What is Oberon's plan?
And who would be most likely to be in on it?
It's a short, short list of names, of possibilities. How long has this all been going on.
And are Rollin and I pawns? -- or does this imply that there's a crown at the end of the board?
We have to run twice as fast here, just to stand still. I think I need rum.
More rum, I mean.
Rollin and I can still run away to be pirates; there's always that solution, if everything gets too hairy. What to say?
I know what to say. Daddy really isn't my father after all. Those particular rumors are absolutely true. I am not the daughter of Annys the Red.
I should feel so much more than I do, but I have nothing at all to feel. It's just a kind of hole there, surrounded by curiosity. Maybe it would hurt more if I was ever more disappointed in my life, if I'd ever wanted anything else, but I don't; I just want the truth. So now I have plans.
I'm still deciding what to do about the letter and the other things I know. I know I can find Nicholas now; the question is, do I want to? Who would help me? I can't do it alone, nor should I. Will he even be alive? Just because he was alive once, doesn't make him there now.
Then again, if he's dead, Aunt Cianna will be happy. She'll have a corpse after all. I'm a little admiring, there, and a little perplexed. I get the feeling, underneath it all, she'd be happier to prove her siblings are dead than alive.
Rollin just skated right past the possibility that Perival's accomplices could include Cianna herself, but I'm sure he'll think about it. What's more interesting is that he doesn't necessarily need accomplices. But it's easy to figure out who they could be.
The easy solution, aunties and uncles all, is this: kill them all. Even though one of them may be my own dear parent or parents, even though I have tender feelings for some of them -- kill them all. Ethne dying was really only a start. Maybe someone has the right idea after all - if a ruthless one.
That's what Aunt Darcy describes us as. To be fair, she's clearly worn down. It's hard to watch everyone hurt so badly, not just because they're in pain, but because it seems like it's difficult for them to even go through the motions of accomplishing what they need to accomplish. Was their heart taken out of them when their father died -- is it that, as Darcy says, everyone in the family is really waiting for Daddy to come in and fix everything for them?
Even those who are in motion are trying to look as if they're not doing anything. It's like they expect someone will want to take away their accomplishments if they do much of anything. Like they expect to be slapped.
Hala says that most of the family has forgotten how to love -- that their fear is greater. She's brave enough to love, but something is just _missing_ in this family right now.
Didn't anybody love these people enough? Didn't anybody make them confident that they could be safe and happy and appreciated? Didn't anyone try for those things for them? I guess, maybe not.
Maybe I'm lucky that I had that, and still do. That I'm not afraid, deep down, to feel what I feel, to love whom I love, to know that I'm strong enough that I can afford to get right up close. Life isn't worth this kind of aching worry that permeates Amber now.
Where did its happiness and its heart go? Once, it must have been a land with someone who loved it. There's enough signs in some of them that someone must have loved them, once. Someone loved Daddy; someone loved Aunt Hala, someone loved Rollin and Darcy and maybe even Quin and Cianna, once upon a time.
I sound like Pollyanna. But we need hope right now, in the pit of snakes and lunatics.
Hiding in her rooms, not doing so well, but she's still my favorite auntie of all. Daddy still says I should have given Ethne a chance, but she's either dead or in hiding, or -- as I told Rollin -- currently being held by someone who wants her alive but wants everyone to think she's dead. Either way, I only met her as a corpse, while Hala's still alive.
I think Hala will eventually come out with me and Rollin. I think Daddy and Uncle Arawn would be good for her as well. We'll see about the others. It's a start.
It's such a good start. We have fun together, Hala and I.
OK. I realize Dad's a dog who's certainly screwing at least one of his sisters, and would probably not balk at anyone in the family, but what is with assuming I'm going to seduce Rollin in particular?
First, Rollin is not that innocent. He's an adult who can make his own choices, and has a great head on his shoulders. He'd make an actual decision to sleep with me, if he did, and there'd even be a good chance it would be a strategic plan on his part to try to get me on some side. He's politically savvy, and he, like Aunt Cianna, does realize that courting me holds some potential.
Second: I know what sex is in this family. Sex is a route to power, and I don't trust myself to be in the superior position if I try. More likely, it'd be doggie-style and I'd be the one going 'woof', OK? Or worse. Definitely 'or worse' at this point. This is why I sleep with the chambermaids instead. They're grateful, they don't want to stab you in the back, nor do they have the strength for it to make a difference even if they did happen to stab. What possible fun would it be, getting involved like that?
Third: Rollin is not exactly my longstanding family crush. This is not to say he's not adorable, since he is, he knows he is, but really.
