We were all sitting in the back of the car silently. Everyone was trying to avoid setting off a fire before we reached our destination. An unknown local vampire was driving us towards an estate. Matthew’s hand was on top of mine. “Are you alright, mon couer?” I nodded my head. Coming here had been my decision after I had gotten some facts. Everything pointed to her being a person who needed to be talked to in person. The car finally turned into what felt like an entrance to a home. I looked out the window. It looked like endless cotton fields.
Matthew squeezed my hand. “Diana?” I put my hand on top of his. “I’m fine, Matthew.” He let go of me to lean closer. “What’s on your mind?” Lots of things. Lots of things were on my mind, Matthew. A small smile appeared on my lips. “If Becca has finally domesticated Baldwin in our absence.” My husband chuckled. “Not even she can work that fast.” Fernando interrupting. “We shall pray that she does.” Gallowglass laughing. “He does need a good whipping or two.” This is how it should be. Everyone together.
A few moments later the car parked. The door was opened to reveal one of the largest plantation homes I have ever seen. It had sixteen pillars just in the front of it. After the first two on each side large curved staircases led to a second floor and it’s outside front patio. Above that was a third floor a fourth floor and finally what looked like a fifth floor. The entire front of the house consisted of what looked to be like a wrap around porch behind the pillars. Everything else about it was strangely subtle and not gaudy. Almost as if it was pretending to be a calm and quaint white country house. The driver anxiously turned to look at us. “Old Cotton Field House Sieur de Clairemont.” This was a field house?
I turned behind me. When did we drive into a pathway of cypress trees and Spanish moss. The entrance had been cotton fields. The glimpses of fields behind the trees didn’t seem to be cotton either. One seemed to be floral, indigo perhaps, while the other seemed to be fruit and vegetables. “Madame Bishop.” My attention turned back to the front.
A daemon of about eighteen-nineteen stood in front of us. Besides his serious expression and formal attire he seemed to look very much like a child. “You are?” He bowed. There were man made streaks of red in his black hair at the back underside. “Byrd Johnson, I am in charge of your care taking while you are at the Field House.” I nodded my head. With vampires there was always assigned care takers it seemed. However, it was normally other vampires. Matthew besides me seemed enraged at the idea. “A mere young daemon…”
It seems this was a mark against proper hospitality. The young daemon did his best to smooth the mood, however. “I assure Sieur Clairmont that I am fully capable of taking care of your needs. I’ve been serving in the Field House since I was six years old. Ma’am wouldn’t allow me to serve you if I was unprepared.” Matthew snarled but I put my hand on his arm. “Let us test how much you’ve grown then.” The young daemon smiled and nodded his head. “This way, please.”
We followed him down what seemed like an endless maze of small rooms and halls each having their own theme and scents. Finally we arrived at an outdoor garden. Spread out in the closest sectioned off area in the garden was a scattered group of tables and guests. Many of them simply having tea and chatting. Byrd turned to us. “Ma’am expected you would arrive but since she did not know when she did not clear out the normal guests.”
He motioned for us to walk towards one of he tables in the middle of the cluster. There sitting at the table was the woman I was here to see. Besides her was a small group of women. Some vampire, some witch and some daemon. When they saw us approach they politely excused themselves. A small pout could be seen on her face but it quickly disappeared as we stopped at her table. Somehow, I was reminded of Matthew’s grandson Andrew. A small collection of souls finding a community at a simple table.
Asnat put her teacup down and smiled.“Matthew, Fernando it’s been ages.” She turned to me. “Doctor Bishop.” Her eyes moving away from mine to assess Gallowglass. It seems she did not know him. “And you are?” Gallowglass smiled awkwardly. “Gallowglass.” Another childish chuckle came from her. “Ah, the famous de Clermont Bear. To think it took this long for us to meet.” He leaned forward and kissed her hand. She smiled at him as if it was expected. I found it odd that even though her expression never changed her eyes held different ones for each of them. Fernando was loving. Matthew was wariness and Gallowglass was curiosity.
The sound of running footsteps could be heard. A young black man in formal attire appearing quite quickly in front of us. “Mother, you did not tell me we were having guests.” His attention turning to Fernando. A large smile on his face. “And Fernando.” The two hugged each other. He was apparently not considered a guest but something more.
