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Cassandra's Diary.25

Day 179/19

There's been no luck locating either Claw or Cutwind. I had eliminated some possibilities. There aren't in a Shadow where Trump works, because even though I've made new Trumps, they are answering them. Especially since I don't have Trump any more. The ship we were on has come and gone several times while we were in the trap Shadow. That really leaves me with the only option: they were in the trap Shadow with us and we left them behind. Benedict is off in Shadow and I haven't been able to Trump him, either. Otherwise, I'd have asked him how we might go about asking how we could go and rescue them.

Day 193/19

While we've waited for news, for Benedict to return, or word about what we will do for Caladan, the weir and I have been very busy. The infestation of nine-killers has become a real problem. When I learned that the Rangers and every available soldier have been dispatched for duty in Arden, I volunteered myself and the weir for the hunt. That is how we've spent the last two weeks.

The creatures are formidable. With their multiple tentacles, they can get many, many strikes in before we can even come close to score. On the average, they hit six times fro every hit we make. The “hoof” of the tentacles is hardened, making their strikes very damaging. Fortunately, it is a striking damage, not cutting or slashing. At the end of the day, we usually have a 5:1 casualty list. This translates into a lot of broken ribs, arms, concussions and contusions. It is an advantage that the weir healed almost twice as fast as a normal person. But they are very enthused. If they were supposed to rest for ten days they were up and around in five, whether they were ready or not. I tried to make them adhere to the doctor's orders, but to no avail. I appealed to their sense of honor; to make them appreciate that they could be a danger to the others, all sorts of reasoning of that nature. Nothing helped. I just put them in rear guard and did the best I could.

I tried teaching them various tactics. We'd practice with coordinated movements, nets and spears. On the practice grounds, it worked wonderfully. In the field, they would get a sense of the hunt, throw down their weapons and nets and jump into the fray. Discipline is not their strong point, but their enthusiasm is. We work during the daylight and the Rangers take the evening shifts. I did try and dissect one or two, but they are reduced to a smoking gel just after death.

The upside for all the hunting is that the stormhounds find the nine-killers a great deal of fun and the infestation is noticeably lessened. Our presence has been encouraging to those who have felt the results of the incursion. The nine-killers had been attacking various outlying homesteads, estates, and logging camps. They attacked both livestock and children and there have been a number of deaths as a result. That they see us hunting them; they know we are doing our best to protect them and their lands.

Day 194/19

I received a message from the castle. One of the weir children came and informed me that I had a messenger. He was quite excited about it and I went to see who it was. I was astonished and relieved to see it was Cutwind, looking healthy and well. When I asked about Claw, he said she was inside the house.

It turned out that he did indeed have a message from the castle. It was a message informing me that Random had instructed Bleys and Benedict to bring “Empress Chaotica” back to Amber for questioning. She will be incarcerated for the duration and if I had any questions I felt they should ask her, I should make it a list and send it to the castle. I did so, but my questions were probably nothing they wouldn't think on their own. I wanted to know if she shaped that trap Shadow. If not, who did? Was she responsible for the nine-killers, how were we to stop them? Lastly, whom had she subverted in Caladan, and for what purpose? Now that Claw and Cutwind were back, I had no other questions.

I found Claw out behind the house, with all the other weir women lined up in a row. She was dressing them all down for their lax behavior over the last year, during her absence. She was unusually harsh, poking and prodding, saying they were lazy and sloppy. In fact, I would say she was very angry, but not at them. One of the young girls, about 16 years old, had her hair tucked up inside a cap. Claw whipped it off to reveal that she had cut her hair to about a few inches. The weir women tended to wear their hair long down their backs. Through her teeth, Claw asked her why she had such a stupid haircut. Claw's glare notwithstanding, the girl finally answered. She had done it to sneak into the men's group because they were hunting the nine-killers. Claw gestured to the girl while talking to the others. This was a fine example for the rest of them. She was what it meant to be a weir woman.

I got to speak with Claw alone, hoping to find out what was wrong. It turns out; Cutter and Biter were Cutwind and Claw. She was very disconcerted to have spent the time as Biter, a man. In fact, I'd say she was mortified and demeaned by it. What made it worse, was that Cutwind was teasing her about it. She wanted to break his legs.

Knowing their pride, I knew this needed to be settled between the two, though I recommended she didn't break his legs. She nodded at this and went inside.

