I would never have Trumped Foster first, if Benedict hadn't needed
the services of someone who knows Faerie magic.  Foster has managed to
outdo me by quite a margin for some time now, owing to his Faerie heritage
-- it doesn't quite rankle, anymore, considering that I was his first
teacher in that.  In fact, I'm getting quite used to being the
kindergarten teacher around here.  I was the first one to attempt to teach
magic to Ariana and Foster, and fencing to Nicholas, and then, all my
students have proceeded to go beyond me, and are now able to handily
defeat me in the areas where I first opened the door for them.

	Such is life.  I'm hopeful that this track record will hold true
in teaching my children, at least.  That will at least make me feel like
I've accomplished something.

	The point being that Benedict wanted a consultation on Faerie
magic, and he wanted it *now*, and in spite of the fact that Foster and
Driscoll had probably almost killed each other and I wasn't talking to
either one of them because of it 'til they talked to me first, I had to
give in and sacrifice some of my stubbornness, because, let's face it,
Foster's just that much better than me.

	So I Trumped him.  He was healing, and looked completely wasted,
but I brought him through anyway, and while he sat there like a useless
lump because he pushed himself to the limits of his endurance just to make
a point with Driscoll, and because he won't just fight with me, who
deserves it, I looked around.  I answered Benedict's questions.  Yes,
there was a Faerie here, or someone doing Faerie magic.  Yes, the power
level was comparable to Vetch.  No, there's no signature.  And no, I can't
look at the resonance of the past and see what happened, they blocked
against it.  Benedict and I stood there, and Foster slumped, in a secret
room, with an open empty safe beyond it.  I wondered what was missing.  My
palms itched suddenly, inside my gloves.  I'm never taking them off in
public again.

	The echoes of a conversation:
	"What happened to your hand?"
	"I stubbed it."

	I somehow don't think I could pass off the burn marks on my palms
quite so easily.

	I took Foster back to the Rath, and he collapsed, so I called
Ariana up, and had her come look.  He was fine, of course, just exhausted. 
His shapeshifting had taken care of most of it.

	I hated to think what Driscoll looked like.  I told her as much. 
Ariana agreed to go look in on Driscoll, on condition that I stayed with
Foster.  She did, after we discussed why I was up at such an hour.  Seems
she'd been called for a consultation with Benedict as well.  She had
barely left, though, when she Trumped me to ask me to ask Foster where he
and Driscoll had fought, since she couldn't find Driscoll.  Foster
wouldn't tell me.  "Let him suffer," he grumbled.  I almost considered
seeing how much more damage Foster could take, but controlled myself.

	He didn't want to wake up in the morning, understandably, I guess,
so I broke fast with Ariana and Felix, and we discussed what to do with
Bridget.  Take her back to Amber?  Give her to Shard?  Keep her quietly? 
Let her think Felix is the dad?  Who knows...  Ariana and Felix took her
off, with the babe, who has been named Brendan.  A good Irish name.  St.
Brendan the Navigator, supposed to have found the New World before the
crazy Genoan, before even the vikingers.  Hah.  Strike a blow for the

	So, I go about my day, trying not to think of Driscoll lying
half-broken and dead in some ditch out in Shadow, trying not to think of
Foster punching a tree, and trying not to think in general.  Ariana comes
to find me while I'm moving troops.  She always complains that I Trump
when she's in the middle of sex, but really, she does seem to always find
me when I'm trying not to think about things, so turnabout is fair play. 
"I have a regeneration spell," she told me.  "I want to try it on
something small, like your toe, and work my way up to something like
Foster's legs."

	What, I'm going to say, no?

	Of course, the damn thing doesn't work in Amber or the Rath.  Some
day, when we have time to go to the Disc, and emulate the conditions it
was first done under...  I wondered if maybe she can't interfere with
someone who already knows how to shapeshift, but she didn't seem to think
that made sense, so I let it go.

	Felix interrupted my troop movement next, because he's scared of
my mother, and wants me to be there while he asks her to mess with
Bridget's mind so she won't mind bearing the child of a vampire.  I
shrugged.  It's not like it makes my day any weirder, that's for sure.  I
go with him.  Mom isn't taking this whole third trimester bit well at all. 
I let Felix wander through his explanation, tried to shore up the most
obvious rifts in his logic, and otherwise got him through alive, for all
that he looks like he'd rather have died when we got out of there.  Of
course, if it had been a good interview, he would have looked the same
way.  Such a pessimist, he is, when things go his way.  But let something
truly bad happen, and he just deals with it, like the rest of us.  So, is
there any intrinsic difference between optimism and pessimism?

	Felix left, I moved troops.  Move, move, move, move, move. 
Booooo-riiiiing.  But at least I felt useful, and it was that whole "not
thinking about things" that made it a good job for the day.  Until
Foster-I-ignore-my-wife-ESPECIALLY-when-I'm-mad-at-her Vetch...er,
Barimen, Trumped me as I asked him to do when he woke up.  I went through,
to find Felix and Foster in the kitchen, making food.  I watched this
warily, since I never knew either one of them could cook, and I certainly
can't, so it kind of amazes me.  Felix wanted to know what to take Fiona
to make nice with her.  The answer seemed obvious:  chocolate.  He said
something else, but Foster wasn't looking at me, and I was looking at his
head bent over the vegetables.  Felix, feeling the tension, left.

