Excerpt from the revised The Crown of Anavrea:
“I demand an audience with Eve Ethan.”
A loud voice broke through the hushed corridors on the first floor. Almost all the children were romping outside, making the best use of the brief hour before dinner. Labren, resting in Professor Olof’s office lifted his head from a tome chronicling the genealogy of the Theodorics. If Ireic was set on offering him the crown, Labren intended on finding an alternate possibility.
“You shall not speak to any one if you do not regulate your volume, sir.” Han’s voice carried despite the even tones.
“I will not quiet down until I get Eve.”
Labren attempted to stand without the assistance of the desk. He managed, but pain sluiced through his thigh. A deep breath steadied him as he waited for the discomfort to settle to a dull ache. “Bring him in, Han,” he called.
“Come this way,” Han directed.
“I know Eve is here. They turned off at the crossroads and this is the first place on this road that has a wagon….” The man’s voice trailed off upon setting his gaze on Labren. “You!” The man lunged forward.
Labren staggered a step, his bad leg almost collapsing beneath him. He grabbed the back of the chair for balance.
Ruarc’s icy blue eyes spewed hatred. If Han didn’t keep his restraining hand on the man’s compact shoulder, he would have seized Labren.
“Where is my sister?”
About hand’s span shorter than Han, the man was built like a wall. Massive shoulders, solid chest, and well-muscled arms. His movements declared a skilled quickness on his feet and comfort in his own skin few men possessed. Labren scanned his face searching for a familial resemblance, but was hard pressed to find one beyond the blond hair and perhaps something about the set of his eyes.
“I demand to see my sister.”
“You can demand all you want, sir, but you cannot assail this man.”
“I have cause.”
Han’s eyebrows rose.
Labren frowned. “What cause would that be?”
“Kidnapping of my sister from her owner.”
“I didn’t kidnap her.”
Approaching footfalls outside interrupted any further conversation. Not that they were really accomplishing much with the words they had exchanged thus far. Professor Olof appeared in the doorway, Eve at his heel.
Labren watched her face intently as she entered the room.
“I understand…” Professor Olof’s voice was lost to the mutual cries of joy and relief from the siblings.
Eve bypassed the Professor and ran into the stranger’s out flung arms. The unfettered euphoria of her expression banished all doubt of the man’s relation to her. Simultaneously, Labren’s gut gave a terrible wrench. His knuckles whitened as his fingers dug into the upholstery. If only she would look that overjoy at his appearing.
“I thought I would never see you again,” Ruarc told her, cradling her face between his hands. “I came to rescue you from Mridle only to find you gone, stolen away by some criminal, dragged into harms’ way.” He pulled her into a massive hug. “Now put your mind at rest, little sister. I shall free you from this…” He uttered a word that Labren had only heard used by the roughest of the seadogs. Professor Olof’s eyebrows rose and Han coughed. “He has no hold on you.”
Eve tried to speak, but Ruarc shushed her. “Now, villain…” Eve’s brother turned and pinned Labren with a frigid glare. “Will you release her or do I need to call upon the law to deal with you.”
Han stepped forward and opened his mouth, but Eve beat him to it.
“You don’t understand.”
“No, sister, you are the one who doesn’t understand.” Without dropping his glare from Labren, Ruarc pulled Eve behind him and pull out a knife. “You are coming with me.”
Balancing precariously, white fire searing his thigh, Labren raised both hands to hip level, showing the man his palms.
“She is not going anywhere,” Professor Olof interjected.
“Would you attack an unarmed man?” Han asked.
“Remember what Father taught you. Listen!” Ruarc ignored her, raising his knife slightly higher.
Eve ripped her hand from Ruarc’s grasp. Frustration sparked green fire in her eyes. “Ruarc Ethan, you aren’t listening.”
Ruarc swung to face her. The mask of focused determination slipped and wariness flickered across his features. “Listening.”
“I am free.” Her voice weighed heavy in the room. “Look!” She pulled back the collar of her dress to reveal her bare collarbone. “He already freed me. I am his wife. It was my choice, Ruarc. I choose to stay.”
A slow dawn spread across her brother’s face. “So, he didn’t steal you?”
“From Mridle’s perspective, perhaps, he did. From mine, I was freed.”
“But he is a criminal.”
“Wrongly accused,” Han pointed out before Labren’s tongue formed a sound.
“The man from the caravan said he abused you.”
“Let me guess his name,” Eve offered, “Ulysses?”
“He was the one harassing her,” Labren protested.
Ruarc glared at him. Distrust still hung between them. Labren didn’t completely blame him.
Eve crossed to Labren and slipped an arm around his waist. “You are pale. Sit before you fall over,” she whispered, guiding him back to the chair.
“But…” Ruarc’s voice faded to silence.
Labren wanted to protest and remain standing, but a sudden wave of lightheadedness cut off the possibility. “What a way to feel useless,” he muttered. “A brother-in-law I never knew I had threatens to abduct my wife and all I can do is struggle not to pass out at his feet.”
“He becomes a bit intense at times.”
“Intense?” The room shifted. Labren dropped his head between his knees, thankful for the gentle pressure of Eve’s hand on his shoulder.
“Perhaps Labren and Eve can explain everything at another time.” Professor Olof suggested from the other side of the room. “We have refreshment and a room to rest in if you should need…”
“I am not leaving Eve with that man.” Ruarc replied.
“I understand that. However, Labren needs her now.”
“May I suggest a tray be brought here,” Han suggested.
“Labren should be in bed,” Professor Olof pointed out.
“What is wrong with the bloke anyway?”
“Recent injuries are affecting his health.” Professor Olof pulled out a chair from the wall. “Will you please have a seat? I will gather something from the kitchen.”
Ruarc settled in the seat, but Labren could still feel the steely pressure of his glare.
“Are there any other family members of yours I should know about?”
“No.” Slender fingers slipped through his hair, lulling him toward sleep. “Our parents are dead, we only have each other.”
It was a feeling Labren couldn’t quite relate to. Ireic and he had never been particularly close, more from their parent’s choices theirs. It was hard to have a relationship of any kind while physically miles apart. Besides, the price on his head didn’t help matters.
© 2011 Rachel Rossano
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- Rachel Rossano