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Cassandra's Diary.43
Day 346/28

Everyone begins to recover. Mostly that meant they curled up in fetal positions in spasms. Tremerule had the worst time; I think he'd never felt such pain before. The weir moved in and began to massage the cramps and stiffness away. Again, Tremerule was the loudest as this worsened the pain, but he recovered the fastest.

The rest of us continued to watch Dastard. I could see, or rather, feel a disturbance around him. The Khan stepped back with a pleased look on her face. Dastard roused a bit, enough to look around. He stared at me in recognition. He managed to say, “I don't feel so…,” and then he fainted again.

DeWinter was waking, but not sensible to the situation. One of the weir girls was trying to help him. She was rewarded with an outflung arm that sent her flying. She got up, giggling. They tried to hold him down, but he fought them, not realizing who they were.
Bleys, nearby, also tried to sit up, and they held him down. The only clear thing I heard from him was, “Where is that prick?”

I called out to DeWinter . He paused, just recognizing my voice. He swung his head down, listening. I realized neither of them were seeing anything just yet. I calmly told both of them that they could relax and to please allow the weir to attend them. DeWinter went for his weapon. The girl he had thrown leaped forward and locked her legs in his, bringing him down. As he was reaching to throw her off, she began whispering in his ear. He quieted, listening.

Shi-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed went to whisper to Mal. I couldn't hear anything over the crackling fire of his wings. All I did hear was Mal asking, “What? What does that mean?” She merely backed up a few steps and addressed the rest of us, saying they were leaving now. She turned to DoBlique, saying, “Thank you.” DoBlique just glared at her.

Shi-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed said that Dastard, or the Loathsome had now pledged himself to two different kinds of blood. The weir and the Blood of Oberon. She turned to look at Fiona. Then addressed the Weir women. “The Black Sable Weir have done very well.”

That was it, and I must say the weir did not look all that impressed with the declaration.

Fiona replied, saying that it was, "too bad we couldn't say the same about you.”

Now it was She's turn to glare, at Fiona. “You got your people back. I doubt it will happen again.”

Fiona used her Society voice, “How wonderful.”

She walked past Fiona, moving to leave. Dalt stepped into her path. She just looked at him and vanished. As he cursed something under his breath, three more vanished, followed by the others in stages. Only two khan remained, the Ravens and the Mermaids.

I told them their help would be remembered by me and mine. The Mermaid floated over. All she was, was teeth in a fluid line representing a mouth. Somehow she managed to kiss me on the cheek. Then she turned inside out until she was facing the Mal. Then she also disappeared.

Sigga moved forward and “kissed” me. Actually, it was more like rubbing my nose against her beak. Dalt came forward and knelt in front of her, doing likewise and thanking them for their aid. He asked, “You won't follow the rest, right?” Sigga shook her head, “We weren't thinking about it.” He nodded, satisfied.

I felt safe enough to turn my back on them and see to our people. We were strung out badly. Everyone looked as if they were going to collapse again, including myself. I went to DeWinter and helped massage him back to some comfort. Bleys looked content just to lay there, one arm around a weir girl, Rend. Fiona told him to knock it off.

Tremerule was in the worst shape. I thought he was going into shock. I got some blankets while Owen managed to Trump for some anti-shock treatments from Kent. Whatever that was, it stabilized him.

Dalt moved around, trying to get DoBlique, Tremerule and Dastard to leave with him. It was -so- not happening. I told him no one was in any shape to go anywhere. Nor for some little while at least. Dastard was still very unconscious. Mal said he was fine, but his voice was not that convincing. Dalt went out to hunt up some food. Hm…he doesn't get his way so he goes to kill something. That about summed up his attitude right then.

We slept, the weir watching over us.


Day 347/28
Recovering

We woke. Owen set an I.V. up for Dastard. Fiona went to the weir women and thanked them for their help. They smiled and they patted her on the shoulder, not at all intimidated with her. I wonder if she realized what that little gesture meant to them. It wasn't as casual as it seemed. They've delegated her to a relatively high status…they fought together and proven victorious. I'm not sure the implications set in for her. Fiona was still recovering. Owen kept a careful eye on her, though tried to be nonchalant about it.

DoBlique was in the worst shape. Her eyes were not tracking the light at all. She would sit for hours without responding. In fact, Dalt had to sit and coax her to eat. In his way, he was sweet and patient about it, talking softly, but insistently. Tremerule was better, though he stayed huddled in his blanket.

DeWinter told us what happened to him. He'd been searching for Tremerule and thought he'd found the place. There was a castle with a thorn-hedge barrier. As he hacked his way through, it grew darker and darker, colder and colder, the deeper he went in. Then he blanked out. The next thing he knew, he was in the clearing.

Between all of us, we told our part of the story. They all listened with various degrees of disbelief and astonishment. Especially when we got to the part where we found them and their state of being. It did sound all rather odd, really. But what were the Brood? Or the Loathsome, for that matter?

Bleys sat up and said he'd tell that story. He bade us gather round, arranging us as he pleased. The prequel alone took a half an hour.

Long ago there was a place of dark mystery. A Land of Broken Dreams. It was a place where people fell apart; scholars, scientists, bold explorers. No one lives there, but their dreams do. Our creative abilities are larger than the universe we live in. It pervades the universes until it overflows.

Our ability to shape our world is both good and uplifting, while it is also not such a great idea. The Brood are self-aware dreams that are cast off from reality. They are not a race. They are not alive nor intelligent. Theirs is an instinctual nature. They act like the "thousand monkeys" working at the 'typewriter.' Eventually, something works.

Faintly, DoBlique asked, “What's the bad part of this?” It was the first time she'd spoken.

Bleys replied, “The Un-Brood.” They exist in no time or place in reference to us and they seek to destroy and Unmake. The Brood fight the Un-Brood. But the Un-Brood learned a few things. First, the Brood aren't smart. They may be bold, but with no plan, they would be ineffectual without their sheer numbers. Secondly, the Brood are born of us.

1500 years ago the Brood got hit all at once in a battle. They couldn't hold the line and the Un-Brood got through. They got a taste of the real universe, but it is poisonous to them. But they can exist in our minds. Archaeological evidence showed that they did come through. The first time was about 150,000 years ago. 1500 years ago they tried again. When they broke through we were desperate. One Empire, Darrheabarr, had been fighting the Un-Brood and losing badly. One volunteer saved us all. He went to the Brood, organizing them to stop the Un-Brood. He is the Loathsome Prince. When it was done, he made a pact. He would continue to be the leader of the Brood, to be ever vigilant against the Un-Brood.

We guessed he got tired of it.

Bleys surmised that the Loathsome had been operating on this side for some time now. The Fae might believe he was shirking his agreement. According to the archaeological data, the Fae have a legitimate fear of the Un-Brood, who are intangible beings. The Fae are very susceptible to attacks. If they are taken over, they could be a formidable force to be reckoned with. So, they were naturally very anxious for the Loathsome to maintain the pact.

Fiona listened with ill-concealed impatience. I think it had to do more with Bleys' storytelling airs than with the data itself. She mused on her theories. She thought that the Merquier's actions against the Church, and Dastard, made him susceptible for the Loathsome to take over. It left Dastard's willpower weaker during the dreaming state, attracting the Loathsome. He got access, 'loopholing' his old promise as he remained in the Land of Broken Dreams even while exploring our universe as Dastard. It was a very Un-Brood thing to do.

It is possible the Loathsome Prince was angry with Darrheabarr for the pact. We are a tangent to this--as family related to the ruling family of Darrheabarr.

Imagine living timeless ages with nothing but unthinking, unliving beings for company. I almost felt sorry for him.

We rested some more. Afterward we held a simple service for the fallen weir. I spent some time drawing their portraits to be hung in honor at our house. Few would really know what happened, because telling the story cannot encompass the reality, no matter how talented the storyteller is.

While we had some lunch, I asked Mal what he planned to do. He was unsure. He was the only of his kind, to the best of his knowledge. He had no place to go. I offered our house in Paris. He knew the land a bit and he would have time to recover before facing any more Fae. He said he had a lot of questions for them. Fiona said that giving anything to them, even his ignorance, especially his ignorance, gave them a link to him. They can, and will, use that. He nodded soberly, not liking the thought. But, if he was going to come to Paris, he'd have to lose the flaming wings. In fact, he'd have to reconstruct his body. Sigga, quiet and helpful stepped forward and offered to teach him how. She said that it was Mal's good fortune that the Ravens are experts in creating forms. Mal looked dubious. He said he didn't want to pay a lot for this new body. Sigga would have begun talking, but Mal just asked what it would cost him. Sigga looked indignant. She said, “No. That would be crude and insulting, for what he'd done for the rest of the Fae.”

I extended the invitation to both Tremerule and DoBlique. I was sure Dalt wouldn't let us take Dastard. In fact, he was very vocal about both of them coming with him. Tremerule thought about it for about two minutes and accepted my invitation. Dalt was really disgruntled then. DoBlique was still unresponsive, so he took her and Dastard wherever he was going so they could recuperate.

Day 348/28
Mal's pregnant?

Mal stood, letting Sigga walk around, assessing the best method and form for Mal to take. Sigga hummed and paused. She said this was going to be complicated. He asked why. It was done before, right? Well, you were not pregnant at the time. What! Mal fell over in shock.

Sigga went on talking. The Fae have no genders. They can become either, or neither, depending on their natures. The thorns revolving around him allowed him to take another's essence into himself, allowing him to procreate.

He protested that he'd done nothing like that. Then I remembered being run through with those thorns.

Twice. Ah, Lady. It's mine!

