We got Mal to sleep. It was such an emotionally exhausting time for her, it took some minutes for her to fall asleep.
The next morning when I went to check on her, I found her packing. She held up a hand, forestalling anything I might have to say. She said she was getting too violent. What would happen two months from now, if she was already feeling the forces of the pregnancy? What happened if she lashed out at the children? I told her the weir would step in at any time if that proven to be the case. She rounded on me, angry. She said one moment she was looking at her reflection and the next, she “pounded” him out. She hit him until he was unconscious because she would not let him get away; she wanted no resistance. I had to bite back a smile. I could understand her not wanting him to get away, but DeWinter had left a few of the details out of his story. Hmm.
I asked her where, and how she would travel to? What unsuspecting public would she endanger, if she truly felt she would become uncontrollable? At that, she threw up her hands in disgust. She didn’t know. I said if she truly wanted to go, I would not stop her. Nor would I help her. All of us in this house were more than able to deal with the situation. And I doubted DeWinter would give her another opportunity to surprise him. Shadow-folk would not be ready or able. If it came to it, I’d personally lock her in a dungeon if it grew to be too dangerous. Mal's eyes grew hopeful, “Really?” I smiled, “really.” Besides, her status with the weir had undoubtedly risen, since few had ever succeeded in surprising DeWinter enough to render him unconscious. She grimaced at my attempt to lighten the situation. No sense of humor.
She dithered with indecision. I remained seated, not saying anything. But, I called up the Pattern Lens. I saw ordinary energies running out from Mal. As I concentrated, I also saw lines circling her. The mere sight of them made my hackles rise. I knew with a certainty that this was dangerous. I asked if she ever meditated. Confused by the change in subject, she said that she did, occasionally. I asked her to do so now. With a put-upon sigh, she sat on her bed and put herself in a meditative state. I knew the moment she achieved it; the lines were gone. I suggested she do this regularly and then I left her to think about her choices.
I went to talk to Rinaldo. Incidents with mirrors keep cropping up and he promised to check them out again. By the end of the day, he said he found nothing extraordinary about any of them. Damn. Could it be a power or function of the Thorns?
Mal did apologize to DeWinter. She would stay, but she promised that if it happened again she would leave. DeWinter just looked at her. He said, “You are really setting yourself up with that promise.” Mal didn’t understand. Claw looked curious and asked, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if you were really a woman before you were forced to be a man?” Mal look really unhappy with that complicating thought.
Later I asked DeWinter what happened. As usual, he shrugged and declined to go into much commentary. He did say she was very fast and a bit stronger than usually. And she uses “low blows” to win. Oh, poor man.
Magical classes are picking up a bit of speed. Rinaldo is focusing on the interactions between magic and Shadow, how they can change depending on where you are. He was stressing the need for a clear focus on what you want to do. To that end, he has us going through a series of visualizations. How would you make a chicken sandwich? Mavis said she’d go to the kitchen and ask Richard for one. And, if there were no chickens in the house, what would they do? They conferred. They’d go to the market. Ok, you got yourself a chicken. It’s clucking merrily away in its cage. Now what? More conferring. They’d have to kill the chicken. And how would you do that?
They put there heads together as Rinaldo watched, bemused. They answered; they’d have the chicken fall down and die. Right? No. Hm. They decided they’d use a knife. And who would do this? They were giggling a bit still about the idea of the chicken falling down. They’d stab it. Rinaldo leaned in a bit. Would you do it fast? They didn’t like that idea. Slow? Ok, now you have a chicken running around bleeding. The girls laughed and shrieked at the image. Brigga called out, “Ew! Mosi, kill the chicken!” We were reduced to laughter, but the idea was there. The planning and clear focus was required for any spell. They huddled together over the next few days, coming up with their own tests.
Things have been quiet. There have been no incidents with Mal. Nachoth spends much time in the city, with her new acquaintances. She’s even “dating” Monad. Away from the other exiles, and not being an Amberite, she’s been left with little to call her own. Over the past few weeks, she has become the epitome of the Parisian woman. And I think she is really enjoying herself, for the first time in a long time.
I did find out that Pablo’s wife is pregnant. He’s surprised, dazed and thrilled, despite her usual behavior of late.
I did Trump Blythe. We have more than a little moral responsibility with the women that Xhimena “helped.” Blythe was sitting at a table. I almost didn’t recognize her with the Edwardian clothes and goatee. She said she’ come through in a few days. I assured her there was no rush.
Blythe came through. She examined Mal and was very pleased. Actually she was enthusiastic because Mal was doing better than she expected. Before, she explained, her energies were in a flux. Now, it’s all settled in well.
I told her about Xhimena’s “work”. That caught her by surprise. We had another little talk. Xhimena couldn’t come up with a way to explain what she did. She said it was like a turtle on a bridge. Blythe looked confused but encouraged her. Xhimena said that it was like having a turtle on a bridge, walking down the center. On the turtle’s back is a vase. As long as it continues to walk, the vase stays where it is. She just nudges the turtle a bit, causing the vase to shift. That’s how she made the women pregnant. Blythe nodded, but I could see she didn’t understand. I sympathized with Xhimena. No one understands my stories either.
We went to visit the two women we know Xhimena affected. Mrs. Chelset met us at the door in her bathrobe. Since we were neighbors, she knew who I was. She invited us in for tea. As I chatted with her, Blythe examined her. Within the hour, we left, promising to return again. Blythe just shook her head. Other than the flower-eating, that was one of the healthiest women she had ever seen. There was absolutely nothing wrong with her. I gave a sigh in relief.
Then we went to see Catherine, Pablo’s wife. We had some more tea. Catherine didn’t eat flowers. Her quirk manifested as she compulsively rearranged the tea items; sugar, cream, cups. Every once in a while, she poured a little sugar onto the back of her hand and licked it. We pretended not to notice and had a nice time. Blythe’s verdict was the same. Whatever Xhimena did, it actually undid any problems they might have had. Blythe concluded they were healthier than normal people. She didn’t think we had anything to worry about right now.
Pablo came to see me today. After talking around the issue, he finally confessed he was worried about his wife. It seems she is obsessed with eating honey. She bought 8 jars, or different varieties, and she’s eating it out of the jars. He’s taken her to two doctors already. I had to think about what to say. Parisians have moved away from the idea of magic, preferring a scientific approach. I asked him if he remembered the incident a few months back, where there was a sighting of a flaming creature not to far from here. He remembered the talk of it. I’m still amazed how few people saw Mal’s entrance into the Shadow. I said that there is magic, but sometimes it leaves residuals in the air. With as much confidence as I could muster, I said it is not harmful, and sometime causes odd quirks, but Catherine is very, very okay. He should not worry about it further. I was amazed that he took my word and left, much happier than he arrived.
A New Job
Three cars pulled up into the driveway today. Eight men and five women emerged, including the mayor, very well-dressed. Obviously they were high-placed citizens. I had them shown to a salon. They asked me to assess the situation with the Louvre riots. I said it was handled well. Everyone involved was pleased at the results and lives were not spent wasted in prison, since the perpetrators were barely adults themselves. They agreed. And they knew what I had done to turn things about. I was surprised when they offered me an appointment as the sixth Minister of Justice. Ah, I explained I had little knowledge or training with their judicial system. They waved this off as something I could learn. I wouldn’t be alone; as there were other Ministers I could confer with. I wasn’t sure about this, appealing as it sounded. I had responsibilities, which may take me away from Paris for unknown periods of time. Again this was waved away, as many of the Ministers had similar responsibilities. They tended to work together to cover for each other. They said I should take a month to consider before making my decision.
Later I talked with Nachoth and DeWinter. Nachoth said that these positions are usually filled by people who have been part of the legal system for so long, they are ready to retire. The oldest is 72 years old. By the time cases reached the Ministers, it was the final step. No one can overrule the final verdicts. The positions are for life and they work in cooperation, but also with complete autonomy. I admit to some problems with the guilty-before-proven-innocent philosophy of France, but DeWinter said I could at least give people a chance. He didn’t have any objections to my taking on this role. And I admitted it was attractive to me. DeWinter just murmured, “Surprise, surprise.” I laughed.
Later that day, I was surprised, though, when Mal asked DeWinter if she could take me on a date. It stunned him. She said, “Nothing personal, but I’m attracted to your wife, not you.” DeWinter was so relieved, it forced a laugh from Mal. He said he was fine with it. I am too, though my primary attraction and love will always go to DeWinter. But, Mal is a part of this household. I might still “date” her after she gives birth, but right now, I don’t want to do anything that would upset her.
A Date with Mal
Mal and I went to a very nice little restaurant. It was unusual, this situation. But we talked and laughed and had a really nice time. We were walking along the river when, of course, the evening went awry. Not too far from us, I heard a woman scream. I told Mal I was going to see if I could help. Mal squared her shoulders and followed. Mal spotted something first. Where she pointed, I could see a man being thrown off the edge into the river. I spotted a purse lying on the bank. It was dark enough, we couldn’t see very far. I heard the sound of a motorboat, quite near, about 60’ away. I could just make it out. People were struggling in the front of the boat. Over the water, I could hear the sound of silk tearing. The figures fell to the bottom of the boat. It was now about 20’ away, about to pass under the bridge. I told Mal to get help.
Then I leapt over the bridge railing, onto the boat. I landed in the back. One man turned, pistol already drawn. He shot me once in the chest. Damn it, I hate being shot!
I saw two women in the front of the boat. One looked to be unconscious; the other woman was still fighting. I threw the man with the gun into the water. He fell cursing in a strange language. I moved to the center of the boat. I hit one, knocking him unconscious. He fell to the side. The last man, still busy trying to subdue his captive, hadn’t realized there was trouble behind him. I knocked him out. The conscious girl turned ready to fight me. I bent down and untied her friend. I lifted her up and told her to follow me. We were soon close enough to the water’s edge that we could wade right out.
The shooter in the boat was gone. So was Mal. I told the girl to go get the police. I set the girl down and looked around for Mal. I found her, some ways into the nearby park. She’d been shot. In the throat! She was lying there, still conscious, panicking. All I could think to do was place my hands on her and send as much energy to her as I could. I picked her up and headed back to the bridge. There would be lights there, enough to Trump DeWinter.
I encountered a policeman along the way. He told me to stop and put my hands up. Not wanting to put Mal down, fearing we might lose the energy connection she still needed, I refused. Then he hit me with his club, on my collarbone. That caused Mal to slip to the ground. I was so angry; I grabbed the club and broke it in two.
