It was a terrific storm outside the Dove Manor in Devon, England, but from one room came a harmonic sound. In the music room Lord Robert sat on the sofa, he was a man in his late forties with white hair and moustache and chocolate brown eyes. He was a very kind man. Lord Robert watched his daughter Rachel Dove as she gently pulled the silk strings of the wooden harp to make the beautiful sound. Rachel was sixteen years old and has managed to master the harp with great speed. She wasn't a very tall girl and she had long dark blonde hair paired with mysterious grey eyes. Adventure was always on the girl's mind but when she played the harp, all of her worries and dreams come to a halt and nothing mattered. Standing on the side of Lord Robert was Alan, one of the butlers. He was tall, with short black hair and hazel eyes. He was strict with Rachel as he came from a very strict family himself, made sure she wasn't past curfew and watched her like a hawk when she did her homework to make sure that was done before anything else. Alan also acted like a bodyguard whenever the Doves went out which was useful as he had a history of martial arts and the strength to lift Rachel up with one arm. Sitting on the sofa next to Lord Robert was Peter, the other butler. Peter was nowhere near as strict as Alan and it showed in his appearance. Whilst Alan was always neat, shirt tucked in, hair brushed and shoes polished, Peter had bleached blonde hair which was always messy, shirt either not tucked in or half tucked in and he sometimes got in as much trouble as Rachel. Peter's eyes were friendly and a beautiful green compared to Alan's fierce and over-protective hazel eyes.
Lord Robert closed his eyes and smiled as Rachel approached the end of her musical piece; she slowed down and gently tugged the last delicate string to conclude the sound. She smiled and looked over at her father but her smile disappeared when she saw that his eyes were closed. No, instead of a smile was a smirk and without warning Rachel ran her hand quickly along the strings, Lord Robert's eyes snapped open almost immediately.
'' Rachel what have I told you about doing that?'', Robert asked with some humor in his voice.
Rachel rested her head on the wooden harp, '' never run your hands along the strings so roughly...but you were asleep!''
'' I was not '', Robert said in defence.
'' Were too ''.
'' Were not ''.
'' Were TOO!''
'' Were not!''
'' Were too were too were too!"
'' I was simply using my imagination as your music put me to sleep ''.
'' Great so now my music bored you?''
'' Rachel stop acting so childish ''.
'' I'm not '', Rachel said and poked her tongue out at her father to add to the childish effect. Lord Robert threw a cushion at his daughter who caught it. Rachel hugged the cushion to her chest and looked down at her wooden harp and saw ' Dove ' engraved in it. She smiled and ran her hand over her family name but was smacked in the face by another cushion. Rachel glared at her father who began to whistle and look around the room innocently. Rachel threw both cushions back at her father and tackled him on the sofa. Both father and daughter laughed as Robert tickled Rachel who squealed, she was so ticklish in the ribs that a gentle poke would make her squirm. Suddenly Rachel felt two strong hands grab her around her waist and pulled her away from her dad. She looked up at Alan who tucked her under his arm like a small child.
'' Aww Alan, I was only trying to have some fun!'' Rachel pouted as she swung her legs in midair. She hated being so small compared to Alan, it was so unfair! The butler didn't respond and offered his hand to Robert and pulled him up into a sitting position on the sofa again. Robert was still laughing and tried to smooth down his messed up hair.
'' Hey that's MY hairstyle Robby!'' Peter exclaimed laughing and pointed a finger at the Lord in mock accusation.
'' Yes my Lord, we don't want two Peter Basslos in the manor now do we '', Alan said smoothly and raised an eyebrow in Peter's direction as he finally place Rachel down on her feet, '' oh for goodness sake Peter why can't you be more like me?''
'' More like you huh?'' Peter said, he stood up straight with his hands behind his back like a soldier. He puffed his chest out and lifted his chin high and put on a serious expression and tone.
'' Rachel Dove, you are not allowed to smile '', Peter began and counted on his fingers, '' you are not allowed to have any fun, no friends until your homework is done, you are grounded until you graduate from Oxford University''.
Rachel burst out laughing followed by Robert and then Peter. Alan didn't seem so amused.
'' Now Peter, don't mimick Alan '', said the maid, a beautiful lady with blue eyes and black wavy hair as she handed a glass of brandy to Lord Robert and gently pushed Peter down on the shoulder to make him sit.