Owen performed a diagnostic with magic, confirming the results. We were all stunned. How long does the pregnancy last. Sigga said if Mal stayed in this form, it would take about 1000 years. If he, or she were to take our form, it would be within the year. Mal just sat there staring. DeWinter just looked from me to Mal and back to me. He looked more stunned than angry. I heard him mutter, “And I slept through the whole thing.”

I was just not ready to deal with this. I Trumped Claw and had her bring me through to the girls. They were still in Amber. She brought me through and I found myself in the Queen's chambers. The girls were playing dress-up with Vialle. They had her gowns strewn about and jewelry shown from every arm throat and head. They abandoned it all and gave me the all the welcoming I could want. I got, and gave, hugs and kisses, listening to their stories and what they've been up to. Vialle listened bemused. It took a while for everyone to get his or her say.

I thanked Vialle for her time and patience. She shrugged it off. She said it was a pleasure, but her underlying tone was a bit weary. In truth, I often forget how much time they all encompass, even with a hundred Weir to help. I forced me to reassess my energy levels. I never felt all that overwhelmed with them all. In fact, when they are all grown, I'm going to have way too much time on my hand. Another thing not to think about.

The rest came through in time for lunch. Mal stayed behind, promising to meet us in Paris. We spent the afternoon touring Amber city. The girls haven't seen a lot of it and it was Tremerule's first time. He looked around with no little wonder. There was no sign of oppression and totalitarianism. In fact, people waved or greeted us with courtesy and pleasure. I saw him note that we could not have arranged this and perhaps was assessing that some of the stories he'd heard were untrue. I think he was questioning a lot of what he'd been taught.

We got back to the castle for dinner. We all got dressed and filed in. Only Xhimena was missing, until I saw her walk in on Random's arm. I'm not so sure I was pleased to see that. He was starting early to make a good impression on the children.

Most of the family was absent. Fiona took her meals upstairs in her room. So, besides us and the King and Queen, there was March, Blake and Blythe. Eidolon and Kai-Revere jostled to sit next to March, the better to pelt him with questions and listen to what he had to say. I suggested we have a little party the following night. Most seemed to be agreeable. I suggested meeting at the Cracked Pot.

Day 349/28

The day was quiet. When the children were all to bed, DeWinter and I, with Tralee, Robert and Tremerule, made our way to the Cracked Pot. It became a big crowd. Not as many of the family as before, but it was sizeable. Even Random made an appearance. Blake and Tremerule hit it off well, and they spent most of the night talking and drinking.

Even Random made an appearance. He spent most of the night at a corner table. It was a big enough crowd that they couldn't keep much space open around him, but he seemed to enjoy it. After an hour or so, I went to thank him for attending. Even to my ears it sounded more formal than the setting would allowed. He shrugged and said he didn't get out often enough. Then he said that he kicked around Shadow for half a century, enough time for him to find his true talent. He paused long enough that I took the bait. And that would be? He said that his talent was for “fucking things up.” I could say nothing to that, but it surprised me. Was he trying to make amends? I was just warming up to really talk to him when he got up and said he had to get back. He shouldered his way through the crowd, disappearing in short order. Sigh. So close.

We left by midnight, leaving Tralee, Robert and Tremerule to follow when they wanted to. I doubted they'd have any trouble they couldn't handle. When we got back, we found the boys in Shapir's room. We had so many; we pretty much overran the castle. Shapir lent them his rooms for the night. They were in awe at the weapons on the walls, wanting, but not daring, to touch them. The girls were in my rooms, which left DeWinter and myself in one of the Ambassadorial suites. We all settled in and soon were asleep.

Day 351/28

DeWinter and I woke up late. Actually, he woke up before dawn, but was in a private mood, so we didn't disengage with each other until lunch. We ate and managed to get everyone back to the Grey Demesne, at Owen's invitation, within an hour. It tired me considerably, so I knew I wasn't back to myself just yet. I've done this before with no real effects.

Mal was there in his, or her, new body. It took me a moment to realize who she was. She looked somewhat Chaosian, with sharp bones and pale pallor, but elegant and hale. What was more disconcerting was that she was shorter than I am. Very odd, indeed. After everyone dispersed Mal confronted DeWinter with a full confession to what he had done to me. DeWinter looked at Mal like he was crazy. She. I've got to get this straight. But, I think of Mal as male so it's hard to turn it around. I can only imagine how Mal is coping with this. DeWinter dismissed the “confession” saying it was an accident. No problem. I don't think Mal believed him. Did she want to be punished? I think so, at some level.

All the adults gathered for some drinks and talk. Audrey was there as well. I'm not sure I wanted another outsider to know what was going on, but I doubted Owen would take kindly if I suggested this, so I kept silent. We talked a bit about what happened and, of course, conversation turned to the coming child. Mal will have to find a name for the child. That seemed to shake her. Maybe it was making it all too real for her. She said she didn't know what to do. She feels alone and she's never had much in the way of allies. I tried to assure her she had allies now, in abundance, but I think I was dismissed.

Fiona had a few questions. “Did your experiences make you larger?” She says she doesn't feel different. “Do you feel like you are in a vulnerable position?” Mal seemed to sag. Oh, yes. Fiona continued, saying that she should consider taking my offer to stay. DeWinter put in his opinion, saying that Mal saved my life. You aren't going to be turned away. Mal looked at him. “But, I raped your wife.” I had to work hard not to laugh. DeWinter shrugged, saying, “My wife has been poked by the best.” That caused everyone to laugh. Really, did either of us know what was happening, or even of the possibility? Mal looked at us as if we were crazy.

Fiona continued. “You are feeling lost, unsettled, your life is disrupted. You do not like how you look. This is natural. It will get better and then it will get worse.”

Mal said, sarcastically, thanks for the pep talk. Mal said it was wrong to stay. He, she, had no defenses right now and there were enemies out there, the same ones who destroyed his people.

DeWinter said it was the best way to get our attention and cooperation. We all smiled and agreed. The family is rather addicted to dangerous, complicated situations and we were no exception. We had our shared of enemies as well. That, Mal hadn't considered.

Fiona finished the discussion. She told Mal to listen to what we were offering. What my simple invitation was really speaking of.

Family.

Friends.

Allies.

It was not something to dismiss lightly.

Tremerule also had some questions for Fiona, but privately. Later he came to me for a little talk. Would it be okay for him to hide out in Paris with us for a while? He really didn't want to face his father just yet. I assured him he could stay as long as he pleased. After what I went through with Evander, I understand it completely. He hadn't heard the story, so I gave him the barest details, telling him it was not a complete accounting. But, Dastard, too, needed time to heal and understand what happened. If it was any consolation, many members of the family have gone through mind control. It isn't pleasant by any means, but it meant we could understand. Whether Dastard was will to believe that is another story. But, Tremerule took heart in it. He always thought we were rather invincible. Sigh, but no, we only think we are until it is too late.

Eidolon did take the time to ask Fiona if she would teach him magic. She said she would, which made him float on air. All he had to do was devote the next ten years to her tutelage. That crashed him. He knew Mother would not allow it. I gave him Mother's Trump so he could ask anyway, and was disappointed but unsurprised when she said 'no.'

Later that day, I took Mal into the gardens to talk privately. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I had to tell her what to expect, with the pregnancy. The feelings of euphoria, her possible reactions and actions, and the post-partum depression. She was at first baffled, then outraged and astounded by what I told her. I have no doubt she thought I was certifiable. She dismissed everything, saying she and the baby will be fine. I hadn't really expected her to believe me.

Then a realized she had no idea of what to expect, from this side of things. After all, she's only been woman for about a week. Oh, my. I suggested the coming-of-age ritual we hold for Mycenaean woman and she thought it was a good idea, though she seemed a bit unenthusiastic about it.

Day 357/28
Foiled plans

I Trumped Blythe. I thought it was for her to get a base line for Mal soonest, before the pregnancy was too far advanced. The card cleared and I saw she was having a meal, possibly breakfast. I asked if she had time for some preventative doctoring as we were expecting another Amber child on the way. She looked pleased and congratulated me. I thanked her and said it's not every day I get to be the father. That baffled her and intrigued her at the same time. I smiled and said she could Trump back when she was ready. I would explain when she got there.

Then I Trumped Random. He knew the situation (from Owen, of course) and I asked him if he would like to arrange to meet Mal at some point. After all, Random would have to make some decision as to whether Mal, or the child, would be allowed to go to Amber. It's the Fae part he'd have to consider. To my surprised, he said he'd come through immediately. Of course he did. Then I'd have no time to prepare Mal.

He came through and settled himself in the salon. We all gathered round for another talk. Mal was formal and polite, even when Random metaphorically pushed for reactions. Mal asked Random what title should she refer to him as? He said most of the family seemed to like the title of Rat Bastard. That took Mal aback. Mal said she wished to cause no trouble. Random said, “Lady, one look at you and I can tell you are all sorts of trouble.” Mal bristled.

As for the possibility for Mal, or the child, to come to Amber, Random said Mal would have to meet three requirements. The room went quiet, wondering what he was going to pronounce. First, if Mal does anything to hurt me, “I'll kick your ass.” I bristled at that. Mal just gaped at him.

Second, If Random is still King, then they can come to Amber. Make sure that happens. Oh, this is getting ridiculous. Mal's never been there, yet she's supposed to ensure Random stays King.

Third, and last, Learn about the family.

Mal sat and thought about this. About the second request. Would it be acceptable if she did nothing to remove him as King, and aided him when necessary to keep the throne? Random thought it might do. Note, he did not explicitly say it was acceptable. Rat Bastard, indeed.

I asked him about Mal going to Yule. It was in a week. He said he'd have to consult with others first, but he doubted it. Not with so little time. No. But, if I had a private party, he and the Queen would like to visit. He was staring at me intently. I don't know what his twisty mind was thinking, but I got the feeling he was continuing the opening move he made at the Cracked Pot. I nodded.