About an hour later, while I was playing with Kai, I heard the most amazing scream. I guess I should only have been surprised it took so long to erupt. My guess was that Cutwind had teased her again. I went to see, Kai following. I could hide him away, but as long as I was there to see that he wouldn't become upset too much, I didn't feel I should be shielding him from the weir behavior.

Claw and Cutwind were in the entrance hall, surrounded by the other weir. A number of the spindles from the staircase were broken out and most of the furniture was either damaged or ruined completely. It was a viscous fight, more so than I had ever seen from them. This was what they were like when they were angry, I suppose. While Cutwind got a number of decent hits on her, Claw was clearly the better, and the one more willing to do the damage.

I watched Kai, to see how he was handling it. His first reactions would be telling. Not everyone is willing to acknowledge violence, much less watch or participate. I was keenly aware that this is primarily a martial household. What if Kai was bent to a more…scholarly direction? Perhaps I could tell from this?

Well, I'm not sure about my reasoning, but Kai was fascinated. I don't think he realized just what was happening, but seemed caught up in it. I didn't cheer or comment, as the others did, wanting to remain nonpartisan about the matter. It lasted for a long time and in the end, Claw had a dislocated shoulder. It didn't stop her from breaking Cutwind's right leg. Wryly, I realized I should have been more specific. I had said I'd rather she didn't break his legs, plural.

Cutwind didn't yell or scream, not even when she bent the broken leg with one of her own while holding him down with her body. She bent over and whispered something to him. He didn't respond and she pressed on her leg. He pounded the ground with his free hand and then nodded. Satisfied, she got up and helped him to lie more comfortably. He passed out, then.

Kai, on the other hand, thought the whole display was wonderful. He looked up at me and said, “Teach me, Mom?” I said I would; after all, he'd have to learn how to defend himself when he was older. I was just considering when that might be appropriate when he grabbed my hand, saying, “Really? Thanks!” He then hauled me into his room. He stood there all of four years old, and struck a ferocious pose. And growled. Commend me. I did not laugh. But I also didn't know what I was supposed to do. I mean, he was much to young to learn, but I had said I would. I was puzzling this out when I came up with the perfect solution. I told him that I would teach him how to use a sword; his father was much better at this type of fighting. Then I went to get DeWinter. I believe some would say I was “passing the buck.” And I was.

DeWinter was in the entryway, surveying the damage. During this fight, DeWinter had come in from the side, trying to stop the fight. None of the weir had responded. He was still appalled and astonished at the entire display and said I should talk to them. I nodded. Not that I was going to say much. I've largely stayed out of inter-weir disputes. They have their own ways, and to force too much change wouldn't work. They've come a long way over the years and, in a way, their ways make sense.

I brought him up to the room, explaining what Kai wanted. We entered and Kai struck his pose again. DeWinter kept his face impassive as he rolled up his sleeves. “Right. We'll take it from here.” I took that as a dismissal and left them to it.

I found Claw tending to Cutwind. Apparently, since she inflicted the damage, she was supposed to tend to it, now that Cutwind had given in. He lay there, in considerable pain, as she tended to sew a few little stitches over his left eye. I watched for a few minutes. When she was working on setting his leg, I saw that she was heavily favoring her right shoulder. I asked if she needed help with that, she looked up. Since I was stronger, she thought I could do it without creating further damage. I took hold of her wrist and braced her with my foot. I gave a short pull with a little twist and felt the shoulder joint fall into place. She hissed once, and that was all the sound she made. Then she went back to splinting Cutwind's leg. I remarked that it had been an unusual display. Claw didn't respond, but I knew she was listening. I said I would appreciate it if any future…disputes were settled outside. She gave a short nod, perhaps a little surprised that that was all I was saying.

From up above, a heavy thud was heard through the floors. Since Kai-Revere doesn't weigh that much, I assumed that DeWinter was being “thrown” by Kai. I'm sure Kai was delighted.

Benedict did stop by late in the afternoon. He said there would be an invitation from the Castle in the next day or so. Random is declaring a Crown Holiday for the Queen's Birthday. It will be held in 4 weeks and will provide ample opportunity to have a meeting with the whole family. Since the invitation would be coming from the castle, with all the particulars, I could only guess at his visit.

We invited him in and he accepted an invitation for dinner. The weir were uncommonly alert around Benedict, as if the slightest move could mean disaster. It wasn't his reputation, though he has that in spades, but genuine alarm. Benedict has the oddest effect on people. Kai, while he didn't cry this time, was uncommonly shy, staying near me the whole time. Since he's spent the last year with my mother, he usually goes to her for many things. I regret being away for so long, but at least Kai wasn't being neglected because of it. I just have to adjust to the fact that this might happen again.

