My second wedding was a small, private ceremony. Everyone
important was there, and there was no Best Man, or Best Woman, or any of
that -- it was just all the people we loved, standing around in a big
circle, while Bart joined Driscoll, Foster and I in legal matrimony. A
confirmation of that which was in our hearts. A public announcement of
the way things are. It was private, because not everyone in the world
loves us well enough to overlook the fact of a three-way marriage.
Private, because the last thing we need to do to the nobles is openly take
another Royal out of the running.
At the end, after we pledged our troth, Felix actually hugged
Driscoll. And then, almost all of the witnesses, excepting Nicholas,
Corbin, Beauty, Fiona, Suhuy, Alexandra and Mandor's contingent, packed up
our belongings and moved into Shadow for six years.
The first week in Bedlam was the hardest.
I've always wondered what the Ireland I grew up in might have
turned into. I somehow doubt that Bedlam is the exact model, since this
is not a land where the faeries were quite as real as they were in Foil.
They tell stories about them here, but those stories aren't in the history
books. Those stories are kept strictly in the nursery, with Mother Goose.
I've run across this attitude in Shadows before. In any case, we took up
residence in a wealthy district of Dublin, with relatively little muss or
fuss, except that Iseult wanted the bedroom we'd decided on for a
nursery...but really no difficulty there, as the next inhabitant of the
nursery was still nine months away from occupancy. There was absolutely
no doubt about there soon being an occupant, though. I had promised
Bartholomew that permitting us to marry meant that we'd continue to have
children to the glory of the Unicorn; and I had bribed Foster and Driscoll
with two new babies for this time in Shadow. Since I had just walked the
Pattern that very day, in fact, though for what turned out to be
No-Goddamned-Good-Reason, thanks to some jewel thief, it seemed like a
swell time to start on having the fourth kid.
It wasn't much of a honeymoon, that first week, at least, not
during the days. The nights, are, as always, another matter. My nights
have, in fact, been quite another matter for some time now. It's an
amazing thing, the Amberite endurance combined with the Amberite drive to
seek out the new and different. ANYway... The first night in Bedlam I'm
sure was the night of the conception of Isaac.
In any case, settling into Bedlam was a small chore. I felt quite
the seventeenth century yokel, refusing to get a data jack, and refusing
to let the kids do so, either. I was nervous about living so far off the
ground, too -- we lived on the top four floors of this big skyscraper.
There was a garden on TOP of this building. It was mostly Eris' domain,
and I felt very reluctant to intrude there, so I didn't. I couldn't shake
the feeling, after all, though I never said anything to either of my
husbands, that this once was the domain of Driscoll's wife (Eris' mom),
too. So, between all the technology that dominated the landscape, and the
ghost of a woman who died by violence, I was more than a little nervous
about how things were going to go here.
I had Driscoll forge for me the appropriate papers granting me the
degrees in botany and bio-engineering of plants that I hold in another,
distant Shadow. With this, and a nicely transplanted transcript, I got
into medical school with an ease that probably should have been a lot more
suspicious than it was seen as. No matter. If anyone noticed, they
probably chalked it up to strings pulled by the family of Driscoll
O'Brian, rock star extraordinaire and Defeater of the Faith. I had never
quite noticed the compellingness of fame before. I have been notorious to
the entire race of Faerie, of course, but I have never, ever been watched
obsessively, constantly and worshipfully before by an entire world. It's
an amazing thing. Not something I'm comfortable with, either. Ariana
seemed to thrive on it. While I have ruled a Shadow before, I think that
I ruled it with relatively little attention to pomp and circumstance. I
never had my face stamped on my currency. In theory, I could have walked
in almost any city in Foil, except London or Dublin, and gone completely
unrecognized. And in London, at any rate, my recognition would have been
for my time on the stage. Only in Dublin, the capital city, would my true
rank be associated with my face. Maybe. I was hardly ever in Dublin.
Such is the fame.
Not so in Bedlam. As soon as people figured out who I was living
with, my face was plastered in every tabloid and newspaper around. My
face, and Driscoll's face, and Foster's face... The O'Brian Trio.
Commented on, but rarely condemned in the press, at least, the menage a
trois was perhaps the favorite news subject for the first month in Bedlam.
And Cousin Ariana, let us not forget Cousin Ariana. She was certainly a
favorite of the press, since she would actually stand still to be
photographed. And when Bedlam found out that the most famous man in
Ireland had gotten his wife pregnant again, life got even worse.
Pictures, pictures, pictures...and all of me growing fatter and fatter. I
never thought I had any vanity about that sort of thing. But now...ugh.
And, of course, there was Bluebeard's Room.
Well, not really. It wasn't locked. It was merely the room that
used to be Elen's studio, since she was something of a painter, that
hadn't been at all changed since her death. I got chills up and down my
spine every time I went past. I seriously wondered about the validity of
ghosts. And once I saw a picture of her, saw her resemblance to my
mother, I'm afraid I rather dreaded the sound of her name. I was
completely disturbed, because I felt her presence so strongly in
Driscoll's penthouse. She never quite followed us into the bedroom...but
she seemed to be everywhere else I went. I had to wonder...does
sioraiocht really mean eternity? Regardless of things like death?