He relaxed and said he was tired of being King. Ah, now Random was being himself. I took that as a good sign. If I wanted to resolve things between us at our Yule, perhaps I could set things up now.

So, to “Uncle” Random I said that he need not threaten Mal with my well being. What happens between Mal and the rest of us is between us. It was no longer his right. He didn't like that. Then, I said that if he were to attend our Yule, he would not come as King. He looked some more. “So, I'm to be…nobody.” Yes. I did not want to say in front of anyone why I wanted this. First, he rarely gets to be “nobody” so I thought he'd like the chance. Second, I wanted Mal to see that Amber is not run as absolutes. We are allowed our say, even if it is to disagree. I wanted a clear distinction between how Amber and the Fae deal with things. I had this feeling it was critical that Mal see this. I have this certainty that Mal would appreciate the family. She already has some negative feelings about the Fae. If I wanted to put a political spin to it, I'd say it would be very valuable to have Mal as part of our clan. Thirdly, and most importantly, I wanted to be able to take some time to talk with Random privately, without complicating things with “matters of state.” He considered this and agreed.

Unfortunately, Owen did not understand and was bristling herself. She said she did not appreciate me talking to the King in this fashion. I was going to say he was not King right then but she continued, cutting me off. This was her home and she will not have her guests treated as such, especially not the King. She was angry and imperious.

I saw red for an instant. She will simply not give me credit for understanding what I am doing. What I was trying to undo. The worst was that she was in the right, as far as hospitality was going. But this was the only time I've felt like I could arrange to make things right with Random.

It took a few moments. Mal was wide-eyed and DeWinter was tense, and a bit annoyed himself. I think he knew what I was about. I gathered my self-control, back into “guest mode”. I would not say more to Owen about this.

I told Random that I take it back and apologized. Random was at an impasse and not too happy about it. Can I still pretend to have heard it? No, it is neither requested nor required. Damn. I was back to being terribly Mycenaean. He almost winced at the formality and nodded. He was not pleased at all. Owen mentioned some excuse to get her and Random out of the room. I think they went to see Fiona. He left moments later and the little meeting split up.

I was still upset a few hours later. I went and found Claw, saying I really wanted to spar. She knows my moods and happily agreed. We went out back, stripped and within minutes, most of the weir were there to watch. I trounced her. Fortunately, she both knows that this help me and she enjoys the practice, even when she loses. I know she wished I did it more. Otherwise, how would she get better? Even Owen came to watch, with Mal. I really didn't want to see her just then, but had no right to say anything. Well, Mal should have some idea of how the weir settle things. She even volunteered for a bout. Clearly, she's only dealt with Shadow-partners. She did nothing foolish, but I won easily. By that time, Claw was eager for a second round. I was more tired and she was in a good state, but I still managed to win. I was still restless, so I called for DeWinter. He poked his head out of a window, assessed the situation, and knew what was going on. While waiting, two weir women challenged me. Ah, this might be fun. I could feel the tension easing as I took them both on. Unfortunately, they both went down quickly.

DeWinter arrived. The circle got much wider. He warmed up fast and we sparred. In fact, I'm pleased to say we got to a draw. I've never done that before. All the tenseness was gone. If either of us wanted to win, we'd have to get nasty about it. I know he didn't care about it, and frankly, neither did I by then. So, I did an impulsive thing. As he threw a blow, I ducked under it. He recovered in time to easily put me in a hold, which I was hoping for.

Then I kissed him.

Laughing, it took one minute of distraction to get him on the ground. Did he care? Not a whit. He rolled over, picked me up and carried me inside. He said something about testing me for injuries. Oh, and what would be the medication? The weir were laughing good-naturedly. We were in our rooms for hours.

Day 360/28

I Trumped Tatasha today. I went through and explained the situation. I have a feeling I will be doing a lot of that in the weeks to come. She was very happy. Confused, but happy. She came back with me and I introduced her to Mal. She even gave me a Trump for Evander. On impulse, I Trumped him as well. He was climbing a mountain. Could I call back later? Um, sure.

Meanwhile, I introduced Robert to Tatasha. To his credit, she didn't seem to intimidate him at all. The usual clamor ensued with hugs and kissed from the children. Dinner was loud and fun and long. I Trumped Evander just before and he came through with the fifteen weir that were with him. My weir took his off to explain what to do and what was going on. The children all greeted him and there was no little roughhousing in the salon. Evander even tried to jump me. In retrospect, the weir rarely try that with me. I turned his grab into a hold and brought him down. I never could do that before. Even Evander was impressed. Granted, he has the fighting experience of a teen, but still. For his part, Evander just laughed. All in good fun.

Audrey clearly thought Evander was appealing. She asked whose “sweetie” he was. He gallantly bowed over her hand and flirted with her for the evening. It brought a rosy blush to her face and she clearly enjoyed the attention. Eidolon just watched his father. I know how he felt. It was so odd to see Evander laughing and smiling, much less flirting.

Day 358/28

As much as we recovered some of the feelings of hospitality, I didn't want to stretch things out any longer. I wanted to go home. We made our goodbyes to Owen and Kent and went back to Paris. It is a big group now. In addition to our weir, there was Evander and his group, Tatasha, Tremerule, Mal and Robert.

I took Tremerule aside. I said I should warn him how things work here. He looked alarmed that I had to warn him about anything. I smiled. The Grey Demesne was a huge place, able to absorb this circus with no difficulty. But here, it was small. That meant it would be loud. In fact, the only quiet he might have is in his rooms. And guest-rights have little meaning. He may come and go and he pleases. He may involve himself in whatever he wished, and he had a say in anything that goes on. Everyone else does, so why should he be excluded? He is invited to everything, but obligated to nothing. The time is his, to spend as he chooses.

He looked surprised and a bit daunted. As if such an opportunity was never presented to him before. By the time I was done, he looked as if the possibilities were intriguing. Robert and Tralee hauled him off to claim a bedroom and get him settled.

Nachoth was there, relieved that we were back. I daresay, I think she was worried about us. Though she was overwhelmed when the girls surrounded her and told her what they were up to. It's hard to follow nine different dialogues. Again, in retrospect, I saw another small talent I've picked up. She did approach me later and said that when we left, Rinaldo had put up some wards. They were so different from what she was used to; she didn't know how they worked or what they were for. When I concentrated on them now, I could feel them. I'll have to ask him about them.

Tatasha and DeWinter got into an argument about where guests were supposed to sleep. She was all for bedding down in one of the front rooms. He wanted them to take bedrooms, since we had enough. I left them to it. Tatasha won. Later she said she asked him if he wanted her to sleep closer to him. He backed right out of the argument. Dirty fighting, I accused her, trying, and failing to laugh.

I took Evander on a small tour of the house. His weir were going to follow. He said they would not leave him alone, no matter what. He sounded a little annoyed. I turned to them and said, go away. They did. Evander looked a little impressed. Well, being the Little Mother had to have some privileges.

He was really intrigued with the bathrooms. In trying to figure out how to use the tap, he pulled the handle right off. It took a few wet minutes to turn off the water flow. I asked him how I should introduce him. It wasn't as if he remembered really being my father. I asked if it would be awkward. He said no, I could call him “Dad” to others. Hm, that would be interesting, since my training said I should call him Father. But, I called the old Evander “Father” and he was no longer that person. I told him I would tell anyone that he had amnesia. It was the truth, if a little mysterious.

Meanwhile, the children took Tatasha on a tour. The boys especially showed her the bulletproof cars. They were disappointed that she wasn't all that impressed. Then she asked me what a bullet was. Ah. I explained and she made the boys take her out again. She spent the entire night letting them explain everything to her. She couldn't have made them happier.

Day 359/28
Preparing for Yule…and an unexpected admirer.

We started making preparations for Yule. It wasn't until later in the day that we realized that Yule here doesn't happen for another month. Well, we do have the reputation for being eccentric. Well, maybe I have the reputation. The house became a riot as we decorated and made ready. I saw the neighbors were curious, so I sent out invitations to them as well. At late afternoon, there was a delivery of oranges and roses. It was to “the dark-haired girl, third on the right.” That baffled everyone.

Mal and I took Tremerule and Evander and Tatasha shopping for some clothes. The boys wanted to come along. I knew they'd be bored in an hour, so I gave them the task of setting up the decorations on the outside of the house. They happily went off discussing possibilities.

It's fortunate that Paris is a cosmopolitan city. No one batted an eye in one of the women's shops when Tatasha stripped on the floor to try on clothes. It was well dark when we got back.

What met me was a complete surprise. Somehow they managed to string lights everywhere outside. I've never seen the like. Candles and wreaths, yes. Lights, no. In fact, I was told we could turn on nothing inside the house. DeWinter said if we did, we'd blow them out. Instead, they lit every fireplace. It had the effect of making every room, with its pine garlands and wreathes delightful. With the scents, the crackling of the fire and the warmth, each room was cozy and welcoming.

I'd sent an invitation to Monad and Pablo. No one could find Pablo and I didn't have his home address. But, Monad showed up with a case of champagne. He was delighted with the house and curious about all our people. He said we'd start a trend by starting celebrations so early.

Another delivery arrived. This time it was a dress. The card was inscribed the same way. Monad thought it interesting. He thought about the windows. Who was third from the right? The only dark-haired girl was Mosi, who thought it mysterious and loads of fun. She walked dreamily around with the notion of having a secret admirer. But, looking at the dress, it was made correctly if she were ten years older. I said nothing, but I wondered whom it was really for. Meanwhile, the girls had fun trying to guess who it could be, with all the ensuing giggles and whispers.

