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Cassandra's Diary.19


Day 117/17
Speculations

We had a little more time to speculate on our situation. DeWinter, Owen and I were speaking privately in our salon. I had a basic suggestion: We've never really discussed just communicating with the watcher. Why not? If it wanted to do something to us, it probably would have done so by now. We've been here for years. If it saw us before, then it had ample opportunity. If it is recent, it still had months to take any overt actions--but, to the best of our ability, it was just observing. I was reminded of Sebastian, when he encountered something new. He never meant any harm either, despite the usual consequences. Perhaps this was the same sort of situation. Perhaps it hadn't met anything like us, and somehow Rinaldo was different than the rest of us. It might just be very curious. It seemed to me that starting one's life as a Pattern Ghost would leave some sort of trace. Or, Rinaldo had another quality that we are unaware of. He might not even be aware of it himself.

We tried to sort things out by common denominators. Owen was the second to be watched most closely. Now that Rinaldo was gone, she was preeminent for that, while another took the second position. Owen wouldn't say who that was just yet.

The watcher "visited" in erratic patterns. Currently, only Owen and Sabrina can sense it. Owen and Rinaldo are Trump Artists, but I've received little attention, no more than anyone else. Perhaps I'm not as accomplished. Age seemed to have little to do with it, DeWinter thought he was the oldest of the lot. Owen had the Pattern the longest, though it's hard to say what each person's subjective age is.

Again, many questions and speculations, but nothing definitive.

Day 158/17

Rinaldo is back. He was "ejected" from UnderShadow. Actually, he never got out of it. He encountered serious resistance and was incarcerated the entire time by denizens. Years. He forgot who he was entirely, though the denizens would call him by his name and even call him an Amberite--that sort of thing. That seemed to force him to recall who he was. At the end, he got his trump back and was ejected back here. It's taken a few days to get his equilibrium back, along with his memories.

This causes me to question whether the watcher set up the resistance or, if it was just the work of UnderShadow or another entity, if the Watcher hadn't sent something to keep his memory intact enough to get him his Trump. That would imply that the watcher has a vested interest in keeping Rinaldo here.

This led to a long discussion on what might be out in Shadow that could do these things. I filled in Owen about my adventure with Galantia. There could be many, many other creatures just as powerful.

Doblique has created, successfully, a spell that will cloak us from the Watcher. With the child on its way, I did not object to having it placed on me. I might have at any other time, but it seems prudent. Once the spell is on, the Watcher just doesn't come around to that person any more. It must be wondering what is going on.

Owen is missing Kent quite a bit. She made an oblique comment that caused me to remember how I got ill when I had been separated from DeWinter for too long. It can happen to her, though she believes that their relationship is strong enough for her to hold out for a while yet. DeWinter promised to relieve her of all duties should our good doctor become incapacitated. She gave a small smile and a brief nod.

For my part, I'm finding it difficult to concentrate on much for very long. My focus shifts from time to time, as if my food is being spiked with aphrodisiacs.

One bit of good news. The child is going to be a boy. Now we need to agree on a name. DeWinter insists that the name shall not begin with a "D." I think he believes his line has had quite enough, thank you.


Day 165/17

Odd dreams are occurring now. I dreamt we, DeWinter and I were back at the circus. This time, though, I was a dancer, and DeWinter, well I don't remember just what he was doing. Dreams are like that.

Day 190/17
Escape to Amber?

Today was a most unusual day. I was walking back from the park when I felt a tremor run through the ground. For a moment, I was reminded of the shelling on the battlefield, but it was just an earthquake. No one else seems to be reacting to it though, so I wondered if it was simply me.

I quickly tried to get back to the house. I got where I had my hand on the door latch when another tremor hit, much more intense. I had the distinct feeling of falling, as if I was going into UnderShadow. I braced and tried to fight it. There was a horrible feeling of vertigo and momentary blackness.

Then I was in a different place, in front of a different door. It was Tiryns. Looking around, there were children playing by the gate and I recognized them. And I looked exactly the same. No horn, no tail, horse or otherwise. That was odd if I was indeed trapped again in UnderShadow.

I went inside to find DeWinter coming down the stairs, wrapped in a sheet he'd grabbed after leaving the shower. Funny, I have no shower in Amber (best to change that). He looked as puzzled as I was. Checking my Trump deck, I found they were cold. Trump doesn't work in UnderShadow. A puzzle. I followed him up. He'd felt the same sensation. Could we be in Amber? How?

He got dressed. All we had immediately was our clothing. So, he put on his suit and I stayed in my dress. I went to search for Byslamia or Mother, but they were out. We got horses and headed for the castle.

As we rode, I examined the surroundings. They were definitely real. While I could tell by the scents and the colors, DeWinter was convinced by the details, the shapes of the ships and sail, the terrain, that sort of thing. By the time we got to the castle, we were convinced, mostly, that we were in fact in Amber. But, we had no idea how we got here. Our priority was to tell Random, so we could get the others out.

We must have presented a different look to the guards. Our 1930's attire contrasted sharply with the medieval surrounding. Still, they must be a little used odd sights, since not an eyebrow was raised.

Random met us at the door and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Now I was wondering if I wasn't in UnderShadow again. He'd never done that before. Our meeting was quickly settled. Everyone was out of the Shadow trap, though no one could find Rinaldo. I asked to be informed if anything was learned about his whereabouts. I wanted to help, but I doubt anyone would let me leave Amber. The restrictions might chaff after a while. I was immensely pleased to learn that Simone was fine, though Sebastian was worse for the wear after battling a mercenary group that had attacked his Shadow. Some things never change.

Since I didn't have any Trump, I asked Random to borrow his copy of Julian's. I made a quick call. He was in a practice room with Vivant. They were wearing gi's, and got a view as he met her attack and turned it around, slamming her down onto the mat. She lay there groaning and I sympathized. He turned to speak with me, and we arranged for a dinner in three days. When I said I had no Trump, he went to a sideboard and gave me another. How does he do that? Always have what is needed on hand? I have something to aspire to.

Just before we ended the contact, I heard Vivant rush Julian with a yell. He sidestepped, sending her crashing into a wall. I couldn't contain a wince. I remarked that she overcompensated and he agreed. He was turning back to her when the call was disconnected.

We did ask Random how we got out. He knew, but said he wasn't inclined to tell us just yet. Again, some things don't change. I'll add it to my list of things I'd like to find out about. Eventually, I'll be told.

DeWinter and I got the horses, the better to intercept Mother and Byslamia. If we went back to the estate, the weir would know right away and I wanted them to know first. We found the road from town to Tiryns and managed to get a nice picnic basket to while away the time. We even began to go through a few possible names. Out of a dozen or so, he thought three were all right: Ian, Valen, or Xiombarg. The last was a name of an old friend of his. It has a certain appeal, but it doesn't quite ring right. I was fairly neutral with Ian, but Valen isn't bad. More thought is required.

It was after dusk when Byslamia and Mother came riding up. They were riding sidesaddle, their full skirts draped nicely. When they caught sight of us, sitting on the side of the road, they bounded out of their saddles and greeted us with hugs, kisses, and, dare I say it, a few squeals. I never heard Mother make those squeal before.

We settled around the picnic blanket while DeWinter got out a bit of wine. Most of it was spilled when we made our announcement. Both were overjoyed, even Byslamia. Perhaps she doesn't remember just what is in store for her. Still, it was nice to be showered with their happiness. While I know I'm pregnant, I don't really feel pregnant, if you know what I mean. I'm not showing yet, and nothing much has changed. It was still a bit unreal. So, in a strange way, they were happier than either of us. I thought DeWinter might be feeling left out, but a quick glance over told be he was smiling, openly, happy at everything.

