I went to speak with the captain of the Amber guard regarding practicing. I was taken to a senior guard who set about rating my abilities. He was pleased with what I have learned and agreed to my training with his guards every other day. The guards here are of very high caliber.
I lunched with Byslamia and we worked on our dresses for tomorrow. I even asked Martin if he would be so kind as to escort us to the dinner. He agreed. He even said he'd wear his best rags. Knowing him, we wondered if we should take that term seriously.
Not much happened before the dinner. We simply prepared and went down there. The family was there in almost full force. It probably would be easier to say who wasn't there, but since I don't know all of the family, I just wanted to note who was there.
Of all the people, I just had two questions. Was Sebastian to also be announced as well? I had hoped so! He's had just as difficult a time adjusting as I. But, why was Tedra here? Was Llewella so removed from the family that she would bring someone who wouldn't even hold a conversation with anyone of a different rank? I soon found out.
Dinner went well. I asked Martin about the disc in his neck. He said it was a jack for a computer and then explained what the two are. Martin was very considerate about his foreign terminology. In fact, I think he doesn't do that very much because even those around us paused in their conversation to listen to him. He is also a very animated, entertaining speaker.
There were toasts throughout the night, Random was in a good mood and dressed impeccably. Some people were very quiet throughout the dinner, some moved about, like Benedict.
Desert came and went. Random then asked for those non-family members to excuse themselves for there was a matter for the Family which must be attended to. Many left, but Sebastian and Tedra stayed. What was going on?
When everyone had gone, Llewella rose and told a story. Long ago in Rebma, her mother bore twins. The pregnancy was difficult and she was going to lose the children, which distressed her and Oberon. She took the steps to save herself and one child. The other was put into a stasis, until such time as she could be revived into life. She hid the child and no one knew where. Unfortunately, she died before she could give out the hiding place. Fifteen years ago, it has been discovered, the child was removed and taken away and revived. No one knows how or who did this. The child lived and grew up elsewhere, unknowing of her heritage. This child is Tedra!
It was clear that Tedra is young and needs to grow into her place. The staff is not to know of her heritage. It guarantees that if anything happens to her, only the family is accountable. Benedict said that we now know because the information will stop ill decisions being made in regard to her welfare due to ignorance. Moira knows all about this.
Julian welcomed her with a toast.
I admit to some rather selfish feelings. Sebastian & I sat quietly, slowly realizing that we were not going to be acknowledge. I don't know if it was more painful for him or I. Martin could have taken that time to introduce Sebastian. It would have been fitting. That opportunity was not given to me. I felt about two years old. I wanted to yell out, Why does she get this banquet? What about me? I know I should have been above this, but I can't deny it hurt. Deeply.
The meeting was concluded. Most of the family rejoined the others and went dancing. Sebastian went off to be by himself. I decided to be lonely in a crowd. Martin went off somewhere. Byslamia went to sleep. I put on my best face and danced. Rinaldo and I introduced Mycenean dances to the others and he taught me some of theirs. Gerard was surprisingly agile on his feet. Very professional, very controlled. I'm grateful; imagine him stepping on my foot? Julian also did a Mycenean dance, very smooth. He put the pace at the top end of speed and I had to work hard to keep up on him. Very challenging, very fun.
Things broke up around midnight and I retired then.
I went to arms practice. I spoke with Byslamia about leaving sooner, like in a couple of days. One month will not make us any more ready than we are right now. She agreed. I think she sensed I wanted to get out of here. I began to prepare to leave. I get us horses, tell the men to make ready to sail home, wrote a note to Evander (I arranged for him to get books from the library and about the visits from mother), and I wrote a note to Julian. I let out a little more with Julian than I probably should. I let out a little of my disappointments and frustrations thus far. But I also said I appreciated what he has done for me. I marked those things of Eric's that I wanted to keep and wrote to Florimel letting her have her way with my rooms.
I received a letter from Julian. He said he was pleased with his part in bringing me to Amber and that I met his appraisal when I walked the Pattern. He also saw that I think I am less than I should be. He said not to compare myself with others and to take account of the hospitality the Family has given me thus far; they have housed me, protected me and healed me. They have let me into family affairs and council. They have restrained themselves with regards to my mother (more than they might have). They have welcomed Byslamia. Florimel, who is of a delicate disposition, even faced watching a Pattern walk, even though it might mean watching a death. He said understanding of the Family's ways will take years and with all that has happened, he has not yet been able to devote that time.
He also said he thought it foolhardy to leave without a knowledge of Shadow-walking. He would not think well on my leaving without a guide or teacher. He even offered Shapir for this service.
Then he asked me to destroy the letter. I did so.
I thought long about what he said. I agree with some, have an argument with others. But, I think it would seem ungracious of me to argue what he feels are unjust accusations on my part, and I do not wish to give him that distress.
