I was in the infirmary, head bowed and leaning against my sword,
certain that any moment my mind would no longer be my own. Only, that
didn't happen. I hated him so much in that moment. Nothing would have
pleased me more than to see Mandor dead.
Foster put a hand on my shoulder. "Do you want the geas
I nodded, and said that putting it on until I saw Driscoll would
be for the best. I sent pages to both Driscoll and Ariana then, and then
Tamaryn tried the geas.
I felt doomed.
I picked up my child and held him in my arms and went to watch the
battle raging below. The sword at my side twitched and so did I. A
battle would have cleared my head.
Foster muttered a curse. I turned around to look. He was holding
his hand, and was so concerned, he didn't even notice the comment I made
then. "I have to go," was all he said, and he stepped out the window and
There's nothing quite like thinking that your father may have made
his move and sent your lover to certain death.
I was left alone with the faerie named Tamaryn. I asked if
perhaps she knew the first Haris, and she said no, Foster had been taken
from her when he was eight years old. Disturbed by this, I related that I
did not come to know my mother 'til about that age, and then asked if
perhaps she would be willing to help me find my mother, since she neither
answered Trump nor had been seen by me in some time. Tamaryn left to seek
That's when the nurses of dubious origin came to take the Chaos
ambassador's lady friend away. Holding seventeen pounds of sleeping baby
does not lend one's self to investigating the curious, so I sent a page to
Alex to inform him of this and left it at that.
Son in arms, sword at hip, and spell on breath was how I spent the
next few hours, creating small but possibly useful distractions and
sending them to the edges of the battlefield. Lord knows I had seen the
tactic used enough times on my own troops by na siogai sorcerers.
Finally, all spelled out, I went to see Isabeux, who was keeping
an anxious watch. I wonder if having been in battle so many times myself
alleviated or exacerbated my concerns for those outside...
Felix Trumped me around then to pass me his prisoner of war, a
small silver-haired lady. I took her weapons and Trump, and Isabeux
called the guards. Why is it that Felix cannot kill a woman, even if she
has attacked him and tried to kill him? He should get over it. It could
be the death of him.
Ariana found me sometime later. The battle had worn her but not
wounded her. I wonder about the safety of the child. There comes a point
when abuse to the body translates to abuse to the fetus, and while I am
not certain I know where this point lies, I don't think I'd be willing to
Somehow, Ariana seemed to know that Foster was not only all right,
but on the battlefield.
This did not reassure me.
I took Song from Ariana, just as Tamaryn appeared to say that
Fiona was on the battlements. I bowed to the two of them and went up to
Fiona was busy zapping those who occasionally made it through
Driscoll's aerial defenses. My mother was tossing around raw magic, and
managing to make me feel very small at the same time.
I told her about Mandor's interference, and she investigated. She
told me that it was mostly an object lesson on Mandor's part to not look
into people's eyes. And that all he had placed on me was the mandate to
think about his plan. And all the thoughts I was generating were my own.
I've been defeated by myself? I think not. My first objections
were the most real ones, and the truest. Emer is far more worthy to
represent Chaos. But I did not have these thoughts then. I took Fiona to
see Harry, and she was duly impressed by his size.
I left Hary with his great-grandmother and Trumped Julian to go
through and wreak a little havoc in Arden. I stayed invisible, and began
by targeting the leaders. I placed them in trees, and after that, the
Battle of Arden was easily won. Having your leader fly through the air
and disappear into a tree is both demoralizing and confusing.
The aerial battle moved overhead as Julian's men continued with
cleanup in the forest. I climbed up to a higher vantage point and began
treeing the enemy leaders of that fight. Unfortunately, as Driscoll
engaged one of them, I treed the enemy. This put Driscoll off balance,
and he began to plummet; I didn't think, I treed him, knowing he was at
least likely to live through that. Clytemnestra dove after and fought her
way through the trees, looking for him, and I scurried down the pine I had
scaled, and ran towards the tree Driscoll was in. "He should be alive!" I
said in what I suppose was not a very reassuring manner, in spite of the
fact that it was true.