While he looked at it in astonishment, I had enough time and light to Trump Claw, hers being the top card in my deck. I passed Mal through her and then followed. The officer probably wouldn’t tell anyone what he saw.
We packed the wound and I trumped Blythe. Wouldn’t she consider living here, since I seem to be calling her all the time? She just smiled, and shook her head. “It’s no problem.” She came through and briskly took care of Mal in half an hour. In the meantime, Claw saw to my wound, which I was now beginning to feel. We were ordered to rest for the next day or so. DeWinter just stood over both of us. I could tell he wanted to yell at us, or something. I lay down next to Mal. Blythe gave her a pad to write on. The first thing she wrote was, “we ruined a perfectly good make-out situation. I had to laugh, even though it hurt a lot.
Blythe left, telling us to call if there were any complications. Right. We’re Amberites Blythe, we always have complications. She laughed and went home.
DeWinter laid down next to us. He said this was more to his liking. Mal glared at him. “What,” I asked, “two women incapacitated?” “Yes, it makes for better odds.” I had to laugh and after a minute, Mal joined in and hurt her throat.
We are recuperating fine, though it still hurts Mal to eat. She’s on a liquid diet for a while. Richard is delighted to try experimenting, so the food tastes good. It’s disgusting to look at, but most of it is really good. The only mention of last night’s event was in the newspaper. Apparently, there had been an attempt to kidnap the Spanish Ambassador’s daughter. Well, I don’t go to too many formal functions. And in the dark, I doubt she got a good look at me. It would be hard to explain.
Magic classes are really getting interesting. Even Tralee, who’s been humoring Robert, is starting to really get involved. The wedding is approaching fast, so we have a lot of planning still left to do. Mal, who was anxious not to be bed-ridden, has found it useful to be an invalid, disqualifying her from tedious tasks.
Fink---as the Americans say.
Meanwhile, I’ve taken the Ministry job and have started to read everything about French law that I can absorb. It’s actually not all that difficult. It’s the derivations over the last few hundred years that have made it complex. One of the other Ministers, who I was introduced briefly, was a little surprise that I knew as much as I did. If only he knew. I’m working on knowing every precedent I can before I step up to the bench. Fortunately, I had a little while to keep studying.
We had a little snag with the wedding. Tralee and Robert wanted the wedding to take place at the local parish, a charming little church. She planned that the Monsignor would preside. But, apparently he told the deacon, who just happened to be in the area. The Monsignor, out of respect and a sense of political self-preservation, offered the role to this deacon. When the bishop showed up, it was then transferred to the bishop. Tralee was almost in tears as this bishop was changing the function into something entirely formal and forbidding, not what she had in mind. He was railroading Tralee to do it his way.
I told the bishop that providing a wedding 'to dream of' for my daughter is my preeminent goal at this time. Of course, he agreed. So, since she is comfortable with her friend, the Monsignor, he will preside. His smile slipped a bit, but he had no choice but to step down. Further, the entire function was going to be performed with another person, from another belief system, who holds the spiritual welfare of my people as her responsibilities. There, that was diplomatic. I could have said, my grandmother is going to run the ceremony, or else she’ll eat you. But, I restrained myself. The bishop agreed.
So, we are having a civil ceremony, in the church, with the Monsignor and Tatasha presiding. Tralee was relieved and much happier. I have no idea if Random was planning on doing anything formal or not. I sent out a letter asking if he wished to take a more formal role in the wedding. His reply came back quickly. He thought he’d be an honored guest instead. Okay.
Tralee has been working hard to get everything in place. She especially wanted all of her sisters involved in the ceremony. This was greeted with much glee and suggestions. Robert asked Kai-Revere, Tremerule and Eidolon to stand with him in the Bridegroom’s side. They were pleased and honored. Later, Kai said it would give him a great view, in case anything "went wrong". We decided to forego the tradition of assigning sides to each of the involved family. Robert’s side would look sadly bare, unless I can find my way back to his Shadow, to his family.
Invitations have been made and hotel rooms booked for hundreds. I Trumped Benedict. He answered as artillery fire swept around him. Oh, this is a bad time. "Not at all," he replied. I quickly made sure he knew of the wedding and his invitation, since he may not get back to Amber in time to receive his. He was pleased, I think. And, since we had some problems with my own wedding, would it be possible to learn what precautions he took, so that nothing interfered with Tralee’s. He thought it was a good idea and suggested a Captain Witt from Amber's army. Witt was part of that planning committee and was fully able to undertake such precautions. As always, I thanked him and said that if there was anything he needed my help from, he would call? He said he would, though I doubt there was anything he would need my meager skills for.
I immediately went to Amber with Tremerule and spent the day tracking down Captain Witt. I also had the invitations hand delivered to those in Amber. I had to Trump everyone in my deck to get the rest out into Shadow. Those people I don’t have Trumps of were transferred through ones I had. Still, we’ve given people months of leeway, Amber time, to make arrangements if they wanted to attend.
I found Witt with some other officers. I quickly outlined my request. He immediately went to Random to ask for a leave of absence. Random said he’d give him his answer by the next day. I wonder if I was supposed to go see Random on this. Amber etiquette is still funny sometimes. I spent the remaining day, giving Tremerule a tour of Amber city. He was surprised and delighted by the city and the people.
I got a Trump from DeWinter. He’d gotten a Trump from Dalt, who says that Dastard has recovered completely. And, Dastard wants to see Tremerule. Hmm. We have to ask Tremerule about this. He agreed and said it could wait until I returned.
I went to see Tremerule. I explained that his father wants to talk to him. He drew into himself a bit. It was sad to watch. Quietly, he asked how he could know if he was really talking to his father or not. I said I didn’t know, but Dalt had been keeping an eye on him, and I doubt he would relay the message if he thought Dastard was dangerous to him. He still wasn’t sure. He didn’t know how long Dastard had been controlled. He said he thought he still needed some time.
About an hour later, I got a surprising Trump from Dastard. He looked very, very tired. He asked if I knew if Tremerule would ever want to speak with him again. I said I didn’t know, but never is a long time to contemplate, especially for us. I said he just needed more time to come to terms. Could he give his son that time? In the end, he had to say yes. But I could see it hurt him to say it. I told him, the moment Tremerule said he wanted to meet with him, I would get them together. He just said thank you, very quietly, and for the first time in a long time, I think he was sincere.
I did have DeWinter Trump Dalt with an invitation. He might show up if DeWinter gave it to him.
Random agreed to let me borrow Captain Witt. I Trumped DeWinter, Claw and Vis but got no response. It was the middle of the night there, but still, someone should have answered. I Trumped Mother and we went through to her. She was in the middle of some meeting, so she gave me a kiss on the cheek, inquired after Eidolon, and then sent us on my way.
We went into Shadow on horseback.
Today, DeWinter finally answered. He was on the floor and there was an untreated gash across his chest. Then we were cut off. I still couldn’t raise Claw or Vis. I picked up the pace until we were fairly hell-riding. I advised Witt that we may be walking into a trap. Tremerule got pale, but spurred his horse to go faster.
We got to the house. The first thing I found was that the children were gone. Weir adults were scattered everywhere, still unconscious but their pulse was strong. Not even weir children were there. I Trumped Rinaldo next. It took an hour to bring him out of his stupor. It looked like his mind was working through molasses, trying to function. And he looked very, very different. His hair was long, he was wearing make-up, and he had the body of a woman. I brought him through. As soon as he was through, he collapsed into my arms. But his form had reverted to his normal body. I set him down and searched some more. I didn’t see DeWinter, nor Mal. I set Witt and Tremerule to find out what happened. I was going after the children. I could feel Xhimena’s tattoo, so it was easy to find her. I was thankful that she was with the girls. They’d been there, in Pablo’s studio, for over thirty hours. They told Pablo that he couldn’t call the police. For some reason, Pablo didn’t. I didn’t ask because they were still explaining what happened, and later, I forgot.
Apparently, Mal went crazy. She was attacking the weir. Robert told Tralee to get the children out. This was the one place they thought Mal wouldn’t find them. They had followed the protocol I had set for the weir and everyone else. Whatever was happening, get the children out. We can sort out what happened later.
I gave them hugs. Their fear was largely gone, since Mal hadn’t come after them. You can’t hold onto fear for days without fuel. I told them to stay put, while I went to find Kai and Eidolon. I gave Catherine a hug, for keeping my family safe.
I rode and found the boys easily. They just hadn’t been home. With the two jobs, Kai just slept at work since he would just have to turn around and ride back out. Eidolon was with him. I told them to get back to the house. To impress upon Kai, that he should follow orders, I told them that one of Benedict’s hand-picked officers was there and they were to do what they were told. Kai looked awed and both promised.
I went in and out of Shadow, looking for Mal. Every time, my search led me back to Paris. She was still here. So I started searching.
It took the rest of the day and a fair bit of the night until I found Mal. It was the early part of the morning. I ended up in a nightclub in a seedy part of town. I Trumped DeWinter and he came through. Apparently, Tremerule thought he could search, and was also gone and not answering his Trump. Sigh.
I knew Mal was in the nightclub, because when I asked the attendant outside, he almost looked relieved. Yeah, she was there. She’d been there for a few days now. No one could kick her out. We went in.
The first thing I saw was Tremerule on stage, dancing and dancing with three naked women. DeWinter tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to a long pair of legs coming out from a booth. We headed over there. She was sitting there, on Robert’s lap. As lightly as I could, I said, “Hello, how are you doing?”
She turned her head and the look was not right. In a voice that was not her own, she said, “Cassandra.” It was lower and more husky than her usual voice. I sat down, not too close, while handing my deck to DeWinter. He slipped back and began riffling through the cards.
Robert was nuzzling Mal’s neck. I asked her if she would stop him from doing that. “Why? It feels good.” I said there were other things that feel good. She took that as an invitation and slide over into my lap. She put her arm around my neck and I could feel pressure around my wards. Robert was as good as stone, next to me. She kissed me, just as Blythe arrived. She took the scene in, with only slightly larger eyes and sat down across from us. Mal kissed me again, ignoring Blythe. I felt a spark run through me and Mal collapsed.
I was just picking her up when there was a commotion near us. Tremerule was now fighting Rinaldo, knocking him out and turning to the people around him. Chairs were thrown around as people yelled and screamed to get out of his way. DeWinter waded in and knocked Tremerule out. I carried Mal, while Blythe got Robert and DeWinter carried Tremerule and Rinaldo.
