Crunch by Lisa Barry

For Nicole ~ who knows that some dragons are bad but many are good. Hope you like! Xo

He USED to think the only thing worse than an angry bridge troll was an angry dragon…

But then he married Evelyn.

She was, by far, angrier than any troll bridge or any dragon could ever be. Loldrin Sethreen hadn’t slept in his own bed since she arrived. He had been assured ten different ways that arranging a marriage with a foreign royal would solve all his problems.

  • He would get an heir.
  • He would not have to deal with the pain and sorrow of true love.
  • He would have someone to cook meals and clean the place while he battled the aforementioned angry trolls and angry dragons.

But now, after saving damsels in distress, rescuing fairies from rogue mermen and arbitrating gold and supply trades between unicorns and goblins, he came home to his castle in the same shape he left it. No dinner was cooking over the hearth, no clothing was cleaned or pot scrubbed.

And there, sitting in the rocking chair that he had built with his own two hands, on the rare days he took time off, was The Terror. Lady Evelyn Shylo Meryin Lautry, the second heir of the Castle Traudlands.

His wife.

At least she was knitting. He had two sock pairs in the last week. They were softer than rabbit fur. He wasn’t sure what kind of yarn she used, but he hoped she never ran out.

Loldrin walked past the spiral staircase and continued with feigned purpose through the living room. He caught her eye and gave a quick nod as he headed to the far doors toward the kitchen. It had been a long day. He was tired and just wanted a bath and to lounge in his bed with a good book.

“Lord Sethreen?” she asked, her voice a soft feather over his skin. He stopped instantly just two footsteps shy of the door. Since he had shown up at the Castle Traudlands to complete the arrangement a fortnight ago, it was the first time that she had spoken.

He had felt the brim and firestone burning from her rosy pink cheeks, which unfortunately for him, had made her ivory skin and deep burgundy hair an admirable image to see but never touch. He wasn’t a damn troll after all. She was obviously genuinely and completely incensed to be in this new land, and possibly more so, to be married to him–a dark haired, bronze skinned foreigner from the south.

He turned and found that she had stood. Any other day, he would have known before turning. He met her eyes, bright, blue and fierce.

“You may call me, Loldrin, Madame.”

She nodded in reply.

And then those dark red eye brows dropped, and he could have sworn he saw fire slide through her eyes.

“Loldrin,” she said. It made him smile. It sounded so strange. Her brows lowered a bit more. “I do wonder, why is it that when I need toast and a bit of tea that I must fetch it myself? Where are the servants? And where in the name of the gods do you keep the honey? I am appalled at this household!”

Stepping back, a bit closer to the doorway, Loldrin waved a hand at the window in front of him. It overlooked his full stable, sixteen horses he had. “I have three stablemen, my lady. And I think they all prefer sugar.”

He turned and headed to the kitchen to make himself something to eat.

Later that evening, he sat at his desk, twisting the top of the ink well off and then on again. He pondered the best course of action and once decided, he picked up his quill and began to write.

First thing in the morning, he gave two letters to one of his stableman to deliver. As it had been every other morning, the lady was asleep in his bed. Yes, he had looked even though it wasn’t quite decent of him.

He kept that work-day light; an arbitration with a brownie and a tree sprite over some rain drop rights, and a fox medic demanding payment for saving someone who swore they just wanted to be left to die. That was a bit of tough one, but the fox ended up losing out. There just wasn’t very much evidence either way.

When Loldrin returned home, he went straight to the barn with his beautiful Alterian horse, Lexnor.

“Sir!” Arem, the youngest stableman stood at attention.

“At ease, boy,” Loldrin said and handed the reigns to the him. “Did you deliver the messages?”

“Of course, Sir. Madam Baker promised a proper solution to ya at supper time. And the other? Well, that was just a nod.”

“Excellent!” Loldrin said. He gave Lexnor a final pat and waved at them both, making his way to the castle to get cleaned up for supper.

Evelyn greeted him with slitted eyes. Her current project seemed to be close to done. It looked like a very nice sweater. He pressed his lips together as he passed. How does one become so angry? His tolerance for such behavior was short. It was no wonder she had been still available for marriage.

Just as he was putting on his boots after a nice hot bath, his stableman, Rakshaw, hollered up the stairs.

“Your delivery is here!”

“Good! I’ll be right down.”

Loldrin forced himself to slowly finish dressing and combing back his wet hair before heading downstairs, not wanting to look too eager. He found Evelyn had not budged from her chair. The item she was working on before was folded next to her and a new one started. Boring. She didn’t even glance up.

Loldrin considered himself a good, honest man. He had many friends; he worked hard. He liked simple things. And things would change. Maybe not in the way he had originally thought, but he would get want he wanted. One way or another. A clean home, hot meals, and someone to talk to now and again.

He opened the door with a flourish and smiled. Standing before him, holding a basket of delightful food items, was a lovely little yellow haired woman and her young son. She seemed a bit taken aback. The boy however smiled, his two front teeth missing, and waved a hand.

“Allo, Mista! I’m Jack and this is me mum, Tabitha. We’re here to help ya with your chores!”

“Well, allo to you too, boy. I am pleased to make your acquaintance. Please, do come in.”

Jack barreled in and Tabitha followed a bit more timidly. She did nod as she passed him. At least she wasn’t shooting daggers with her mind. He could tell.

He led them to the sofa and waved for them to sit. He could see out the front bay window as he looked them over. Evelyn stood from her chair near the fire.

“What is this, Lord Sethreen? I am not accustomed to the help sitting on the fine furniture.”

That would be obvious, Madame,” he said and turned back to his visitors.

“Now, Ms. Tabitha, I am prepared to give you four gold pieces a fortnight…”

“That’s exorbitant!” Evelyn shrieked.

“Hush, Evelyn. As I was saying…I also offer room and board,” he pointed at a doorway across the hall, “for you and your boy. Now in exchange, I would like hot meals for the morn and eve and I would like the place clean. Is that acceptable?”

“Well, I…” Tabitha started timidly.

“Well!” Loldrin said loudly, efficiently cutting her off. “Was that Prince Eracourt’s carriage that I saw heading toward the back courtyard?”

He heard Evelyn scramble from her chair, straighten her dress, and dash out the back of the room. He gazed out the front window, leaving Ms. Tabitha to open and close her mouth like a fish, perhaps wondering if she should speak now. He waited, even closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, noticing for the first time that Ms. Tabitha smelled like a fresh harvest. It was quite lovely.

A squeak, a crunch, and a loud belch echoed through the room. Ms. Tabitha’s eyes went round. Young Jack squirmed in his seat. Loldrin sighed with relief. He smiled at them both.

“Now, where were we? Oh yes, what do you think of that offer?”

Ms. Tabitha’s wide eyes looked at Evelyn’s empty chair behind him and back to him a time or two.

“No need to worry, dear. Not all dragons are bad.”

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