My husband’s serious voice ruining the mood. “Cadmar.” Her son turned to look at my husband annoyed. “Matthew.” Matthew always seemed to have a history with someone. A part of me felt relieved that even here this was true. Cadmar turning towards me with a small formal smile. “Doctor Bishop. The hens have been going on about you every morning and night.” His southern drawl wasn’t thick but it was certainly there. When he called Gallowglass’s name somehow it became an even longer softer word. It was completely enchanting his voice. Combined with those good look her son must be quiet the heart breaker.
He turned his attention back to my husband. “Not just guests then. Congregation or de Clermont business?” Matthew’s expression tightened. “Both.” For some reason a jovial expression appeared on his face as he turned to Asnat. “My my. Now what have you been up to mother?” She stuck out her pinky finger like a child. “I’ve been good son, I swear.” There was something comical between the two of them that did not fit the situation but still calmed me down and put a smile on my face.
She turned away from him towards Fernando. A careless expression on her face as she sang. “The muskets did rattle, fierce raged the battle, grape shoot, it flew thicker than hail, sir. The ditch fill’d with slain, blood dyed the plain, when rebels and French turned tail, Sir.” I watched Cadmar nod his head lazily and continue the song, “See! See! How they run! Lord! What glorious fun!”
Matthew seemed to be more irritated than I was suddenly becoming. What possessed this woman to suddenly sing an insult on the French, my husband! The sweet mood she was trying to create was utterly abandoned by this act. My husband grabbed Cadmar. Unexpectedly, Asnat did not move to save him from my husband’s grasp. Instead, she irritatingly kept singing. “How they tumble, by cannon mowed down, sir. Brains fly all around, Dying screams resound, and mangled limbs cover the ground, sir!” Was she threatening Matthew through a song!
Matthew let go of an annoyed looking Cadmar and leaned down towards Asnat. “Enough.” I had been feeling the endless eyes on us before but suddenly it felt like more than just some light pressure. My eyes skittering around. How many people were hidden and watching us? Fernando looked down at Asnat wearily. “Perhaps, we leave the songs here.”
Asnat seemed to be the only one here without any agitation or irritation at everything going on. She only nodded at Fernando’s words as if they were light and not a warning. “De Clermonts were always so stiff. Especially without Phillipe.” Matthew and Gallowglass both snarled. Cadmar had moved to stand between them and his still unconcerned looking mother.
I on the other hand had lost some of my irritation for curiosity. “You knew Phillipe?” Fernando shook his head as the memories seemed to come back to him. “Knew him? These two spent so many years bickering with each other on everything from who was older to the necessity of maintaining a traditional armory in the modern world.” She sighed for the first time since we had arrived. “It was so hard proving I was right with how utterly daft we were at keeping records in our times.”
I became even more curious. What was that question mark lingering on my tongue as I watched her oddities and quirks reveal themselves? “So who was older?” She cracked up laughing at my question. “Well, that depends on who you ask Dr. Bishop.” That was not a specific answer but a clever one.
As predicted, however, my husband had reached a point of dislike for clever answers. “Enough of these games. Why have you joined the Congregation?” Before she could answer another daemon appeared. He was tall and lean with bright blonde hair unlike the first one. Yet, as Byrd, he was dressed formally. “Lady Mehtep is here as you requested.” Cadmar seemed to be annoyed. “Sister? You asked sister home?” Asnat simply nodded her head, unbothered as usual. “I did. What of it?”
She turned to the daemon. “Thank you, Beau. Tell my daughter we will meet her in the Rosemary Parlor in a moment.” He nodded and walked off. Asnat stood up and smiled at Matthew. “I believe my daughter may have some of the answers you are looking for.” Her eyes turning to me. “And some answers you need.”
Without another word she turned around and started heading towards the Rosemary Parlor. Cadmar looking at Fernando. “I hope after this we still leave on a good note.” “We will.” I watched the two of them follow after. Gallowglass gave a quiet nod and followed after. Matthew looking down at me. He was clearly having a hard time regulating all of his feelings so I took his hand in mine. “Together?” He smiled at me. “Together.”