A Caress of Twilight – Chapter 26: The most confusing tennis match, I mean, conversation


Chapter 26 begins with Hedwick, the Seelie sidhe from Taranis’s court, greeting them all. He is reaching out to invite them all to the Seelie pre-Yule ball, which is to commence in three days. Oh, and he announces Taranis as “High King Taranis Thunderer”, which is so fucking dumb sounding it makes my brain bleed. Taranis is already a stupid name, but Thunderer? Really?
Merry surprises them all when she responds with “No”.
“You are Princess Meredith NicEssus, are you not?” His voice dripped with disdain, as if he found it hard to believe.
“Then we will see you at the ball.” Again his hand went up to cleanse the mirror.
“No,” I said again.
He lowered his hand and scowled at me. “I have quite a few invitations to make today, Princess, so I do not have time for histrionics.”
Hahahaha when has any character in this series not had histrionics???
Merry goes on to tell him that she refuses to accept the invitation as it stands. Hedwick argues that because she is a Seelie princess, she must accept Taranis’s invitation.
“It was agreed that my title in the Unseelie Court super-cedes my Seelie title. Now that I am heir to the Unseelie throne I can no longer acknowledge my uncle as high king. For me to acknowledge the title might imply that he was also high king of the Unseelie, and that is not true.”
Hedwick was clearly perplexed. He was good at following orders, flattering those above him, and playing errand boy. I was forcing him to think. He wasn’t used to having to do anything that complex.
I don’t think any characters in this book are able to do any complex thinking, honestly.
Hedwick repeats the invitation to Merry and Co, telling them that the king has commanded their presence, but Merry argues that the only person who can command her presence is  Queen Andais, her direct ruler.
“The king can command the presence of anyone of a lesser title than he, and you are not a queen yet-“ He stressed the yet. “- Princess Meredith.”
“If I was King Taranis’s royal heir, then he could command me, but I am not his heir. I am Queen Andais’s heir. Only she can command me, because only she outranks me.”
Hedwick flinched at the mention of the queen’s true name. All the Seelie were like that, never invoking her true name, as if afraid it would call her to them.
“Are you saying that you outrank the king?” He sounded truly outraged.
“I am saying that order of rank in the Seelie Court has no meaning for me anymore, Hedwick. When I was merely a princess of the Unseelie Court, I could also have had the same rank at the Seelie Court. But I am to be queen. I cannot have a lesser rank in any other court if I am to rule.”
Which does make sense, to be fair. Now that she has been claimed as one of Andais’s direct heirs, her ranking at the Unseelie Court supersede any ranking in any other court. But OF COURSE they have to explain this several times over the course of a few pages because how dare another character not understand something so simple. It’s explained that the Seelie see the Unseelie as beneath them, so it’s understandable that Hedwick doesn’t quite understand Merry’s logic here. However, it’s just exasperating to read. Authors should never write in such a way that it’s more annoying to read a passage than just skip over it. I do not want to read something that annoys me.
Hedwick finally outright asks if Merry is refusing Taranis’s invitation, and Merry tells him yes.
“Yes, because he is not my king, and cannot command anyone outside his own kingdom.”
“Are you saying you renounce all titles that you hold in the Seelie Court?”
Doyle touched my arm, made me look at him. His gaze said, careful here.
“No, Hedwick, and for you to say such a thing is deliberately insulting. You are a minor functionary, a message carrier, nothing more.”
“I am the king’s social secretary,” he said, trying to pull himself up to every inch of his small height, even though he was sitting down.
“You carry messages to lesser fey and to humans of no great account. All the important invitations go through Rosmerta, and you know it. Sending his invitation through you and not her was an insult.”
“You do not merit the attentions of the Duchess Rosmerta.”
Haha what? So, this other Seelie sidhe, Rosmerta, is apparently the one who typically hands out Taranis’s important invitations. Hedwick was trying to demand Merry attend the pre-Yule (also what the fuck is pre-Yule?) ball on the principle that Merry is a royal, a princess of the Seelie. But apparently not high ranking enough for Rosmerta to hand out the invitation? This is what I’d have them arguing over, not the pages of bitching back and forth about who claims rank over who. Having the argument be that Rosmerta wasn’t issuing the invitation deserving of Merry’s rank would be just petty enough to be compelling, not the circular argument LKH is oh so fond of.  So much word vomit.
