“I'm sorry, could you be more specific?” she asked.
Red-faced, Bryn took a slow, deep breath in through his nose, glaring hard at her as he exhaled. It was the sort of look that caused Gwen to decide that she should forego the stalling and cut right to trying to explain what happened.
“It wasn't my fault!” she said quickly. “She brushed up against me! I didn't even see her, because the lights are so dim in the library! It was just her arm and a light touch, so she'll probably be fine. And besides, she should have known better than-”
“You should know better!” the King roared. “I told you – I warned you – about this months ago! New servants, all of them! They wouldn't know, because they're not supposed to know! Nobody around here 'knows better' except for you! This was your fault!”
“No, it wasn't! She wasn't wearing sleeves! They're all supposed to - even if they don't know why! You tell them that yourself! Are mere servants allowed to ignore the king now? Anyways, now that she does know why, maybe she'll-”
“They're here because they don't know! That's the entire point, for the love of Eirene! Brand new staff, top to bottom, filled with servants who come from far enough away that they don't know anything about your condition, or that you-”
“-were regularly force-fed herbs as a baby by my ogre of a father, who ruined my life, and made it so that every living thing I touch burns, and blisters, and dies!” Gwen jutted her slightly pointed chin out at him just a little. “I've been meaning to ask you – is this sort of like a 'fresh start' for you? Are you finally properly ashamed of what you've done to your only daughter, and wish to hide it?”
Eons passed as the two of them stared at each other in silence. Gwen saw her father's fingers twitch, as though they wished to curl themselves into fists.
“Only daughter,” he growled, shaking his head at her ever so slightly.
This was going to be a bad one. Well, it was too late to take all those words back now. Gwen returned his glare, and tried to look as regal as she could with her insides acting all twitchy.
“Only daughter,” he repeated softly, striding forward, his face now inches away from hers, closer than anyone else ever dared. “Your mother dies bringing you into this world, and you figure it's a mark of distinction, is that it? Willful, evil child! I raise you, feed you, clothe you, even after you kill your mother, and this is my reward, is it? A child who doesn't do as she's told, who can't remember anything, and who carelessly inflicts pain on others wherever she goes? What were you even doing in the library to begin with!? I've told you more times than I can count that I don't want you going in there!”
“Well what can I say, dad?” she shouted, barely able to believe that she was still talking back to him. “Do you want me to continue the 'normal little girl' act or not? You may not actually give a damn about me, but at the very least I should try to give other people the impression that you want me to learn! And if I did kill mom, why does the crystal I'm holding glow just as bright as everyone else's when we're attending service? Why am I still a princess, and not banished like some criminal? Why does Eirene continue to bless me?”
“And still she gives me back-talk, after everything I've done to-”
“Done?! I didn't ask for any of this!” Gwen was practically screaming at him now, no longer all that concerned about damage control. “Am I suppose to be happy I'm like this? Gee, thank you, father, for making it possible to accidentally kill people by brushing up against them!”
“Wicked child! A lesser man would have left you in the forest to die years ago!”
“You mean there's lesser men than you!?”
Out of instinct, she shut her eyes tightly and turned her head away from the hard slap that she knew was coming. That last bit had been way too much! Even as the words had left her mouth, Gwen knew that she'd gone way too far on that one.
She waited, tensed and afraid, but nothing happened. After a few moments, she risked a tentative look out of one eye.