Benedict never did say why he came to visit. He did make some remark that Amber was safe, mostly because of Julian. Mother tried to convince him otherwise and he just nodded at her attempt. It was odd. He never said he accepted her compliment, but his response was such that everyone thought he had. We were at the dinner table, so there wasn't any opportunity to respond as I might. I wouldn't embarrass him, but I wondered how he might feel if he thought he was losing his “place” in Amber. Not that he was-- but, he could perceive such a shift.

There never came a good opportunity to talk. I'm going to have to come up with a signal for the weir to know I want to be alone. They were so unnerved by Benedict, they kept drifting through where we were with unnecessary tasks they decided to be solicitous of. It was just after Benedict left, declining to stay the night.

Day 208/19

DoBlique has elected to stay at the castle for the last few weeks. Random extended her stay in Amber, especially for the upcoming event. He even told her that Dalt and Dastard was invited and maneuvered her into inviting them for him. She thought that was a very bad idea, but I remarked that that was probably what Random was counting on. That she would think it was a bad idea and wouldn't do it.

She hated the idea that she'd been obviously manipulated and set about inviting them. Ha! I got them both!

Owen has asked if any of us, meaning the women of the family want to go on a shopping excursion to prepare for the Queen's birthday. I'll go, though shopping for a dress isn't that enthralling for me. Mother and Byslamia will attend as well. Claw was going to go, insisting that I needed a bodyguard. I resisted and we would have gone into an argument about it, but pointed out she would probably have to wear a dress if she wanted to blend in. That didn't please her and she decided to stay at home.

Day 210/19

We met at Owen's before heading out. Almost everyone was there, just short of thirty women descending on some hapless Shadow. This is why I came. The extreme differences of appearances, demeanors, attitudes, was very striking. Anyone looking at them would wonder how we could all be friendly, or even related. At best the list includes:

Byslamia Selsienna Moira (Her attendance surprised Owen, I think)
Mother Bellesara Llewella
Simone Blythe The Owen (Another surprise)
Audrey Vivant Grace
Genevieve Ferris Sabrina
Carmella Dorimae Maureen
Flora Coral Kate
Tatasha Owen DoBlique

We all took carriages into Shadow, a long slow procession through the city, into Arden. We went far enough out into shadow to stop at a Train Station, mostly running on steam power. We were placed into an observation car and continued on the journey. Owen was kept a little busy, shifting Shadow and such. The rest of us milled around talking with each other and getting reacquainted. I haven't talked with Flora in some time and it's always good to see Vivant. Mother and Moire got along quite well. We ate lunch served by earnest young men in white jackets, which pleased Moira enormously.

We passed lands with metallic trees, both elegant and Spartan landscapes, minor cities. Elements of the trains changed as we shifted. Eventually we went into an underground tunnel and disembarked at a station that had a multitude of shops amidst steam and ornate ironwork. The variety of people here was considerable. I would place only about 40% as being able to pass for human.

We descended upon the shops. For just a moment, the attendants were just a bit alarmed at the mass of talking, animated women flowing through the door. Bur, they rallied nicely and skillfully began to direct us to items of interest. Apparently Flora had been here before. One of the attendants exclaimed, “Madam Bitanica, how are you? It's lovely to see you've returned.”

I found something to wear in just about half an hour. I'm not fussy at all. As much as I still hate to think I'm like my mother, in this we are the same. Likewise, she had something to wear for the gala in about the same time. It fit, it flattered enough, it would do just fine, thank you. Byslamia was worried that there were no price tags. I told her Owen would have seen to it. “Can't I worry about it for just a tiny bit?” No, I replied. With effort, she put it from her mind. At least, I didn't see any hint that it was still bothering her. Dorimae, on the other hand, tried every outfit she could find. The last count was 22. She's rather slight, so finding something to wear could be a challenge, I suppose. Her tattoos took some of the clerks aback, but they said nothing. I did overhear the bill came to something around 50,000 of whatever passes for gold standard here.