Outside, we Trumped back to the house. Rinaldo spent a long while unraveling the spells Mal used on Robert and Tremerule. They were healed.
Then Mal woke up.
“Pretty Cassandra.” The voice was back. “The weir were tasty. Why did you stop me from having fun?” I knocked Mal out again. Somehow we have to get her back.
It took the better part of the day to figure out what was going on. It seems that Mal had been seriously suppressing her feelings, in order to not impose on us, or be a danger. What it caused was a…manifestation, for lack of a better word. As Freud would say, her id had taken over completely. What we would have to do is keep Mal happy. That means physically, as well as anything else. I felt awful that Mal had been putting herself through so much. It’s not like she hadn’t given us clues. We just never realized what would happen. I think Blythe was relieved that neither DeWinter nor I hesitated to agree to do whatever was necessary. We talked about it for a long while. I’m not attracted to women, generally, but if DeWinter was there, it would be easier. He agreed with it, if only to make sure 'Evil Mal', as he put it, doesn’t come out again. I had to agree with that.
Things have been nicely quiet. Everyone was a little awkward the first few days after Mal’s attack, though we let slide many of the details. The weir certainly treated her with more respect. It actually turned out to be a nice arrangement, not as difficult or awkward as I thought. Mal’s pregnancy was going well and everyone’s thoughts have turned to the wedding, which is in a few days.
Tralee has been panicking at everything, certain it will be a dismal failure. Family members have started to arrive, so getting them orientated and settled took up a lot of time. My sisters, Mother and Ketchum came first. Surprisingly, Random came early with Vialle, which set off DeWinter trying to see to the King’s safety. Not that Random really let him. He just humored DeWinter and then did what he wanted. DeWinter grumbled a lot, but it kept him mind off of the fact that one of his “little” girls was getting married.
The wedding was wonderful. We got the weir into tuxedos, which they thought hilariously funny. Tralee wore a thirty-foot train, compliments of Mother. Tatasha stalked through, keeping firm control over things at the house. I ushered the girls, who have been stone statues all morning so they wouldn’t ruin their gowns, into their cars.
Thanks to DeWinter’s security measures, we heard of a radical group of Turks that had been seen and were planning on something to disrupt the proceedings. I ordered that they be detained and contained. The weir went off happily.
The ceremony was a bit French, a bit Weir and a bit Mycenaean. Instead of Tralee being escorted to Robert, they each had a train of people escorting them. They met outside and entered together. DeWinter looked wonderful, and he walked with Tralee on his arm. He was as tense as I’ve ever seen him, and they walked. Tralee gave him a kiss and then linked her arms with Robert. The two proceeded inside together, with the rest following.
What I hadn’t anticipated was the number of people with cameras. It seemed like there were hundreds. I had to tell the weir, who were very tense, that the flashes from the cameras would do no harm. They smiled and nodded, but I don’t think they believed me. We went inside and took our placed. Some of the people with cameras actually slipped inside and began taking pictures. The bright flashes were very distracting and I gave Vis a frown. He signaled to the weir in back. A moment later, I heard a series of yelps, a few crashes and the sounds of bodies hitting pavement outside before the doors shut firmly.
As the ceremony began, I was indignant to see the bishop in place of the Monsignor. A train of people, complete with censors and regalia began marching through. I was furious. And by her expression, so was Tralee. He was usurping the ceremony in order to aggrandize his own standing! I looked at Tatasha, who was standing next to him. I was standing up when she moved and said something to the bishop. He paled and stepped back. She went to the Monsignor, linked her arm with his and led him up to the forefront. I sat back down. The censor went away and I could see people hurriedly putting away whatever the bishop had ordered. The ceremony went on as planned.
I was pleased to see everyone I knew from the Family. And a few I only knew distantly. In fact, we filled the entire room. There was such a wonderful feeling of good will, as everyone sat with respect and delight. All of the girls were enraptured by the decorations and all of the people who came to see their big sister married. They recognized a few, but they had no idea that their family was so large. At most they saw many of them at Yule, but rarely en masse such as this.
Despite how the ceremony started, by the end Tralee was floating on air. Robert just looked stunned. DeWinter alternated with pride and sadness. Pride won out though, and I don’t think he noticed how often he was smiling.
In the end, the two exited together down the aisle, with us following. We opened the door and were stunned.
Thousands of people lined the area, standing there, waiting for a glimpse of the bride. When they saw her, they gave a roar, cheering madly. I didn’t plan this, and I’m sure DeWinter was appalled at the security problems this provided, but the look on Tralee and Robert’s face was priceless. We gently propelled them to their car and saw it on its way. We had over a hundred cars to see everyone to the house and the reception; a veritable parade. The girls were ecstatic. Hmm, I have 11 or 12 more of these to do. How could we possibly surpass this?
We got to the house with no problems. No grenades, no armies, no bombs, and no reporters killed, though many cameras died. A good day.
I found out later that DeWinter and Mal arranged for a blockade around the church. They couldn’t stop pedestrians, but they did stop anyone with guns. The Turks had been seen and they fled to avoid capture. They holed up into a building and the police forced them out. We still do not know why they were after us. But it was serious. There were 75 of them. Half the weir adults had been dispatched to take care of the situation. The police thought they were crazy to try and get inside. So, they didn’t go inside. They went up the sides and into the windows. The Turks were so surprised they barely got a shot off. The weir all returned, only slightly rumpled. The few injuries they had were healing very, very quickly. Bison said the healing was almost as good as Aes.
Kai, Eidolon and Tremerule had been made Commander’s by DeWinter. They took it seriously and stopped them from getting into trouble. Tremerule was in charge of Robert, Eidolon was to see to Tralee, and Kai appointed himself their leader.
By the time we got to the house and the reception started, I saw a car with a number of bags in it. I went to find Tralee. She had already changed out of her gown and was dressed for traveling. It was her idea for them to slip away while no one noticed. I truly did understand the desire to start her honeymoon, but I reminded her that the entire family had traveled here from all points of Shadow to see her married and give her their good wishes. It would be ungracious for her to leave, though I’m sure they’d understand. Besides, the boat doesn’t leave until noon the next day anyway. Robert reinforced this and she agreed to stay. But she wanted to go first thing in the morning. Agreed. She put her gown back on and they went down the stairs to a large applause.
The party was wonderful. We had musicians in many of the different rooms, all playing modern jazz, classical, every type of music we could provide. Random was really pleased and set himself down to play drums. Pablo thought it was great fun and Catherine glowed.
I suppose I should have expected party crashers, but not of this magnitude. Dignitaries of every sort were wandering through, including a few crown princes and dozens of ambassadors. Tralee, exhausted by the ceremony and a few too many drinks still maintained some decorum, though she swayed slightly. At one point, Robert got her attention and said, “We’re married.” Tralee nodded, happily. Robert said a bit louder, with a bit more emphasis, “We’re married!” Tralee said she knew that, she was there when it happened. He gave her a quizzical look. Tralee had drunk enough that she wasn’t catching the meaning; Robert was rescinding the celibacy rule they had. He shook his head in exasperation and then pushed her toward the stairs. It took a few bewildered looks from Tralee and a significant glance from Robert toward their bedroom, before she got the hint. With a laugh, she waved goodbye to everyone and the newlyweds took themselves off.
We saw Tralee and Robert off to their boat. They had planned a month-long cruise along the Mediterranean. Tralee was fine, but Robert looked stunned. I stifled a grin and gave each a kiss and a Trump.
Back at the house, there were still a number of guests milling around. Several ambassadors were trying to guess what part of Czechoslovakia the weir were from. The weir were keeping it a mystery. One man, I learned was a neighboring Prince, had just slept on a nearby couch. He’d borrowed a bathrobe from somewhere and hadn’t bothered with slippers. He looked tired, but the whole night seemed to be a wonderful adventure; especially when he was conscripted by the weir to help carry platters of food into the dining room.
By noon, everyone except the family was gone. Many of the Amberites headed back into Shadow, or Amber sometime during the night. A few stayed to see more of Paris. DeWinter came to find me. Dastard had Trumped him, apologizing for missing the wedding. He did, however, want to send through a gift for Tralee and Robert. He told Dastard to hold on while he got some security people. I’m sure that went over well. DeWinter went to find Dalt. It was Dalt’s opinion that it was probably not safe. I had people on stand-by and trumped Dastard.
He still looked tired. I opened up empathically and felt that he was tired and frustrated. He had in his hands a large heavy wooden box. I accepted it and thank him. He gave a nod and cut the connection. Then we got DoBlique.
She examined it and said she could sense magic. But there was enough interference, she couldn’t tell anything more than that. The box was about six feet long and at least 200 pounds. The wood was letting magic leak through. If it was a trap, it wasn’t a subtle one.
In the end, there was nothing to do but open it. We went into the kitchen and took over the central island. We opened it up and carefully pulled out the stuffing and found a cylinder, wrapped in brown paper. We cut through the paper and found a tapestry. It unrolled for about 12 feet. On it were two story bands. In a pictograph fashion, it was the story of DeWinter and my lives, a brief history before we met. It had to be brief, since Dastard didn’t know much about me. The two lines intersected when we met. The entwined and followed down to where Tralee meets Robert. It ends at there wedding.
The magic, Doblique figured out, was in the making, so it would be done in short notice. Normally, if done without magic, it would take years. Other than that, it was harmless. She loves Tralee, so I know she wouldn’t say it if she wasn’t absolutely certain. We wrapped it up and put it away for when they returned.
I hadn’t seen Mal much over the course of the night. I supposed all the people were tiring, so I had left her alone. Now, I went in search of her.
I found her in her room, looking miserable. She tried to look sprightly, but I had caught her and she gave up the ruse. She said she ached everywhere and she felt miserable. Then she started to cry. I Trumped for Blythe while I held Mal. Blythe was still in bed with a large man next to her. Sigh. She just got out of bed and started collecting her bag.
Blythe came through after pulling on a robe. I started to apologize but she took one look at Mal and waved it aside.
She asked Mal how long this had been going on? Mal, reluctantly, said a few weeks ago. I was surprised and annoyed that she waited this long. Blythe was furious. So, by saying nothing, you effectively were lying to me, your doctor? Even Mal shrunk a bit from her glare. Blythe immediately began to do an examination. She got Mal settled into bed with many blankets. The examination took a long time. All Blythe could find was that there was a foreign substance in the muscles, an almost crystalline growth. She said it had the look of a plant structure, except crystalline.