Fourth: For reasons of my own, it's a really bad idea. Little, quiet personal ones. It's not that they can't be overcome, but he'd have to go out and overcome them. Anyone would, but particularly Rollin. Suffice to say I like our relationship as it is right now. Why would I throw that away?
Sixth: There's a lot more to worry about right now than who's banging whom. In fact, the only reason I'd do it beyond the Porn For Quin's Blood Pressure Plan IS that it's a cover for the fact that my interests are anywhere else but who's sleeping with whom, and whom I can seduce.
It's interesting how few people bother to ask what my interests really are. Or to look into things. I think Aunt Hala's right: this family's got a blood malaise of becoming too jaded and letting the little things slip. It's going to damn too many of them.
Where do the loyalties really lie? Who belongs to whom? Until you know it's heart and soul, it's not worth stooping to lesser -- unless it's completely frivolous, and everyone involved knows it.
That's what's so insulting, so very Amber: that it's assumed I'd take what's easy, what's lesser, that I'd go for the cheap thrill and be used for goals of my father's without goals of my own.
The man would kill me if I had no goals beyond his own.
Notes of the day:
Uncle Arawn can be counted on to make everything less serious, but beneath the joking about monkey masturbation improving the family values, he's clearly competent. I think he and Daddy are coming to some sort of an understanding - and all without ever really talking, as far as I can tell. That says something. It probably says everyone else is going to hit the roof, since arrogance doesn't run in this family, it gallops. Shocked he doesn't declare himself for the throne. Some might follow. Then again, that's probably why he doesn't.
Aunt Cianna is strange. A mix of strength and weakness, of intelligence and so much she doesn't know. I like her - maybe even love her already. It's not just physical admiration talking, either, although that's some of it. It's that she seems to at least really be thinking about the facts and not entirely willing to follow her script. It takes guts to stop following your script. At the same time -- see, contradiction? I desperately want to punch her in the face until she sees the light of reason, urgency, and grows some guts.
Aunt Quin. What to say there? Monkey spooge really was so much safer. I can see why Daddy describes her as alternately useless and a bully; she's capable of great hardness and a certain strange openness all the same. This knife looks like good workmanship; you can always use another weapon. And better goodwill than her going for me on general principle.
Still, striking at Rollin and myself in tandem...forgiven, not forgotten. No, not at all. I would ask about my mother, but that would be dangerous.
Uncle Stefan again: he's sent me an apology. Not sure what to do with that at all. Why apologize? Why? I'd rather he kept arguing. Probably a lost cause, though that may be premature. I may just avoid him, I don't know. I have to return the pastels.
Finally, Rollin. Rollin's finally met Daddy. There were lessons in bilge, in navigating the castle, and family history, among other things, in which Daddy again endeavored to make sure I know that I'm always a little more stupid than I should be. Pointing out faults out of love, I know. It's so irritating, love, that way. It almost deserves its own entry, though. Those two should almost be kept apart, but that's why I intend to let Rollin lean on Daddy as I would.
He can't possibly be as bad as Uncle Perival to Rollin, right? Living without a parent hurts. It's a void that's with you every day.
I'm sketching a lot. I need to ask if the others will let me make Trump of them. I suspect not, but it can't hurt to ask.
Rollin is depicted in this sketch holding his flute. It's as if he's just dropped the instrument from his lips and is turning to regard the listener. Many who perform would look more hungry for reaction when finishing a piece, but there is no such hunger depicted in his eyes, only a serene interest; Julia, in her primitive but sure fashion, has captured that look very well, animatedly. He's seated and relaxed on something that looks like a window-seat. Julia's made notes on this page that read:
Instrument -- some other way to depict? Rumors about parentage == rumors, true? Any way to depict questions with tact? Too needy. Not symbolic enough for Trump. Colors? Consider repositioning. Demand nude studies in front of Aunt Quin, wait for thumping.
I have learned a few things so far.
One: Cousin Rollin is probably my best ally next to Daddy. He seeks me out, he's willing to do things -- he's exchanging courtly and artistic help for my helping him not be a stick in the mud -- and he's got a wide-open mind. He won't look at me and see Annys any more than I'll look at him and see Perival. Those two men don't have any bearing on the two of us at all, in the long run, and bless him for it.
Ethne's rooms have a passageway -- we found it when exploring together, my impetus -- and it's the sort that doesn't open from one side once someone's gone through from that side. So someone went out of Aunt Ethne's rooms that night through the passageway. I'm betting it wasn't J. Random Servant. This doesn't tell us much yet. I love the mystery, however.
