After breakfast, Jasmine and Ballista shared an orange on the back porch, and the educator explained why she’d been looking for the servant. “Earlier when I sent you to get my mom, I sent for Aimes, but he was not available to help me with something that is extremely important. You would’ve been the first one I come to with this massive favor, but I know how you feel about the main character in my quest”.
“Miss Jasmine, are you asking me to do something for you that’s going to involve Azleal?” Ballista inquired.
“Yes, I am”, Jasmine answered.
“What is it you need me to do?” Ballista asked.
“I need you to be the biggest sweetheart on the planet, and take me to pick him up so he can meet the princess”, Jasmine could only be honest with the conflicted demon, and hope that she would agree to drive her out to pick up Azleal.
“I’m the only other one you know to ask that favor of?” Ballista asked.
“You are the only other one I trust to ask that favor of. I know he scared you last time he was here, but to be fair, he has tried to apologize; but you would not see him so that he could try to make amends. However, I do not blame you for refusing to speak with Azleal. It was over an entire year before you stopped having nightmares. Then again, that incident was not entirely his fault, and I never understood why you weren’t just as upset with me. I told him that he could shed his vessel, and never thought about activating the safe measures. Therefore, I’m as much to blame for you seeing Azleal in his true form as he is for taking my advice”, Jasmine offered. She desperately needed Ballista to agree to drive her to The Devil Empire, and thought taking blame for that day might help the servant make the decision to take her there.
“When I told my momma what happened, she told me that the only way I can get past the nightmares was for me to admit, and accept, my fault in the situation. At first, I did not understand. In my mind, it was his responsibility to keep anyone from seeing him like that. When I brought that up, mamma said that I was just as much at fault because I did not announce myself before going inside. She also defended you both when she said, ‘They both thought everyone was gone, and that no one would return for several more hours. Azleal took his creator’s advice, and removed his vessel for comfort. You walked in, without knocking, and you have been scarred for the rest of your life. How do you not see your fault?’ I was stunned, Miss Jasmine. It felt like momma wasn’t listening to me, and we fought about what she said. That was until daddy got home. When daddy heard about my blunder, he said the same thing. My feelings were crushed, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever forgive either of them. I felt abandoned by my mother and my father. I went to my room, and I cried. How could my own parents take your side? Why didn’t they put all the blame on you and Azleal?
“Then, one day, my grandmother visited. After I explained everything, including mom and dad’s opinion, she let me have it. I mean to tell you she cussed at me in ways I’d never heard before, and that was in her secondary tongue. When she got tired of swearing in English, she cussed me in her native language, the one she was born to speak. When that made her tired, she would switch back to English. She went on in that way for a solid week. I couldn’t take it anymore. My grandmother had forgotten who she was speaking to, she’d been cussing me out for a week, and I’d had it.
“The night grandma had been visiting for a week, I lost it. I yelled at her. I told her that I never thought she’d talk to me like that. She told me she never thought she’d have to talk to me like that. I cried, and went to bed. Before I got into bed, I replayed the events of that day, and I came to the conclusion that the only way grandma was going to stop with her tirade was for me to admit that I was at fault as much as you and Azleal. I slept peacefully that night. No nightmares, and all because I didn’t want my grandmother to continue talking to me in that way. The next morning, I told everyone what I did the night before, and how I slept so well after I admitted responsibility for my part in everything”, Ballista explained.
“If that’s true, why haven’t you ever told me or Azleal what you’d done?”Jasmine asked.
“I figured if y’all didn’t know about what I’d done, I wouldn’t have to face Azleal, and he would continue to pay the price for my error, no matter if I’d found absolution or not”,
“Now, it all comes together, and makes perfect sense. You know, if you were anyone else, I’d be madder than a hornet for putting him through all that anguish. However, since I am talking to you, I’m not going to get angry, but I am telling you that you will talk to Az when we get back. You will tell him every piece of the truth, and you will apologize for tormenting him for so long”, Jasmine said.
“Yes, ma’am, Miss Jasmine. I’ll talk to him and let him off the hook as soon as we get back”, she said.
“When we get back from taking Azleal home, you will start to receive punishment from me for lying to me. And, if he chooses, you may be punished by him, too”, Jasmine said.
“I’m in no position to refuse what you’ve said. I lied, and that’s what I have to deal with”, Ballista said.
“It is, but for now, don’t think about that. What I need you to focus on is helping me reinforce the bolts on the carriage we’re going to use. I know I created that monster, but Holy cow, he’s ginormous, and every one of those bolts is going to need help to endure his weight”, Jasmine told her servant.
“I completely understand that. If I were those bolts, I’d unscrew myself, and haul ass running”, Ballista told Jasmine. When the professor began to laugh, she knew the joke landed where she’d intended, and she laughed along.
“Sometimes I wonder what makes that mind of yours work. I mean, I’ve been around the block a time or two, I’ve seen quite a few things in my lifetime, and I’ve heard some really clever stuff. You, however, always come up with the silliest things to say. Which one of your parents is a comedian?” Jasmine wanted to know.
“What do you mean?” Ballista asked.
“Do you get your sense of humor from your mom or your dad?” Jasmine inquired.
“Neither of them. I got my sense of humor from the grandmother of mine who cussed me out”, Ballista confessed.
“Let me tell you something, for an older, wiser elf, your grandma sounds amazing”, Jasmine admitted.
“You might actually know her”, Ballista said.
“Really? What’s her name?” The professor inquired.
“Nerville Sufarian”, Ballista shared.