'' Thank you Wendy '', Alan said.
'' After all, we don't want two Alan Kenelms in the manor now do we '', Wendy said and winked at Rachel who giggled.
'' No we do not '', the teenager said.
'' Anyway back to business '', Lord Robert announced and cleared his throat. '' Rachel I will be going to the mountains tomorrow to see Daniel again. He called and said it was urgent and that it could not be discussed over the phone ''.
'' You're going to the Cairngorms again? You just came back last week!'' Rachel exclaimed.
'' I have to Rachel, it's important. So you are going to be a good girl while I am gone right?''
'' Yes daddy ''.
'' I'm sure she will be fine, she is getting good grades at school '', Wendy said, '' after all Alan is her shadow when she does her homework in the library ''.
'' Which reminds me, Rachel it's time for bed '', Robert said as he looked at his watch.
'' Aww what? Dad!'' Rachel pouted.
'' That's not going to work anymore Missy!''
'' Just five more minutes?''
'' Alan ''.
Alan took Rachel by the wrist and walked towards the main foyer and pulled Rachel along with him.
'' No! No fair! No fair!'' Rachel said playfully and grabbed hold of the doorway. Alan sighed and threw Rachel over his shoulder before walking upstairs.
'' Night darling '', Robert called after them and sipped from his glass and chuckled as he watched Rachel strike Alan's back with her fist to no avail.
The next morning Rachel kissed her father goodbye and sat in the car that Peter used to drive her to school and drove off, as the car left the manor grounds a helicopter landed nearby.
'' Now Alan, I need you to take care of Rachel while I am gone OK?'' Robert asked his butler.
'' Yes my Lord '', Alan said, '' I won't let her out of my sight, you know me sir ''.
'' Yes, I know you mean well but try to resist placing a tracking device on Rachel's ankle, everyone will think she's a criminal. She's a teenager my friend, she will make mistakes as everyone does. After punishment they are forgiven, everyone deserves forgiveness ''.
'' Everyone sir?'' Alan asked and raised his eyebrows,'' I seem to remember a former friend of yours made a mistake fifteen years ago and he is still waiting for forgiveness ''.
'' Well, he is a monster; I guess I meant every human deserves forgiveness. I am still waiting for his apology. Anyway I must be off, now remember Alan, Rachel needs freedom so don't tie her down to the house OK?''
'' I understand sir ''.
'' Very good, well, farewell '', Robert waved and climbed into the helicopter and the pilot took off from the ground.
'' Cairngorms Robby?'' the pilot asked.
'' Yes please Eddie '', Robert said, he didn't like being so formal and allowed people to call him Rob or Robby unless it was a formal event, '' Daniel called again and said it was urgent. ''.
'' Very well then, so how is Rachel? I forgot to ask last time ''.
'' Oh she's fine. Getting good grades as expected ''.
'' Well she should with Alan shadowing her '' Eddie said and Robert laughed.
'' That's what everyone says. She is getting along fine with her friends and riding her horse ''.
'' That's good to here. Which horse was it again? Autumn? Is that the bay one?''
'' No that's another horse she has, I'm on about Marbles the grey one.''
'' Ah yes, the excellent jumper. I hear Rachel and Marbles win just about everything they enter ''.
The two friends continued to talk until the Cairngorms came into view. Eddie steered the helicopter towards a small cabin not far from the mountain range.
A small plump bald man with glasses stood outside in the snow waiting for his wealthy guest.
'' Robbo! Thank goodness you've returned, it's wonderful to see you again! I'm sorry you've had to return so soon but this could not wait!'' The man said.
'' It's good to see you too Daniel ''.
'' Come in come in and I'll make you a cup of tea, boy it is freezing out here!''
'' That's what you get when you live next to the mountains Danny '', Robert laughed and waved goodbye to Eddie who nodded and took off.
Lord Robert sat down in the warm cabin and watched as Daniel poured hot water from the teapot into the cups. Robert studied his friend closely, not much talk, his body was tense and he rarely looked at the Lord. Something was terribly wrong. Daniel sat opposite his friend and handed him a cup.
'' Daniel, what is the matter? ''
Daniel flinched and slowly looked Robert in the eye, '' it is not good Robbo, not good at all ''.
'' What's not good?''
'' I've seen him, I've seen Clawstand!''
Lord Robert froze and dropped his cup, the sound of breaking china unfroze him and he looked down at his mess.