I may compare myself with others, mostly because I suddenly feel so small amongst them. I do not know my place, my duties, what is expected of me. I do not like to drift. The family has indeed housed and sheltered me, but that is what I expect of anyone of good character and upbringing. It would be my duty to house and protect those who laid a claim on my family until the matter is resolved and/or proven. I did not realize this was out of the ordinary. This would extend to Byslamia as well. It is a matter of honor. I'm not sure I feel grateful for what I would think of as politeness. It would be the same of the poorest folk. I will relegate that to a cultural difference.
In the matter of family matters to which I have been included, most of those did include me in that they involved Evander and his threat to Amber. With the matter of Tedra, I was already part of the Family in fact, if not a public matter. I was healed because I defended the Pattern for Random and my honor. I would have seen healing to any one of my guards who fought for me. I would not expect their gratitude because we are each doing our duty and what our conscience dictates. I guess that is also the difference with our cultures.
I do acknowledge, now that it is clear, the effort it must have taken for Florimel to have come to my Patternwalk. I will have to think of something to do for her, in acknowledgment of her presence.
Perhaps my feelings are due to the fact that I have finally done what I came to do. It has taken over my life for the past months and I felt it was the greatest accomplishment I have done in my life thus far. I guess I wanted others to rejoice with me. Childish, perhaps. But, the feelings are there and I can't deny them.
I wrote to Julian apologizing for my attitude, reassuring him that I will reflect on these and I am grateful for his insight and that I will take his advice with the utmost consideration.
I met with Sebastian to say good bye. He asked that I wait a few days for he will be walking the Pattern then! That was a sudden change of heart. But I think he feels as I--why make plans when you might die? Get it over with for then he'll have the rest of his life before him. He also asked that Byslamia & I go with he & Martin as they take a tour of Shadow. I accepted. The matter of a guide has been settled. He also asked that I train him on horses. We all begin planning. I for one have no doubt of his success on the Pattern. He probably could be in better shape, but his shape-shifting ability should suffice instead.
I visited Owen today to ascertain whether or not I have the Talent or Skill for making Trump. She saw my portfolio of the work I have done thus far, and put me through a number of tests. She believes I could be doing Trump sketches in about 6 months, if I applied myself full-time. Sketches can only be used once. She also said I will have to do my own Trump card, otherwise, if someone else does it, my own will be weaker. I don't understand, but what else is new?
Weapons practice in the morning. Julian arrived just as I was finished cleaning up. He wanted to warn me of Florimel's concern for my traveling in Shadow so soon. She was going to try and stop us. I told him about Martin escorting us. He seemed to think that was acceptable. I indulged in one thing with him. I gave him a hug. I just wanted that connection, to make it or receive it. I don't think he knew what to do about it. I think it was awkward for him. I hope I didn't overstep my bounds. But I think I should refrain from hugs for a while. It doesn't seem to be popular amongst many of the family.
Then we watched Sebastian walk the Pattern, after breakfast. I have arranged for two gifts. One, to be given right away, is a set of brandy snifters inscribed with a classical S. The other is a portrait of he, Random, and Martin. Owen agreed to do this for me.
About the walk, Martin walked with him. I think it might have been to lend his strength. I could see it was very difficult for him. As they progressed, energy flowed over the Pattern. I don't know if that occurred when I walked, I was busy concentrating. They came to the third Veil and I swear I saw them stopped. Ripples from the Pattern's edge rolled toward the center. I could see by the other's reaction that this was not expected. Random was trying desperately to hide his concern. The crown heir and his son were both in danger.
They passed through the last Veil with a resounding Crack! We could see the two, lying on the center, exhausted. They disappeared and when we arrived at the top, we found them in the kitchen devouring whatever they could find.
We set about preparing to go into Shadow tomorrow after breakfast. We will only take personal items we wish to keep with us. Nothing else, not even horses. Byslamia was a bit skeptical, and I admit I am also.
We picked up a pair of walking shoes for Byslamia. Brand new, but broken in. Excellent work. We leave. Martin begins Shadow-walking class 101. He tells us we are to keep him in our thoughts at all times. He wants us tell him when we notice a change. I noticed first. We proceeded through many Shadows, and some of the changes are subtle, at best. Martin said that out of the 12 shifts, we got 10. I think we did well.
We settled for the night. Byslamia suggests a watch. She always surprises me. I wouldn't have thought she would think of that. Sebastian would be first, followed by Byslamia, then Myself, then Martin. I settled myself into sleep.
Byslamia woke me when it was my time. She said Sebastian was in a tree! Why?
I later found out he was watching a panther! I think we will have to give night watch lessons in the morning. I suggest this to Martin when I wake him.
Breakfast arrived and Sebastian descended. It was obvious he had used his shape-shifting to armor himself. It was also apparent he had not noticed that his clothes disappeared during the process. Byslamia was appalled, I was a bit embarrassment and amused. Martin almost fell off his log. When Sebastian realized his state of au natural he was mortified and changed back.
We had lunch in a nearby town. I almost fainted when along the way, we realized Byslamia wasn't there! We went back and learned that Martin had shifted and left her behind because she was not attending to Martin with her thoughts. They had a light argument about who was responsible, but there were no real hard feelings.
