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Seeing the Future

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The worst thing about the whole affair, somewhat to Lambert's surprise, turned out to be having to watch Amy Brailsford radiate smug. Not that it went off without a hitch - when one of the participants was a witch of Greenlaw and the other was a (soon-to-be, God please) fellow of Glasscastle, and half the members of either college were refusing to speak to each other, just picking the venue had been something of a puzzle. And then the lady wanted the Warden of the North for her maid-of-honor (who refused to leave the castle of the man she was quite blatantly and insistently not married to, somewhere up north of Estonia), and Lambert wanted the Warden of the West for his best man (who had disappeared into the depths of America and had not been heard from in over year), and, well, Lambert had begun to regret his romantic impulses and nearly proposed to Jane that they just take Faris's solution.

So at Amy's suggestion, it had ended up being a small, informal ceremony at her home, which as her husband happened to be the Provost of the groom's College and the brother of the bride, was a compromise accepted with relief by everybody. The whole thing had been surprisingly simple and easy, and his first afternoon as a married man, Lambert found himself standing beside his wife in the entrance hall of the Brailsford house, trying to convince himself that his wedding had actually happened.

Hence Amy Brailsford, about to see them off to her husband's automobile for the ride to the railway station.

"Amy!" Jane protested, tying the filmy veils of her travelling hat more firmly under her chin. "I do not need you to feel my head in order to know where I'm going! Or read my palms either. We're going to visit Samuel's mother, and then we're going to see Faris and her family, and then we will go back to work at our respective colleges, and live happily ever after."

Amy sighed, and adjusted her young son against her hip. "You really should learn to listen when I give you readings, Jane. The first thing I told Samuel was that he would marry well and then take a long journey over water, wasn't it, Samuel?"

"Oh, please, Amy, don't remind me of the long journey over water," Jane moaned.

"We are not taking an aeroplane across the Atlantic," Lambert said firmly. That had been a battle of its own, but Jane was quite determined that she was going to America to meet her mother-in-law, and Lambert was quite determined that he was not going to die before he had been married a week, and so they had compromised on the fastest passage available and a lot of seasickness remedies in the baggage. "Anyway, Amy, I recall there was more to that prediction, and we aren't planning on that any time soon." 'A great many children' fit into neither Lambert's plans nor Jane's, for the near future.

"Well, I don't entirely blame you for that," said Amy. "In fact, I have another gift for you before you go, if you'll just wait." She handed the baby to Lambert and then turned to rummage in the drawer of the hall table, pulling something out and dropping it into Jane's hand.

Jane frowned, and turned her hand over, to reveal a small linen sachet hanging down from a very long loop of string.

"It's an old family tradition," Amy said. "So long as you wear it during the necessary act, the charm will make sure you don't have children unless you want them."

Lambert glanced at Jane and saw with relief that he wasn't the only one coloring slightly.

"By which I mean, if you do want kids, don't wear it," Amy clarified gleefully. "You will be able to figure out the rest, won't you?"

The story of how Lambert and Jane had defeated the Egerton wand had spread rather more widely around Glasscastle than Lambert would have preferred, with the result that everyone in the town and college had spent the past month pulling him aside to give him advice for his wedding night. He was rather glad that Amy had decided to leave her contribution for the last minute, rather than spreading the misery out over the whole week. "Yes," he said. "We'll manage. But thank you."

Jane rolled her eyes and coiled the charm back up into her hand before secreting it away somewhere in her dress. "Yes, thank you, Amy, I think we'll be all right. Was there anything else?"

Amy brightened. "I've been learning how to read people's character by the rolling of hoops." She fingered one of her heavy Bakelite bracelets. "I think it would be wonderful if--"

Mercifully, she was interrupted by Robert calling from outside that if Jane and Samuel weren't ready to leave very soon, he would start burning hatboxes. Amy rolled her eyes and added "Perhaps not," before she embraced and kissed Jane, and then took the baby back from Samuel and kissed him in turn, and sent them on their way.

