If all were as silent as the grave... Hell, if the voices in my
head were as silent as the grave. Or rather, the voice at my hip, and my
guilty conscience. But they aren't. They're loud and obnoxious, and it
is probably for the best that they are. I might not know what to do if I
could just think things through. Look at this faerie. He's standing, so
sad, so resigned. He doesn't believe I will let him live. Sequence begs
for his blood, but... I am sickened of killing. I, Laughter, am tired of
the kill, and it was the only art that I was born to.
In all this baby-naming, I wonder, sometimes, what Fiona would
have named me. I wonder if it would be more appropriate than the name I
have. There is no greater irony (except, perhaps, for the accident of my
parentage) than the irony inside me, that I am named Laughter, when I feel
The girl looks so little now, crumpled on the ground. If only she
had not worn an amulet that prevented me from treeing her. The shame of
being treed should never be compared to the death that can come instead.
That should have been an amulet against physical attack, and the charm
against treeing should have been spelled merely to bring her immediately
out into the world again. Is that any way to protect your daughter
against what is out there? Especially if there is one such as me, or any
of my kin? We are not a folk known for tender mercies and forgiveness.
This thought splits in my head, and takes two tracks. The first
is that this incident, though it sickens me and makes me weary of the only
business I know, is only serving to make me more of Amber, not less.
There will never be a time when I look at something and say, "This is
wrong, and I will no longer continue in this fashion." I am becoming more
heartless, more cruel, more determined to stomp through the ants to get at
what I want and what I need. There is no way to reverse this course. My
saving grace is that I don't care about the power structure of the
universe, but this also defeats me -- I will not step outside of the power
structure and ignore it all. I will join the archers on the battlements
and the army at the barricades, rather than surrender my place in the
universe and in Amber. I am become another of my relatives. What
foolishness to think that I would remain myself.
The second track is Beauty. It is good that Fiona did not say
"She is only a Shadow." I would have struck at her, and probably would
have missed, for my mother is a talented woman, but I still would have
done it, and that would have been too much.
Why, WHY did I send her to Foil? Why did I think it would be
safe? And why did someone take them, fake their deaths? They are
Shadows, and I am worth little in the grand scheme of things. The
possibility exists that this is a trap, and I will be taken and held for
whatever ransoms my enemy would like to extort from my father or my
mother. They are powerful people, and have much more that an enemy would
covet. I am indeed the pawn that could cost Mandor or Fiona the game.
One would think they would recognize this, and loose me of all ties to
them, or else keep closer tabs on me.
Now, Laughter, pause in your lamentations, and begin to think like
a warrior. You're worth *perhaps* the thumbnail of Benedict, but that's
more worth in the art of war than most people in the universe, so call
upon it and figure out what's going on. Did these na siogai have an enemy
as well, or were they just caught in the crossfire? Hard to say. We must
speak to the girl's father. Is this a reflection of more that's going on
in the Elvenhame? Our enemy is of Chaos (gratis traces of Logrus), but
must also be of Faerie, or have faerie accomplices, to manage so well at
glamours. So. Getting in to see the King of all Faerie might help us,
and it would reassure Ariana as to her children. The question is, how do
we get in? Foster may have the skill to transform himself and get in, but
does he have the skill to transform Ariana and myself, and Senlin and my
guards? More to the point, how far can we get crossing the barriers in
faerie fashion, when I am but a human with just a little skill?
So, who is my enemy, he of Chaos and of Faerie? I'm praying that
Beavis did not discover a way to get to Riftvan, but the upshot of that is
that if Beavis has gone to this trouble to avenge himself upon me for the
pettiness I enacted upon him, then we're probably going to come out of
this war OK. If that is Beavis' thought, then he's a poorer tactician
than I. But I'm not foolish enough (yet) to believe this is the only
possibility. What if this is someone trying to get to Foster, through his
lover and unborn child? He has to have enemies, and if he personally does
not, his house has enough. In which case, I should not be dragging the
pregnant Lady Vetch with me. Ariana's death on my soul would be more than
I can take. And I am not even allowed to fall on my sword. Of course, I
could, perhaps, count on Riftvan to kill me for me.
Sit down a moment. The blood is getting to you. I hate this
pregnancy. I am not this weak, that a bit of blood should make me faint,
and yet, here we are, head between the knees again. Concentrate. The
beauty of Dexter is around you. It's as if glamours well up from the
ground and spill down to the sea, like so many rivers and streams. This
is a land I both love and hate. Calamus would have killed me for this
land, and that is enough to hate it for.
Ah, Calamus, with cobwebs in your eye sockets, you are far more
attractive than the last time I saw you. Driscoll is so much your better,
that I wonder how you could be his Shadow; but then, we are far removed
from Lazarus and the wars there. I meant to carry Song for the duration
of Sequence's weakness, but at the last moment, I could not. It was too
much, and so I gave your sword to Foster. Take that, Calamus, you
bastard. You didn't ruin me forever. I found another lover, and perhaps
things aren't perfect, perhaps he's not the innocent I tried to protect,
but... I love him far more than I had ever thought to love you. And now
he carries your sword. And you are dead and in your dolmen, and the worms
have long since had your carcass, and your bones now fall to dust. I have
vanquished you thoroughly.
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