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Game of Tears — Part 40 | Houses of the Blooded
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Game of Tears — Part 40

Friday, October 16th, 2009 | Research

Really, Tomas.

Enough with the histrionics.

Your letter is damn near incoherent, I almost didn’t respond. I hardly know what I am responding to.

Accusing me of poisoning you? Of clouding your mind? Hardly. In case you hadn’t noticed, this revenge has been twenty years in coming. I wanted you to feel the pain with every fiber of your being. Cushioning the blow with mind-numbing poisons would have precisely the opposite effect. I’ve no idea who’s been drugging you, but my plan relied on you being sober and perfectly, completely aware of the world around you.

Even now, Tomas, you have not the slightest idea how I have suffered. You have not marked the same day every year with melancholy wondering. You are not seized with worry every time you hear of the Storm wiping out a caravan; or of youngbloods dueling to the death. You do not weep when you hold an infant… even an ork infant. Do you know, though I know a dozen recipes, I have never once taken precaution against conception? The many lovers I have enjoyed, virile men all. And not once has their seed taken root. The poisons may not have accomplished what Father hoped they would, but my womb is blighted nevertheless. There will never be another child for me.

I want to see my son so badly, it hurts. I want to see the man he has become. I want to hold him in my arms again. I want to meet his wife and play with his children. I want to find out which House he has joined (though I cannot imagine him being anything other than a Fox, just like his mother).

There is something else you do not realize. Shajar Thorne loves me. There is not a single thing you could tell him about me to change his heart. Every day I wake next to him, I am surprised again by that fact. I almost regret treating his wife the way I did. It seems so unnecessary in retrospect. Even if you bundled up all the letters I have ever sent you, even if you devised complete and utter fiction and sealed it with my name and gave it to him with a pretty ribbon wrapped round the whole sheaf… yes, Shajar would read them and believe them. And he would still love me.

So tell him, my brother. Tell him everything. Tell him our whole story. Tell him how I earned the title Mistress of Poisons. Tell him I bore a bastard when he was still in swaddling. Tell him how many deaths can be laid at my feet. Tell him just how many men (and women) have come into my bed. Tell him how I murdered our parents. Tell him all that… and he will still love me. Even if you found incontrovertible proof that mine were the hands which ended his wife’s life (an act I still categorically deny), he would still love me.

You wish a token from me, to prove that I am the mistress of my own fate? Prove I am still your sister? Prove I am still Ismene YvaraiShajar told me his secret name long ago, the first night we were together. The first time, it turned out, he had ever lain with a woman. He thought the gift of his secret name was appropriate for the occasion.

You don’t understand, Tomas. You never will. With all your threats and bluster. You murdered me twenty years ago, when you killed the man I was going to marry. Yes, I loved him. And was grief-stricken by his loss. But I would have gotten over it. Only I could not. Not when his death also meant the loss of the only person I have ever truly loved. Had my beloved lived, you and I could have been happy. I would have been married. But wasn’t that what we planned all along? Advantageous matches for each of us, working in concert to build up both our fortunes. Sweet Sua’ven, Tomas, I would have been the dominant partner, even!

No, Tomas. You were enraged because what happened was outside your control. You have always sought to control me. If you cannot command something, you destroy it. That is why none of my lovers were ever allowed to live. Because, while you could not control who I invited into my bed, you certainly could see to it that no one stayed very long. That is why you have dangled this name over my head for twenty long & lonely years, making me play your Game and bend to your will.

And that is why I chose Shajar. Even if you had found him, I doubt you would have possessed the nerve to kill him. Not your precious ward and protege. Not an undischarged debt. Not the symbol of your honor.

I once chose lovers by their cunning. By their hardiness. Those I thought could thwart you without killing you. I only regret the solution took so long. To choose a lover you would refuse to kill.

Well, I play the Game no longer, Tomas. Tell me what I want to know, or be forsworn. What means more to you: pride or honor?

And if I learn my son has died sometime during the past twenty years… it won’t matter how it happened. Plague, Storm, revenge or romance. If he died without ever getting to see his true mother, if he died without me ever getting to see him again… I will use every resource at my command against you, and you will wish I had stopped at Kassana.

Yours with all filial affection,

Ismene Yvarai
Blooded of the Fox
Countess Sha’av
Mistress of Poisons

P.S. I counted three times to make sure I was accurate. You’ve taken two more lovers into your bed than I have. Who’s the harlot & the slut, then?

P.P.S. Shajar has asked me to marry him.

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