It took three days to clear her system. The only way to do it was to regularly put her in hot water baths and keep her warm, and give her lots of fluids. Eventually they disappeared. Still, we are very worried. There is so much we don’t know, that Mal doesn’t know, that could go wrong. Even her sexual activity has been tapering off, as she just hasn’t felt like participating. That’s not normal for an Amberite baby. The question is, is it right for Thorn children? Blythe left, though she would Trump daily and visit about once a week. The baby is due any moment. And Mal has to prepare herself for it.
We talked a bit about after the baby is born. The very idea of breast-feeding seemed to appall Mal. She said the weir had already volunteered. I tried to explain that it won’t be the same thing, but Mal didn’t want to hear it. What she does expect is to immediately go back to being a man. I said it would be a few years before the baby would be independent, in that way. She was adamant that she need not do this for the child.
I was slowly losing my temper. What did she expect to do? Hand the baby over and be done with it? Did she think the child would not notice? Regardless of how it happened, she was bearing a child. If she expected to have other people raise it, fine. But, if she expected to stay in this house, she will certainly deal with her responsibilities.
Mal said we were all trying to change her. Me, the baby, everyone. Yes, I couldn’t deny it. Children change everything. But, that wasn’t a bad thing. Blythe was upset by the way things were developing. Aside, she quietly told me that the baby wasn’t doing so well anymore. She wasn’t as robust as she should be.
I had to find answers. While everyone was keeping a watchful eye on Mal, I went to find them.
A New Baby
I found Siggi about three Shadows out. She was more than willing to exchange information about the birth of a Thorn. She had seen one from long ago, so she knew what to expect. I cautiously asked what the cost would be. She wanted me to spit on her head and lick it. Ugh. Why?
Do I really want to know why?
For that, I’d have to give her my boots.
Sigh. I pulled them off and placed them on the ground in front of her.
She was delighted. She tipped one over and put her head inside. Then, somehow, she crawled inside. After a few minutes, I looked into the boot and saw a room being built. Like there was a whole other world in there. A stranger sight I haven’t seen in a long while.
Eventually, Siggi came back out and we took a walk. The cost was a gesture of tenderness and sacrifice. There will be a connection and she will always know when I am lying to her. Oh. All right then. I did it and she closed her eyes, happily.
And so the King of Ravens gave up another secret. The birth of a Thorn is a memorable event. She said we’ll know when the child is ready by the first explosion.
Upon the first ignition, the roots of the child will spread, like thorns throughout the mother. It is very painful. They will work there way through the body until they emerge from the skin. When the hit the air, there will be the secondary fire. The mother is split in half and the child emerges. If Mal is strong enough, she will pull together again. As a bonus, Siggi did offer advice. The baby will recognize me, so I should perhaps wear fireproof clothing.
I don’t think she was kidding.
What am I going to tell people?
I think I thanked Siggi and went home right away.
To say everyone was alarmed would be too much of an understatement. Mal decided right then she’s never having another baby. I can’t say I blame her.
Then the baby started to kick.
We took Mal out of the Shadow, somewhere isolated but comfortable. Blythe, DeWinter, a few weir and myself accompanied her.
We spent the day, waiting. I can only guess that the Amberite part of the child helped, because nothing that Siggi said happened. The roots grew and Mal was indeed in pain. But she gave birth normally, at least for her. A lovely little girl. Since there was no one there, Mal fed her. She barely started before she passed out. We were all relieved to be proved wrong.
Until the baby burped.
A foot-long jet of fire shot out of the baby. It gave a little snort and went to sleep.
Girl Trouble for Eidolon
We got Mal home and settled. Everyone has made a huge fuss over the baby, especially the girls. They all made sure they were around when the girl was fed. As of yet, Mal hasn’t named her. I would do so, but I think it’s important that Mal do it.
Eidolon has been busy. Apparently, somehow, he got himself four girlfriends. They are all friends and they told him they had a system to decide which one of them would be the 'best girlfriend'. They each have a day where one would spend the day with him. He gets time off once a week for good behavior, I suppose. Kai supported all this by snickering every time the subject was brought up. I have to admit I’m a little worried. Kai’s fifteen and still doesn’t think about girls at all. Or boys for that matter.
DeWinter went to talk to Eidolon.
He told Eidolon “You can walk away if you don’t like them.”
Eidolon shrugged, “I do like them.”
DeWinter replied, “You are so screwed.”
Eidolon just looked at him. “That’s your advice, Dad? That’s all you got? Thanks a lot.”
It hit home that Eidolon has been calling DeWinter Dad for a long time. DeWinter did have a talk with him about it, apparently. Eidolon knows DeWinter isn’t his father. But all the others call him that that he fell into it. Well, he is the preeminent father figure in his life, so it makes sense to me.
Mosi, even though she’s not the oldest, is maturing faster than the other girls. She’s been asking questions about growing up. We all had a girl-talk session. Unlike myself, they know they are different from Shadow girls. For example, they will not have courses like the others. Growing up, it made me an oddity. Actually, it made my teenage years miserable. But they as a group know they are different, not as an individual. So, I did my best to explain what they can expect. They had already decided to keep it a secret. They avoid outright lying, but instead deftly turn talks around where they don’t have to say much either way.
A Baby Sister
I got a Trump from Mother. She just had a baby girl. Hmm. We’re going to have to get some boys in the family soon. She named the girl Eliappea. Oh, yeah, she’s over Evander, I can tell.
My daughter is doing well. We’re getting quite adept at handling fire incidents. But, Mal is not doing so well. I thought she might be suffering from IT, coming to her, as with so many other Amberite Mothers. But I could sense no trace of IT. But Mal is getting sicker, and there is still pain, especially in her breasts. She says she gets the worst migraines. She has relegated much of the feeding to the weir, and I’m sure that’s where the problem lies. I decided to beard the lion in her den.
And we argued. She said when she feeds the child, she passes out. She says the baby is taking her over and she will not let the child make her vulnerable. She doesn’t want it near her. Blythe Trumped for a visit. So she got to witness the scene.
While Blythe examined Mal, plainly worried, I played with the baby. As it went on, I moved closer and closer to Mal. If reason won’t do, I’ll have to ambush her another way. I kept talking to her, stressing how the child will not harm her. We will always watch and make sure all was well. Mal stopped arguing, but was still panicky. I just kept talking to her softly, showing her what a beautiful baby we have. Blythe watched us intently.
After an hour or so, I gently laid the baby in Mal’s lap. She went stiff at a board. She didn’t say anything; she just stared at the baby, looking as if she was going to bolt. I put my hand on Mal’s. I was startled to feel no pulse. That she didn’t need to breathe was not a consolation. She was almost catatonic with fear.
The baby just smiled and waved tiny hands, smiling up at her mother. I opened up empathically and felt the raw panic radiating from Mal. I gently took Mal’s hand and held it. after a long while, I let the baby grasp one of Mal’s fingers and one of mine. Mal still said nothing, but she did make some small noises.
We stayed that way for over an hour. Then, slowly, inch by inch, she picked the baby up and began to feed her. This time she did not faint. Instead, she was almost in a trance-state. By the time she was done, she looked around surprised. The migraine was gone.
Mal felt so much better, she not only came down to breakfast, but she also brought the baby. She decided she needed to do some shopping. If she was going to do this, she ought to get used to buying clothes and whatnot.
About an hour and a half later, one of the weir that accompanied her came rushing back.
Mal was in jail.
I rushed to the station and got a general idea of what happened. She had some pain, some sort of attack. The shopkeeper called the police to help. When the officer arrived, he tried to lift her up. When he touched her, Mal went crazy and threw him through a plate glass window.
Then the shop caught fire.
They caught her and brought her in. The baby was in the care of one of the officers. I collected the child and asked if I could see her. They plainly thought she was too dangerous to allow this. I pulled rank as a Minister and demanded to see her. Just then, an officer came in to tell his superior that the woman was pulling off her blouse.
I by-passed them all and went inside. Mal was pacing back and forth, tiger-like, and growling. Little tendrils of smoke were coming out from her nose. I turned to the officer in the door and said she needs to feed her child. And I shut the door.
I put the baby down. Mal only had eyes for the babe. I managed to pull apart the bars enough to pass the baby. As soon as Mal began to feed her, she calmed down and came to her senses.
It seems that if she doesn’t feed the child regularly now, it causes a fair amount of pain. She thought, with the panicking shopkeeper, that they were going to take the child away from her. She knew she lost her temper, but it was all a vague blur.
Somehow, I got her out of there. They were willing to buy into the idea of a distressed mother. They had little else to go on. People just didn’t start fires by yelling.
I arranged to reimburse the shopkeeper along with many apologies. We decided it would be best if Mal stayed home for a little while.
I’ve grown tired of referring to my daughter as “the baby” or “the child.” I told Mal she has to pick a name. I don’t think Mal understood what the fuss was about, but humored me. She got a hold of a dozen books on names, disliking then all.
In fact, she was so insulted by one book, I daren’t ask why, she ate it.
Instead, she decided to go to the Louvre. I deployed my weir secret service to help with any difficulties. And since I made arrangements, nothing really happened. Mal took the baby and showed her picture after picture. Monad came to walk with us, bemused at the odd behavior. I told him she was trying to find a name for the baby. Well, that’s a new reason for visiting the Louvre.
In the end, she found a picture both she and the child liked. So, our daughter is now Matisse Blue Manoir. Monad said that is not a girl’s name. It’s not even a first name. Mal didn’t care. In fact, she seemed pleased with it. I rather like it myself. Pablo on the other hand, when he learned of it was shocked and outraged. I suppose this puts their rivalry at a new level. I’ve heard Matisse was fairly pleased. He sent a note asking if he might visit his namesake someday. Why not?
DeWinter has been trying very hard to be there for Eidolon and Kai. There’s a bit of role reversal. It’s Eidolon that has been thrown off-balance with his girlfriends.
Matisse is growing very quickly. Even at slightly over three months, she is standing up. Last week she started trying to get out of her crib. Of course, she fell. It hurt and she screamed. It took an hour to get the fire under control. Now this has happened three times. We will have to take stock in a crib company….it’s always ground zero. I suppose Matisse blames it for her hurts. Mal gave her some stern lectures. So far they haven’t stuck.
