“When you say ‘tenants’, do you mean these creatures actually pay rent?” asked James.
The master was on the edge of the forest. Just a few steps, and I would be unable to detect him. I didn’t understand the nature of the field around that place, but there was something which blocked me. Would his phone work in there?
“The fey? Not in money, but they do tend the forest for you.” she replied.
:Fey still survive?: I asked.
:You’ve seen them.: she replied.
:I have them labeled as ‘unclassified life forms’, given the variety of creatures I’ve caught lurking at the edge of the forest. The one disappears from all sensors at whim.: I explained.
:Wow! That’s amazing!: she exclaimed.
:You say they’re tenants, but I don’t have any record of them as tenants.: I told her.
:Oh! You’re looking through the house records. The forest records aren’t in the same place.: she replied.
:Oh? Where are they then?: I asked.
:You know that storage area forty feet north of the ballroom’s first sublevel? In there.: she replied, sending me a marker on the mansion’s layout.
:Princess, that section is filled with paper files that you had said I don’t need to worry about.: I stated, trying to express my distress in my tone.
:Why would you have to worry?: she inquired.
:Having incomplete data might cause me to err and inconvenience the master!: I exclaimed, knowing my concerns to be perfectly legitimate.
:Hmm… Maybe you should start scanning those then. They’re pretty old and might keep better digitally.: she admitted, sounding as if she were actually needing to consider the idea.
I sighed and said, :You already have them scanned, don’t you.:
:I do!? That’s awesome! I guess I could share that with you then!: she told me, sending the files.
:I still don’t understand why you kept these from me.: I stated. The most unusual part of the paperwork was that the tenant agreements all spoke of ‘service to the land’ as the sole means of payment, but even that was considered in Emma’s agreement once she became the official groundskeeper. :You didn’t want me speaking to the master about the fey, did you. Why not just inform me not to speak with him about them then?:
:Good question. I’ll have to think about it.: she told me.
:Do the fey actually count as one species?: I asked.
A massive file was uploaded onto my drive, containing an extraordinarily detailed analysis of their genetics. I started perusing the data as the Princess and James stepped into the forest. I didn’t like that my sensors weren’t penetrating the forest. James’ phone, however, was still working perfectly fine. I could hear their footsteps as well as those of others. I resisted the urge to ask the Master to pull out his phone. Inconveniencing him simply to satisfy my own curiosity was wrong.
“Are the fey dangerous?” asked James.
The Princess seemed amused as she said, “That would depend how you want to define ‘dangerous’, boss-man, sir. If someone were to attack your land, they would learn how dangerous fey can be. If you don’t harm them, they won’t intentionally harm you.”
“Alma seemed to harm the land a bit with her fire. Do they only guard the forest?” he asked.
“They can feel her magic and recognize her as one of their own, albeit a scary one.” explained the Princess.
The master then asked “If the fey can’t talk, how do you know all of this?”
“I’m the daughter of a linguist, boss-man, sir. Communication is easy for me.” she cheerfully replied. “That being said, most people can communicate with the fey easily. Very easily, in fact. You’re just blocking them out.”
“What? How?” he asked.
The silence seemed to stretch as I yearned to hear the reply.
“She’s been sitting there, pouting, for months.” stated the Princess. “They’re really emotional creatures.”
That was no answer. Was she not going to explain?
“How do I communicate with them?” asked the master just before I asked her myself.
“You tend to block everything out, ignoring the world as best as you can. You need to stop. The habit of yours has guided your magic to block out certain types of communication.” she told him, still not answering the question clearly.
I could guess what she meant though, but I found the idea discouraging.
“Are you saying the fey are telepathic?” he asked as if voicing my thought.
“Not as most people think of it, but yes.” she answered. “Just relax, boss-man, sir, and pay attention to this girl. She wants to know you. They all do.”
How was I going to communicate with telepathic creatures? Well, ones that didn’t communicate verbally at all. The twins did seem telepathic. I had no organic brain for them to read. At least, I was fairly certain my mind wasn’t organic in any part. I didn’t actually have full specs for my systems yet.
“Hello.” stated James as if he too were troubled by this revelation.
There was silence, save for the breathing of numerous creatures including the master and Princess. Was he managing to communicate? I wondered at what these strange creatures might say.
“Stop fighting, boss-man, sir. Just relax. The flickering images in your head aren’t your own.” stated the Princess.
Flickering images? I easily could manage a poor video stream, struggling to unveil a movie. Was that what he was experiencing? Data streams were more intimate for me than for humans. I was far more aware of what was happening at any given moment, though I couldn’t claim a greater knowledge of their functionality than all humans. Jarod was quite remarkable.
“Ouch!” exclaimed the Master.
“Wrong sort of meditating, boss-man, sir. Don’t look inward. Look out.” commanded the Princess.
I wished so much that I could see what was happening. How had he been injured? What were they seeing?
The Princess explained :I pinched him to get his attention.:
An image stream suddenly became available, and I found myself watching the master, surrounded by creatures. The clarity was incredible. There was so much to follow. The master suddenly looked disturbed as if he didn’t like what was happening.
“That one does like you a bit much I suppose.” stated the Princess.
“You… you saw that too?” he asked.
I realized I was seeing through the Princess’ own eyes as the image jerked. She was nodding. From the vantage point when she looked up at the master, I guessed that she was sitting on his lap.
“Don’t worry, boss-man, sir. She’s just like that. Ever since she snuck into the house during the ghost hunt, she’s been crazy about you.” she explained.
I recognized the one to which she referred. She had been barely more than a sensor blip during the event, but I had detected her around the edge of the forest on multiple occasions. She was one that frequently visited the pond outside of the forest as well.
“How do you make sense of all that?” asked James. “I felt so overwhelmed.”
“You’ll be able to handle it much better with a bit of practice.” the Princess assured him.
“Well, I’m glad the fey aren’t so overly affected by my magic.” he stated.
“Actually, they are.” she replied.
“What!?” he asked, looking quite startled.
“There-there, boss-man, sir. They don’t get emotionally overwhelmed, and they’ll always give you space when I’m around.” she assured him.
“Why do they give you space?” he asked.
“The fey see me differently than you do, boss-man, sir.” she teased.
He stared at her for a while as if considering something. Then he asked “Why did they all gather here on my land?”
“They’ve been here for as many years as the ghost stories surrounding this place, boss-man, sir. They stay here because they’re safe in these woods. You literally have an enchanted forest in your backyard. Pretty cool, huh!?” she exclaimed.
After some more consideration, he asked “Does Alma know about this?”
“You’d be surprised what that girl can miss, boss-man, sir. Someone a bit more clever even than her placed the enchantment here. No offense, but you could search for years and never notice it even now that you know about it, boss-man, sir.” she informed him.
“Good thing I have a secretary far more clever than me. How did you find out about it?” he inquired.
I heard the sound of a yawn, and her eyes shut for a moment.
Then she said, “I know who placed the enchantment.”
“Any chance you’ll introduce me to this person some day? I could obviously learn a thing or two from someone capable of this.” he declared.
The image was starting to fade. Was she falling asleep? Well, pretending to fall asleep would be a more accurate assessment. Even when the Princess appeared to be asleep, her mind was racing far beyond anything I could process. As the data stream ended, I wondered at how much I still had to learn.