In the royal wing of the castle, the doors of the Monarch's rooms have been thrown open-- as have the doors to the Pool of Dreams, and a fast current is flowing through into the Pool.
Moire lies in state on a bier in the center of the room. Nine women in white robes, their heads bare and shaved, stand near. Des, from being around Amber so long, recognizes some of the women-- Lorelei, Melusine and Aeris, at the least.
Vialle, Martin, Vialle's father, Llewella, Regan and Cordelia, are all standing to the side of the room, beckon the trio over to join them.
It is a somber crowd that assembles. When everyone is out of the way, the nine women circle the body nine times, and then place a blanket over her body; they work quickly underneath the blanket, and remove Moire's robes. They place the robes in a chest, and then bear the covered body out of the room, chanting, through the pillared hallway to the Pool of Dreams. The assembled follow slowly, and get there to see them slide the body out from under the blanket into the Pool. Moire sinks beneath the surface.
The nine women take cups from their robes, and fill the cups with water from the Pool. One woman approaches each person watching, and offers a sip from the cup. Keir hesitates briefly and takes a sip.
When the cup comes around, Elaine drinks from it as well. The woman who offered the cup watches her closely as she takes a sip. For a moment, the bitterness threatens to make her gag, and when her vision fades out, she becomes worried.
Another scene cuts into the darkness and slowly swims into view.
Elaine feels that she are sleeping in her bed in House Madaari. She gets thesensation that she is sleeping, and yet she is awake. A woman enters the room, walks over to her sleeping form, and stands still, watching her sleep. Eventually, she leans down, and kisses her forehead.
She can take in every detail of the room, for all that she believes her eyes are closed and she are unable to move. The book on the nightstand, for instance, is a book that she read the month after your father died.
The woman is carrying a sword in one hand. She stands looking down at Elaine for a long time, before she leaves the room.
The vision of her room in Madaari fades, and she is looking into the earnest blue eyes of the woman with the chalice again.
"Do you want another?"
Slowly, Elaine nods, and will take another sip if offered.
The woman holds the chalice to her lips again. Beside her, she hears Keir call out something unintelligible, but her vision darkens again...
Elaine sees the woman-- her mother-- again. She is sitting at a table. On the table is a large compass rose sort of design, with nine points. It seems to be a carving on the table. Her mother is carving a name onto one of the points: the name is Elaine's.
The vision fades.
The woman with the chalice is staring at her, unblinkingly.
"You may have another draught, but any more beyond that is dangerous."
Elaine nods, and will take another, last sip.
Her vision swims out to see a man-- Random's would-be assassin, in point of fact-- running into the throne room of Glorethien. Around him is the scene of blood and destruction they had found.
"What..." he says, stopping. From the shadows, Elaine sees a woman, tall, dark-haired.
"Hello, Sevik," she says, smiling.
"You've got to help me. They're following."
"Of course they are," she replies with a purr. "They're meant to."
"And I don't think he died."
"Then you did it right."
He grumbles slightly. "If you say so."
She comes closer to him, running her hand around his waist and pulling him close for a kiss. "You did just fine. I'm very, very proud of you. And now... you are poised to claim your birthright."
"There is more, besides the Pattern?"
She turns away from him. "Of course there's more." She walks around behind him, circling him as she talks... circles once, twice... on the third pass, he stops turning to face her. "There's so much more. With Random's illness, we will draw the last of the family out of the shadows... all that matters, anyway. And when we have exposed the last, it will be time..."
She draws a dagger and stabs him in the back; then steps away, and lets him fall, before cutting his throat.
"They never tell anyone that being stabbed in the back is the most important part of the birthright, do they?" she says conversationally. She takes from her pocket a watch and a note, and puts it in the man's pocket. She takes other items from his pockets, and leaves the room.
The vision fades.
The woman takes the cup from Elaine. "Wait," she says, pointing to the other, still, sightlessly staring faces around her.