Of course, Foster noticed this. Foster notices everything about
me, I think. I hate that. And why is it that it's only me who gets
insecure and weirded out by things? I must get some sort of instability
through my mother, being such a close relative to Brand. Anyway, Foster
noticed this, and ratted me out to Driscoll, the bastard. They started to
play twenty questions, 'til Driscoll mentioned her name.
"How interesting," I think I said, and then went to rearrange my
underwear drawer. Driscoll followed me.
"So, it is Elen."
"How can it be Elen?" I asked. I did not add, "Elen's dead,"
because sometimes, I know when to not say what I'm thinking.
"Because you keep refusing to talk about it, still evading."
"What am I supposed to say about Elen, Driscoll?" What indeed?
I'm jealous of your cruelly murdered Shadow wife? I'm worried if she
hadn't been taken from you, there'd never be a place for me in your life?
What kind of person thinks stuff like that? "I'll have that room
packed up, then."
Who said he was allowed to read my mind?
We talked a bit longer, and eventually he drew from me my
secrets...and eventually allayed my fears.
That was the first week.
From then on, I submerged myself in my first term of medical
school, and learned just enough to make me completely paranoid about how
my own pregnancy was progressing. Swell. I must have driven the men
Eventually, in the middle of what should have been my second
semester in med. school, I spent thirteen hours laboring, and then, lo and
behold, Isaac was born.
Isaac means "God laughs." I can think of no more appropriate name
for the child conceived on the same night that Driscoll and Foster and I
married. His coloring turned out quite striking, with eyes the same shade
as my own, and golden hair, though his hair and eyes were much paler when
he was born. He seems to be the truest descendent of Gramble. I wondered
more than a little at how the Sawalls would react to him the first time.
My concerns were justified, for when we returned to Amber, Flora paled
dramatically, and when Mandor met him, he seemed amazed, and got down on
his knees in front of the boy to introduce himself.
Isaac grew into his name rather better than I grew into mine. He
can make anyone laugh at anything, I think. The merriest creature I have
ever known, except for maybe my dear sister Elizabeth, but without the
moments of melancholy that she was also prone to.
So many children, all of a sudden, it seemed! Before Isaac,
Mirelle had a boy she called Misery, up until Ariana convinced her he
should be named Devlin, instead. My in-laws on all sides had children,
too, and Briana was born a mere week after Isaac. Ariana, Jalana, Ana and
Briana...it's truly a wonder how the Vetches kept the women straight.
Worse than rhyming names for me, however, was the challenge of
Iseult. I don't know why it is that I'm such a bad mother, but I must
have missed some important lesson about it somewhere down the line,
because I absolutely have no talent for dealing with the girl. Foster and
Driscoll say it's because we're too much alike. Too much alike? Perhaps.
But I do know one thing for sure, and that's that I was a hell of a lot
more self-disciplined in childhood than she was. Maybe because she had
Hary to protect her, whereas I had Hary's role with my sibs. In fact,
that's almost positively it. But that never managed to answer the
question of how to teach her that skill.
Thus passed our first year in Bedlam.
By our third year in Bedlam, I was mostly through med. school --
at least, the schooling part of it -- residency was ahead of me. I was
pregnant again. And we had gotten caught up wholeheartedly in the
on-going sword-play revival; already our family was taking top honors, in
that as well as in riding. O'Brian's stables became famous throughout
Ireland and the rest of the equine-oriented world.
Which is not to say that we all became equestrian champions. Hary
and Iseult and I were about the only ones from our family; Ariana went in
for it, but Shannon developed some strange phobia about horses that
prevented him from even enjoying basic lessons.
In any case, it was a pretty grand thing, spending the summers and
weekends riding the competition circuit. We brought more attention to the
sports than they might otherwise have gotten...more of the fabulous
By the fourth year, we almost thought we'd never lived anywhere
else. Which, of course, meant that Ariana's concerns were coming to
actually mean something to me, too. Ariana and I grew closer during the
time in Bedlam. I think we all did, to some extent. I learned some
interesting facts about Ariana, as well, facts that don't mesh well with
the vision of the world that I'd been taught. It seems my friend has a
faerie soul. But that is a story you'd better get from her, if you're
impatient. It does not yet factor heavily into my story, you see. In any
case, this small fact sets the theology of the faerie realm on its ear --
a human with a faerie soul. Well, an Amberite with a faerie soul. I
honestly don't know if we're human or not.
In any case, Ariana was concerned that if her children did not
grow up in Amber they would not love it as we did. I didn't quite see how
that was valid, given that Ariana and I both arrived in Amber long after
we had grown up. And do I not love Amber as much as those who were born
and raised there? Would I not fight and live and die for her? Of course.
So, this concern did not hold any particular water with me, but I would
like them to grow up knowing a little more about the way the family works.