We then headed back to Amber. Martin said that there will be a bridge up ahead. In a moment of mischieveness, I began to think that there was no bridge. I was curious to see what would happen. Flora said what you want would be there. What would happen if two people thought different thoughts?
We did indeed come across a bridge and I thought I had figured out what would happen. Then a huge hand emerged from the underside of the bridge and out came what I could only call a troll. We backed up and I sent Byslamia ahead. We went around a turn in the path, beyond the territory of the troll. Sebastian looked like he was not only ready for the encounter, but eager for it. Not I. We had lost Byslamia again and we shifted out to find her. Martin thinks we had set up a shift for her in the stress of the moment. He was so confused as to what went wrong, and perhaps a little disappointed in his perceived failure, that I had to admit to what I had done. Martin took it well but Sebastian looked annoyed. I don't think he thought it appropriate for me to play those games. I'll try to contain myself. It will be hard.
We got to Arden and spent the night in the woods. It was pleasant and uneventful.
We got back to Amber early enough to still have lunch. I spent the afternoon working on my self-portrait for Trump.
I was invited to a ladies night tomorrow night, to discuss weighty matters. The tone suggests a light evening of entertainment.
Also, I received a letter from mother, 10 weeks old. It concerned itself with matters we had already spoken of.
We will be having another practice session before our tour. Dinner was a smaller affair. Llewella and Florimel arrived afterwards, though I did not see them. I did stop by Eric's rooms and found that work has already begun.
Rinaldo paid a visit to say he was glad that the trip went well. He wanted to talk later, after we get back from our Tour of Shadow. Then he was gone. Byslamia expressed her opinion that Rinaldo had some feelings for me. I can hardly imagine how. He breezes in and out so quickly, I thought he was only being polite, but not wanting to be in my company for long.
I got some new clothes for Byslamia. She is beginning to see the difficulty is traveling through various terrains in skirts. She convinced Martin to use roads for a while, but I think she is coming to terms with a change in lifestyle. The clothes are there when she makes the break. I had them made to be as close to her current style as possible.
Random intercepted me after breakfast. Florimel had come to see him regarding our trips. He put her fears at rest, though I suspect that it might not have been easy. She strikes me as someone who would not be easy to put off if she decided to set her mind. I suspect that she is usually so accommodating, it's easy to forget. Random said she was very close to Eric and perhaps she has a special interest in me. Then he took me took his suite where I met Moran, his two year old son! I had no idea. I don't think many other people know about this. I wonder if this was done to make me feel better. Julian or someone could have said something. It was a kind gesture.
At fighting practice, Owen stopped by. It was clear she wished to practice and had sought me out. We sparred. She is very good! It don't think I have ever worked so hard before in my life. Owen fights with and understated style, a real economy of movement. I'm a bit more brash. We fought for about a full hour, I never thought that such a thing was possible. We heard the sound of applause and realized the guards had stopped their practice and were watching us. I was so exhilarated, I could only bow in thanks to Owen for the fine morning.
We went an got some water in the kitchen. I was so enervated I didn't want to stop. Owen suggested that Martin may wish to practice and we raced off to the training room on the third floor. She got there first because I stopped off to get Byslamia. Martin and Sebastian arrive then, they were already on the floor. Owen quickly told me to watch Martin, he has a habit of going up walls when fighting. She also said he was better than her.
They sparred and Owen maneuvered Martin into disarming him. He's very good. All the while we fought, I was very focused. But, Martin kept feigning incompetence all the while he kept her at bay. He would point over her shoulder and say, Look! to distract her while he fought her. I was surprised that she won.
Then it was my turn. Martin was warmed up by then. It was going well when Sebastian cheated and told me to Fall. I lost my footing, but it gave Martin a chance to slip to Sebastian. I supposed I was to fight Sebastian but he had changed and was now sitting on the ceiling. I could have tapped him, but he was moving erratically. It was annoying since we were practicing sword-play. He eventually came down and Martin resumed. It only took a few minutes before I was disarmed and my sword was sticking out of the wall and he was grinning at me. He looked at me and said I was insane. I guess he could see I had really enjoyed the bout. I count myself fortunate that he liked such insanity. I was trying to figure out precisely what he had done..
He fought with Owen again and here I saw what Owen was speaking of. Martin began moving in patterns around her and that included going up the walls, sometimes touching the ceiling. It was eerie. Then he accomplished the same disarming maneuver that he had performed on me. I was able to see it as an observer and I think I could do it, if I practiced.
We concluded the session and I went to have lunch.
I think I know what I want. I've been looking around at everyone near me. There are those who excel in the mental arts; Fiona and Owen for example. Then there are those who specialize in the physical, such as Benedict, Corwin, Gerard. If any have worked in the spiritual aspects, I haven't heard anything definitive about it. But, it seems to me that few further themselves fully. Even Owen said she left her sword work at the side while she learned Trump artistry. But each of us is made of parts: Physical, Spiritual, and Mental. To work with only one would be to become unbalanced.
