Mother entered my room in full fairy regalia, with wings and raiment glowing faintly. This reminder that she is a powerful supernatural creature left me a bit afraid, because she is the only person on Huade that knows that I’m not the original Tiana. She spoke of eliminating me as a potential demonic threat when she first found out. To my knowledge, this was not yet ruled out.
I say she was ‘wearing’ her regalia, but technically my mother wasn’t wearing a stitch. The gossamer coverings and translucent ribbons are extensions of her body, physical manifestations of mana like my wings. And she may as well have been naked this time, because she had changed her raiment, and it now didn’t hide a darned thing. It merely accented, like a see-through negligee without underthings. Every square inch beneath was on glorious display.
Can I make a raiment? I won’t know until I’m at least thirty years old. Raiments develop only at that age at the very youngest. Fairies my age go nude, unless they wear clothing to go out among mortals.
Mother drops all illusion of age when she’s in regalia. She’d appeared mid-twenties or so at the ball, but now we looked the same age. I pulled Robert’s eyes away from that eye-catching sight as she sat on my bed facing me.
“Something wrong, dear?”
“You’re showing way too much skin, Mother.”
She laughed innocently and leaned back onto her hands, arching her back and swelling her already abundant chest with a provocative stretch. Her belly had indeed developed a gentle swell, I noticed.
“It’s odd, isn’t it? Fairies avoid pregnancy like disease, but when we’re with child, we want to show it off. I ran around the forest with no raiment at all while I was pregnant with you.”
“How is that different than now?” I asked with exasperation.
She brushed off my question with another bright laugh, then smirked. “Do you think Owen will attack me when I get home?”
Mother works in her office at the Pendor Estate during the day, but ‘home’ is now a Palace concubinary suite. Although I suspect Owen’s bedroom was her intended destination tonight.
“Mother, I might attack you!”
After a long laugh that did disturbing things to her bosom, she sat up, primly arched her eyebrows and said, “I’m not one of those fairies who play with their daughters, dear.”
“I’m still a maiden, mother. I wasn’t serious.”
She sighed and nodded. “Yes, I know. You get that from your father’s side. A chaste fifteen-year-old fairy is almost unheard of. Young vampires are far more reserved. So nothing happened with that fairy knight in Cara Ita, then?”
“Of course not!” I retorted.
I seriously wonder what sort of a girl Tiana would have become if this woman had raised her, instead of the ladies at the Palace.
Mother laughed again, then grew sober. “I came to let you know I will be traveling with Owen to Thuriben tomorrow. But really, I’m here because you looked so worried while Ged was speaking. Is war something you see, in your world?”
I thought a moment, then asked, “Mother, do you know where Ryuu Kowa comes from?”
“The hero boy? That’s why I didn’t reject your story outright, dear. I was in charge of the summoning, so I already knew other worlds are real.”
Mother isn’t officially a royal mage, but since she’s stronger than any of them, Owen borrows her power often.
“So you learned about his world?”
She grew grim, then nodded. “Was your world like his?”
“We come from the same world, actually. My life was different than his, but… well, our wars get horrifying. Sometimes, tens of millions die. I mean, in real life, not inside games like Ryuu described.”
Ryuu had badly failed to describe video games. The horrified Orestanians misunderstood it as the players actually dying and coming back to life over and over.
With a stricken look I’ve rarely seen on Mother’s race, she echoed, “Tens of millions?”
I nodded. “So, perhaps this will be a small war, but Hamagaar shares a border with the Empire. It could become a much larger war, right?”
She pursed her lips and considered the question. “So you’re afraid of it getting out of hand, like on your world?”
“Not just that. I’m powerful, and hard to kill, and I have fighting experience, but my schoolmates are normal people who can die in the blink of an eye. I’m worried about them, and I hate that they may die in a war I helped start.”
“What you found in Hamagaar was only one factor, dear. We already had plenty of cause for war.”
“But the incident in Cara Ita was the tipping point, right? It’s not a coincidence, that this decision came so soon after I discovered a demon controlling a town only a few miles from our border.”
After contemplating me for several seconds, she said, “I wonder if my Tiana could have these worries about the normal soldiers like you’re doing?”
“I…” I frowned. But I could answer, due to Tiana’s experience in Lang Doria. “She would have wanted to protect them.”
She mused, “Most fairies empathize only with plants and animals and despise how humans treat Nature. Vampires complain that humans breed like rabbits and spread disease and poverty. Tiana inherited no empathy for humans from either species.”
Seeing me ready to disagree, she nodded. “But Tiana loved Owen and his children, and all the humans at the Palace. I think she wanted to protect the kingdom for their sakes.”
Then she smiled, “I’m still wary of you. But because I know about Mr. Kowa, and I’ve seen the way you conduct yourself, I’ve come to believe your story.”
“Thank you,” I answered, unable to figure where she was going with this.