By and by, we collected ourselves and headed out to Tiryns.


Day 191/17

The weir figured everything out by this morning, thanks to Claw. Breakfast was just as I remembered and I'd forgotten just how good the food is here. I ate much more than I usually do in the mornings. I suspect this isn't going to change for a while.

Owen did Trump me. They'd found Rinaldo. All of us had been transported to our homes. Rinaldo's home is not really in Amber, so he was in Shadow, and doing fine.

Day 194/17
Celebrations

Julian and Vivant came to dinner and I was happy to see they brought Shapir. Dinner went very well. DeWinter had gotten the weir into a semblance of a uniform in my colors. I was touched he was so thoughtful. In fact, the weir were exceedingly conscientious. It was all spit and polish, perfect. I thought DeWinter had something to do with that, but he appeared to be oblivious to the changes.

After dinner, mother cajoled Julian to play on her spinet and he convinced Vivant to accompany with her singing. The sound from the spinet wasn't anywhere near the fullness of his grand piano, but they adapted nicely.

Hot drinks and brandy was brought in while Claw hovered near. I suspect that will be the case for the duration. Still, we made our announcement and Vivant was more than a little overjoyed. She tried to restrain herself. I could tell she wanted to just jump up. Instead, she set her drink down and came to give me a light hug. I gave her a strong hug, to let her know she need not act other than freely. With that, she kisses me face and would not let go. Oh, she was very happy. Julian and Shapir went to DeWinter to congratulate him. Vivant said this was the happiest news we could have given them. I replied that it was almost true. She glanced over sharply, and I said it would be perfect if she and Julian would consider being the child's godparents. I'd asked DeWinter if he minded this. Not only did he not mind it, he thought it was a very good idea.

Vivant watched Julian carefully. So did I. He was under no obligation, but it was a large responsibility. Julian stood there, regarding DeWinter. After a long pause, he clasped a hand on DeWinter's shoulder and said that this is a mere formality, but a significant one. I think he was referring to DeWinter's acceptance of this turn of events.

The little party broke up a bit. Vivant, Mother and Byslamia had much advice and information for me. So much, that I was reeling a bit. After all, I never thought I'd have to redecorate anything but a room for the child. Now, we'd have to move whole rooms around. Really? And there were clothes and all sort of things. The men listened for a bit and then moved outside for cigars. Later, I did get some air from all the planning the other women were beginning, so I got to catch glimpses of the conversation outside. DeWinter had asked Julian of beings, like Galantia and the Watcher, that were very powerful, bodiless, and immortal. Julian did what he does best. He gave DeWinter all the details he could handle, and then some, efficiently and completely.

Julian and Vivant elected to stay over while Shapir rode back to Arden. It was good seeing him here. He must be very busy with all his responsibilities and I was flattered he took the time to visit.

That night I dreamed I was far along with the pregnancy and the baby was talking to me. I've been teaching him how to speak. It'd started with just some strong empathic exchanges and had developed into speech. I was Queen of Amber and it was something like 5000 years from now. Random had retired over 1000 years ago and Amber had changed much. Everyone wore futuristic clothing and there were flying ships in the harbor. When I woke, I had to laugh. I should tell Random he is destined to rule, with all the duties involved, for another 4000 years.

Day 196/17

I woke up very late today. I usually wake up at dawn. I like the quiet of the morning, when no one is about. I do my morning practices and meditation, ending up refreshed and ready for the day. Today, however, I woke long after everyone was up and about. At least nine bells. DeWinter was already up and out. Strange.

I met with Evander today and told him the news. He was very "pleased" and said 'it was about time'. When I questioned it, he said he was getting older, so it was time to have children. I was a bit bemused over the whole thing. I really have surrounded myself with the oddest men, I think. Perhaps he was making a joke? I got a hug from him before he went back to his duties. Oh, his idea for the boy's name was Ecole. I repressed a grimace and went back to the city.

I hired a courier to take a message to Tatasha. I doubt anyone would let me leave, so I had the courier bring her back. I did want to tell her in person. I also sent a letter to my sisters in Mycenea and one to Dalt. I think DeWinter was a little surprised about that, but he didn't argue about it.


Day 201/17
Max Returns

I was working on my law studies today. I had left one of my books in another room and left to retrieve it. As I turned the corner, two of the younger weir came around, colliding into my stomach before tumbling to the floor. I was able to take a second or so to brace myself, but they didn't have such luck. As I helped them up, one blurted out "Max is back!"

I raced outside to find Max, healthy and whole at the gate. I launched myself at him, giving him hugs. I was delighted when I saw he was as moved as I was.

We took him near the stable and we set up a bit of a picnic. He recounted a bit of his story. He'd fallen when the shells started, only waking up much later, when the bombing had stopped. He rose and began moving away from the area, as far as he could over many days. It was about a week later when he came upon a small farm. Two boys found him and they put him to work in the fields. He was safe, the family was poor but he liked them. He earned his keep by helping with the fields. This lasted for about ten months.

Then, some men arrived, wearing uniforms. The family sold him to them. The money was needed and these people were impressed with his size. They mentioned that their employer had extensive stables. Something about them told Max not to try and speak. He doubted they would understand that he wasn't the family's property, or that he could speak.

He was taken to his new home and found these men were not pleasant at all. They used chemicals and drugs on him. Why? He didn't know, but he found himself unable to not talk. They taught him French. The chemicals not only forced him to speak, but he was unable to stop speaking. Anything that came to his head, he ended up speaking. He did think they were in his mind a few times. Not as I have done with him, but painfully. They found a picture of me in his mind. They made some comments about their belief that I would come looking for him. And they called me Princess Cassandra. They didn't mention Amber, but there are not many places where I have that title. Certainly not there--where even I had no idea of who I was at the time. And they never spoke in Thari, only in French. So, who were they and why did they want to capture me? Neither of us had any answers. They had set up a perimeter guard, maintaining vigilance for a long time. Eventually, as the years passed, they relaxed until there were few on duty at any given time. There were only a few men to maintain the stables. They'd given up. Their unseen master was named V'rat.

I did take the time to gently examine his mind for traps. After what he went through, I was surprised he let me. I was relieved that there was nothing wrong with him. They had tried, though there was no skill involved. I have only minimal skill as a mentalist, and they weren't even as good as I am. Max proved to be more stubborn than wise. He refused to let them win there and ultimately they failed.

A few days ago, after many years, Owen arrived to rescue Max and this was how he was now free. He barely knew who she was, but when she said my name, and mentioned Amber while talking in Thari, he began to remember. She got him out, through UnderShadow, and to here. I owe Owen for this.

Day 202/17

I convinced DeWinter a little road trip is desirable. I never did explain to the Chantris' why I had to leave and I wanted to do this before I was housebound. In reality, I wanted to get off the estate for a while. The idea of being kept on the estate for months with almost nothing to do was grating on me. It took a little convincing, but he agreed. I sent off a message to them, to expect our arrival--just an informal visit. I'm looking forward to meeting some people in Amber. If we are going to be here for a few years, until we feel comfortable walking in Shadow with the child, or leaving him here for a bit, I thought we might expand our circle of acquaintances. I'd gotten used to having a few friends around in the ShadowFrance. Like Pablo and Monad, even Noelle and De l'Morte.

I learned that Owen is taking small groups into the cordoned off area, to free up the rest of the collapsed Shadows, to finish the job.

