Ryk has decided that this will be the last snippet.
Polychrome – Chapter 30
Polychrome stood with a jerky haste uncharacteristic of her, and Iris looked at his daughter with a raised eyebrow.
“Well!” she said, a bright and brittle smile on her face. “Iâ€¦ don’t think we should be prying into any private life of our hero!” She gestured to close the viewing pool as she walked quickly away. “Iâ€¦ I really should be practicing. Nimbus says I need more training!” The doors of the Rainbow Throneroom closed behind her.
I do not know whether to be relieved, or worried. Or furious. It was not usual for the Lord of the Rainbow to be indecisive. He turned back to the Pool, which despite Polychrome’s gesture had remained open; Iris Mirabilis intended to see the truth for himself. Did I mis-read the Prophecy? Is he something other than I thought? Less constant, or weaker, or simply with a weakness all too common for Men?
The beautiful Princess of Pingaree was leaning close to Erik Medon, and one of his hands was slowly reaching out, touching the night-blackness of her hair, so different from the golden sunshine of Iris’ daughter.
And in that moment the hand pulled back, Erik rolled to his feet, and backed off, muttering a curse from his own land.
Zenga looked shocked, and not a little disappointed, even hurt. “Lord Erik â€“”
“Sorry. Sorry, Zenga. And believe me, part of me will be and already is telling me how stupid stupid stupid I’m beingâ€¦ but I can’t. I justâ€¦ can’t. Iâ€¦ you’re beautiful. There’s nothing wrong with you at all, I mean, you’re like any fantasy a guy like me might haveâ€¦” he trailed off. “Damn, that doesn’t sound good either. Iâ€¦”
Iris felt a chill stealing back over his heart. No relief. No reprieve.
Zenga rose slowly and looked at him, hurt and disappointment giving way to real concern. She could see that whatever was bothering the older man was not some random impulse or anything having to do with her. “Are you all right?”
Erik laughed hollowly. “No, I’m stupid, that’s what I am. I’m here in the wilds of Faerie with a talented, smart, beautiful princess who can match me stride-for-stride and who’s just told me that she likes me enough to make a play for me that even I can’t miss, and I go throw it in her face forâ€¦ for what? Some fantasy that’s impossible even here?”
Gradually, Zenga’s expression changed from concern to a sort of tragic amusement. She giggled and then clapped both her hands over her mouth, but that still didn’t stop the giggles.
Iris watched as Erik’s face registered hurt puzzlement. “Hey, come on, this isn’t all that funny to me!”
“Iâ€¦ I’m sorry, Lord Erik, butâ€¦” another unladylike guffaw came from her, “â€¦ oh, by the Pearls themselves, you poor man. You’ve fallen in love with the Daughter of the Rainbow!”
Erik stood frozen in position for several seconds before he finally bowed his head. “It’s that obvious.”
“With what you saidâ€¦ yes.” The Pingarese Princess brushed strands out of hair from her eyes, pearl-and-gold bracelets chiming slightly.
“I don’t see what’s so funny about it, though.”
“It’s not reallyâ€¦” Zenga seemed to be struggling to figure out a way to explain it. “It’s just thatâ€¦ Erik, a Faerie Princess like her, a true Faerie, they can’t fall in love with a mortal.”
“What? Then how is it there’s so many mostly-mortal, part-faerie types out there?”
“All rightâ€¦ it’s only almost impossible. It’s happened, oh, three or four times. But love among the true Faeriesâ€¦ it’s almost instinct. Usually they don’t meet anyone they love, though they can have lots of friends â€“ I’ve heard Polychrome herself does. When they find the right person, if there is a right person, they’ll be drawn to them by aâ€¦ resonance, a tie between them. And it’s almost always another Faerie. Even that doesn’t always work out,” she continued. “One of the stories in the library is about Infiernos and Undine â€“ a Fire Faerie who fell in love with a Water Faerie.”
Iris saw that penetrate despite Erik’s personal upset. “Oh, ouch. Neither one’s realm or even personal essence compatible.”
Zenga nodded. “It’s a tragedy. I donâ€™t like reading those much.”
Erik gazed up into the night sky. It seemed for a moment that he was looking straight at Iris, and the Rainbow Lord felt a pang of guilt. “Yeah. A tragedy. I wish I could be sensible about thisâ€¦ but I can’t. I was with her for a year, Zenga. She saw me as I came here, and she brought me to Faerie, and she never said a single word to let me know how disappointed she must have been at first. And she spent I don’t know how long helping me. Andâ€¦” he shook his head. “I dunno. I just know I can’t accept even a marriage of convenience with someone if every time I see them or touch them I see someone else. If all I can see is her.”
Zenga was looking at him sympathetically, but he turned away. “That’s the truth, you see. I tried to tell her fatherâ€¦ but I chickened out. The truth? I’m not going to go out there and get myself killed just because of Oz, even because of my childhood dreams. I’m going to do it for her, because Polychrome is all of my dreams in a single one, and dying to protect her is worth it all, every bit of it, and maybe it’s better that way because I don’t know how I’d live after I go back to my life without her.”
Iris did close the pool that time, because he had truly seen enough. A part of me hoped, indeed, that he was untrue. That he could be swayed, and many men would have been. But I was told differently, and truly here is my proof.
And no one but myself to blame in any case. Who gave her tasks that kept her in close contact with the mortal? Who encouraged her and advised her in her work with him? No, King of the Rainbows, this is as much your doing as that of any prophecyâ€¦
â€¦because you knew, full well, what kind of motive your daughter would be for such a man. You have turned him into a fell and dangerous weapon, one that is driven by the sole purpose of preserving your daughter’s life.
And that, of course, was the key. She would insist on being present at the battle, and risking her life against forces more than capable of killing her. No better protection could he give her than people whose motive to save her life was even greater than his own, and who were â€“ in the cold light of policy and reason â€“ far more dispensable than either his daughter or himself.
He was not sure how long he sat there brooding when the door opened. “My lord King,” Nimbus said quietly. “Might I speak with you?”
“What is it, Captain?”
“I am wondering exactly what has possessed your daughter, sir, that has caused her to injure seven of my men in practice so severely that they have all gone to the healers?”
At his startled expression, Nimbus gave a small wry smile. “I would presume it has something to do with the Hero because she was muttering various disjointed things under her breath. But for whatever reason, she became quite the menace this afternoon.”
“Hmm. Yes.” As I had feared. There is no escaping the ending. “She witnessed the Princess of Pingaree make anâ€¦ offer of close alliance to Erik Medon.”
Nimbus’ eyebrows vanished into his helmet. “So. And by her reaction we know her heart. I would have hoped Lord Medon be more constant, or at least more considered.”
“He was. Polychrome left at a poorly-timed moment.”
“Ah. The comedy does write itself, I suppose.” Nimbus was silent for a time. “So what do you intend to do about this, Sire?”
Iris sighed and shook his head slowly. “I am afraidâ€¦ nothing.” He glanced, with a combination of resentment and pity, at the Pink Bear. “I have attempted all the resistance that I dare. The Prophecy seems unaffected.
“So it must play out as it was foretoldâ€¦ and if the best happens and Oz is freed, still will I be mourning in that hour.”