I want to go into Shadow where one can train the mind with the body and the spirit. I suppose it would take longer, but I think it would be worth it. To be stronger in only one area would mean to be weak in another. I don't want to be a sword with a weak spirit, nor a spirit who does not have the physical and mental abilities to do as the spirit moves. I want to learn warfare while learning to listen to my mind while the spirit binds me into a whole. Perhaps even to learn more about my dreams. That would be interesting! This is the task where I could apply myself. Of course, it would have to be a place where the teachers could deal with an Amberite's abilities and where Byslamia could enjoy. I wonder if I could focus on all those wants? We will have to find out.
That night there was Ladies Night at the castle. Random, et. al., was noticeably absent from the castle. The invitation explicitly stated that there were deep matters which needed to be discussed. I dressed accordingly and learned quickly that it was a private joke amongst those who have attended before. Needless to say, those of us who have not attended before were just a bit conspicuous. The hall was decorated with party festivities from billiards to ping pong to darts. Flora was particluarly tickled with her game, Pin the tail on the King which was a large paper sporting the image of Random. Each player was to be blindfolded and, through memory, had to stick a paper tail to the appropriate location. It was a verylight-hearted affair. Vialle was positively bubbling.
If there were any female Amberites not attending, I don't know about them. Flora, Vialle, all of Bleys' 8 wives, Grace, Owen, Sabrina, Demi Alisande, Coral, Llewella, Jubilee, Claris, Ferris, Vivant, Maureen, Carmella, Byslamia, and myself were all there, plus a few more whom I can't recall the names. Even those I've mentioned are not all I remember with much clarity.
Vialle, through Byslamia's coaxing, supplied information of some of the women. Jubilee, I have met once or twice before, is only 16, but a very beautiful Polynesian-looking girl. Maureen is an elegant woman in her mature years, very poised and striking. In fact, most of the women were striking, though not strictly beautiful. They just seemed more alive than many I have met before. One woman stood out, she was very thin, with an artificial beauty than came from cosmetics and training as opposed to nature, though it supplied the basis. She was always poised, as if she were ready for a protrait at any time. While she did not seem uncomfortable, exactly, it was...not natural. I don't remember her name, but I believe she is the consort to Stargazer and mother to Princess Aurora, who is still a babe.
Sabrina is a striking woman, the epitome of the legends of the old Norse vikings, with a powerful physique. Dorimay was also blond, but slight and short with a mischievious look to her. She, I would classify as being pixie-like with her large dark eyes.
As I said, it was a light-hearted evening. It ended officially at midnight with a toast to all the men and how we love them anyway. Still, it was a while longer before people really left.
I think I should be glad to leave Amber. I think there is something wrong with me because such evenings are fun, but after a bit, they are tiresome. I wonder, when the men retire to their sanctuaries, if they fill their hours with trivial things. Not that there is anything wrong with such things, but I begin to wonder if the women of Amber deal with important things, or if this is truly a man's realm where we are excluded. It is something to think about in regards to home. Mycenea does not specifically exclude men from higher positions, it is tradition. If one is wrong, then so is the other. Can there be a middle ground?
We went out into Shadow again. I waited until Sebastian talked with Gerard and Martin talked with Byslamia. I worked out with Owen while this occured. Gerard wanted to give Sebastian falling down' exercises. Sebastian tried to do the same with Gerard, but it is obvious how that ended. Owen and I sparred, it was exhiliarating, but I could not quite get the move Martin uses to disarms us to work against Owen. I was pleased when even Gerard applauded good-naturedly when we were done, even though he could probably take both of us on and win.
Finally we were ready and we left, taking horses with us this time. Martin indicated that I was to lead, so I went out to the familiar bridge but in a more mountanous region. I was feeling my way to that school I am looking for. We stopped at a way station...it was eerie...it was just how I imagined it to be. Did I know, because of the Pattern, that it was there, or did I create it, or are all possible creations there and the power can lead me there? Deep thoughts. We weren't lost, but I had no idea where we where. I just know I could get back to Amber.
We travelled some more to a place where a stormy sky cast a green hue over everything. That calm time where the world is hushed, waiting for the deluge to begin. I shifted to where a green sky loomed overhead. We saw birds with four wings and other oddities. I planned for us to stop at a Reserve where we could spend the night in safety while animals of all sorts roamed nearby, safe from us. I did well, I think, except for including to have reservations waiting for us. We left, Martin leading, and returned after he shifted, to an almost exact copy where the hotel was expecting us. I did remember to have the money be correct, so we could pay our way. There was a telescope in our rooms so we could watch the two-headed giraffe and carniverous rabbits wander by. I spent the evening quietly practicing drawing my Trump.
Sebastian led the way back. Over a hill, the terrain became increasingly more lightly wooded. Another hill, and three panthers lolled peacefully on a grassy knoll. He went over and scratched on behind the ear and their bellies. I couldn't resist and went over two. Byslamia and Martin took their cues from the horses who were having none of this. We continued on and returned to Arden. We stayed the night in a small cottage in Arden. Sebastian planned that the caretaker, Marvin, was waiting for us and an old friend of his. The chowder soup and dinner was excellent. I continued to draw and then retired for the night.