Day 203/17

Owen arrived again, this time bringing Roskovich with her. Really, she can be amazing. He was happy to be here though he did not like UnderShadow. I introduced him to Max. Max said, "There goes the neighborhood." And Roskovich was surprised that a horse could be smart enough to talk. They'll get along just fine. Roskovich can't talk, but they both know Thari. They'll figure out a way to communicate. I bet Max can learn canine.

Day 204/17

We got a message from Lord Chantris letting us know they are pleased to host us. They assured us that they have warmed the hearth and staffed one of the guesthouses for our arrival. We'll leave tomorrow.

Day 205/17
Visiting the Chantris' Homestead

We left early. We should be able to get there by sunset. DeWinter got specific instructions as to the route that we should take. There are no roads from Tiryns to their place. We rode at a comfortable pace. We were within a hour of their estates when a group of riders crested the hill between them and us. There were six of them, all in a line.

We paused, not quite sure what to make of this. The riders came down. It was then that we saw that they were bare-chested and waving throwing axes. DeWinter muttered something, just outside my hearing. I told him that Amber does not generally have marauding bands of barbarians roaming around. He called back, exasperated, that no, they are here special, just for me.

He rode out to meet them, sword drawn, calling to Max to get me out of there. Max was inclined to agree with this, but I held him still. We argued about the situation. I've not ridden Max into conflict before, and I realized he's not combat-trained. He wanted to leave. I didn't want to leave DeWinter. I was willing to get down and fight on foot, which didn't make him happier. So, we rode toward DeWinter. The approaching group had split into two sections of three, one to the right, one to the left. DeWinter was heading to the left, I was heading to the right. When he saw me coming, he turned fully around and met with me. I tried to move Max so that we would be back to back with DeWinter. The riders circled us. Three formed a tight moving circle around us and the other three made an outer circle. One called out that they were the Ravers of Chantris come to escort us. Then, they were gone, moving toward the horizon.

We put our swords away, not a little chagrined at the scene. I really should get them to meet my weir. They'd either love each other or start a feud. On second thought, perhaps they should never meet.

We rode, catching up to them. We passed a small town, with a few large public buildings. We came to a very large estate, the heart of the Chantris' homestead. At least a hundred people were arrayed outside as a welcoming party. They gave us flowers and a few formal words of greeting. It was much more of a to-do than I had expected.

It was getting dark, so we didn't have any chance for a tour. We were escorted into dinner. There were tables everywhere and I found I liked the entire atmosphere. There were at least three generations in that house, all eating together. I'd say that this was a feast, but I have this feeling that they usually gathered together. There was little sense of formality here. This was too natural to be something they just did for visitors.

After dinner, the Ravers came out and performed. They threw their axes in complex patterns across the room to each other. Their shoulders and upper chests were painted reds, yellows, and oranges.

I did get to tell our story a bit. Enough to explain why we'd been gone and why we had to leave. They accepted this with equanimity. I had to tell them that any breeding program with Max would not be continued. They understood, though they were intrigued by the notion that he was intelligent. One of the younger children asked if they could see Max. I said he was in their stable and might be willing to have some company. The next second, many of the children were up and flying for the door. A loud voice halted them in their tracks. If they were ready to go, called one of the adults, then they were ready to retire for the night. Disappointed, they said their good-byes, though a few were a bit dramatic about the whole thing. The other children, who hadn't run, stayed quietly in their seats. If they attracted no attention, they might just be able to stay up with the rest of us. They were successful.

We were shown to the guesthouse. Ravers guarded around the outside and a staff greeted us inside. Normally I wouldn't trouble them, but we were still a bit dusty from the trip. So, they made a bath ready. I think I scandalized them a bit when I helped them carry the buckets up. I'd gotten very used to attending for myself. Not so much in Mycenea, but definitely here, in Shom Dao, even Paris. We didn't have a staff, and I find I like helping.

I told a few stories while walking up and down the stairs and I think they were relaxed by the time we were done. They were chatting along with us at least.

Day 206/17

I woke up late again. This is getting to be a habit. DeWinter was awake, so were the staff downstairs. They'd been walking lightly so as not to disturb me. Once I was awake, he got up, walking heavily and making noises. Sure enough, within minutes we could hear the others beginning the work of the day.

We were shown around the homestead. I did learn that the town were passed was no town. The buildings were the homes of Lord Chantris' very extended family. There were quite a few of them. The Ravers are from somewhere in Shadow. There is some connection between them and Lord Chantris, and there are always a few here in Amber.

After the tour, we thanked them for their hospitality. I extended an invitation to our home should they find themselves in the city at any time. All in all, it was a pleasant meeting.

Day 210/17

We're back in Tiryns. Tatasha arrived today. She knew immediately why I called for her, though I wasn't showing, and was delighted. To get back this quickly, she must have dropped everything and come right away. I'd almost forgotten her forwardness, asking about my relationship with the male weir. I said nothing had changed and I was sorry if she were disappointed. She patted my hand and said it was 'all right'. She added, 'It'll be much more interesting to see me crumble'. That's encouraging. But I realized there was a distinct lack of male weir around. Was Claw keeping them away? I'm afraid to ask.

Day 211/17

DeWinter has decided to "allow" daily outings, with supervision—his. He's taking this entirely too seriously. Unfortunately, I can't think of any reason not to go along without running over his feelings, and fears. So, if he's happier if he thinks I am safe and if he's guarding things, so be it. But, only until the child is born. It'll drive me crazy to have to stay that way.

Day 215/17

I've been working out more. I've noticed a change in my center of balance. It's becoming much lower. If I do my exercises and sparring perhaps I won't have to retrain much later. Otherwise, I'll have to relearn a lot to move even as well as do now. Still, I have a lot of energy, but I fall into bouts of lassitude. It's not dissipating the energy at all. I've even gone to sleeping a mere hour a night. Still nothing. I'm getting much studying done, though.

Day 222/17

Things are just getting odder. Food has become very strange for me. Those things I really like I now find to be flat and bland. And cooked meat just makes me nauseous. I've even forced DeWinter to not eat cooked meat.

I've tried sparring with DeWinter, but I still have too much energy. I've become twitchy and jumpy, trying to constantly move.

Day 224/17
A Change in Diet

Owen came to visit; meaning it's my monthly check-up. She had a few questions, not the least being why I was still rather small. Otherwise, she thought I was fine. She wasn't sure how the weir blood would influence the baby's development, so she had me call Tatasha in.

When asked about the repulsion to cooked meat, Tatasha replied that her mother was like that. Not her, but it is known. At the suggestion that I eat raw meat, my mind rebelled. But my body, capricious as it's becoming, thought that was a very good idea, indeed. It could almost taste it and I wasn't even in the kitchen.

As for my size, the abdominal muscles were very tight. Apparently it is a normal weir maternal protection. The child will remain small, so as not to impede the mother should she need to defend. After the birth, the boy will develop normally. I almost asked what would happen should I be forced to change, how it would affect the baby. For that matter, could the baby change? Not a question I wanted to ask right now.

Owen also said that the energies would not dissipate with exercise. She suggested sex. All right, I could work with that.

I left them to chat, going to the garden for a little air. I did make a stop off at the kitchen, piling very rare meat onto a largish platter. I found a quiet spot…and it was gone in minutes. I genuinely hate to say it, but it was wonderful. Warm and flavorful. And I wanted more.

I went back, got another platter full and went up to my study. I wasn't about to eat in front of anyone yet, but my study is private enough. Only DeWinter or Claw bothered me in there, if the door was closed. It was closed. DeWinter came in, noting the platter. I knew Owen had told him. If he was appalled at the sight, he didn't show it. On the other hand, he's seen a lot over the years. This might not be as gruesome a vision to him as it might be for others. He nodded, pleased, "Good girl." I glared. He was looking far too smug. He smiled, "You're being smart, following the doctor's orders." Ooh, there is nothing worse than trying to feel virtuous and then have someone else be smug about it. Annoying.