Tralee and Robert returned home. They had three cars full of packages. Tralee was glowing and Robert alternated between grinning madly and looking stunned. We all gathered around to welcome them home. Then we spent the afternoon listening to their stories, looking at pictures while they handed out gifts for everyone. Even the boys managed to get back from work in time to enjoy the impromptu party we held.
We’re on the sixth crib. DeWinter has cut off the legs, so she has less distance to fall. It’s become a regular event. She climbs out, loses her balance, falls, and screams and toasts the crib. Our Fire Brigade is top notch, though.
She’s walking now. I wonder just when her growth will slow. It’s already hard to explain all she can do.
Matisse has all the appearance of a 3-year-old and the mind of a baby. This causes some problems. She doesn’t know her own strength. And we keep talking to her as if she were older. She had figured out her own special talent. She’s learned that if she can work herself up to frenzy, she gets attention because no one wants to set the house on fire. She’s done it three times this month. I’ve had enough of this. I didn’t buy into the blackmail with Kai; I certainly won’t do it with her. Before I could do anything other than comment to Mal, Mal stood up and said she would handle it.
The next time Matisse started in, Mal walked up to her and slapped her on the mouth. Matisse was so shocked she stopped it immediately. We'll see how this works.
I believe Eidolon is becoming rather disenchanted with his girlfriends. I don’t think he quite knows what to do.
Magic classes are going well. Even Rinaldo is amazed. He confided that two of the girls are able to sense the magics in this Shadow. He said this was exceptional for anyone under four years of training. It was Mosi and Devi. He said that the average of people in Amber that could possibly do this was about 20%. But he’s thinking that perhaps half the girls will have some talent. He’s a bit daunted at the idea of training six of the children at the same time. He thought it would be Kai and Xhimena, and that was all. The rest, well he was indulging the rest because they were so happy to be trying it. He figured they would stop once they realized they couldn’t do it. I patted him on the arm, gave him a kiss on the cheek, and said I had every bit of faith that he could do it.
More of the girls are now able to sense magic. Now it’s Devi, Mosi, Ingra, Ekaterin, Xhimena, Kai-Revere and Eidolon. Rinaldo asks: Did I know how remarkable this was? Of course. They are remarkable people.
Owen came to visit, bringing some distressing news. She has been following some disturbing events in the Courts of Chaos. There is some sort of virus; highly virulent, highly adaptable that is moving through the Courts. We are so used to not being susceptible to diseases it's hard to fathom. Apparently, the Chaosians cannot, as a whole, believe anything can harm them. This virus is strong enough to overcome Chaosian, and Amberite, physiology. It doesn’t harm them physically, but it infects and “programs” the host. Especially during sleep, it continues to influence them, so that when they awaken they are increasingly likely to follow the ideas introduced during the sleep. It is relentless, like a water torture of continual drops on the head. Merlin has designed a detection spell, apparently before he succumbed to it. It causes people to become increasingly aggressive and violent.
And there is no cure.
Owen scanned everyone here, to make me feel better. We even told Nachoth when we scanned her. Owen wasn’t too keen on the idea of telling her why we were scanning her, but I thought she may be able to feel it being done. It would be rude not to inform her. If she was infected, the host would see any action as an attack and she would defend herself. So, I told her. She didn’t react angrily, and she did allow the scan. Thankfully, she was clean. We didn’t have much doubt it would be negative, since her people have never been to the Courts. But it has gone into some Shadows and there are now shadows of the virus.
On a personal note, she told me how Tigh had gotten himself arrested in his Shadow. He was an artist and was holding an exhibition. Someone decided to sabotage his work, setting it on fire to make some political statement. Tigh spent a frantic few minutes making sure everyone got out, requiring that he go back into the blazing building several times.
Later he got a subpoena. There were some people who said that he was to blame because he didn’t post that his exhibit was flammable. That’s silly. Most artworks are flammable. Oil paintings can go up easily, wood sculptures, and the like. How was he to know someone would bring a match? They just wanted someone to blame.
Apparently he thought the same way. He pleaded not guilty, even when the other artists settled out of court by pleading guilty and paying for damages. He gave all his money away to charities, just prior to his conviction, so they could not seize it. He had nothing, the prosecutor got nothing, and so the prosecutor demanded the maximum sentence. And he got it. Tigh served for eighteen months. Along with his girlfriend who was charged with conspiracy.
During his sentence, he drove the warden and guards crazy. Handsome already, he made himself the “Pretty Boy” of the prison. It made him nigh-unto untouchable with all the protection from the other inmates. And the guards could do nothing about it. Way to go, Tigh!
A Vacation on the French Riviera
We decided to have a vacation. I rented a villa on the French Riviera and we all carted our way there. The weir were delighted when they learned that nudity on the beach was permissible. Eidolon told me that his girlfriends asked if they could go. They all didn’t want to choose just one. The situation is wearying on him and I told him he’s had plenty of time to decide if there was one that held any special meaning for him. If that wasn’t the case, he could break up with them. He asked if I was sure about that. Of course I was sure. He seemed surprise. I occurred to me that he was dating all of them because he wanted to be polite. Oh, my. He went of and broke the news to them. When we left, it was to a stream of tear-ridden notes.
Over the course of the vacation, we invited several members of the Family to join us. So there were Amberites floating in and out at all times. I even Trumped Dalt to invite him and DoBlique. He said he would pass the message on. He also said that he thought it would wrong to keep allowing DoBlique to be exposed to such Amberite decadence. That was the last straw. I’ve had enough of his judgmental attitudes. He’s seen enough to know we are not the demons his mother painted us as. But, he will not budge. Obstinate, to say the least. I smiled sweetly and said I understood. After all, Tremerule, as we speak, was dancing naked around the sacrificial bonfire. Storm clouds covered Dalt’s face and I cut off the contact.
Well, there was a bonfire, and most of us were nude. Perhaps there will be dancing later. I was laughing as DeWinter shook a finger at me. "You enjoyed that." Yes, yes I did.
DoBlique arrived a few days later, harried and worried. Dalt had told her something was very wrong and she came to our rescue. To say she was annoyed at Dalt would be a slight understatement, but she laughed when I told her what I had said.
I spent that afternoon catching DoBlique up on what was happening. She cooed over Matisse, spent time with all the girls. When I told her about Eidolon, she said that DeWinter also had several girlfriends. But, he was so dedicated with the church, read oblivious, that he didn’t even know he had them. I had to smile at the image.
Eidolon had a rather difficult time. Amberite women are not always pretty, but they do have a stunning impact. All the women, almost all who are nude, running around was…distressing. He spent a great deal of time in the waters, hiding his…distress. At one point, I pulled him aside and offered him his own initiation. I thought that it might make things easier in the future. Mycenae does not offer this to men, now I’m wondering why. But, it seems like a good idea. He was a little embarrassed, perhaps it was because I was his sister, but he said he’d think about it. I think it should be rather soon. He’s attracting girls everywhere he goes. He is handsome and incredibly poised and polished for someone his age. Kai is a bit more rakish, and oblivious to the attentions.
Tralee loved the house and the beach so, with their approval, I offered to buy it for them, as a gift. Tralee’s eyes lit up and Robert was astounded at the gift. So, I called a realtor and had them contact the owners. They weren’t really willing to sell, but I made the offer double of what the house was worth. In the end, that sold them. Really, I didn’t earn that money. I had arranged funds when I came into the Shadow. Giving it away was no difficulty for me.
Eidolon got bushwhacked today. He met a girl. Her name is Kasta. He got all dreamy and smiling when he talked about her. She was Greek, from Mycenae. He was a little confused when I explained that this Mycenae wasn’t the same as the one I came from. Actually, he didn’t believe me, so he asked DeWinter. When DeWinter confirmed that there were different Shadows with Mycenae in them, Eidolon conceded that I might know what I was talking about. She was staying with her grandmother on a yacht in the harbor. She literally bumped into Eidolon in the market. I told him he could invite her if she wished. He was happy at that.
Eidolon brought Kasta over to meet us. She was absolutely gorgeous. And she was nice, and largely unpretentious. I liked her immediately. She was traveling away from her parents for a while. Her grandmother is her chaperone.
They didn’t stay long. She loves the cinema and invited Eidolon to join her. He wanted to show her the family and was a little dismayed, but said he’d love to join her. I said why not compromise. Go to the cinema and then come back here. Both were pleased with that and Eidolon said he’d go get ready and “get the boys.” Kasta was confused by that but said nothing. I left her with Byslamia and followed Eidolon. I told him that this was a date, not an outing. He looked surprised. Oh. Then I better wear nice clothes. He went off.
They left, having decided to walk. We invited Kasta’s chauffeur in. He had a great time having a cool drink and watching everyone playing on the beach. Kai-Revere did come looking for Eidolon, wondering where he’d gotten himself off too. I just told him that Eidolon went into town. I firmly squashed Kai’s idea to go looking for him.
It was mid-evening when I was told that three cars had pulled up to the front of the house. I went to see them. There was an Army major, the local French constable and various other men. They were looking for Kasta who had gone missing. I told them she was fine, she just went into town. The major eyed Kasta’s car and asked why her car was still here? Really, if I was going to kidnap her, I’d have at least hidden the car. I took him and the constable into to talk with the chauffeur so confirmed that Kasta went into town willingly, on foot. Just then a group of weir children, all nude, raced through the kitchen snatching up some food and rushing out. The major was too jumpy for my tastes; he unsnapped his pistol holster. I told him I would not tolerate it if he shot any of my guests, especially the children. The chauffer nodded in agreement, now a little alarmed. He told the major that, “The Princess can take care of herself and I doubt the trouble has followed her here.” The major just glared at him until he fell silent. Princess? Trouble? The major declined to talk further.
Instead he sent his men off to find them, heading for the cinema. I realized that they had been gone for hours. The show would have been long over. Hmm. I lightened the mood, or tried to. I said we could have a race, to see who found them first. He didn’t appreciate my attempt and stalked off. I got Bison and we went into town as the cars rushed past us. I got a fix on Eidolon’s tattoo and found them in a café. Bison caught their scent there. We moved closer and we could see them in a booth chatting away. We win. We took a table outside. I was loath to interrupt them.
The major pulled up and joined us. I made him sit down. He was glowering at the two of them. he was ready to storm the café. I preempted the action and went inside to get them. Bison moved to block anyone from following. Good man.
