Over the next several days, I met with several of the Elders. First, there was lunch with Agnes. I brought some toys for her cats, and we had a nice lunch together. Nothing of much substance, just a chance to get to know each other better. I did ask her if she know what I might be able to do to appease Joan, but she didn't know. I had thought, as her sister, she might have some insight, but it seemed not.
Next, I spoke with Fionn. He wanted to be King, and since neither he nor Siobhan would back down from their ambitions, they had both decided to compete. Thus her words to me. I told that I had concerns about him doing the job, but I would wait and see who the other choices were. That didn't hit it off well with him. He wanted to know why everyone blamed him for Sprottle mistakes. I told him that if he had half an ounce of brains, he would have had better control of the situation. He, of course, thought he handled it just fine, but that the Sprottles were insane, and I had been away too long to know what they were like. If only his family had supported him...and if only he'd bothered to ask first. It seems he would have made a "pleasant dinner of it" but he had wanted to act quickly for the sake of Amber. I told him that if he was really king material he would have handled things better. He said he handled things fine, he was attacked by a pack of insane sorcerers, they yelled, he yelled, he yelled, they attacked, he tried to have them arrested, they started a war. *He* tried to keep things civil, they were hostile. That was bullshit, and I told him so. He didn't procure enough backing. He protested that everyone backed him but the Sprottles, and I told him if it failed, then that wasn't enough.
"It was everyone except the Sprottles, how do you think they're gonna react when someone else is chosen to be ruler?"
"We're not going to agree on this."
"Because you're stubborn and have a grudge against me for not making you Lord Protector."
"Because we're both stubborn, and I don't have a grudge."
"What do you think the Sprottles are going to do if they don't get the throne? Hell what do you think they'll do if they do get it? They've been seeding demons throughout Castle Amber."
"I don't think they'll get it, but if they feel involved they'll live with it."
Siobhan, of course, wanted to be Queen. She did at least have some leadership experience, and she confirmed what Fionn has said about their decision for the competition. I told her that I had concerns about her rule as well, and she said she thought my lack of faith was as bad as I thought her faith was. I could see where this was going as well. If she wanted to play that game...I told her until lately, I'd been a little too busy worrying about my own survival to deal in faith, no thanks to the rest of my family. Her reply was that if my faith had been in the pattern, instead of the sword, I'd have been Queen. A little surprising, I had to admit. "A queen who can't wear the jewel would not be very effective."
"All things are in the pattern and the pattern is in all things. Years ago you were told that you could not fight, that you could not heal, that you would never walk the pattern."
"I fail to see how the pattern has helped with any of those things. It was my own bullheadedness...and I now know where that comes from...that got me where I am."
"If you'd have turned that bullheadedness to the pattern, you'd have found the power to bind the jewel or any other bauble to your will. It kills you because you fear and don't understand it."
"If you are the result of blind faith in the pattern, I think I'll keep my own counsel. Perhaps it would have made me Queen. But I think I'll skip the terrified obedience of my followers."
"Your follower's pretend obedience is superior? What is it you think I'll do to Amber if I'm queen?"
"I don't want to see Amber turned into those other worlds you have ruled. The inquisitions and the witch-hunts..."
"You prefer chaos be summoned at dinner and families that hack each others limbs off? Or perhaps just warring over the affairs the ruler might have, like our previous queen. People fear what they don't understand, with faith and time will come understanding."
A point for her. "Touche. And for those who choose not to have faith?"
"I do not war with those who lack faith, I kill those who deny it, who revoke it, and who stand against it. You've made me out as some sort of monster, I seek to end this as civilly as any. Had I wished, I could have ended this long ago, but that is not my way."
Of course not..."I do believe that you act in what you see to be Amber's...or at least the Pattern's...best interests. It is just your methods I have issue with."
"You have much to learn of my methods. But I think your mistakes are two fold. While I admit that there is much to learn from the past, we all change. And you also seem to mistake play for reality."
She was going to complain about my upbringing..."Perhaps it is my youth...or lack of guidance."
"So now you argue my point."
"I merely point out that if you see qualities in me that are...distasteful, perhaps an examination of the circumstances that created them, and your role in them, is in order."
"I do not believe your qualities are what we've been discussing. Your troubles are with me, not mine with you."
"And you believe my troubles with you stem from a mistaken evaluation of your character." I sighed and shock my head. "Never mind."
"I believe that if we put a ruler on the throne that does not see the Pattern for what it is, it is Amber that will suffer. My son would make a good ruler, but he is young, and he will turn about before this competition begins. The Eatons are careless, the Sato war-like, and the Sprottles insane."
"And the Igare? For completeness, of course. And I would disagree somewhat with your evaluation of the Sprottles. One of them is insane...the rest, unfortunately, humor her too much."
"Paki has never sought power, I'm not sure how he'd handle it. Ambrose is manic depressive, Agnes is Phobic and delusional, Joan has too may flaws to list. The family is inbred and madness runs within it." So that was where she was going to go. She paused. "Excuse me a moment"
When I noticed she was walking out of the room, and not merely to get something, I followed her. We walked down the hall...and to Masamba's room. He appeared wearing a maroon-sleeved, white-chested jersey, bell-bottomed blue jeans, and black sneakers. "Hello, I'm sorry I'm not in something more formal."
"Child, besides the fact that you might kill yourself. I'll not have that here from you."
"Ah, Understood Your Majes-...Understood." I raised my eyebrow at Masamba from behind her as he bowed to her, subtly smiling at me.
Siobhan continued. "There's no need for all of that, but for Pattern's Sake you don't smoke in a gas station Masamba." With that, we all smiled.
"Alright, I apologize for the sarcasm."
"I'm glad to see you're feeling better." What was that all about? I would have to find out.
"I just owed a friend and hoped to get it out of the way quickly."
"Eathon was worried about you." I frowned at him while she spoke.
"I- uh... Oh yeah. I'm fine. He's been an excellent host. I appreciate your concern."
"Good afternoon then, Pattern keep you well Masamba Igare." Siobhan started to walk off as Masamba bowed.
"Juliette?" Masamba called after me as I followed her.
"I'll be back for you!"
"I will be more than happy!"
When we returned, I told her that I had been considering both her and Paki, and having a hard time choosing. I also asked her if she thought Andrevo was mad as well.
"Most likely, though his father doesn't appear to be, so there may be hope. And, of course, there's always medication. As for Paki, he's a good man, but he's never been brave enough to stand on his own."
I decided to throw in the twist. "His offer was tempting."
"He offered to make me Lord Protector in exchange for the jewel."
"Perhaps he has more of a backbone than I thought."
"I had rationalized a reason for accepting...but the time has passed."