The weir discovered they love champagne. It was gone in a thrice and even Tatasha was tipsy. Enough to flirt outrageously with everyone. I saw that Mal was nowhere to be found. It took the better part of an hour to find her. She was hiding from Tatasha who was trying to give Mal all sorts of unsolicited advice. Mal shuddered in revulsion. “Girl talk, ugh.” I promised to keep her location secret. I didn't mention that Tatasha could track her down if she wanted. Well, maybe not if she'd had too much to drink.

Things closed down fairly early. I was still energized, so DeWinter and I hit some of the after-hours parties with the musicians. I even got some to come to the house over the next few days.

Day 363/28

Tatasha loved the musicians. All the weir liked the rhythmic music and camaraderie. In fact it was hard to separate them each night.

Each day had been full ones. We get up, shower, dress and scrounge for food. With all the guests coming and going, Richard is having a hard time keeping up with the demand. I finally sent him with all the cars to fill them up completely. Two weir for each car to help loading.

On the second day, two cases of chocolate arrived. Claw battled the delivery boy, verbally I might add, and convinced him to tell her who was sending these gifts. Apparently it was coming from one of our neighbors, a retired cinema producer.

Robert, Tremerule and Tralee spent there days touring the museums, shops and art galleries of the city. Mal spent their days drinking under a tree, watching the weir going through wrestling practice. Perhaps they will become friends after all. If they let themselves, I think they'd be good friends and that would be very, very nice.

Yesterday I took a walk with Xhimena. She wanted to talk, privately. It took a little while for her to formulate what she wanted to say. She said she was happy with the party and all the people, but sad because of Pops. She feels responsible for him dying. Ah.

I told her how he died. I hadn't told the children what happened to DeWinter. I said Pops died to give us the means to save him. And, he died laughing. In a way, he new he'd won. It made her feel a little better, but she was still sad. She didn't like risking people she liked.

I said it was wrong if they didn't know what they might be risking, but we can't always avoid it. That didn't make her feel better. By now we had rounded the block and could see our house. I told her to really look at it. She did. The lights were blazing. Music carried on the air and you could hear the laughter of all the people, many of who had spilled out onto the lawn and street. I told her to remember her one punishment, when she and DeWinter spent a month in Amber alone. The empty, dark, quiet house. She didn't like remembering. Well, that was her choice. To fill her life with that, I said, pointing to the house, or to isolate herself with no friends or family. For that is the only way to not risk anyone. And, I thought it was a sad place to be.

We sat down on the curb, watching the house. I said that DoBlique tried to do that. I think DoBlique was beginning to realize it wasn't so satisfying. And Dalt, he'd never understand it, I think. I think he wants to, but it's a scary thing to do. But, her father is the brave one. Looks at what we've all gained by taking the chance. Even if it goes horribly wrong, which recently came too close for comfort, I'd never regret all this. Maybe that's why I bring people here. I want everyone to be a part of it. Because we are together in this. And, it's wherever we are. Not here, though I love it here, not Amber, not Gianassa.

She sat for a long time thinking. She said sometimes she'd like to be alone. I said everyone does. We have to walk around the block just to have a private conversation. She laughed. She said that Kai and Eidolon are good friends. So are Eidolon and myself. Not so much with Kai and her. He teases her too much. But, she doesn't know what to do about it. She said if she gets angry, he's happy he's scored. Hm. Probably true.

She said she'll still be sad, thinking about Pops. I gave her a hug. That's all right. It's good to miss those we've lost. I picked her up and we went back to the house.

Tonight I got a Trump from Random. Ah, he's still coming through! No, he just sent Vialle. I wondered if things were too busy in Amber to come through or if it was a rebuke. He never said.

So, Vialle joined us. I guided her through various rooms with music so she could settle on what she'd like. She seemed pleased to just walk around. I made sure she didn't get jostled or walk into a wall. In fact it was well over a couple of hours later when she settled in the garden, facing the city. We talked and she made a few oblique comments about Random. I kept my voice casual about it, and she didn't really volunteer any information. It wasn't until she mentioned how beautiful the city lights were that I caught the implications.

She could see.

I was furious. In trying to be a good host, I kept my voice even, so she would enjoy the evening. But, I'd never had to guard my face in front of her. I felt like she had tricked me. I closed down as fast as I could. Looking closely, I could now see that she had cat's eyes. Damn it!

She explained that from time to time, she went into Shadow to try a new procedure or something. This was a magical transformation. She said it rarely lasted more that six months. Even now it was fading. Well, I can't begrudge her the desire to see. But, I will be guarded from now on.

I asked it she didn't try something less transitory. She said she's tried everything. I asked her about a symbiotic relationship. Something mental rather that physical. Perhaps there is a companion out in Shadow that naturally, and safely, bonds with people where she could see through them Beneficial to both: a cat, a ferret, something small but relatively independent. She said she hadn't considered anything like that. She'd give it a thought.

She did end up enjoying the party. In fact, she decided to stay the night.

Day 364/28

I got a Trump call from Rinaldo. Could he come through tomorrow? Sure!

We got all the cars loaded up and we went to the Louvre for an enjoyable day. We walked, lunched and walked some more.

When we got back there was another delivery. I think I figured out the mystery. Tatasha and her weir women were exercising in the front lawn. It was one of her women. She was what attracted the admirer. It didn't hurt that they were nude while they did it.

I asked Claw about the propriety of it. She said it wasn't good at all. To ignore Tatasha was a mortal offense and Tatasha would be honor-bound to challenge the man. Ah. I sent the delivery boy packing without accepting the delivery. I sent a note explaining that they are from a different land and his overtures would be considered improper in its form. He sent an earnest thank you in response.
Day 365/28

The party is still going strong. To my surprise Vialle is still here. We've taken here everywhere in the city, to see as much as she can, while she still can.

Pablo came around about now, sorry that he missed most of the event. Our invitations never really caught up to him. I invited him, and his wife and daughter to dinner the following night. He agreed readily. He was much taken by Tatasha.

Day 366/28

Dinner was…interesting. His daughter had somewhat gotten used to the idea that her mother and I look almost identical. Adding Tatasha to the mix just confused her again. I saw Tatasha look between us and ignored her stare. Vialle and Evander also took Pablo. Toward the end of the evening he announced that he had some idea for portraiture of the three of us: Tatasha, Vialle and myself. Vialle thought it would be interesting. I showed her the Green Lady, to give her an idea of what to expect of the results. She studying it and then agreed for a sitting.

That night it we found ourselves mostly together, after everyone had gone home. I played guitar with the musicians, improvising, while Xhimena laughed at Rinaldo's stories. DeWinter sat close to me. Tatasha has been remorseless in flirting with him and it's making him uncomfortable. The moon and stars were out and there was some dancing. Even Xhimena danced with some of the boys. We didn't stop until dawn and we dragged the children to get some sleep. The rest of the girls had gone to sleep long before, but Kai, Xhimena and Eidolon had endless energy.

Day 373/28
Three Muses

We've spent the better part of the week sitting for Pablo. Our first day was memorable. We got there and he instructed us to disrobe. I didn't know how Vialle was going to take that. She was quiet for a moment and then said if we did, he'd have to do so as well. His wife laughed at the justice of it. She remarked that that way, she'd know if he was up to no good. He gave in when he realized Vialle was serious and would not sit otherwise.

He had a mythic theme to go with this. Vialle would represent Dignity, Tatasha was Passion and I was Freedom. He even made three. One for himself, one for Vialle and one for the Louvre. In fact he presented it to Monad that evening. Monad didn't commit himself, but he appreciated the gift. I didn't say a word about the chances of such “radical” works being displayed there.

We received the finished painting today and Vialle said she needed to get back to Amber. So, she said her goodbyes to everyone, which took most of the morning and I Trumped her back to Random.

Day 5/29

It's been quiet. I've been reading more of Faiella's journal, did some of my own painting and been practicing with photography and chemistry. Most of the girls have enrolled in more schooling.

Throughout the party, we've had incidents of blackouts when someone inadvertently turned on a light inside after dark. We went through countless fuses. We got an electrician in, in case we wanted to do it again. DeWinter was concerned since there was one point, yesterday, when the fuse box caught fire. He said he could fix it in no time, though he should add more if we were going to draw that much power. I thought about our last Shadow and drew upon some of what I learned. I asked if it was possible use a series relay rather that a parallel one. It hadn't been invented here, so he didn't know what I was talking about. I explained and he walked around making diagrams and muttering. He left, still puzzling it out. He came the next day to say that he and some of his fellow electricians thought it a novel idea that they thought just might work. They had a plan to try it, if I was willing. I agreed and they set about the task.

Day 8/29

Pablo's painting had been rejected by the Louvre's board of directors. Pablo was considerably put out and did a piece of satire. It showed monkeys juggling classic paintings. It infuriated the Board and the young artists of the city thought it was brilliant. Monad was considerable distraught over the matter.

Day 9/29

There was a riot at the Louvre today. Dozens of artists came to demonstrate against the restrictions of admissible pieces to the gallery. All it did was cause the Board to become even more entrenched.

Then it turned violent.

To the point where there was a fair amount of property damage, not to mention compound broken bones and many lesser wounds. Two constables were hospitalized. Kai didn't think much of the people. The artists or anyone else, it seems. I asked him about his work in the hospital. He said they were “regular folk who'd fallen to misfortune.” But, it wasn't like it was with us. No? How not?

He said there was no war, enemies weren't chasing them, and there were no Chaosians. I said that perhaps there were not such good comparisons with us. He didn't understand what I meant. I said, more often than not, we go looking for trouble. Or we do something, knowing it might get us into trouble. Perhaps they are smarter than us. That confounded him.

Later, he said he mentioned our conversation to Eidolon, who replied that maybe it was a good thing everyone's not smart. He asked me why he would say such a thing? I smiled and left him to puzzle it out.