In the morning I heard a strange cough coming from outside. I went to investigate and saw another panther. Were these friendly? I drew my sword, just to be sure. I took a stance and it just sat there. I finally woke fully enough for it to register that this was Sebastian exploring his shape-changing ability. I must say, he's expanded his repertoire in shapes. He then went into Martin's room and energetically woke Martin up. From what we heard, he was quite effective. Martin did turn the tables on Sebastion by pulling the rug out from under Sebastian.
We ate and then set for Amber. We arrived two hours before dinner. Plans were made for us to start our tour in two days. During our trip back, Martin was exceedingly patient with all our questions, especially Byslamia.
That evening Byslamia asked Owen about having a Trump made of herself. They plan to meet in the morning. Flora was there with Carmella and I spoke with her. I went that evening to chat. I hope to have time at one point to ask her about Eric. I would like to hear her point of view since she has a special relationship with him. When I got there, she said she was holding some things for me and I will get them soon.
I did send a note to Julian asking him, Vivant, and Shapir to dinner. It may be some time before I will see him again. I hope he accepts.
I also hope Sebastian got his gift.
In the hopes that Julian accepts the invitation, I made reservations at a restaurant, Cutter's. Dame Louisa has recommended it as the best next to Chef Robert. It turned out that Julian frequented here and the chef was very accomodating. In fact he was ecstatic to the point of being obsequious. Then I spent the afternoon shopping. I was followed through town. I didn't know if it was because I came from the Castle or if he had another agenda. I continued on to see if he would do anything. I even went into a store a bought a cheap knife, since I was not armed. It was the best I could do without calling attention to the fact that I knew he was there. When I set upon the road to the castle, he went away.
Fighting practice again. Sebastian livened things up by fighting Gerard as a panther. Rinaldo stopped by and asked to spar. It was enjoyable. Despite his Trump, which depicts him as a Musketeer, he said he wasn't much of a fighter. In fact, he said he didn't really specialize in anything. I mentioned that perhaps after dinner tonight, we might go and see something of the city, but didn't know when it would be over. He said sure, it was a date. A Date?
Confused about what I might have gotten myself into, I went to meet Byslamia at Owen's. I found her posing for her Trump. One of the sketches was of her, younger, in a decathelon! She was a competitor then a coach. She never mentioned it, ever. When I asked about it, she said she never thought to brag about past minor accomplishments. Leave it to her, another lesson given. Her final Trump showed her seated on a u-shaped seat in a crimson dress tha flowed to her feet and out to the edges of the picture. Her arms are upswept; her right hand holds a shining crescent, her left, a white raven. There are no ravens in Mycenea, so we don't know what that is supposed to mean.
I received Julian's note accepting the invitation. I reserved a carriage to town.
Dinner went very well. Everyone was in a good mood, Julian smiled frequently. Vivant expressed the wish for us to get together with her when we get back. She said she has not travelled in Shadow much. The chef exceeded my expectations. There were 6 courses, all superb. I got Shapir and Vivant into a conversation while Julian focused on Byslamia. That way, conversation flowed freely.
We went back to the castle where Julian entertained all of us on the spinet. He is very accomplished. The most I ever managed to complete training is on the harp. And that is not saying much in my case. Martin came down and joined us playing the sax, and he plugged it into his neck. It was eerie to watch. But he accompanied Julian well. We finished with brandy as our final libation and then we all retired.
It was very late and I went to apologize to Rinaldo for the hour and maybe we could reschedule this date when we came back. He was in his room and not at all put out. One wall of his room was filled with portraits. In fact, the room was filled with all aspects of his personality. He asked if I would like a drink or a pez. Not knowing what it was, I thought it was a new type of beverage and decided to try it. It turned out to be a treat of some sort, very sweet, too much sugar. I don't think I made a face, I'm not used to such sweetness. The treat was in a capsule with the top shaped as a demon. Terribly odd.
We talked for a long time. He's in a difficult position here. His father is Brand and Julian doesn't like him because Rinaldo killed Caine. Caine killed Brand, becoming a hero to many. Rinaldo was 10 years old at the time and his mother made him promise to avenge Brand's death. It was sacrilege to force her child to perform what she would not or could not do. If I understand it correctly, Rinaldo then was forced to keep his word, for a bond to the family is a sacred thing. But, poor man, he was forced to attack another portion of his family. He could not fight Caine and ever think to defeat him, so he got a rifle and shot him from a distance, and from behind. I would condemn any such act of cowardice, but he has been paying for that action since then. The Family was against him. If he had fought Caine honorably he would have died, unfulfilling his promise. If he chose not to fight, he lost honor with his mother. Either way, he was foresworn. There was no way out of the situation. He chose his route, and has been paying for it ever since, and that occured almost 50 years ago.
Queen Vialle pardoned him when Julian wanted to kill him. I'm sure others were just as upset. I think only Vialle could have done this without creating further problems. I wonder if it was the fact that he killed Caine (vendettas are legal here) or his manner that upset everyone.
We talked a little more. He did mention that he has a wife, which confuses me even further. I'm not sure what he expects by this date. Perhaps it is not what I expect, an exploration of a possible relationship. Isn't that what dates are for?
