AN: I’m so happy that the writing prompt generator gave me such a good amount of things to work with. I like Lillian’s character so much; I can’t wait to actually introduce Gregory! He’s going to be so much fun as well!!!
Anyway, hope you guys enjoy!
Pollen traveled through the air and stung Jeremiah’s nostrils, the scout desperate to hold in his sneezes as he approached the lone structure amongst the hillside. Mud caked onto his once pristine pinstriped pants as he walked down the path, his wrinkled brow emphasizing his annoyance with his assignment. What a disgusting place to be for a person of his stature; these two herbalists better have been worth the ruined trousers and agitated allergies.
His boots scuffed at the hardened dirt just across from the Caper residence, Jeremiah snarling at the revolting nature that threatened his flawless skin and delicate health. At least he had finally crossed the path and made it to the front door of the threshold that housed his prey. Not a single moment was wasted; Jeremiah’s heavy fist slammed onto the door to signal his arrival.
Shuffling could be heard from the inside and the scout composed himself, ready to greet the occupants of the house with a smile. It was up to him to sell the apprenticeship contest position to the herbalists; he would have to be the salesman he knew he could be. The door creaked as it opened slightly, the small slit made barely giving visibility to the inside of the home as a pair of tired, blue eyes gazed out at the guest.
“Who is it?” Angela questioned, examining the newcomer’s attire with a frown. What would someone of such a fancied lifestyle be doing on their doorstep?
“Ah, good morning ma’am; I trust you might be Angela Caper?” Jeremiah mused as he picked his hat away from his auburn curls and bowed, his false sincerity proving to be a very convincing act for the average prey. “My dear, I’ve traveled all the way from Luxinburg to find you; it’s such a pleasure to meet you, my good lady. My name is Jeremiah Lucerne and I’m in business with one of the top herbalists of our time; maybe you’ve heard of Lord Cuellen?”
Those same blue eyes seemed to roll as the door slammed shut, Jeremiah giving a hesitant laugh at the woman’s answer. A true businessman would never back down from a fight by being turned down; so he quickly lifted his fist and knocked once again.
“Ma’am, if I could ask for a moment of your time?” Jeremiah said through the wood of the door, his hazel orbs noticing a slight tug at the window’s curtains to his left. “Ma’am, it is imperative that I speak with you. I’ve come all this way to meet you and I would be most upset if it was all for naught.”
“The least you could have done was send word of your arrival instead of coming by unannounced,” Angela’s voice muttered from the confines of her home; Jeremiah biting his lip at her tone. He had to regain and hold his composure no matter how much he came to already dislike this woman. “I’m not interested in receiving guests right now. You should come back later after you’ve made the proper arrangements.”
“Ma’am, I was hoping that I’d be on the next train out of here so if you could just see me for a moment,” Jeremiah urged again, his eyes once again noticing a slight tug on the curtains of the window. He kept his stare firm there, a slight wave of auburn locks visibly dashing from the scene.
“I told you already to leave; I will call the authorities to come get you if you can’t manage that simple request on your own,” Angela snapped in retort, her shuffling giving sound to her fleeing from the doorway towards the back of the house.
When silence echoed through the threshold, the scout formed a frown on his lips as he contemplated his next move. There was no way in hell that he would simply leave the hellhole known as Elyse empty-handed; he swallowed his pride and stepped through mud just to come meet with this awful woman and bring her back to Luxinburg to compete. He was going to claim his prize and promotion; but how?
“Excuse me,” a young female’s voice whispered from the window, a pair of rusty red eyes peeking out at the man in interest. “You’re from Luxinburg?”
Silence greeted the girl as Jeremiah examined her eyes carefully, remembering there being mention of a Lillian Caper as well. So this was that woman’s daughter? Releasing a sigh of frustration, the scout nodded at the question. “Yes, I’m from Luxinburg; I’d very much like to get back there soon.”
“But your clothes are muddy,” Lillian mentioned as she stepped into view at the window, opening it up to greet the man outside. “I have some herbal soap that could handle those stains; of course you’d have get those stains handled quickly or they’ll never come out of that fabric of yours.”
Jeremiah huffed at her words, not sure if he was willing to trust the daughter of such a difficult woman as Angela had been. “I’m sure my pants need the attention of a professional; I doubt a little soap could make these good as new.”
