Motherfucker, motherfucker! Which is it, WHICH? WHICH?
Annys? Could you not WAIT to stab him, you had to do it as we were saving his life? You had one opening -- if you had a blade to do it with. Just one opening, but that's all a man like you ever needs. No, wait. You may be a blade in the dark, but it can't be you, because Nicholas is still breathing. If it had been you, that near-death would have been death. So I don't like you for this, although someone will surely accuse you when they add it up like I am. Fuck you anyway, Cheerful Charlie, and your little scythe, too. I understand what you mean there and I want to throttle you and make you explain, but NO, NO ONE IN THIS FAMILY EVER NAMES NAMES OR GIVES SPECIFICS. Not even me. I suppose I'm making people crazy in turn.
But there are other possibilities. Hala? Oh, no, no, please, no....but I can't say that confidently. Someone's messed with her mind, and there she was.
Dworkin? I won't say Stefan, that's ridiculous, but it's clear he's not driving the truck where that old man is concerned. He had perhaps the best opportunity, the best way to make it look 'right'. Dworkin makes some sense. Stefan won't want to hear it. When he tried to order everyone away, I nearly interrupted right there. Still...he's still alive. It would be so easy for Dworkin to have killed him...but unlike Annys, that kind of death-blow doesn't have to be really a death-blow. It just needs to shut him up.
Quin...no. Makes no sense at all, unless it's a mental compulsion. About on a par with Hala. More likely, because we won't LOOK at Quin as we will Hala.
So that brings us to the possibility that I may see clearly, that might be right and best. Sometime between Quin picking up Nicholas and Stefan shouting, he was stabbed. We all handled him - oh, God, I may be framed myself, MUST watch for it - but there was someone else there. We passed him through Trump, after all.
Hel-lo, Perival. Enjoying your little dance? Hahaha, how droll. Why not trap us there? I'm sure you could have for a few hellish seconds. Or was it only that our combined power is more than you can do no more than lurk and send in flunkies borrowed from Chaos when we come to kick over your sandcastle?
Weighting the options, the best odds are: Dworkin, Perival, Hala, Annys, Quin. I suppose I rate somewhere between Hala and Annys -- more, since Stefan's likely to see darkness in my going near Nicholas. If you only knew, Stef. If you only knew.
He's not waking because he's tied to something, something is in the way. Is it his sword? His diary? Something else? It's in Amber, but that's a needle in the haystack. I can't tell if I'm being tested, led down a primrose path, or given the necessary clues to handle the answer that others can't.
Elisa is next. Unicorn cornhole Noah for shouting that we were coming for her too in the midst of the attack. Thank you! Give away our position a LITTLE MORE! Another idiot, snugglebunnying Cianna. She's your mother? Oh, delightful. Precious. SHUT THE FUCK UP.
Really interesting. Really neat.
There is no good way to say 'get off your ass and do something already' to your venerable auntie figure. Or to hint 'golly, you seem to have missed a lot in your exile and 'those others are selfish stupidheads who don't listen or want my help' is a ridiculous excuse'.
I still like her. I just wish she was worth the hype.
Oh, oh, oh. I didn't know it was going to make Hala cry. I can't bear it when Hala cries. Nothing so dear should hurt so badly as she does sometimes. I'm forgiven for the tears - I think - but not by myself. I even apologized.
I will never wear that white hat and have those clean hands. I'm sorry I let anyone think I could ever do that. I thought being a pirate was enough.
Aunt Darcy was remarkably clear about things. I think asking her perked her up a little. As for Aunt Elizabet? I'm...it remains to be seen. I'm nervous. Happily, I think I'm also armed.
I ought to check in with Rollin. I'm as nervous as a first-time hooker in the middle of a gangbang.
We had time to clean up, and to fall into bed together; I didn't sleep as much as I wanted, because I was worried about Rollin, but I think he slept, and having him nearby was consolation, if not relaxation. It was a hard ride, a harder quest, and I don't know if I should be happy it was an all-around success. Amber will have guns. But...
Damn. DAMN DAMN DAMN! FUCK! SHITFUCKERS! DAMMIT! GODDAMMIT! DAAAAAMN.
I think I'm done.
MOTHERFUCKING DAMMIT! Backwards and upside-down, everything is backwards and upside-down, and everything really is about to be revealed. It's like I'm narrowing down the stories of my family, because there are so many lying versions, and I'm down to two, perhaps three that work as the truth anymore. And it's BAIT. I'm being BAITED, but as Annys says, the only thing to do with baited traps is either to pretend they're not there, or to walk into them with eyes open and head held high, triggering them intentionally. It's one I cannot possibly walk away from.