Then we went to the Royal's Department. There were models, all working, of trains, houses, ships, all manner of things someone with a lot of money would want to buy. These were scaled replica's of the actual item, for one to look at before purchasing. Interesting concept, that. I'm not sure who came up with the idea, but we all ended up agreeing to try and find one really splendid gift for Vialle, to be given by the rest of us. We finally decided to have a replica of Rebma made. It was a very popular idea with everyone, though Dorimae did pipe up and ask if it would include the Dungeon or not. The clerks decided she was jesting. Dorimae periodically would mention that she thought a box of cigars would also be a nice gift. I'm not sure if she was serious or not. I think she was. Owen drew up the palace to use as a guide, with Moiré's and Llewella's assistance.

It will be ready in time for the holiday. They even placed in a mechanism that would play a familiar Rebman song. They did have to get someone from another department to come and jot down the notes.

After that we went to a restaurant for a late dinner and returned to Amber. Moire did make a toast to Vialle, in absentia. Later she also remarked that she was on the Throne and Llewella was now off in Shadow a lot. If she'd known just how much fun Shadow traveling would be, she'd made sure it was the other way around!

I did learn a bit about Rebma society. Marriages are arranged though there are no dowries. Any man or woman can volunteer for Court service. This blocks some of the younger ones for marriage until they are ready. Vialle had gotten sick from some sort of infection which resulted in blindness; rather than raise the issue of her marriage-ability, she volunteered for service. Moira said she came to appreciate her composed manner, she was always friendly and people always responded to that. In a way, I'm thinking she replaced Morganthe in Moiré's affections.

Day 211/19

Simone is to arrive today for her visit. I'd gotten some tapestries and draperies to hang around the room, covering the large open windows. They were place a few inches in front, so she should still get plenty of air and light, and hopefully not be bothered with agoraphobia.

Her arrival was another thing. She'd shifted into what looked like a demonic antelope. I never did see it, but the weir children doing sentry duty on the roof called the alarm. Eidolon, excuse me, Eido, who had been playing with Kai-Revere and myself was out the door and into the orchard before I could find someone to see to Kai and find out what was going on. He didn't make it very far. Claw let out this horrendous screech and he stopped in his tracks. So did all of the other weir children. We got it all settled with no one getting attacked and we placed her in her rooms. She'd brought no luggage, no clothes. After a bit, I realized she didn't have any. Hadn't Sebastian gotten her anything to wear while she was in Amber? Apparently not.

I got some of the best I could find from some of the younger weir girls who were about the same size. I'd thought they'd be upset, but they were flattered. Then I sent a runner into town to fetch a tailor to make up a functional wardrobe for Simone and replace what I'd taken from the weir girls.

Kai spent the afternoon playing with Simone. She wasn't sure about this idea of “make pretend” so Kai decided he would teach her. He got a soup ladle and a wooden spoon. The ladle was her hatchet (because Chaosians use them?) and the spoon was his sword. He would be the knight. He had a lovely time vanquishing his enemies. He has enough of an imagination, she didn't even need to shift an eyelash, though he was delighted when she let his spoon embed in her shaped forehead while going through death throes. I was wondering if she was enjoying it more than he.

Day 218/19

The Queen's Holiday was a great success. Throughout the day were small gatherings, musicians, games and sports. Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time. Kai was absolutely thrilled with everything he saw, asking questions frequently, silently watching at others. His weir blood must have helped him as he twisted around to watch something, or crane his neck to see over or around people and legs.

After dinner, we settled him down for the evening and got ready for the ball. To his credit, Kai-Revere made no fuss whatsoever. I gave him a kiss goodnight and was thankful he had two of the weir women watching him, making sure he stayed there for the night. I wonder how long that will last; until he can sneak past them, of course. We headed downstairs.

Almost all the family was there, and most of the nobles as well. Dancing had already started. For the first few hours I danced mostly with DeWinter and a few who were obligated to dance with as many people as they could. Moran took this duty seriously. He obviously knew how to dance, but he also looked a bit tired. I tried talking about something interesting to him…like these Chaosian snakes the boys were all on the watch for. He talked back, somewhat distractedly, then asked me if I had ever figured my parents out. Hm. I was vague in answering and asked him what was confusing. It seems he had given his mother a gift he made himself: a hand-drawn and illustrated map of the Battle between the Courts and Amber. He'd only just realized that Vialle, being blind, had really no use for it and little chance to appreciate it. I told him that Vialle would certainly be pleased at the effort he took. Moran wasn't consoled. I suggested that he talk with his mother occasionally. If he listened, he might get some clues for next year. He thought that might work, though he wasn't sure just how involved this talking might get. After all, who wants to talk to their parents, right?