And he was. I popped him out of the tree in double time, rather
than have Clytemnestra fry me up for a between battle snack. He was
disoriented but whole; battle stained but still quite amazing to look at.
It occurred to me what a striking couple we might make, the fair faerie
and the dark human. His eyes arrested me for a moment.
"We must talk later," I said, finally.
He nodded. "I'll find you." He leaped onto Clytemnestra's back.
"Have you talked to either one of your parents lately?"
I nodded. I don't know what my expression was at that time, but
he launched his dragon skyward without a further word. I decided then
that I was in no state to keep fighting even my subversive treeing war,
and went back to the castle.
And Driscoll did find me, as I finished feeding Hary. I buttoned
up and went to the door. It wasn't a bad conversation, but neither was it
good. I am not a woman who could bear to be loved for her resemblance to
another woman, I don't think. Whether or not Emer can bear this is
another matter, but I certainly do not want the ghosts of Fiona, Heather
and Laura in my bed.
And Driscoll, he told me to marry Foster, and be happy.
I think he has the right of it. A few months ago I would have
struggled with this decision, but knowing that Emer is a better
representative of Chaos, and that no man deserves to be stuck with a woman
who can never love him the way she loves another... Because in eleven and
a half months, I know that the only thing that can separate me from Foster
is death. I do not think my honor would be enough to prevent me from
seeking out Foster if I were married to another.
Driscoll can do better, and I have met my sister. She is quite
beautiful, and quite intriguing. Granted, I don't know if someday having
a sister who is Queen of Amber and a brother who is King of Chaos is going
to be a comfortable thing, but it is not a horrible thought. The only
thing that occurs to me is that I have placed myself well outside the
loop. Power will have to be won based on merit, not marriage.
I can handle that. That was my path in Foil, after all. It is
the path I prefer.
I spoke to Random and Mandor both in the next few days, discussing
the marriage proposal. Nothing was said to sway my decision away from
what Driscoll told me ultimately.
At lunch, the day after the battle, all was almost normal in
Amber. Bartholomew, in female form, was being made uncomfortable by my
mother. Nothing wrong with that... Everyone was talking in low voices,
making plans, discussing the battle. I realized, with a bit of annoyance,
that I had forgotten to give Song to Driscoll, and even more annoyingly,
that Foster still wasn't around. I Trumped Foster, who assured me he
would come down to lunch in a moment.
He arrived in timely fashion, and sat down beside me. "I was
talking to Driscoll," he said. "It was a talk we should have had some
time ago." I waited. "We both want you to be happy."
Does it never occur to anyone who says "I want you to be happy"
that the person who is supposed to be happy can't be happy unless the
person who is saying that is happy too?
I plopped Hary onto his father's lap. "Has he gained weight?" I
gave Foster an evil glare for that one -- of course he has, he's a baby,
and my arm muscles ache to prove it. I took up Song and with Sequence at
my side, went to seek Driscoll.
He seemed surprised by the gift of the sword. But when he drew it
and the light danced on it, I knew there was no other hand the sword was
meant for, except for the man who's head I took almost a decade ago.
Rather than unnerving me, it satisfied me. I think I know the connection
that they made in that moment. It is just such a connection that keeps me
sane on some occasions.
I told him then that I would not be marrying him. And that long
engagements are a good thing for both parties.
Lord knows, I want both Driscoll and Emer to be happy.
I returned to lunch, a little more at peace than I have been in
The next few days passed interestingly enough. I had some cleanup
to do in Arden -- I treed some pretty powerful people, and I think I'll be
receiving quite a hefty ransom out of the whole thing, specifically a
title in House Bances -- the House of the Sword, interestingly enough. It
is time to make a connection with the other half of myself. I have known
only Pattern and Amber for too long, and the Chaos part of myself is
there, waiting to be awakened properly. Someday Haris will learn to
shapeshift, and perhaps he will take the Logrus and the Pattern both, like
his father did. It would be for the best if I know what my children are
getting into. Added to this, a Princess of the Crown of Chaos is one
thing -- but a bastard born Princess is another.
