Seavan was afraid his father and brother would not come home, and Uncle Ulan would be left waiting. He’d come all this way, when Dannel had said he’d never traveled even half the distance before in his life.
His uncle was a quiet man, or maybe he was just quiet because he was in a strange place, Seavan wasn’t sure. He let Dannel do most of the talking as they visited before dinner.
Seavan had sent Aben up to bed as soon as they’d gotten home. He’d lost a lot of blood, and by the time they’d reached the house, Seavan could see him struggling to keep his eyes open, even though Dannel had brought him on Skyler.
They hadn’t talked about it, but the attack worried Seavan. Usually Raven and Kayne had been discrete about their abuse when Aben had worked with him, but Raven had not tried to hide his attack or his threats. Seavan watched his sister as she came in and announced dinner was about ready. He felt a small chill as he imagined what Aben must be feeling over Raven’s threat to Mia.
But it was time for Seavan to rouse Aben for dinner. Dannel offered to bed Queenie down in the barn while he took care of Skyler.
His father and brother came in while Seavan was upstairs, and Seavan and Aben came into the kitchen as the two men stared at each other.
Finally his father said, “Thought you never traveled.”
“Thought you did. But since Alexandria isn’t on your itinerary, I decided to make an exception.”
Seavan wanted to burst with the tension in the room. Neither man displayed the least emotion.
His father washed his hands. Rigel didn’t speak, didn’t greet his uncle, he just stood rigidly by the door. No one spoke.
Then his father slid into the empty chair across from Ulan. “I hear you’ve done quite well with the business. Everything our father ever wanted, I suppose.”
“The business has always done well. But the success has always belonged to Hans Trapper whether Dad acknowledged it or not. It is his good will that gives us our monopoly.”
Dan seemed to relax into his chair, grabbing his knife and fork to saw off a piece of the badeer steak. “So Hans is still around, is he? He must be getting old.”
“Doesn’t seem to. But then it’s hard to notice the changes when you see a person every month. Now twenty-five years, and a person looks old.”
Dan laughed then. “Yeah. You used to look like Dannel. Now you’re an old man.”
Ulan grinned. “I thought Rigel was you when he came in.”
The tension was broken then, and Rigel smiled, greeting his uncle.
“So did you marry her?” Dan asked as they finished up.
“Yes. You didn’t want her, and she’s a wonderful woman.”
“Did just what our father wanted all the time,” Dan said. “You were perfect. Probably still are.”
“I didn’t always do what he wanted.”
Dan gave a snort. “Let’s move into the workshop.”
They settled into the workshop, Dan and Ulan in the chairs by the door with glasses of ale, and Seavan, Rigel, and Jimmy with hides. Dannel and Aben sat near Seavan and watched. Seavan had to insist that Aben did not work. He still seemed very pale and weak. But he let him stay and visit, instead of sending him up to bed.
“So, when did you ever disobey our father?” Dan asked after taking a long draught of his ale.
“When he asked me to divorce Margot.”
Dan almost spurted out his beer. “He asked you that? I thought she was supposed to be the perfect little wife.”
“She is,” Ulan said, his voice a bit hard.
Dan shook his head. “Hey, you’re right. I shouldn’t pick at the woman. I don’t know her. Never really did. That was the problem. But what made him change his mind?”
Ulan glanced at Dannel who watched them both intently. “She had two miscarriages. He wanted me to marry someone who would give me a bunch of heirs.” Ulan was angry then. “But she was so broken, and she thought I would do it.” He shook his head. “It was then I knew exactly how you’d felt when you left. He didn’t care at all about her and how much pain she was going through. And if it wasn’t for Hans, Dannel never would have been born.”
“Really? What did Hans do?”
“You know everyone always worked. Well, Hans had suggested during the second pregnancy that Margot should rest. But Dad had her working full days. When she got pregnant with Dannel, I happened to see Hans right after Dad and I had a fight about her working. Well, you know what he did? He talked to Dad. But Dad wouldn’t listen to him! So Hans said, ‘She can’t work if there’s no more dragon hide, can she?’ and he left. And we didn’t see him for a whole year.”
Dan whistled in amazement. “Hans did that for you?”
“Yeah. And then when he came back, he would only work with me.” Ulan shook his head. “That kind of broke Dad. He sort of gave up and faded. Didn’t have any interest in the business or Dannel. At the time I was too angry to care, though.”
Dan shook his head. “I spoke with Hans once before I left. He agreed I should go.”
“It sounds like this guy controls you,” Rigel said. “I’m not sure I’d like someone else to have that much power over me. You don’t do what he wants, and zap — you’re out of business.”
“No. I’ve never felt Hans trying to control me. We have a business agreement, and he’s perhaps as close as any of my friends, although I know little about him personally. The thing with Dad — well, it was a matter of life and death, Dannel’s life, and quite possibly Margot’s. Even Dannel was early, and Margot was very sick at the end.”
They were silent for a long moment. Then Dan said, “So the arranged marriage worked for you. I thought it would. But Dannel’s not like you.”
“He’s not being forced to marry Irisha. They had a relationship before we suggested they get married.”
Shalina rolled her eyes. “My cousin, the libertine lover.”
Dannel ignored her. “Irisha is pregnant. I just found out I’m going to be a father some time next spring.”
