The hall in Chaos was decked with blue and silver flowers.  My
chest swelled a little with pride to think of where they had come from --
the genetic code for those flowers was my own creation, and my maternal
instinct is strong enough at this point that I go rather soft thinking
about anything I've had a hand in.

	I danced with some Logrus-laden person -- Bruce was the name I
caught -- who was essentially my counter-part in the wedding ceremony.  I
didn't say too much to him, and he ignored me just as ably.  I'm not known
in the Courts, and I don't honestly know if there's a soul in the world
besides those who came back with us and maybe three others that knows that
Archimedes is my husband.  It's been kind of nice, this tournament, not
having to be Head of This, Queen of That, and just one of the foot

	With that perfunctory duty out of my way, I was next led into a
dance with Claudio.  I imagine our matching suits of armor made our dance
look more ridiculous than anything else.  If I had been wearing an airy
little dress cut from here to there, I might have pulled off looking like
a delicate maiden next to Claudio, he's so much larger than me.  As it
happens, I'm sure I looked like some sort of dwarf companion that happened
to be dressed the same.  We danced.  He didn't have much to say.  I
wondered if he blames me for the Sky thing.  He shouldn't be able to.  I
didn't tell him to sleep with the Hellmaid.

	The next dance was actually with someone I had liked up until
about two hours before the reception.

	Have I mentioned yet how deep the shit that Kaedric is in is?

	Let me tell you about it: a lovely little scene -- a wedding party
clad in blue armor almost to a one, with the exception of an elegantly
coifed bride in a white gown, treading carefully down to the edge of the
Abyss to throw flowers and jewels into it to honor the ancestors.  Very
quaint, very sweet, one almost gets misty thinking about it.

	Melanie and Kaedric tossed some stuff in.  Kaedric!  Imbecile.  He
who wormed his way into our hearts -- first disguised as a son of my
husband, then revealing himself to be Kaedric, son of Delwin -- but only
here to help, my lady, and have I told you how much you look like my
mother?  But with a kinder and gentler mien.  I'll mien you, you bastard,
when this is all over...  He even helped me make my wedding rings.  And
now his aunt is stuck in them.  He even saved Archimedes from the
Cultists, once.  So, you see how he always *seemed* like a reasonable man
and a good friend.

	Yes, so, anyways, we're warily in attendance at the edge of the
Abyss.  We've been warned -- the Serpent occasionally shows up to these
things, but it's unlikely.  We go on believing that until the scent of
reptile fills the air, and suddenly the bride and groom are eyes to eye
with two heads of the Serpent.

	I felt quite the thrill of fear at that moment, as well you can
imagine.  It only intensified as the Serpent turned one of its gazes onto
my husband.  One of those immense eyes looked at him, and a forked tongue
flickered out, and touched him.

	In that moment a couple of things happened.  The first was my
impassioned inward cry to the Universe to stop testing me -- that bull
about not knowing what you have until you are about to lose it is just a
load of crap.  I know what I have in Archimedes!  It's not like the gods
need to keep reminding me of what it's like to almost lose him!  My memory
is plenty good enough!

	The second thing that happened is that the Jewel appeared in the
air next to me, and dropped into my hand.  It seemed to be trembling,
almost, or maybe that was me, in pent-up rage.

	The moment after the Jewel appeared, while I was still composing
my stringent invective to the world-at-large to leave my husband alone,
the Serpent slid back into the Abyss.  I don't remember much of the next
bit -- not up until I was dancing with that Bruce fellow.

	So, you can imagine the expression on my face when Kaedric came
forward to dance with me.  I'm glad you can imagine it.  Not having been
able to see it myself, I can only imagine it, and thus can't describe it
to you very easily.

	I nodded my head frostily to him.  I didn't have to curtsey or bow
-- his recent elevation to Crown Prince doesn't put him more than a whit
above me in rank, and I could even go backwards and claim that nice little
bit written into the by-laws of Amber about "once a Queen of Amber, always
a Queen of Amber, until death."  It might not fly with a protocol master,
since Dworkin's little trick messed up the time flow on that, but Kaedric
knows better.

	He sighed, bowed rather low to me, and led me into a waltz.

	"It's not like there was any real danger, Laughter," he began.

	"How do you figure that?" I demanded.

	"If the Serpent had decided this were to be a bloody visit, it
would have eaten me first, as I addressed it first.  I had well and truly
distracted it from the rest of the party by my opening gambit.  By the
time it took my head off, you all could have been out of reach."

	This did not appease my anger.

	"And you can see that I had to -- to reclaim my status in Chaos?"

	"You told me you were glad you didn't have to someday rule Chaos!"

	"I was glad.  But I know that by an earlier confirmation as Heir, I
can change a great many things, and the errors made last time need not

	"That doesn't change the fact that you knew that the Serpent was
going to show up and you lied to us to say that it wouldn't!"

	He said gravely, "I didn't really think it would."

	"You made the priest wait."

	"Desperation, I assure you, my queen," he said in his humblest

	I felt a little mollified.  In fact, mostly so.

	"Blast you and your bloody Serpent, Kaedric," I said finally.  "But
congratulations on your marriage.  Melanie, Caitlin and I had quite a good
time last night."

	"I... found out," he said with a smile.

	I made the appropriately disapproving sound, and the dance was

	When I turned, clanking a little in the armor, Archimedes was
standing near.  He'd dressed in clothing more apropos to my home Shadow
than anywhere else, and while he didn't appear completely comfortable in
the tights and high-ish collar, he managed to exude that air of
masterfulness which was the first thing that drew my eye to him (besides
the hair, of course).  He had that faint frowning smile that he gets when
I know he's thinking about me, and he led me into a dance.

	He did manage to make me regret that I was wearing armor, even if
only just a little.

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