A chuckle formed in Lillian’s throat as she shook her head, her bob swaying with her movements. “Clearly you don’t study the art of herbalism,” Lillian retorted. “Alum is actually a good herb for this sort of thing; you use it in specialty soap and then add a bit of lavender for scent. It actually works wonders; I can give you some if you’d like.”
A possibility of sparing his stylish threads was tempting for the scout; however, there was still little to be trusted in that regard. There was the slightest hint of a mischievous nature in those eyes belonging to the younger Caper; Jeremiah’s read on her giving him his final decision.
“No thanks; I’d rather just seek out a professional who actually knows things about clothes,” Jeremiah sneered with a grunt, his businesslike tone diminishing along with his composure. “Better let that lady know I’m coming back later on. She will talk to me and listen to what I have to say.”
The uncouth expressions from the man did not deter Lillian in the least, the brunette leaned forward over the windowsill and taking in a whiff of the fresh mountain air. It was such a beautiful day and it would be unwise to not savor such things; instead of lingering on the bad, she was reaching out for the good. “So you enjoy walking through towns in looking like a hobo?”
Coming to a halt, Jeremiah seemed too visibly tense at such a comment; his hazel orbs wide as he glanced over his shoulder towards the girl. Lillian’s smirk was playful at best, the girl reeling in her catch smoothly as the scout groaned. Within seconds, the frustrated man had stomped back over to the window and locked a glare with the herbalist; his lips curved into a snarl as he towered before her.
“You-You seriously think I look like a hobo?” Jeremiah stuttered, the bottom lip quivering with each syllable spoken. “You think me, one of the most handsome eligible bachelors in Luxinburg; you think I look like a damn hobo?”
It was almost like taking candy from a baby; Lillian had successfully pushed the man over the edge just by joking on his appearance. “Yep, I have to say you’re giving even the hobos a bad name.”
“You can’t be serious; you’re clearly a blind little brat!” Jeremiah snapped in retort, Lillian seeming unphased by his vocabulary. “These clothes were designer threads; my entire closest is full of the finest outfits this side of Quardrey! This is a temple of radiance and perfection standing before you; you’d do best to know your place and keep your damn mouth shut!”
“‘Radiance and Perfection’? You should also add modest and professional too,” Lillian added with a grin, the scout unaware of his actions at first. However, as the words began to sink in, his cheeks burned red at such an outburst. “At this rate, you’re lucky that my mom hasn’t killed you herself for causing such a disturbance at our home. Lucky for you, I’m a nice person; I could put in a good word for you if you do me a favor.”
Embarrassment hovered over Jeremiah’s form as he sunk to the ground, his whole body shivering in anger as he buried his face in his arms. The little brat had toyed with him and broken him out of his businesslike manner, herself seeming to be a bit devilish despite her angelic appearance. It was no secret that he despised children, even those so near adulthood.
“And what could you possibly want from me?” Jeremiah grumbled as he raised his eyes from their hiding place, glaring daggers towards the girl cheerfully dangling herself on the windowsill. “You want money or something?”
“Actually, it’s a lot less material than that,” Lillian replied, sliding her body backwards to place her feet on the floor of her home. Her rusty red eyes scanned over her shoulder, the girl making sure her mother was not in earshot of them before turning around to answer. “I want to know everything about Lord Cuellen and Luxinburg.”
The request was remarkably decent from Jeremiah’s perspective, the man’s surprise evident in his facial expressions as he pulled himself up to stand along the path. He supposed Lord Cuellen would be famous amongst those who study the art of Herbalism, though Angela had shown little regard for the name when she shooed him away. “That’s all you want? You want me to tell you about my boss and all that?”
“Oh and lunch is on you!” Lillian chimed in with her addition request, Jeremiah cocking an eyebrow at her words. Though he wasn’t too fond of the Caper family with current events taking place, he could spare a little tiny and some money for food if it meant he’d get his job done in the end. “We got a deal?”
“I suppose we do,” Jeremiah said with a nod, motioning for the girl to accompany him back into town. “Hurry up and let’s go; if I stay out here any longer I’m probably going to die from overexposure.”
Hazel orbs scanned the menu in hopes of something to satisfy his expensive tastes, his fingers raping against the mahogany table he and his forced date was ushered to. The deck doors were wide and allowing the fresh air to flow into the restaurant as the guests all settled down for a nice lunch. Jeremiah still debated if it was to be a nice lunch for the two of them; at least he was able to drop off his suit and change so that he didn’t simply blend in with the filth he suspected roamed the streets of Elyse.
