I went down to the practice rooms, suspecting but not yet certain
of who would be waiting for me and in what manifestation.

	He was tall, dark-haired, quite good-looking, and I could see that
his chin and military squint were similar to Ahab's, and he had the same
intensity as the eight-year-old Nicholas.  So, it was true.  I heaved a
sigh, and bowed to him.  I couldn't believe he hadn't relaxed in all these

	"Well, let's see what you've learned," I said, certain that I was
about to get my butt kicked, but nevertheless determined that I would have
the immediate knowledge of his level of skill.

	It didn't take too long.  Sequence was mortified to find itself in
the hand of the enemy, but I merely called the sword back to me
resignedly, and realized, in spite of the defeat, I was glad.

	While it is unfortunate for me that the boy who was my student a
day ago is now my better -- it takes a person down a peg, it does -- but I
guess if I had had the opportunity to learn from a master every day for
thirty years in synch with Nicholas, I'd still be ahead of him on points. 
So, I don't mind too much, and just remind myself that he's now my Crown
Prince, so I may as well be glad that he shows military prowess in excess
of my own.  You don't want someone who doesn't know what he's doing
leading you into battle, after all.

	I took Sequence and saluted him, and pointed out that our lessons
were most assuredly at an end.  He agreed.  It was when I felt Nimue enter
the room that I began to feel a little less comfortable with this whole
thirty-years-in-one-night bit.  Nicholas made the introductions.  Nimue is
quite beautiful, and moves like she could also kick my butt, but it was
her eyes that chilled me to the core -- very light blue eyes, like my
son's.  I suddenly began to wonder -- Kimdyl was pregnant when the Jewel
played its strange game, wasn't she?  And I was, and Ariana is, and
there's also Bridget (though whether her child is Shard's or Felix's
remains to be seen).  Who else was there?  Who else was going to be born
with light blue eyes -- and keep them into adulthood, never mind genetics
and such?  And what does it mean?

	Since my curiosity was overwhelming, I had to ask Nicholas what
his plans were regarding Beauty.  He was going to court her openly.  I
swallowed my amazement, and offered him rooms in the Manor to make his
quest a little easier.  I also invited him back to see Haris and show him
around the Manor right away.  Nimue accompanied us.  Beauty was in the
dining room when we arrived, and I compelled Nimue to accompany me in the
garden, leaving Beauty and Nicholas alone.  I don't think it went all that

	It was not much later that we all rendezvoused in Amber for Ahab's
meeting.  Ahab detailed his contingency plans should he die; basically,
Nicholas will be his heir, but he will have a regent until such time that
he has taken the Pattern, which of necessity will be after he has taken
the Logrus.  Oh.  I tried not to think of how Beauty will fare as the
Queen of Amber someday, if Nicholas has his way.  Nimue is third in line
for the throne, a fact that I found *most* interesting -- a woman on the
throne of Amber is a cause I could get behind, you know.

	Ariana brought Shard into the meeting.  Hrgh.

	Ahab gave us the basic State of Amber speech, and let us know that
Brand seemed to have been working with Dara, who by the way has control of
Dalt's army.  Swell.  It only hardened my resolve to keep a standing army
by to leap to Amber's aid.

	I spoke privately with Ahab afterwards, and told him the
information about Chameleon that Ariana had imparted to me, about his
stalking of me having been initiated by Dara to keep tensions high between
Bances and Sawall.  That was when Ariana and Kimdyl had some sort of
stand-off, the details of which I didn't catch, nor wanted to.  I really
don't know why the two of them can't get along.  I watched Nimue drag poor
Felix off, and spent some time talking to Nicholas.

	I was dubious when Nicholas told me that he planned to court
Beauty openly.  While I rarely practice any kind of subtlety with success,
I'm still all for it when it spares the tender feelings of those that I
love.  Nevertheless, I couldn't tell Nicholas no, so it was to my great
relief when he said that, after a talk with his father, he had
reconsidered, and would in fact come to Foil for fencing lessons.  To
give, rather than receive, of course.  The blow to my pride was salved by
the promise of a living, human son-in-law.

	All of this was followed by lunch in Amber, telling Felix about
the baby on the way (which will be named Isaac or Iseult), and watching
Vivienne (who is my aunt now, something I try not to think about) be
traumatized by the sudden changes in her cousins.  At the end, Gerard made
a small announcement, that I am to have yet another aunt or uncle who is
younger than me.

