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Eudora Carton rested the bow of her violin and sighed. The music was a nice distraction. It was metered and organized and wonderfully mathematical. Sitting on the veranda of her father’s estate, the crisp spring breeze chilling her shoulders, she felt entirely irritated. Her attendance had been requested and she knew better than to refuse, but her father seldom sought her presence when he did not want something. He was a man who commanded respect, even as age and sloth claimed his once powerful body. His station was deteriorated and his connections fragile. He was old and impotent, indulgent and impractical, and Eudora couldn’t stand him.
To be fair, Eudora did not like most people. In her opinion they were all self serving and petty. Both made them easy to persuade and even easier to kill. If one approach didn’t work, she’d use the other.
Still, if her father sent word she would abandon her plans, rush to his side and then wait for hours or even days for an explanation. Loyalty within the family was expected and even a minor infraction was harshly repaid. A patio table had been set with fresh fruits and refreshments in anticipation of his arrival, and Eudora cringed with the realization that they would be eating.
“Why have you stopped playing?” Her father asked, stepping out of the garish home and into the spring garden, “It is a delight to hear you. I remember so much in the music.” He waved his hand benevolently. He was short and rotund with an impressive mustache, the vivid crimson brocade of his ascot and waistcoat striking against the noon sky. Upon his chest a golden pin bearing the Carton family crest, a crowing rooster, sat proudly.
Her father’s guard, Ben Hammerton, followed closely behind, tall and muscular with a proud sway in his step. He was a stark contrast to her father and he smiled at Eudora politely.
“Papa!” Eudora smiled falsely and walked over to greet him, kissing him upon his pockmarked cheek. “It’s so lovely to see you.”
“My beautiful daughter! Let me look at you.” Eli Carton held out his daughter’s arms and examined her. She turned slightly to allow him to appreciate the bustle of her dress and the slender cinch of her corset.
“So much like your mother, ” he said with sadness in his eyes. “God rest her.”
Eudora smiled. Her father had greeted her similarly on every visit and it was more formality than truth. She took no delight in her father’s small talk, or the mention of her late mother.
“What do we know of the girl, Nym?” Eli asked frowning as Ben pulled out her father’s chair so that he could seat himself at the patio table.
“She and her man are with the Mayor, ” Eudora seated herself demurely across from her father. He had begun selecting portions for his plate and she frowned.
“Yes. My friend Perryn.” The old man frowned, inspecting a strawberry before stuffing it whole into his mouth, juice and flesh exploding into his mustache as he masticated loudly through his breath. “I’m certain that there is more to this girl. My hounds were on her when she opened Marcel’s secret room before that fool Magruder interrupted.” Displeased, her father stuck his fingers into his mouth with a vile sucking sound before continuing his feast.
Eudora looked out into the gardens modestly avoiding her father’s gluttony with a sickened inner disgust. She noted that Ben was also enjoying the view. In the distance, hovering over the calm waters of Port Twain, a massive airship was being prepared, the dock below a bustle of motion and activity.
“I had thought to have you bring her in, but I am old and need amusements,” he scowled.
“Whatever do you mean, father?” Eudora’s interest piqued as the old man reached the purpose of her daily interruption.
“Well, I suppose I am curious,” he pursed his lips behind his glistening mustache and dabbed his sausage like fingers as he sat back in his chair, thoughtfully. “But I think we need to treat the situation…delicately”
Eli Carton gave Eudora a pointed look.
Her heart sank. She knew that he had been making plans for her and she struggled to keep her happy facade.
“Of course,” Eli continued, “if your brother were alive it would be his job.” The old man covered his heart with is hand reverently, “My Alexi would never have let me down; Such a beautiful boy.”
Alexi, Eurdora’s late and irreproachable brother, had cast a long and concrete shadow over her life.
Despite her unwavering devotion, her father would never accept that she had not crossed him unforgivably by being born female.
For much of her life she had obsessed over her father’s approval, a waste of effort that left a bitter mark on her self assessment. Eudora had been an excellent student in school. She was a fine musician and an astute business woman. She was beautiful, well mannered, respected and deadly.
She understood now that the only worthwhile use of her efforts was the attainment of a self defined personal perfection. She considered her father a filthy thief who had elevated himself beyond his character; the respect that he commanded the result of a brutality that was base and unrefined.
No matter. He would die soon enough and his legacy would be hers, by right or by force.
“Of course, Ben will accompany you,” he gave his shadowing henchman a smile. “Someone to watch over my baby girl.” Ben Hammerton nodded obediently.
“Yes, Daddy,” she sighed.” Would you care for tea?” Eudora smiled prettily and began preparing his cup.