Chapter Two: Rare Combination

1940 Words
Echo Desrouleaux had seen some things in his life. Horrific things. Humorous things. But rarely had he seen something that was both horrific and humorous at once. Little did he know he was about to encounter this rare combination for the second time in as many days. The doorbell ringing had been a surprise. He was having a rare day off, having just returned from what was supposed to be his favorite niece's wedding. D'accord, so she might well be his only niece, or not really his niece at all considering they were not blood relations, but still. Lydia was precious. Like her mother, the effervescent Elise, there was just something special about her - and it wasn’t her necromantic inclinations either. Echo and Cadence meant to stay longer in Veritasia City, enjoy a post-wedding breakfast and send off for the happy bride and groom who were due to embark on a six month globe trotting journey - but, well...Killian happened. That’s what they’d taken to calling it whenever Killian ruined something, which the fool did with alarming frequency all the way through his childhood - though Echo never thought he’d done it on purpose until now. Any sympathy Echo might have felt for the klutzy little buffoon had left him when he saw the rage and pain in Lydia’s  youthful face. The i***t had hurt his niece in the worst kind of way, and was going to get everything he so richly deserved. If Astredian was too chickenshit to do something about it, well...Moltar, Pita, and Echo would see to it. What else were Uncles for? Though, after being called a pencil dicked, clout chasing, cheating with cheap whores son of a wanna-be pirate before being given the double bird by a woman who he’d never deserved the notice of, Echo could only imagine it would be years before he showed his face in polite society again. This suited the old rogue just fine; he could be patient when it came to vengeance. Though, they might not even need to act in order to achieve vengeance. Killian was a Duke, his father having passed on the title when the young man’s engagement was announced, but he had only ever been a paper noble. Echo was certain that the boy only wanted to marry Lydia to achieve legitimacy - recognition in the vaunted circles he so desperately wanted to be a part of. After all, Lydia was a true blue blooded Lionette, while Killian’s father only took that last name after inheriting the title that his father, a famous pirate, had purchased from Astredian in the first place. He’d never become a real Lionette now. After Moltar began whooping and cheering and the door slammed shut behind the irate Lady Lydia Lionnette, and the ‘cheap w***e’ in question got to her feet to protest that she was anything but cheap, all hell broke loose - and Echo, who had always known when to make an exit, got out before he or Cadence ended up in the crossfire. Presently, Cadence prodded at Echo with her stockinged toes. The long, shapely leg said toes were attached to stretched out from under the long skirt she was wearing, and his eyes trailed the line of her body up until he reached her gentle, smiling face. She was strewn sideways over the wing backed chair beside the settee he himself was sitting on, reading a book - a well worn copy of Ichigo’s first romance novel “Crafting Bonus.” “Darling, be a dear and get the door?” Cadence said. “I would, but I’m just so comfy…” Echo smiled, and set his tea cup down onto its matching saucer with only the softest clinking of porcelain. If he was a cold, calculating bastard, people often assumed that Cadence was his opposite - sweet and gentle. She certainly looked the part. But, those people couldn’t be any more wrong. Cadence was as manipulative and cunning as he was; she just preferred the element of surprise. If people weren’t expecting her to be so damn smart, it was easier for her to get from them just what she wanted. If they were none the wiser to her ploys even after capitulating to her whims, that was all for the better. “Of course, my sweet.” Echo murmured as he got to his feet and leaned down to kiss his lovely wife’s forehead.  She giggled a little, and went back to her reading as he shuffled his way to the door in his velvet loafers. They were black, of course. Just like the smoking jacket he wore over his gray linen loungewear. Style might evolve, but some things would always be cool - effortlessly classic - like Echo, and the color black. The Beast’s rumbling did not fit in with the serene, family-friendly vibe of the neighborhood that Lydia had just pulled up into. She looked up at the townhouse which she was sure belonged to the Desrouleauxs, as their family name was carved into the design of the black and silver art deco front door, and swallowed down an unfamiliar twinge of nervousness. She was still wearing her wedding gown, though she’d ripped off chunks of the long skirt so that it now fell just above her knees. Pride had kept her from asking the carnies on the circus airship for spare clothes, so she’d left the vessel back