Elsewhere in town, another kind of humping is going on, the kind that involves a game of chance and a deck of cards.
“You’ve got quite a daughter there, Milly. You’ve really outdone yourself this time without any chance of ever being outdone.”
Margo’s voice is without any of that disarming Kentucky drawl that it assumes in public.
“Thank you, Margo. I’m quite proud of her myself. Un-death does become her.”
They’re in Margo’s apartment playing poker. There’s no better way to spend a solstice, as far these two are concerned, than playing the Game of Hands on the night of The Black Watch while sipping mint juleps.
“You should have seen her earlier this evening. I could barely conceal my amazement. Raw and unschooled, she came up with the same analysis as I did in half the time and in spite of having one of those damn lapses of hers.”
“Stop being such a pussy. You know your goddaughter is just suffering from phantom self syndrome. All who are brought across suffer from that condition, at first.”
“You’re right. After all, she’s only a few weeks into her new life. She’s got plenty of time to mistress such perversion.”
“She’ll outgrow it or she’ll be destroyed and she knows it. She’s well aware of how Embraced are supposed to act. She knows that expressions of her residual humanity aren’t acceptable behavior. There are limits to tolerance, Margo. She doesn’t have plenty of time to start acting properly.”
“A year for the locket. Two years tops for the lapses.”
“An aggressive schedule to say the least. Obviously, you still intend to teach her your Family Book.”
“Yes. She will make quite an adept.”
“Do you think it wise to teach her anything that feral? You know she hates you with a passion.”
“Correction. She hates us all with a passion. But she’s a smart girl. She knows what’s in her best interest. She knows what she has to do to keep from getting destroyed. For now, loving us isn’t a requirement for remaining an Embraced in good standing, acting like she loves us, is. She will do just fine. In time, she’ll learn to love us as much as she now hates us. The ties-that-bind maker to made will conspire to teach her. And the booby traps will serve to reinforce those lessons.”
“Are you so sure? Embraced can be so blasted inscrutable and so inconveniently unpredictable.”
“Now, Margo, you know me much better than that. If I thought there was even the slightest chance she was an unacceptable risk, I would never even consider making her privy to that precious Book of Anna’s and mine.”
“Yes. That’s true. You’re a good mother.”
Devon “Dudley” Boyz, Margo’s Familiar, is content to be just the dealer. Even though Bubba is Chemin Heusse, and a senior august in his sect at that, he, quite surprisingly, has never acquired a taste for playing this game which is the closest thing his Jesuit sect has to a Mass. He feels that poker, even draw poker, is a totally inadequate way of communing with God, and that a real Mass would be so much better.
Needless to say, he’s smart enough to not express his feelings to other CHs. Doubtless, they would destroy him if he ever did.
“I’ll raise you a c-note.”
“Match, raise, call, or fold.”
“Full House. Beat that, witch.”
“Royal flush, scientist.”
“Jeez louise. You clean me out every solstice.”
“I know. Want another go at it?”
“Why not? I’ve got no better place to be.”
“Lcpl, I’m glad d’at no one was bleeding to death on the beach while they was waiting on you, you sorry excuse for a soldier.”
a crusty S/Sgt