“James, get in here!” exclaimed Ai and Mai through the intercom to their wing.
I didn’t appreciate the Ancient Greek that came through anymore than they did, since I had no idea what was being said. I rushed inside and found Ariadne looking much calmer than I’d have imagined as she muttered something incomprehensible. She seemed to be examining Ai as Ai and Mai attempted to attack her physically and magically.
I didn’t want to look at Ai. Numerous lacerations covered her discolored skin, and parts appeared burned. She appeared even worse in person than she had electronically. I couldn’t imagine attempting to fight with such injuries. Mai, thankfully, covered herself with a mist similar to what I had seen Alma create, since she apparently started fighting straight out of the bath.
“Young man, could you attempt to calm these two? I’m having difficulty doing a proper examination while holding them off, and restraints might injure this one further.” stated Ariadne.
“Allow me to introduce Ariadne. She’s the one who saved Alma after the necromancer’s attack.” I explained.
Ai and Mai stopped attacking, but moved behind me.
“She’s a vampire.” stated Ai.
“She admitted it.” added Mai.
“She’s here to heal you.” I told Ai, forcing myself to look into her bloody eyes.
She had to be in great pain still.
“No, I’m here to examine this one. My niece said not to heal her unless they both take this.” stated Ariadne as she held up two vials.
I recognized the vials as what I had given Alma before Ariadne’s arrival.
“Never.” stated the twins in unison.
Ariadne looked saddened by their reply. “Please…” she begged. “I know the pain you feel. Normally, I would heal you instantly, but I made a deal that I cannot break. You must take these first.”
“I’ll heal eventually without the help of a vampire.” stated Ai.
“We won’t betray our family.” added Mai.
“You feel Alma betrayed the family by drinking what’s in that vial?” I asked, shocked by the notion and spinning to face them.
“What?” asked Mai.
“Never.” asserted Ai.
Then they said, “She didn’t know what you gave her.”
Nodding as she stepped up beside me, Ariadne said, “Telepathy. I thought there was something strange with your minds.”
Ai and Mai practically glared at her.
“I’ll ask Mila to send for Alma’s doctors then, though I fear their skills won’t be up to the task.” I told them.
Ai and Mai looked at one another. Seconds passed.
“No, you’ll never be identical again without my help. Wounds have already started to heal imperfectly.” claimed Ariadne.
I felt the truth in her words and said, “I trust her. The choice is yours, but I doubt you’ll get another chance.”
Sighing, Ariadne said, “Unfortunately, they won’t. You know my niece. She’ll take away these vials and leave these two to rot without a care. As much as it will pain me, I won’t break my word to her.”
“Aaliyah.” stated the twins.
“We wondered who this ‘niece’ of yours was.” stated Ai.
“No one has harsher contracts.” agreed Mai.
The two suddenly cringed, looking around. Then they grabbed the vials from Ariadne’s hand, gulping them down.
A bright light engulfed Ai for a moment, and she was whole once more. Ariadne, however, looked tired.
“Alma told us about what happened.” stated Ai.
Then Mai said, “But that… that was so strange.”
“What sort of magic was that?” asked Ai.
“The fey kind. There could be more healers like me if not for your lot.” stated Ariadne.
“The fey were out of hand.” argued Mai.
“They needed to be stopped.” claimed Ai.
Looking annoyed, Ariadne said, “I was there. My friends were only defending themselves. They didn’t understand war. They…”
Ariadne gaped. My little friend had arrived, annoyed with me for leaving her behind again. Even as she told me of all the places she had searched for me, she hugged Ariadne’s nose. I felt that she was asking where Ariadne had been.
Ariadne was smiling beautifully as tears flowed freely down her face. In my mind, I saw her searching with three men. I felt many years passed as they searched and searched, never finding any sign of another fey.
The little fairy felt confused as she seemed to say “We were right here.”
“They’re doing that thing, aren’t they.” stated the twins.
I nodded. The twins never wanted to drop their defenses and rarely visited the forest unless Alma was there too. They were missing out. I felt the overwhelming presence of Aaliyah greeting the fey, the seductive feeling of being part of everything.
“Ah. That would be my niece.” stated Ariadne.
“What?” asked Ai, looking confused.
“Mother and Jarod wish to enter.” stated Mila’s voice from the other room.
“Mother!?” asked the twins in unison.
“Ugh. Mila’s back.” complained Mai.
“The first thing she did was find Ai.” I informed her.
Ai said, “Fine. I’ll buy her a new dress.”
“Let the brat in.” ordered Mai, yelling as if to someone in the other room.
I wasn’t going to be the one to inform them that Mila was already listening on Ariadne’s phone, and didn’t think they’d appreciate knowing Mila probably hacked into their phone as well.
“Whoa. We did not say you could enter.” declared Ai upon seeing Mila in the flesh.
Smiling and curtsying, Mila said, “Jarod asked me to come along. Since you gave him full access rights to your wing, he also has the right to invite me inside. Mother wanted to ask you as a courtesy.”
“She’s your creator, not your mother.” argued Ai.
Aaliyah hugged Mila’s leg while grinning at Ai.
Jarod ignored the exchange and hugged Ai and Mai both. “Sorry. I wasn’t thinking. Are you injured?” he asked, looking between them.
Mai rolled her eyes.
Ai said, “I was the abducted one, so hugs over here. As for injuries, this vampire did something to me.”
“Vampire? Wow. You look remarkably like Aaliyah, but slightly older. Oh, and your eyes…” stated Jarod.
“Yes-yes. They’re green.” replied Ariadne, though she was obviously more focused on the little fairy.
Their conversation hadn’t ceased.
“Lady Alma Lucy Pendreigh V requests to enter.” stated Mila.
“Alma? I thought she was on a plane.” I stated.
“Let her in, you stupid machine.” commanded Ai.
“She did. You couldn’t keep up with her before, and she’s even faster now. You’d be wise to finally treat her properly. She did die fighting alongside us.”
Rolling her eyes, Mai said, “Yes, Lady Pendreigh.”
“Go put on clothes this instant.” ordered Alma.
Mai ran off without argument.
“Huh? Wait. How are you here? I thought you left?” I asked.
“Unlike my cousin, I fly by plane. We had barely received clearance for takeoff when Adelmar returned to his senses. He’s fine.” replied Alma. Turning to Ariadne, she said, “Thank you for your help.”
“Isn’t auntie amazing!?” exclaimed Aaliyah.
“Quite.” stated Alma.
“Lady Pendreigh, she made us drink something. We believe…” started Ai.
Interrupting her, Alma said, “I’m aware. Adelmar informed me. Would everyone care to join me for some tea?”
“I’d like to introduce auntie to Portentia first. This will be funny.” claimed Aaliyah with a giggle.
Ariadne looked wary.
I was tempted to warn Ariadne of the effects of Portentia’s blood on vampires, but I decided against it. I wished to know what was happening with Adelmar that had demanded Alma’s immediate attention, but I knew she wouldn’t tell me. Most of all, I was glad that everyone was safe. I needed to inform the others of Ai’s good health and safe return. Smiles were worth sharing.