So, I tackled him. My energy levels are so high, I was up and moving before he could react and he was surprised to find himself flat on the ground. Well, while he was there…

Day 227/17

I'm starting to wear DeWinter down. I'm writing this after being enclosed within our rooms for a full day and he's very tired. I went down this morning, leaving him sleeping. I worked with the crew pruning the apple trees and then went out riding with Max. He wasn't getting much exercise lately. Not that he was tied up or his stable door was closed or latched. He can come and go as he pleases. But I enjoyed it.

It wasn't long before a small dust cloud approached. It was DeWinter, riding swiftly right for us. A race? That appealed to me and we were off. Max can ride very fast and DeWinter's horse never had a chance. We raced through the paths and fields until I brought us around to end at Tiryns. Max was heaving and DeWinter was far behind. I complimented him and he thanked me, between gasps. He even offered to go again, the poor thing. He was trying to show off, I think.

Day 245/17

I felt the baby move today. Just a little. I felt this tremendous happiness. Everyone was here, fine and healthy. I was happy enough to forget myself a few times. I even startled mother when I skipped down the stairs.

I had so much energy; I raced Roskovich through the fields. I know any other time he would leave me far behind, but I was able to keep abreast of him the whole while. We were both surprised, but he found it fun. I'm going to have to find a few other dogs for him to play with, though he has Happy. Perhaps a female would be a good idea.

Owen did another examination. This was almost getting tedious. I didn't want to stay here and go through this when I know there was nothing wrong. No one feels this good and has anything wrong with them. She said that the muscles around the baby were relaxing. I guess this meant things were progressing.

Day 253/17

DeWinter started to take catnaps when I went off to do something else. Like a soldier, ever ready for battle, he's getting his sleep where he can.

Tatasha has outlined a number of signs for when a weir is about to give birth. The list is extensive, so I now have everyone watching me. It's actually fun. I've managed to get out of my room a few times, via the window, and gotten fairly far before the weir find me. They always find me. I can't hide the scent trail enough. Ah well, it's still fun. In fact, I'm finding it more and more fun to break all those little rules. Tatasha did say that when it ends, the child should come very quickly.

Day 258/17
A visit from Galantia

An interesting thing happened last night. DeWinter and I were enjoying each other when I felt a…presence. As if someone were watching us. I checked around and saw no one. Thinking it was the Watcher from ShadowFrance, I disengaged with DeWinter and it went away.

We resumed our lovemaking when I sensed it again. This time I sent an empathic "hello". I got an answer! A voice said hello in return. It was familiar and I realized it was Galantia. I asked if she were here in the room and she said she could be if I wanted it. The last part, her voice rang clearly through the room. DeWinter startled, leapt back, did a somersault off the bed, and came up with a sword he keeps under the bed. Some habits will never die.

Once he learned who it was, he relaxed and sat down next to me. A tiny inner voice said that he probably was welcoming the respite. So, we talked. She said she was just watching our "dancing." What a lovely way to put it! It is like a dance, isn't it? Anyway, normally I'd mind someone watching, but I didn't right then. Galantia is different, from other people. I suppose, in a way, I don't feel threatened by her. Or embarrassed. I suppose I'm not being very consistent. I know Owen and Kent…mixed with other people. Perhaps DeWinter and I will too, someday. But I don't think we're at the stage where we need to spice things up, so to speak. Yet, I didn't mind. Then again, we did stop…

I did have the opportunity to ask Galantia about Coral and her eye. I figured that if anyone might know about what the Jewel of Judgment could have done to Coral, it would be a 'person' who has been around as long as Galantia has. And she was a friend with Oberon. Unfortunately, a language barrier persisted, so any answers we got were cryptic. Galantia said that "scars" do not heal. She put a bit of emphasis on the word. It might be possible to heal Coral, but Coral might not like the process. She did imply that her eye was healed, but not functional. Curious. But what the scars might imply we could not decipher.

We did talk to her a bit about herself. She does have a body, but it is not like ours. It does not have the same sensory abilities as ours do hence her bit of voyeurism. Perhaps it is an trade-off with having some of her abilities. She was not in the room. Instead, she was projecting her voice to us. That sort of thing. She did admit to having some close ties with Rebma, though she didn't go into any great detail. It was a struggle not to ask too many invasive questions and still have her know we were interested in her, as a person. What subject do you bring up with someone who is eons years old and existing largely outside her body? What are your hobbies?

She left and we tried to puzzle out what we did or did not learn. I ended it with asking DeWinter if he would care to have the next dance. He gave a bow, and we danced.

Day 285/17
Month 7

The baby is getting increasingly active. If I run, he kicks a lot. If I spar, he wiggles all over the place. It didn't take me long to figure out that whatever I'm doing, he's mimicking. I try to maintain some sort of balance, because if I do too much, I'm taking energy and strength away from him. I get very tired, too, if I do too much while he is active. Dictating little thing, isn't he?

Owen did ask if I might allow one of Bley's daughters to attend the birth. She's something of a prodigy with medicine. Currently, she's attending university to become a doctor. Oh, and she's twelve years old. That was startling. Still, this isn't something unnatural, so I had no problems with her seeing something like this, if she's emotionally able to handle it. Owen brought her to meet with me. I forgot her age after only a few minutes of talking with her. She's amazingly bright. And pretty. Some of her mother's Asian features are apparent. She's amazingly composed. In the end, I agreed that she could attend, though I reserved the right to tell her to get out should I feel it necessary. She agreed saying that even if I could only say "Out" it would be sufficient for her to leave immediately. I like her a lot. DeWinter, on the other hand, thought this was a bad idea. But, since he has so much else to deal with, once he spoke his mind, he let it drop. There were other things he needed to attend to.

Day 19/18
Month 8

The last month and a half has been a bit of a haze. About the second half of the seventh month or so until now, I only have some vague recollections. Most of them much fun. Poor DeWinter.

It seemed that every inhibition I've ever had was gone. Social politeness went out the window as I found myself saying what ever came to mind. Oh, it was nothing awful. Rather, I just commented that Byslamia should find herself someone, that this or that someone 'smelled really delicious", that sort of thing. After three weeks, I was convinced I knew what I was doing. Silly rules didn't apply to me. I picked up three weir women whose sole purpose appeared to be following me around and insuring I didn't leave the estate. I didn't have the excessive energy that I had before. That went to the child. Still, I had everyone running around in circles and I was enjoying it immensely. I especially liked the fact that no one knew what I was going to do next. DeWinter ended up deciding it was just easier to keep me in bed. Now, that I enjoyed. Owen even came by to give him lots of protein bars and the like.

Before things really got out of control, Dalt arrived. The timing was questionable. I wanted to go off the grounds and he took my side! The look on DeWinter's face was precious. Not that Dalt knew just what he was siding with. I wasn't going to say anything. DeWinter obviously didn't want to say anything in front of me, so he asked Dalt to step outside for a minute. When they were gone, I was out the door, at the other side of the house. I walked for a long while, with my trackers right on my trail. After a few hours, I returned, refreshed for getting out. DeWinter said that Dalt was gone. I suppose it was for the best.

The next day, Dalt appeared for breakfast. DeWinter was not happy about this at all. Dalt was hiding in the basement and intends to stay for a while. The still rational part of me knew this was a bad idea and I struggled to keep a hold of it. Dalt said to go on a carriage ride. He'd stay here and watch things. It didn't take a genius to know that DeWinter would not relax knowing this, but he went with me anyway.