“I felt proud while watching you today. And proud of your work in Hamagaar,” she told me. “I had to think carefully about those feelings after watching you this evening. I discovered that, even though I see you as a different girl than the daughter I gave birth to, I’ve come to see you as my daughter as well.”
Instant tears. One moment I was dry-eyed, and suddenly there were tears streaming down my face. The surprise attack hit me hard.
She didn’t say anything in response. She just rubbed my back and waited for me.
I wiped my eyes. “I’m sorry.”
With a shake of her head, she said, “Don’t be. It hurt when I suggested you weren’t my daughter, right? I said a terrible thing to you.”
I shook my head. “You had no reason to trust my claim, Mother.”
“I’m still sorry,” she said.
I tried to smile, although my head was still hanging a bit. “The old Tiana’s soul has moved on, but my new self is no longer that old self from the other world either. I think I finally understood that, tonight. Her life is part of me now.”
Mother grew a slightly puzzled look, but waited for me to continue.
I explained, “Until tonight, I didn’t understand why I was going along with the engagement. My old self in the other world would have completely refused to marry Rod, or anyone else you told me to marry.”
“You would have run away?”
I nodded. “The idea of the parent picking the child’s spouse is completely repugnant in my old country. The old me would have refused. In fact, the old me would have just left everyone behind and become an adventurer.”
“Despite your knight’s vow?”
“The old me would have called it the old Tiana’s vow, you know?”
Understanding lit in her eyes. “But what Tiana cared about is important to you now.”
I nodded. Then I breathed in, screwed up my resolve a little, and admitted something out loud that I could barely believe I was saying.
“I’m going to marry Rod because you and Uncle Owen say this is right for us. Because Tiana believes in you two.”
With a wry shake of my head, I added, “That wouldn’t make any sense to the old me, and yet it makes perfect sense to this me. Even though I don’t want to marry him or any other man.”
“Tiana loved him, you know.”
“I still do, Mother!” I burst out. “He’s my brother!”
“He’s not really your brother. Nor the old Tiana’s brother.”
“I know that! I know that…”
I cut off and hung my head again. She rubbed my back again while I wiped away more tears.
I scowled. “Whose idea was it, anyway? You, Uncle, or Rod?”
“It was your grandfather’s.”
That was not an answer I expected. Tiana obviously had grandparents, but she never met them. “What grandfather?”
She chuckled. “I had to come from somewhere, dear.”
“I know that, but…”
“My birthplace, my mother’s pool, is not very far to the east of here. I should bring you there and introduce you, now. She recently told me she’s ready to meet you. And my father lives in Tëan Tír.”
I nodded. “Where I was born. Where the fairy nobility meet. And that fairy knight called you ‘Princess’. Mother, who is this grandfather?”
She laughed. “Oh dear. I think you’ve learned my secret.”
“You’ve already guessed who your grandfather is, dear.”
“The Fairy King.”
“The guy who exiled me.”
She shook her head. “The nobles called for Father to exile you, but he ignored them.”
“Huh? That’s not what I was told.”
“He gifted you to Owen, instead.”
My eyes bugged. “He ‘gifted‘ me?”
“And as everyone knows, when the fairy king grants a bride, one had better accept her. Even when the princess in question is six months old.”
“Since it was Egon who created such an outrageous thing as a fairy vampire, my father demanded that his liege lord take responsibility for her.”
I frowned. This was annoying to learn. But Mother had left something significant laying on the table. “You called me a ‘princess’ just now. So Fairie considers me legitimate?”
Uncle Owen made up a story that my father forcibly made Mother his wife, which made me legitimate in Orestania. But the fairy king would know it wasn’t true.
“Fairies don’t call one child legitimate and another illegitimate. Our magic can easily identify paternity, so we have no need. Father has never married any of his children’s mothers. The Fairy Queen is only queen because she gave birth to a son.”
After leaving me a few more moments to think, she continued, “At the time, Owen’s wife had recently died in childbirth. Father intended for you to become his new queen. Instead, Owen accepted you for his son. The switch annoyed Father, but he relented when his daughter pled so sweetly.”
“This is not what you told me before, Mother.”
“Well, the actual story would have confused a child. And you might have grown up resenting the royal family.”
Would Tiana have resented them? I actually doubted it, but I kept that to myself.
“Parts of what we told you were what we told the Council. We said that I was threatening Owen, but I would never have done that. Giving the Duchy of Pendor to my supposed human caretaker Sasara was supposedly to placate Déhare after her daughter was rejected as the new queen. Owen actually wanted to avoid a power struggle over control of the kingdom’s most valuable territory.”
“But the bottom line is, my grandfather forced Uncle Owen to take me.”
She rubbed my back again, and shook her head. “Tiana, my father made him accept you, but Owen is a wise man. If you grew up in his household, he knew that he and his family would see you as their own. It worked. He is very pleased with his daughter-in-law, and his children love you.”
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