I did get to dance with Evander. I told him of Moran's difficulty, thinking that a man's perspective would be better for the young man. He suggested Moran add to his gift a kiss and a rose. I managed to foist the idea for him to tell Moran. We made pleasant small talk the rest of the while.

I did dance with some of the Chantris' men once they arrived. The Pirates out in the Golden Circle has made some impact here and the economy isn't going so well. They deal largely now with textiles and fabrics, some laces. They aren't really in trouble, just yet, but Amber will have to do something. If they are feeling it, others are being hurt worse. I made a mental note to see if there was anything I could do.

March cut in and he is a wonderful dancer. His gift to the Queen was a brass telescope. I was working on whether I should question that but he rescued me. Inside, it has a Trump lens, for her to see a number of different Shadows. What a lovely idea! I wonder if I could get one of those.

DeWinter cut in, but only for a little while before Rinaldo cut in again. DeWinter was getting just a tad annoyed, so I suggested he find Simone, who might not be dancing at all. He gave a nod and headed off. Rinaldo picked up where the dance left off and we chatted. I told him about the young boy's preoccupation with Chaos snakes. He almost lost a step, he was laughing so hard.

The dance finished and another started immediately. We went to the side and I saw DeWinter dancing with Ccappella. Rinaldo's a bit adventurous, so I opined about the repercussions if I were to cut in on Ccappella, the Mycenean way . . . He looked shocked, though his eyes were dancing. I headed out and he came to watch. I didn't make it though; Blade intercepted and asked me to dance. Really, I've never had this many men ask me to dance. You can always tell Bleys' boys. While they are still working on technique, they do have innate charm and aplomb.

Eventually Vialle opened her gifts. She loved the miniature palace, running her hand over the towers and outside. It was detailed enough; she could have a long while before finding all of it. Moran presented his gift and, to no one's surprise, warmly thanked him for the map. He then gave her a kiss on the cheek and the rose and she fairly melted. She gave him a few kisses in return. He began to look alarmed, vaguely toward where Evander was standing, as if to accuse him of some sort of treachery. He wanted her to like his gift, but this was going too far! He moved out of reach as soon as he could

Everyone went back to dancing afterwards. I even got to dance with Dalt. I'd bribed him with an offer to see Kai-Revere. He'd abandoned Peia some time back, because he 'doesn't dance.' I believe it. It's almost as if he pushes himself not to enjoy anything too much. He did confess that his family is cursed. If he'd get involved with anyone, it would only lead to their ruin. Ah. I see. I countered it with DeWinter and myself. Of course, anything could happen to either or both of us. We fight, it was a logical possibility. But despite the real pain of losing the other, we weren't about to just give up on what is possible. That's a coward's way out, though I did NOT phrase it that way. We took the chance and what have we to show for it. A wonderful house, almost 20 years (so far), a marvelous child, an extended family. It was worth it. Honestly, I think he was actually thinking about what I was saying. Perhaps it is not such a surprise. A person can be lonely for only so long before you just have to make a connection.

I kept my word and took him to see Kai. The boy was sleeping, but I thought one night of disturbed sleep wouldn't hurt him. They played. Kai showed Dalt his ferocious wresting stance, growling menacingly. Dalt was sweet and pretended to be impressed. No one in the family would believe me if I told them how wonderful he is with the boy. He's really fallen for Kai. It occurred to me that he might not know about Circumstances. If so, all those centuries wondering why he's never fathered a child would just reinforce his idea that his family was cursed. Kai would be his only hope of his line continuing. If I ever find the right time, I'm going to talk to him about it.

Kai wrestled with Dalt and Dalt gave a shout and landed heavily on his back. He's pretty agile for such a large man. I went out into the hall and stopped the six guards who were on their way, assuring them that all was well inside. They played for a while longer and we went back downstairs. I would have to make it up to the weir women watching Kai. I left them with a very keyed up young boy who probably would not go to sleep again, at least not before 2 or 3 in the morning.

Dalt headed off and I found Tatasha teaching a gypsy dance to some of the others. He skirt was tucked up between her knees and into the belt at her waist. I caught some of the leg movements easily; they were oddly similar to some dances I know. I linked arms with her and we mirrored each other. I got Byslamia to join. She didn't want to but if she'd do it, Simone might. Simone wanted to try, but was too timid or afraid. It took about a half an hour coaxing Simone to join in, but in the end she was smiling and dancing with the rest of us.

