My dear son-in-law,
He’d read the salutation and then quietly taken the letter outdoors, leaving Gwena to her nap rather than joining her. There was no reason to wake her with any expletives that happened to slip past his self-control, and if Lucian Leours was starting a letter to him like this, it was highly likely that the letter was going to cause expletives.
Calmly, Slate walked through the orchard to the broad stump of his father’s favorite tree, killed two years after the man’s death by lightning. It’d become Slate’s preferred “thinking” spot, and he settled onto the stump, letter in hand, to breathe silently before continuing to read.
Though perhaps you will find this difficult to believe, given my class and occupation, family has always been of paramount importance to me. Indeed, not even death could keep me from my children…or now, my grandchildren. The Six have truly blessed me, to have given me five beautiful darlings to dote upon, and I do look forward to spending more time with them.
Oh, he believed it, all right. It hadn’t taken much for Slate to figure out that the Leours would always consider Leours first, everything (and everyone) else second. If Lucian was going to fixate on anything, it would be his children and grandchildren.
Which brings me to the true purpose of this letter, Carter. My son and his little brood are only a quick jaunt through the asuran gate away, but you have taken my dearest rose so very far away! That has been bothering me of late and as I am not the type of man to dwell upon a problem without seeking a solution, I have hit upon what I believe to be an excellent one. You and Gwena must come and spend the winter here in Ebonhawke. My solicitor informs me that there are several suitable properties for let and if you like one well enough you could even keep it year ‘round, for whenever my darling girl might wish to visit her father.
His jaw tensed and, as Gwena wasn’t present to see his expression, Slate snarled silently. The fact that Lucian so clearly believed that absolutely no one, let alone a “filthy Krytan,” was good enough for his daughter was perfectly clear. He’d never had a moment’s doubt on that score. And reading the oh-so-proper phrasing made Slate wonder just how long he had before Lucian set one of his many “helping hands” to having him killed.
And yes, I dare call Ebonhawke safe for none here would dare raise a hand against one of mine. Your entire household would be protected, of that you have my most solemn word and I am a man of my word.
It was with perfect calm that Slate rose to his feet, turned and slammed his fist into the nearest tree. He did it repeatedly, face without expression, and then looked blankly at his scraped and bloody knuckles. Myrtle would heal the damage before Gwena saw; she wasn’t a talented elementalist, but she’d healed a few cuts and scrapes for him before.
He looked at the last few lines of the letter before folding it, quietly tucking it into his shirt pocket and sinking back onto the stump. Slate looked out at the fields, golden now with heavy wheat, and then dropped his head into his hands.
There was no doubt in his mind that Lucian was testing the waters, seeing just how much control he could regain over Gwena’s life. And she… She wouldn’t fight him. As much as Slate loved her, as much as he would’ve done or given anything for her, he knew she thought of herself as a Leours first, a monster secondary–and really, wasn’t that the same thing?–and anything else… It trailed after that, with mother, daughter and sister competing together.
Wife was not uppermost in her mind, even though Slate had no doubt that she loved him. That he gave her something she couldn’t find elsewhere–something she wanted, needed even.
…but she’d lived without it and could again. He’d married an Ascalonian noblewoman who was, quite frankly, out of his league, and he’d managed to marry a woman who came from a family of lunatics that refused to ever let any of their own go.
Lucian would, no doubt, subtly provide everything that they needed in Ebonhawke, and Gwena would never think twice about it because her father always provided. And he… knew he had no choice.
Slate rubbed his hand across his eyes and let out a slow breath, clearing away a few hot tears that had risen. He put his palms smartly to his knees before rising, pacing about the orchard until his face was calm, and then he went to find Myrtle.
He loved Gwena, and he would not make her choose. So he’d play her father’s game and give the man a little leeway, a little control, and simply try to hold his own in the shadow of the Leours.