Regine made, he had to admit, a token effort at the holiday experience. Knowing it was solely for his benefit - his Mistress thought celebrating Christian holidays was foolish, since they were descended from older gods than the Christian - made the whole thing a little awkward every year. This year, Ambrus had more than a few extra reasons to make the jolly Christmas dinner uncomfortable.
He let the old memories shift around a little bit in his mind, lingering over the ones of his children. Their child, in one case. Would Agatha have turned out less of a poisonous monster if she'd been raised by her genetic parents? Neither he nor Regine had any skill at dealing with children.
And Shahin and Emrys… Emrys still had nothing to say to him, but the girl who would be his daughter-in-law (as well as his daughter, his little black mage, his Merlin) had whispered in his ear during the pie course. You might want to know…
And he did. Hayley moved to Regine's tune; if she was doing something, either his Mistress had declared it so, or her minion was going outside of her boundaries. Either way, this was going to be an uncomfortable conversation. He didn't like displeasing his Mistress, even when he was angry with her. He really didn't like being angry with her.
"The squash is delicious, Ambrus," Regine murmured, mouthing the pleasantries. "From Valentina's?"
"Yes, last squash of the season." Where else would he have gotten it? "I had an interesting dinner at Drake's last night."
"Yes? He said he had plans for the guest list."
"It was quite an illuminating list," he agreed. "Too bad Tristan couldn't make it."
"Trist - aah. How are your children doing?"
Not for the first time, he cursed the fact that nothing fazed her, nothing moved her. "Agatha is… what she is. Mea seems happy. Emrys and Shahin… are getting married."
"So I heard. It's an interesting pairing, at the very least."
Ambrus' fists clenched. "They're half-siblings," he said quietly. "They're both my children."
"Well, yes," she answered placidly. "That was always part of the plan. You, Aelfgar, a few others, all have the perfect genes for this sort of project. They run less risk of birth defects than a randomly-generated couple would."
On another day, that would be interesting. Today, he clenched his jaw as well as his fists to keep from yelling at her. After a moment, he managed to answer calmly. "It's good that they're genetically safe. But how do you think they'll feel emotionally about it?"
"Well," Regine answered, finally showing a bit of emotion - irritation, oh, shit, he'd managed to get her annoyed? Only his protective ire on behalf of his children kept him from hitting his knees in apology. "If I had managed to keep your daughters' parentage a secret from you, then it was likely they never would have found out, and, since there is nothing to worry about, would not have been unfairly worried."
My daughters… "You wanted me to seduce her. Shahin. You practically threw me in Mea's direction - if Rozen hadn't gotten her first, that would have worked. Only my radar kept me out of Agatha's bed. You've been trying to breed me to all my daughters."
"Of course I have." Her irritation was getting stronger. "I told you the day that I bought you that I was interested in your bloodline. As I mentioned, your family has very good genes for breeding, and, considering the scope of this project, the more I can reinforce your genetic patterns, the better. We want, after all, Ellehemaei who will breed true and strong."
He wondered if she'd never before spoken of him in quite such race-horse terms, or if he'd always ignored it, or had it wiped from him. He wondered if he'd lose this memory, too. While he had it, he said, quietly, "Shahin told me that Hayley stonewalled them. That she refused to give them any information on her parentage. That's not school policy."
"School policy is what I choose it to be. Considering the level up distress the two of them are suffering, don't you think it would have been kinder not to tell them? I knew what I was doing, Ambrus. I always do."
But then I wouldn't have been able to walk my daughter down the aisle. The press of the bond was getting to be too much. He bowed his head to the table. "Yes, Regine."
In the back of his mind, a memory whispered at him. As I do every five years, Ambrus, I will offer you your freedom now. Memory over memory, layered on top of each other. He'd been serving her for - yes, it would be twenty years in June. And, if she stayed true to pattern, in June she would be offering him freedom.
In time to hold his grandchildren as a free man.
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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