Aaron paid rapt attention to Lady Sinnenodel’s mage as she spoke, affording her every respect he would afford the real thing. But aside from being momentarily relieved that he managed to appease the Lady with his answer, her words deeply unsettled him. More than anything else, Aaron latched on to what she said… well, about herself. The mage woman. Vanessa, apparently. So, Varis trained her? Was he the one who mutilated the poor girl’s back, too? Was this what Varis intended to turn him into as well? A blindfolded, disfigured, docile mouthpiece, talking about himself as if he weren’t even there?
His eyes flashed to Varis as the vampire delivered his appraisal of him, gut twisting ever tighter under his outward neutral mask. Overshadowing all of the discomfort that came from having his every failure thus far broadcasted to the dining room was all this talk of numbers. One and a half? Out of what? Ten? A hundred? He knew by now that Varis’ methods varied wildly from those he was raised with, but he would have thought that a lifetime of conditioning might have put him a little further along in whatever this “regimen” of Varis’ was. He could have groaned had it not been for the company; what on earth was in store for him?
The mage woman had enough time to get out a vaguely threatening remark before the Queen silenced her, and Aaron had never been so happy to hear the woman’s voice in his life. And it was as if the powers that be were giving him a break, as both the Queen and Princess were actually looking for his and Salem’s opinions on a current Council matter.
Taking a breath, a ghost of a smirk played at his lips as he reached for his glass, though he didn’t drink quite yet, instead slowly rotating the base as he considered. Aaron knew the Treaty backwards and forwards, and he followed Council motions closely. As such, he already had a few opinions on the amendment at hand. However, he wasn’t quite so stupid as to think he could simply voice them. As far as he was concerned, he was stuck between the ultimate rock and hard place; the family that had given him everything up until this point and the family that he was being adopted into held opposing views on almost everything, so taking a side would necessarily be an affront to one of them. But he couldn’t just provide some sort of waffling non-answer either. The Princess’ comment about bickering in the Council almost made him laugh; there wasn’t anything that went before the Council that wasn’t deliberated to death, with the vampiress lounging behind them usually being the culprit. But no one could claim that her argumentative skill was anything less than spectacular; Aaron wouldn’t want to have to make a convincing case for gravity against the woman.
Your Lady, he reminded himself.
Glancing to Salem, Aaron wondered if he even knew which amendment they were talking about, or the specifics of the legislation it stood to change. But maybe that was harsh; after all, Salem had shown already that he had some knowledge on Varis’ business, at the very least. But considering the way he talked to the Count, it was very hard to tell where he stood.
Deciding to give Salem a chance to collect his thoughts, Aaron looked back up to the head of the table, offering the royalty a smile and a bow of the head. “Your Majesty, your interest flatters and humbles me. Please accept my sincerest thanks for the opportunity to offer an opinion on this issue.”
He shifted a little in his seat, glancing down at his glass before returning his gaze to the head of the table. “First, Your Royal Highness, may I mention that the spirit of the amendment is commendable. However, I’m afraid that in my view, it seems... redundant.” He glanced to Salem, pausing a moment to put his thoughts in order. “The current legislation, as you’re aware, provides three situations in which a mage may refuse to breed. It’s my opinion that those three exceptions are well-founded and important protections for mages who could otherwise needlessly suffer without them. But the additional conditions proposed by the amendment…” He shifted in his seat again, gesturing subtly with the hand on his glass. “Well, the first, for mages deemed mentally unstable, seems to be a relative non-issue. Perhaps it’s because I am the product of a rigorously selective breeding program, but I can’t imagine why any vampire would want to breed an unstable mage in the first place. Given that any offspring could have the potential for considerable magical power, the possibility of passing on any trait that could put their self-control into question seems like too big a risk. Personally, I doubt the clause would see much practical use.”
“As for the ability for a mage to refuse to breed if they have a living spouse, forgive me, but I can’t seem to grasp where the issue lies.” His eyes flicked to his aunt, just for a second. “Keeping in mind that I have no experience with marriage, it seems to me that so long as both partners understand that these affairs are strictly business, so to speak, there should be relatively little emotional impact. We are all bound by our duty, after all.”
He leaned back a little in his seat. “As for refusing fertility drugs and performance enhancers, well, I can’t imagine why anyone would. After all, if a mage is going to comply after their vampire has gone through all the trouble of screening potential partners, finding a good match, and all the other necessary preparations, I would imagine they’d also be willing to comply with every measure available to ensure that conception was achieved. The only exception I can think of is if said treatments would pose a health risk, but in that case, I don’t see why any vampire would want to risk time, money or other resources on a risky birth.”
Shrugging slightly, Aaron swirled his drink, finally electing to take a sip. It was kind of a shame, really; he’d always found that all wines pretty much tasted the same to him. “So, while I admit I see no objective harm should your amendment pass, Your Royal Highness, it just seems to me as if it won’t see much practical implementation. But!” He took a deep breath, renewing his smile as he returned his gaze to Salem, gesturing good-naturedly. “I’ve taken up much more time than was probably necessary. Forgive me, Mr. Spellman. I talk far too much.”