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Ah, and there we are my sweeting, home at last, home at last! Yes, I know, we're all tired. It's been quite a... a month. Quite a life, really, but of course you wouldn't know that.

I don't suppose that you'll remember much of these years, will you Alis? Hain, or Uncle Gar, or... or any of it, really. Such a brief period of your life. It will be gossamer and fairy wings and spider's webs in your mind, and in mine... stone, and storms, and smoke. It boggles me that something so influential, so pivotal, so weighty will be nothing but dreams and mists to you.

Ah, yes, Da is being boring and introspective again. Don't tug so, sweeting, I'm coming. Where are we off to? Your mother has charged me with getting you settled for... ah.

"Unc Bev!"

"Hey there, shrimpcake."

"Bevel."

"Forsyth. What... oops, no, Alis, don't crawl on your uncle Kintyre. He's asleep and I'd like to keep him that way."

"No!"

"Yes, I'm afraid, sweeting. Here, Bevel pass over--"

"NO!"

"I can hold her."

Oh, sweeting, your uncle Bevel will spoil you terribly now that he is on this side of the books with us, of this I am certain.

"She is meant to be going to bed, Bevel. It's far past time."

"To be sure, I'll tell her a story."

Your uncle says it so nonchalantly, with a careless, throw-away shrug, my dear Alis. But in his eyes I see hope twinkle. His cheeks pink. He wants this. He wants to pamper and comfort you. He cannot pamper and comfort my brother while Kintyre sleeps, and he feels at loose ends. He feels useless in this Overrealm, this place where Kintyre Turn and Bevel Dom are fictions, where swords are illegal and adventures only happen in books. Where, if he is no squire, no sidekick, no fellow-knight, no Trothed Lord, then he has no idea who and what he is.

An uncle, he can be that, though. And a brother-in-law. And a husband.

And there is no harm in encouraging that, sweeting. Even though I fear it will make you the most doted-upon and spoiled child in Victoria, to have the full love and attention and focus of your uncles, your parents, and your grand- and great-grand parents with nothing but a young dog to share in it. A pity you will have no cousins to share the burden with. For you certainly shan't be having siblings. Sorry, sweeting, but it has already been decided. And no amount of begging you may do when you are old enough to understand that parents may be appealed to for such things will do you any good.

"Nothing violent," I allow.

Bevel nods once, then sits by his Trothed's head. Kintyre stirs in his drug-enforced slumber, nuzzling into Bevel's hip. He moves onto his side, flings his tree-trunk arm around Bevel's waist, winces, and returns to resting on his back. Bevel settles you between them, slides Kintyre's nearest hand up and into his own. Yes, sweeting, that's very gentle of you, cradling Uncle Kintyre's arm so. My, my, though! You can hardly get your own small arms around his bicep.

"Let me think," Bevel says, "Do you know any stories about Wisps, shrimpcake? I could tell you how the Wisps learned about lanterns, and why it's lucky to have a Wisp choose your home to light."

"Wis'!"

"Wisps it is," Bevel says.

"Ouch?"

"Ouch? No, the lanterns don't hurt the Wisps, shrimpcake."

"No. Kin ouch?"

Oh, my sweeting, my darling girl. I see your mother in your worry, in your compassion for others, and it moves me. I was turning away, to leave you and your uncles and his story in peace, but I hesitate by the door. What will you do, I wonder. I wait, and I watch.

Your uncle looks to me for a cue on how I would like him to answer. I incline my head. The story is his to tell you, however he likes to tell it. This is part of being a role model for a child: figuring out how to make awful things palatable.

You uncle reaches out and lifts his Trothed's sleep shirt slightly. I have seen the wounds, of course, sweeting. I was there when they were inflicted. I was covered in the blood they let escape. I have not seen them since they closed, however. And you have never before seen anything like this network of raised scars and red flesh, that I know.

What will you do?

Ah! Ah! So sweet. My dear, I am more smitten with you each day. And your uncle is too, it seems, for his eyes are warm and tender when you lean forward and gently, so gently, lay your face against Kintyre's tummy. You are careful not to touch the scars, though how you know that is better, I don't know.

"Muah!" you say, whispering, "Muah, muah!"

Your uncle looks up at me, confused.

"In the Overrealm," I say gently, "They have a custom. When a child is hurt, one of their parents will kiss the scrape as a form of poltice. 'Kiss and make better', they say."

"Kiss and make better," your uncle says musingly. Then he leans forward, presses his lips to the patch of unharmed skin over his Trothed's heart. "Muah."

And oh, your giggle is a delight, sweeting. Silly uncle Bevel, to join in your play. Silly uncle Kintyre, laying so still to let you kiss his tummy.

"Issess, issess!" you demand, and your uncle Bevel scoops you against his chest, flips you round as you squeal with happiness, and blows raspberries on your back. You kick and fidget, absolutely delighted, and I am delighted for you.

"Kiss and make better, shrimpcake!" your uncle says, and you lean over and smack another wet kiss on Kintyre's forehead.

Kintyre mutters in his healing sleep, but does not wake.

"Kiss and make better," Bevel says again. He heaves you over his shoulder like a sack of sugar.

"Come now!" I say. "You're meant to be calming her down, you great ninny," I scold your uncle.

"Da, da!" You laugh and squirm, arms out to me. I catch you up, and oh, you're getting so big, my sweeting! How much longer will I be able to lift you like this? How much longer will you let me?

"Yes, that's right, come to Da, sweet girl. Bedtime for Ladylings. I don't think you'll be getting sleepy in here."

You laugh, and squirm, and I take us back to the door.

"Goodnight, Bevel."

"Night night bye!"

"Night," your uncle says, but he is distracted. His dark blue eyes are stuck like spellcraft on Kintyre's sleep-slack face. He leans down and kisses his Trothed on the lips. "Kiss and make better," he murmurs.

END

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You can find the rest of the Accidental Turn Series at:
jmfrey.net/the-accidental-turn-series/

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