Based on outward appearances at breakfast the next morning,
Laughter seemed to have won the war of the porridge with Beatrice. I was
happy for both of them. We headed once again for the Courts after the
meal was finished. The tournament was fast winding down.
I fought that day. My opponent was Carter Helgram. He attempted
to dazzle me with forms, and he did perform them well, but to a fault; he
sacrificed form for function, and it didn't take me long to see a opening
and make use of it. I would fight Gaston Hendrake for the title; the man
I had killed in battle in the future. I spent the afternoon watching some
of the other tournaments. Corliss killed his opponent and it was no
accident by my judgment. If opportunity ever presents with him, I shall
have a hard time resisting my nature.
Dworkin's shard club expanded that afternoon as well. I can now
sense Fiona, Orrin, Gerard, Aelle, Caitlin, Claudio and Benedict.
I had dinner with Laughter that evening. She asked about the
serpent 'thingee.' I relayed Kaedric's opinion that its chances of making
an appearance were very low, and his opinion that even if it did show, we
would be all right. She seemed less than convinced.
Laughter started the next day out by winning her force
competition. If Mandor was somewhere watching, I doubt he would have been
dissatisfied. My sword competition came next. Gaston fell with a bit
more dignity this time, and left under his own power. I seemed to have
had my hardest opponent in Roland Sawall. I wish I had known that at the
outset, but I guess it would have taken some of the fun out of it. Too
bad I beat him by distraction.
I also finished what Sky had started in winning the archery
competition. My mount was less than pleased at being used as a living
shield, but it's always an effective gambit. I think I spend more time
riding mounts' sides than backs anyway. That's probably why I go through
so many of them.
All that was left then was the free-for-all, a Chaos version of
capture the flag. Since I was named captain, we cheated like hell.
Ulysses and Melanie flitted about by Trump, stealing flags while the rest
of us defended the base. Not sporting, I know, but I was very short on
shapeshifters and had to make up for the imbalance. At least that's how I
justified the tactic. The members of the various houses took their lumps
gracefully, I must admit, and Amber was named overall winner.
I have no idea what I am going to with a land grant in Chaos,
The next day I received a Trump call from Caitlin. Cymnea had
learned of her existence and she was asking for my assistance. How could
I refuse? I told her I would help in whatever way I could. She would
begin the day after Melanie's wedding. Based on earlier conversations
with Laughter about secrecy, I told her of my intentions shortly after
Caitlin left. She began to look excited, until I told her that she wasn't
allowed to go. Cymnea hadn't yet made it obvious that she knew of
Laughter's parentage, and I thought Laughter making herself noticeable a
rather poor gambit. She couldn't argue there, and said that since I
couldn't die, she'd let me help Caitlin. If anyone could kill me, I'd
wager a small sum on Cymnea, but I didn't share that thought with my wife.
Laughter deserted me that evening to hold a bachelorette party for
Melanie. I smiled every time I imagined how Ms. Proper would react to
something kinky born of Laughter's imagination. I had a better idea when
Laughter showed up very early the next morning wearing body paint and a
few beads. I thanked Lyr when I discovered that the paint was palatable,
and kept myself distracted with her for most of the rest of the night.
The day of Melanie's wedding dawned. I hadn't been given a dress
code, so I picked something out that I knew Laughter would appreciate, and
even threw in a cod piece just to be a total bastard. It was a rather
lovely ceremony until the Serpent showed up, an event which I had been
assured would not happen. My hand flew to Song's hilt before the true
folly of such an idea could stop it. I think I kept my hand on the hilt
as a security blanket measure. The Serpent seemed rather intent on the
King, Kaedric, and Melanie. Just when I thought I had escaped noticed, it
turned its head toward me, the head that was missing one eye. I tensed,
for what I did not know. What I then heard in my head I will call a
voice, for lack of more appropriate terminology. It said simply,
"adversary." I believe I said, "Pleased to meet you, too." Its tongue
flicked out then, and caressed my chest briefly. It felt as if every
shard still contained within me did its level best to free itself of my
encasing flesh. I gritted my teeth and stared at it until it once again
disappeared into the Abyss from whence it had come. The pain didn't
It was then that I sensed the Jewel. It had appeared with
Laughter and I went to her quickly. I took the Jewel from her, and as I
did so, the pain began to decrease. I gave her a reassuring look before I
Trumped Random and had him pull me through. I once again set the Jewel on
the corner of his desk. He blinked once or twice before opening the safe
and revealing the slag that was once Fiona's box.
"The Jewel showed up just after the Serpent appeared and licked
me." I absolutely love doing that to him. He gave me the pleasure of
Trumping Fiona and explaining it to her, which I then did. That finished,
I Trumped Laughter and returned to the reception.
I returned in time to hear Swayvill pronounce Kaedric his heir.
There were what seemed endless formalities, in the form of dances, that
had to be accomplished when I returned. I wished to dance with my wife,
but from the order of things, the best was to be saved for last. I danced
with Caitlin, who wanted more information on House Halybard. I told her
what I knew. I wanted to tell her less, but could not. If she wished to
gain the house, she should know what it involved. I could only hope that
it would not sway her decision. It didn't, as Cymnea was trying to kill
her. I danced with Melanie, who, of course, wanted to know if the Serpent
had said anything to me, which meant that it more than likely had said
something to her as well. Since I felt that what it had said to me was
already public domain, I shared it with Melanie and hoped that it would
not lead to conflict, given her new status in the Courts.
I also told Laughter what it had said to me, when I finally danced
with her. I think she was more concerned about the whole incident than
she was letting on, so I did my best to demonstrate to her that I was none
the worse for wear. The armor she wore made it a bit of a challenge,
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