Ulan gave Dan a look as if to say, ‘I told you so.’
“Uggh. Then why aren’t you married yet!”
“Is she always this excitable?” Dannel asked Seavan. “I thought I mentioned before that we were waiting for the right wedding outfits. This will, after all, be a huge event. Next spring. After the baby’s born. We’ll invite the whole city. Even Hans. Will you all come down for it?”
“All of us?” Vanya asked. “I’m sure there are too many of us….”
“We have a lot of room,” Ulan said. “I’ve expanded over several other buildings. Remember the old carriage factory? We own that now.”
“I’ll come,” Rigel said quickly. “I want to meet Hans Trapper. What does he look like? He sounds larger than life, off dragon hunting. Everyone’s heard of him, and no one believes he’s real.”
Dannel grinned. “Hans is larger than life, and I’ve begged to be his apprentice for years. Unfortunately he doesn’t take apprentices. At least he hasn’t yet.”
“You’d give up tanning?” Dan asked in mock horror, winking at Ulan.
“Yeah, he’d give it up in a minute to work with Hans, unfortunately,” Ulan agreed.
“But what’s he like,” Rigel asked Dannel.
“Tall. About six and a half feet. Deep brown wavy hair, the color of a wingdeer’s hide, not too long. He dresses all in blue dragon hide.”
“Blue?” Aben asked, leaning forward.
“Yeah. Light swirling iridescent sky blue from his hat to his boots. And he usually wears sun shades, except at night. Which he’s been coming more at night the past four or five years now, hasn’t he?”
Dannel grinned again. “Are you going to tell them Dad?”
Ulan took a sip of his ale before leaning forward. “Hans killed three red dragons up here about a month ago.”
“Three?” Seavan asked, shocked that the number matched Aben’s.
“Yes. He got three red ones. Of course there are others, but he believes the red ones were the killers, or at least one of the red ones. He told me that all three were killed inside the city.”
“You met Hans,” Seavan said, accusing Aben. How could he keep such a secret from him?
Aben tensed and stared like a trapped hopper. “I… I… He didn’t say his name was… was Hans Trapper. He… He made me promise not… not to….”
“If you promised Hans not to speak about it,” Dannel said with a grin, “Then you definitely better keep whatever promise you made to him. Discretion is very important to Hans.”
Seavan was irritated at Dannel’s interference but he couldn’t show it, especially since Aben appeared to relax now that he wasn’t required to speak up.
“Yeah,” Dannel continued, addressing the room. “We’ve got the murderers in our packs. Nice jackets, belts, packs. All set for the good citizens of New Haven to wear — that is after you all pick out whatever you want.”
Ulan nodded toward Dannel. “Looks best in the sunlight, so tomorrow you can take what you wish before we set the rest on consignment.”
“We don’t need your charity.”
“Not charity. Gifts to my family,” Ulan said simply. “I did assume you may not desire a bright red jacket, so I have a deep bronze with red trimming it. Or there is a deep blue you may prefer.”
Dan chuckled. “Okay. I’ve seen the boys sneaking down to admire the wares in Neville’s window.”
“Not just the boys, dear,” Vanya said.
Dannel smirked. “Yeah, we even brought some ladies jackets for saucy Shally.” Then he sobered. “And of course you will have first choice, Aunt Vanya.”
“The dragon hide is generous of you, Ulan, but that’s not really what I want.” He leaned forward. “How far are you willing to go to reunite our families?”
“As far as it takes. You are welcome to move to Alexandria and take part in the business again.”
“No. Not me.” He turned and pointed directly to Seavan. “I want Seavan to learn everything. I want him to be Dannel’s equal heir. It’s obvious your son is as ill-suited to it as I was, but Seavan has your temperament. He does all my business now, and I know he could adapt to your monster of a place. I’ve never wanted employees, but Seavan took in Aben, and he’s done an excellent job teaching him. He can do it.”
Ulan looked at Seavan, and all Seavan could do was stare back. He didn’t want to move away from his family.
Dannel grinned. “Yeah, Dad. That’s an excellent idea. He can learn all the stuff at home, and I’ll still do the traveling. It’ll be great having Seavan around.”
Ulan nodded then. “He can come back with Dannel next month.”
“No. Not until Aben is trained to take over for him here. I’ll let you know when I think the boy is ready. Probably needs about four to six more months.” Dan focused on Aben. “You are willing to stay with us, aren’t you, Aben? With Seavan gone we will need you.”
Aben again had the scared hopper look, made more noticeable by his pallor from his loss of blood. His eyes darted from his father to Seavan and back. “I… I thought I work for Seavan.”
“Seavan.” His father said, and his tone implied all he didn’t say.
Seavan took a deep breath. “We must do what is best for the family, Aben.”
“I think I need to sleep,” Aben said, abruptly standing. But then he tilted to the right as he lost his balance.
Dannel caught him. “Yeah, get some sleep,” he said softly. “You lost too much blood today.”
Aben stumbled from the room.
“Blood?” his father asked sharply.
Seavan explained the incident, anything to keep from thinking about the fact that his father had just turned his whole life upside down. He’d exiled him to a city he’d never been to and never had any desire to visit.
Go to Chapter 17
© 2013, 2000 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.