They were surprised to see me, more surprised at how long they had been sitting there. Kasta was dismayed to see the major waiting for her outside. They collected themselves and went outside with me. The major went from cold to frigid when he saw Kasta holding Eidolon’s hand. What the hell was going on here? He was entirely too protective even for a personal guard. Something is not right. I let them walk ahead and walked with the major behind them. The major was going to go and walk between them. I summoned a gesture from Mother and in her tone of voice ordered him to fall back. To both of our surprise, he instantly obeyed. Now he was focused on evaluating me rather than the other two.
I had surprised him enough to get some of the story out. The Mycenae King had died. The Queen-consort is not in charge. Kasta had been named heir in the will and there had been an assassination attempt on Kasta. It missed her and hit her grandmother who is recovering on the yacht. They decided to take a “vacation” to remove her from harm until they dealt with whatever faction was behind the attempt. Ah, I see now. Well, people are often trying to kill us, so I wasn’t immediately frightened. The major took note of my lack of fear or abject concern.
We got to the house. The major called for a launch for himself and Kasta, to take them to the yacht. I told him they could aim for the bonfire, since it was highly visible from the harbor. I alerted Claw and Vis that we will have visitors from the seaward side. Claw got cloaks with hoods and we all wore them down to the launch. Until she was aboard, no one would know who to attack. The major was astonished by the forethought. I smiled. Yes, we are not the usual tourists.
Kai thought it was all very interesting, but not in a good way. He had convinced himself that Kasta was a spy, perhaps from Chaos, sent to get Eidolon interested in her. Sigh. He’s got to get another job. Two isn’t enough.
Claw told me this morning that one of the weir women found blood on Eidolon’s sheets. It wasn’t his, it was Kasta’s. I was confused. He wasn’t hurt and they were never alone in his room. At least not that I was aware of. Just then there was a deliver of a huge bouquet of flowers for Eidolon. Eidolon was pleased, not even noticing Kai’s snickering.
I pulled Eidolon aside and asked him what was going on. Well, it seems he will not need an initiation rite anymore. It was Kasta. They’d consummated their relationship at the theatre! I had mixed feelings. My happiness at the news was mitigated by a number of things. First, I could think of a number of places more romantic, more private than the theatre. Second, she was a Princess. Some cultures would place a high value on virginity. I wondered if there would be ramifications to this. Instead, I gave him a hug and told him he had better send her a gift, immediately, along with an invitation to the grandmother.
It seems that Kasta is under quarantine. Gifts arrive daily from Kasta to Eidolon, but she has not been able to get away. Our invitation has been ignored. Eidolon is getting despondent over the whole thing.
This morning Kasta swam up to the beach. Apparently she just jumped overboard and swam here. That was no little distance to do, but she was an accomplished swimmer. We got her inside, into dry clothes and gave her something to eat. I wondered how long until her bodyguards tracked her down.
About mid-morning a car pulled up. It was the major, with the Chief of Police, and he was not in a good mood. Not that I’ve ever seen a good mood in him to judge. I went out to meet him. As soon as I stepped out, he unsnapped his holster. Well, it looked promising. Not.
He began by saying that he demanded Kasta be handed over to him. Also, they did not want Eidolon to contact Kasta ever again. If he did they would press charges. What? I asked him how old Kasta was. She was 23 years old. I said she was adult enough to make her own decisions. He would not be put off. He leaned in, trying to be menacing. Hmm, I’ve been intimidated by the best of them. It didn’t work. He said that he didn’t know about France, or wherever we’re from, but rape is a serious charge. The police chief looked like he wanted to be anywhere but between us.
I grew angry. I poked him in the chest, surprising him enough to step back. I said if charges were going to be made, he’d better look to his own. Technically speaking, she would be charged with statutory rape herself, if that were what we wanted to do. Before he could speak, I poked him again. Then I told him that Eidolon was fifteen years old. An adult from where I’m from, but not in France or Greece. So before he went throwing his bulk around he might do better to get his facts straight. Kasta was indeed here and she could stay here as long as she wants. He could go bully the grandmother if he has the nerve. My family has also had similar trouble and no one would get past my people without serious problems.
I turned to see Eidolon and Kasta just inside the door watching. Eidolon looked as if her was going to give me a cheer and Kasta was wide-eyed. I suppose few people ever told the major off. I asked her if she wanted to go. She said maybe later, but not right now. Okay. I turned back to the major and told him to get off my property. He had no choice but to leave.
The chief was relieved that he didn’t have to arrest me. He wasn’t aware of who I was, but it was still an uncomfortable situation. Actually, I think the major needs to work on his people skills, because the chief plainly enjoyed my show. We invited him in for a bit of food and he accepted. Whatever he thought he’d find, it wasn’t there. It was just a big house with a multitude of rambunctious people running around, laughing or working. It just didn’t have the feel of a terrorist headquarters. But, to prevent surprises, I had the weir take turns watching the docks, in case of trouble. The children would take to the roofs, scampering in fun, to watch the waters. I figured that’s where the trouble will come from
Trouble on the Water
Trouble did come from the water, but not as I expected. I got a Trump from Cutwind, who was at the docks. There was some commotion happening there. Police cars and people were coming in droves. Sounds of gunfire could be heard from Kasta’s yacht. They had a hostage situation. I had him pull me through. I commandeered a boat, despite having little authority to do this. The weir and I piled in and headed out. on the way, I Trumped DeWinter and told him to get some weir ready after outlining the situation.
We approached the yacht. It was quiet, no sounds could be heard, and we could see no one. We cut off the motor and drifted in. There was a ladder up one of the sides. I crept up the ladder until I could see the deck. Right in front of me a man stood with a machine gun. Wonderful. Beyond him I could see the crew hands on the deck, tied up. There were more men there.
I gestured to the weir to get to various points of the boat, in order to board. I indicated where there were those I had seen. They drifted off. I waited until I was sure they were ready. I jumped up and grabbed the man in front of me. I lifted him up and he dropped his gun in surprise. I threw him at the men on the deck and to my surprise, I hit them. The weir were upon them and the men taken care of without one shot being fired. From below, I could hear gunshots.
We cleared the deck of the thugs and freed the crew members. They said they didn’t have control of the boat. The hijackers had control of the engine room. From below, I could hear the occasional gunshot.
We made our way slowly down to the lower deck. The main cabin was in a T corridor. Hijackers were on the other two ends. There was no way to get closer without being completely open to gun fire. Even I’m not that silly.
The more I saw, the more I realized there was no way to get into the grandmother’s cabin. The walls were too thick to shoot through and there were no connecting doors. At least, I assume they had converged on the grandmother’s door.
I Trumped DeWinter and brought him through. We whispered ideas, but not many were feasible. We need to get these people off the boat. DeWinter got an idea. I followed him down to the engine room. We found weir there and a lot of unconscious men. They gave us a smile and the all-clear sign. DeWinter went in and looked over the controls. They were pretty complicated so I didn’t try anything. DeWinter started pushing buttons and turning wheels. After a while alarms sounded and I could hear water filling from below. Ah. He was sinking the boat.
We worked our way back up in time to see the hijackers flooding past, not literally, yet. They went out onto deck into the welcoming arms of the weir. Some did get to their escape boat, but not many. I knocked on the grandmother’s door and announced myself before opening it. Inside I found the grandmother hiding behind a sofa. The major was armed and wounded badly. By the holes in the door, I could tell he’d been holding the bad guys off. We hustled the grandmother who, by the way, was much more angry than scared, to our boat. Tough lady. I picked up the major. He was in no shape to argue. In fact, we had better get him to a hospital as soon as possible.
We were underway just as the yacht sunk beneath the surface. I packed the major’s wounds as best as I could. For some reason, I thought it was important that he didn’t die. He muttered something about the fact that I shouldn’t be so nice. It would be hard to dislike him. I said he could do what others do, and comfort himself by insulting me. As the pain was growing, he distracted himself by calling me every horrible thing he could. After a few minutes, he was smiling faintly as he tried to get inventive.
We got to shore and got him into an ambulance. I sent some weir to follow, to make sure he got there safely. I got yelled at by the police, for what they thought was a stupid stunt. I nodded and led the grandmother to a waiting car.
Kasta was vastly relieved that her grandmother was alright. After that morning exercise, she was a bit more willing to be friendly to us, once we were introduced. I invited her to stay with us while the major was incapacitated and until she could get another boat.
The major would pull through, though it might be a long convalescence. He’d gotten hit in a lung. We were returning to Paris. Kasta promised that she and her grandmother would follow to visit in a while. They’d hired quite a few more people. They would leave once the major was well enough to travel. Again, I wondered at his relationship, but perhaps he is just that devoted. After all, my weir were much the same. I didn’t press for details.
DeWinter the Diplomat
I’ve become a bureaucrat. To counteract the Napoleonic law, I’ve developed various systems to create red tape, giving defense attorneys time to make their cases. Most of the cases are really interesting. Well, I suppose if they were cut and dried, they would never get this far.
Xhimena has been talking about the fact that Mal should have more children. I told her she should talk to Mal about that. I could hear Mal shout, “What!” from across the house. Then Mal came to complain about what my daughter was up to. Sigh. There are only two Thorns, how else would she bring more into the worlds?
She thought Matisse could do it.
Ah, so Mal doesn’t like the whole process, so she’ll give the duty to Matisse? What a loving idea.
Mal grumbled at me and walked away.
Xhimena did accomplish the goal of at least putting the idea into Mal’s head.
News on the foreign front, Russia and Turkey have been at odds of late. It is almost a certainty that they are heading for war. As official looking cars pulled up out front, I thought they were going to ask for my help with negotiations. No, they were much more cleverer than that.
They asked DeWinter to help them.
Neither of us wanted to see another war sweep across the land. In the end, DeWinter agreed to go, even though he doubted he could do much. I have more faith in him. I thought it was a very clever idea. Ask the man who almost single-handedly took over a country with a minimum of force and bloodshed. I told him if they wouldn’t listen, he could threaten to take sides with the one that didn’t declare war first. He thought that was a good idea. He’d save it for a last resort. Of course, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of being away from him for the next few months, but this was for a good cause.
Kai-Revere was happy. He was certain there would be a war. That’s why he thought his father had been asked. They wanted him to start it, while getting an idea of the opposition. I was annoyed at the assessment of his father. I made him a bet. If in six months there was no war, I won. If there was, Kai won. If I lost, he said I’d have to do six months as an art model. Eidolon was annoyed that this was Kai’s idea of a punishment. Kai realized he’d overstepped himself, since Eidolon was still employed as an art model. If Kai lost, he had the choice of six months of dance, music, or singing lessons. He shuddered at the thought. He took a day thinking about it and decided on dance lessons.