'' Leave it Rob, don't worry about it ''.
'' Cl...C...Clawstand! Why is he back? No, he can't be back!''
'' Believe me my friend; I have seen him with my own eyes ''.
'' That's why it couldn't be discussed over the phone '', Robert leapt out of his chair and grabbed Daniel's hands, '' Danny please, I need to know where he is! Rachel's life is at stake! It's been fifteen years, who knows how strong he is now!''
Daniel chewed his lower lip before answering, '' on top of the cliff before the entrance ''.
'' Long Drop Cliff'?'' Robert asked, '' How did he get out?''
'' No idea, but he has returned there every afternoon for the past three days ''.
'' Then I shall be there tonight '', Robert said and stood up.
'' Bu...But Robert! You don't have it anymore! It's sealed away and you are not the same man you were when you last defeated him!''
'' I KNOW DANNY! '' Robert shouted, then closed his eyes and calmed himself before opening them and looked at a clearly hurt Daniel, '' I know '', he said more quietly, '' but I must do this for Rachel. If she's gone then I will never forgive myself. I can't believe I was so blind all those years ago, I thought he was my friend, I should have sensed it!''
'' He had us all fooled Robby, just be careful ''.
'' I will, and thank you ''.
As the afternoon approached Lord Robert bid farewell to his friend and hiked through the snow to the cliff. As he stood atop the cliff he looked down over the edge. It was a sheer drop, now he remembered why he and Daniel named the cliff Long Drop. Robert backed away from the edge, the chilly wind blew stronger and his ears picked up the sound of feet on the snow.
Robert didn't turn around, '' so you decided to return ''.
An evil chuckle filled the air, '' you sound so disappointed Robby ''.
'' Don't ever call me that '', Lord Robert said through clenched teeth, '' only my friends can call me that ''.
'' Oh I'm not a friend anymore? I'm so upset '', the man said over dramatically, '' well that was your first mistake wasn't it? Befriending me HA!''
'' I was fooled, I have to admit your disguise was clever but now it is the end ''.
'' Yes, it is the end, it is about time I finished you off, and it won't break my heart to do it either ''.
Robert smirked, '' you don't have a heart, not what you are anyway ''.
'' YOU THINK I WANT TO BE WHAT I AM? '' A large hand grabbed Robert's shoulder and threw him backwards onto the ground. Robert propped himself up on his elbows to look at the man that towered above him. Clawstand was tall and muscular with large shoulders wearing a long black coat which was open but a small golden chain secured the garment in place, a red waistcoat with a long white sleeved shirt underneath. He also wore black trousers with black boots that came half way up his shins. His nose was large and slightly hooked; Robert looked at his own shoulder and saw his jacket was ripped. Looking back at Clawstand Robert noticed his foe's hands were large, his fingers were long and his fingernails were sharp which made his fingers look like claws. Clawstand snarled and exposed his teeth, they looked like fangs compared to the common teeth.
'' You THINK I chose to be THIS?'' Clawstand backhanded the Lord and sent him flying to the side. Robert pushed himself up onto his knees.
'' I didn't have a CHOICE!'' Clawstand kicked Robert in the ribs and the man rolled over twice and clutched his now broken ribs. Clawstand stooped and pulled Robert up by the front of his jacket so they were almost nose to nose, Clawstand's breath brushed against Robert's face.
'' You are to leave Rachel alone '', Robert said, still in pain from Clawstand's kick.
'' Ah yes, your daughter. How is she? Has she followed in your footsteps?''
'' No, I didn't want that life for her ''.
'' So she has no idea? Nothing at all?''
Robert didn't answer.
'' Well well well, look who's been a bad parent. Keeping the most important secret from his daughter, I think it's about time she found out ''.
'' She doesn't need to know!''
'' She does now, and I will have all the answers for her ''.
'' NO!'' Robert poked Clawstand in the eye. Clawstand let his enemy go and covered his eye. Robert punched Clawstand right in the stomach; however Clawstand's stomach was like steel. Clawstand blinked a few times to get his eyes to focus again, when he saw Lord Robert he smirked and pushed him away by placing his large hand in Robert's face and caused him to fall.
'' Why don't you want her to know?'' Clawstand asked innocently as he walked to the fallen man.
'' She's my only child, I don't want to lose her '', Robert said weakly and coughed, '' she's all I have ''.
