I may be the only person in the universe who's ever had one
grandfather on the throne of Amber and one on the throne of Chaos, but it
pretty much does nothing for you, unless you need revenge in the form of
humiliation-before-the-kings. Not that I mind. I'm rather glad that
Gramble and Oberon don't pay attention to me. That could be a really
stressful thing for me, if I was expected to do much with my life other
than swing a sword in defense of my homeland (though what my homeland
actually is right now is rather up in the air), and raise my children.
And that whole raising children thing is turning out to be just a little
We returned to Foil, Foster, Harry and I, from Gramble and Flora's
wedding (and now my aunt is also my grandmother. Nope, this doesn't
bother me at all). A servant, Siobahn is her name, I think, met us at the
door and told me a sad story about hearing struggles in Beauty's room
after finding that Shard was not in his, and retreating to her room in
fear -- well, abject terror. Pshht. Ordinary mortals. Whatever Beauty
thinks about her life span, she has to admit that she is no ordinary
mortal, anyways. Well, I can't really blame Siobahn, and I wasn't raised
to. I gave her Haris, and sent her to Caitt, and told her to lock the
door behind her. Then, with Foster behind me, I drew Sequence and headed
for Beauty's room.
Shard answered the door. Beauty was asleep, naked, throat bruised
and face scratched, on the bed. I didn't look at Shard, except to keep an
eye on where he was in relation to me, and trusted Foster to guard my
back. I approached my daughter, took her pulse. My worst fears allayed
for the moment, I lifted her into my arms, the sheet wrapped around her,
after making my agreement with Sequence to keep watch. I passed Foster,
and Trumped Mother, who answered. I looked back at Foster. I don't know
if he caught my look, or what it meant, but I have never trusted someone
as much as I have trusted him in that moment, to leave him to guard not
only my son and mother, but also himself, against the vampire. I feared
for those I left behind, but Beauty has been my charge since she was three
days old, and Shard will not have her life.
Mother seemed mostly content to let me explain myself, as I set
Beauty down in a chair. The entire thing had taken so little time that I
don't think that she was entirely awake until just then. I looked down at
her for a moment. She began to explain to me what had happened -- that
Shard had been called by his maker, a foul vampiress who somehow,
twistedly, is that which casts the Shadow of my daughter. I may have said
something, but I cannot remember what it was. I turned away from her
then, and pulled out my Trump of Ariana. I concentrated on her features,
my thoughts careening nearly out of control. I don't know how I managed
to put the call through to her, but it went, and in short enough time, the
pretty features stirred and became animate -- and a little put out. Damn.
I'd interrupted them. Again.
Ariana seemed to sense my panic, however, and at my request, she
and Vetch came through. I showed them my daughter, then drew them aside
to discuss what had happened. The Vetches had some insight to offer, the
main thrust of which was that Shard's maker had to be killed to end the
calling. I remember looking down then, and seeing instead of my normal
tunic and hose, the edge of my lace collar, the flat stomacher covered in
amethyst brocade, and the immensely heavy skirts spilling out around the
bustles. I hadn't even noticed my dress, nor found it awkward, so great
was my distraction.
We turned back to Beauty. I felt hopeless, helpless. Riftvan and
Ariana departed soon after, and Mother went to fetch refreshments. I
looked at Beauty, and she at me, she holding the dress Ariana had conjured
for her to her chest. Fine time for modesty.
She tried to take all of the blame onto herself, and say none of
it was Shard's fault. Of course it wasn't Shard's fault. It was mine. I
should have known that a vampire, no matter how good a friend he was to us
in the old days, no matter what he once was, cannot resist his
compulsions. I would sooner ask a fish to stop breathing water. I should
have known better.
Then she delivered the death-blow to any pride I might have once
had in how I had raised her, by saying, "I asked him to make me what he
is." While I was still reeling from this, she said, "I didn't want to
Who instilled this vanity in her? It was never I. I must wonder
what Caitt has been filling her head with, or perhaps it is the servants.
Yes, she is beautiful, as much as, and perhaps more so, than the most
beautiful of Amberites. But by no means did I ever think that beauty was
enough for my daughter to possess. I didn't teach her to read and write
and act and draw and ride and fight just to be beautiful.
In any case, I digress. In spite of the vanity problem, I don't,
in fact, want her to ever grow old and die, either. That's just not what
my race wants to happen to their children. I shall have to look into it.
The other thing she said to me at that moment was that she was
ready to be the Queen of Foil now. I almost blew my stack at that. In
one night, she makes the decision to tempt her vampire lover into making
her a vampire as well, and *then* decides to be Queen of Foil. I am
somehow not reassured as to her judgment.
I left her in Helgramways, and went back to Foil, to change for my
lesson with Nicholas. When I arrived, Ahab didn't seem to think I looked
up to giving a lesson, but since he was willing to spar with me, we did.
Concentrating on the forms, excluding every other thought in my head --
this is the truest way to relax. For me.