At about 2 in the morning, most of the older guests left. I got an uninterrupted dance with DeWinter. He was bewildered that whomever I dance with, I always seem to get into a conversation with. The women he danced with all seemed to just have a silly smile or they wouldn't look at him, they were so shy. But talking, nope. I began to appreciate why Moran was so grim about his duty to dance.

We also learned something called the Fox Trot. It's incredibly simple, but little variations make it quite fun. DeWinter liked it so much, he even gave me a kiss in front of the assembly. He usually tries to be more…reserved in front of people he doesn't know very well. Either he liked the dance unusually much, or he's relaxed his reservations about the family. It's hard to say. Sometimes I can see the progression as he's gotten more comfortable, other times not. Still it was a lovely end to a nice party.

We left around 3 am. We went in search of Dalt and Cassiopeia. The guards were keeping some eye on him, so we knew they were in the garden maze. We walked through it, speaking normally to give plenty of advanced notice. It didn't help. As I rounded a corner, I got a glimpse of them near one of the stone fountains. I managed to step back in front of DeWinter, gesturing that they were in there. He understood, and we raised our voices a bit more. That did the trick. There was a splash, a giggle (it decidedly wasn't Dalt) and a bit of rustling as they composed themselves.

It being a bit more comfortable for Dalt, we opted to Trump to Tiryns instead of using the carriages. Mother and Byslamia stayed at the castle and they could bring the carriages back with them. Dalt and Peia insisted on separate rooms even though it was plain they were more than platonic. We went along with it, but I did speak to Peia. If Dalt is anything like DeWinter, she'll need a hammer to get an idea across, or have him see any subtleties in her hints. She protested that she was being rather obvious. Uh hm, to whom? I figured it out and I'm the one in here talking to her, not him. Oh. So it was about an hour later when we were awoken to quite a bit of…noise. It was reminiscent of the room DeWinter and I stayed in our first night. I checked outside to see if perhaps there was someone attacking the house. No, it was all quiet except for the occasional murmur from the weir that had gathered for the same reason. They said there was no anger or strange scents coming from the room. Still, it was quite a racket. I was wondering what Shadow Peia came from and was she up to this? She's not an Amberite. Still, I returned to our rooms.

Day 219/19

In the morning, I found Dalt with DeWinter as they practiced some fighting with the weir. I met with Cassiopeia and found her very bruised. And much of the furniture destroyed. I did have a thought. Could he have found his Circumstances? If so, he may not have been in a position to stop what was happening. And was she willing? I think I know him enough to know he would be appalled if he thought he'd inflicted himself on her. After all, it was one of his grievances for what he still thought was done to Deela by Oberon. He wouldn't countenance have himself be guilty of such a thing. But, how does one pry?

We had breakfast and I saw that DeWinter had seen the marks. I saw the thunderclouds move across his face. He was quite angry, shooting glares at Dalt, who was oblivious. Before this gets out of hand, I suppose the only way to deal with this is to ask her, directly. DeWinter got Dalt away and the two of us went upstairs. The long and the short of it, she'd been willing. In fact, she was completely hooked on him. Oh my. I wonder if the feeling is returned. There was no way to know if circumstances were involved. DeWinter didn't want to broach the subject with Dalt, so I suppose I should. I just wish I knew if we need to worry about Cassiopeia being pregnant or if Dalt is just a bit…enthusiastic.

But Peia and I did get to talk. I told her a little of what she might be getting into. For instance, that the Family is long-lived. At her prodding, I told her I thought Dalt was at least 200 years old.
When I revived her, she quickly got back her composure.
She wondered what he would see in someone who was so much younger. I couldn't tell her. I was in the same situation with DeWinter. I just accept that there must be something to keep his interest. She'll have to ask him about that. Then she shared a secret with me. She wasn't a professor at the university. That was a ruse. She was a prostitute. That took me aback. No, I don't think Dalt would necessarily care about that, but he won't like that she'd passed herself off as something else. That would bother him and yes, she needed to tell him.

I did get a chance to talk with him briefly. We were walking outside, at the rear of the house. It was fairly private, he could see if anyone approached from any side and it gave a wonderful view of the fields and ringed by Arden in the distance.

To say it didn't go well would be an understatement. The fact that I never even got to broach the subject up made it all worse. He was largely unwilling to discuss his private life. I do agree that that is his choice; it is between the two of them. But, how often have I made a decision, only to be told it was not a wise one due to the fact that I didn't know some fact or situation. What kind of choice could he make without knowing what is going on. I'm also aware that there are probably quite a few people who would just as soon as be happy that that line would end, at least from Dalt and Dastard's place in the family. But, that is a monumentally unfair and cruel thing to do. He would be far from perfect, but then none of us are.

