urge to kick something was strong, but Chase opted for a long and imaginative oath. The letter, with it's gilded words and fancy phrases did not hide the fact that his monthly allowance, which allowed him to live such a distance away and survive on the closed seasons would halt if he refused to go through with it.
Chase swore again, as his friend, Gerard, walked in.
"You kiss your mother with that mouth?" He asked evenly, taking in Chase's clenched fists and furious scowl. "What's up?"
Chase gritted his teeth and walked over and shoved the letter into his hands.
Gerard made quick work of reading the letter. When he had, he let out a low whistle.
"Sounds like you're stuck pal."
Chase glared at his friend.
"Gee, thanks a lot." He growled.
"Hey. Keep your hair on. I said you're stuck, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing; unless she turns out to be a real hag. Then you can freak out."
Chase simply stared at Gerard for a moment. Appalled by his friend's seemed discontent for women.
"I'll remind you to keep a civil tongue in your head." Chase said, steel creeping into his voice.
Gerard raised an eyebrow.
"Alright. Well, what are you going to do?"
Chase threw his hands up in exasperation.
"What can I do? He has left me but one option. I will have to go."
Gerard leaned back in his chair by the table, the absolute vision of relaxation.
"So go, and stop your houndish whining."
Chase had to clamp his jaw shut. He did not want to part with his friend with harsh words. He nodded, his neck stiff with restraint, and left, gathering his scant belongings.
Llandra scowled at the wall. She was still dressed in the drab gray clothes provided for her. She grimly smiled at her small rebellion of color. She had found a vial of nail varnish, and painted her long nails a bright and vicious red. She had heard from the servants that Chase was arriving this day. A frown creased her brow. It wasn't that she didn't want to help her family. She would gladly fight a thousand Voleurs on her own for her family. Her love for her brothers and parents was the root of her strength. But this… this was something she was not ready to deal with. She had trained for years how to fight. But marriage was something she had never trained for. Try as her aunts and mother tried, she never stuck to her "Lady Training", which she found extremely boring. She had just stood to pace, when she heard someone at the door.
Chase almost reached for his gun. She stood, violent energy barely contained. She looked like a paradox. Vivid black hair streaked with bronze orange, green eyes lit with surprise and interest, Bold red nails, long and as sharp as claws. In opposition to all of this was her outfit, which was completely gray. The simple make of the dress not concealing the obvious form of a grown woman. A friendly hand clasped onto his shoulder.
Mr. Grue stood behind him, looking into the room at the girl.
"Chase, meet Llandra."
Chase did a double take. This is the woman he is supposed to wed?
Mr. Grue spoke again.
"Llandra, this is Chase."
Llandra looked from Mr. Grue to him with such fire in her eyes that it intrigued him. He bowed, not knowing if showing her the back of his neck was a wise move or not. She curtsied, bowing her head jerkily as if fighting with herself. When she straightened, Chase could see her turn wistfully to the window, which was open to invite in the breeze. Mr. Grue cleared his throat.
"I'll let you get to know each other."
Llandra started at Chase, weighing her options. There was always the window behind her. Below were a tree and a grassy knoll. She may have a chance of escaping if she jumped. It might be worth the chance. The door closed behind the Old Man, she snarled, she hated being closed in. He smiled, amused.
"Do you find me amusing?" She asked, barely keeping the snarl out of her voice.
Chase nodded. "Very. I've never seen such control before."
Llandra raised a slim eyebrow.
"Do you frequent the company of loose morals, Mr. Chase?" She asked, the honey in her voice almost disguising the sting.
Chase raised an eyebrow in return.
"Am I in such company now?"
He didn't have time to blink before she slapped him. The sound of it reverberated around the cold stone room. Chase glared at her, the steel in his gaze pierced her heart, but she didn't let on. Her cheeks were flaming with the very idea he proposed.
"I assure you sir," She said with malice, "that I am of no such company."
His gaze never left hers, but she saw his hand twitch toward his gun.
He managed to fire two shots before she disappeared out the window. Both shots ricocheted off the walls. Chase stormed to the window in time to see Llandra's slim form disappear through the trees. So, she had been able to escape a two-story window unscathed, he thought. Interesting. He rubbed the sore spot on his cheek. He had to say one thing for her; she could pack a powerful slap. He was about to open the door when it swung open, the maid following behind it.
"I heard gunshots. What happened Mr. Chase?"
"A misunderstanding." Chase replied smoothly. As he passed her, he ordered, "Get my gear." He turned around to scowl at the window. "I'm going hunting."
I just have to say…. dun Dun DUN!! Don't you just hate it when people do that? Well, don't sweat it, I'll have the next chapter up soon. Oh, and in case you haven't noticed, blue is mostly the point of view of Chase, and black is Llandra. I know Chase seems like a jerk now, but wait, it gets better. I love getting review, so the more reviews I get, the more I'm reminded to get the next chapter out. This is true with my other stories as well.)