Despite our all night party, there was plenty of excitement still to be found, since no one was tired yet due to Ariadne’s magic. We had gathered in the ballroom after returning inside, and most of us were still talking about the night.

“Sorry for my ignorance, but will everyone be fine to work today? I don’t know how long the effects of your magic linger.” I admitted after the thought of someone collapsing while out on a job occurred to me.

“I’m certain they’ll feel awake partway into the night. Please accept my apologies if I’ve thrown off their sleep schedule.” replied Ariadne.

I laughed and said, “Sleep schedules get a little odd around here at the best of times.”

“I can imagine. Alma here… do you mind me calling you Alma?” she asked.

“Not at all. I’d hate to burden you with the names my family would put upon you.” replied Alma.

Ariadne laughed and said, “Rumors do have a tendency to grow over the years. I doubt you sleep much at all, given your family, but your fey blood is strong, child. If ever you give up on the Slayer childishness, the fey will accept you.”

Alma’s face was an unreadable mask, the smile having left completely. “I appreciate the offer, but my loyalty is to my family.” she stated.

“We are your family too.” insisted Ariadne.

“Yes, and you claim to be Aaliyah’s aunt.” replied Alma.

Nodding, Ariadne said, “I am, after a fashion. She’s descended from my brother’s line. I watched over all of them throughout the years, though not as closely as I’d have wished at times. My failings…”

“Were beyond your control, so not really failings at all.” stated Aaliyah.

Half-smiling, Ariadne poked Aaliyah’s nose.

“Do you really want the whole story of my family?” asked Aaliyah as she gazed up at Alma in a tone that sounded threatening to me.

No, actually. Replaying what she said in my mind, the sound was teasing. I felt a threat behind it. I squeezed Alma’s hand as she opened her mouth.

She glanced at me and then said, “I think not.”

“You’ll still have it in time.” claimed Aaliyah, playfully sticking her tongue out at Alma.

“You’re rude as ever, child.” chided Ariadne as she patted Aaliyah’s head. “Oh. Snow.”

“Yes, the temperature’s been dropping throughout the night.” stated Alma.

I was impressed Ariadne could tell, given the lack of windows in the ballroom where we stood. Alma, however, probably felt the temperature difference between each flake and the air surrounding it.

“Do you wanna build a snow-man?” asked Aaliyah, separating snowman into two distinct words.

“I do!” exclaimed Emma, lifting Aaliyah up. “We haven’t done that in ages.”

“There won’t be enough accumulation for hours.” claimed Ariadne.

“Would you like to put that to a wager?” asked Alma with a smile.

“The sun is only going to rise higher, so I will have to sit this out.” complained Cosette with a pout as she stepped up beside Ariadne.

“Don’t be silly. The clouds are plenty thick now for us to see if Alma’s correct.” argued Ariadne.

“I don’t have your resilience.” stated Cosette.

Touching her arm, Alma said, “I’m sure James will help, since we’re at home.”

“Oh. Sure.” I replied.

“Ai. Mai. You’re both helping.” commanded Alma.

Sighing dramatically, they said in unison “Yes, Lady Pendreigh.”

Despite their performance, there was an excitement to them that implied they knew what Alma had planned.

“Where will you be? I’m already cold just thinking about snow. I need my coat.” insisted Brenna.

Alma laughed and said, “You’d be fine set for a beach. I promise.”

I felt her magic start warming Brenna.

“Shall we?” she asked, taking my arm.

“We shall!” exclaimed Emma, coming around to Alma’s other side while carrying Aaliyah.

I created a spell around Cosette to decrease the light that reached her, figuring I could adjust it as needed.

“Tell me if you start feeling any discomfort.” I told her.

She laughed and said, “There’s always discomfort for a vampire, James. Light burns at our skin, blood calls to our nose, and even our magic taxes us. Still, we live to serve, and serve we shall.”

“I thought you wanted to avoid vampire politics.” stated Alma.

“I don’t have to be political to help people.” retorted Cosette.

“I think the brothers would like you.” Ariadne commented with a smile.

Cosette, looking shocked, said, “I… I… You know… them?”

“I told them that I refused to get involved in any plotting as well, and they like me just fine.” she replied.

“How did you meet them?” asked Alma. “I hear they don’t get out much.”

“They don’t, but they arrived too late to stop an army when I was young and found me there instead.” she confided.

“I… see.” stated Alma.

“You guys are killing me here. I’m practically bursting with spoilers. If I wasn’t being held back, I’d be running ahead.” claimed Jarod.

I laughed and said, “You look so put upon with a girl on each arm. I’m sure your parents love your visits.”

Jarod shrugged and grinned. Then he said, “They always knew I’d have an interesting life if I stuck around you.”

“So do you concede that I’ve made your life more interesting?” asked Alma in a faint whisper.

Before I could reply, Ariadne said, “Old lady present. Don’t forget my ears have just grown sharper with age.”

I was certain that I was blushing, catching onto what she was implying, and I felt a surge of magic in Alma, telling me she was a bit more annoyed by the teasing. Still, imagining the young-looking girl in front of me as an “old lady” was more than a little difficult.

“I’m sorry, child. I really should stop myself, but seeing someone in your family be so prudish is hilarious.” laughed Ariadne.

“I see.” replied Alma mirthlessly.

Emma, however, was obviously amused, and Jarod was openly laughing.

When we reached the back of the house, there was barely any snow sticking to the ground, but I felt magic in the air. There was residual energy pouring off the twins and Alma. Then snow started showering down from no higher than the house in such abundance that I could barely see. Just as suddenly, the unnatural snowfall stopped, revealing over a foot of snow on the ground.

“Yippee!” exclaimed Aaliyah, jumping from Emma’s arms to fall face first in the snow.

“But what about the…” started Jarod.

Mai covered his lips with a finger.

Ai then said, “Lady Pendreigh, we may have mentioned to our boyfriend some of the tricks you pulled when we were younger.”

“Would you mind decorating?” asked Mai.

“I’m a snow angel.” came Aaliyah’s muffled voice through the snow as she waved her arms, hitting Emma’s foot.

Alma sighed and replied “I suppose.”

I watched in awe as the residual energy sprang off Alma and the twins, forming into at least a hundred spells. How many times had she done this? Buildings formed from the snow across the yard around a more elaborate building of ice.

“Wow!” exclaimed Aaliyah as she sat up. Then she looked to Ariadne and said, “Auntie, I need stuff for a snowman.”

There was a flash of light, and a bundle of carrots, pile of coal, scarves, hats, and other decorations appeared next to Aaliyah.

“How does she do that?” demanded the twins.

“I show off a bit, and you show me up in a flash.” stated Alma.

Ariadne winked at her.

This was going to be fun!

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