Children of BFFH, Entry 99
I sighed, bored with waiting to arrive. The plane ride had been boring, since Father insisted that I needed to study the entire way. He didn’t believe that I’d find time to study during my stay, which was possible. Four probably didn’t need any more sleep than I did, so he might play games with me throughout the night.
Glancing out the window, I happened to notice the driverless cab next to me, one of James’. Father had recently made a deal with James for that cab company to be introduced throughout a few cities in Russia. Europe had already embraced Best Friend for Hire’s transportation services after seeing the greatly reduced accident rate and improved transit times. Ultimately, I still found the subject boring.
Knowing that I needed to understand the workings of everything and actually studying it all were completely separate things in my mind. I didn’t want all of my time spent guiding other people! Maybe Alaric would give me a reprieve?
I had tried picturing Alaric from the last time we met, but Four popped into my head, having been on that trip. He was a couple years older than Alaric and me, and had brilliant violet eyes that I could stare into forever. They were just that beautiful! I wished that I had made a better impression on him when we met. Sadly, I had attacked his little sister when she proved to be formidable. Father understood why I had been investigating, but he reprimanded me for not trying to speak first. That was when he pointed out that the Eternal Princess Aaliyah was far more dangerous than she appeared.
All Slayer descendants worth mentioning knew that Aaliyah was brilliant, the notable ones also knew that she was the world’s only living assassin—she mercilessly kills anyone who tries to take her jobs, but only the strongest families know that Aaliyah is Death herself. According to Father, Aaliyah has been around for all of time and is rumored to literally collect souls as people die. He claimed that even a Slayer, such as Alaric, would be killed instantly with the slightest touch of Death’s scythe, and that weapon is said to destroy body and soul. If not for the desperate seriousness in Father’s eyes when he had told me, I would have thought he was telling a tale. Well, meeting Mariasha and Serenity did help to persuade me as well.
Serenity had effortlessly broken Father’s arm, looking as if she had merely been playing, and her movements were so fast that I couldn’t even follow them. Mariasha had created something around him that he told me was unbreakable. The ability to create with a thought was startling, a power I hadn’t heard of until then. Going by what Father had told me, Serenity was Death’s own granddaughter and Mariasha was Death’s daughter. I needed to be careful around them.
Save Alaric, I had gone my life without realizing there were children near my age who could compete with me on anything. Finding out there were numerous was a bit frightening… and exciting. I had played through my brief fight with Lucy time and time again in my head, and I wasn’t certain I could beat the smaller, younger girl even if I had given it my all. She was at least as fast as me, strong enough to fully block my strikes, and she had enough skill to turn most strikes with minimal effort. The more I thought about our brief fight, the more I believed that she had taken me lightly enough to have held back for the sake of her clothing. Only when Father had arrived did she start getting serious. I could only imagine what Four might be capable of.
After dozens of little daydreams, some extra studying from the books with me, and a few stops to relieve my boredom, I finally passed the gates into Somerset Estate. King James Michael Somerset III was the man who had bested Father with a single spell, shattering every last bone in Father’s body and forcing him to yield the fight. According to Father, that was the single most excruciating experience of his entire life. If not for the swift care of Alma, Father would have died. Since then, stories of James’ talents had only grown, such as an account from James’ wedding where he had incapacitated Adelmar Slayer while Adelmar struggled with his dragon nature. This man deserved every respect.
From the immaculate yard covered in fancifully pruned bushes, picturesque trees, and perfectly trimmed grass to the enormous, lavishly constructed mansion, Somerset Estate was made to impress. I doubted many had come here and left still feeling they had seen better. With eyes as sharp as my own, I could always find something out of place, at least elsewhere. James’ yard didn’t even have a stray twig visible from the front.
“Greetings, Marisha. Will you please follow me?” asked Mila, the first daughter of Death as I approached the door with my courtesy gift in hand. Though artificially constructed, Mila’s place as Death’s daughter was made indisputable by the lack of people willing to argue with Death. Despite her position, she looked perfectly humble as she waited for me to nod before leading me into the mansion.
Past two sets of sturdy, wooden doors was a balcony that overlooked the entryway. Twin staircases led up to the next floor. Directly ahead was a shut door, surprisingly not a hallway, though there was a hall to the right and to the left. From the rails on the stairway to the ceiling high above, the wood was all tastefully engraved. This was a very nice home.
Mila led me to the right, turning left as the hallway split. I caught sight of a very large kitchen, drawn by the smells of well-prepared food. I resisted the urge to head in there, not wanting to offend my host. I didn’t doubt Father was right that James would know. What strange powers must a man have to keep Death herself as a servant along with Death’s daughter? Would Mariasha join her sister here eventually, dressed as a maid? The thought chilled me when I realized how easily James could have me bound here. Father wouldn’t dare argue.