I eventually got some of his reasoning from him. Essentially, he is convinced that his line is cursed. Anyone they might get close to would only be hurt, or worse. It seemed a strange thing to me. He was avoiding a relationship because it might not end well? Both DeWinter and I are aware that anything could happen to one, or both, or us. It would be devastating, one of the most awful things we could imagine. But we would survive it. But, the idea of never having tried, well, we'd not live in this house, not have this family or a wonderful child. To have missed all that, I couldn't understand. Then it hit me. He was thinking it was some noble gesture, to protect people. It made some sort of sense, I suppose. But it wasn't fair. Not to her, or anyone else. I never decided such a thing for DeWinter; I went to talk to him about it. He was taking the choice away from her. It was a cowardly thing to do. I admit my phrasing was poor, but it got through to him. Too much. I hit off some nerve, and I'm not sure it just had to do with calling him a coward. He got angry, just like DeWinter will when he's upset about something else. He pushed me and I knew I had to redirect this anger to where it would do some good. It was working. He was listening; enough to argue back, but not enough to have any real answers.

Then an arrow hit him. I tried to push him down and away, but he thought it was an attack. Didn't the idiot know he'd been hit? Apparently not. Talk about a really focused attention span! We fought until I landed hard and decided to stay down. Then he was beside me, telling me someone had hit him with an arrow. No kidding. It was over a minute ago. Exasperating!

I whistled to Roskovich. As I waited, I tried to get some look around. The tall grasses hid us nicely but I could see no one. I worked back from where he was hit, at the angle…the shot could have come from Arden. But, it would have been at extreme distances, I wonder if I could have made the shot. And given we were moving, not fast, but enough that at that range it was problematical, even without the slight wind. It was a highly skilled archer if I was right. The question was, was it one of Julian's men?

Roskovich arrived and I sent him forward to scout. He could get closer without attracting too much attention, enough to see where the archer was. I saw to Dalt in the meantime, telling him what I had done. The shaft was short, almost more like a bolt than a quarrel. A crossbow bolt would make some sense, but the range made that unlikely. But, there was little bleeding, so I supposed it wasn't a terrible wound.

Roskovich got back, confirming that there was a man in the trees. He seemed to be waiting for something. The question was still whether this was one of Arden's men. I took another peek and saw a rider approaching. Morgenstern was identifiable even at this distance. I moved forward. If it wasn't one of his men shooting from the trees, Julian could be in danger. His armor would suffice, but his head was bare. Mental note: I'll get a helm for him for Yule.

Julian stopped and at my inquiry, said it was one of his Rangers that had done the shooting. Then Roskovich attacked Morgenstern. I don't know what possessed him; he must have gotten caught up in the moment. He launched up, teeth bared and hit Morgenstern in the neck. Morgenstern didn't even bother to flinch. Roskovich hit. I heard the metallic impact. Roskovich fell. End of story. I advised him to head back to the house to have someone look at his teeth.
Julian escorted up back. I helped Dalt so as not to make the injury worse. The Ranger had seen Dalt hit me and acted accordingly.

In the end, we had to call Owen. His body's reaction was to clench the muscles around the wound, immobilizing the shaft (which was a full one, gone quite deep) to prevent further damage. All he had to do was relax enough for us to pull it out. The problem was I couldn't determine whether it had punctured a lung or not. I didn't want to take a chance, so I had to call Owen. Owen took care of it and recommended two days of rest.

At dinner, with his usual subtle manner, DeWinter regaled everyone with stories of every bad turn he's had, well probably only the most spectacular ones. The message was clear. He though Dalt was being silly. Most of us had to laugh at some of the predicaments, he told the stories well, but Dalt was not amused.

Day 221/19

Peia told Dalt today. To say he was upset was an understatement. I could see the wall go right up between them. He could handle a lot, it seems, but not that she lied to him. I wonder if she will ever get past that. Probably not. She doesn't have the ability to shift Shadow and chase him until he sees reason. He stormed off and she went to her room.

Day 225/19

Today was the last day of the Queen's holiday. Dalt has stayed, mostly because Kai begged him not to go yet. He and Peia haven't talked much, but she decided to be hopeful. She's also decided to stay in Amber. He comes there, from time to time, so she might have a chance to see him. I didn't have the heart to tell him that invitations for him to visit are rare, and that most of the time he has to sneak in and out. She'll find out soon enough.