Merry finally ends the conversation with Hedwick, telling him to come back with a different invitation, and when she turns back to the room, Rhys is all shaking and scared. “You just insulted the King of the Seelie” cry cry cry.
“No, Rhys, he insulted me, and more than that. If I had accepted such a command from Taranis, it could have been interpreted that when I gain the Unseelie throne, I would acknowledge him as high king over the Unseelie as well as the Seelie.”
“Could it have been the secretary’s error?” Frost asked. “Could he simply have used the same words with you as everyone on his list?”
“Perhaps, but if so, it was still an insult.”
“Insult, maybe. But Merry, we can swallow a few insults to stay out of the king’s bad graces,” Rhys said. He sat down on the far end of the bed as if his knees were weak.
“No, we cannot,” Doyle said.
We all looked at him. “Don’t you see, Rhys? Merry will rule Taranis’s rival kingdom. She must set the rules now, or he will forever treat her as less. For the sake of all of us, she must not appear weak.”
They then begin to discuss how Taranis will respond to Merry’s refusal to attend the ball. Taranis, apparently, doesn’t take well to being told no.
“He’s like a big spoiled child who’s had his own way for far too long. If he doesn’t get what he wants, he throws tantrums. The servants and lackeys live in fear of those tantrums. He’s been known to accidentally kill in one of his rages. Sometimes he’s sorry, sometimes he’s not.”
“And you just threw a steel gauntlet into his face,” Rhys said, staring at me from the end of the b ed.
“One thing I always noticed about Taranis’s temper was that it never struck out at anyone powerful. If he was in this uncontrollable rage, then why was it always directed at people who were powerless to fight back? Always, his victims were either magically inferior, or politically inferior, or people with no strong allies among the sidhe.” I shook my head. “No, Rhys, he always knows who he’s lashing out at. It’s not mindless. He won’t hurt me, because I stood my ground. He’ll respect me, and maybe begin to worry about me.”
Yeah, because that has worked so well thus far.
Doyle points out that it’s quite interesting that the invitation to some strange “pre-Yule” ball comes shortly after they’ve spoken to Maeve Reed, and they all agree that it isn’t wise for Merry to attend this ball. However, Doyle then wonders if Taranis will think that Merry is refusing to attend the ball because of something Maeve said to her. Merry then tells the group what she learned from Maeve, about Taranis’s impotence, because she fears there will be trouble if she is forced to attend the ball. They agree that if Taranis is truly infertile, then he has condemned the entire Seelie Court. They all then wonder why, if Maeve knows the truth about Taranis, she has never faced any attempts on her life. Rhys thinks that because Maeve has been in exile and cannot easily communicate with anyone back at the courts, she’s thought of as already rather neutralized. Merry, however, is likely a huge threat to Taranis because she is able to communicate with people back at court, and she wields influence over the courts, being a noble and heir to the Unseelie throne.
That whole conversation happens over the course of a few pages, and each time someone talks LKH writes something like “I turned my head to look at *speaker*”. It’s so ridiculous that EVEN SHE comments on it It was beginning to feel like a very confused tennis match, looking from person to person. The whole scene seems so silly.
Anyway, Doyle tells the group that he has been in communication with Barinthus back at the Unseelie Court, using a bowl of water that they have left on the altar in Merry’s apartment. Barinthus, being a former sea god, is able to communicate through water, so the conversation is undetectable by anyone trying to listen in. Doyle tells the group that he still talks with Barinthus as a way to keep him posted on what happens out in LA and also to learn what has been going on back at court. Merry realizes that Doyle is hiding something from her, and she forces it out of him: Barinthus has had a few assassination attempts since they left the Unseelie Court. Barinthus wasn’t terribly worried about the attempts on his life, as he’s one of the most powerful of the sidhe. Doyle fears that people at court think that if they take out Barinthus, one of Merry’s strongest allies, then anyone else who may ally themselves with her will decide against it.
“I would fear that, yes, Princess, but many fear what Cel will be like when he is released from his torment. They fear he will be completely mad, and they do not wish someone like that on the throne. Barinthus believes that is why Cel’s followers are passing around the fear that you will contaminate them all with your mortality.”