We changed into casual clothing and went to the docks to watch to workers at the harbor loading a ship. When we got back it was 3:30. It will be a short sleep before we go tomorrow. But if we are delayed in departing like the first two times, I could probably get a cat-nap in.
Captain Seglum and the other guards left this morning to go home to Mycenea. I will miss them, but I will not miss wondering if any of them are working for Evander. Byslamia gave me a copy of her Trump. Jubilee complained of not being able to walk the Pattern. Being so young, she is chaffing under the idea of having to wait. She knows she has to but is desperately looking for any reason to shorten the wait.
We leave on time, of course, and I end up leading. I led the group to a Savannah, trying to expand my abilities to go to different terrains. Along the way, we talk more of the nature of Shadows and Chaos. I can see how a Hellride can be dangerous since we would not be in control of what we go through. We stopped at a port city, 2,000 people at the most. I even remembered the reservations. The place is Port Comfil and they were having a week-long holiday celebrating a god of the sun and summer solstice. There was a wide variety of people, different heights, skin colors, clothing and customs. I asked about the laws here and we were directed to the Land Guard Office. They believe in land spirits which have the providence over the city only. Outside the city, the land takes care of itself. Fireworks continued the celebration into the evening. I am continuing my journal in a traveler's book.
The mayor made important-sounding speeched today. I was unnerved by the fact that he looked like an older Evander and Mother mixture. Did I do this? Is my unconscoius telling me something? While mulling this over, Sebastian bought a beautiful necklace for Jennifer. I did a test of Byslamia's Trump and it worked well. We spent the day being tourists and in the evening a drew some more.
I took a ride outside the city. The land is very flat and it looked quite stormy about 20 miles out to the horizon. When I returned, a carnival had set up at one end of the town. I caught up with the others and we toured through it. Sebastian had particular fun with a sledgehammer game where he had to hit the hammer on a button which sent a block up a pole. I thought the goal was to hit the bell at the top, but when Sebastian succeeded, the director was quite disappointed. Heads turned at the sound and many seemed surprised. He had even put a litlle dent in it. I tried it and the director tried to give me the smaller, ladies mallet. I declined and also hit the top. When I did this, I realized everything is weighted to prevent one from winning. He was vastly chagrined when I, too, hit the bell on top. Then Martin finished the game when he caused the bell on top to land quite a few feet away. We left quickly. The rest of the night we enjoyed what the carnival had to offer.
We left today. Martin leaded the party; we told him to surprise us. By mid-day we reached a cliff. Pterodactyls flew just under the huge clouds as we contemplated how to get acros the fjord. We moved along the side until we reached a set of towers with signalling mirrors. We went across the suspension bridge that was about a mile long. I would never have thought someone could make a reliable, durable bridge of such length. All we had to do was to put blinders on the horses. An hour later, we got off. By nightfall, we got rooms at a huge roadside complex. The owner is a friend of Martin's.
We continued on. I think Martin is leading us to somewhere specific. The mountains started to diminish a bit. We got to a grey road, Martin called it a highway, with four lanes demarcated on it. We paralleled it for a long while until we approached a farmhouse. A child was at the gate with a metal contraption. We were still some distance when he shouted at us and used the metal object to threaten Martin. He shot at the ground in front of him! Martin raised his arms and nonchalantly surrendered with no more ado. We followed suit and the young boy approached. It was then that he recognized Martin. His name is Todd. He thought we were bad-uns. We stayed the night amongst the other children. I wondered where the parents were.
At breakfast we learned that Todd and his 9-year-old sister were actually the parents. The other children who were no more than 18 high, were their children. The people here do not grow taller than Todd, in general. Also, Todd is really Martin's friend, not just someone he conjured in shadow. Martin stops by regularly and stays. They take care of his horse while he is home. In return, Martin's horse can do far more work in their fields than their own horses. Todd had mistaken Martin because he was not wearing his usual clothes and was travelling with others, which apparently he never does.
Amy packed food for all of us. We are going on foot here. Martin shifts, our clothing as well. We went through a torrent of rain, fortunately he gave us rain gear. We arrived at an abandoned area of town. In the distance I could see part of an exremely large city, dimly seen through the downpour. Martin entered a code on a warehouse door. Byslamia and I wondered if we were really going to stay here. The doors mechanically open and we go through. Not only are we going to stay here, this is his home.
He has a tiered living area and he pointed his motorcycles at one end of the large room. He offers his own bike, the purple menace, for Byslamia to use. She did decline, possibly due to the omonous-sounding name.
We were also introduced to Betty, a pleasant, pretty woman who seems to be Martin's lover and who lives with Martin. Our arrival woke her and she came into the room wearing a black pair of pants, a black blouse, though it really covered little. Her hair was also black. It seemed to be a color she likes alot.
She took us into the kitchen where she prepared some dinner for us. It was an amazing experience. All we had to do was talk to the kitchen and it did what we wanted.