Day 11/29

Tralee and Robert have set their engagement for one year. With some reluctance, DeWinter agreed. Time enough for both of them to figure out if it's what they want.

I got a Trump from Dalt. To my surprise, he was giving me an update on Dastard and DoBlique. Voluntarily, even.

Dastard has some memory gaps. Dalt thinks he remembers more than he is willing to say. He's more shaken by the fact that he's been a puppet, literally, for a very long time. Dalt speculated that it might even pre-date the war in the Golden Circle. Him. That would make Dastards actions suspect for a very long time. That was when he came to Tiryns and created the split between us. It bares thinking about. Dastard is happy Tremerule is not there, more to avoid embarrassment than anything else. Of shame. I suggested that he mention to Dastard that a number of the family have gone through this. It might make him feel less targeted, isolated and ashamed. Dalt seemed surprised at the revelation, which surprised me. I guess no one's ever done it to him. Either that, or he's a consummate actor. He said he'd give it a shot.

DoBlique is a different story. How else? There are no “residuals” and she's fairly recovered. Actually, she's gone. She and Dalt argued (big surprise) and she left saying she “didn't want to be around people who make me feel unhealthy.” He didn't understand and I didn't think I could explain.

So, I told him how Tremerule is feeling and that he was fine. I couldn't bring him into the connection because he went out with Tralee and Robert. I mentioned Tralee's engagement. He thought she was too young for that. I reminded him that she would not live as long as we do. Emotions chased each across his face at that: fear, regret, sadness. Then they were gone. I said she was happy. Robert makes her happy. She's taking life on with both hands. It seemed to cheer him a lot.

Day 12/29

DeWinter had been worrying over Dalt's news. He knew DoBlique. She could be ready to go into a coma and she'd leave because they'd quarreled. At least, that was how he made it seem. He wanted someone to go and see if she was all right. Well, I've gone off in Shadow often enough, so why doesn't he go? He just thought he might do that. I had to control a bit of panic. I can't keep him chained to the house. Despite what happened the last time he went looking for DoBlique, I can't let fear rule our lives. So I said nothing, but helped him prepare.

The boys wanted to go. And I could think of no good reason to say no. I could think of any number of reasons why they should. They should learn more about Shadow. They needed more experience. Still. I exacted severe promises from both of them. They should think of this as a military exercise. And DeWinter is the Commander. They would follow all his orders and be on their best behavior the whole time. They would have agreed to anything I asked. It was only teenage dignity that stopped them from jumping up and down with the idea. Instead, they just fidgeted a lot. So, I agreed and the fairly ran from the room to get ready.

Day 14/29
Testing Mal

Tatasha came to talk with me today. She said that Tralee had come to her for advice. I carefully schooled my face to show none of my reservations about this. I love Tatasha dearly, but I doubt weir customs would work with Robert.

Sure enough, Tralee had talked with her about Robert. She's finding it increasingly difficult to deal with the extended celibacy issue. Tatasha said she told Tralee just to knock him down and sit on him. Hm. When she left, I went and found Tralee. All I said to her was that not everyone's advice worked on every situation and she had to judge for herself what she had to do. No one knew the relationship she had with Robert better than she did. Tatasha, DeWinter, nor myself were in the position to know precisely what she should do. I encouraged her to seek out advice whenever she wished, but not to indiscriminately follow it. If I had followed the prevailing opinion of DeWinter, I would never have married him and I would be lesser for it. Oh. She hadn't known not everyone approved of our relationship.

I went and found Mal. She was exceedingly grumpy because Tatasha would not leave her alone. Sigh. I think Tatasha's exuberance was wearing on people. We talked for a bit and Mal made an off-hand comment that “weird” things were happening. I had to prompt her for a bit to get an idea of what she meant.

Twice she'd woken up. She passed a mirror, not really looking into it. In her peripheral vision she saw someone. The first time she got an adrenaline rush and found herself growling at herself in the mirror. The second time she really wanted to attack the person, until she realized it was she. I could tell it was unnerving her. I said I couldn't explain it, but she's been through an enormous amount of strain. This could be a manifestation of such. She was unconvinced, but let it drop even though she was on the edge of a panic attack.

When I left, I Trumped Blythe. I said that perhaps there were early symptoms of the pregnancy. Here eyes widened at that. She said she'd get some things together and come through.

While I waited DeWinter showed me the day's newspaper. Pablo was in it. The radical artist group had gotten enough money together to buy his painting. Together, en masse, they walked to the Louvre to present it for hanging. It was an unprecedented display. The officials who were there took it, but asked why should they hang such a thing. That caused tempers to rise and the riot ensued.

I went to see Monad. He was so despondent; he said he wanted to resign. Now what good would that do to anyone, including himself? Perhaps there was an alternate solution? He was willing to entertain my notion. He had his what-are-you-up-to-now look. I asked him about adding an addition, for progressive, modern art, for those who would appreciate such things. He doubted it would get past the Board. He was less than complimentary about their conservative beliefs on art. I suggested he look into it.

When I got back, DeWinter and the boys left on their search. We all said our goodbyes and saw them off. It was harder than I thought possible. I prayed they'd return safe and sound. Now that DeWinter was no longer around, according to Tatasha, it would be no more fun, because she couldn't tease him. She really has been relentless about it. It was driving him crazy. So, she gathered her people and left. Evander decided to stay for a while longer.

Blythe Trumped me shortly afterwards. She came through and we went to see Mal. She was in her room, reading, still in bed. I sent for some tea and breakfast. Mal just looked at me as we began to set it out on the bedspread and sat down with her. Figuring we weren't going to go away gracefully, she just let us be.

Blythe did some diagnostics. Mal eyed her tools and asked if they were instruments of torture. Blythe just smiled. She said they were special indeed and tried to use them at least once a week. What followed were standard tests. She peered in Mal's ears and looked perplexed. Even I could see that some of the tests yielded odd results. For example, when she did the standard reflex test, using the little rubber mallet on the knee, there was absolutely no response. When Blythe was done, she took some tea ad sat down with us.

Then asked if she may perform a personality test. Mal was suspicious. Why? Blythe replied that Mal is now responsible for a child. Everything she does will have consequences to the baby. It would have an impact, whether Mal wanted to acknowledge it or not. Mal sighed, and did not refute this. Fine, but I had to do it with me. I agreed and she started.

There were an enormous amount of questions. Over 600 of them. It took a long, long time and Mal was decidedly impatient towards the end. She gave my results first. She said Mal could then judge its accuracy. She said I was reflective and stable for the most part. I was so reflective; I have trouble interacting with those I do not know well because I had no cues to work with.

She turned to Mal. She asked if she had been injured since her transformation? No. Well, you have been traumatized. You have a pattern to your answers that suggests psychotic tendencies especially with stranger. Mal began to bristle. She went on. By psychotic, she meant intense, perhaps more that a little xenophobic. Mal did not deny this and it made sense to me. She'd just spent the last twenty years in prison in the last Shadow, and the Fae weren't exactly warm and comforting. It would reinforce her belief that people were not to be trusted.

Blythe asked some more questions.

“How did you feel yesterday?” “Like crap.'

“Did you like the test?” “No.”

“Why not?” “It was pointless.”

“Really?” “No…it was just irritating.”

“What is your favorite color?” “What had that got to do with anything?

What is your favorite color?” “I don't think I have one.”

Say the first thing that comes to you. What is different between this house today and yesterday?” “You're here.”

Try again. This is really annoying. Is that it?”

“No.” “I supposed it's more peaceful.”

“Do you like being alone?” “Not really.”

”You really don't like strangers. And you do have a favorite color; you just don't want to tell me.” Mal simply smiled at her.

Blythe stopped the questions and returned to the physical part of the examination. She said she was concerned about the baby. Mal went very still. Her form is beautiful and delightful, but there are some anomalies. She said Mal didn't create the form as human. Did Mal choose this form? No. Did you create it? Yes. Then it's all probably all right. Mal made it, so it is probably “natural.” She'd need about a half hour to prep some magic for further tests. Mal stifled a groan.

While Blythe was gone, Mal said that Blythe irritates her. “Cheerful little torturer, isn't she?” I had to laugh. And try to convince her that Blythe would not be the Court physician if she were not supremely qualified.

Blythe came back. She gave me a knowing glance and I think she knew what Mal had said. She made Mal get up and stand. She cast the spell and walked around her. She made little noises or surprise and even once said, “Oh, wow.” Then she let Mal sit.

She said she wasn't sure how the delivery was going to be done. She'd have to do some research. Why? Because there was nothing inside. What? You don't even need to breathe. She tested that and had Mal hold her breath. After about ten minutes with absolutely no discomfort, she said that the baby was encased in a shell and was doing fine. But there were no lungs, not stomach, liver, not even brains. Mal shot me a look that forbade me from telling DeWinter that. The shell was some sort of plasma. It forces her to keep this form. It does require magic; so any traveling away from magical realms would not be advised.

She could offer anything more until she did some research. Mal didn't want to talk about it, but I made Mal tell her about the mirrors. Blythe thought it was interesting. She said they were very defensive reactions. Is that natural for her type of Fae? Mal didn't know. It could be the weir part of the child. I tended to agree with that.

I walked Blythe out. Blythe was a bit worried. She wasn't panicking, but how do you advise someone who doesn't really have a body? I said that I thought that Mal would not only go through the same thing as we do, but perhaps more intense. The Fae, while they don't always have a sex, they do seem to have many sexual elements in their conduct. I had a feeling we were in for a surprise.

Blythe got some lunch and I went to Tralee. I made a not so subtle hint that eventually, she and Robert would consummate their relationship. Children were wonderful, if they both were ready for it. I told her Blythe was here, if she wanted advice on birth control. Tralee jumped up and went for the door.