She is staying in Amber, though. She'd even gotten a room in town. It came with a job. She'll be helping at a seamstress for room and board. I got Claw to find out about it. It was a bare room with a bed and a dresser, one table, one lamp. She was giving up her whole world, no matter what her profession was, for this. For a slim chance that she could see if something could happen with Dalt. Well, if her life here was to be rewarding, she'll need more than that. Especially when she begins to wonder why he never sees him. I don't know, but I doubt it will work out. So, I got Claw to take some of the women into the storage areas. Blankets, sheeting, drapery, a few nice pictures, clothing, all the usual. They could set up her room, make it comfortable and warm, as a surprise for her.

Tonight was Moran's party. We'd gotten a private invitation from him earlier in the week. At least, he was hosting it. He did well. Better than I think I would have done at that age. I detested these events. I helped him from time to time; he occasionally seemed to be overwhelmed by all the people, who were mostly the younger set. I convinced him to think about some reward he could give himself. All he had to do was get through this. He surprised me. He said he'd go over and try and come up with a new Treaty with the Courts. Good to know he doesn't overshoot his ambitions.

I broke up an argument between Tatasha and Evander. Carmella warned me that there were thunderclouds in the corridor. He was warning her not to make “a display” of herself as she did on the first night. I suppose he thought it unseemly for her to have taught the gypsy dance. He certainly didn't think it was appropriate in front of the younger people. She was furious that he was telling her what to do as if she were a child. It's funny. When I first met him, he expected me to do what he wanted just on the basis of he being my father. I didn't and I still don't. I question him all the time. Now he's doing it to Tatasha.

Before it got to a shouting match, I reminded him that no one would understand why a junior officer of the castle would have the authority or the cheek to speak so to a reigning monarch. He's still supposed to be someone else. And I reminded Tatasha that sometimes she does get carried away. So if she doesn't, he'll have nothing to worry about and we can all go about our business. And if they were going to fight, could they do it in private, not in the middle of the corridor. If his cover isn't blown already, he's lucky. They made some half-hearted motion of agreement and went on their way.

The rest of the night went well, until the end. Peia was dancing with Martin. She wasn't able to get Dalt to dance, so she went out on the floor with someone else. He wasn't happy about that. So he went up to Martin, cut in roughly. Martin turned with a fist cocked and Dalt just knocked him out with one shot. I wonder where he learned that trick. Peia, not pleased at the roughplay, kicked Dalt. It was a groin shot. It was well placed, timed and executed. Dalt doubled over and went down.

I got them carried out. Martin was put in one salon, Dalt in another down the hall. Dalt had made a bad mistake. Martin is Crown Prince, after all. And Dalt was here on invitation from the King. Good manners were expected. I worried what Martin was going to do. I also wondered what this meant. Did Dalt care for Peia? Was that the cause of him reacting so strongly? Dalt recovered enough to realize his predicament. I'm sure he didn't want to end up in the dungeon. Whether it was because Kai would see or Peia, I couldn't tell you. But, he offered Martin a chance at payback. Martin had woken, his jaw sore. He came to the room and Dalt just stood there waiting-- chin out. Martin hit him in the stomach. Dalt went down again. I heard the sharp crack when Martin hit Dalt. Later I learned he'd broken his hand. Afterwards, Dalt went to Tiryns.

DeWinter and I stayed at the castle for the evening. We needed the rest.

Day 226/19

When we got back from the castle, I found that Peia had moved into town and Dalt was gone.

Day 231/19

I waited a bit before visiting Peia, to give her a chance to settle in. It seems she makes a commission, so I scheduled a meeting for all the weir girls to have new dresses. It's been a while since they've had some. I think. They'd never mention it, even if they thought of it. The owners were pleased at the business. Perhaps we can send a bit more their way.

Peia seems to be enjoying herself. She's usually quite cheerful, I think. We get along. We arranged that every other week or so we would get together so I could make a Trump of her. That way meetings could be a little easier. And should Dalt want to speak with her…

DeWinter has come up with an interesting game. We've finally decided that having another child now would work. It would give Kai someone closer to his age and we're already staying in Amber for the duration. He had me go through some sort of word association. I think he's working on just how we are to accomplish this goal. Or, he's up to something entirely different. He's not saying, yet.

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