Next to her, Keir shakes his head, and she hears: "One more."
The woman holding the cup before him shakes her head. "No, Keir, it is too dangerous."
"I'll be fine." His tone is a command. He takes the cup from her hand, and drinks.
Elaine turns to the chalice bearing woman. "What is the danger of taking too much?" she asks softly, watching Keir with a bit of concern and consternation.
"Death," the woman says without emotion. "But he has been made a Knight of the Unicorn. He has swum in the waters. He will probably live."
Desire asks Aeris how much Keir drank.
"This is his fourth drink," Aeris replies.
Vialle comes closer upon hearing this. "Why did he drink again?"
"I do not know," Melusine answers (she's the one holding his cup). "Perhaps he hoped to find a memory of his own, to examine it more closely; perhaps he wished to return to a moment of the past, in order to see more of it."
Elaine frowns, contemplating what Melusine said about Kier probably surviving. "He seemed very determined," she says to Desire.
Keir slumps to the ground.
Desire goes to her knees next to him and checks his breathing and pulse. Both are steady. "He's alive and his heart is strong."
Elaine sighs. "Good, for I would not want to miss the opportunity to berate him for being a blithering idiot."
Desire shoots Elaine a look best described as murderous. "Keir need not justify himself to you," Desire says bitingly. She will take his head onto her lap.
Keir coughs slightly and opens his eyes. "Actually," he says weakly, "she is technically next in line for the throne after Joaquim, and I do, in fact, have to justify myself to her. Hello, Desire."
"Well, then, if you feel like justifying.....What the hell were you doing?"
"I had things to see," he replies. He slowly sits up.
Desire will stand and remove herself from the vicinity. She is clearly furious, which manifests itself as a frozen iciness.
"As did we all, cousin," Elaine comments wryly. "But even truth is not more important than your life, if you do not survive to tell that truth." Casting a slightly curious glance toward Desire and her reactions, Elaine will extend a hand to help Kier to his feet.
Keir takes it and stands up, looking after Desire with a gusty sigh. Aeris and the others return the water to the pool, except for the woman offering the cup to Martin. He sips again, and goes into a trancelike state.
Keir says, "What about him?"
Aeris replies, "The King must take nine journeys."
"And isn't *that* dangerous?"
"Exposure, if navigated successfully, lessens the danger."
"Yes, but I was not under the impression he'd been fully immersed in the Pool at any point."
"No. But he has lived near the taint all his life."
Keir nods, trying to catch Desire's eye. Desire is with the Rebman attendees - such as Llewella, who is watching Martin like a hawk - She is definitely NOT looking at Keir and Elaine.
Elaine, after helping Kier up, takes in the little byplay between them. She says to Keir, "Do the visions reflect real events, cousin?"
"It is not known for certain, but it is believed so; at the very least, symbolically."
"Then I believe I saw a bit of the woman who is either orchestrating all this, or at least who is involved in it," Elaine says quietly.
"We will speak of this when we return to the surface," he replies, equally quiet.
Elaine nods, and turns her attention to Martin.
The whole group waits quietly. Martin comes in and out of the trance, taking five more sips. In the midst of one, he cries out "Eve!" and falls silent.
No one speaks a word.
Afterwards, the nine women help Martin from the room. Keir pulls a trump of the castle gates. "Let's go."
"Desire?" Keir asks, with a pleading look. She turns and raises an eyebrow at him, questioningly.
"Will you come with me?"
"Of course. Vialle? Will you be returning with us?"
"My father and I must talk, but thank you for asking, Desire."
Desire curtsies to Vialle and to the Rebman contingent, then join Keir and Elaine.
Once through the trump, Keir looks at his watch. "Meet in my council chambers in a half an hour?"
Elaine nods. "Of course."
"Very well." Desire will curtsey to Keir and Elaine and move away, towards the castle. Keir takes off after her, with a nod to Elaine.