Foster is right. I do make my own way.
Ariana Trumped me in the middle of the night, asking me to remove
a glamour. It was made by Foster (and quite impressive, dulling both
sight and sound). I took it then that Foster had made his bid to leave
the House of Vetch. I didn't really wish for Ariana to go back --
sometimes observing is enough to interfere -- but she did. I was going to
stay out of it, until I felt the faerie magic.
Frightened, I went to look.
Apparently Tamaryn had made her bid as well, for it was she who
was fighting Vetch, with such magics that I know now what it is that
Riftvan meant by saying the na si I fought were of low quality.
Foster was wounded on the ground. Wounded in a fashion that I
knew that Vetch had not meant to let him go. I stood beside him and
watched with horrified fascination what went between Tamaryn and Riftvan
-- knowing better than to interfere, for that could nullify all that they
were fighting for.
Tamaryn and her father traded such curses that my ears still ring
with them. I translated softly for Foster and Sequence, not knowing what
else to do.
What kind of man locks his daughter up for a thousand years? And
steals her son away from her? This was the Riftvan that Ahab always told
me about, that Foster feared. I looked at Ariana, and wondered how she
could be dealing with this. To be married to a man who has two such
different personalities. I have always known the Riftvan that Ariana
knows, so I never feared him the way I should have.
I think now I know better.
Tamaryn did something then, and sucked all the faerie energy from
the area -- including myself and Foster. This was Foster's undoing, and
he passed out. I knelt beside him. Ariana maintained contact with him,
monitoring his state, without interfering. I continued watching the
battle, as Tamaryn took the energy and pushed her father back into a tree,
and bound him to it, as surely as any treeing spell. She drew a knife of
cold iron and held it to his throat; he was in faerie form and vulnerable.
I held my breath. "Ariana, you may want to save your husband," I said.
We waited. We waited. Then Tamaryn let him go, and came to us
and asked Ariana to heal Foster. She did, to the point of passing out. I
wish she wouldn't do that. It can't be good for the child.
I went to the foot of the tree that held Vetch and looked up at
him. Having once held him in cold iron chains in this very form, my
feelings were mixed. I studied the spell, realized there was no way I
could break it. "Are you going to be able to get down?" I asked. I
didn't want to actually draw attention to myself, but I felt it necessary
to find out. He affirmed that he could. Sooner or later.
I went back and picked up Ariana, and Tamaryn took Foster, and we
put them both to bed.
In the morning, Ariana came by to see us, and to replace more of
Foster's blood. After she left, I congratulated him, and then told him
"You know, Mandor agreed that I could marry you if you no longer
belonged to House Vetch."
He looked stunned. I do enjoy that look.
I nudged him.
"Do you know what you're saying?"
Of course I did.
"Well, we are handfasted..."
"Well, if you want to wait a year, then that's all right with me,"
I said, feigning nonchalance, and crawling backwards out of bed.
"No! Wait." He leaned over to the bedside table and pulled out a
He found the ring. I don't know how, but he found the ring.
"Don't you think you had better go tell your father the news?" I
meant about being out of the House, but when we went to Felix's quarters,
Foster told him about the engagement, and mentioned the leaving the House
as an after comment.
Silly man. You'd think giving up the life of an assassin would be
more important to him than winning the woman he already had.
Felix did an amazing thing then; he Trumped my father and asked if
he could formally adopt Foster. Mandor said yes.
At breakfast, Felix did it. Formally recognized Foster as his son.
So I guess we won't be houseless when the time comes. That's good
It feels like a denouement.
I know better than to think that it is.
But for now, I can pretend.
Back to the Diary list