Get a glimpse into SLEEPER OF THE WILDWOOD FUGUE!
With a frown, Wayland nods to Asher and the warrior stands to make sure he has everyone’s attention. “The Helgardians have targeted the Grasdon family. We don’t know why they are attacking us with these creatures, but the city has decided to use their forces only to defend. This means they go about their business until a beast appears. By that time, our family has already suffered losses. They claim that this is to make sure the situation does not escalate and they lose their remaining trade pacts with the Helgardians. What you see here is all that remains of the Grasdon lineage. Every attack has taken at least one of our kin.”
“You four are all that remain?” Luke asks, talking for the first time. Feathers ruffle under his collar and his eyes shimmer gold as his panic rises. “What happened to Kira?”
“Afraid that you’ll be stuck with a simple gypsy?” Wayland Grasdon retorts, polishing a ruby ring on his left hand. He grins at the anguish on the young warrior’s face. “Maybe you’re scared that my only daughter is still alive, but crippled. If you reject her in such a state it would make you look like a monster. Then again, you probably hope she’s one of the dead, so you don’t have to make a decision.”
“Tell me where Kira is, sir.”
Asher leans over to his father to speak, but a quick hand is placed against his lips. The younger man settles back down and sighs, settling for enjoying a pear. He refuses to look at his father or Luke, his attention finding an unimportant spot on the ceiling to ponder on. Timbre and Quill exchange nervous glances and follow their elder kinsman’s example.
“I don’t know what she sees in you,” the patriarch admits, popping a grape into his mouth and squishing it between his white teeth. “I told her to test your relationship or I would publicly stand against it. What does my daughter do? Picks a claimed man who has left our city behind and uses him as public proof that she is upholding the traditions. Meanwhile, I know he wasn’t a challenge to what you two have. I’d be fine with that if I didn’t start hearing about you and this gypsy.”
“Kira told me to uphold the traditions of your people,” the forest tracker argues, letting the griffin spirit sink back into his subconscious. He can still feel Stiletto at the fringe of his mind, the dog’s influence enough to sharpen his teeth. “I was honoring her request and I thought she was doing the same. Sari and I toned it down months ago because we want to sit down and talk to your daughter. Now, where is she?”
“You don’t understand our traditions.”
“Then punish me and teach me.”
“It isn’t my place to do so.”
“Then stay out of it!”
“On my beloved wife’s spirit, I will not let my daughter destroy her life for someone like you,” Wayland coldly says. A spearman breaks ranks to whisper in the man’s ear and swiftly moves back into position. “It appears this meeting is done. My butlers and maids will show you all to your rooms. If you’ll excuse me, I have somewhere to be.”
Grunts and shouts are heard coming down the hallway as Wayland gets to his feet and freezes. The sound of a body hitting the door echoes throughout the room, the sound repeating a few more times as if someone is trying to bash their way in. Asher and Timbre are on their feet with weapons drawn, the younger brother revealing a pair of long-handled sickles that he keeps hidden beneath the tail of his shirt. A lightly armored guard is hurled through the doors, the man landing on his back and rolling out of the way. Kira Grasdon storms into the room with her chain and sickle weapon drawn and a calico maid nervously following behind her. The black-haired woman is wearing leather armor and a furious glint is in her emerald eyes. She marches over to the table and slams the blade of her weapon into the polished surface, missing her father’s hand by an inch.
“This is why you sent me to check on the defenses,” she hisses in a voice that threatens to erupt into a scream. Her slender frame quivers from her anger mixing with the grief of recently losing so many loved ones. “You brought my fiancée and his friends here without telling me. I assume you were less than cordial in asking for their help.”
“I refuse to argue in front of our welcomed guests,” Wayland states, gesturing for his sons to stand down. The merchant rolls his eyes when Kira makes a wordless yell of rage in his chubby face. “This isn’t the time for you to get involved in this mess. We both know this relationship is nothing more than a fling and your mother will never approve. Imagine the pain you’re causing her by continuing with an outsider who doesn’t understand our ways.”
“Mom has been dead for years, dad!” Kira shouts, her arms shaking with anger. She tosses her weapon to the uncomfortable maid who rips the sleeve of her black and silver dress on the sickle. “Luke and I love each other and we’re in a unique situation. The rules have to be bent and I’ve jumped through every hoop you put in my way. Caspar, negotiating what you thought were impossible trade agreements, training with the local guards, and cleaning some of the more disgusting areas of the manor. What else do you want?”
“I don’t care what you want anymore! I can’t believe you’re continuing this feud while our family is being murdered. Get your priorities straight, dad, or you won’t have an empire to rule over.”