Oh, shit. It's one I cannot possibly walk away from. It could have a little tag on it reading 'For Julia" and it wouldn't be any more for me. Arrogant? No. No, no, no. Look at the timing.
I hate being baited. Hate hate hate. And 'forgive me'...Oh, sonofaBITCH, perfectly accurate.
And Cianna is having dinner. With the Duke. Because he's a kindly old uncle. He was a friend of Oberon, that can't possibly be bad, right?
FRIEND OF OBERON. His buddy! Back in the day! When Oberon's pastime was coming to your house, kicking your dog, fucking everything female including your wife, sister, daughter, and favorite serving-wench, slapping your face, setting your house on fire, then taking the land it was on and making himself a summerhouse while he laughed at you and Dworkin did a little dance!
Oh, yes, let's do trust Oberon's friend who's attacked half the family but has good reasons, he swears. Whaaaaaaat the fuuuuuuck? Either he's on the up and up, in which case he ought to understand good faith efforts, or he's fucking with us, or he's just got his own agenda which might not be Amber's.
And Unicorn only knows what most of the family's doing now. If they'll come when I call, even if I weasel - or even if I tell the truth.
Hanging from manacles, so close I could smell and sense it, blood and filth and desperation. They're fucking well going to listen to me.
I only wish I knew if I were doing the right thing, and wish I didn't feel so sick for even doubting those words. How suspicious am I, that I doubt someone trapped and tortured?
But I think I have it mostly scoped.
When I was walking on the stair, I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today.
I'm gonna kick his ASS and make him go away. And break his violin. And then decimate his fingers one by one. His tongue. His eyes. And destroy everything he ever created, piece by piece, one by one. And hold out hope that I will have mercy.
And then jerk that mercy away from him as cruelly as I possibly, possibly can. And if he's got a puppy, I'm gonna kick it and make him watch. Drastic times...
Here is where we freak out.
OH THIS IS A BAD IDEA I'M GONNA GET US BOTH KILLED I SHOULD STOP RIGHT NOW WHAT THE FUCK AM I THINKING OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M GEARING UP TO DO THIS, I SHOULD HOLD BACK AND WAIT AND SEE AND NOT BE A SUICIDAL MORON WHO LIKES ADVENTURES, FUCK!
If I get Rollin killed, the entire family will hate me, which will be somehow funnier than anything else at all. I shouldn't. Ohhhh, I shouldn't do this. I should pretend I don't see anything and just go take him sailing and have a good day before we all die.
At least I was unpleasant enough to Quin, but she still offered to come along. NOooooooo. No thank you. Nuh uh. And also, nope. Not for this, Quin, not for what's likely to happen.
I think I'm going to find booze. There might be some courage at the bottom of Oberon's bottles. It would explain some things.
All of them. And young ones, too, though some young men think they're so special when they know who their parents were. Good for you, buddy boy. I wouldn't be Aunt Elisa's spawn for all the tea in Shadow.
The rouge? It's costing me. Oh, is it costing me. Rollin's going to roll with the punches, I hope. He won't expect my next move, but I rode bitch behind him on the motorcycle; he can take some risks for me this time.
I should corner Uncle Arawn and hug him, but he'd take it...wrong, probably. I'd slap Daddy, but that's also likely to be taken wrong. And let's not touch Uncle Stefan. What was that conversation? Do I hate him? I'm not sure. I wish he were stronger. I hate feeling this pity.
I don't know what to say about the men in this family, really. I need to get away from some of them before they drive me batty. I should go meet Aunt Elizabet, maybe. She'll probably hate me, but it will be refreshing, after some of the others. Or we could invite Aunt Quin along on adventures. She, at least, knows kind of how to have fun, I suspect.
Why did they all get so old and CALCIFIED? It's tiresome. We're at war, people! People are dying! Chaos is marching! This could be opportunity knocking. If we don't all get erased.
I'm going to go find Rollin and feel very, very young. What's that old saying?
Jeweler's rouge. It's a powder. Dworkin hinted...explosive, when I met him.
Explosive powder. Hello, Juju, think about it.
Hot damn? I need to talk to Uncle Arawn. We might just tip the scales yet.
Rollin and I made our list. Auntie Quin would have had a heart attack over how we made it, three sheets to the wind and tangled up with one another for comfort, but when will there be a chance again to find that kind of support, mental or physical? Neither one of us is foolish.