And I want them to know their sister, and their other grandparents, and to
know the universe as the universe is, rather than just learn about what I
tell them. To visit Rebma, and see the Tir shining in the night sky...not
because I think they won't love these things, but because I *do* love
I had grown closer to more than just Ariana in this time. Random
and I seemed to find some sort of camaraderie, somehow. It started back
when I asked him for aid with the Jewel of Creation, I think -- when I
looked into his face and saw that which was Driscoll but not Driscoll
smiling out at me. Kind of like seeing the Foster in Felix, but a bit
different. Random and I even found out that we each had some skill with
Trump, though we both only possessed minor levels of that power; we agreed
to trade what we knew. I taught him the trick of making sketches, as
Fiona had taught me, and he showed me how, when someone is contacting me,
to quickly run my fingers through my deck and feel which one is coldest --
and that is the person calling me.
Of course, the biggest news of this middle period of our stay in
Bedlam was not how many trophies Iseult won in swordsmanship, or what new
instruments Driscoll discovered with Pax, but the small red-headed
daughter I had by Foster. We named her Elspeth, after my sister
Elizabeth, but with room to make the name her own. She was a darling from
the start. She was as much like Hary as anyone, I'd guess, and rather the
daughter I would have expected to have with Foster if Iseult hadn't come
along to, uhm, exceed my expectations.
All in all, we passed a more or less mundane existence on Bedlam.
No wars or natural disasters. Nothing rough and tumble at all. The only
one of us who saw any action outside of the practice rings was Iseult, who
found many fights at school.
Iseult and Paxon worried me the most. Iseult because she was
so...impulsive, so rash and brash, and all the things I am, and apparently
Mandor was. I truly hoped she had the same measure of dumb luck that we
had. And intentions -- I got out of many a scrape by having the best of
intentions, for all they are worth. But she never seemed malicious, so
that was some hope.
Paxon I worried for because he was so isolated. Iseult cleaved to
Hary because he was about the only one other than her father who could
make her mind. Hary watched over all of his siblings, and seemingly all
the rest of the children, too, but we could always tell that he considered
Iseult his special case. As good a child as anyone could ever hope to
have. I tried not to place this burden of watching over the others on
him; he just seemed to shoulder it on his own. In any case, the eldest
two seemed rather absorbed in each other; the youngest two carried on a
similar relationship, thanks to Isaac's natural gregariousness and general
good humor, and Elspeth's measure of shyness, that I think she received as
the youngest. Pax seemed to drift alone, much of the time...dreamy,
perhaps? Hary, I think, shared my worries. He looked out for Pax a bit
more than he might have.
Year six may have been the most trying of years. That was the
year Iseult found out that she could shapeshift into another gender.
So she did.
My daughter turned into a boy, and stayed that way. And stayed
that way, and stayed that way, and stayed that way. You can imagine my
consternation. Here am I, this parent who is almost completely useless in
raising her for a variety of reasons, and suddenly, she does something
I went on a research rampage, I questioned everyone. Eris
probably hit the nail on the head most accurately, that Iseult is angry
that she is a girl. Because the school system here is not quite as
enlightened as it should be, and it definitely gave her a big picture on
the bad parts of being a female. "Bad parts." We are of Amber. More
importantly, we are shapeshifters -- and she's a very, very good one. So
why are there any bad parts? I've never noticed anything particularly
bad. Other women -- Shadow women -- have difficulties.
Yeah, well, there was no bringing up points like that with her.
No pointing out, either, that women get all the fun because they get to
have the babies -- it wouldn't even be a lie, at this point. After five
kids, I was beginning to think the task is cake. It's the raising them
part that was getting stuck in my craw.
For six months, she stayed like this. Don't ask me what Driscoll
told the school officials. Foster and Haris tried everything, I think,
trying to convince her that her gender is not cursed. For six months, she
was stubborn. For a while, I was pretty good about it -- certain that
once she got it out of her system, everything would be OK. Then the time
just kept lingering, and lingering...
I did a lot of things to try and forget about it. I threw myself
into my second-to-last rotation at the hospital. I fenced every morning
like a maniac. I spent even more time with the children. Sleep
deprivation and exhaustion do wonders for curing a body of worrying. But
do you know how hard it is for an Amberite to exhaust herself? You have
to do twice, three times, perhaps more, than anyone else in the rest of
the Shadow can do. There's just not that much opportunity, really.
As the time in Bedlam grew shorter and shorter, I became more and
more convinced that not going back into Shadow was the right course of
action. When I finally made the announcement, they took it with much
better grace than the Vetches, I'm afraid. Poor Ariana, and her little
technophiles. That's what came of letting them have data jacks, though,
In any case, I thought, the two little ones -- not so little
anymore, sadly -- that I worried most about, could probably benefit most
by going back to the real world. If ever there was a child that could
benefit by an acquaintance with Meander, it was Pax. And if ever there
was a child than needed a few lessons from Fiona and Mandor, it was
Much to my relief, Iseult changed back to her own gender *before*
I had to re-introduce her to her grandparents. Thank God for her eldest
brother and her father.
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