Samuel squeezed into the front seat of the Minotaur beside Jane, the back seat being entirely full of baggage, and glanced at her. She was already attempting to convince Robert to let her drive, at least as far as the station, and Robert was wisely declining to listen. Then she looked back at Samuel, and caught his hand. "It will be all right," she told him.

"I know," he said. "With any luck it'll be a lot more than all right."

------

Jane, having convinced herself quite thoroughly that Lambert was neither going to faint nor be sick, concentrated on the wonderful feeling of being farther and farther away from the oppressive magical wards of Glasscastle. Concentrating on that feeling helped to convince her that she was not going to be sick either; she would have plenty of time for that when they were on the ship and she felt the earth falling out from under her.

Once they were safely distant, she made them stop at a pub and ushered Samuel and her brother off to have a celebratory drink while she "recovered from the excitement of the day." Robert blustered at her about womanly whims and irresponsibility and time. Samuel simply gave her that look of his that said he knew precisely what she was up to, and wanted the details later, before he led Robert safely away.

Jane took a deep breath and pulled her gazing-glass out of her bag. With Glasscastle miles distant, it was the work of a moment to bring Faris's image into the glass.

Faris was delighted to see her. "Jane! How did it go?"

"Much better now that I'm out of there, thank you. I still say that we ought to have had the wedding at Greenlaw."

"Well, of course it would have been better at Greenlaw; that doesn't even need being said. I still say you should have had it here."

"We could change the schedule and visit you in Aravis first--" Jane said, wincing as she thought again of the sea voyage.

Faris shook her head, putting on for a second what Jane thought of as her Warden face. "As pleasant as that thought is, I need you two in America, finding out exactly what has become of Mr. Fell. And preferably dragging him back up here with you afterwards, so that I can scream at him in person. Am I going to spend my entire Wardenship chasing after the Warden of the West as if he's some sort of damsel in a tower?" she asked rhetorically.

"I'll accept that complaint when you're the one doing the actual chasing. You are allowed to leave Aravis yourself, you know," Jane pointed out.

"The Warden of the North is allowed to go anywhere she wants," Faris replied. "The Duchess of Galazon, however, still has a full-time job cleaning up the mess she's made at home. Besides, I can't leave the King on his own."

"And someday I am going to get the rest of that story," Jane said firmly.

"When you visit," Faris answered. "Oh, by the way, did you get my wedding present?"

"Yes and thank you," Jane replied, narrowing her eyes but letting the amusement through anyway. "That didn't give me any nightmares, oh no."

It had arrived by post two days ago: a large hardcover book entitled "The Perfect Wife" and full of useful advice like "A woman's pleasure should be her quiet retirement at home and the satisfaction of her husband" and an entire chapter on all the grisly and painful complications of pregnancy. Jane had spent the night before her wedding poring over it in ever-increasing horror and desperately wishing Faris was there to mock it with her. "I think I would be better off taking my pointers on marriage from three-volume novels. It's too late to just cancel the whole thing, isn't it."

"I did try to convince you of the joys of the unmarried life--"

"Yes, and believe me, the longer I spent around Amy bursting with the joy of motherhood and Robert reminding me smugly that I'd claimed I would never marry, the more appealing your arrangement sounded. But Samuel's rather a gentleman at heart, and would never have suggested it."

"Samuel's a dear, and I can't wait to meet him in person." Faris peered at her through the glass. "You do know that I wouldn't ask you to spend your honeymoon running errands if it wasn't truly necessary."

Jane laughed sincerely. "I don't know what we'd do with ourselves if we didn't have errands to run. So long as you don't expect us to concentrate entirely on that--"

"Oh, never," Faris said, her eyes shining a bit. "Jane, I am deeply happy for you."

"I know," Jane said, and tapped a finger against Faris's on the glass. "I'll get in touch with you again in New York. Assuming I survive the trip."

"Give Samuel my love," Faris said. And right before she cleared the glass, "And best wishes on your marriage, Mrs. Lambert."

Jane shook her head and hid a small smile beneath her hat. Mrs. Lambert indeed.