I did go meet with Dalt later on. I tried to explain why he couldn't stay. What if someone saw him? He'd be in the dungeon before he could say two words. Though, if he stayed on my property, the law might protect him. I think he understood that I was trying to protect him, not that I was ashamed of him or anything. Then it occurred to me that he actually is a pretty good-looking fellow. Oh, my. And he smelled good, too. I backed up a bit, trying to keep some perspective. I tried to explain Amberite pregnancies even though I knew it was futile. Perhaps, since he saw my mother when she was full blown into her pregnancy, he might get it. Better than DeWinter, since I wasn't there yet.

See--I was still rational.

Dalt looked at me--puzzled and it just struck me as incredibly funny. I began to laugh. His face clouded up dangerously. I just knew that he did not like being laughed at. No one does, but him especially. But, since I knew he was dangerous, and I was not in the shape to fight, Circumstances started rising. It was becoming fun and he was becoming increasingly angry. I had to fight not to laugh even harder. I backed up to the door and tried to compose myself. I just managed to assure him that I wasn't laughing at him. He studied me, just like DeWinter does sometimes, and decided to believe me. I got out of there before I ruined everything.

I found DeWinter catnapping under a tree. I tried to explain what happened, that Dalt just had to get out of here. I couldn't tell him precisely why, and he just looked at me puzzled, just like Dalt. Really, they are more similar than they like to think. I laughed and he patted the ground next to him. I joined him and he realized what sort of invitation he just gave me. He managed to get us upstairs before we made a spectacle of ourselves. Actually, everyone knows what to expect, having been through it with Mother. I had no cares on that matter and the weir were not at all embarrassed about anything like this. The only person still trying was DeWinter. I thought he was just so…cute.

Shortly after, I went full-blown mad. I left DeWinter sleeping; at least he would be unconscious for a long time from our dance. Then I began Hunting. I went past Byslamia who tried to stop me from going outside. Part of me wondered if Dalt was around, but I really didn't care who I encountered. I still knew that Dalt was a Bad Idea. Byslamia ran ahead and blocked the door. She knew what I was about since I wasn't wearing any clothing whatsoever. I picked her up, gave her a little tickle and set her aside. Then I went outside. Byslamia gave a small shout and went for Mother. I later found out that Dalt had gone, but not before leaving me his Trump. That was sweet of him.

I found four male weir in the stable. They were warned as the three weir women gave a call to them. They lasted almost an hour.

Over the last month or so, I did a lot of dancing. I always returned to DeWinter. Actually, I found myself getting him food and such, to keep up his strength. It was very clear to him that there was no way for him to expect this, and that he could not keep up. I think he was in a constant state of shock. I told him repeatedly that I loved him, and would always return. But, I just couldn't help myself. Owen and Kent came by to help him through this. He needed the support. Kent's been through this with Owen four times.

It was the first week of the ninth month when everything changed. I was in one of the rooms with seven of the weir men. Suddenly, all of the energy I had was gone, and I was myself again. I disengaged myself and said, "We're done." They ran. I called out to them, but they kept going. Sigh.

I got Byslamia to Trump Owen and Kent to let them know it was Time. I got Mother to Trump Julian, Vivant and Shapir, just for them to know. Then I got Mother to Trump Dalt and Doblique. They deserved to be here, too.

DeWinter was still asleep from 'dancing' with me. I mean, he was so unconscious, I couldn't rouse him with any amount of shaking. I began walking in between contractions. At one point, all the energy left and I wobbled. Kent came over to hold my arm as I walked. Then there was this pulsating energy running from the floor upward and back down, from my feet to my head and back again. The baby was shifting itself, using the tidal energy to its advantage. Interesting. Owen estimated we had two hours left.

Blythe went to give DeWinter a shot to wake him up. He was there as soon as he was awake, still dressing. He grumbled something about why no one woke him up. Owen said 'we just did'.

An hour and a half later, Kai-Revere was born. Yes, that's his name. A perfectly healthy baby boy.

Day 33/18

We've settled into a nice routine with Kai. He eats, sleeps, and moves a little. We feed him, let him sleep as long as he needs, do the usual changing and cleaning. I'm working at playing, though I'm at a loss of just what to do with him. He does have a nice smile. He's inherited my black hair and DeWinter's lungs. When he wants to be fed, we can hear him from outside. I want to place a weir tattoo on him, so we can locate him from anywhere, but if that fails, we'll just listen for him. I'm sure we'll be able to hear him from at least two Shadows away! I haven't the energy that I had when I was carrying Kai, but there's still more than usual. I wonder how long it will last. I remember Mother sleeping quite a bit shortly after Eidolon's birth.

DeWinter was curious if Kai's hair will remain the same color. As part of an experiment, he pulled a few hairs, which Kai strenuously objected to. When he gets older, we'll all have to leave the house when DeWinter and he start arguing. I wasn't exactly thrilled about the hair pulling, so I pulled a few from DeWinter, to let him know what it felt like. He said, "Ow! Hey!" Then he grumbled and left. He went to his offices, to get away from us. I followed to see what he was about. He was examining the hair under a magnifying glass. He'd heard that if you look carefully at the strand and can see underlying color, the hair will change as the child gets older. I'd never heard this, but I do know hair changes. We looked and it was solid black.

Over the last two weeks, I've had a number of visitors. I hadn't made a formal announcement, preferring to wait until those nearest and dearest to us got the news and opportunity first.

Julian and Vivant visited. Vivant was clearly excited by the child. She held him, cooing little songs. Kai responded well to this and I watched so I could remember what she did. It's amazing how people act, both with similarities and differences, to a little child. Julian looked him over carefully, not touching or holding him. After a bit, he looked at us and said, "Very nice." A master of understatement.

Evander wasn't much better, though. He examined Kai minutely, flickering his hands over Kai's eyes, judging his reactions. Kai fluttered his eyes, trying to follow his grandfather's movements, becoming anxious. Then Evander flicked his finger against Kai's heel. Kai jerked and decided he didn't like this at all. His face scrunched up and he announced his unhappiness. Evander's eyebrows rose up, and he appeared pleased at Kai's vociferousness. He said we've done a good job. Really, the men I have surrounding me are exasperating.

I invited Random and Vialle to dinner. Random was a bit unsure, voicing the fact that he wondered if he was safe there. I said there were 30 plus weir here. If he wasn't safe, then he could always bring guards. He asked if he was safe from me. Oh. I assured him it was "done". "Oh, it's done. Good. I'll get back to you." A few hours later, he Trumped me and brought Vialle and himself through.

We had dinner, which was pleasant. I did manage to sneak in a request to have Doblique visit, to see the child. Random thought a moment and eventually agreed, as long as she stayed on the property. I didn't ask about Dalt, knowing the answer to that. But, I cut down my chance of getting us all into trouble by half. And, Random isn't stupid. He must suspect I might contact Dalt. He didn't say anything. He could have brought it up, forbidding me from bringing him here. He didn't do it. I might be on my own, but he didn't say anything outright to forbid it.

Vialle was delighted by Kai-Revere. She ran her fingers over his face and body, getting a mental picture. This was much more pleasant that Evander's examination, so he didn't object in the slightest. In fact, he seemed to enjoy it. Then again, it was Vialle. Everyone likes her. Besides, she's the Queen. He must know better. Not really, but he seemed interested.

The following days, I did try to reach Doblique, but there was no answer. I really hope she's not in trouble again. I don't want to lose my memory again in finding her in Shadow.