	I tried to address the issue by coming at it from the kid's
viewpoint, as well as both Foster's and mine.  "All my life, while I was
growing up, I just wanted to know my father."

	That got him.  He didn't talk for the rest of the afternoon, until
he'd turned vegetables into soup.  As he drained the last of the soup from
a bowl, he looked up and made the concession, as gracefully as possible: 
Driscoll could have a part in the child's life.  And when I pushed it: 
yes, he can come to the Rath while you have the kid.

	He left as I pulled out my Trump of Driscoll.  It didn't work, of
course, so I went to Amber, and found him in his quarters, still mending
from the fight, and ready to fight again, if he had to.  He agreed to go
with us...as long as he got to bring Clytemnestra.

	Considering that would be his only reliable friend for two whole
years, I couldn't very well say no.  I very obviously should have.

	I left and went to tell people that I'd be gone for a night, and
would be back with a baby.  Ariana first.  She seemed...lost.  More lost
than I'd ever seen her, and she's like a lodestone, most of the time. 
Always pointing north, always knows the direction to take.  I was so put
off by this change in personality, that I went and consulted Mom, then
headed out to Shadow, and rode for the perfect bird.

	I found him -- a kestrelish kind of hawk with a white ring around
his throat.  I brought him to me, and he sat on my fist and ripped my
glove to shreds, and my hand too, while I tied a message around his foot. 
I lifted him off, and sent him to Vetch, with a simple message:  "A needs
you.  L."  Then I pulled off my glove, and tried to fix my hand, and
mostly did so, before going pulling out Felix's Trump.  Since he'd drafted
me to see my mother that morning, I was grateful that he was there when I
went to see his mother.  I told Isabeux the truth, all of it.  She
pronounced Driscoll an "awful boy," which did not make me feel better, in
the long run.

	I found Ariana again, and she made me cry, so I said a kind of
mean thing to her, but just before the fight could get serious, Riftvan
walked through the wall.  I was about to throw up my hands and sing psalms
to the Unicorn as I danced my way out of the room, before Benedict and Mom
broke in and arrested Vetch for stealing whatever it was that got stolen. 
Wow.  Now THAT was a plan that backfired.  Score one for the visitors. 
Fiona did *something* to Vetch, which made him change forms, and I have to
say, I'm not real keen on having seen Vetch in his true form.  It's like
catching a friend naked, but slightly worse, because he might just kill me
for it, someday, when he's bored.  However, it was good to know that
someone can certainly take Vetch, and that someone is my mom.

	Ariana struggled and fought, of course -- I know I would have. 
Benedict pinched the right nerves, and she fell to a little puddle on the
floor, while I kept thinking:  "This was not how this was supposed to work
out."  Benedict and Mom seemed to want me to leave, so I did.

	I went out of this chaos, and straight into bigger and better
chaos, i.e., the extremely difficult six and a half months left of
carrying Pax.  Not because the pregnancy was hard or dangerous, mind you,
it's because my husband was a prick, and I let him be, and Driscoll and
his dragon weren't exactly helping Foster with the fact that I was
carrying someone else's child.  I felt defeated -- there was nothing I
could do, say, or even think, that could make the Foster I knew come back. 
He was too caught up in rage and jealousy to notice that Driscoll kicked
himself every morning when he woke up, or that he was turning me into a
shadow of my former self.

	I was still two weeks to term when I heard them arguing.  Driscoll
was giving him grief about making my life hell.  I was heading towards the
argument as quickly as possible, and had them just in sight when Foster
backhanded Driscoll.  Quick as lightning, maybe quicker, Clytemnestra
reached out with a claw and gutted Foster like a cat and a mouse. 
Driscoll looked shocked, and began to beat her back.  I felt it coming,
then -- the contraction, I mean, as I stepped between the dragon and my
husband, knowing she would never kill me with Driscoll's child in my
belly.  I was right, of course, and as I stood there watching her wing
off, and the blood pool beneath Foster as he curled himself around his
innards, I doubled over myself.  The animal time was upon me -- nothing
puts me in closer mind to how much we are just animals with fingers as
when I'm giving birth -- the panting, the blood, the pain, and the fear...

	I reached out with my mind and halted the Shadow's breakneck
speed, and as Driscoll bent to help me, I told him to get the dragon out
of here.  He left to do so.  I Trumped Felix, who brought through Gerard,
and somehow, someone fixed Foster, and Felix brought Pax into the world,
while I wondered why, exactly, I had thought Heather would have ever
wanted to put me in a private hell when it was so obvious that I'm pretty
good at being my own personal demon.  Here is hell -- I have created it --
and I locked myself and the people I love inside.

	Just kill me now.

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