Jasmine had been working in the stables the morning Digby came to deliver the telegram from the guardian Bugara, she wiped her hands on the towel that hung from a nail just inside the door, and accepted the postcard the note was written on. The messenger was a younger being, though stressors of the job caused him to appear much older than his true years, which garnered him handsome amounts of tips.“Give me just a moment, and I’ll get you a tip”, Jasmine said. She searched the pocket of her pants, retrieved a quarter from its corner, and placed it in his hand.
“Thank you, Miss Jasmine. May the message from your telegram be good news. I’ll be on my way now. Have a delightful day”, Digby said. He turned on his heels, and left his latest customer. She knew, no matter the type, that receiving news while she was alone. The morning she found out about the accident that Jerrardo passed away in, she had been by herself, and she remembered what it was like to get that kind of information with no one to cling to. It was one of the most heartbreaking pieces of news she’d ever gotten, and if she could do it again, she would not have been alone. She raced to the house, hoping to find her mother and son in the same place. As she made her way up the steps of the back porch, she removed her boots with her feet, and entered the kitchen wearing only her socks.Gwendolyn sat at the table with the princess laying on her left arm while her right hand held the bottle upright.
Azleal sat next to her, getting tips on how to hold the baby during a feeding, and she taught him what he needed to do in order to burp her. Then, she watched the demon as he received the infant and bottle. Her mother allowed him to get comfortable, then placed a rag across his shoulder. No one had detected her presence, which gave her the opportunity to observe the scene unfolding before her, and they would be none the wiser; she needed to allow everything to happen naturally, and didn’t want to ruin the moment by announcing herself.Jasmine knew the demon had an unlimited learning capacity, she’d bestowed the trait upon him just before she brought him to life, but she never realized that he would have a desire to learn how to perform domestic tasks such as feeding and burping a baby. When she thought about it, he was probably only doing those things for the infant he held because she was the future planetary queen, and it was his sole duty to protect her.Her subconscious nagged at the back of her mind, reminding her of the telegram she’d put in her back pocket before she started for the house, and the scene had to end. As much as she’d tried to stay within the first moment Azleal bonded with the princess, she was aware of the message needing to be delivered, and she stepped into the clearing between the pressing table and the stove.
“Mom! Azleal! Just the two beings I’ve been looking for,” she said.
“How long have you been looking?” Gwendolyn asked her daughter. “I just started”, she lied.
“How long am I expected to pretend that I didn’t hear you come in ten minutes ago?” She didn’t wait for her to admit she’d been standing inside for a while because she knew that Jasmine wouldn’t say anything about it. Gwendolyn’s curiosity was heightened, and she wanted to know why her daughter hadn’t made her presence known when she first came in.
“I know I should have let you know I came in, as soon as I did, and I had every intention to do exactly that, but — -”, she became overwhelmed with emotions, and her words were choked back by the tears which were threatening to fall from her eyes.
“But. But, what? Jasmine? What are you talking about?” Gwendolyn had begun to grow impatient until she looked across the room to see her daughter’s body was shaking from crying. Then, she started to feel bad for snapping at Jasmine. She wasn’t sure what had caused the elf to fall apart at that specific time, but it obviously mattered to her daughter. Gwendolyn stood from her chair, walked over with her arms open, and allowed Jasmine to weep until she couldn’t any longer. When she’d cried every tear dry, Jasmine began to slowly explain, “You have to understand that first, Azleal having a life is solely due to my putting in the time to actually grow him from thin air. I gave him an unlimited capacity to store knowledge, but didn’t expect a demon to have a desire to learn how to take care of a baby. When I came in a few minutes ago, you were explaining what he’d have to do in order to get the air bubbles off of Ecko’s stomach. Before I could let y’all know I’d come in, mom, you passed her to Azleal, and I couldn’t bring myself to end the moment. So, I watched as he fed the princess”. “That explains why no announcement of your presence, but what was the reason for the emotional breakdown? You’ve always been stronger than that”, Gwendolyn said.