Lowering the menu down upon the table, the scout glanced across the table to the pouting girl that accompanied him; her outfit changed as well into a fringed flapper dress adorned with a bow and a hat atop her auburn bob. The man chuckled as he settled back into his seat, his fedora sliding slightly over his eyes as he nodded. “I have to say I was shocked that I found such a fancy shop that sells the fashion of Luxinburg in a place like this,” Jeremiah said with a wink towards Lillian. “You’re looking adorable in it I must add; much better than those rags you were wearing before.”
“I can’t afford to waste money on clothes like these,” Lillian retorted with a glare shot towards the man. “You shouldn’t have wasted money on these clothes either; I have no business wearing them with what I do.”
Jeremiah shrugged at her comment. “I have more money than I know what to do with; it’s my pleasure to present you with such beautiful threads as that. After all, if we’re going to be eating together, you need to look the part.”
The herbalist rolled her eyes and muttered something under her breath about a pompous idiot; Jeremiah choosing to ignore her remark as he waved over the waiter. He ordered their food and drinks, Lillian giving him a questionable glance as he spoke without asking for her desire in a meal. He managed to buy her the most expensive meat on the menu; the girl unsure if she would be able to stomach such a meal.
“I’ve never eaten things like this,” Lillian admitted with flushed cheeks, the scout glancing back at her with a look of indifference. “I would have been satisfied with a little bit of soup.”
“You act like I should be surprised that you’ve never eaten these things before,” Jeremiah retorted with a smirk, nodding with approval as the waiter brought over water and a bottle of their finest white wine. “I would suspect that you rarely leave that home of yours besides coming into town for supplies. It’s under my impression that for the most part the people of the town come to your home and bring your family what you need; after all, you supply the townspeople with some of the most delectable herbs out there. And I am sure that the doctors here come directly to you and your mother for medicines and things of that nature. Am I right?”
Lillian slid back in her seat with a frown. “Well, you’re not wrong.”
“I thought as much,” Jeremiah said with a chuckle as he poured himself a glass of wine, offering the bottle to the girl. “Care for a glass?”
“I don’t drink,” Lillian replied simply as she turned her eyes to the world beyond the deck, several questions forming in her mind as she debated what to ask first. This rude individual across from her knew possibly enough information about Lord Cuellen to fill a library; his childish personality but a simple obstacle in learning all about her hero. Though she rather despised this man’s attitude, his words about Cuellen were worth the suffering.
Jeremiah shrugged at the girl’s words and poured the sweet liquid to the brim of his glass, carefully lifting the clear vessel towards his lips and taking a sip of the wine. “You sure? It’s actually a very tasty flavor; maybe you should try it and see if it appeals to those taste buds of yours.”
“I said no!” Lillian snapped in retort with a frown, Jeremiah’s agitated glare returning at full-force towards the girl before the two of them sighed. “Sorry, I don’t like drinking; my father drank a lot when I was a kid and he took off eventually, leaving Mom and me on our own.”
Jeremiah’s hazel orbs shifted from the girl as he took another sip of wine, somewhat guilty of bringing on the subject. “Sorry to hear that.”
“It was a long time ago; things are better now,” said Lillian, her smile slowly returning to her lips as she nodded towards the scout. “Now we have a deal; I want to know all about Lord Cuellen.”
With that mention of his boss’ name, Jeremiah swallowed down his whole glass of wine before pouring himself another glass. “You don’t waste a second, do you? You’re quite the cheeky monkey.”
Though it was meant to be an insult, Lillian grinned at the scout’s words; the girl somewhat proud of herself for taking the time to sit and chat with the rude gentleman who was terrified to get his hands dirty. “I try my best; so start talking and I’ll make sure to put in a good word with my mother. Why did you come out here searching for?”
Dipping a hand into his trouser’s pocket, Jeremiah pulled out a golden cigarette case and lit up on of his smokes; the scout taking a whiff of the nicotine before a smoke cloud flowed from his lips. Then, he allowed his businesslike manner to come through once more; though he already knew the girl could read him like a book. “I work for Lord Cuellen in Luxinburg and was sent out along with many scouts to find herbalists to compete for one of the most anticipated titles; the title of Cuellen’s apprentice. I was given the assignment of finding someone in Elyse and when I arrived I found that only two herbalists lived in this town. Their names are Angela and Lillian Caper.”
“Apprentice?” Lillian repeated that word with a gasp, her eyes wide as she realized what he was saying. “You want my mom to be Lord Cuellen’s apprentice?”