Blythe was more than willing to talk to her about it. Blythe advised that she put some of the responsibility on Robert. Tralee asked, “Why? I'm the one asking for sex.” Blythe just gave her the methods available. Accoutrements for Robert and some powdered teas for Tralee. She took the information, though she said it was probably not an issue. Blythe looked surprised. Why? Tralee explained Robert's beliefs. Blythe asked about the possibility of sexual activity without a partner. Tralee said that didn't sound like fun. Hm, probably not, but it might help. So they talked a bit about the specifics. Blythe left after that, promising to let me know if she found anything out.

Blythe did ask if any of the girls were asking about this. Hm, not really, though Ekaterin, Devi and Mosi were very interested in boys. I had the awful realization that they were about the age when Tralee went through her ritual. Oh, boy.

Day 16/29

DeWinter checked in. They hadn't found her yet. He said he'd call Gerard if there weren't any results soon. Maybe in a week. I suggested he call now, to see if Gerard would be available in a week. If he was going to be on a ship, that avenue was closed.

I did talk with the boys. Oh, they were men of the world now. They've seen 6-legged horses and orange people and all sorts of things. I saw that they knew all I knew about Shadow and traveling. Or so they believe. With a pang I heard their voices cracking. Too soon, too soon!

Day 17/29
Xhimena's surprise

At breakfast, Xhimena asked if we could take a walk. That would be fine. I dressed in a new style, from some designer, Coco Channel. It was very flattering on me, but I knew Mother would hate it.

We went to a park. She asked if I was happy here. Yes, very much so. There was a long pause. She would like a baby sister. That took me off-guard. You have nine sisters. Yeah, but they're older. I'd little a littler sister. She said Tralee would have a baby soon? What? Yeah, I could hear the squeak. She's ready. So, she's not having one now? No, not yet, but soon.

She said a neighbor, “Ms. Chartes wasn't having any babies. It made her really sad. So I helped her.”

Oh, no. “How did you help her?”

She's pregnant now. But she's acting a little strange.

Strange, how?

She's eating the flowers in her garden. Lots of them. And singing all the time.

We sat on a bench. We talked about responsibility, authority and morality. She just can't go and change people because she can. First, it's not right. Secondly, she has no idea of the consequences. How did she know about Ms. Chartes?

Over the past few weeks Xhimena could hear her crying. Every night she'd go into the bathroom and cry. It even woke her up a few times. Then, not too long ago, she watched her. She checked the moon and saw it was partially full. Then she made the adjustment. I asked if I could look at her memories. She agreed. She said she liked it. I saw, or rather felt her “turn the switch” Xhimena thought of her as being “in tune” now. I saw Ms. Chartre dancing in the kitchen, very happy now. There were bouquets all over. She ate them right off the stem, ravenously. I reminded me of the raw meat I preferred during pregnancy. Hm, I'd have to mention that the Mal as well.

Putting my mind back on track. I asked her if she's done this to anyone else. Yes, a few times but they were accidents. How? They bumped into Xhimena and “switched.” She did it with a saleswoman, oh, and Mrs. Pablo. I stifled a groan.

I said I'd like to know how it feels. She did it to me and I felt this overwhelming urge to Trump DeWinter . He'd been gone far too long. And he was much too far away. I told her to turn me back and the feeling subsided. Oh, my. I made her swear she'd not do this again. I'd have to think about this. We were directly responsible for these women's conditions, though Xhimena didn't know the identity of the third woman. Would Blythe help me? She is certainly not obligated to do so, but I hope she'd give me some advice.

We went home. On the way, she said Mal was having a girl. Well, she'll get her little sister anyway.

Day 18/29

I checked in with DeWinter . It's been four days for him. He had Trumped Gerard, but I was right. He was on a ship and couldn't leave just then. It was late afternoon there. I said dinner would be nice. Right. He said he'd Trump me back in a bit.

I went and got a little dressed up. Mother and Byslamia Trumped me and came through for a visit. I showed them rooms and said I would not be joining them for dinner. This was dismissed with a wave. I think she just wanted to see the children. She was a little disappointed that Eidolon was gone, but was happy to see the girls. Byslamia and I talked for a bit. I even showed her Pablo's Green Lady. She was intrigued by it. Mother was affronted. I tried to explain it and she tried to see it. Tralee, Robert and Evander were going to an opening of a gallery of Pablo's. They invited Mother and Byslamia. Mother was a bit unsure, but resolved not to let Evander bother her. I saw them out just as I got a Trump call.

It wasn't DeWinter . It was Rinaldo. He asked if I had a moment to talk. Just about that. He came through and he said he'd like to walk. He'd been thinking. In Paris, we were at some disadvantage. None of us knew sorcery. He was worried about the girls and their safety. The wards he'd set would only go so far for protection. He also said Xhimena was at an age to learn. So, would I entertain the idea of him teaching Xhimena?

That was uncommonly generous. And sweet. I was touched by the fact that he was not only thinking about us, but was seeking a means to help. But, wouldn't this take a long while? He said it would. What about his wives? They understood, he reassured me. I wondered if he were having some trouble at home, but could not find a way to ask without being intrusive. Well, we would certainly think about it. He should be aware that the other girls might also want to learn. In fact, he could have a very full class since I would also like to learn what I could.

He was daunted at how the numbers were growing.

He said magic training didn't work quite like that. It was usually one-on-one. If some pulled ahead, or was inclined to do dangerous stunts, the teacher had to be focused on the pupil to aid or stop, as the case may be. I tried to explain how the girls would never do anything if we forbade them from experimenting outside of class. And as for some being left behind by more adept students, they'd help each other. I don't think he believed me.

He said he'd thing about it.

We had walked around the block. In fact we were passing Ms. Chartres' home. I told him what Xhimena had done. He was impressed but daunted. He doesn't know anything about Fae magic. That's fine. She needed more in the way of situational ethics as well as traditional magic. He thought he might be able to make Ms. Chartres' acquaintance, enough to figure out if she or the baby was in any danger of harm.

He Trumped home with more than a few misgivings about what he might be getting into. Xhimena came to say good night. She then told me grandma was having a baby. Tatasha? No. Mother. At my look, she reassured me that she came through that way. I kissed her good night and sent her off. Hm.

I got another Trump call. This time it was DeWinter . I went through. I found myself in a hotel room. The lights were off and there was a lovely fireplace burning brightly. A few candles here and there made it intimate and romantic. I smiled. The boys? He said they were at a nightclub across town. A nightclub? Aren't they a little young for that? He was not inclined to worry about it.

We had dinner at a table for two. We talked about the Shadow traveling and I told him about Rinaldo's offer and Xhimena's latest experiments. In the end, he agreed on Rinaldo teaching us, if I haven't already scared him away. We spent the rest of the evening thinking about nothing but each other. We were still up when the boys returned around 3 a.m. I don't think they expected me to still be there, because they walked right in.

I got up and pulled a robe on. Kai-Revere didn't think anything of it, but Eidolon knew right off they'd intruded. He tried to back out gracefully, but Kai was oblivious. He announced that they'd found the Chaosian spy at the club. What?

They spent most of the evening watching the club. They reasoned that since most of the Chaosian Houses are patriarchal, they'd not pay attention to the women. So, it would be natural to favor women spies. They'd learned that from Tatasha.

I looked at DeWinter as if to ask: You sent our boys alone to look for Chaosians? DeWinter gave a shake of his head. He said to them that he told them to find a way to find spies, not that any were actually there. Kai was sure they found some though. DeWinter said it would be a neat trick. To place Chaosian spies in a Shadow they hadn't known they were going to until that afternoon, and to place spies at a club across town that we didn't know you were going to. Eidolon just shook his head. Kai surmised that they'd have to be pretty good then, huh?

I'd rather they were chasing girls.

Truly, if Kai ever meets someone he'd be happy with, she'd have to have a very big brick.

They went off to bed and DeWinter and I spent the remainder of the night saying goodbye. It took an extraordinary amount of time.

Day 19/29
A Surprise for Mother

I returned just prior to everyone getting back from the gallery open. Mother swept by in a huff, followed by Ketchum, who sported a black eye. Hm, he must have Trumped in later. Byslamia trailed behind looking bemused. I asked how it went and Byslamia said I shouldn't ask.

It was at breakfast that I ventured to ask Mother what happened. She erupted, informing me that my friend, which was not said in a nice way, Pablo, was an odious, obnoxious little man, entirely too full of himself. It took a bit but I got the story out, while she built herself up in indignation.

They'd been discussing his latest painting. It was the one Vialle, Tatasha and I had sat for. He'd used a new technique that everyone was anxious to hear about. He decided to make it a demonstration and asked his wife to disrobe so he could start a new canvas. Mother became offended on her behalf calling him a caveman. Pablo did the worst thing possible.

He laughed.

She was so furious, she hit him, knocking him down. Then things got crazy. Mrs. Pablo took three steps forward and punched Ketchum in the eye, in retaliation. Then Mother really lost her temper. Perhaps she had too much wine, eh? She tackled Pablo's wife. And then, just as she was winning, she kissed Mother. Mother was so shocked, she froze. That gave Ketchum the opportunity to gather Mother up and get her out of there.

I said we should send for a doctor to check her. She said she was fine. No, I said. To confirm her pregnancy. Both of them stared at me. I'm sure it's true. Mother looked at Ketchum and he had a huge grin across his face. He kissed her, sending the breakfast tray flying. I left them to it.

Day 20/29

I spent most of the day traveling back and forth around the city. I went to see the judge assigned to hear the cases of those involved in the riot. Paris is still rather strict on things and the sentencing was going to be severe. They'd get at least ten years for this. There were some serious injuries done to some of the constables. I asked if there were any possibility of alternate sentences? Not likely at this juncture. They'd confessed and the law was clear. He was regretful, though.

