[Cecily]Twenty-Nine: "Condolences"

       After Fletcher left, I carefully unwound the bandage from my hand. I knew he'd notice. I also knew it wouldn't be long before the others did, too.
       It wasn't healing.
       The skin still puckered around Stark's neat stitches, and as I clenched a fist, it began to bleed a bright, damning red.
       The wound on my leg, that one I could (almost) understand. This though, this added all sorts of new complications to the situation. Was it related to the injury Roth had inflicted, and if so how?
       And if not...
       Slowly and deliberately, I wrapped the gauze around my hand. Maybe Fletcher was right. Maybe it was time to go seek out Lachesis, but there still might be answers closer to home.
       At least I hoped so. I'm not sure I can face her yet.
       Not knowing she's my mother.

       Despite all my intentions, I never managed to find time to catch Dworkin and see what he thought of anything and everything. Harry and Salome's little spat brought up a whole new disaster to ponder, though I must admit to more than a little amusement at this one. It's rare that I'm not the one smack in the middle of such a mess.
       All joking aside though, Stark's spell has caused a disturbing chain reaction of events. Somehow whatever she did has affected the efficacy of magic in Amber. I'm not sure whether it's a matter of an error on her part, or if she just accidentally tapped into something very old and very powerful. Honestly, for everyone's sake, I hope to the Goddess it's the former.
       Sorcery is one of our few advantages against our enemies. It could be disastrous if we were to lose control over it.
       Of course, that may be a moot point if everyone snaps. This new wrinkle has seriously strained the already thin bonds among this merry crew. Those who don't want to kill their partners in that evening's festivities are definitely gunning for Stark.
       I don't envy her.

       Speaking of, I didn't see much of my erstwhile suitors for a few days. I'm not sure if it was by accident, or by design on their parts. Matthias headed off with Griffin to procure us a new navy, and Luke seemed to make himself scarce in Amber after that first morning at breakfast.
       With only one of them about, I figured it might be easier to deal with it all. I thought about taking the bull by the proverbial horns and just showing up at Luke's door, but every time the thought crossed my mind I was either distracted by some detail of work or just plain chickened out. What would I say? "I appreciate the gesture with the rose, and I'm sorry Fletcher got involved, but right now I'm I feel so addled that some days it seems I don't know my own name?" Ooh, better yet, how about "I'm starting to feel trapped between the attentions of you and Matthias so I'm just going to become a nun and let the two of you move on to better things."
       The one thing I'm absolutely sure of is that I'd screw it up, one way or another, ands he'd end up hating me for real. I really don't want that. I have few enough friends as it is.

       When I wasn't immersed in work, waffling over my romantic prospects, laughing at my brother, or worrying that I was physically falling apart, I spent most of my time in the library.
       My thoughts tended to wander while wading through thousands of years of historical minutia, usually back to the conversation I had with Fletcher about loyalty and intentions. I know with some certainty he and I are in this for the long run, and this is Matthias' home, but I don't know the intentions, or hearts, of any of the others. We all started on this little quest for different reasons, and it would be naive to think that they've all made the same decisions I have about Amber and it's place in my life.
       Fletcher's right. Testing their loyalty to me is likely not going to be helpful, but I have to get some idea of how long they plan to stick around, and how far I can count on them. I can't have them running off like Gerard, not just when I need them.
       Then Fletcher and Merlin returned and told me Gerard wasn't running anywhere anymore.

       He was it, our last link to the Amber of our parents, the Amber of story and legend. Now we are truly on our own. The signet seemed to weigh heavy on my hand as Fletcher related the details of Roth's latest little stunt.
       Fletcher's commandment aside, if I get my hands on that slimy little bastard, I will thoroughly enjoy making his death long, painful and humiliating. Hell, I'll settle for quick and clean just to get rid of him, but I doubt it's going to be quite that easy. I have a very bad feeling Roth is going to cause a lot more damage before we get the better of him.
       As I'd requested, I was notified the minute Griffin and Matthias were sighted on the road to the gates, and was waiting for them as they came into the main hall. I pulled Matthias aside, and broke the news of his father's death to him, in my usual inadequate manner. Striken, he went in search of Merlin to find out the pertinent details, and not knowing what more to say, I just stood there in the hallway. I told myself I'd seek him out later, and offer what words of comfort I could. As I thought about it, though, I realized I had little comforting to say of Death, but that I'd seen it, and I don't think that's what he needs to hear.
       I thought then of my own father, standing vigil at the first Gate, tall and strong as he watched for me. Maybe Gerard had passed by him and they'd even spoken; perhaps my father had offered him some comforting words.
       Maybe that's just what Matthias needs to hear, after all.