“They sound desperate,” I said.
“No, the desperate part is the talk about declaring war on the Seelie Court. What I did not tell Kurag is that there is talk of war no matter which of you takes the throne. They see Cel’s madness, your mortality, the queen’s weakness as signs that the Unseelie are slipping away, that we are fading as a people. There are some who talk of going to war one last time while we still stand a chance of defeating the Seelie.”
So, they’re just going to war because reasons? Just because?
Doyle tells them that it is Siobhan, the captain of Cel’s guard, who is behind the drive to war with the Seelie. Siobhan had been behind Merry’s assassination attempt when they were back at court last, so Merry asks why Siobhan wasn’t being punished for that. Doyle tells her that she was punished for a month, but it has been several months since they returned, so Siobhan has been out for a while. Merry says she would feel better had Siobhan been executed as punishment, but Doyle reminds her that the queen is loathe to lose any noble-born sidhe, because they are a dying breed. Merry asks what Siobhan could even hope to gain from outright war with the Seelie Court.
“She likes death,” Rhys said.
I looked at him.
“I wasn’t the only one who used to be a death deity, and I’m not the only one who lost a great deal of their weirding when the Nameless was cast. Siobhan was not always her name either.”
That reminded me. “Tell Doyle what you discovered at the murder scene today.”
He told Doyle about the elder gods and their ghosts. Doyle looked less and less happy. “I did not see Esras do this, but I know the queen gave the command for it. One of the agreements between us and the Seelie was that some spells were never to be performed again. That was one of them.”
They wonder if it could be Siobhan who performed the spell to loose the elder god ghosts. They believe she could be powerful enough, and she obviously wants war between the courts, and she also wants Merry dead. Rhys tells them that he knows that Siobhan could not have freed the Nameless, however, because she is not powerful enough for that. He thinks there could be two traitors back in faerie: Siobhan and then someone else, possibly from the Seelie Court, who freed the Nameless.
Doyle tells them all that he needs to tell the queen about the elder ghosts, but first Merry asks if her wards can keep out the ghosts. Doyle believes they are strong enough, however he doesn’t know the motivation behind the ghosts, so he cannot say for sure.
Oh, you mean those wards that could BARELY CONTAIN SOME TINY FEY in like the first chapter? Those wards that NONE OF THE OTHER GUARDS have added their strength to? Yeah, I’m sure those will hold.
Doyle turns to go contact the queen, but first he tells Merry and Co to call their boss at Grey’s, Jeremy, and tell him they will not be returning this day. He also tells them to absolutely not tell Jeremy about the elder gods. Merry takes offense at this.
“This is sidhe business, Meredith, and he is not sidhe.”
“Sure, but if the sidhe go to war, then so do all the fey. My great-grandmother was a brownie. All she wanted to do was stay near her human’s home and tend it, but she got killed in one of the last great wars If they’re going to be dragged into it, then shouldn’t they know about it beforehand?”
“Jeremy is exiled from faerie, so he will not be involved.”
“You’re ignoring my point,” I said.
“No, Meredith, I am not, but I don’t know what to say to your point. Until I can think of what to say, I will say nothing.” With that he went around the corner. I heard the bathroom door open, then close.
Rhys patted my arm. “Gutsy of you to suggest that fey other than sidhe should have a vote. Very democratic.”
“Don’t patronize me, Rhys.”
He dropped his head. “I even agree with you, Meredith, but our vote doesn’t count for much. ONce you’re on the throne, maybe that will change; but right now, there is no way in all the kingdoms of faerie that a sidhe ruler will agree to include the lesser fey in our war talks. They’ll be notified when we decide to go to war, not before.”
“That’s not fair,” I said.
“No, but it’s the way we do things.”
“Get me on a throne and maybe that can change.”
“Oh, Merry, don’t let us risk our lives to make you queen, only to have you turn around and piss off all the sidhe. We can fight off some of them, but not all of them.”
Hahaha, what? You JUST SAID that maybe things will change once Merry’s on the throne, then when Merry says “Yes let’s do that” you turn around and say NO? Goddamn, this book.
The  chapter ends with Kitto piping in, telling them all that Rhys is right, that the goblins are great warriors, but they fear the sidhe, and because of that, they will follow sidhe orders unquestioning.


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