The scene that met Lorelei far outweighed the slight kerfuffle she thought she heard from behind the front desk. Helpless, she stood on the threshold to the dining room looking in on flying cups, plates, and people. There was shouting, glass shattering, tables being upended, and perhaps worst of all, a young woman crying into her hands in the midst of it all.
“I don’t know if I can do it,” Conrad was saying as he rolled up his sleeves, “There are too many of them to stun.”
Ziah ducked, a teacup missing her temple by inches and shattering against the foyer’s hardwoods, “I’ll take whatever you can manage.”
From his pocket, he pulled open a sachet full of sand and tossed its contents into the air, then with a snap, the scene came to a halt.
Like a living painting, the guests were frozen in place, hovering in mid air with hands pulled back into fists. Saucers and bowls were suspended between them, their contents like brush strokes in the air. But Lorelei could see they weren’t entirely frozen; the guests were moving, just barely, at a pace almost imperceptible.
Grier nudged her, “It’s a lot neater when you’re not a part of it.”
The sand Conrad had thrown collected itself above them to mimic an hourglass near the upper frame of the door. “You’ve got about ten minutes,” he told them.
Ziah hurried into the room and began collecting some of the flying cutlery as she chastised the party. The guests, of course, could not respond, but their eyes moved wildly in their sockets and Lorelei remembered the feeling of being frozen herself. It had been unpleasant, the aftermath even more so.
“So what happened here?” Conrad asked, righting a table.
Gathering up a splash of potato and leek soup from the air, Lorelei pointed to the sobbing woman with a spoon, “I’m not sure, but I bet she could tell us.”
With another snap just before her face, the girl came to life, her cries audible now with the ruckus of the room silenced. Her shoulders shook, then she sniffed and sat up, uncovering her face. Blinking, the young woman looked about the room with growing realization. She had dark eyes and a round, sun-kissed face, long, tightly curled amber hair, and to Lorelei’s surprise, a matching amber goatee encircling full lips.
“Oh my,” she sniffed again, worrying the hem of her dress in her hand as she stood revealing legs covered in fur and feet that were not feet at all but hooves, “This has turned out just awful.”
As Lorelei safely piled a stack of dishes on a rolling cart that Hotaru had hesitantly brought in, she took note of the other guests. Many looked like the girl with goat-like lower halves and facial hair indiscriminate of gender, and some even had horns in varying shape and length. The others she recognized from checking them in that morning, remembering how odd it had been there were so many lithe, delicate-featured men and women staying that day. In stark contrast to the horned-guests in their more outlandishly colored coats and intricately braided beards, the others were dressed in lighter, gossamer fabrics and wore their hair long and loose, but the ire on the assorted faces was one in the same.
“What’s turned out awful?” Ziah was adjusting one of the guest’s arms so that it was no longer inches from connecting with another guest’s jaw.
“This was supposed to be a happy time, the happiest day of our lives,” she looked longingly at one of the other guests, “But they just can’t get along, not even for one measly weekend!”
“Oh no,” Ziah nearly dropped the casserole dish she was collecting from the air onto the head of the very guest she was attempting to save, “The Aristaeus-Nomia wedding. Don’t tell me your fiance is–”
“A nymph.” She walked up to a group of frozen guests and slipped her hand around the arm of a thin, tall man who appeared to have been holding back another of his kind. He had skin the color of rich soil and small, pointed features set on a long face.
Conrad came around to them and snapped him back into life as well. He stumbled, then took up his fiance’s hands in his own. “My love, please don’t cry.” The woman nodded, but tears still spilled over her cheeks, and he wiped them away.
Ziah led the couple out in to the foyer, motioning for Lorelei to follow, and closed the double doors to the dining room behind them all. “The manor was booked for two family reunions this weekend and one wedding. I don’t know how I didn’t see it,” Ziah had a hand on her forehead, “What were you guys thinking?”
The man began, “We did invite them here under false pretenses–”
“You booked them under false pretenses too!” Ziah’s lips were drawn into a tight frown.
“We did,” he conceded, “but we needed it to be believable for our families.”
“We really thought that once we had them all together here if we could just talk to them, just show them how much we love one another, that they’d be happy for us.” The woman’s voice was ragged, and they both leaned against each other, hands clasped.
“I don’t understand,” Lorelei glanced back the the dining room door, hoping the others could clean the mess and separate the guests before they became unstunned, “What’s the big deal? You guys seem happy.”
“Nymph,” Ziah pointed at the man and then at the woman, “Satyr. Their kind have a long history of hating one another. We’re talking major rivalry.”
“To be fair, there is a lot of history between our kind,” the man said, “but those things happened thousands of years ago, and everyone has just held onto the hate.”
Ziah crossed her arms, nervously glancing back at the dining room, “Why don’t you two just elope?”
“Our families are important to us. We hated each other when we met too. We thought it was in our blood. But then the stars aligned,” she sighed and looked up at her fiance, “Andros was so brave in the drakon pits.”
