Laughter said she would accept the blame for what she had arranged
between Claudio and Sky, as long as she could also claim the credit if all
went well. Sometimes I marvel at her optimism.
Caitlin Trumped that afternoon. She wanted to know who was
representing Chaos for the upcoming tournament. I hadn't actually thought
that far ahead, and had no information to give her. Since Random had
assigned me the task of assembling a team for Amber, I suggested that one
of us Trump him. Caitlin volunteered, so I left her to it.
The next morning, we were awoken by Claudio's attempts to try to
learn to joust. As I watched from the window and laughed, I hoped that
Random hadn't really wanted us to shine in the tournament.
I hadn't even got my pants on when Random Trumped. Apparently the
rat-dog was playing in Amber's kitchen, and since I hadn't wanted the
creature killed, I was currently responsible for it. I chided myself
against making uneducated decisions in the future. I got dressed quickly
and told Laughter I was off to Amber early at my father's whim, and I
would just meet her there at the appointed time.
I then found myself Trumped directly to the kitchen. I'll have to
ask Random how he did that sometime. The rat-dog was merrily dancing
about the kitchen, banging on pans. Apparently, it had cleaned out the
cold room as well. I sighed. Why did I suddenly have a feeling that the
rat-dog was going to be a rather permanent fixture in my life for the
foreseeable future? If that was to be the case, I decided that it was
high time that I taught it some manners. I drew Song, which never failed
to get its attention. I said 'no' in a loud and firm voice. It froze. I
looked at the chaos on the floor around the creature. I pointed to a pot,
then the empty pot hood on the rack above. I picked a pot up and hung it,
then beat the creature until it stooped and picked a pot up as well. I
then used Song to walk it through the motions of hanging the pot back up,
and smacked it soundly until it could repeat the procedure on its own,
smacking it only when I had to, and encouraging it when it performed
properly. It was certainly smarter than a horse, I'll give it that.
When the kitchen had been tidied, I encouraged it to return to the
outdoors from whence it came. I spent nearly the next hour conjuring
replacements for what it had devoured.
I went to the dining room then, to tell Random that I had
succeeded in the task I had been assigned. Most of the family had
assembled by then, including Melanie, and I said hello to her. After her
disappearing act the other day, I was rather surprised to see her. I
didn't see my wife, however, and she didn't appear until nearly a half
hour after the meal had started. She walked in with a mix of frustration
and triumph playing across her features, and a small lump of porridge in
her hair. I stood and kissed her, flicking the porridge out of her hair.
Apparently she and Beatrice had had a contest of wills. I offered to
relieve her, but Laughter was more than determined to see the battle
through. I wonder which one of us Beatrice had inherited this tendency
from. She might have very well had no choice, when it came to that.
The party that was to leave for the tournament headed for the main
hall after breakfast. I was immediately distracted by the large trail of
blood leading from the front door to the kitchens, or so I discovered it
did upon following it. Laughter followed along. She informed me that she
was going to be in the free-for-all, and Melanie was going to compete in
the force competition. I stopped and looked at her. Both women were
pregnant, and neither competition sounded completely compatible with their
condition. But then I saw the look in Laughter's eyes and simply shook my
"You might want to cherish the child you carry now, as it will be
the last one you have from me."
Her face fell immediately, and I wondered how that could have
sounded harsher to her than I had intended it to.
"You mean we're not going to have sex anymore?" Oh please. Who
did she think she married?
"Ahem. The Cult of the King? I'm infertile now. Remember?"
"Oh, I'm going to work on that." How precisely, I didn't have the
nerve to ask. I did, however, convince her to compete in the force
competition instead of the free-for-all. Melanie would have to content
herself with illusions.
I, of course, found the rat-dog at the end of the blood trail. I
shooed it outside again. It had thought it necessary to replace the meat
it ate, like it had replaced the pots, and Amber was currently down a few
horses. It didn't run far, and I thought, what the heck. If it went to
Chaos with us, maybe we could lose it there.
The arrival was without complications, and we were all shown
rooms. We also discovered that we would have to play squire for each
other, as we had brought none with us. Thanks Random.
The day brought many interesting sights. The joust took place on
winged dragon-like creatures over the Abyss. Claudio was most
distressed, and I can't say as I blamed him. It wasn't at all like he had
been practicing this morning. He turned his ignorance into an advantage,
however, and won by clotheslining his opponent with his lance. Ulysses
won his wrestling match with his wits as well.
The night was disturbed only by having to entertain the rat-dog
once again. The word 'no' is firmly rooted in its vocabulary.
Morning dawned in the Courts and my wife faced Orrin in the force
competition. I had a bad feeling as soon as I saw him. Something about
the way he carried himself made me think that he remembered. I reminded
my wife of her words to me earlier, but left the ultimate decision up to
her. He threw a fireball at her, which she dodged. I conjured a laser
pistol and stuck it in the back of my pants, just in case. And then
Laughter simply treed him. Game over. I truly love my wife. I was at
her side when she let him out, and I knew for certain that he remembered.
I offered him a hand up anyway, remembering that Ulysses had said Dworkin
wanted us to befriend him. Easy for Ulysses to say. He didn't watch the
bastard slit Laughter's throat.
The rat-dog gave Laughter and I a ring after that. As I slipped
the red stone on my finger, I became aware of all the others who wore
them. And I was continually aware of who took them off and put them on.
I began to wonder if Ulysses had really gotten all the shards out of my
chest, and then was suddenly glad I had gotten used to continually wearing
the Jewel. I would probably be sad now if I hadn't.
I believe Melanie won her competition, and then it was my turn. I
drew Roland Sawall, of all people, Mandor's son and Beauty's father. He
proved himself very able of defending himself, and I am glad everything
had remained civil in Foil when he showed up wanting Beauty to marry a
Hendrake. I'm afraid we put on quite a show. He lost when he opened his
mouth, however. He commented on being my brother-in-law. I asked him
what he remembered. Obviously I didn't remember much, or I wouldn't have
asked, him being killed by the Wicklings well before the world ended. It
worked to my advantage, though. He said he remembered his life so far,
and when I asked him if he remembered nothing more, I was able to draw
first blood, much to the crowd's relief, I'm sure.
And Caitlin scalped Orrin in the competition after that, but she
was kind enough to return the scalp to him. I don't know what he did to
her before the end, but she obviously held it against him.
The rat-dog gave Melanie and Benedict a ring after that, and I
explained their function, without giving Benedict any information to jog
his memory. I didn't think Caitlin wished that. I also noted that the
damn rat-dog has a flute like Jubal's. I'll think about that later, when
I have time.
Laughter and I returned to Foil for the evening, to visit the
children and to remind each other of why we married. Have I ever said how
much I loved my wife?
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