	The ride into Shadow with Foster cleared my mind.  When I found
the land of my desire, that stood so proud and empty with only the
faintest of echoes from the armies that once had assembled here, I
realized that my connections with Foil were fading, as my connection with
this place waxed.  I felt sadness at this...  Amber may be the land of my
birth, but I first walked, spoke, rode, fought and loved in that small,
out-of-the-way Shadow...  I would have died for it at one point, and did
kill for it a thousand times over.  Too late for regrets, however...  It
will always be there, and my daughter will rule it well.  And all the
things I learned by living there I will carry with me, and those
connections will never fade.

	I had also noticed my other connections fading -- the ones I had
with the swords I had forged for Beauty and Nicholas.  Overnight,
Nicholas' Return no longer had a hold on me, and for a while now, I've
felt Source becoming Beauty's.

	It was rather tragic when I felt these sensations of loss stop,
quite suddenly.

	How this came about, of course, is not really a mystery to me.  It
began at the beginning of this last week, when Nicholas took an
opportunity to speak with Beauty privately.  She came out of that meeting
with a rather violently negative reaction -- she hacked off all her hair
and took my jest to dye it purple a little too seriously.  When I asked
why, she said it was because Nicholas thought she was beautiful.

	I wish she'd make up her mind if she wants to be beautiful or not. 
Not two weeks ago she was weeping because she was eventually going to grow
old and lose her looks.  Now she can't wait to get rid of them.  Was I
this way when I was thirteen?  I remember thirteen as a very simple time. 
Cal, Rose and I rode out to Dun Laoghaire, rather against Caitt's wishes,
but determined to seek our fortunes all the same.  We sailed away down the
Irish River through the mountains, past the Glory Forest where Caitt and
my sibs and their ancestors from the first Celts had been born, to the
sea, and at the port there, took great ships away -- Rose to Carnac to
study wizardry, Cal to Gibraltar to see the wonders of the Spaniards and
the Moors, and myself to London.  We didn't look back.  We didn't fall in
love with vampires.  We never once dyed our hair purple.

	Oh, well.  I'm sure I did some stupid things in those first years
of maturity, but for the life of me, I can't think what they were.

	I went to see Ahab, to tell him my problems, and to have him use
his influence with his son to give Beauty some breathing space.  Ahab
reminded me to appeal to the human side of the vampire.  Of course.  It
was the best course.  I felt bad for treating Shard so shabbily, but
really, my racism knows no bounds when it's MY daughter who is throwing
her life away on the undead.

	Shard seemed to see it the same way -- or close to the same way. 
I was glad of this, but at the same time felt bad that he was so willing
to smooth my path for me.  I should have realized that my path wouldn't be
smooth at all, for Beauty's heart was about to be tragically broken.

	And it was tragic.  Watching my daughter sobbing herself sick. 
Anything was better than this -- I rather cruelly dumped her in a tub of
cold water, and had the happiness of being the object of her hatred.  To
be honest, I rather wish people would toss me in a tub of cold water when
I'm out of my senses with grief.  I'd rather be angry than irritated.

	Of course, the fact that she wasn't talking to me 24 hours later
was an indication that Beauty does not experience deep emotion in quite
the same way I do.


	She talked to me, eventually.  "I suppose this is how you felt
when you had to kill Calamus," she said, petulantly.  "Except, I suppose
you never really loved him, anyway."

	"I rather think I did," I told her, puzzled by exactly how much
Caitt had told her of Cal.  I certainly had never brought her ill-fated
uncle up in conversation with her -- at least, not the more pertinent
details of his life and death.

	Ah, well.  The week wore on.  I went to see my liege after the
incident with Beauty.  Ahab didn't have any really useful advice on
raising a daughter -- I think Nimue is altogether too self-assured to go
into a relationship as flawed as Shard's and Beauty's.  Hopefully.  For
Nimue's sake.  But we did have a nice conversation, and I know I actually
startled Ahab a couple of times, which was kind of nice.

	I came back to the Manor to see Beauty had packed a suitcase, and
had arranged things with my mother to stay out the duration of her study
in Helgramways.  I could do nothing but give my assent.  I insisted on
going through with her to talk to Fiona, though.  There are echoes of
Nimue in Fiona -- the cool competence.  My mother assured me that I would
be there when Beauty takes the broken Pattern.

	All in all, I see the uncertainties in my family life as mere
reflections of the uncertainty in the realm.  And things aren't even all
that uncertain.  The times will change, the tide will shift, and Beauty's
heart will mend, and the universe will be used to Ahab as its King.  I
suspect that I could go on for some time about the inevitability of
sunsets and the rising of the Tir in Amber's sky, but I have both children
and armies to raise....

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