I could feel no presence whatsoever, in my fairy senses or in any other way, except for the sensation of fingers around my neck and the voice I had just heard. It felt like a ghost had just grabbed hold of me.
“I’m sorry for trespassing,” I said carefully, trying to keep my panic from causing my voice to tremble. “I was in desperate need of Water mana and spotted this lake. If I may be allowed to finish replenishing my body, I will be on my way and trouble you no further.”
“Water mana?” she asked, chuckling and nuzzling my earlobe. “You don’t look like a lorelei.”
My voice weakening a bit, I said, “I’m n… not a lorelei. Lorelei don’t live on this continent. I’m h… half-fairy are you going to keep doing thaaat?”
Her tongue had been whole-heartedly invading my ear while I was responding. Now one of the hands slipped off my neck and started gliding down to my bosom.
As to why I wasn’t fighting back… I was terrified. This being had absolutely no presence whatsover in my senses, except the feeling of her hands and face.
“Half-fairy, you say. But half-monster? How unusual.”
It had already claimed the first hill, and was probing the tip lightly with a fingernail. I suppressed a shudder. The strength in the fingers still around my neck was too intimidating to even think about escape.
“I’m telling the truth, ma’am. My mother is a fairy.”
The hand paused right after it had begun gently palpitating. I could sense her, now. She had dropped her stealth magic. I could feel a mass of strong mana within her body. Although she was acting relaxed, she was primed for a fight.
Her hand resumed the massage as she asked, “And you simply stopped here to … refresh your mana? Is your mother one of my kind?”
“She’s half naiad,” I answered. “I’m a quarter.”
Her tongue had resumed the exploration of my ear as I answered, while her hand traveled to explore the other hill.
“Such a pity. I had hoped perhaps the locals had started offering me virgins again. It’s been a terribly long time.”
A shudder ran through me. I can’t say if it was the effect her nuzzling and groping was having on me, or the thing she had just said. “They were sacrificing virgins to you?”
“Oh, don’t worry. They didn’t kill them. They just tied them up and left them on a big rock near the shore. Oh, they did throw the first one in, tied up and weighted down, but I saved her and got mad at them, so they stopped that. I just played with the victims for a year or so and then sent them home. They seemed to think they had to do it to keep the water flowing out of my pond.”
What is that sensation on my ear? Is she li… licking it? And now she’s nibbling my earlobe!
I started getting worried, because this naiad was definitely planning to ‘play with me’ too. Elemental fairies are very powerful in their element, and I was very definitively in hers right now.
“Listen, I’m not a sacrifice, and I’m honestly not… um… wanting to… um… could you please stop?!!!”
To my alarm, her hand began to glide down my body toward my thighs. Despite my disadvantage, it was becoming time to fight.
“What sort of monster did your mother play with, dear?”
“He was a vampire, Ma’am, please don’t touch me there!”
To my relief, she finally stopped… or rather, she moved back to my bosom. But the tone of her voice had changed, growing slightly less coquettish. “A vampire, is it? And your mother is half naiad?”
She sighed. “Well, I suppose grandmother and grandchild are rather too close, so I shall stop as you’ve requested.”
Her hand lingered a bit despite her words, but she ended with a peck on the cheek and parted from me, moving away slightly. I went upright, into water-treading posture so I could finally see her.
A young face that looked very much like my mother when not disguising her age, framed in aquamarine hair and Mother’s amethyst eyes, smiled back at me above slender shoulders just barely cresting the water. She didn’t seem to be treading water like I was. I thought perhaps she was standing, but I tested and found no ground under my feet.
She reached out and stroked my hair, and said, “Innanmi, auhi zöas gi, Tianà-innan ra (Little one, if I’m not mistaken, you are little Tiana.)”
I swallowed and answered, “Semöan Cenole Tianà ci cyralinëo (I am named Tiana of the High Forest.)”
The girl winced and her smile grew pained. “Helornte, ci maslíryddenëodda moí? (That man, can you not remind me about him?)”
To my puzzled expression, she smiled and explained, “Semöan Ceno. That clan name makes you the descendant of a certain man that I would regret having entertained, if not for the child I gained.”
“You’re my grandmother,” I stated. It wasn’t a question. I was just confirming what she had long since suggested.
“Röan Moile Lâra ro (I am Lâra of the Great River),” she replied with a gracious nod. “I am indeed your mother’s mother. Why did you become tense so suddenly?”
I had become very scared, in fact. Was this more ‘Fate magic’ at work? I ran into the woman only days after my mother first told me about her? Did this play into the plans of whatever mad magician had tried to create a ridiculous shoujo play out of my life?
“I am… running from some very strange events, and I have now run into you. It’s another strange event. It’s too much of a coincidence. I’m very wary of strange events right now.”
“It would be very hard to describe, ma’am.”
