In truth, I do not know if I am strong enough to love them. Hating them was so much easier. Such is the way of our kind, that our flaws are so great and our virtues are so terribly few. And yet, to live, I must. To stop my enemy, I must. For Shadow, for my mother, for all of this, I must. My mind drifts back to them as children, and I wonder how we ever got to be here.
I was barely a youth when I first met Virgil. Even then, he was frighteningly intelligent. Stephen, and Virgil, and Gaius. The others would come later, of course, but in the beginning, there was only the three of us. Perhaps that is why Gaius hesitated. Maybe he knew what I intended, knew that I would not fight him. Terridus I would have fought. I shouldn't have, and it's a strange sort of mercy he paid me to send Gaius after me. I wonder if Terridus knew of the summer days Gaius and I spent, riding through Arden, fishing down at the docks, sparring under Dagonet's watchful eye. I wonder if his right eye still twitches before his leading feint, and if he still remembers the night we stole one of Gerard's flasks, got drunk, and got in a fight over who Ylsidora the serving girl liked better. By the Unicorn, we were children once.
We were all children once.
Even Terridus. Even Winter. Even Garrick. I was there when they were each introduced in court, always ready with a verbal jab and a cunning test. Hello, I'm your cousin Stephen. Welcome to the family. Hope you like being tricked. Gaius? Oh, he's just better than you. Virgil? He's just insane. And me? I'm just angry. I look forward to watching you fail.
Perhaps Lises truly is the best of us. Funny, the first to find enough joy in his heart to foster the next generation, and it was Elmdor's other son. Then Viola, clever, pretty Viola.
Why was I the first to find it of our generation? Why did it choose to save me? And even as I ask that, I know the answer. Because it could. Because it had the faith that I would be able to overcome my own worst nature, and rise to become... whatever it is I am becoming. I would like to think that it is a better man, but that is simply vanity. I am an Amberite. I cannot become better than what I am. Redemption is merely a pleasant story people tell to convince themselves it's okay to be forgiven. Amberites, when we choose to be honest, know better than that.
I miss my home. I miss my Navy. I miss my mother. I miss the seas of Amber, and the smell of a summer storm as it breaks upon the Rock. Only now, only here can I say these things.
The way forward is dark and uncertain, but when I was a child, it was easy to love. I have been commanded to love them, and as a child, I think I could have done it. I do not have to like them, after all. Just love them. I just have to remember what it was like to be a child.
My steps lead forever forward, and I do not think I will ever step free of the Pattern. My whole life, I am walking the Pattern. There are infinite veils, and I will only reach the center upon my death. May that I do some good here, before then.