“And Grace was our savior in the labyrinth.” He kissed her on the top of her head, “We fell in love, and we hoped our families could see that. The hate they have for one another is baseless, there’s no reason why they can’t be civil for one day.”
Lorelei felt a heaviness in her heart, “There must be something we can do.”
“Us?” Ziah looked at her wide-eyed, “End a millenia-long feud?”
“Well, I mean, not for all of them, but for these two families? Maybe? It means a lot to them, and I can’t imagine Charmed folk can really afford to be so hateful of each other.”
“You’d be surprised,” Ziah rubbed her chin, “They do have the whole place booked, so they won’t be disturbing any other guests.” She rounded on the two, standing a bit straighter, “Lorelei is right: here at Moonlit Shores Manor we strive to serve our guests to the best of our abilities. Our resident warlock is good, and he may be able to hold some of your family at bay long enough for you to talk things out, but I can’t make any promises. Grab any decision makers your might have and we’ll see what we can do.”
The white room was set with a long, glass table in its center, high-backed leather chairs lining either side, and bright fluorescents overhead. Lorelei sat beside Grace at one end, eyeing a nervous Conrad at the other. An elderly woman with horns that curled around the sides of her face–the longest and most curled of any of the guests–sat along one side of the table, Grace’s grandmother and the de facto matriarch of the Nomia clan. Grace’s father and brother sat beside her.
Andros entered the white room with Ziah, behind him trailing three willowy beings. Immediately, Grace’s grandmother jumped to her cloven feet, “That’s the one who hit me in the face with lemon tart! Let me at him!” She was not at all frail for an old thing, and she reached into her over-sized bag and flung a container of mashed potatoes at the group.
The spuds bounced off an invisible barrier that lined the center of the white room. Conrad flinched, then smiled when no one ended up covered in food again.
“There will be no fighting on the premises. This is your one chance to make this work,” Ziah warned, taking a seat at the table’s other end.
“We are no longer interested in making anything work with the likes of them.” The tallest of the family turned back to the door.
“Father!” Andros rounded on him, “You said you would at least hear us out!”
The man sighed, “I did, didn’t I?” He took a careful seat across from Grace’s grandmother, sitting stiff and tall. The man clasped his hands before him, long slender fingers coming to rest just under his chin, “You may proceed.”
“Oh, he thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow, don’t he?” Grace’s grandmother fell back into her chair, snarling, and her family nodded and scoffed in agreement.
Lorelei’s stomach turned over: it was already not going well, and Ziah was eyeing her from across the room with panic.
“Yaya,” Grace put a cautioning tone in her voice as she addressed her grandmother, “This is Andros’s father, Belen. He sits on the Council of Divine Spirits.”
“Whoopdedoo,” Yaya mumbled.
“And his wife, Kasia, also on the council, and?”
Andros cleared his throat, “And Kal, another senior member of the Council,” he finished for her, “Father, this is Grace’s grandmother, the leader of her clan, her father Caleb, and brother Rex. They are her closest family, and she cherishes them.”
The nymphs simply stared back.
“Andros and I are in love,” Grace broke in, “We are not asking y’all to become best friends, we just want a peaceful ceremony with your blessings.”
“Did she just say y’all?” Belen’s lip was upturned.
Belen groaned in the back of his throat, but attempted to reign himself in, “Marrying a nymph means granting great prestige on another being. We are not opposed to intermarriages, but a satyr is unprecedented.”
“Well, it ain’t no disgrace to marry a satyr neither! If that boy wanted to be my granddaughter’s husband, he’d need to prove himself worthy!” Yaya was red in the face as she shouted across the table, but she managed to keep herself seated.
“I think we are not in disagreement about this,” Kasia spoke at last, placing a hand on her husband’s elbow, “Though it has fallen out of favor, traditionally our kind have requested not individual blessings, but blessings from Nature itself when making grand decisions. Perhaps your Grace would be willing to take part in a small ceremony as trial for approval?”
Grace’s father sputtered, “Trial for approval? Grace is the smartest, sweetest, most prettiest satyr this side of the Achelous. She don’t need to prove nothing!”
“Now, wait just a minute,” Yaya waved away her son, “Little Miss Froofroo over here ain’t suggesting the worst idea I ever heard.”
Kasia sniffed, “I’m not sure whether to be offended or not.”
“Trials for both of ‘em is what I’m getting at!” Yaya smirked at Andros, then eyed his father, “I’ll happily marry ‘em myself if your boy can prove he’s a worth satyr suitor.”
Belen too stood, pausing a long moment to look over the family. “This seems acceptable.”
It should have been a joyous moment, but the room felt tense. Belen wore a tight frown and Yaya was smirking with a wicked sort of delight. Only Grace looked to be happy.
Yaya brought her palm up to her mouth and spit on it then extended her hand to Belen. The nymph stared at it, then glanced at Conrad and gave a curt nod. He took the barrier down with a wave of his hand and a flash of light, and the two shook.
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