Apologize, v.i. To lay the foundation for a future offense.
-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
We talked of many things that night, after I could overcome my
anxiety of having lost her and force my arms to let her go. We even
became reacquainted, as much as our sore bodies would allow. I remembered
nothing from the time I closed my eyes until I felt Laughter leaving the
bed the next morning. Eudoxus is truly bliss.
I lingered long in bed, as I had no duties now to call me from it;
the first such morning in almost two years. The yoke of being king had
been a heavy one, and my heart truly did feel lighter. But there was a
lot out there waiting to happen, and much to my horror, I knew, in far
more detail than I would have wanted, what it was that waited.
I didn't have long to linger on this, however, as I was
interrupted by a rather disquieting occurrence. I rather suddenly felt a
warm presence on my person. Now, since I was, as I have already shared
with you, lingering in a lazy fashion in bed, you might wonder why I
thought this disquieting. First of all, my wife had absolutely nothing to
do with it, as, dear reader, you will have no trouble remembering that I
had mentioned mere moments before that she had already departed. Neither,
at my age, was my bladder to blame.
Gathering my courage for a moment, I slowly pulled the covers up
so that I could hazard a glance. I will be honest; the emotion I first
experienced was none other than relief, pure and simple, as would have any
man upon experiencing an unlooked for appearance of an unknown object in
that area of his anatomy. The next was curiosity. I not only managed to
put both feelings eloquently together, but was able to verbalize them as
My father's Jewel had managed to transport itself away from him
and land not far from my own. My comment on the situation was not lost on
my wife, and she poked her head back into the room with a questioning
look. Her expression changed somewhat, her left eyebrow quirking up a bit
as it is want to in situations such as this, as her eyes followed the
course of my hand as I retrieved the offending bauble. All of her
questions were answered, however, as I held the Jewel of Judgment before
her. It appeared as though our romp through time had left the artifact
"I had better Trump my father," I said more to myself than to her.
"Couldn't we just sneak it back into its safe in Amber?"
"We could if it existed, but it doesn't."
I hid my smile as I got dressed. A Trump call to Ulysses later, I
found myself standing in the main hall. I snagged a page and inquired to
the whereabouts of the King. I was shown to Random's quarters. He met me
at the door in a bathrobe.
I held my hand out to him and was satisfied with his look of
surprise when I dropped the Jewel into his own outstretched hand.
"How did you wind up with this?"
"It showed up in bed with me this morning." Random then looked at
the Jewel, and said in perfect seriousness, "Slut." There are some things
I entirely missed about my father in being so angry with him all the time.
As long as Laughter and I were both there, he wished to speak with
us. More specifically, he wanted to ask Laughter if she remembered going
to a tournament the last time she was "here." She said she hadn't. This
seemed to have made a decision for him. He was quiet for a few moments
then, and I felt that now was as good a time as any. What I had to say
made me feel awkward at best. I would have preferred not having Laughter
there, but I had made her a part of my life and she shouldn't be edited
I took a deep breath and said to my father, "You probably already
know this, but if I say it, you'll at least know that I feel the same way.
My sword and my life are yours."
Random smiled. "A good thing to have in a Crown Prince."
My father was, and is, a complete bastard. I was beginning to
like him, in spite of myself. He then turned to me.
"I would like you to find Corwin." I was a bit stunned at this
request, but not so much so that I missed the following information. The
tournament was to be held in the Courts of Chaos. Since Random hadn't
sent any representatives to it the last time, he was going to this time.
Apparently he wasn't prepared to make the same mistakes. I was less
"I would play down your abilities, if I was you," he continued.
Wait a minute. He was going to send me? My brain sputtered furiously. I
was beginning to regret having given him both my sword and my life moments
"Do you realize that some of the people we had to fight in the
future might very well be there?" He nodded. I didn't like my chances of
passing this little test. That is, until I remembered Laughter's words
from the evening before: "Are we to become assassins, then?" she had said
to me. I heard her saying so again quite clearly. I was so lost in that
thought that I nearly missed the next conversation entirely.
A creature had been found in my quarters and had very nearly
killed one of Julian's rangers before escaping. I asked for a description
of the creature, and quickly realized that it was none other than the one
who had brought Beatrice and Alaric to me. I tried to impress upon Random
that, if at all possible, I didn't want the creature harmed. He looked
dubious. I looked at Laughter, trying to guess her feelings on the
"Whatever it is," I said, "It somehow managed to bring me my
children from the future." This led to a rather animated discussion on
how we were going to present Alaric and Beatrice, since at this time, last
time, Laughter and I hadn't even met yet, and wouldn't for another five
years or so. Not to mention that at this point in time, Mandor didn't
even realize he had a daughter. Random agreed to say he had married us,
and Bill was set to work on the proper papers. I wonder if Bill
remembered? I also told Random that I had the whole mess to clear up in
Rebma, again, before I could collect Flynn and Vain from Shadow. I hid
any feelings I had that related to the fact that these actions would now
have to wait until after I found Corwin; at least I hope I hid them.
Our audience being at an end, we returned first to Eudoxus, to
liberate Ulysses from the twins, and then to Foil. Laughter wished to
begin the spell that ended the Mergence War for her the last time. How
were we ever to reconcile what happened to what will happen? A question
worthy of my wife, no doubt, but she had another one for me.
