The Execution That Wasn't

	We packed up and went to Chaos -- a day excursion only, of course,
so leaving the family behind in Foil for a few hours didn't seem like an
enormous risk, or much of a risk at all.

	Foster and I, and the child in my abdomen, went to see the sight
of my ex-step- grandmother being ritually killed.  The nobles of Chaos and
not a few of Amber were arrayed around the arena, and it was all pretty
gruesome, in the vein of executions, until it became obvious that what was
tied down was not Dara.

	{If it weren't so scary, I'd actually be really interested in just
watching Gramble be pissed.  The way his violet eyes light up... it gives
a person comfort to witness a genetic link like that.}

	Dara, and all the blood and the severed limbs we had supposed
belonged to her, dissipated in a fizzle of smoke and Logrus.  My love for
the Logrus was not enhanced this day.  It looked nothing so like a bunch
of worms.  Gruesome.  I felt a little unsettled in my stomach, watching
this, as Suhuy and Fiona and Gramble and Mandor leapt to their feet.  The
suppressed air of "Oh, shit," that had gathered over the crowd made me
feel as close to the Chaosians as I ever had.

	It was pretty obvious that the Logrus hadn't allowed one of its
own to die.  I doubt the Pattern would go through any such debacle for any
of *us.*

	To a one, the Amberites who could brought the Pattern up, I think. 
I know I did, and I saw the looks of concentration on everyone's faces.  I
realized then just how glad I was to have it back, and was comforted.  We
wasted no time; we went home.

			The Thorn Brake

	Trumping into Foil was unsatisfactory.  The front door was blocked
by a magical thorn brake.

	I closed my eyes and told myself this wasn't happening.  There was
no thorn brake, and because there wasn't one of those, I wouldn't find the
entire household (including my children) cursed to dream forever in a
magical sleep.

	No such luck.  Opening my eyes only revealed that not only was the
thorn brake still there, but that it looked quite malignant as well.

	I got hold of Nicholas, and brought him through.  "Now's the time
to play the Prince Charming role," I think I may have said, but who knows? 
My memories of the moment are inexact.  I despise being attacked, and not
knowing who my opponent is.  Foster and I investigated the spell as
thoroughly as possible, without having it come crashing down on our heads,
and I couldn't tell who laid it.  I sought to contact Chameleon next,
since I couldn't bank on anyone else having enough Faerie magic, enough
knowledge of the situation, enough interest in me, and little enough
actual involvement in tracking down Dara.

	Chameleon pointed like a setter towards Dexter and the King


			A Voyage into Faerie

	We crossed the walls again, those self-same walls that had been
erected with the intention of blocking all Faerie and human traffic
forever.  Foster and I rode into Faerie land, amidst a pack of the Cwn
Annwn.  It made me feel safer, somehow.  No one hindered our progress, or
made much notice of our passage.

	We begged an audience to see the King.  He seemed uninterested in
me and the problem he'd created.  He was hell-bent on revenge, when he
wasn't in despair.  If anyone needs a kick in the pants, it's him.

	He wanted only to talk to Ariana.  I wish I'd said no.  But, as a
gesture of good-will, I Trumped her.  I wish that *she* would have said
no.  But no... she sneaked away from Riftvan and through the Trump, and he
demanded his retribution: one of her children for his.  Any one would do. 
It need not be a living one, nor the one in her belly; she could come to
him and bear his child for him.  She would be allowed to visit it anytime
she liked.

	She went away to think about it.  Would to God that she just had
picked a child from Shadow and given it to him, or even agreed to his
half-assed last idea.  It was more of a concession ever wrung from a
Faerie lord than I had ever heard of. 

	Ahab and Riftvan all became involved.  That is all Ariana's story
to tell, if you can wrest it from her.  It only serves to depress me, to
think that two such stubborn souls had to come up against each other for
the sake of me and mine.

			A Seat on the Altar

	My husband -- such a thought *that* is, it still takes me unawares
sometime... I'm so very foolish over him and his mismatched eyes...
anyways, my husband had liberated Haris from Caitt's sleeping arms, and
was holding him with a vaguely disturbed and faintly frustrated
expression.  I came in, wearing much the same expression, and took Haris
from him.  He's getting very big -- ten months of infant doesn't balance
very well on six months of pregnancy, so I set him down on the couch. 
That is, of course, when he started fussing.  I handed him immediately to
his father, and leapt for the stairs -- as much as a woman as far along as
I am can.

	Beauty came from the room in a flood of tears.  I caught her, led
her down to the gardens and out to the altar stone in the grove, and sat
there with her.  "Will I never have a man of my own choosing?" she asked
me angrily.

	What the hell do you say to that?

	You say, "Can I tell you the whole story?"  And when she nods, you
point out that it's not Nicholas' fault.  You point out that this is a
difficult problem to face, not just for her as a woman, but for her as the
future Queen of Foil -- she's got to either make peace or war with the
drunken bastard who did this to her.  She nods, she understands, yes, this
is a difficult problem.  Her eyes are clearing.  She doesn't hate
Nicholas, she doesn't hate you, she doesn't even hate the Faerie king,
she's thinking about it like a logic problem, like a political intricacy
that doesn't have to involve her emotions.

	That works.  Sure it works.

	It all falls apart, though, when my conscience gets the better of
me.  I had to tell her about the possibility of the child.  This did not
help things, but I couldn't let her do something rash, I couldn't exactly
allow her to go to Nicholas and say something like, "I know why you did
what you did, and I forgive you insomuch as I'm capable of forgiving you,
so let's be friends," and *then* find out that she's pregnant?

	No, that wouldn't work.

	Oh, God.  Iseult, Lorelei, whatever your name is... no vampires. 
No curses.  And no crown princes.

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