So, I went to the jailhouse to see the defendants. There were so many of them! Dozens, all crowded into cells. Most were not yet twenty, some were much younger. It would serve no purpose for them to waste so much time in jail.

Most of them took their cues from their “leader,” a lad in his early twenties. Most of them had no idea who I was. Their leader had decided to be “tough” and not show just how scared and worried he was. I opened my empathy up and found that most of them really were terrified. I made a suggestion that they write honest apologies to Msr. Monad. It may be help in the upcoming trial. We argued and the best I could say was that some of them were listening. Most of those were desperate to try anything.

I then went and hired a lawyer for them. The trial is in about a week, so we'll have to see about this.

Day 23/29

I've spent the days with ordinary tasks while trying to read Faiella's journal. She'll makes observations for a while and then break off into some poetry. As it continues on, it gets increasing risqué and then clearly erotic. I'll have to remember to read some of it to DeWinter when he gets back.


Day 29/29
Trial

The trial was today. I found myself a seat and watched as they were shuttled in together. The judge declared that since they committed the crime together, they would be tried and sentenced together. He conferred numerously with the prosecutor and the witnesses as to the damage that was sustained. The prosecutor announced that due to the seriousness of the assault on the police, that they were inclined to charge the lot with manslaughter. That sent every mother in there to tears that in turn broke through the defendants barely controlled stoicism. Through the proceedings, the boys were shocked, then wilted as they slumped in their chairs. They were despairing even seeing the light of day again. Even the leader, I saw. Some began to silently cry.

I caught the judge give them a few keen looks. I realized, happily, that this entire trial was scripted. They went through the letters of apology that were written, stating that there was no way to determine if they were genuine. That caused many of they to plead that they did indeed feel remorse. The judge listened for a minute or so, and then waved them to quiet down.

In the end, the judge sentenced them to hard labor, where they would spend their days not only fixing the damage they had done, in reparation, but also any task the Director of the Louvre assigned to them. They will be remanded to the custody of their parents for the next few years, with a strict curfew. Anyone breaking the rules that will be set down, will find themselves sentenced to the fullest extent of the law. Case adjourned.

Pandemonium broke out. Boys cheered, mothers cry happily and chains were removed. One boy, guessing I had some part, threw his arms around me in thanks, then dragged me over to meet his mother. Neither realized who I was. I said some words, neither of them heard a word really and I stole outside and went home.

Later Byslamia talked with me. If it was true, about Mother's pregnancy, then she announced she was going out on her own. She really didn't want to help Mother raise another child. Good for her! I told her she was completely right. And, just so she knew, I had for designs for her to stay here. We had enough people to help with the children. She smiled. But, should she choose to do so, there are some lovely suites in Paris. It might be a nice place to begin her new life. Of course, Tiryns was available, or we could find a suitable place in Amber. She said she had a lot of thinking to do. I said she had time. and, we didn't have to worry about Mother going through an Amberite pregnancy! She laughed, grateful for that at least.

Day 35/29

I got a Trump from Rinaldo. Diana had had a good question regarding the teaching. How would we pace the teaching? Fiona taught Shapir for a year. At the end of it, she told him to go away, that he was not suited for magic. Shapir said that he still wanted to learn. Fiona said, too bad. Then Owen appeared for training and Fiona ended up keeping Shapir around. The two worked with each other and Shapir ended up finishing the course.

Xhimena on the other hand, he thought she had remarkable skills. She'll outstrip them early on.

I reassured him that the girls were very used to working together. And, I think she'd rather learn with them, taking any situations as they rose, than without them. All right, he'd give it a try.

I told the girls about the upcoming lessons. They were a little dubious, shooting sidelong glances at Xhimena who was desperately trying to remain calm and composed in her chair. I said Eidolon might be willing but I doubted Kai would want to.

Mosi said, Oh, he'll want to. They all nodded.

I suppose they believe his competitive spirit would not allow him to miss this. Perhaps.

Evander came and said goodbye. He had duties at home which he's left unattended, though he'd like to come back to visit again. I assured him he was welcome. Things have gotten better with him and Eidolon. And Mother. They could both see that this was decidedly not the same person they knew. I Trumped Tatasha and sent him through.

Day 36/29
DoBlique is found

DeWinter thinks he's found DoBlique. He was in a restaurant, very elegant by the looks of it. He looked very fine in his tuxedo. I wish he would wear such things more often. Well, he wanted to send the boys through. He had some idea that she's under some sort of spell, or maybe mind control. She would never take a job as a waitress.

A quarter-dressed waitress, DeWinter pointed out with some emphasis.

The boys came through, disappointed but willing to follow orders. I kept the connection open, taking on the burden alone. Then I let them watch with me.

He managed to work a way to intercept her on the way to the kitchen. She stopped and looked at him in surprise. DeWinter ?

He lowered eyebrows. You know who I am?

Of course, stupid. Why wouldn't I?

And all the pent up worry he'd been carrying burst.

So, they began arguing. The boys were astonished at this. They'd never seen it before. I smiled. Everything was all right. I make a comment to the boys as such, effectively reminding DeWinter we were still watching. He clamped his jaws shut, gritting because it gave DoBlique the chance to get the last word. I said we would Trump back after a few minutes. I let it drop.

Kai was confused. Why would she take a job? He thought it was demeaning. I told him I had jobs. He looked at me as if I had lowered in his estimate. I tried to explain that people who worked were not necessarily lesser for it. I said I worked in the circus, cleaning out the elephant pens at first. He was disgusted at the thought. I was torn between amusement and annoyance.

He went on, despite Eidolon's cues to shut up, telling me that it was “gross.”

Oh, so he was demeaning what I've done with my life? Annoyance won out. Eidolon asked to be excused. I sent them both out, telling Kai this was not finished.

I Trumped DeWinter and he said she seemed to be all right, but something was wrong. I offered to come through for dinner and he readily agreed. We'd not seen each other for a long while. I ran upstairs and put on a gown, a little makeup, and put my hair up as best I could in the time allowed. It would have to do.

I went through. DeWinter had moved to an alley outside the kitchen, so my entrance was unremarked. It was a cozy dining room, for all its size. We sat.

DoBlique saw me and gave me a kiss. Smart move brother, to bring your brains with you.

He grit his teeth again, unwilling to be drawn into another argument. I shook my head at her.

What was she doing?

She was working for some charity, to raise funds for war orphans. She said she was having fun. In truth, she was smiling and beaming like I haven't seen in ages.

DeWinter was suspicious.

She took our order. We ordered almost everything on the menu. If it was for charity, it would be to good purpose. Besides, I was hungry. All through dinner, DeWinter watched DoBlique like a hawk.

So did I. She laughed and flirted with the patrons, easily gliding through the room, taking orders and seeing that everyone enjoyed themselves. She really did look like she was having a good time. I've never seen her so sociable.

Towards the end I asked her if she had time afterwards.

Hm, no. She had a party she had to go to. She whispered in my ear that she was being paid to let some gentleman have a good time.

Oh.

DeWinter said he heard that.

She looked over my head. “Did not.”

“Did too.” He said he knew she was going after evil necromancers.

I smiled but said nothing. He wouldn't like the truth.

She smiled and left, giving me the keys to her place. We'd have breakfast in the morning.

We left. DeWinter put his arm around me and we walked for a while. I told him about Kai's opinions. Hm. I asked him what the worst job he ever had was. He thought for a moment. Collecting bodies after a battle. He wanted to make sure they got back to their families and not stripped down beforehand. Yes, that would be the worst. Did he ever had a job that was not war-related. The question surprised him. He had to think for a very long time. Nope.

It was nice. No children, no family, it was even more romantic than the last time we had together. A taste for when the children were grown, perhaps? Just as we were drifting off, he did wonder why it would take her all night to do in a few necromancers.

I rolled over and distracted him from the question until dawn. In fact, we were late meeting DoBlique.

She was sitting at the table disheveled, relaxed and tired.

DeWinter asked if she'd had a successful night.

With a glance at me, she said, "Oh, yes. They didn't stand a chance."

He nodded satisfied and went on eating.

I winked at her and she returned it. While we ate, I told her about Mal and me being a Dad.

She laughed. “You dog, you.”

We joked back and forth and DeWinter looked at us like we were crazy. Speaking of such, would she want to help with Mal? She gave it a second's worth of thought and said no. I was disappointed.

I explained about Rinaldo teaching the children which surprised her. I don't think she thought much of him. I was a little nettled. I have a feeling Rinaldo would do very well, if given the chance. But, nevertheless, Mal was Fae. She could give us some surprises and the rest of us were not trained to deal with magic. I'd like the added help. She said maybe she could visit from time to time. Maybe for a week here and there? I accepted it. I didn't want to curtail her life.

Anything else?

Oh, our son's an idiot. I told her what Kai had said about 'jobs'.

She said that he only looks superficially, not seeing the sophistication underlying my house. I don't know if that's true, about us, but it was a nice compliment.

I had to ask her: Was this her first job?

She smiled. Yes. When she was with Dalt and Dastard, she was heading for a serious depression. She went to Castle Black to see it restored. She made a to-do list of what needed to be done. After two or three hours, she realized she's done this before. And she might have to do it yet again. It was too familiar, and it was too empty. She thought she wanted to do something unfamiliar. She remembered that DeWinter had jobs; the only one of her brothers to do so. She decided to see if this had any value in it; putting yourself into work for others, like charity.

She found this place. The charity work was a scam, the money going into the bosses coffers. So, he killed the boss and took it over, making it real.

DeWinter broke in. if you're the boss, why did you choose to be a naked waitress?

She had no answer for that, a searching expression left on her face.

I asked if she was enjoying it?

"Oh, yes."

I said she was good at it.

"I am, aren't I?" DoBlique was even more pleased.