Dalt came through right away. He came through the Trump contact, immediately checking out the room. It is amazing how similar he and DeWinter can be at times. I introduced him to Kai-Revere. Dalt walked around the room, looking at our boy. Kai was sleeping, completely oblivious to his visitors. Dalt sat in a chair, near the bassinet, watching Kai sleeping. I picked Kai up and placed him in Dalt's hands. Dalt just looked at him, carefully, for over and hour. He kept Kai in precisely the same position as I placed him. Either he hasn't held many children, or he just wanted to keep Kai comfortable. Kai slept through the entire scrutiny. Then Kai woke, deciding he was hungry. Dalt quickly excused himself to go and see DeWinter while I attended Kai.

Afterwards, when Dalt had gone, DeWinter relayed to me that Dalt said that Kai would be a handsome man. As if he had really believed it. Given his father, I have no doubt that Kai should be handsome. I said so to DeWinter, but he mostly shrugged off the comment.

We still hadn't gotten through to Doblique, after nearly a week, but it was time to make a formal announcement. We sent out the cards, primarily to family and the nobles, some to others, like my sisters and Cecilia and Tharkh.




Day 37/18

It didn't take long for well wishes and invitations from a fair number of Amber to grace the house. Primarily, they were directed to Kai. He'll be a very popular fellow when he grows up.

Bleys' wives all visited. I don't' believe I've ever seen them all in one room before. Eight women, all very striking in some way, convening at one time. My estate felt a little small, just then. I did get to meet Iko and I was glad for the opportunity to compliment her on Blythe. Iko fairly beamed at the praise. I also met Roxanne, Bellesara's mother. It was easy to distinguish each mother to her child. Iko was Asian, and Roxanne had the same dusky skin as Bellesara. They came and cooed at Kai-Revere, and with a small whirlwind they later left. DeWinter watched their progression away, shaking his head. 'Eight wives'. He didn't think that was right at all. I had to add that Bleys not only had eight wives, but somehow he managed to have five of them have children, all at the same time. If I ran the house ragged, imagine what that could be like. I suddenly didn't feel as bad.

I Trumped Benedict finally. He was in a strange craft, not unlike a small airplane, but with a lot more instruments. And there was no sky around him. He wore a strangely metallic suit, not unlike some of what I've seen in Martin's Shadow, but much more bulky. He hadn't been in Amber, so he hadn't the news. I asked him if he had some time, so he could meet Kai. He said he wouldn't reach his destination for another six years. But, perhaps, in about four months, he could come for a visit when he reaches a way station. I asked where he was going. He said to the Maelstrom Nebula. I felt my eyes glaze over. Nebulas were in space. Far, far above. Oh, my. It must be a very long away to take six years to get there. And in such a tiny ship. My mind boggled at the thought. In Amber terms, he might be getting back to me in a few weeks.

Day 45/18
I'm sick?

I woke today completely drained. I got up, fed Kai, and went back to sleep. DeWinter woke me up for lunch. I wasn't particularly hungry until I saw the food. I ate, fed Kai, and went back to sleep, exhausted once more.

DeWinter woke me for dinner, which I ate. He took me for a walk. It was still fall, so it was very cold and damp. I got chilled quickly. He got me inside and as he got a fire going, I curled up and fell asleep.

Day 46/18

Owen came through. DeWinter had called her. She came through, bag in hand, and began running a few tests. I fell asleep before she was done. She woke me before she left. All she found out thus far, was that my nervous system was shunting minimal energy to the rest of my body, holding the majority for the most vital systems: brain functions and central nervous system. She did rule out poisons. That got my attention. I hadn't even considered that possibility.

Day 52/18

This is truly becoming annoying. I sleep whenever I am not doing something, and I am too tired to do much of anything anyway. I eat when it is brought to me, but it does almost nothing. I know I'm becoming irritable, barely able to even write this.

Day 54/18

I actually stayed awake for a while. I ate dinner and DeWinter and I made love afterwards. Later, I woke, by myself and was up for a whole two hours, clear-headed and lucid. I had to do something, now that I was awake. I ended up helping clean the silverware. I was even hungry, raiding the kitchen for what I could find.

Day 58/18

I'm awake for a few hours every day. Apparently, DeWinter's idea for keeping me awake is an excellent one. But the problem still exists.

Day 61/18

Owen is very frustrated at not being able to isolate what is wrong. She has spent the day working on the assumption that there is something in Tiryns that is affecting me. She had everything cleaned and the rooms opened up. Fortunately, it is not too far into fall for it to be too cold. All she has been able to dig up is that the male weir were putting out a protective scent, aimed to keep away predators. A sort of "Keep away" sign for anyone to wishes to do harm.

I still feel increasingly better, though the progression is painfully slow. If we miss even one time, I won't wake up on my own.

Day 64/18

DeWinter is trying hard to maintain his equilibrium. I'm losing time, with him, my family, and Kai, because I am still sleeping most of the day. Frustration is causing mood swings and I have to fight to not snipe or lose my temper.

My only suggestion is that if there is something here, why not go to the castle. We could see any improvements quickly. If there is an improvement, then we can work on figuring out what the cause is. The castle can be the control. If it works.

We Trumped through. I'd rather we went through this way than the long carriage ride. Owen assured me that Kai would be safe going through the Trump contact. In fact, she made a Trump gate for all of us to pass through.

Day 66/18

I'm cured. I no longer fall asleep throughout the day and I have all the energy I'm used to. Now the question is why? Owen broke down and contacted Fiona, who said that the symptoms will reoccur if I should leave the castle. There are protections here that I need. Why? Fiona ordered Owen to go home and get some sleep. If in the morning, Owen still doesn't know why this is happening, she'll tell her. I was strangely unconcerned. Fiona all but admitted she knew what was going on, and it wasn't immediately life threatening. So, I could wait until tomorrow and see. I think Fiona wanted Owen to figure it out on her own. I sympathized with Owen, I don't always like it when someone does that to me, but it does depend on who's doing it.

Day 67/18
The Enemy

Owen called me into her studio.

She said she hadn't been inclined to tell me what's wrong, but she doubted I'd just stay in the castle indefinitely. She was right about that. Then, with little preparation, she opened a part of my memories.

And something came back to me now that was pertinent to the current situation.

It was when we were still in Paris. DeWinter and I were making plans, should we not be able to get out of this Shadow. Perhaps we could relocate to somewhere quite isolated. Of, we could go to one of the adjoining Shadows that were trapped in with us. The rest of the family might be less uncomfortable, at least the men. We were having one of our meetings, to catch up on any new developments with the Watcher. Without warning, a worse thought occurred to me. I couldn't talk about it and eventually told Owen I had to talk, with her--alone.

Everyone was a little puzzled, but left, though DeWinter was curious why--he went with the others. I was very inelegant about it, but I was very much in a panic. At last everyone had gone, I explained my fear to Owen.

DeWinter looks strikingly like Oberon, while I bear a more than passing similarity to Faiella. Faiella died during childbirth, from a heart attack. And the Enemy, responsible for Random's, Martin's, and Sebastian's mothers had marked me, right above my heart. It was a complication that had not occurred to me beforehand, and I did not want history to repeat itself.

Owen, thankfully, did not dismiss this. Actually, I think she was taking it fairly seriously. The question was, do I tell DeWinter? He had a right to know, but it would place him in jeopardy, especially since he had as much of a chance to fight the Enemy as I do. Which is to say--little to none. Owen was of the mind that he was better off not knowing. I wasn't so sure. I wanted to talk with Llewella and Fiona, to get their opinions. Having the three people that I knew were aware of the Enemy, perhaps I could come to some conclusion. I just didn't know.

