[Cecily]Twenty-Seven: "Skeletons in the Closet"

       Sometimes talking with Stark is unnerving; you meander through a conversation, and just when you're lulled into complacency, she drops some sort of sharp observation that leaves you flailing for a reponse.
       "I wonder if Matthias and Luke would bristle at each other?"
       Matthias... and Luke?!
       I don't need this.

       Stark walked away with this odd little smile, leaving me alone with a history of trade agreements and my thoughts. I wasn't pleased with either option.
       I tried to go back to my reading, but I couldn't get Stark's comment out of my mind. I mean, I guess I've come to consider Luke a friend, at least since we've come to some sort of truce, but I can't imagine there's anything more there than mutual irritation. He still can't get over the fact that I hit him, ferchrissakes.
       Then I remembered the kiss.

       "I think he'd my brother." Luke looked somewhat embarrassed at the admission.
       He'd been in the library the whole time. I briefly wondered how much he'd heard of my panicked denials to Stark; then he told me his suspicions about the pirate king, Roth, and I suddenly had other things to worry about.
       Like the fact there were a couple of skeletons in the family closet.
       Matthias appeared, and Luke left shortly thereafter, but I was too distracted by Luke's story to notice if Stark's opinion would be borne out in fact. Matthias left, too, after only a few minutes. I let him go off to Arden and try to trump his father. Maybe the effort would give hom some peace of mind. He needed reassurances that, right at that moment, I couldn't give him.
       I'm still not completely sure of my true place in all this. I can't decide his for him, too.

       Harry seemed as startled as I was about the possible Chaos element of our ancestry, though less interested in it as a genealogical curiosity than as a possible remedy to another of my problems.
       "Cecily," he said in that very patronizing tone of voice that means he's really horribly worried, "if we can't find a way to heal that wound, it could kill you."
       So much for content and right with the world.
       I made light of it, but he's right. It's not getting better. I'm pretty well convinced it's not going to heal without some sort of assistance. Unfortunately, if Luke's right, that kills Merlin's idea, which brings us to a grand total of zero ideas of how to deal with this. Merlin and Fletcher might be able to stave off the worst with magic, but I am not going to go on like this forever.
       Oh, please, by all that's good and holy, I can't go on like this forever.
       I threw myself into the minutia of the regency for a few hours, grateful for the less personal distractions of a struggling kingdom.
       I was soon reminded of the adage, "be careful what you wish for..."
       It's hard to know what is and what isn't tied to the arrival of Harmony and the Deep Dreaming. Stark hasn't been the only one afflicted with memory lapses, and this seemed to disturb Harmony a great deal. It didn't make me too happy, either. Add in Fletcher's mysterious riders, and Griffin's doppelganger, and you have a gourmety recipe for disaster.
       I've got to figure out how to get a handle on all this, and fast. Figure out what's connected to the Dreaming, so I can deal with the mundane in an appropriate manner. Stark's right; I should have a talk with Dworkin.

       One issue, at least, was easily resolved.
       After Lady Blackwater delicately expressed her concerns over the lack of official verification of my regency, and we came up with a plan to make a formal transfer of power at Stark's harvest party, I steeled myself for what I feared would be the unpleasant task of officially dethroning Matthias.
       When I knocked on his door, I heard a clear and firm, "Come in."
       "Hey there. Got a few minutes?" I slipped inside. He was sitting behind his desk, which was empty.
       "I have all the time in the world, as it happens." His expression was inscrutable.
       I took the chair that sat across from him, turning it around and leaning my arms on the back as I sat. "It's about... the regency. Lady Blackwater came to me and said the people aren't happy that there hasn't been a formal transfer of power."
       His face remained still, and I cringed inside. "Matthias, I never intended to usurp anyone's place here."
        He sighed then, leaning back in his chair. "I know." He looked vaguely uncomfortable, and then leaned forward again. "I really do know that. And I have... absolutely *no* right to take the position I had before. I was ineffectual, at best, and a detriment to Amber the rest of the time.
        "You've..." he gestured vaguely towards his window. "You've accomplished a lot in a very short time."
       As uncomfortable as his praise made me, I was pleased by it too. I wondered if he had any idea how much doing right by these people had come to mean to me.
       "I can't take all the credit. I've had good people backing me up. I... as much as I don't want this, I do. It means something to me. And it would mean even more if I knew I had your support," I added softly.
       He nodded. "Of course you have my support. But on one condition."
       Oh, no. "And that is?"
       He grinned. "That you put me to work."