Nobody ever tells Deirdre she's killed her mother.
As a child, nobody tells her much of anything, really - it's her brothers everyone seems to be talking about: how close they came to killing one another today and how likely it is either of them will actually succeed tomorrow.
Neither of her brothers seem interested in gaining an ally (they're still young then, and learning and also, they may very well possess all those prejudices boys seem to have about girls at a certain age) and to Deirdre herself, it seems the better part of wisdom not to get involved.
That's before her tenth birthday, of course, when Corwin sends her a silver-colored ribbon and Eric sends her a dead frog. (His name is on the card, at any rate - and she reasons that even if Corwin has send her both, then at least he's remembered her, thought of her highly enough to make some kind of effort. She's grown bored with doing nothing but learn how to be a proper lady, anyway.)
Corwin takes to music the way Deirdre takes to fighting with an axe. She's not sure where Eric's talents lie - he is said to be a gifted fencer, but she rarely runs into him and he makes no effort to seek her out, possibly because he knows she has chosen where to stand in regards to him already.
He is right, of course. Corwin has offered her his friendship and as much of his trust as any sister may hope for from her brother; Eric cannot offer her more.
When Corwin composes his first song, she tells him it's horrible. (It's the simple truth, and she makes no effort to beat around the bush; better, she thinks, to be honest in private, than to allow Corwin to humiliate himself in public.)
His second attempt is a little better, although that, too, ends up being tossed into the hearth, never to be heard or seen again. (She doesn't think Eric would truly go so far as to steal Corwin's early compositions in order to be able to use them against him later, but she can understand a desire to erase the past, to make it as if those first failures have never been.)
In the end, it takes Corwin seven tries before he produces a song that Deirdre deems acceptable.
"But it's still not very good," she says. Only the best musicians are invited to Amber, but then, it would hardly do for a prince of Amber to be bested in any respect by an ordinary person.
Dabbling in the arts is permitted, of course, but Corwin is well past dabbling by now. He will either become a great composer and poet, or a laughing-stock. Deirdre intends to see to it that it will be the first, rather than the second, although she's not entirely sure how this may be accomplished.
"I'll become better," Corwin assures her.
"You'll become the best," Deirdre corrects him, making him laugh.
Another year goes by before one of Corwin's songs is performed in public and to great acclaim - five days after Deirdre has come back from her first campaign in Shadow.
They celebrate her return at Bloody Henry's - and Corwin's success in his quarters, where neither of them needs to keep a clear head just in case someone decides to try something reckless. Corwin offers to write a song about her first real battle - or at the very least a poem, he insists with all the insistence of a drunken young man determined to impress a more amused than impressed young woman.
She calls him an idiot, and he looks hurt, and in the morning, he shares with her the secret to curing a hang-over. (It seems cruel, somehow, to tell him she's already learned that on her campaign, quite likely from the same person who's taught Corwin and who knows how many more young men and women the 'ancient recipe that's been his family's best-kept secret for hundreds upon hundreds of years'.)
Deirdre walks in Shadow and finds a place where women are treated as cattle - to be wedded and bedded as their fathers or elder brothers will it, with no say in how to spend either their days or nights. There is no story that is passed on from mother to daughter of how a savior will appear one day, to lead them in a revolution and set them free - there is only the reality of life.
It takes her six months to have the streets of the country's capital run red with blood - most of it male, and only a few drops of it hers. Such is the power of a princess of Amber.
"A complete waste of time and effort, sister dear," Brand tells her, smiling a smile that tells her he's not so much looking for a fight as an easy victory. "The number of Shadows where women are not treated according to your sense of what's right and proper is, simply put, infinite. Changing the circumstances in one of them will hardly make a difference in the larger scheme of things. Of course - "
"Of course," Fiona cuts in, "the number of Shadows where, at some point, a female warrior in silver armor will appear to lead the women of that Shadow in a revolution is equally infinite."
"Not equally," Brand protests quickly. "It's considerably less than - "
"Less infinite than infinite?" Fiona's voice is silken, her smile sharp.
Brand is scowling as he abruptly turns and walks away, presumably in search of someone else's mood to turn dark. Deirdre pities whomever will have the misfortune of crossing Brand's path and catching his attention.
"You've made a difference, you know," Fiona tells her, sipping her glass of white wine. "Of course, it's anyone's guess whether it's a difference for better or for worse, in the long run."
"For better, surely."
Fiona shrugs. "Would a place where the women suppress the men be better than a place where the reverse is the case?"
"I suppose not." It's harder to imagine though. Even in Amber, being a princess isn't quite the same as being a prince. A prince may one day take the throne - a princess may one day gain a regency, if whomever of her brothers is holding the throne feels inclined to grant her one.
Deirdre knows she desires neither throne nor regency. She suspects Fiona wishes for the first, and may be too proud to settle for the second.
Fiona smiles at her fondly, as if reading her thoughts. "But come, enough about this. Corwin has composed three songs in your absence - have you heard them yet?"
"I did not write the song that compares the size of Eric's - ahem."
Deirdre cannot help but wonder, sometimes, how well Corwin truly knows her, and how much of her only belongs to the image he's created of her in his mind. She doesn't want to disillusion him though. Besides, she's not all that interested in discussing the size of Eric's anything.
"To peas, I believe?" Eric doesn't compose music. Corwin might thus consider it unfair to offer him a challenge in that area.
"Do peas even do that?"
Corwin blinks. "Do you know, I honestly don't know. It's tiresome though, how everyone seems to think I did write it. Even Eric."
"It wasn't that badly written, I thought. If it's not yours, then whose?"
"Who knows? He's rubbed enough people the wrong way, recently." Corwin sounds chagrined, perhaps because Eric is making enemies without Corwin's help, and without seeming to particularly care. Of the two of them, Eric is better at keeping a cool head, Deirdre thinks, better at turning his full attention elsewhere for a while. Corwin is more passionate, less able to forgive or forget even for a moment.
Corwin is the better man, but Eric is still the better fencer.
"Random, perhaps, or Caine." Corwin considers. "Brand."
Random is a performer, not a composer, and Caine is too cold, Deirdre thinks, to compose a song that's so obviously a taunt. People remember songs, and Eric is still in line for the throne, someone Caine may want to curry favor with at some point in the future.
"It hardly seems Brand's style." Which doesn't say much.
"Yes, there's that, too." Corwin frowns. "It's obviously not his style. Thus, taking into account that it's Brand - "
" - he's a very likely suspect."
"Exactly. And I can't even figure out if he'd do it to work against me, or as some sort of friendly gesture."
"It could be neither." What Deirdre means is that sometimes, people will do things for reasons that have got nothing to do with Corwin. She can't really think of a way to say that without sounding as if she's dismissing his suspicions though - and she can't really be sure that they should be dismissed.
Corwin nods. "He could have just done it to stir things up. That's like him."
People at court come and go, rising and falling as they slip in and out of favor, but those of the royal house remain. Even Llewella, who comes here only when her presence is asked for in terms that are barely this side of polite, still has her own quarters, as if to remind her that Amber is her true home, no matter how much she might prefer otherwise.
To others, Deirdre tells that that's why, when they ask her - which isn't often, thankfully.
She wonders if people ask Corwin, and what he tells them. What he can tell them, beyond that which he already tells them in his songs.
Nobody ever tells Deirdre that she's killed her mother.
And nobody ever tells her that Corwin loves her the way a poet loves his muse.
Still, these are the things she builds her life upon.