Ariana arrived for our lesson, and I didn't notice. Eventually,
when I began to grow rather tired, I called a halt with Ahab, and the
three of us, with Nicholas listening quite pointedly, discussed the matter
of Beauty and Shard. Ariana brought up that Driscoll had survived his
visit to the vampire plane intact. Since he'd been avoiding me at Flora's
wedding, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to go rub his nose in my
presence, so to speak -- it wouldn't do for him to think that I like being
ignored by friends, even if it is more comfortable that way. Ahab, Ariana
and I plotted and schemed, schemed and plotted, and I was grateful, as
usual, for Ahab's perspective. Ahab's perspective is always very
clinical, and somewhat comforting because of it, and it reassures me,
except when his opinions are pointed in my direction.
I left then to seek Driscoll, to question him about the vampire
plane, and to ask permission to see his dragon.
Driscoll, for all that was never between us, certainly acts like
there was something between us. It's my fault, too, because I act the
same way, but that sure is kind of annoying. A lot of smoke, and no fire.
I'm rather grateful at this point that I didn't agree to marry him,
because agreeing to that would have been for the good of the kingdom --
and now, as it turns out, Driscoll's marriage hardly matters in the grand
scheme of marriages that are occurring.
Driscoll agreed to loan me Verdegris for a short span of days, as
that is what protected him from the vampires. I tucked the little dragon
in a pocket, and headed upstairs to see Clytemnestra, who sniffed me when
I asked and agreed that I was one, not two. Good thing, that. I need
more than a year to forget what last time was like.
Upon returning to Foil, I found Shard was missing.
I woke up near dinner time, and passed some time with my small
family, and some of the extended members thereof -- namely, one future
father-in-law, and a possible future sibling-in-law/cousin. Unless the
baby in Bridget's belly turns out to be Shard's, in which case... future
step-grand-daughter-in-law/cousin? You see why my head reels when I think
about family. In any case, it's a little frightening to think that I've
taken a woman I know nothing about (other than that she and Felix had a
fling on the floor of an inn) into my home, after her Shadow had obviously
been tampered with. I wouldn't be surprised if nothing good came of it.
On the other hand, if it's really Felix's or Shard's baby, and the woman
is what she says she is, I'll have done a good and necessary deed.
With Shard gone, it was safer to bring Beauty back to Foil to be
near me, so I did this thing. Not that my dear father Suhuy couldn't
scare the bejesus out of any vampire that dared to set foot in
The day and night turned themselves around, and somehow, when I
knew it was time, I returned to Amber to fence with Nicholas, and then
Ariana. During the bout with Ariana, I mentioned that Shard had gone
missing. She tried to contact him...somehow. I don't want to think about
how. He refused her, as he had refused my Trump contact from earlier. My
heart almost stopped when she said that she could tell he was moving.
Back through Shadow, towards Foil.
We lost no time. We returned to Foil, and I called in the
reinforcements, namely one mother named Fiona, and one cousin and future
Crown Prince named Ahab (boy, I do hobnob with a crowd rather high in the
in-step, don't I?). We waited, swords and powers at hand, as Shard
crossed the universe to my Shadow, and stopped on the border to recite his
Then he was inside. He had come alone (a good thing, for we would
have shot first and asked questions of the corpses). He made a mocking
comment about his reception, but I take no chances. He set down his
burden, a sack with a certain round object in it. I've taken and
collected enough of them to know it was a head before he opened it, and I
had enough sense to guess whose it was. It was still a shock, though, to
see Beauty's face, drained of blood and life, older and yet ageless. This
was Belle, the vampire queen, who bore the same name as my daughter.
I moved forward, kicked the head up into the air, and treed it as
it came down. I'd rather not have Beauty see it, and she's never been
wont to going around untreeing things.
I suggested that we go inside for dinner, or lunch, or whatever
you like to call it. I sat near Shard. "It's a good thing you left and
brought back what you did," I said, leaving the threat off the end of the
sentence, deeming it unnecessary.
"I know," he said. "It was the only choice I had."
That, more than anything else, reassures me that I will be leaving
my daughter and my Shadow in good hands.
After this, we attended Eric's wedding. Never having met the man,
I was not certain why I was there, except as a courtesy to Foster and
Felix. I'd just as soon be considered part of their family, when it comes
down to it. I love my mother, and don't want to abandon her to Chaos, but
I think both my fathers would sit better with the notion of me being Not
Their Problem. Unless Mandor has come up with a swell way to use me
again. It took him a while, the first time.
I spent the day with family, and investigating my questions in the
libraries of Chaos that will grant me access. I didn't get very far --
there's a lot of books to look through, and I'm not even sure if some of
the answers are in books. Especially "precedents of behavior and status
of other bastards of crown princes and kings," but I'll keep looking.
The day passed, and the night, and the next day was Bleys'
wedding. No reason to hope for a happy marriage there -- but more than
likely a happy couple, with the appropriate "many happy lovers." But the
events at the wedding were more pertinent than the wedding itself. Lyss
keeled over, unconscious. Ahab's expression grew grim and pained, and
then he disappeared.
I looked, over Harry's downy head, into Foster's eyes. Whatever
it was, I could see he agreed that nothing good could come of it.
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