Martin gave us a grand tour of his home. During that time I learned that Betty, or Beth as she likes to be called, was really a machine. I don't pretend to understand how one could make a machine that could completely act and think as a human being, so I just think of her as being a real person.
Unfortunately, I asked her about this and she confirmed it. She was a battle droid, a gladiator and had gotten badly hurt. She was scrapped, thrown away and Martin bought her. She became his bodyguard and housekeeper and then his girlfriend.
I admit to being very confused, especially about the idea of a man owning his partner, not to mention the idea of owning a woman. It is against everything I believe in. I spent a large portion of the night going through the electronic encyclopedia. These machines do a great deal of things on this world, especially the difficult and tedious stuff. They are surgical team under the direction of a human doctor. For all that, they only consist of 10% of the world population.
Today we went to the zoo, which I did not like. Ther animals did not seem pleased, and there were very little in the way of larger animals. Nothing larger than 1000 pounds. The cages were small and cramped, or so it seemed to me. I could not approve of the way there lives have so little variety, where they are reduced to pacing within their confines, bored with the world around them.
I had the opportunity to speak with Martin about his relationship with Beth and slavery as a whole. He centralizes his view point so that the whole idea is seen as acceptable. Fortunately or not, he acknowledges he does so. It is obvious he is struggling with the entire idea, including the possibility of loving someone who is not alive. Unfortunately, Random does not share my idea that Beth is a real person, even if she is not biological. It comes down to the idea that if she can't function in Amber, she's not real. Martin has tried to bring her there, in a variety of ways, to no avail.
I found a training school which focuses on martial arts, hand to hand combat. It is enervating and therapeutic (it gets me out of the house) and I hope to learn from them.
Martin explains more about how the kitchen works. We all make breakfast, trying the equipment. We also made a shopping list of what we will need while we stay here. I guess we will be here for a while. Martin then explains that this will be our base of operations. I get an identification paper and by name is Cassandra Ericson. We go into town via a tram station, two miles away. We also each got a credit card which is like a letter of credit, for $7 million credits. The tram goes about 212 miles an hour.
The clothing store was odd and not a very pleasant experience. It was a large store where the group was assigned a guide. We were lead through a prescribed route through the store. All we had to do was to tell them what we wanted. Even the clothes were predominantly plastic and plain, in vibrant colors or dull. I found a few pieces I could wear, but not as comfortably as I like. Byslamia had the most difficult time finding something modest enough for her. Our guide is Janet and had to wear a uniform that is a punishment only slightly less than capital punishment. It was a peppermint stripe shirt, skirt, hose, shoes and hat. I've blocked the colors out. But when she learned that none of us have ever been there before (I assume they have a means to check that) we gained all of our items free of charge, which is their policy. Sebastian took that to a new level, at bought one of the mechanized trundle carts. Janet had some trouble getting the purchase through and his demands earned her a demerit. He thoughtfully bought a commendation for her, which should counteract the demerit.
Even shopping for food was different. Here people avoided eye contact, as if in denial that other people exist. It is sterile and not particularly pleasant. If this is to be our base of operations, I hope we find something more appealing. Otherwise, I suspect Byslamia and I will not wish to stay long.
I've been learning a great deal in the dojo. The techniques are not particularly difficult, but they do require discipline. I guess because I am an Amberite or because of the nature of this shadow, my reflexes are higher than those here. Even Byslamia has come to watch. She does not particularly like the fighting aspect of it, but the physical meditations and katas are artistic and appealing to her.
Not much happened today. We went to practice and the sensei is pleased with my progress. Byslamia is trying to learn a bit and is doing well considering the others in this
Shadow. On the way home, we met an older man in the tram station. He asked us what time is was. When we replied we did not know, he was confused and perhaps just a bit stunned. In the time here, we have noticed that there is an overwhelming obsession with time. Even when they are wearing a clock, they confirm their pieces are working correctly by inquiring the time with others. Perhaps it is also a way to connect with other people where such connection is rarer...it may be one of the few ways to connect with others in a social, publicly acceptable manner.
When he saw we were walking alone, he offered to escort us. It was a very kind gesture considering this world. We thanked him but said no.
Master Cinsolo is very pleased with my progress. He asked today if I could stay a bit longer when the regional sensei arrives to view the class. I am flattered and of course I will stay. Byslamia is progressing well, though I don't think she really likes doing this.
The regional master, Kazamijo, arrived today. The class sparred before him. I'm not sure what to have expected, but he is much older than I thought he would be. He is a slight man, about a century old, very fit, though. He demonstrated his style which is different from Cinsolo. It's a more feminine style. He shows them to me and I tried to mimic them. Even Byslamia joined in and his style appealed to her. Actually, if I am correct, there is not much about Kazamijo which does not appeal to her. He's a bit old for her, but that is not my decision. The half-hour we were to stay turned into a few hours. Kazamijo then invited us to dinner to repay our kindness for indulging him with our time. Dinner was also extremely enjoyable as we talked philosophy and opinions in a wide variety of subjects. I think Cinsolo also has seen how Byslamia reacts to Kazamijo. Alas, Kazamijo is apparently oblivious. Dinner also takes a few hours longer than expected.