I knew he'd understand. I get to place too much trust in his hands, but Rollin's possibly more ready for responsibility than some of his sage aunties and uncles. I love that boy more and more all the time. We are comfortable, he and I, and I think - I hope - he felt better after laying all the logic on the line. I certainly did, even as there were a few details I couldn't even now mention. But later. We have a date for piracy. Piracy brings opportunity.
Auntie Elizabet needs more attention, and we're going to adopt Arkhessyn as one of our little cadre. Everybody needs somebody to lean on, even Flipper. I ought to make sure Uncle Arawn doesn't mind, and speak with Arawn besides. For all things seem dire, I'm not panicked at all.
Usually we don't get to show Chaos what we're made of. Nor do they show us their own hand. But I think we know more of them than they really know of us. Poor things. Our allies deserve better than to be caught in between, but they also deserve better than to be unwritten because one Amberite is very foolish. Or perhaps more than one Amberite may be a fool. It's still not clear. As Rollin says, we're missing pieces to this puzzle. But if I'm not mistaken, Ethne's death should dump a few more on the table to be fitted together.
Which means it's very much of a purpose to someone, that death. At least Auntie died for a reason if I'm seeing right. Let's see if that was worth it.
It's very funny how the younger generation sees their elders more clearly now than anyone at all knows. The Trump spread said that was where Oberon was going. I still don't understand it all perfectly now, that spread. Ethne, inverted, as identity? Stefan inverted as Outcome? Annys as Hopes and Fears -- well, that one I grasp, I think. Ethne and Stefan's position in that spread bother me, even though I find Hala and Elizabet -- the domination of the younger over the elder, the keys found in the younger of the generations rather than the older ones, the stumbling of the eldest siblings -- both clear and unsurprising. I've got it laid out this morning to show Rollin, as he's sleeping. He'll probably have insight.
I still don't understand what Annys meant. Or rather, I do, and either version pains me. He said we are Oberon, his hands and body, now that Oberon is dead. Liar, murderer, barbarian, violent jackass -- who loves his family and his land above all else. And then he spoke those words to me. Where do I put you, Daddy?
Forever Amber. Right? Forever Amber.
Rollin. Rollin is...difficult to deal with, now. I don't know what to think.
He's caught between Cianna and myself, if you want the truth. I'd wonder if they were sleeping together, as I'm not sure my aunt would balk at it if it would advance her goals, but it strikes me that Rollin...might. And not out of any lack of ruthlessness himself, but only because, like me, he sees that pawns that march across the board to crowns of their own are more valuable than those under the control of just any side.
I love that boy. So there. I love Rollin and I'd do more than walk on fire for him. Does he understand at all? I just don't know. He slips as much as I do, and sometimes I almost say everything I want to say and just get it over with. Rip off the fucking Band-Aid, Julia, and trust him.
The problem is this: you tie someone's fate to yours, and you're tied to them. And sometimes, to everyone else who's tied to you as well. There's no way to bring Rollin in without risking him, and I can't bring myself to risk him. Fuck me, when did I get so soft?
I always have been. I was as cautious around Hala, and I love her, too. Dad is laughing at me somewhere, but it's also what he knew he'd get from me. Maybe even the intended result. I think this is what he wanted, to see how I'd overcome the pain you get from caring, to see if that sort of fire would forge me right.
Or possibly, all of this is for nothing, it means nothing, and I should have just seized everything I wanted from the beginning, and that's the lesson. It's really hard to tell.
Aunt Cianna wants to find the missing siblings by traveling through Shadow. That, I can't blame her for, the being cautious, but I'm not cautious by nature, you know me; I'm hedging my bets. It sounds like going around my elbow to get to my thumb. I think she thinks Rollin and I question her too much, but what's funny is how much we leave respectfully alone that I should poke shitloads of holes in. Dad didn't have to caution subtlety in me. Must talk to Aunt Darcy. There's always another angle.
Chaos is marching. Whoop de friggin' do, if I may sum it up in a phrase. I should be worried, right? I'm not. The one thing that achieves is a huge distraction from some of the bigger questions, but you can't just ask, "Dear Chaos, could you not attack now? We're trying to keep one of our more megalomaniacal siblings from erasing you AND us in an assault on all of reality. Love and kisses, Amber." Doesn't work. Still, Arawn's doing his level best.
Arawn may be my favorite uncle. He doesn't have to announce how tough and smart he is.
And Operation Family Fun? That's a go. Oddly, I think much of the family won't see it coming. They're used to these things coming with swords and blood and psychological trauma. No, not from me. I go about these things differently. They should have picked up on it by now.
Even so, I can't promise changes won't hurt. You get no guarantees.
They should be trying to bring our dead back to life, and to be the same god that Oberon could be, but they still think small. What skips generations?