This did reinforce the need to get back to Amber. If It was gong to attack, I wanted someone there, with Owen, to assist. Owen might be pretty busy with the delivery to fend off an attack, especially if It drew me into UnderShadow again. If there were any complications, she would be hard-pressed to deal with both, and she'd have to make a choice.

Then, the worst thought occurred to me. The Enemy is the most frightening being or situation I have encountered. It is a danger. Danger enacts my Circumstances. This serves to keep me worried, which means I am always enacted. It may very well be a very bright beacon for the Enemy to focus on and find me. When I expressed this to Owen, the blood drained from her face. I made the suggestion then that I couldn't keep these thoughts current in my mind. I needed protection. She sat down and I allowed her to go into my mind. She completely blocked the memories of the Enemy, thereby reducing the risk. I allowed this after she promised that the block would vanish once I was in Amber, and I could talk with Llewella or Fiona. I had to go into a hypnotic state because the arousal of the danger was just too strong.

Suddenly, I remembered everything.

Owen nodded and explained that my current lack of energy was a side-effect of adverse pressure from the Enemy. The castle had some protections that helped stave off the condition, and this was what Fiona had deduced. My ignorance had also been a buffer, as we had guessed in France.

For a moment, I was furious with her. We'll it's better than fear. Owen had known I didn't remember; yet she'd kept the memory blocks on. Why? I was about to ask when the alarms sounded throughout the castle. Owen and I both reacted.

We ran out the doors and heard shouting from the guards. I ran down the stairs to our room. Owen followed closely, though I wasn't sure I wanted her there. Kai and DeWinter were gone. We ran back upstairs, toward the King's rooms where the shouting was coming from. Just outside Random's door, I met a sight that left me in shock. DeWinter was slumped against a wall, blood covering him. He held one hand against his throat, where it had been cut. There was an awful amount of blood. His other hand was against his abdomen, where he'd been stabbed. I moved forward, intending to do triage, but the guards were well-versed in medical training. More so than I, it seemed. They were already at work, but it looked like there was little chance he'd survive. I was sort of numb. He couldn't die. He was too strong, right? I asked the guards where Kai-Revere was. I was surprised that I could speak. It was as if it wasn't really me.

One of the guards pointed to Random's office. Kai was in there, with the Queen. I was torn. Kai should be safe enough, but Owen was already pushing her way through the guards to DeWinter's aid. If she couldn't handle it, there was nothing I could do. DeWinter gave me an intense look, and it was eloquent in its message. He wanted me to see to Kai. Feeling like I was abandoning him, at the worst possible time, I went into the King's office.

The scene I met inside jarred me out of my shock. Random was to the side of the door, talking softly to Vialle. She was holding Kai in her arms. One of her hands held a very long dagger. I kept my voice quiet, but I could not keep anger out. The dagger was covered with blood. DeWinter's blood. I asked her if she might give me my son back.

She oriented on my voice. She seemed to relax ever so slightly, replying that she was just waiting for me. Then she shifted the dagger and both Random and I knew what she was going to do. Both of us leaped forward as the tip of the blade swung around.

As I was in air, time seemed to stop, suspending all of us. I knew we wouldn't be in time.

A voice drifted to me. "I can save him. And, perhaps, DeWinter won't die." I remembered that chilling voice. It was the Enemy. Owen has always said we had to refuse any offer. Did that mean they would still die. It would be the worst sort of loss, to lose Kai. Despite my anger with Owen, I still had faith she could pull DeWinter through, if anyone could. It might seem callous, but I could lose Kai.

I think of Mycenea as being the best of many things. Integrity, honor, history, it has grown and learned to be a wonderful place. It isn't perfect by any one's standards, but it was a good place. Despite growth in the medical sciences, though, the mortality rate amongst children is still distressingly high. It was better, much better, than previous centuries, but that didn't mean it was rare. A carryover is that we don't really think of children as being people until they were about five years old. If they survived until then, it was likely that they would survive to adulthood. In a way, it is a mental self-preservation. We see that they are given every opportunity to survive, but we in a sort of holding pattern until then. I'd hurt terribly, but we'd survive, if the enemy was going to allow Kai to die, or if it was responsible for this scene. I wasn't going to allow it to manipulate me, though.

I brought all my disdain to bear, refusing its offer. "Fuck you." It was absurd, but I felt some satisfaction in cursing at it, even though it wasn't proper. Then time came unstuck and the dagger plunged, hitting Kai in the chest. It was at an angle where I couldn't tell if it hit his heart or not. Then she shoved, pushing it through the little body.

Horrible.

Random, closer than I was, snapped into action. He screamed at Vialle and hit her hard enough to jar Kai from her arms. She went flying backwards as I made a grab for Kai. Time jammed to a standstill again and the voice returned. "Now see what happens next. You can stop all of this." I saw what it meant. Vialle spun backwards, she would crash through the balcony windows and over the railing. I saw her dress fluttering as it wrapped around her as she fell. "Don't you want to save them? I can help you." Random was just standing there, staring at the hole in the doors. Kai was still alive, but not for long. The dagger was entirely through him, at least partially through his heart, and there was so much blood for such a little body.

The pain inside me was terrible.

If I pulled it out, he would die in seconds. If I didn't, he would die in a few minutes. I didn't know what to do, but I would not deal with the Enemy. "Go the hell away."

Then, as if it was a dream, I saw the whole scene again. Random hit Vialle and she went over the side again. "Are you sure you want this to happen? Aren't you thinking only of yourself, not of them. Do you want them to foul their lives for your selfishness?" I screamed, "Go away!" I said it, but a little part of me died. It was a horrible decision to have to make. And if I were wrong, I'd never be able to live with myself.

I was holding Kai, trying desperately to find someway for him to live. Random was just standing at the edge of the windows, looking outward as if he couldn't believe what just happened. Shock. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Owen enter the room…

…and we were back in the infirmary. Staring at each other.

I was sitting precisely in the same spot as before, but this time I was shaking and crying. Had it happened? There were no alarms sounding. Owen was so pale. We sat for a few seconds, waiting. Owen was white and affected as I was. I got to my feet and ran as fast as I could down to our rooms. If it had gotten me there faster, I would have gone straight through the door. Either I wasn't as fast as I thought, or I was so fast DeWinter couldn't react in time. He was just sitting in a chair, reading. He was puzzled at first, but the look on my face made him very alert. He stood. "What's wrong?" A glance told me that Kai was sleeping peacefully in his bassinet. I couldn't say a word. I just went over to hold DeWinter, both to reassure myself that he was real and for him to hold me. I was trembling like a leaf. I heard DeWinter say to Owen over my head, "She's pale and shaking. What the hell happened?" Owen's voice wasn't too steady as she answered. She just said we'd 'talk later' and that she's going to go find Kent. I didn't bother saying goodbye.

DeWinter pulled me away, really concerned. The questions were there for me to see he didn't need to ask anything out loud. I still don't know if I should tell him or not, but I just reminded him of his little test he'd gone through with Benedict. He gave a shudder and went back to holding me. He understood just how bad I felt. The second time he held me, though I had a strange sensation. I could just barely feel the Enemy watching and wincing. Like he was still there, watching for the next opportunity. Our concern and love apalled the Thing. The Enemy didn't like feeling my trust and love for DeWinter. The safety I felt in his arms. Not one little bit. If our little link was to last for any length of time, I wanted it to hurt that Creature. More importantly, I wanted it gone. I made love to DeWinter, which was more than a little therapeutic for me.