Kazamijo arranged to take us home in his personal transport, a rare thing in this city. In fact they take us to the front door (Byslamia giving him directions). We invited them in for drinks, to fortify them for their ride home. I slipped ahead as they were entering, to make sure the coast is clear. Good thing I did, Sebastian was high up in the form of an owl with a 30' wingspan. I whispered that company was here and he literally dived for cover. I put the lights low to avoid having them see Sebastian shifting back to his form in the shadows and started music to cover his rustling.
They were surprised at how things looked inside, as opposed to the outside, and were puzzled because the chrome and metal decor is not reflective of our personalities. We explained we are visiting relatives when Beth walked in wearing a sheer blouse and shorts. She also did not expect company but recovered nicely.
We had tea in the kitchen, Sebastian joined us. Beth changed clothes and we started to chat some more. Martin was with some of his friends and missed a wonderful evening.
Dawn came and went. Breakfast was made. It was then that Cinsolo and Kazamijo left. All in all, Cinsolo was pleased because Kazamijo does not spend so much time with many people. He is looking forward to the next class.
Beth and Martin visited the dojo today. I think they were curious about what I have been up to each day. Afterwards, we went to a Blackout Club which has something called 'black lights'. I don't know why they call them black lights since that is a contradiction in terminology. Cinsolo came along, as well. There was synthetic music, again it is music, so I don't the term either. It was interesting and I even paid the band to let Martin play with them for a set. He choose to play a hexadyne machine and they were quite surprised when they learned he had a jack in his neck. Martin is old enough, in Amber terms, to have had the time to learn a great deat about music. Naturally, he pushed the band to go a far as they were able; they probably never sounded as good as they did on that night.
We went home but Martin was wanting to rebel against the night. He was quite drunk, but not incapacitated. We weren't about to go galavanting around town in the middle of the night, but Martin wasn't in the best state to do that either. Byslamia jested in suggesting that Martin be knocked out. Beth took that seriously. Before we would gather her intent, we heard the dull thud of Martin hitting the floor after the softer thud of her hitting him. Byslamia was appalled and helped us put him to bed. Apparently, she hit him from behind. Versions of what might have happened to Martin's head flew around but not really settled. Secretly, I thought it was amusing, but I knew we just might regret it.
I woke today by a scream. Before I was really awake, all I had registered was that it was a woman and Beth was on the other side of the house. Before I thought, I had grabbed a robe and my sword and was at her door.
A second scream greeted me and I went in, ready for anything. All I could do was look at her in shock. There was Byslamia, sitting in bed, swallowed by the mountain of shaving cream which was carefully spread between each sheet and piled on top. Martin & Sebastian came in a few seconds after and I commend them their restraint in NOT laughing. They left quickly and I sent for the cleaning robot to assist Byslamia. A third scream erupted as it tried to clean her. I sent it off and left Byslamia to compose herself.
Byslamia gave a good tongue-thrashing at Martin, whom she was sure was the guilty party. Martin is capable of a great many things, but I sorely doubted he would act in a way that Byslamia would be horrifed with its intimacy and inpropriety. Not unless he wished to hurt her feelings, and that isn't the case. It didn't take long before I realized it was Beth who was practicing the art of practical jokes. We did not explain well the notion of how to pick a joke in a way that the object may find funny, but we did get her to agree to consult a third, neutral, party in any future dealings. Also, we introduced the rule that if you play a joke on someone, you cannot do another one on that person until they retaliate. That should keep Byslamia safe for a while...at least until Beth figures out there isn't any such rule.
Classes have been energetic for the last two weeks. I had not realized how much I have progressed until Cinsolo gave me a certificate of completion. I have reached the first black belt. I am also certified to teach. He hopes that I will stay and go farther, which I intend to do. There are nine levels which I can attain, and Cinsolo has reached the third. We shall see how far I can go. Byslamia is one-third of the way through her first belt and I think she would continue with more...vehemence...if she thought Kazamijo might be the one to teach the higher students. I'll try to see if we couldn't get them more acquainted with each other.
I will be continuing my training, mostly with private lessons, but I will be helping teach the public classes. It may be a little awkward...some of the students have been there for years while I have been there for a little over one month. Cinsolo's intent is to teach some fineer points and for me to develop by own personal style. Byslamia is continuing to learn some of the more softer styles, like Tai Chi.
A woman in my class is having trouble. Her name is Saja, and she has the same dark complexion of Shapir. She has been coming here for a few years and she is competent. In fact, she has some talent in that she is aware and concentrated in her form. But today she was not moving well. I questioned her about it and she said she had an accident and fell down. She seemed uncomfortable with the questions and I thought it best not to pry.
Saja was even worse today. Whatever is wrong, it is not getting better. In fact, it is getting worse. I took her for coffee and asked her what is ging on. She confessed that she did not fall, but her brother is involved with some people. She investigated and they knifed her to keep her away. We took a tram back home where Beth has an autodoc. I wanted to make sure that Saja was as all right as I could make her. Beth was glad to help out.
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