“You are quite fortunate to have Emma as a gardener.” stated Adelmar. “Many in my family feel that letting her go was a mistake.”
“Why did you then?” I asked.
He turned to me, smiling as he said, “Few ever question me aloud. I’m trying to decide whether it’s refreshing or annoying.”
“Refreshing, of course!” exclaimed Aaliyah.
He glanced down at her, seeming almost reluctant in the action. “Ah. Yes, I suppose you’re right.” he told her. “With her freedom, Emma’s no less valuable for someone in my family to marry. Duncan made her an offer when he was here.
I was about to reply when an image came to my mind of the five of us walking. There was a questioning sensation about Adelmar. I assured my little friend that she was safe, emphasizing Aaliyah in the picture.
Adelmar suddenly turned, staring into the darkness. “Ah. That one.” he commented with a smile.
How did he know she was there so quickly when she wasn’t emitting any light at the moment?
“James, what is she saying?” inquired Adelmar.
“Oh. Nothing important. She’s telling me about her day and complaining that I didn’t spend more time with her, a fairly regular occurrence when she’s left behind.” I informed him.
“Do you think you could persuade some of them to come with me?” he asked.
I glanced from Adelmar to Alma before replying. Her smile had faltered slightly at Adelmar’s question. “What? That’s more than a little difficult to imagine. Most of them don’t wish to leave the forest on any occasion. They feel safe there.”
“My cousin has told me of how persuasive you can be. Would you consider trying?” he asked.
“No matter what James does, the fey will remain where they belong. They made a deal with me!” exclaimed Aaliyah as she skipped along ahead of us.
I looked back to Adelmar, and all pleasantness had left his face. He seemed to be fighting something. He looked into my eyes, and I wondered if he wanted to kill me for a moment.
“Adelmar! What are you doing!?” exclaimed Alma in surprise.
Adelmar had grabbed my wrist, his magical protections vanished, and I felt magic pouring into me as I heard a crack of lightning in the winter sky. His grip went slack.
“Don’t speak of this to anyone, cousin. I trust the rest of you understand discretion as well.” he stated before smiling at his cousin. “You know quite well, cousin, that none may enter this forest without signing a binding contract and dropping their protections. I wanted to know this sensation firsthand. Aaliyah, I presume you came prepared.”
She grinned at him and said, “Of course!”
Cosette seemed confused by the entire exchange and looked on the verge of saying something.
“Don’t worry, Cosette. You already signed when you signed the rental agreement.” explained Aaliyah.
Adelmar paused and looked to the little fairy, saying, “She’s talking with me. Oh. This is interesting. Cousin, did you realize you possess a knack for this?”
“What do you mean?” she asked, her eyebrow raised questioningly.
Looking legitimately happy, Adelmar said, “How they communicate. I experienced it through you as well as Ai and Mai. Now, experiencing this for myself, I am quite certain that your heritage influences your communication with these creatures. Yes, cousin. Try.”
Adelmar stared at Alma in anticipation. Suddenly, he said, “No. No. Keep trying. Yes. Oh, yes.”
There was a sense of… sadness. Then an image entered my mind of a woman I didn’t recognize smiling. The image was hazy, but she looked somehow familiar.
“Who is that?” I asked.
“Adelina Slayer. My aunt.” explained Adelmar.
“Oh. That was intended for Adelmar.” stated Alma, looking slightly embarrassed.
Cosette then told her “She was very beautiful. Sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you.” replied Alma.
“See if any of the others share this ability and refine it.” commanded Adelmar. “This could be useful.” He then turned toward Aaliyah as he said, “Surely you understand the potential locked away in these creatures. Let us take samples. We won’t harm them.”
“Sample?” I asked, somewhat alarmed by where I felt this was going.
Looking to me, Adelmar said, “Yes. Blood, bone marrow, et cetera. James, we could have a world where everyone could use magic.”
“At least, everyone in your family. I can’t imagine anything going wrong.” commented Aaliyah sarcastically.
Adelmar seemed annoyed, but his annoyance was fleeting. “Oh, I do feel that every last human could benefit from this research. The world as a whole could be stronger. Imagine if everyone could communicate their feelings and ideas directly into another’s head. We would be more united as a species than ever before.” he argued.
“The world will be united one day, but not like this.” she told him.
He looked at her quite impassively before walking onward toward the forest. The rest of us followed him. I had no doubts about when he entered the magical field surrounding the forest. He stopped and stared around him, and I wondered if he felt the awe I had felt my first time. If he did, he did not show it, looking around without apparent care.
When the rest of us reached him, Adelmar turned to me and said, “I wonder just how much you can absorb. With all this at your disposal, I imagine your presence would be felt across the state, perhaps farther. You could be very political with ease. I have decided that you should avoid politics for now.”
I looked questioningly to Alma, but she was staring at Adelmar, obviously not pleased by this proclamation.
“Time, James. Time is slipping away from us. How do you call the others out?” asked Adelmar.
Before I could admit my ignorance, Aaliyah assured him “They’re coming. She told them he is here.”
“Ah. Yes, I hear them. I see why my ancestors felt them to be dangerous. Such power in the hands of children is obviously dangerous.” he remarked.
“And humankind is so mature that you would want them all to have such power?” asked Aaliyah, smiling at him.
“I want them to be able to defend themselves. Humans can be tamed and trained.” he insisted.
“I’m so glad that your family has shown us greed disappears with the presence of magic. I might worry over your intentions otherwise.” claimed the tiny girl as she smiled teasingly at him.
“We’re not perfect, but we do protect this world.” he told her, staring down at her.
Stepping forward, Cosette said, “My father told me that my kind protects this world as well, but you would see us eliminated.”
“Not you, but vampires feed off humanity.” he replied.
Giggling, Aaliyah said, “Good thing your family would never feed off humanity for their own gains, Adelmar. Then you’d have to eliminate yourselves as well.”
He frowned at her before saying, “I won’t argue the difference with you, since the distinction is clear. I knew you wouldn’t be persuaded, but the discovery of these creatures is too important to not try.”
As they talked, I was seeing countless responses from the fey and assumed Adelmar had been questioning them. He seemed to be focused on convincing the fey to leave with him, but none of them were willing, showing them the joys of their home. I felt they were offering to let him stay. Between the two offers, I felt the fey had the more reasonable one. I knew little of what Adelmar did regularly, but he obviously dealt with a great deal of stress where the fey did not. Their world seemed far more appealing to me.