“Do you remember the first time I did something that took your breath away, and made you cry, mom?” Jasmine asked her.
“Yes, I remember. It was the day Marcellus was born. When you held your brother the first time, I cried like a baby”, Gwendolyn admitted. “You probably felt pride, instead of sadness that day”, she said.
“It was definitely not sadness that brought me to tears. It was knowing that you were alright with the new baby. I never thought you’d hate him, but every mother has her doubts about that situation until it plays out”, Gwendolyn said.
“Well, that’s how I felt when I saw Azleal with the princess. Unsure and confident. It is a smorgasbord of emotions. It was touching”, she said.
“That explains the waterworks. What brought you in in the first place?” Gwendolyn asked.
“I got a message from guardian Bugara, and I didn’t want to be alone when I read it”, Jasmine said.
“That makes sense. I’m glad you decided to come inside, and look for us. So, I guess it would be good for you to find us in the same place at the same time. Would you like for me to read it?” Gwendolyn asked.
“Yeah, sure, you can read it”, she said, pulling the telegram out of her back pocket. Jasmine went over to the table, sat in the chair before her, and sat on the edge of it. She couldn’t help but be nervous since the last time she’d gotten a message from the guardian, it had been over a year previously, and it was to let her know that the unit was down until further notice due to maintenance issues.
“Miss Jasmine, the Ground Transportation Unit has been repaired and is back online for you to use at any time”, Gwendolyn said.
“Thanks, Bugara, but I could’ve used the unit six months ago when I was moving Azleal in. It’s a little late for that one”, she said.
“Yes, but it will come in handy for so many other things”, her mother said.
“No, mom, it won’t. Don’t you remember the agreement I had to make with the mayor in order to convince him to let me buy one?” Jasmine asked the question, but already knew what the answer would be since her mother had been visiting when Mayor Hidalgo announced his approval of a Ground Transportation Unit being purchased, installed and used by Jasmine Devereux only after she signed a contract stating that she would not use the unit for daily tasks.
“That unit was installed by a contractor of my choosing, twenty years ago, and in that time the thing has been used a total of two times. The first time, Twitch had fallen out of the hayloft, and broke her leg so the bone was protruding from the skin. The second time was when Miss Eugenia went into labor, but had to be taken to the doctor’s house in the middle of the night. Come to find out, the baby was trying to come out backwards, and if we hadn’t rushed Eugenia to Doctor Roseberg, the baby wouldn’t have made it. So, I’ve used it once every ten years, if you want to get down-right technical about the whole thing. I could’ve used it to move Azleal because of the sheer size of some of his artwork, but the unit was still down at the time”, Jasmine explained. She wanted to be happy the unit was back up and running, but unless there was an emergency, the transportation device only had two uses. Gathering dust, and collecting spider webs.
“Jasmine, do you seriously believe that if you paid Bugara to turn her head, that you couldn’t get away with using it on a daily basis? I mean, stop and think about it this way, neither of us is getting any younger. Plus, the last time I looked, you are a new mother. Those two things should be enough to convince you to be alright with paying the guardian some hush money”, Gwendolyn offered.
“You have two very valid, and very rational ideas for this idea. However, can you explain to me how it is that I’m supposed to convince my subconscious that I’m doing the right thing? If I were to entertain your idea”, Jasmine asked. She wanted to see what kind of creative ideas her mother could come up with that would allow her to sleep well at night should she choose to take her mother’s advice.
“You would eventually get over it, Jasmine, my dearest one. I never could understand why the unit didn’t get used more often. I mean the damn thing was bought for you to use. Am I right or am I wrong?” Gwendolyn challenged.
“Mom, I love you, oh so very much. I only ever had the intention of using the unit for emergencies, whether the mayor had me sign a contract or not”, Jasmine said.
“Well, I didn’t know that. Would you ever consider slipping some cash to Bugara, and let me use the unit more regularly?” Gwendolyn asked.