“I want your mom to compete to be Lord Cuellen’s apprentice; however, she didn’t seem that interested in the position,” Jeremiah huffed with a frown, taking another whiff from his cigarette. “If she doesn’t take the position though; that puts me in somewhat of a bind.”
Rusty red eyes fell into her lap as Lillian bit her lip. “She’d never take a position like that; my mom doesn’t care about things like this. She trained herself from a young age and could care less about venturing outside of Elyse. All she wants to do is help the people; she won’t leave for anyone.”
Those words pained Jeremiah slightly; the man feeling that promotion slipping further from his fingers. A hurt expression appeared on his face as he sunk into his chair, the man dabbing off the soot from his cigarette into the ashtray. “I was afraid you’d say something like that; I guess this deal we’ve made was useless indeed. No matter how many good words you gave your mother, she’d never go with me to Luxinburg.”
“I wouldn’t say it was useless,” Lillian mumbled under her breath before speaking up to Jeremiah’s hearing level. “A quick question; you said something about if she didn’t take the position, you’d be put in a bind. What did you mean by that?”
“Oh that?” Jeremiah paused before answering. “I guess you could say the ones acting as scouts are also competing; there’s a big promotion opportunity for those who find the winning herbalist. You can assume that me showing up without a possible candidate would make me a laughing stock amongst the other scouts as well tossed out of the running.”
“So are you giving up then?” Lillian asked with a curious glance, the girl twiddling her thumbs under the table as she waited for an answer. “Have you considered looking elsewhere?”
“We were each given a town or city to search locally; there were also posters sent out to towns and cities further in the distance,” Jeremiah answered as he placed what was left of his cigarette in the ashtray. “I’m not one to give up so easily but what other choice do I have?”
Lillian frowned at this; had he really not bothered to consider her? “You said yourself that there are two herbalists in this town; are you really not going to ask me?”
Silence fell over the duo as Jeremiah gawked across the table at the girl sitting there, his mind shutting off at such a suggestion. He didn’t even think to consider the girl mainly for the fact that he assumed she was just an assistant for her mother and would not be available for the opportunity. “You?”
“Yes, me! What’s wrong with asking me? I’m free to go with you!” Lillian snapped with a frown, her own mind not considering what her mother would say if she heard her. “I don’t like to toot my own horn but I’ll have you know that I’m a skilled herbalist and I’ve studied practically all my life for a chance like this.”
“I’m not sure,” Jeremiah said with a grunt as the waiter returned with large porterhouse steaks for both of them, carefully placing the steaming plates down on the table with a smile. “How would I know if you’re truly as good as you say? I haven’t seen your mother or you in action; how would I know if you’re any good at all? At least your mother has the time to gain more experience and knowledge.”
“Actually, Lillian is the best out of the two of them,” the waiter suddenly spoke up, a hesitant smile on his lips as he poured more water into their glasses. “This girl has studied books from across the lands and has built up her skills more so than her mother. She’s destined for greatness I think.”
Jeremiah cocked an eyebrow at the waiter’s words. “And how would you know?”
The waiter blushed as he realized he was put on the spot because of his prying. “Well, my father is one of the doctors in our town and she provides most of his medicines. She’s also showed him certain herbs and plants for across the sea that he could use for medicinal purposes as well. I guess you can say she’s a friend to our family as well as each family that lives in Elyse.”
The scout leaned back again in his seat and smirked over towards the now blushing girl, the waiter making a quick retreat as Jeremiah chuckled. “Seems you’ve got a fan-base here, Kid; maybe I should consider you my new candidate. The thing is that we’d have to leave here and travel to Luxinburg and I doubt your mom is going to let that happen so easily.”
“A-Are you asking me to go then?” Lillian stuttered, her excitement growing as she thought of actually becoming the apprentice of her hero.
“I’ll cut you another deal; you manage to get your mom to sign off on this and I’ll make you my candidate for the apprenticeship,” Jeremiah answered as he lifted his silverware and began to cut up his meat with ease. “Hurry up and dig in already; we’ve got to get back to your mom and convince her to let you go so that we can catch the next train out of here.”
That moment made Lillian rethink this man’s personality entirely; the girl blushing more as she nodded and began to dig in to her delicious meal. She had to build up her strength if she was going to go and ask her mother’s permission to go to Luxinburg. After all, her hero needed an apprentice; Lillian was just the girl to fill that role.