Dawn, darkness, and another dawn, and those things that we kept
secret to avoid pain are now out, and the pain is here. Foster lies in
bed like a man dispossessed of his soul; Driscoll I have not seen since I
defeated his daughter in single combat last night. Felix wanders I know
not where, aimless and angry. Eris sleeps somewhere, I hope, but I doubt
the pleasantness of her dreams. My children play at my feet, but it is a
subdued play, and all cast occasional anxious looks in my direction. My
reassurance is paltry. I am lost in thought.
My soul was tested these last two days. I had came to an awkward
peace with the Faeries, after Drumm mixed up my memories, and for my
service, I was taken off the hit lists of the bounty hunters of Faerie.
When Teresa and Alex called me in, to try and force Drumm's hand, I tried
to play it fairly, and to be honest, I didn't even consider for more than
a second the thought of siding with either party once things got serious.
I have little love for Faeries, but littler still for the reawakening of
old grudges. I have lived two years without that hatred, loving men with
Faerie blood, and raising their children. The only Faeries who still live
in my memory with thoughts of rancor are Caolan and Calamus. But these
are personal grudges; it will not lead me towards war again, unless my
king so commands it.
I look at Hary, Iseult, Pax. It was different, raising Beauty,
and knowing she was a quarter-breed. I loved her for her mother's sake,
and for her own; such a beautiful and gracious child, and the only delight
in my life at that time. The fact of her Faerie heritage meant little to
me. But I look at my three other children, and realize now, for the first
time, that it is not merely fractional Faeries I have to raise. It is
blood of my blood, and blood of mine enemy's blood, mixed together in the
tiny bodies of these three that I would fight to the death to protect.
There is meaning in that.
So, this morning, when all hell was breaking loose on the home
front, a Faerie walked into my quarters and asked for help in saving Drumm
from the hands of my cousins. I looked at Foster, curled on the bed, felt
my uselessness there, and went with the girl. I know not if I was useful
there or no; I know not if there was truly danger of an international
incident, or war, or any such thing, but I did my best.
Ahab's death seems meaningless to so many people. And perhaps it
was. But Ahab's death is what kept me from killing Drumm, from enacting
jihad on the Faeries for what Drumm did to me. I had seen too much, and I
had had too much of death in that brief and horrible fight in the
Serpent's lair, and that stayed my hand. I don't think anyone who hopes
for peace between Faerie and Amber should discredit that. If we had not
lost so much in that fight, we would be losing more right now.
Yesterday afternoon was a study of the magic number three as
applied to Amberite sexuality and emotional relationships. By the end of
dinner that same day, however, we were on to the difficult task of
assessing the damages incurred when a woman scorned and in possession of
potentially harmful information confronts a man whose patience with his
son has already been tested to a degree I can't readily contemplate. In
short, Eris, full of vitriol and venom, divulged the secret of Driscoll's
new place in the world to Felix. This I know simply from the look on
Felix's face as he left the reception for my sister, Alexandra.
I tried to do damage control; I mostly failed, because instead of
successfully sending Foster after his father to explain, I was convinced
by my reluctant husband to go myself. Whatever I tried to do there,
failed. I failed even further in attempting to make Foster speak to his
father. I don't know how far Tamaryn got with either of them, but it's
not because I didn't bring her into it.
By the time I could turn my attention to Eris (after Teresa
snatched me out of Amber with sorcery and then deposited me back there in
a trash heap, sullying my new outfit), Driscoll had not finished yelling
She was cool and white-hot angry all at the same time, and
defiant. I apologized to her for the wrongs she perceived me to have
committed, and thus deflated her before she went too far. Then I pointed
out that far from hurting me alone, or even just me and her father, she
had hurt two innocent parties, Foster and Felix, and that setting that
aright would be nearly impossible. She was nearly speechless, and I felt
some small measure of satisfaction that I had, in fact, learned something
from all these years of parenting -- and that is, it's a lot easier to
deal with children when you aren't blinded by your emotions. Who knew
that rationality was the key to dealing with conflict?
She was still defiant and terribly angry, however, until I
mentioned that if she still wanted satisfaction from me, I'd happily meet
her on the dueling field. Not to the death, mind you. When she
immediately drew her sword, I wondered, a little worriedly, what exactly
I'd gotten myself into. A small niggling thought said, "Killed by
Driscoll's daughter...well, Laughter, there can't be a more fitting end
for you." But by that point, that strange crystalline sword was drawing
blue sparks against Sequence, and we were to it. Driscoll spoke with
Clytemnestra, but I had not an ounce of attention to give to that.
Be damned if she wasn't almost exactly as fast as me, with about
the same level of technique. But, she'd obviously ignored the other areas
of training in favor of that technique; when our blades met, mine could
push hers down, for my strength was greater. And as the hours passed, and
sweat dripped down to dangle off the tip of my nose, and my arms burned,
it became clear that she was tiring much more quickly than I. Finally,
with a scream, she threw her sword over the battlements and sank down,
sobbing. Driscoll gathered her into his arms, and I stood, tensely, as
though still prepared to do battle, with Sequence quivering uselessly in
my hand. I sheathed the sword, stood near them for a minute, and decided
against saying anything, after all. I went downstairs, to our quarters, a
little frightened by the desperation I'd seen in Eris' eyes. I crawled
into bed with a heart- felt groan. Foster barely deigned to notice me.
I awoke, after a disturbing dream in which my supposedly sexless
sword was making love to me, to find only Foster in bed. I felt a pang --
no Driscoll. I wondered if perhaps Eris was going to win. I certainly
wasn't going to fight her for her father. I would do almost as much for
Driscoll as I would for my children, but I would stop short of injuring
his daughter. What a tragedy. To think he was ours, for the few days
we've had. To requite a passion that has been with me since I came to
Amber. And to lose it, after less than a week. Elizabeth would already
be scribbling a prologue.
That was when the Faerie came through the wall, and I left then,
to "rescue" Drumm. Why, exactly, he thought his redemption would lie with
me, I do not know. But at the end of it, against his will, I told
Nicholas his father's last words.
Ah...Nicholas. All I can do for you, I've already done. I've
given you my daughter and my loyalty, and whether or not you know it, my
love and friendship.
I returned to my quarters. No Driscoll, still. I went in to my
despairing husband. I knelt by the bed, touching him gently. No
movement, but a weary voice. "Hello."
"Hello." I hesitated, afraid of the rebuff, but blundered gamely
on. "May I hold you, or should I just go away?"
"Hold me. Please."
I crawled into bed, cradling him gently, and he began to cry. If
Felix could see this, he would have no doubt how much his opinion means to
Foster. But, if Foster knew Felix better, he'd realize he has little to
fear from Felix beyond the immediate reactions of anger and pain; there is
no Vetchian drive for revenge or punishment in Felix.
I smoothed his hair, leaned my head against the headboard, and
thought about the hundred layers of pain that lay between Foster and his
ability to trust. And wondered why I can't seem to remove even one.
I am back in the outer room playing with the children, musing on
these things, when Driscoll comes through the door. I can't help it, the
joy leaps in my heart when I see him, even though I don't yet know what
the future between the three of us holds.
He casts me a brave smile, apologizes, asks after Foster. I tell
him he's sleeping. He asks how I am, and I tell him the truth: I don't
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