“Let me think about it. I may just go ahead and pay Mayor Hidalgo a visit, and see if he will allow a renegotiation of the use of the unit. I think that if I were to talk to Greyson Hidalgo, the male, the elf, the father I may be able to convince him to allow more frequent usage of the unit. Trying to appeal to him as Mayor Hidalgo is as senseless as male beings having nipples”, she couldn’t help but giggle.
“Jasmine Jeanette Devereux, I can’t believe you just said that”, Gwendolyn scolded.
“What, mom? Does the word ‘nipple’ make you blush?” Jasmine teased her mother.
“No. Oh, hush, now”, Gwendolyn said as she covered her face with both hands.
“What, grandma? You haven’t ever heard the word nipple before?” Azleal chimed in.
“Where did that come from, Az?” Jasmine inquired.
“Sorry, I couldn’t help it. You two sat in here having an entire conversation that neither of you bothered including me in, so I thought I’d razz my grandma. So, what are you going to do about it?” the demon asked. He was laughing to indicate the playful tone in his words.
“I’ve got no problem with you razzing mom. I just was not expecting anything from the court jester. Not unless, of course, I yanked his chain”, she threw his way.
“Hey, hey, hey! If you’re going to say anything about me and my fetishes, get your facts straight little one. I do not wear a chain. They’re degrading and disgusting. This demon here will only allow himself to be hooked up to a harness”, Azleal corrected.
“I apologize, my son. I know better than to associate you with wearing a chain”, Jasmine said.
“Wait. Hold on. What the hell is that about? What do you mean chains are degrading and disgusting? I’m out of touch, I guess. I’ve never heard of such a thing”, Gwendolyn said. She was curious to know why it was upsetting for the demon to wear a chain, but felt she may have crossed into forbidden territory when she asked.
“Oh, mom. Sometimes I forget, you don’t actually live under a rock”, Jasmine teased.
“Hush with teasing me for now, please, and tell me about this chain thing”, she said.
“Miss Gwen, if you don’t mind, I’ll explain it”, Azleal waited for Gwendolyn’s approval.
“I don’t care who tells me. I want to know”, she said.
“Somewhere around fifteen hundred years ago, there was a demon who went by the name of Chain. This one was the cruelest, most hideous, and vile being to walk the planet. He had seven wives who gave him seven children, each. Only the male children were in line to inherit his empire when he died. His female children were either sold into slavery or he made them go through arranged marriages. He abused everyone in his immediate family, including the forty-nine children of his own. He left his wolves to sleep outside, no matter the weather, and they all lived on chains. If you believe everything you hear, the guy even had the women and children attached to one another by chains. However, I don’t tend to believe that because it would be difficult to have marital relations with any of his wives when the others were literally attached to the one he was enamored with”, Azleal explained.
“Oh, wow! I had no idea, Azleal”, Gwendolyn said.
“I should tell the full truth about that story. Mamma, I’ve never told you this part, but I think it’s time you know what really happened”, the demon said. He’d taken Jasmine’s right hand in his, and he was studying her face. When there was no response from either female, Azleal continued, “Mistress Sufarian had myself, and eight other personal demons, created in order to protect the future nine planetary queens. Her reasoning behind creating us was solid. She wanted us to have ample time to learn the ways of a demon, and to learn the ways of an honest being. Of course, exposure to both was completely left up to the discretion of each magix being in charge of making the demons.
“I met the demon known as Chain when I was twenty years old. I thought I was ready to deal with being exposed to a demon, so I went to Yullo, Miscreant of the Dead, and asked him to let me get that part of my existence over with.
“At the time, I hadn’t been aware of the fact that Yullo is the eldest born offspring of Aryllion, Lord of the Underworld. Neither did the demon know exactly who I was. His father told him about nine beings who would come asking for exposure to a demon, and he gave a physical description. Other than that, he had no idea who I was, so he couldn’t plan to put me with a demon like Chain out of spite or what have you.
