Chapter 15 – Meeting with Mother

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After several seconds, the door opened and Mother’s personal lady’s maid, a tall, serious, raven-haired woman whom I suspected had some elven ancestry looked at me, then stepped back while opening the door further to admit me. I followed her into Mother’s sitting room, where Terese seated me in an upholstered chair. She then lightly knocked upon the study door.

Once Mother responded, she opened the door and announced, “The young mistress is here, My Lady.”

“Thank you, Terese,” I heard Mother say from inside. “Make us tea, then wait outside the suite. Leave the pot on the service table. I’ll be done here in a minute.”

“Yes, My Lady.” Terese nodded, then closed the door.

I watched the woman go through her tea-making ritual with interest. Tiana had a fascination with all things intricate and practiced, especially the small things like tea-making. It was infecting me. In my past life, I would have laughed and said, ‘What’s the point? Just buy teabags’.

Of course, I don’t know if they even have teabags in this world.

She placed a cup and saucer on the coffee table in front of me with delicate grace, and filled it.

“Thank you, Terese,” I said as she set the pot back on the service table. She placed the milk and sugar tray on the table between my place and Mother’s.

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“It’s a pleasure to serve you, Young Mistress,” she answered, a rote response.

After she placed a second cup upside-down on a saucer, in front of where Mother would sit, she turned toward me and did something that in Tiana’s memory had never happened before.

She curtseyed to me. A full courtly curtsey like mine to the King. Except without the wings.

“Congratulations on your engagement, My Lady. For our young mistress to become royalty is an amazing honor for all of us who came with your mother to the capital from Pendor.”

I was almost too astonished, both at the curtsey and being addressed as ‘My Lady’ rather than ‘Young Mistress’ by her, but I managed to bid her to rise and tell her ‘Thank you’ anyhow.

She left the room using the suite’s front door. Based upon Mother’s order to ‘Wait outside the suite’, she would literally stand by the door as if on guard duty. That’s the kind of maid Terese is.

In a few more minutes, Mother emerged from her office and crossed to the service table to retrieve the teapot.

I’ve mentioned this before, but Mother is amazingly beautiful. She absolutely fulfills every expectation of how a fairy should appear. Platinum hair, amethyst eyes, nearly translucent skin with perfect facial features and a willowy yet sensuous body, thanks to the exaggerated bust that somehow didn’t mismatch the slender everything else. Tiana always considered herself homely in comparison.

On the Robert Stewart side, I was thinking, Uncle Owen, if you really are having an affair with this goddess, you are one lucky bastard. Props.

Mother poured her tea, returned the pot, sat, picked up her cup and saucer and looked at me while taking a sip.

Once she placed the cup back on her saucer, she asked, “I received Arken’s reports, but how was the journey from your point of view? It seems quite a lot happened.”

I thought for a moment, then nodded, “It was quite busy. I’m afraid the demons are causing more trouble than we in the capital were aware. We did manage to upset at least one incursion, but frankly, that dragon wasn’t an attack; it was a way to divert our attention from something else. Uncle Arken agrees with me on that.”

Mother nodded. “Yes, he mentioned it in his last report before you did battle with the beast. That was quite impressive, by the way. I didn’t know you had become quite that strong.”

“I was one person in a team of six, Mother. I didn’t even deliver the killing blow.”

“According to Arken, you dealt at least ninety percent of the damage while everyone else was stuck on the ground, since you were the only one of those six who was capable of flight. He also says that the beast was probably already mortally wounded by the time you had it on the ground and the rest of them could do anything at all.”

“Uncle was firing magic arrows…”

“He says they did no damage. You were so high up, he had to spend too much magic on getting them to fly that high, and didn’t have enough left to spend on the damage they did. At best, they were a distraction the dragon had to deal with while fighting you.”

I couldn’t say if that was true, I realized. From the memories I had of Tiana’s view of the fight, she and the dragon had been a good five thousand feet up before she got a proper hit on a wing root. Forcing him into the ground may have dealt the majority of damage, but I was busy being unconscious at the time.

And Brigitte and Graham had scouted the beast’s lair in the first place, and Ryuu had gone in and forced him out, when the rest of us were certain it would be suicidal and were advising him to just wait. Which might have taken weeks. That clueless jerk of a hero was occasionally good for something.

I wanted to change the subject. “Anyway, Mother, on that subject, I need to contract a magic blacksmith to revise my armor.”

“Have you grown that much?” she teased, looking at my chest.

“What? In four months?!” I shook my head. “No, Mother. It’s because I can’t fly in my armor. You might be able to materialize wings right through your clothing, but I need bare skin. The back of the cuirass blocks my wings.”

“Hm. Arken did mention you had to take it off for the fight with the dragon,” she noted. “So that means you were fighting in just your panties, doesn’t it?”

“I had a tunic on, Mother.”

“Oh.” She actually looked disappointed. Well, she’s a fairy.

Switching gears, she asked, “You were able to find blood without difficulty on the journey? Other than after the dragon, that is? No problems going to the brothel by yourself?”

“Yes, Mother. It was a bit embarrassing, but I was able to manage.”

I decided to go ahead and try the tea. Tiana seemed to think the tea at Mother’s house was delicious. I never liked tea, but maybe with her taste buds it would be different. I went about putting in the amount of milk and sugar she would use, while Mother continued.

“Good. Ask Carson for the address to one of the establishments we use for you and go there yourself. You’ll need to do so, soon.”

I shook my head. “But only the other day, I…”

“Tiana, dear, you may not be able to use magic, but your flying consumes it. And when vampires consume magic, it accelerates their need for blood. You’ll be getting hungry very soon, after such a long flight.”

“Oh.” Just like my various instinctive spells, like the vampire charm, flying is magic-powered. Even my wings themselves are magical material, rather than flesh and blood.

She took another sip. “I imagine you are a little upset with me. I’m well aware we have made a terrible mess of your career plans.”

I lowered my head some. “I do understand this is part of being a noble, Mother. I knew you would arrange a marriage for me at some point.”

She considered me for a moment. “Hm. Well, ‘at some point’ passed quite a while back. Owen and I have had an agreement for quite some time. We had to overcome Privy Council opposition. You did that for us, when you rescued Amelia and her friends.”

In other words, I shot myself in the foot. Well, I would have fought those raiders even if I knew this was going to happen, so there was no point in regretting it.

But Tiana’s exasperation got the best of me at that moment. “But for me to get married to Rod of all people! I will feel like I’m marrying my own brother, Mother!”

Mother stared at me for several seconds, taking a sip while thinking about something.

After a long silence, she mused, “Will you? I wonder about that.”

“Huh?”

“There’s something very important I need to ask you, Tiana.”

“Yes?”

Mother placed her saucer and teacup down on the coffee table and folded her hands on her lap.

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“Who are you, and what has happened to my daughter?”

- my thoughts:
I wish I had some way to add a dramatic brass chord right after that last line.
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