There is an old tale that Patrick used to tell, about the stones that sit down the hill and across the river from our house. It was a pretty standard sort of myth about the protective power of stone circles, but I never forget the first line - "The night belongs to things with sharp teeth and menacing claws."
After Dworkin left, I stared out over the sea. The air was crisp and clear, and the waves glimmered in the bright moonlight. I love the dark, but in my line of work, it's hard to dispute the fundamental truth of Patrick's fable. Night makes you forget rationality, logic and truth. It seduces you into stepping off the beaten path and into another reality that belongs to things we were never meant to understand, but once you've seen it, you'll never get it out of your head.
Something about Amber reminds me of the whisperings of darkness.
It's getting easier, I realized
as I left Fletcher grumbling in the hall. It's still frustrating and
exhausting, but it's not as hard to make the necessary decisions. Of
course, there's a difference between running a war and telling Fletcher to
end his campaign of terror against Gerda.
I think if I'd had that conversation with Dworkin even a week ago, I'd be brooding and agonizing over his advice. But having come to the realization we're all Amber's got, most of what he said made a lot of sense. I'll never be Oberon, but I honestly think I can do some good here, even if it does feel like I'm a ringmaster in a side-show circus.
There was enough moonlight that I didn't have to bother lighting the lamps when I got to my room. It was still and calm, and I found myself enjoying what had become a rare moment of peace.
As I was changing, I found the trump of Shen Luke had given me at dinner in my pant's pocket. I paused by the window, and held it up to the moon. The pale silver light gave the blues and greys of the Rheari an ethereal cast. Luke had captured Shen's quiet poignancy of manner perfectly. The image seemed as solid and real as Shen himself, as if I could reach out and touch his pensive brow.
"When are you going to sit for me?" Luke had asked over dinner, as I had admired his handiwork. I think I blushed, for some unfathomable reason, and he grinned.
"When I have a few spare hours." I tried to look stern, but couldn't, and the conversation devolved into our usual good-natured sniping. There's something very comfortable about Luke. Maybe it's because we share a certain recklessness and arrogance.
Maybe I just like him more than I'm willing to admit...
Whatever it is, after the initial awkwardness it was a very enjoyable evening. Even the somber tone of my talks with Matthias or Dworkin didn't entirely erase my good mood. And when Fletcher came to inform me of his plans to torment Gerda, it was all I could do not to laugh, especially when he grumbled about the inconvenient timing of my new take-charge attitude.
As I told him, maybe all was becoming right with the universe.
Smiling, I tucked it the trump into the front cover of my Zolgrav's guide and slipped it into the pocket of my jacket until I could find some better way to store it and crawled into bed.
As I lay there and watched the moonlight play about the room, I rehearsed half a dozen conversations with Griffin about needing the Jewel, before tossing them all in favor of blunt truth. Stick with what you know, after all.
I wondered for a moment if I wasn't taking this seriously enough. But really, it's been at the back of my mind since I took the Regency. I realized even then that Amber needed the stability of a permanent ruler. All those years of struggling under the guidance of a Regent who was never there, and a Prince-regent who never truly felt he had any control has only made the situation worse.
Well, we'll see how resolved I am when I'm standing at the Pattern with the Jewel in hand.
Dworkin's right, though. It has to be soon, and the sooner the better. I pushed all the nagging thoughts to the back of my mind and closed my eyes. I knew what my decision was, and I knew that despite my doubts, I wasn't going back on it.
I'm not afraid of the dark.