Someone used their bare hands on her. I hope to find out which sibling would really be strong enough to do that. Must ask Daddy.
Two: Uncle Stefan? Easily baited. And listens to you in direct proportion to how much influence he thinks he can have over you. This is both good and bad. He is not, I think, a man who examines his own genuine flaws in great detail, preferring to focus on obvious past mistakes rather than ongoing character issues.
Does this sound like I'm an asshole? I tend to mirror who I'm talking to. Oh, he's kind enough to lend me his pastels -- and I'll repay by buying a new set for him, because I won't be in his debt. He's not used to someone not wanting his protection, I think, and not wanting his input. It's telling that he assumes people are stupid or missing the point rather than either malicious or power-playing or making a point of their own. Naive. Not sure he realizes what some of his defenses of his siblings look like to other of his siblings. If he listened, he might start thinking about it, but that could be a firebrand.
Three: I miss the sea. I miss fishing most of all. Is that crazy? I just like the peace of it. I may run away just because I can.
Aunt Ethne is dead. It's the first thing I learned when we were pulled without warning by Uncle Stefan back to Amber. Crowned one night, dead the next. Not even the next. Now I'm not surprised Daddy didn't take the job by force and cunning. He likes his head attached, I know that much.
The family seems...cold. But after a murder? Probably to be expected. I feel like a provincial idiot already. Cousin Rollin smiled. Everyone else? It felt like they were sure I'd killed my aunt. No one trusts anyone here, even if they claim they do. You can feel it.
I itch to put pen to paper and sketch them. That would be suspicious of me, I'm sure, but the compulsion remains.
My instructions are wait, watch, listen. Did they catch and understand what was said tonight, at all? Not a flinch, not a reaction, not a flicker of understanding, but what goes on underneath those aggrieved and hostile faces?
I need my sketching materials. And possibly paints.
Added later: Also, I quite like Uncle Arawn. I approve.
And look, it's burning prettily now,is Cartagos, with all the best of it safely aboard Amber's shadow-ships.
It's not the only cargo headed home. Daddy arrived just after; he'd gone home for the coronation. I was hoping for another wild story of my aunties and uncles, the princes and princesses of the universe. I didn't get my wish. He spoke in grunts and no amount of cajoling could pull him from his mood until he grabbed me and set me on his lap as if I were five again. "Princess," said Daddy, in that way that means trouble, "I have a big surprise for you, now that sister dear is on the throne." And I knew what was coming then.
It was always 'someday, Amber'; Rebma I've known, but Amber was always kept at arm's length. Well, someday's finally here. He's sure Aunt Ethne and his other siblings will make sure nothing happens to me, his 'treasure' -- on the good days. So it's home I go, to make my introductions and obeisances and learn to be a pretty noblewoman, and to possibly make nice enough that Auntie dearest puts me in the line of succession. That's Daddy, always playing the angles -- even with you, yourself.
I bet there's nothing in Amber to set on fire and steal and woo. But he promises there's nothing like the drink you can find there, something I've found all too accurate when raiding Daddy's stores in the past. So there's one thing to look forward to: the booze.
Do I look forward to my relatives? Do I look like a fool? I know Daddy, inasmuch as anyone can know the most mysterious bastard in this world or any other. If he's any example, I hope to watch them quietly for a few weeks before knowing whom to respect, whom to avoid, and whom to set on fire and blame on someone else. We'll see if his versions of the family match reality. I'm guessing they will, although anyone dear old Dad speaks well of is probably a hard customer. The ones he speaks ill of -- well, they either are as useless, two-faced, disappointing and the rest, or perhaps they're simply not Annys the Red. I've only met Aunt Hala, and she has no idea who I am. Just another face on Dad's ships, one of no significance. I'm to trust Cianna, Wyome, and Ethne, and leave the rest. Which may be a test; maybe I should really trust anyone BUT those three. That's Dad's way. Tell you things, and never reveal which are the lies and which are the truth. You earn his respect by figuring it out for yourself - that, or by bold moves. If I had to guess, most of the family either has lost Dad's respect, or never had it to begin with.
How I wish I were going to Amber with as little significance to me as when Aunt Hala saw me last. It is always safer to go unnoticed until you strike. But Daddy says he's made it safe, so despite him being a snake in the grass, I must trust him. Snakes love the same habitat.
Ship scuttlebutt says I've also got a new cousin popping his head up at about the same time; that Prince Perival has a kid. Poor guy has it worse than me. What must it be like to have someone like Dad as a parent, except your version of Dad is crazy as the fellow we keep in the brig as the gimp? That poor bastard. Maybe I'll take him sailing.