She cocked an eyebrow, raised her chin slightly and said, “I am ‘Grandmother’, Innanmi, not ‘Ma’am’.”
That expression reminded me of Benedetta, of all things.
Taking my hand, she began gliding toward land with me in tow. She was not visibly swimming, just… moving. I suspected water mana was in play, but she was causing my fairy vision to blur somehow, and I couldn’t say for sure.
Near where I had left my dress, she stood up in water up to her hips and began wading. I somehow managed to get to my feet and follow without getting dragged by the hand still clamped over mine.
Grandmother was, like Mother, someone no human could believe to be a “grandmother”. I already knew that fairies do not age, but it was probably because of my memories as Robert that it still seemed preposterous that this girl who could be in high school was in fact the mother of a woman who was several centuries old.
I said she looks a lot like Mother, including having Mother’s slender build, but she doesn’t have the contradictorily outsized bosom that makes Mother’s body somewhat surreal. Not that she’s even remotely close to flat. She’s just… more conventionally proportioned, I guess?
Her raiment was a translucent reimagining of the robes priestesses wear, a sleeveless version of the ancient Greek peplos, except seemingly made of water pouring over her body. My fairy sight revealed it to be manifested Water mana, which explained why it never seemed to run out. The mana was recycling to the top.
She led me back through the water lilies that I passed on the way out. When she was calf-deep the hem rose out of the pond. Despite the pouring water illusion, it didn’t drip as she continued through the rushes and onto the shore.
When she glanced over her shoulder at me, she laughed at the sight of me covering my private spot and hunching my shoulders, looking around furtively for possible eyes. The sun had just set so it was still light.
“There are no other eyes here to see you, Innanmi,” she declared as she stepped onto the shore. “And you are too lovely to fear being seen, anyway. Why are you trying to hide?”
“I’m not used to walking around outside naked, Grandmother.”
“You’re not? Ah, but you’ve been living with mortals all this time, haven’t you? Here.”
She dismissed her raiment. It looked like the illusion of water pouring over her body simply finished pouring, with the water flowing away and vanishing. She became as nude as myself.
“Now you have a confederate and need not be embarrassed,” she declared with pride, even swelling her chest a little. “A proper fairy clads herself only in light and beauty, Innanmi.”
She picked a spot on the grass and reclined on it, on her side, looking up at me. Patting the grass in front of her, she said, “Relax here with me and grow accustomed to it. We shall discuss your troubles while you rest.”
I hesitated for a bit. “Perhaps my dress is dry enough now…”
I cut off with a surge of panic as I looked toward the tree where it was hanging. Or rather, where it wasn’t hanging. Durandal was still there, standing where I had stabbed him into the ground, but my dress and shoes had vanished.
Grandmother laughed. “You mustn’t wear such things in my house, Innanmi. I’ll give it back when you’re ready to leave.”
She thinks I’m inside her house? When my mother told me, “Most fairies live in nature,” did she mean it this literally?
With my spirits falling further, I realized that I was stuck. I had to accept that I would be completely without clothes until an unpredictable fairy who was probably as powerful as my mother said otherwise. I sat down where she had told me but my mind was blank, since I couldn’t seem to even come up with a next thing to think.
She waited patiently and eventually I did start talking. I’m not going to repeat everything I told her. I’ve already said it here, after all. Suffice it to say, I described the events at school from when I first arrived up until I left. Except leaving out the part about the angelic visit.
She listened patiently as I unloaded, occasionally asking for clarifications, then, when I finished, she shook her head.
“I feel as though this story needs more detail, Innanmi.“
“That’s what I mean by it being strange! What is causing it? How could all that happen so fast? I only just arrived at the school!”
She let out a bright laugh that sounded like it out to have little bells behind it. It fit the image of a fairy seductress very well. I had the feeling she plays with her visitors frequently.
“I don’t mean it quite that way. I meant, I feel very sure you left important things out. You spoke as if you knew the cause and avoided saying it. Perhaps you think I won’t believe it?”
“I…” my words caught in my throat. What could I say? As much of the truth as she might believe, I decided. “I think someone used a strange magic on everyone. It’s the only way to explain how oddly they were acting.”
She tipped her head and grew an enigmatic smile. “A fairy usually only believes in what she sees, Innanmi. Did you see the mana acting on anyone?”
“No… but…” I tried to think how to describe the ‘Fate magic’ that the angels described. A strange sort of magic that was hard to detect because it was so widespread and low-powered, yet strong and effective in a way that low-powered magic should never be…
“Grandmother, what if there’s a sort of magic that’s hard to see? Like it was too faint to see? And it was strong even though it was that weak? Can you imagine something like that?”
My grandmother remained quiet for a while, then said, “I certainly can, Innanmi, but I wonder, how can you? Who gave you your knowledge of the existence of such a magic?”