As we walked, we passed many different people, all confidently walking the halls on the way to some business. Many of the rooms seemed alive with activity, but I barely caught even a scent of the other children this way. I certainly wasn’t hearing any of them that I recognized. When we reached the end of the hall, I froze, a sudden panic rising within me.
To my shame, Mila noticed, smiling compassionately and motioning for me to go onward. “I apologize for your discomfort. My daughter’s scent is heavy with dark energy when she uses her magic, and she’s allowed to use her magic quite often in our rooms. The scent is nearly impossible to eradicate completely due to the lingering energy.” explained Mila as she continued up the stairs.
I couldn’t keep from glancing back at the relatively ordinary-looking door that stood between me and Serenity, if she was in there. Such a door wouldn’t keep me out if I attempted to break it, so I was very certain that the door couldn’t keep Serenity inside. I hoped she wouldn’t notice me.
“Yes, you’re smelling vampires here. The entire wing on this floor is the dwelling of Cosette and Valeria Bourbon. Please do remember Alaric’s edict not to exterminate vampires indiscriminately when you’re here. Cosette would probably take offense, and the Master might not save you quickly if she did.” stated Mila offhandedly as we passed near a door on the second floor.
“I wouldn’t dare.” I assured her. Though Father had never talked with me about Cosette himself, I had read about her while preparing to come here. Cosette was the daughter of King Louis XVI of France, a daughter who came about many years after he was presumed dead. Despite being very young by vampire standards, her position here and personal ability had allowed her to rub elbows with the most powerful vampires in the world. She was considered to be extremely dangerous and off limits to the family.
After taking the stairs up another floor, we walked down a hallway with more… unique paintings than those below. Where I could recognize the work of old masters on the first and second floor, the paintings here were unknown to me, some of them depicting landscapes that simply had to be pure fantasy. Even some of the vases baffled me, made from materials I didn’t recognize, though they could have been creatively painted to make them look unknowable. I reminded myself I was in the domain of someone beyond even Father.
When Mila politely knocked on a door, there was a wait of several seconds before the door swung open without a sound. My mouth dropped open as I was bombarded with scents I didn’t recognize and the sounds of creatures I didn’t know. James appeared to be seated at a desk made from driftwood, but the desk sat on a beach. Despite knowing he was in a very real room, my eyes couldn’t find the flaws in the illusion.
“Go in.” encouraged Mila, though telling me what to do would have been frowned upon had she been any other servant.
I did as instructed, still marveling at the surroundings as James seemed to type something out.
“Welcome, Marisha! Sorry if my husband’s decor is disturbing for you, but he has the room changed to fit his mood rather often.” apologized Alma, who I hadn’t even noticed.
I curtsied to her and offered the package I was carrying to her. “A small token from my family to yours. My father wished me to convey his gratitude for allowing me this brief stay.” I told her, hoping Father had chosen well.
Alma opened the carefully carved box, smiling as she said, “James, look what Maksim and Marisha made for us.”
As James looked up and smiled at the marble carving of their family, I wondered how Alma knew I had helped. After a few painful, panicked seconds of staring and thinking, worried I had made some sort of mistake, I realized that I had given her children the very outfits they had worn when I met them. Father hadn’t seen them all.
“Thank you, Marisha. That is quite lovely. We’ll be sure to display it soon.” promised James, standing and walking around to me. He was a tall man who looked quite young for someone as intimidating as he was. Of course, his wife really wasn’t any less intimidating and looked equally young, passable for a teenager. “I do hope you enjoy your stay here, but try not to get your hopes up as far as Four is concerned. You both have years of growing ahead of you, and I’ve noticed that Messy, that’s Mariasha if you don’t remember, is rather fond of my son as well.”
I fought the sudden, irrational despair that loomed up within me, but I knew my mouth involuntarily frowned. Of course, James and Alma would know why I was here. I wouldn’t be surprised if Father had told them when he had contacted them, wanting to appear forthcoming. If Mariasha was truly interested in Four, I would be a fool to oppose her.
“You do realize that Aiden is your age, right?” questioned Alma, smiling warmly at me. “Here, let me give you a little protection to help you see things more clearly while you’re here.” Energy suddenly welled up out of her, and I couldn’t begin to follow the huge spell she formed with it before it settled on me.
“Th-Thank you, your majesty.” I told her, quickly curtsying again while knowing Father could never have done whatever that was. He had never claimed he could compete with her, only that he once made an attempt for her hand.
“No need for any of that.” stated James sternly, though he looked amused. “Just call us ‘James and Alma’ while you’re here, okay?” he asked.
I nodded, feeling more than a little overwhelmed when I stayed on that strange beach long enough to join the two for some tea. We chatted about home, the other children here, and the rules for some sort of battle game I’d be asked to join tomorrow. By the end of that conversation, I was quite certain that no amount of preparation would have really prepared me for coming here.