Waking in the middle of the night was becoming a habit for me. But this time, I wasn’t in that weird state that the HR lady called an illusion. And the HR lady wasn’t there.
I swung my legs over the side of the bed and sat there, wondering what woke me, but only for a few moments. The french doors leading out to my balcony opened on their own, as a surreal figure landed outside them.
It was Mother, in her full fairy regalia, her butterfly wings catching the light of the two moons of Huade. That light also penetrated her regalia, highlighting the outline of her body within. With the completely clear, starlit sky as a backdrop, it made for an amazing image.
The wings disappeared and she stepped forward to enter my bed chamber. The clothing she generated from her body rather than selected from her ward gave her an unmistakably non-human air. The translucent ‘cloth’ of her raiment shifted and moved in a way that made it seem blown by a non-existent breeze, as did her hair.
Her raiment clung to her body in an impossible way as well, like a strapless gown that hung from her breasts with a split between them that ran down to her waist. Flowing gossamer sleeves didn’t attach to anything at all at the top. They simply ended, below the shoulder. Shoes that were nothing but soles and heels clung to her otherwise bare feet, while ribbons that could have been the attachments for those shoes wrapped her calves up to the knee but didn’t actually reach as far as her shoes.
She put her hand out, palm up, and a ball of soft light appeared above it. The ball floated upward and took up a position above her left shoulder as she walked to my bed, turned and sat next to me.
“Hello, whatever your name is.”
I felt a tightening in my chest, and sucked in a shaky breath. “The only name I have which makes any sense in this world is Tiana.”
For some reason, I wanted to keep it a secret from her that the one inhabiting her daughter’s body was male. But, it wasn’t a lie. It wouldn’t make sense to name this pretty girl ‘Robert’, right?
She considered me for a while, then nodded. “I heard from Carson that you took care of your needs. I’ve just returned from visiting the girl you hired. She’s my friend, you see. You were terribly easy to steer to her, my dear.”
I wasn’t going to be baited into asking why a duchess has a prostitute for a friend. Nope, didn’t want to know…
“Well, I wasn’t going to go against Carson’s advice, Mother.”
With a nod, she agreed, “Or course not. So, it seems you really are half-vampire. Dana said you fed on her exactly the way any vampire might. And that you were impossible to seduce.”
Her voice picked up a teasing tone in the last sentence. I colored a bit.
“It seems you also saved one of the girls from a crazed intruder, although you charmed her enough in the process to put her on the border of becoming a blood slave.”
“Sorry,” I winced. “I didn’t mean to. I hope it was light enough that a healer can undo it?”
“They think so. As I said, she was only on the border. I offered to pay for the healer, but it seems the madam is grateful to you rather than upset. She refused payment, and encouraged you to visit again.”
I let out a breath. “I’m glad to hear it. I didn’t mean to go that far.”
“Well, you are new to being a vampire. Unless you were one in your previous world?”
With a wave of my hands, I said, “We didn’t have vampires, or fairies, or elves, or anything else in my old world. We just had humans and natural beasts.”
‘Natural beasts’ is the term used on Huade to distinguish normal animals from monsters, demons or magic beasts.
It looked to me like such an idea was pretty bizarre to her. “Just humans? That’s very strange.”
“Like I told you before, it was a very different world from this.”
She fell silent. In the lighting, it was only just visible, but I saw tears beginning to flow again. “So, based on the evidence, you are indeed inhabiting my daughter’s body, and she is truly gone.”
I didn’t reply. Of all the people that could soothe her grief, I was certainly the least likely.
She wiped the tears with the back of her hand, and looked upward. “The problem is, I care about many people in this kingdom. I can’t allow dangers to them to live. And I only have your word for what kind of creature you are. To my mind, it is likelier that you are something demonic, rather than what you claim.”
My throat had gone dry. Mother’s eyes were full of tears, but her jaw was set with resolve as she stared at me.
“It’s a cruel fate that forces a mother to destroy the body of her own daughter.”
Her brow furrowed and she looked away. “Can’t you just stay quiet?”
Please don’t send me back to the Afterlife before I can say this…
I had to hold my ground. This was terrifying, but her daughter’s courage was propping me up. I was surprised at how calm her nature could be, in the face of peril.
“No, Mother. I must tell you something before you get rid of me.”
Letting out a sigh, she asked, “What is it?”
“I have a message I need to give you. From the minor deity I told you about.”
She jerked back slightly, then looked over at me with confusion. “A message for me?”
I nodded. “She’s concerned that with your daughter gone, you won’t have enough to tie you to this kingdom. Apparently, she considers you vital for its defenses right now.”
Mother’s eyebrows rose. “That’s the message?”
With a shake of my head, I said, “The message is, despite what you told me yesterday, you really are carrying the King’s child.”
Her eyes grew wide. Then she placed her hand on her tummy. After a moment, her eyebrows rose. “Goodness. I hadn’t noticed yet.”
I gave a tentative smile, “So, congratulations, I guess?”
She sighed, then gave a light laugh. “Well, that does change things. Looks like you will have that little sister you asked me for.”
Mother nodded. “I think you were three years old at the time. Or rather… my daughter was.”
Having reminded herself of the current situation, she fell silent and looked up. I suppose she was reorganizing her thoughts around the new information.
I decided to add a request of my own. “Mother, even if you do get rid of me, please protect this country, and the people here that I care about. Including my new little sister.”
The Robert Stewart soul had been in this world for hardly any time at all, but I had absorbed so much of Tiana’s personal attachments that this wasn’t at all a lie. I honestly did care about many people here, because they were important to Tiana.
Tipping her head, she looked at me again, then nodded. “Well, I was planning to kill you unless I could figure out a way not to. You are an unknown and therefore a risk to my beloved’s kingdom and subjects. I would have had to disappear after I killed you, but Orestania would have been safe from you. But if I must stay here for this little one’s sake, I can’t disappear. I suppose I will just have to keep an eye on you, instead.”
I was uncertain, but it seemed like… I had a reprieve?
“That you knew about this little one when I had not yet realized it… that’s not something either my Tiana or an ordinary demon could know about yet. A life this new is barely a spark, and has neither mind nor mana flow yet. You, at the very least, are beyond explanation for the moment. It is a thin straw, but it is enough reason to stay my hand and observe for now.”