“Now I understand why I kept thinking I could hear her, a couple years back”, Jasmine said.
“What are you talking about, Miss Jasmine?” Ballista was beyond curious. They’d already reinforced the majority of the braces connected to the carriage, and needed ten to finish the job.
Jasmine had an expression on her face that read she was flustered, Ballista was waiting for her answer, and it was fair to tell her who Mistress Sufarian was to her.
She forced a smile and said, “Your grandmother is my magix educator. I don’t call her Nerville, though. She always has been and always will be Mistress Sufarian, to me”.
Ballista could not help herself, something her boss had said caused her to crack up laughing.
She was beginning to get irritated because she wanted to know what was funny about what had been said. When she caught her breath, Ballista said, “I’m sorry. I never pictured you in school before, and to know that my grandma is your teacher is hilarious, somehow”, Ballista said.
“That’s fine. We’re almost done here, and we’ll be able to leave. Let’s get it done”, Jasmine said. She put another stake in place, and hammered it in.
Within a few minutes, they had completed the reinforcement of the carriage, and they hitched the horses to it. Jasmine climbed up onto the bench next to Ballista, and the two of them left.
When they got to the end of the road, Jasmine said, “Normally, the ride would take us eight hours, but with a little magix, we’ll be there in a few minutes”. She rolled up her sleeves, said a few words in the language of Erato, and in a flash they were in front of Azleal’s lair.
“With age comes impatience, and I am too old to be riding for sixteen hours. Give me a few minutes to talk to him, and I’ll be right back”, Jasmine said. She jumped from her place on the bench, and disappeared around the corner. Ballista released the hold she had on the reins, and leaned back to wait for Jasmine.
The next time she saw her, there was someone behind her who looked like an ordinary elf, but because of where she was, it could only be Azleal. She had met him quite a few times, but hadn’t seen the vessel he was currently wearing. This one made the demon look less threatening, and helped to put Ballista at ease, instantly. She helped Jasmine find her place to the right of the driver, and she pulled out the running boards of the carriage in order to assist Azleal with boarding the coach. When she loaded herself onto the driver’s seat on the left of Jasmine, there was a smile on her face that looked as though it could never be removed. The magix professor, impressed with the show of bravery from her servant, said, “You have just saved yourself, and don’t even know what you’ve done”.
Ballista grabbed the reins of the horse team, and said, “I’m not looking to make points or get myself out of trouble. I thought helping y’all would be a lot quicker, and we could get back sooner”.
Jasmine lifted her right arm, said something in the native planetary language, and instantly they returned to the end of the road that led to Devereux Manor Road. Ballista managed the team and carriage perfectly, and the entire vehicle landed on the ground with a thud. The reinforcements placed strategically on certain bolts for shock absorption when Azleal’s weight came down with the carriage, held without any problems. The professor demanded, “Stop everything! I have to be sure that Azleal made it through. That landing seemed a little light, and that’s very concerning.
Give me just a minute to be sure he’s back there, and we can head to the house”. Ballista pulled the team to a halt with the shout from her boss, and she waited for Jasmine to return with news of whether or not Azleal made it through the magix transition.
A minute later, the professor joined her servant on the driver’s seat, and said, “He’s fine. I kinda thought he was, but I had to get my eyes on him because he doesn’t travel using magix because sometimes parts of him get left on the other side, and as you can imagine, that is very painful for him. We’re ready to finish out this trip, so let’s take it on to the manor”, Jasmine encouraged her servant.
The carriage stopped in front of the entrance to the manor, and everyone unloaded. Cryer and Markham retrieved the horse team and carriage, and took them to the stables to unhook the animals from the vehicle.
Jasmine led Ballista and Azleal onto the front porch, and the professor stopped before going inside. She needed to speak with her servant, and addressed the young elf with pride in her heart, “I want you to know how very proud I am of you taking the initiative to help Azleal and I load up on the carriage earlier. I know you said that you were not looking for any points or leniency towards your punishment, but you have actually earned quite a few. Because you chose to help, no matter the outcome, your punishment no longer exists. Think of it as a gift from me to you, for showing me that you could be strong when it was tempting to stay where you were ‘’.
The young servant said, “I appreciate your generosity. I was only trying to help. Like I told you earlier, I was not looking to make any points towards getting out of trouble, but I am grateful for your decision to overlook the punishment”.
Jasmine opened the door to the mansion, and stood aside as her servant and the demon both found their way inside.
She followed them, and pulled the door closed behind her. Ballista went into the kitchen, and found that Naesys had already turned the cooking over to Twitch. She was the servant who made lunch for the residents and workers at the manor. Jasmine asked for the room to be empty except for those who she’d given permission to stay. The afternoon cook grabbed Ecko from the bassinet near the stove, and left the kitchen.
When there was no one within earshot, Jasmine began, “Ballista, I know you said that you were not looking to gain any points towards leniency of your punishment, but you gave yourself so many when you help Azleal and I that they have to be applied. Therefore, your punishments, both of them, have been rescinded. Now, Azleal and I need to ask you for the room. And, while on your way out, if you please, tell Miss Twitch that I’ll be needing her to hand over the princess, but that when we’re done, she can have the baby back.”
A couple minutes later, the servant appeared briefly in the kitchen, she placed the princess in her mother’s arms, and left expediently.
Jasmine held the princess, and smiled at the little one lying peacefully on her chest. She knew Azleal may feel intrepid at first, but with the appropriate encouragement, he would eventually find himself holding the future queen of Interraton with more ease and less apprehension.