Damn if the Thing didn't flee.

Day 68/18

Everything seemed back to normal as if the nightmare never happened. Also curious, was that the scars the enemy marked me with were even less pronounced than a year ago. A new definition for sex therapy? No, it would be more accurate to call it love therapy.

Even though I refused the Enemy's three Trials this time, I was still unsure about staying in Amber. There was the possibility that It could attack again. Owen had warned It usually struck three times, but there was no guarantee. I brought up the idea of the three of us going to Shom Dao. DeWinter was unsure of the idea. He said that everyone in Tiryn had invested a lot into our lives and Kai. It would be unfair to just leave them behind. Unfortunately, he's right. We couldn't just go, without a suitable reason, cutting them out of our lives, even if it is for a few months, on the off chance It might not attack again. I'm still torn about what to say to him. I did go so far as to say that I was "sick" and that this 'sickness' tended to produce serious hallucinations. I assured him that I was probably over the worst of it. The problem was that I couldn't tell him exactly what the disease was, since he might be affected, implying it was a type of mental virus. If he knew about it all, I'd be placing him in danger and there'd be no one left to watch out for trouble. He looked at me for a while and then nodded. He never pressed for more information, leaving my explanation as it was. The trouble was, he sometimes picked up more than I realize. I wonder if I've already endangered him. I don't believe so.

I hope not.

Day 70/18

There were no reoccurrences and Owen gave me a clean bill of health. I'm still a bit angry with her, but we haven't had an opportunity to talk. We have permission to return to Tiryns.

Day 75/18

I got an invitation for the Harvest Ball. It's one of Random's events and it is a costume ball. I hadn't thought I'd get one, and I've been busy with other things, so hadn't a clue what to wear. It would be rude to turn down the invitation, and I did want to go. Byslamia was going as a witch, looking enough like her nasty counterpart in UnderShadow to make me uncomfortable. Mother was going as a cat, though I don't know many cats that wear full gowns. Tatasha decided she was going as a prude. A perfect disguise, no one would recognize her. DeWinter went into town to see what he could dig up. I have a week to decide.

Day 82/18
Harvest Ball

I settled on using my dancing outfit from when we were in the circus. It's the most daring thing I've worn in Amber, ever. It'll be fun.

We took the carriage up to the castle. I brought a few weir to act as coachmen, and to watch Kai in my rooms. There would be feedings to tend to. There was no way I was leaving him in Tiryns without either DeWinter or myself and he should be safe enough with the weir upstairs and half the royal family one floor down.

The Ball was a great success. Many of the nobles were splendidly dressed and most wore masks. DeWinter had decided to go as a banker. I had to laugh when I saw him. His conservative suit, complete with padding for a little paunch was so unlike him. He was pleased with the effect.

Meeting each person became a little game to figure out what they were supposed to be. Since many have traveled far and wide, some of the references were lost on me. Kent was a pirate, complete with a nice-looking fake parrot on one shoulder. Lord Hendron was a mercenary general; Carmella went as a "Las Vegas Showgirl". I have no idea what that is, but she impressed everyone with her legs. Flora went as an 'interior decorator'. I'm not sure just how much of that was a costume, though. Vialle was a mermaid, though her tail was only in the front of the dress. It had slits so she could walk and dance. Random was dressed as a "Big Bad Wolf" and there was a doll of a girl with a red cloak carried over his shoulder. To give the effect of being much taller, his face was in the chest of the wolf. I wonder what the weir would make of this. Ah, they could take him… Bleys went as Oberon, complete with graying hair and beard. Each of his wives seemed to represent one of Oberon's. Gerard came in leather pants, no shirt, and a wig of long black hair. His wife, The Owen, had a simple gown. At her side was a holster, holding a large pair of shears. They were Samson and Delilah--whomever they are. Julian looked like a Ranger, but with green hose instead of trousers. He even had a quiver of arrows and a lovely bow. DeWinter asked what he was, and Julian replied he was the 'god of archery'. DeWinter just raised an eyebrow at this and let it slide. Vivant's costume was very similar to mine, though almost completely white. Mine is mostly black. We made an interesting contrast. Llewella was a "traditional" witch and Ccappella went as a schoolgirl. Coral was also a pirate, though her bird didn't look nearly as nice as Kent's, though hers had been real at one point. Martin was most extravagant and puzzling. He wore a pants suit. The right side of the trousers were striped, the left plaid. The coat was white. He wore a bit of makeup and very large glasses with glitter and something else. I'm not sure what it was. It was hideous. We gave up trying to figure any of it out and had to ask. He said he was a 'repulsive pop icon'. We still didn't get it, but let it go in the spirit of things.

It took about three hours for the party to really loosen up and get going. That seemed to coincide at a time just before midnight when most of the nobles made their excuses and Random and Martin began warming up to play music. They even brought in a few other musicians to play along.

So, we danced and made merry, and then danced some more. I got to speak to a few people. I asked Vivant if she ever was a dancer. I was curious what type of dancing she knew. But, she did not, so I offered to share what I knew, hinting at pleasant consequences. Every few hours I went upstairs to feed Kai, and to check up on everything. Nothing untoward happened, and it was a lovely night.

Day 84/18

Owen came for one last check-up. I thought this would be a good time to have a talk with her. Actually, at the ball she'd been careful not to offend. She thought I might be still angry with her. I told her I reserve long-term anger for those who deserved it, such as Luke and the Jagger Jesby, for instance. She questioned if Sebastian was on the list. I thought about it, but said no. I had a certain disdain for him, and his ways, but it wasn't worth anger unless he really did something bad. Intentionally.

We talked a bit about him, partly because it got us talking, partly because it would be useful to illustrate what I was feeling. Owen also has some negative feelings, and I think if she honestly had a choice, outside of ethical considerations, she would have nothing to do with Sebastian.

Then we talked about what happened. I told her what she did made me feel as if I was on the same level as Sebastian. That got her attention. We tiptoed around Sebastian, careful to not say the wrong thing, or give him too much information because we knew he would act on it, not necessarily for the safety of others. He tended to leave a lot of collateral damage when he's around.

Owen explained her reasoning. She was primarily concerned that if I did not have the memories of the enemy, It couldn't kill me. The double lifeforce of carrying a child protected me from the Enemy's arcane attacks. She didn't want to take the chance that I wouldn't allow the block to be replaced, so she left it on. She said it had nothing to do with trusting me. Now, I don't argue with her motivations. They were with good intentions, even if they were a bit more like Fiona than many would be comfortable with. And I could see she wasn't entirely comfortable with what she'd done. But, there would be no apology from her.

That bothered me a bit. My standpoint was that I've always tried to be reasonable. But, I'd no chance to show this. She'd taken the decision right out of my mind, without my consent, and against the agreement we'd made. She'd broken the faith agreement. I do not see how the issue of her trust in me can be separated from the entire situation. In fact, it's inherent to the entire chain of events.

So, we got it out and were frank about it. More so than ever before, perhaps because I was not willing to be relegated to the status of a younger Amberite, needing to be coddled. She didn't apologize. She felt she was acting in my best interest, with or without my consent, as was her duty as Court Physician. In matters of mental controls, I will not be letting her in my mind again. Not for a long while. It is possible to build that trust I had up again, and I said so. But it will take time. Changing someone's very thoughts and mind was a serious matter. One that I do not take lightly. Owen was inclined to say that I should get another physician entirely, but I felt it need not go to that length. As long as I have my perceptions, thoughts and memories, I still have some trust in her with my body. As for my mind, there are now only two or three people in the entire span of Amber and Shadows that I unequivocally can permit that liberty.

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