“I didn’t meet the evil one because of running into him. Instead, I was one of the many slaves he bought, and I was the one he took his anger out on. I was his favorite because I never cried. You would think he’d want to hear the one he was currently abusing cry out in agony, and beg him to stop. However, I never gave him the satisfaction of knowing he caused me any kind of pain, and that used to piss him off in the worst way. After I was placed back on my lead out in the yard like I was one of his wolves, I would start howling as if I were one of his supreme apex predators.
“Of course, that would send him reeling, and I would be subjected to another round of beatings. In all of that hatred and abuse, you’d think I would’ve been almost as hateful as Chain was, but I refused to allow him to break me down completely. He could do whatever he wanted to do with my physical body. That did not matter to me. What he could not have was my peace of mind. I vowed to never allow that evil scuzz-ball to relieve me of my inner happiness, and it was still intact the night I fled”, Azleal explained.
Together, Jasmine and Gwendolyn were stunned into silence by disbelief, both were slack-jawed, and neither of them could find words to say in response. Individually, Jasmine wanted to wrap him up in her arms, kiss him all over his head, and repeatedly tell him that she loved him. Gwendolyn also wanted to hold him, expressing her undying grandmotherly love to him. More than that, she wanted to sing to Azleal until he fell asleep.
Jasmine had decided that she’d be the one to give the demon his experience from a being. She would not have it any other way, and she would not take ‘no’ for an answer. It was time, in her mind, to show the demon what it meant to be loved completely, whole-heartedly, and unconditionally. She would give up her life to spare his; as well, she would end another’s life to prevent him from dying. Without question, she knew he would do the same for her.
“I am sorry you were subjected to such horrible treatment”, Jasmine said. She couldn’t help but feel guilty for not being there for him, and he could sense her emotional plight.
“There’s nothing you could’ve done to prevent it from happening, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have allowed you to interfere, even if you could have. Mom, you have to understand that it was something I had to go through, and eventually you’ve got to forgive yourself for not being involved in that part of my life. It simply was not meant for things to happen in any other way than the way they did. Miss Gwendolyn, I feel that I owe you an apology. You didn’t know about my torments, and I probably shouldn’t have shared them right then. Can you forgive me? I feel like I’ve caused you great emotional turmoil, and for that I cannot extend enough apologies”, Azleal said. He never intended either one of them any kind of distress.
“Azleal, my new found friend, you have nothing to apologize for. Everyone has a point where they cannot keep things buried inside anymore, and the bad has to be spoken about in order to heal emotionally. Everything will be alright”, Gwendolyn said.
“Mom, is there something wrong?” Jasmine asked.
“No, not that I can think of. Why?” Gwendolyn inquired.
“I’m not sure if you even realize what you’re doing, but I’ve noticed it. How do I say this? Az referred to you as grandma, but you called him your new found friend. There was no problems with accepting Ecko as my daughter, but you won’t accept him as my son. Neither of these beings came from my loins, but they are my children. No matter how they came into my life, and I would appreciate it if you could accept them both as such”, Jasmine explained to her mother.
“I’m sorry for upsetting you, and no, I didn’t even realize I’d done that. Of course, I have no problems with accepting Azleal as my family as well as you do. I learned, after Jerrardo passed away that if I was lucky to get any kind of family from you, meaning grandchildren and such, your extended family would most likely be one you place together. A family filled with the beings you enjoy spending lots of time with, Or that you might one day adopt a little one to call your own. When you lost the love of your life, I broadened my horizons when it came to the idea of loving someone who is not of blood relation. I’m not going to lie, that was a difficult thing for me to have to accept. However, I knew it could become a part of my life, and I had to learn how to be alright with that idea”, Gwendolyn told them both.
“I know it’s probably hard for you to wrap your head around the idea of your daughter being the mother of a demon, but I wouldn’t have life if not for her selfless act of kindness. If you’d be more comfortable calling me your friend for a while, Miss Gwen, I don’t have a problem with that. I can even skip the grandma thing until you get used to the concept. I mean, it’s up to you”, Azleal explained. The last thing he wanted was tension between himself and his mother’s mother.
“Azleal, sweetheart, if I have upset you, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you”, Gwendolyn said.