We are still concerned about Kai’s idea of war. To his mind it’s all glorified and honorable. I’m becoming worried that when he remembers he can walk the Pattern now, he’ll just go off and find himself in the worst possible mess. Could he handle it? I don’t know, but I don’t want him to get killed trying to find out.
DeWinter and I talked about it at great length. One worry is that once people see Kai, how strong he is, how resilient, he’d get promoted much too fast. Is there some way to find a safe war? I have no idea and neither did DeWinter. DeWinter didn't think any war could be safe. I decided to go ask Benedict.
Meeting with Benedict
It took over two weeks to get to Benedict. I found myself in a desert Shadow where the air was very, very thin. I walked slowly, conserving strength and trying not to strain my lungs. I came to a building set into the sands. From within, I heard a chirping sound and some language. I kept my arms out and empty. I indicated I didn’t understand.
Then the building stood up. A red dot appeared on my chest and heavy guns swung to point at me. I tried to talk in Mycenae, French, and Thari. It was Thari that won out, I think. It made a noise that blasted to the horizon. After about an hour, another building walked into view and toward us. It was much bigger than the first. It reached down and picked me up, ground and all.
The sands trickled through its fingers as it walked and I was hard pressed to keep my footing and not follow the sand crashing to the ground. It was a long way down. We walked for a few hours, I suppose, it was hard to tell. We came to the entrance of what I assumed was a command post. I could see people getting into and out of similar walking buildings.
I was put down and led by a man to the commander’s office. As I went, I could see inside many warheads and guns being fixed to other mobile buildings or being repaired. All of the people bore nasty scars. Very battle hardened, these folks. I collected a few stares myself.
The Commander, of course, was Benedict. We wore a one-piece fatigue suit. He was bald and I was alarmed to see he had an eye patch. Scars ran down one side of his face. He looked up and I could tell he was surprised to see me. He recovered instantly and told the men that I was a courier he was expecting. They nodded and left without questioning anything.
He said they were surprised to see me outside. No one walks the surface without a rebreather. He indicated a mask hanging from my belt. When I entered the Shadow it became part of my attire, but I had no idea what it was for. Interesting. A lesson to remember.
I explained about Kai and our concerns. I’d heard that people in the Family signed up to learn from him, though no preferential treatment ensured their acceptance. He said he started that list over 500 years ago. As of right now no one has graduated to study directly with him for many reasons: life, death, all that. He said that it would be best if Kai were to serve in some force, get some basic training. If after three years he were still inclined to continue training, he would be able to do so as a cadet. That sounded reasonable.
I did inquire about his own injuries. He waved it away saying it was not real. He lifted the eye patch to show that he was fine. He said that a shadow often will cast it’s expectations on us, if we allow it. It was why I attracted such looks. It was very rare to see someone without scars or injuries here.
He took me to a mirror and had me concentrate on what I should look like, rather than my true appearance. It didn’t work at first and I then concentrated on suppressing my knowledge of myself. I tried to recapture the feelings I had when I had lost my identity. It took a long while, but eventually I saw that I had lost some hair on the side, from some burn, and it was cut short on top, rather flat and I had a scar running down from forehead to chin, narrowly missing my left eye. Part of one ear was missing and the other had a ring of studs all around the edge. I could see a faint reddish glow just beneath the skin of the wounded ear. Wow. I lost concentration and my form reverted itself. He said it takes practice, but eventually I could do this without thinking about it. Neat trick, that.
A few more pleasantries and I left. I didn’t want to compromise his standing by staying too long. He had no objection to my Trumping out. At the least, I suppose it would lend my visit even more mysterious than before.
In the end, we decided Kai could join the French Foreign Legion. There were a number of reasons for this. They would not give him preferential treatment. They would train him. No one would ask pesky questions about where he was from. And they are a small force, unlikely to be used in a brute-force attack. Mostly likely, all he would see was skirmishes. Hopefully.
When we offered this to Kai, it was as if Christmas had come early. We told him that if he didn’t like it, if it was too hard or he disagreed with the orders, he couldn’t just up and leave. He had to stay the course. The tour of duty was for three years. He didn’t hesitate to agree.
Before he went to pack he did give me the strongest hug he ever gave me. In that moment I could feel just how strong he’s become. I could feel my ribs grinding slightly and I heard them creak. He left me suspiciously quickly, as if the moment was too emotionally charged for him.
Eidolon hurriedly declined the similar offer. He had no taste for warfare. He might be wiser than all the rest of us. He has been painting on the side, though. That was interesting and I asked him to bring some for me to see.
Kai-Revere Leaves Home
Kai-Revere leaves today.
What an awful sentence that was. He’s been almost unbearable the last week. He’s tied up loose ends and said his goodbyes, repeatedly reminding us of the important things he’s going to do. It drove the girls crazy. Only the fact that they realized that he will not be coming back for a long time made them able to ignore him strutting through the halls.
To Xhimena, he reminded her that he might not come back. So, she might want to kiss him goodbye. Not. Oh, she was so angry she stalked right off. He was confused and went to hunt her down. He found her in one of the side rooms. We know this because we heard the shatter of something breakable as it hit the wall just after he went in. He came out, almost satisfied. “Yep, she’s gonna miss me.”
DeWinter told him to go apologize. Kai thought that was outrageous. DeWinter told him to think about it. Did he really want to go with her upset and angry. If in fact he did not return, would he want her last memory to be one where she threw things at him? He got it.
Days later, the day before he left, he finally got to be in the same room with her, with no handy projectiles. Quietly, he said he’d miss her and he didn’t want to leave with her angry at him. He said he was sorry that he upset her. All the girls looked at him in astonishment. Xhimena began to cry and ran to hug him. He hugged her back and it was a special moment. Then Xhimena said, “You’d better come back or I will fuck you up.” He stared at her, “Hey, you can’t talk like that.” She told him to shut up and hugged him again.
We all saw him to the train station. Everyone smiled and laughed and waved goodbye, promising to write, telling him to write back. As soon as the train was out of sight, a pall hit the group. Many long faces made their way back to the house. Kai could be exasperating at times, but there was no doubt that his presence was already missed.
Tralee and Robert got DeWinter and I alone. They had a bit of shocking news. We were going to be grandparents. They sat there and grinned at us as the idea sunk in. Grandparents? Us? So soon? We were speechless. But it did liven everyone else up.
DeWinter left today, with a few weir. All of us did our best to put the lightest spin on everything, trying to get some balance back. We didn’t really succeed, but we might have helped. Two people going off in two days was a bit much for the girls. I reminded them that their father would visit regularly, because he had Trump, so it wouldn’t be constant. That cheered them a bit. And Kai would get leave. Somehow, I’d make sure we got him home from time to time.
News and Nights
It’s been a tough time. I haven’t seen DeWinter nearly as much as I’d like. He’s kept people from declaring war, but they haven’t agreed on anything else. As a Minister of Justice, I did get the occasional word of the negotiations from the Home Office. The religious leaders of Turkey have used doctrine and sacred writings to convince their leaders of the just cause of a war with Russia. So, to understand them better, DeWinter said he, too, would read the Koran. What they hadn’t counted on the fact is that he’d not only read the whole thing, but he remembered everything. So, for every quote they gave, he answered it likewise. They didn’t know what to do with him.
We’ve gotten several letters from Kai. The girls write to him on an almost daily basis. But, with a month mail travel in between, the letters are disjointed. At first he talked about his command and how well he’s doing. I even took to reading them out loud, trying to match they way he talked. It made the girls laugh. Perhaps it was a little like he was there. They miss him so much, even the way he speaks has come to be a sort of endearment. Now the letters are much shorter. The last one simply said he was fine and we shouldn’t worry about him. Both DeWinter and I could read between the lines. He was seeing combat. I had to fight not to go there and see for myself what is going on.
Xhimena gave me some interesting news. There may be Fey arriving in Paris, calling themselves the “Sorrowful Hand.” And they were sworn to kill all Thorns. They know about Mal, but not of Matisse. They are people who had lost loved ones to the old Thorn King. They’ve sworn to kill every Thorn in vengeance. And with the Fey, an oath is almost tangible. As soon as Mal remembered his identity and transformed into a Thorn, the oath, which has been quiescent for centuries, rose up. They are literally compelled to fulfill their oath. There are about 100 of them.
I asked her how she knew this and I got her to confess that she’d been sneaking out and going to some city nightclubs to consult with a Fey. It seems that many nights, especially with the full moon, she just can’t sleep. She used to wander the house, but that got a little dull. So, she went out. To get into clubs, she wore makeup and somehow convinced the bouncers she was a midget. I almost laughed at the idea, but was also too angry for words. She hurriedly continued with her story. She met a Fey, whom she calls the Le Chat Violet. She was sent here by her Khan, to try and protect Mal.
I told Xhimena I would talk to her later about this. I was clear, make no mistake; she is in a lot of trouble. I was going to see this Cat. I got Rinaldo to go with me. Since this Cat knows Xhimena, Xhimena would have to take us to her and introduce us. She got ready and it was a ridiculous disguise. But, it seemed to work.
She walked ahead and we followed. She met up with some 'night acquaintances', back-dancers who worked the streets. About three of them. They met up with a fourth and continued on. Then they went to the nightclub.
The club was The Honeysuckle. It was dark with smoke that hung in a thick haze above our heads. The music was jazz and very loud. I could see that some of the patrons were fairly wealthy.
They got a table and sat. Xhimena bought the drinks. I could see that the girls weren’t fooled by the midget disguise and they cleverly acted as blockers for any men that approached the table. Usually, all they had to say was that they were off-duty. Sometimes they just distracted the men away from Xhimena. Nice.
Rinaldo was clearly enjoying the show. The music really was good. About an hour later, the central performance began. A woman, powdered violet from head to toe, wearing only green bananas, came on stage and began to dance and sing. It was in no language I recognized. She was slender and an amazing dancer. She must have been triple-jointed, or non-human, to do some of the moves she did. Then she moved into some French songs including one for me or, rather, Annette Liberte.
When she was done, we followed Xhimena back stage. Xhimena introduced us as Annette and Anthony to the stage manager and he just let us go through. She knocked on the door and the Cat opened it. In her hand was a make-up pad. I realized the make-up she was applying was flesh-tones. Her real color was violet.