Clawstand snarled, '' all you have? What about me? I have absolutely NOTHING!'' Clawstand gave Robert a huge kick which broke more of the Lord's ribs, '' I have no siblings anymore because you have locked them up!''
'' They were dangerous ( cough ), I had to, and it was my job ''.
'' YOUR JOB?'' Clawstand was fuming, '' how do I get it? I know where it is, I know it is the key!''
'' Only one person can use it '', Robert said and struggled to get up, '' and I certainly won't help you. It is well guarded ''.
'' I KNOW THAT!'' Clawstand shouted, '' I'm not STUPID Robert!''
Robert snorted and Clawstand backhanded him again '' I know how guarded it is, I've seen the guards and I am no match for them! I want my siblings back and I need it to free them ''.
'' Like I said, only one can use it ''.
Clawstand stopped and smirked, '' no, I know you won't help. Rachel will. ''
'' She has no knowledge of it. Or of you for that matter!"
'' Well she will soon, I will help her follow her destiny ''.
'' Well only one person from the family can touch it at a time, it's too dangerous for Rachel!''
'' Oh stop being a coward ''.
'' Me a coward? Who was the one that tried to kill her when she was a baby? She was only a year old when I found you with your hand at her throat!''
'' I knew she would be the same as you and I couldn't allow that ''.
'' That's when I found out what you really are ''.
'' Like I said, since you won't help me I will get Rachel to ''.
'' How many times do I have to tell you? Only...
''... One can use it I know and it will be her ''.
Robert finally got to his feet, '' not as long as I'm here ''.
Clawstand chuckled, '' exactly, I need to get rid of you so she can; I knew your job ran in the family and that's why I stayed with you pretending to be your friend. And as soon as I saw it in your hands I knew I found the right family ''.
'' Your type are foul, evil beings that have no place in this world '', Robert snarled. Clawstand growled and threw an uppercut under Robert's chin, as Robert landed on the ground yet again Clawstand placed one massive foot on the Lord's chest.
'' You are going to regret those words Robby '', Clawstand hissed as he kneeled down and pressed his weight onto Robert's chest. Robert pulled a pocketknife out of his pocket and stabbed it into Clawstand's leg.
Clawstand yelled out in pain and Robert rolled out from underneath his foot. When he got to his feet Robert kicked Clawstand in the side of the knee and then in his large nose. Both men heard a sickening crunch and Robert knew Clawstand's nose was broken but he didn't stop. Lord Robert threw his leg around and round kicked Clawstand in the side of the face. Clawstand rolled over and pulled the pocketknife out from his leg. He lunged at Lord Robert with the knife but Robert kicked it out of his hand and the knife went over the cliff. Both men lunged at each other and two punches were thrown, both found their targets. Clawstand covered his already broken nose and Robert staggered backwards and nursed his stomach before he fell to the ground, completely exhausted, blood seeped through his mouth. Clawstand stood before him and leaned his knee on Robert's chest. He saw a fine gold chain poking out of Robert's jacket and snapped the chain away from Robert's neck. The Lord groaned in pain and coughed up more blood, Clawstand pulled an envelope out of his pocket; the envelope was attached to a piece of string. Clawstand cupped Robert's chin in his enormous hand.
'' Because I knew I would win, I wrote a note to Rachel explaining that she must find what I seek and you are going to take care of it whilst you lay in the snow at the bottom of Long Drop Cliff. I must say Robby, you and Daniel did pick a most appropriate name hehehe ''.
Clawstand tied the note around Lord Robert's neck and then lifted him up by the front of his jacket and carried him to the edge of the cliff, limping because of the stab wound in his leg.
'' I know it will only work for one member of the family, which is why you must come to an end now. I will take good care of Rachel don't worry about that. I will put you closer to the entrance, any last words my dear Robby?'' Clawstand said as if he were talking to a small child.
'' How will you get Rachel here? '' Robert asked weakly.
'' I will summon her, what do you think about that?''
Lord Robert spat blood in Clawstand's face, Clawstand backhanded him one last time, dangled him over the cliff before letting go.
'' RACHEL!'' Lord Robert yelled as he fell to his death.
Clawstand watched his enemy disappear and backed away from the cliff smirking. A Doberman appeared at his side and growled. Clawstand sighed and placed a hand on the dog's head. '' Don't worry Blood, that girl will come. I shall have that Dagger of Power ''.