in the port with nothing more than what she’d come aboard with - which was pretty much just The Beast, and whatever crap she’d had in her storage bracelet. She fiddled with the gold bangle as she pushed her goggles up onto her head, letting them nest amongst her greasy, black curls. Lydia hadn’t bothered with bathing over the two day journey to the Zircyn Empire. Instead, she occupied her time by drinking her way through a keg of shitty ale and crying about what a failure she was. The chimeras in the cargo hold were pretty good listeners, and most importantly, they didn’t judge. Her Uncle Echo, whoever, was the king of judging. In fact, passing judgement was one of their favorite little games when she was a girl. Whenever it was his turn to baby sit, he’d take her into the heart of the city, ostensibly for ice cream, but it was really so they could people watch. They would try to get a read on anyone who passed by, or just invent stories for them based on things they picked up. Echo was one of her favorite people in the world, but she still felt as if she didn’t really know him. Then again, she thought she knew Killian, and we all saw how that turned out. At the very least, her Uncle Echo was someone that her parents trusted, and right now their judgement was probably more solid than her own. Plus, he was the only person in the whole of the Zircyn Empire that she had any connection to. The wrought iron knocker felt heavy in her hand as she used it to knock on the imposing, but still elegant, front door of the Desrouleaux townhome. She didn’t have to wait long before she heard the telltale shifting, clicking sound of multiple mana powered locks undoing themselves. Dia took a step back and plastered a smile on her face, which fell away almost as soon as the door opened. “May I help you…?” drawled a deep, and deeply unfamiliar, voice. It was smooth and melodic, and belonged to a man so sweet to look at that Dia’s teeth started hurting. Though, that might have been because she was clenching her jaw to keep it from dropping open. The tall, silvery haired young drow stared imperiously down his nose at her, and Lydia wondered - not for the first time - if just going through with her sham of a marriage might have been the better choice. If she thought Echo was the king of judging, she may just have met the emperor. “I’m afraid we aren’t buying whatever you’re selling young...lady.” the drow continued, lifting an eyebrow at her as he looked her up and down, taking in the shredded state of her once fine dress. Paired with the smell of sweat and alcohol that she must no doubt be exuding, Lydia could see why he was turning his nose up at her - but good gravy, did he have to be such a d**k about it? Couldn’t he tell she was having a void of a time as it was? “Good thing I’m not selling, sweet cheeks. Not that you could actually afford me, anyway. Now, where’s your Dad? I need to talk to him.” Lydia snipped, leaning to one side to try and get a look around the tall drink of water.  She knew who she was talking to, or at least she had a pretty good idea - but he clearly had no clue who she was. It was probably better that way. If he caught on, he’d just get expectations in his head that would only lead to disappointment. She’d seen enough disappointment on peoples faces over the last few days to last her a lifetime. “My father is a busy man.” the drow replied evenly, his eyes narrowing. “Pffff. Busy? Yeah, sure. Is he even back from the wedding yet? Shit.” Lydia hadn’t even considered that.  She summoned a small purse to hand and poked around in it to see how much money she had left. She could probably afford a couple days in a sleazy inn if it came down to it. If only she’d remembered to bring a communication earring with her, but she left them at home - not wanting to get distracted on her big day. Stupid move. Lydia sighed heavily, sending a few stray curls flying away from her face. She was just realizing that she really should have listened to her Mom. Ellie was forever going on about preparedness - something about the ranger motto, and how you never know when adventure might call. Lydia had always found rangers weird, though, aside from her grandmother. Grandma Darien was a true badass; next to her, Lydia was a weak poseur. The boy, or man she supposed, who was probably Harmon blinked a few times in rapid succession. He was looking very put out by her dismissive behaviour and bitchy tone. Had no one ever spoken to him in anything other than a tone of polite awe? “How did you know about the wedd-”  “Son, who is it at the door?” came a far more familiar voice, cutting off what Lydia suspected would have been a very haughty tirade. Though it was a chilly and rather pompous voice, it warmed Lydia through. Relief washed over her as Echo’s face appeared over his son’s shoulder, craning a bit because Echo - for all  his coolness - never did grow any taller. His icy blue eyes grew wide as he saw who was standing on his doorstep.
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