I should have expected that more vampires would be attending my wedding than just the brothers, Ariadne, and Cosette, but their presence worried me. I feared that the large number of vampires would encourage the Slayers and family to act out. Then again, Carl and Aaliyah could handle the lot if necessary without anyone getting hurt. The ability to manipulate time was an incredible advantage, which was surely being done for the arrangement with the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce to help Marco for the reception.
Introducing Jarod, Ai, and Mai to the assembled vampires was entertaining. Ai and Mai were on their best behavior, though they were obviously uncomfortable. They had strong opinions about the bride not being seen on her wedding day. Even with so many hours to go, they protested Alma’s presence and escorted her away. Jarod was equally quick to ask questions about the vampire’s lives as soon as the twins were gone. Not all of the vampires were forthcoming, but Vito, Papak, and Zachary seemed happy to sate his curiosity.
The moment Portentia approached us ― apparently home from her nightly patrol, Ariadne called to her. “Portentia! James mentioned that you’ll be tending to our needs if we find the sun too inhospitable after a time.”
Smiling and nodding, Portentia said, “Of course! If any of you would like to get your fill in preparation, a room has already been set aside for your needs. Mila will ensure our privacy.”
“Mila?” asked David.
“Yes?” replied Mila, her voice emanating from the speakers hidden throughout the walls in a loud whisper.
“Mila is the artificially constructed daughter of Aaliyah, my secretary.” I explained. “She has complete control of the house and four bodies now. Sorry that I didn’t introduce her sooner, but I was waiting till one of her bodies happened by.”
“Oh, master, you need only have called.” she cooed. “I’ll be there shortly.”
“No need, Mila. I’m sure you’re already engaged in something important.” I told her.
“Nothing’s more important than you, master.” she teased.
“And how is she supposed to ensure privacy?” asked David.
The wall opened behind him and a gun was deployed at his back. “I’m fully armed for minor inconveniences, and Raine is on call for anything major.” she explained.
“R-” started David, jumping back into the gun as Raine appeared in front of him.
Looking over to me, Raine, barely speaking above a whisper, asked “M-mila said I w-was… n-needed. Is… s-something wrong?”
“No. Sorry, Raine. Mila merely wanted a demonstration to assuage David here of his worries.” I assured her.
She nodded and ran off quicker than I could see. Papak started laughing, a deep rumbling sound filled with glee.
“I can also help with minor inconveniences.” announced Portentia, waving her hand as if to volunteer.
“As the brothers can assure you, I have a formidable staff, perfectly capable of helping my guests from disrupting one another.” I stated, hoping to enforce David’s feeling of security here.
“You forget, David. Death herself has sworn to claim anyone who would disrupt James and Alma’s wedding. There will be no problems here.” insisted Zachary.
I frowned. Aaliyah failed to mention that to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if she sent out contracts to everyone attending, having them swear their good will.
“Unlike you, I haven’t met her.” muttered David.
“What’s she like? James doesn’t like speaking of her.” commented Jarod.
“You really want to know?” asked Papak with a grin.
“Sure!” exclaimed Jarod.
Ariadne rolled her eyes while shaking her head.
Papak looked around, the grin diminishing on his face into a somber expression. Then he said, “Imagine feeling nearly invincible in a time when the wheel was rare, new tech for humanity. You’re exploring the world, drunk on your own power, when you come across an incredibly large monster that makes me seem beautiful in comparison. You, in your arrogance, try to fight the beast just to test your strength, certain that you can escape. To your horror, the creature not only proves faster and stronger than you, but its touch sucks the energy out of you, allowing you no means of escape. For the first time in years, you understand stark terror, realizing the futility of your situation. Your dying and there’s nothing you can do to survive. As you fail to scream due to lack of strength in mind and body, your entire body manages to seize up as you’re suddenly very aware that something far more terrifying exists. The nightmarish terror which easily vanquished you is brushed aside as insignificant dust in a summer’s breeze. Hours later, you might still be on the ground where you dropped, shaking uncontrollably while knowing in your heart that you certainly would have died of fear were you merely human. That is what Death is like, an absolute fear that strips you of all rationale with her presence while somehow instilling inside you the idea that your existence is very mortal.”
As he spoke, Papak had slowly crept toward Jarod till he was towering over him at the end, blocking out the light with his massive wings. He quickly backed off after he finished, grinning widely again.
Jarod nodded and smiled, though I could tell he looked nervous. “She must make a fortune at Halloween events.” he teased.
“Oh, yes. Screams to die for.” wryly replied Vito.
“Personally, I find she just needs a firm rebuke when she just goes too far.” claimed Ariadne.
“For you, that might work. In over thirteen thousand years, my arguments have ceased to change her mind.” insisted Vito.
“She listens to James just fine.” argued Ariadne.
“Everyone listens to James.” teased Jarod.
I sighed and said, “They might listen, but not everyone agrees with me. I am rather young, after all, so there’s much to learn.”
Azizah, who had been quietly watching the exchange with the other vampires, spoke up, asking “What sort of magic are you using on us? I know why I’m here, the significance of your marriage, and next to nothing about you, but I am inordinately attracted to you.”
“Azizah, did I not say James was charming?” teased Zachary.
“Sorry, but my body emanates a magical field of sorts, compelling people to like me. I can’t stop it without completely depriving myself of energy.” I explained. “I can show you the spell Alma uses to help reduce the effect if you like.”
“Unfortunately, I lack any magical gifts outside what’s in my blood.” she replied. “That being said, I accept the brother’s judgement about you, affected as they may be.”
“Awesome.” mumbled Cosette, who had been watching the brothers with starry-eyed glee since their arrival.
“I think I’ll take you up on that snack if you truly don’t mind.” stated David to Portentia.
“Very, very small sips.” warned Ariadne. “Vito and I will accompany you, just in case. Her blood is… potent.”
Vito nodded and followed Portentia and David out with a couple of the other vampires in tow. The strange relationship between Vito and Ariadne still amused me, given their appearances and actual age difference, but the brothers were obviously quite fond of Ariadne.
“When do you expect Adelmar to be arriving?” inquired Zachary.
“Given the plane’s current velocity, Adelmar and Anwen will be landing in just over three hours.” stated Mila before I could admit my ignorance. “Numerous relatives of his will be arriving sooner, so the pre-wedding entertainment will begin around eleven if you wish to socialize.”
“Lovely. Let’s hope Adelmar does not wish to speak with us before the wedding. With only hours to spare, his grand speeches might delay the wedding if he does.” he teased, earning a few laughs from those assembled.
I smiled as well, not particularly fond of Adelmar’s speeches. Still, the current company was excellent, and this seemed like a fine start to my day.