"How did you get out of your troubles in Rebma the last time?"
Bother. How was I going to answer that and not come off like a
"Well," I began, trying not to look like I was thinking too hard.
"I talked to Muriel beforehand, and got her to agree to tell the truth."
That was weak, and my wife didn't hide the fact that she thought so too.
"All right. I convinced her that if she didn't tell the truth,
she'd be very, very sorry. But I don't think I want to be that mean this
time." I had, after all, loved Muriel once, until she betrayed me. I
didn't think Laughter needed to know that. "I was thinking of going to
Moire and explaining the whole thing. After all, in this case, I actually
am innocent." I guess my wife didn't share my belief in justice, but at
that moment, I hadn't considered her possible intervention. I kept myself
busy with the children while Laughter went off to work her magics.
I was interrupted by a Trump contact. It was Sky. Apparently
Random had just asked her to investigate my history in Rebma and report
the information back to him. She had wisely chosen to ask my opinion on
the matter before starting. I informed her that I'd rather she didn't,
and thanked her for letting me know. I was annoyed by Random's sudden
presence in this private affair. A little touched at his concern,
possibly, but annoyed nonetheless. I began to contemplate addressing the
Rebman problem before I found Corwin.
Twenty minutes later, the Jewel of Judgment showed up in my pants.
A Trump call followed shortly thereafter. I took it. It was Random, and
he merely held his hand out. I fished the Jewel out of my pants and
handed it through. I would have preferred that if it had to come back to
me, that it chose a different arrival spot. I then had a thought and
Trumped Random back.
"Look," I said to the King. "I appreciate your concern for me, but
this affair in Rebma is private, and I'd rather handle it myself." He
played innocent. Innocence isn't a suit that fits Random well. I sighed.
"Cut the crap and let me handle it, okay?" I wasn't sure that he would,
but at least he knew my feelings on the matter. Maybe I'm masochistic.
Maybe I needed to be punished in some way for all the pain I caused after
I left Rebma. It's amazing what dying can do for your character.
Laughter arrived to distract me before I got too far down that road.
"Find my wedding ring for me now?" She smiled. God, she's gorgeous.
"This would be the one you threw in the river, right?" She rolled
her eyes and started leading me towards the spot where she had chucked it
in. I wondered if it really had spoken to her the day before when she
threw it away? I found it rather disheartening that the ring had not
sparked her memory, while Claudio, of all people, had. Jealousy is a
"I might as well," I mumbled as I pulled my shirt off. "I'm
planning on getting wet soon, anyway."
"What do you mean?" She quickly replied. Strange. I dove into
the water as an answer.
You're probably not aware of this, but when compared to the
crystal blue of the ocean, a river is really a filthy thing; not only are
you swimming in vegetable soup, you're breathing it as well. Thankfully,
by using my own ring, I was quickly able to locate my wife's. I stared at
the beautiful gold band, still brilliant in the murky water. I often
think Laughter deserves someone better than me, but who could love her as
much as I do?
I pulled her Trump from my pouch. I couldn't speak to her while
under water, and had planned on just handing the ring through to her and
then going to Rebma. Now that Random was involved, I feared that I hadn't
much time to solve the problem myself. The card animated quickly and I
held the ring out to her. Sometimes I underestimate her, and it never
goes well for me. She grabbed firmly onto my wrist and hauled me bodily
through the Trump. It would be nice if I could console myself with the
fact that since I was then in an aqueous media, I had no leverage with
which to resist her. Unfortunately, I can't. Laughter is simply stronger
than I am. Not that I complain about it all the time. I normally find it
very sexy, unless she uses it to thwart my plans, which at that point, she
"You had better not have been planning to go to Rebma," she said in
her best authoritarian tone. I gasped a bit while replacing the water in
my lungs for air.
"Actually, I didn't want to get the carpet wet," I lied. She
didn't loosen her grip. "Okay." I met her gaze. "Due to certain
circumstances beyond my control, I have to speed things up a bit." The
next thing I knew, I was flying through the air at high velocity and
towards a rather enormous oak tree in the garden. Everything went black,
and I found myself thanking Lyr that claustrophobia had never been one of
my personal demons.
I had plenty of time to get angry, and I used it all to greatest
advantage. I couldn't believe she had treed me! She'd only done it once
before, but I had deserved it then, and I'd had the Jewel to free myself
with. The Jewel! I let my anger fire my enthusiasm and began to summon
the Jewel with all my might.
Almost an hour later it appeared next to me. By that time, I was
unimpressed. I'm not going to go into much detail about what happened
next. Suffice it to say that I'm an asshole, and I proved it to many
people that day. It took my being mean to my wife, a long talk with
Vialle, an hour and a half of solitude on the beach, and my wife once
again taking her wedding ring off, before I realized I had crossed the
line. I also had to put the fear of me into my granddaughter for her part
in Laughter's plan.
I guess I know how much she loves me now, and it pretty much
squelched my anger toward her. While I stewed in the tree, she had gone
to Rebma, threatened Muriel, and arranged my trial before Moire for me.
She hadn't wanted to even take the risk of losing me. What could I say?
That I was an asshole and that I loved her; that's all. She promised me
she wouldn't tree me again, if I promised not to keep any more secrets
from her. I should have realized that a long time ago.
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