Before we talked, she warded the doors. Rinaldo watched that intently. She spoke in a language I didn’t know, so we had to make do with imperfect French. Or, from time to time, Xhimena translated.
The Purple Cat was here as some sort of sentence. She’d gotten caught stealing something from the lover of someone else. Her Khan gave her a choice of sentences. Spend a few centuries as a prisoner or death. Sometime later, the Khan had visited her in prison to ask if she wanted to pay off her debt of honor by protecting Mal. Some choice. Cat is of the Mer.
She stayed nearby in a little chapel not too far away until she found this job. Rinaldo was a bit upset. He really thought the Fey couldn’t go onto sacred ground. I have no idea why he would think that.
'The Sorrowful Hand' is made up of people from every Clan, even some Merfolk. The former Thorn King must have been a fun guy. And that was Mal’s father.
Cat's opinion was that Mal was safe inside our house since it was well-defended. Rinaldo looked relieved at that. Cat thought that she’d be best to identify the members of the Hand as she discovered them. She can smell them. She said they smelled like charred bones.
Charming. Not in a good way.
She didn’t have much more to add and I didn’t want to ask too many questions. I don’t know her and would rather not have her know our ignorance just yet.
When we got home, I sent Xhimena up to bed. Then I Trumped DeWinter. He answered immediately. I asked him how much longer he’d be away. He said it shouldn’t be too long. I hear thunder, it was so loud it came through the Trump. Then everything went white and the connection dropped. I couldn’t reestablish it.
Three hours later, I learned through the radio that the negotiations building had been bombed. They were digging through the wreckage.
It took twelve hours for me to make a weak connection to DeWinter. He was under the building and trying to dig his way out. He wouldn’t come through. He said he could hear other survivors and he would get to them before he left.
DeWinter is still fine. We’ve been shunting water and food through to those he’s found. They are digging out, but DeWinter is worried about air. I went to the Home Office and used every ounce of rank to ensure that they will not stop digging. I’d go there myself if they did, and anyone in my way had better move. Since it wouldn’t hurt to indulge me, and they had to get the bodies out, they promised they’d keep digging, continuing their current pace. It took more doing for them to convince the authorities in Constantinople to do this, but with all the bad press they’re getting, they decided to go along with it.
With much rejoicing, and headlines everywhere, the survivors were retrieved. Everyone was amazed at not only their survival, but that they managed to find water and enough to eat to remain fairly well. Actually, we didn’t mention that DeWinter had passed through those that were so seriously injured, they would have died. There were just a few mysterious appearances of wounded at the hospital.
Mal has worked her way into a fugue about her father. Could he have really been so terrible that all these people want to kill her clan off? I had no answer for that. She did meet with Cat, who could do little to explain it either. She did say that Thorns are very tough. They were only taken down through overwhelming odds. She said that it is tough to get a Thorn to fight, but when they do, they continue until the foe is dead.
Mal asked if there was any way to end the vengeance, without death. Cat was confused, “Don’t you know?”
Mal admitted to having no memory of prior life.
Oh, that’s so sad! Cat said that Mal could swear to serve them for the time (read centuries) that the vengeance has been held.
Mal didn’t like that option too much. I asked if we could unravel it? no one understood.
It seemed to me that if it was a tangible thing inside their heads, compelling them, why couldn’t we go in and erase it. Rinaldo was intrigued. He said it made some sense. We could steal a part of it, so it wouldn’t work any more. Cat thought Rinaldo was a genius to suggest something she was good at: stealing. What a novel idea, to steal a promise. Cat said she’d need to know more about the promise in order for anyone to attempt it. But she can’t leave because of her promise to protect Mal. She suggested that Mal go talk with She. Well, we’d think of something, but I hope it won’t come to that.
It came out that a band of Turks, angry at the possibility of a peace treaty had bombed the building. At least, they claimed they did it. The Turkish government was so embarrassed they expedited a treaty very quickly.
DeWinter can come home!
DeWinter arrived today, with his own private welcoming committee awaiting him. The girls fairly swarmed over him and the weir with hugs. Vis had been hurt badly, but it seems that as soon as he crossed the French border, he started healing rapidly.
We’d spent yesterday relaxing and letting DeWinter get settled. I didn’t want to do it, but I had to tell him what Xhimena has been up to. He was upset. And he was torn. On one hand, he just wanted to lock her in a convent. On the other hand, he admired her resourcefulness. We didn’t know what to do.
I invited Byslamia to the house. She stays in town now and word is that she’s dating regularly now. We all sat down and talked about what Xhimena has been doing. We were worried at her continued disobedience of our rules. Byslamia let us run out of talk and then pointed to DeWinter and me. She said that to Xhimena, we are the sun, pointing to DeWinter, and the moon, pointing to me. Sun…Moon. DeWinter was going to speak, but Byslamia cut him off. Sun…Moon. Got it?
It was her opinion that anything we said would have an enormous impact on Xhimena. But, realistically speaking, she has abilities and powers we don’t. Nor do we have a way to deal with it. We have to take some of it into consideration. Just like, Byslamia emphasized, she did with me when I was a girl. She said she remember how my differences set me apart. And she watched how I drew away from my family because it hurt and there was nothing she could do. Nothing then, and little now. Xhimena doesn’t have that problem here, because everyone accepts her with no reservations. Deep down, she had no doubt that Xhimena would not pay that price for her abilities. But, there is a price, if we make one.
She left us with much to think about. We called Xhimena in. She’d been waiting for a week for her punishment. We told her that she’d have to make her own punishment. There was nothing we could do that would have as much of an impact.
But, we did tell her we were hurt. That she didn’t tell us about the problems sleeping. That she continued to do what she knew were against our wished. It was a matter of trust, and it was badly bruised. She started to cry quietly.
A thought occurred to me. I asked her why she couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t form it into words, so she showed me, in my mind. She sat in my lap and snuggled down. She put her hand on my face and I could see what she went through. I could feel the pull of the moon. It drew her up, high, and it was fun and frightening at the same time. Then she was falling, and the danger was very real. I could feel the spark of Circumstances starting. Oh, boy. No wonder she couldn’t help herself. The rush was as strong as when I feel it. And she had no idea what is going on.
The images stopped. I said I don’t feel anything like that. She put her finger on my forehead, right on the circle where I have the Mark. She said I had it…it was just locked inside. Perhaps.
I asked her to tell us about leaving the house. She hesitated and I told her she couldn’t, wouldn’t get into more trouble. She described how she liked walking through the quiet street. One night a man approached her. He made a suggestion about liking young girls. DeWinter gripped the arms of his chair tightly.
Xhimena continued: the man wouldn’t go away. But she wasn’t worried, even when she knew he had a knife. DeWinter asked, in the calmest voice he could muster, how she knew he had a knife? She could sense it when the fellow put his hand on her bottom. With a crack, DeWinter broke the arm off the chair. He looked a little surprised and quickly threw it behind his back.
I got her attention back. It was dangerous. Yes, she knew that. But, it was also exciting.
Well, remember when I told you there were grown-up secrets that I would share with you.
Well, you’re about to learn of one. I told her about Circumstances.
How they were the means for Amberites to have children. But, while ours, that of our line, isn’t bad in itself, the attraction and energy rush can lead us to do things that were increasingly dangerous. Every time something dangerous happens, I have to consciously control it. Sometimes, I allow it to happen, if I judge the situation isn’t too dangerous. If I don’t know, or if I can’t control it, it could be very, very bad. It would rise up quickly if I stood in front of a moving train. But it isn’t always wise.
So, she needed to know what, and why, she was feeling as she did. Because, it can not only lead herself into danger, for the rush, it can endanger others. She was wide-eyed at the revelation. I could see she was really thinking about the ramifications of what she’s done and what she could do.
We let the meeting draw to a close. Xhimena didn’t like the idea of making her own punishment. She much rather we did it. But, we stood by our decree. She said she was worried about what’s coming. What did she mean? She said she was going to be lost and we wouldn’t be able to find her. She jumped off my lap and grew excited. She said the Fey could stop me from sensing the tattoo. But, if we had a part of her, we’d be able to find her.
She had just the solution, and it would be a good punishment. We could cut off one of her fingers!
We just stared at her in horror. What!
She said it would be perfect!
Her face was lit with some sort of excitement. We spent a long careful moment telling her we weren’t going to do that. But a tiny portion of me wondered why that would occur to her. Does she know something we don’t, even if she doesn’t realize it? I don’t know and neither did she. In the end, she seemed to realize just what she proposed and reversed herself and agreed it was “stupid.”
She even seemed upset that she had said it.
We sent her off to bed and we followed later, seriously disturbed.
Yule is coming soon in Amber. Since Mal still can’t go to Amber, we’ll have another celebration here. We have several weeks before it’s due, so I’ll have just enough time to arrange things. The girls are starting already. They’ve taken on all the jobs Kai usually did. I don’t know if I can get him here, but I’m going to try.
Tralee is due to give birth soon. I sent some weir with her while she settled into her new house. But, for the birth, she wants to have it in her own place. Robert is nervous as any newly expectant father is. She’ll come for the Yule, but she told me next year she’d like it at her house. She sounded so satisfied to say that.
I sent out word to Kai that an “aunt” will be visiting in his part of the world. He hasn’t seen her in a long time, but he’ll know her because she’ll know of the pet he’s always wanted. I doubt anyone in Africa knows about “clock dogs.” If he could, he should arrange a night or two off. I figured I could Trump back with him and then Shadow shift him back. He’d hardly lose any time at all.
We’ve given the letter some time to reach him. Because DeWinter would stand out like a beacon, I was going to find Kai. We got some worn clothing and the weir helped dye my skin to a dark brown. It wouldn’t pass an intense scrutiny, but it should get me past a casual glance. I’d tried to change my appearance with the trick Benedict taught me, but it won’t work here. It does work about three Shadows out, but I suppose my identity is firmly fixed here.
I left the Shadow and came back into Africa. It was easier than I expected. The problem then arose: I had to find Kai. No one paid me much attention. I made some inquiries, managing to adopt their accent well enough, and found where the garrison was stationed. It was across the city, out in a more rural area. It took a couple of days but I found it.
To my shock it had been burned to the ground; weeks ago apparently.
A few questions and I learned that a rebel native force, fighting against the French colonial government, had attacked. To local knowledge, all but a few prisoners had been killed. I had to fight back tears, because I could find no connection through the tattoo.
Could Kai really be dead?
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