DeWinter watched the two of us like hawks.

When I was first in Paris, working in the hospital, I wasn't concerned about being in charge. Nor when I worked in the circus. Maybe that's why they are my favorite places? Something to think about. I asked if her opinion of the people she worked with has changed now that she worked with them?

"Oh, yes." It has risen. She would never have thought much of what they did, but now….it was different.

I wished she'd explain it to Kai then.

I asked for her plans but she was unwilling to talk about them in front of DeWinter . She said she would tell me later. DeWinter was a little disgruntled about that.

We talked, told her about Mother and the children. DeWinter remarked that our children were foiling us at every turn.

Oh did she laugh. Loud and long, her hand slapping the table top and causing people to stare. It was a beautiful laugh and people around us began to laugh, it was so infectious, without even knowing why. I laughed just to see her laughing and we ended breakfast on a merry note. We left her to get some rest and returned to Paris.

Kai greeted us. He'd found a job! What? Doing what? He was a publisher. I didn't look skeptical, but this was odd. He worked for the free press, searching out stories. Ah, a cub reporter. I had to explain the term to DeWinter. Kai said he just walked in and asked for a job. It was for the largest newspaper in Paris. Sigh. Of course they'd give him a job. They'd have the inside scoop on anything I did. And he was oblivious to the political reasons.

I told him that he had to find another job: one where no one knew who we were, at least, not at first. And, he'd have to live like everyone else. He'd pay rent, food and for his own clothing. He was confused and disappointed but determined to show me he knew what he was doing.

Then, I went to find Eidolon. He was watching the weir women practicing. He was looking at them speculatively. I think he's going to start dating soon. I think DeWinter should have a few words with him. Or maybe I should. I don't know.

I sat down next to him and told Eidolon about Kai . He caught the implications of Kai's first job right off, with a little nudge. He was surprised that Kai found a job at all. I told him what Kai had to do now. Then I said he had to do the same. What? Why? Because it was a good idea. He sourly said, “Oh, I'll have to thank Kai for that.” He went off to think about it. And to find Kai .

Day 39/29

Kai found a job first. He'd apprenticed himself to the mason's guild. His salary was three francs a week plus three for each day he worked. They hired him when he lifted up the guild-master's desk. Subtle, my son is not. So, he would owe us 12 francs a week. He agreed. And if his grades dropped, the job goes.

Day 30/29

Eidolon got his job. He was working at the university as an art model. He got five francs a session. I told him the same as I told Kai-Revere.

Actually, I was impressed with both of them. Kai would learn something he could use in many places and Eidolon's job was deceptively challenging. It is not easy to hold still for undetermined lengths of time. I took great discipline, as I know from my meditations.

Day 35/29

The boys were so busy, an unexpected peace descended around the house. They were gone for the better parts of the day.

Rinaldo Trumped me. I can't explain it, but I impulsively got him back for the times he's given me scares when he Trumped me. I saw his bags and asked if he was going somewhere.

What? Yeah.

Oh, what are you doing?

You are Cassandra, right?

I said I thought so. Thinking his Trump call went awry, he signed off. I had to laugh.

When he Trumped back, I made no mention of the first one. We brought him and all his bags through. I saw him say goodbye to Cassie and Diana and then he was here. We carried his bags in and saw him settled in.

At dinner, I introduced him to everyone. To no surprise, Kai had no interest in learning magic.

Day 36/29
Magic Lessons

We had our first class. The room filled quickly and he was a little daunted at the numbers. Team Tiryns was rising to the challenge. Even Claw joined us. The girls came in first with Xhimena. Claw sat in the back. To my surprise, Robert, Tremerule and Tralee came in and sat down. Even Nachoth joined us.

Rinaldo gamely began by talking about power, corruption, the danger to innocent minds, how magic was different in different Shadows, all manner of introductory ideas. And the fact that some might do better than others, but that is how it is with any skills. His tone was light, but he was letting them know in no uncertain terms that this is a dangerous art. Claw approved and I think so did the girls.

He finished by asking if anyone had any questions. All the girls raised their hands. He took a half step back and blinked. He said they should confer with each other, to make sure they were asking different questions. I repressed a smile, because I knew they were. They went in a little huddle, whispering, as he watched, a little fascinated.

When they were done, Mosi said they were different. He took up a pad and pen and called on each one in alphabetical order. Poor Xhimena would be last. But she wasn't bothered. She was interested in hearing the answers.

Ekaterin asked, “ Can you can catch lightning with your bare hands?” Only with practice, he said, writing the question down.

Brigga asked “Is the part about kissing frogs true?” He said he'd look into it, but probably in some Shadows it was.

Claw asked, “Do we scare you?” Solemnly, he said, “Each more than the next.”

Xhimena didn't have a question, really. More like a comment. “You are smart. You've been tested, right?” He said he'd get back to her on that.

He is smart. I could see what he was doing. They thought they had taken his measure and had him figured out. But, he was doing the same, and more accurately, I think. They were in for a surprise.


Day 39/29

The next lesson was testing on general knowledge. He said you never know where the smallest bit of information was useful. All knowledge is valuable.

We didn't have lessons every day, so I made a little shed in the back, to set up a chemistry lab. I'm going to try some work on my own. It was far enough away that the odors wouldn't disturb anyone in the house, or hurt anyone if I blew something up.

Tremerule came and voiced some concerns over Rinaldo. He thought Rinaldo was too cavalier in his methods. Magic was a serious business. I suggested he listen more carefully. Look past the tone and hear the words and intent. He was unconvinced, but said he's give it a few more lessons.

Robert, for his part, was intrigued by the whole lessons thing. Tralee was less so, but she was willing to be a part of whatever Robert was doing.

Eidolon, curious about what everyone was doing, showed up at the second class and has stayed.

Rinaldo was impressed, he told me. The girls were very well-adjusted. I raised an eyebrow. Why would that be doubted? But I said nothing. It was as I said: they were struggling, but the ones that were doing well were turning around and helping the others. He said he'd doubted. He had one daughter, so the dynamics of this group was unexpected and surprising. He thought they'd be more competitive with each other. They had an unusual synergy.

I just gave a little shrug, pleased.

He did say that he'd tried to get Kai to join in. He thought Kai would excel at magic. The first time he asked Kai, Kai turned around and said, “if you were on fire what would you do?” Rinaldo paused, surprised at the question. Just as he was about to answer, Kai said, “Too late, you're dead.” And walked away. Oh, the nerve of the boy!

I went and talked with Kai . I said he was not under any obligation to join the classes, but he should at least consider it. If Benedict were to offer to teach him, would he turn it down--and as rudely. He said no, but how was he rude? I explained that testing a teacher, who not only went out of his way to offer his time to us, but to go out of his way to specifically include him was rude. And the manner he tested was not only irreverent, but rude.

Kai was about to protest and I swept his legs out from under him. He went down with a crash. Did you expect that?

No, he said, rising.

Was it fair?

He gave a little laugh. No, it was a dirty trick, Mom.

So, why would Rinaldo, who had more experience in his little finger that Kai did in entirely, be made to answer to Kai ? What he did was no less a dirty trick.

Kai showed up for the next class, to Rinaldo's delight.

Day 51/29

Lessons are going well, if a bit slow. Kai is bored silly. It was too slow a pace. I thought it would be good for him. He needs to learn discipline and the slow pace might make him think about it, rather than blowing through the lessons.

But, he was doing well at the guild. With his uncanny focus, he was learning everything at an unprecedented speed. He said he liked facts. True, it was always easier to deal with sureties. If I could just get him to acknowledge the ambiguities, the underlying perceptions, he would become a formidable young man. I try not to expect too much, but perhaps I am in this. He has time, I keep reassuring myself. But, I know he has it in him, if I can only get him to see it was there, to bring to his attention.

Eidolon is working every day now. He plays it down, but I told him I was impressed. It's not an easy thing he does. It's as difficult, in it's own way, as it is for Kai. I could tell he was pleased.

Day 52/29

Well, Mal has started reacting to her pregnancy.

We've started the planning for Tralee's upcoming marriage. She's been immersed with planning details, like her dress and such. It's kept her very busy. For our part, we're doing a lot of preventative measures. No invading army, no assassination attempts. I took Benedict's example and told the seamstress to make two gowns for Tralee. She was baffled, but promised to say nothing to Tralee.

It's taking all of DeWinter's attention. How does one lock down and entire city, without them knowing? It's a formidable task. While he was working to prevent invasion, I was working with Interpol on the assassination and kidnapping front. It made sense, knowing who we were that someone might try to get at me through the children. The amount of details was almost overwhelming.

I had asked Mal to help DeWinter . His previous life would come to good use now. She agreed. They worked smoothly, for the most part, but they did have their arguments.

They had one today. I heard about it after the fact. DeWinter came in, stunned and dazed. I took a bit to get the story out. They had been arguing, more heatedly than before, and he didn't understand why it had gotten so bad. Then she jumped him. And it wasn't to fight. Mal had torn DeWinter's clothes off, forced herself on him, then run off.

Oh.

When I ascertained he was all right, but just stunned, I went to find Mal. She's got to be panicking.

We couldn't find her. I had the weir track her by scent. She was in the garden, invisible. So, I spoke to air. I kept my voice gentle and soft. I mentioned I had gone through this as well. No answer. I said that DeWinter was able to handle this. But, if she thought this was bad, imagine me “entertaining” seven weir men at the same time.

A sad whisper from nowhere then, “Really?”

She said it was awful one minute they were arguing, the next she was so attracted to him. He was strong and handsome, and… then she started to cry.

I reached out slowly and found her by touch.

Mal was huddled under the tree and bushes. I rocked and held her. I, at least, had the benefit of seeing Mother go through this. Eventually, she subsided. We'll get through this, I promised.

We will.


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