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Cassandra's Diary.20

Day 147/18

Yule is approaching, one month away. I originally thought we'd not make it this year, that I would still be carrying Kai. I didn't want to miss Yule, one of the few times I get to see almost the entire family, barring those who are perennially absent. Still, I have no gifts. I've never shown up without gifts.


Day 150/18

Now that everything has settled down, I am well, and we've all adjusted to our new schedules, Tatasha has left for home. We saw her off, and I hope she doesn't stay away too long. I'm a bit surprised she left before Yule.

I've still been trying to reach DoBlique; every day I spend time trying to reach her by Trump. If I don't hear from her before Yule, we'll have to go and search for her. Again. I only hope it would turn out better than the last time we searched for her.

Day 155/18
A Birthday Party

Rhiannon is having a birthday party today. She's turning seven years old. Eidolon is running around, happy he's been invited. Vivant has invited both him and I to go. Eidolon because he is a child, me because she wants some emotional support.

We arrived along about the same time as everyone else. I was curious to how Julian was going to run things with all the children running about, but he is a wise man. He went fishing. Along with Rhiannon, and Eidolon, the guests included Aurora, Moran, and Tigh. The age differences were severe. Moran is nine, I believe, and Eidolon is the youngest, being only three.

Most of the time, the children were very well behaved. In Rhiannon's case, I imagine she didn't want any bad stories getting back to her father. Still, it was a very energetic group, all very enthusiastic about the event. Tigh gave Rhiannon a very creative gift. He's in a military theme right now. Actually, he's always been militarily minded. He brought Rhiannon cookies, each shaped as swords, daggers, cannons, and cavalry horses, all manner of military things. Rhiannon liked them a lot, so did the other children. I was awful, but I thought DeWinter would like them. In exchange for letting me have a few, Rhiannon bartered a story. Simple enough. I gathered them around and told one, of our being trapped in Shadow, making it all a bit scary and spooky. Later, I gave the treat to DeWinter, who thought they were “neat.” Then he asked if they would harden to a permanent state if he put them on the shelf, 'as collectibles'. I said I thought so, and there they sit.

He can be so odd.

Day 168/18
Attack!

We've gotten snow, drifting to three feet in places. It covered everything until it was picturesque. I wonder if I'll ever get used to this weather.

I was just heading outside to walk come of the cleared paths of the estate when I heard it. A sharp scream, getting louder as if approaching quickly. It took just a few seconds before I recognized that banshee-like sound. Artillery shells. A bomb was approaching. I ran to get Kai, yelling for everyone to get down. I felt the impact tremor when it hit. It was some distance from the house.

I got to Kai. Byslamia had him as she hid under the bassinet. I got her up and them out. DeWinter had the rest of the weir down. There was a ten foot crater about a hundred yards out from the estate. Before there were any more, I tried to Trump Julian. I got the sense he was out of range. I tried Random and was successful. I told him what happened and it would be an understatement to say he was concerned. He told me to get everyone out; he was sending some guards down our way. That meant it would be hours before they got here. I know that missiles aren't very accurate and we didn't want anyone near by. DeWinter found Mother with Eidolon and brought them over as I Trumped Shapir. We had to get the children out.

I filled him in on what happened. Before I could ask, he offered to bring whoever I wished through. I sent mother with Eidolon and Byslamia with Kai through. Then we had time to figure out what happened.

There hadn't been any other shells, so we went to see if we could determine what direction the attack had come from. We went to the crater. The weir had gathered around in a crouch, some as if ready to attack. From the center, a black furred shape moved slowly, rising. Standing, it was shorter than I was, and we saw that the fur was actually a fur cloak. A hand pushed the hood back, and it was DoBlique.

I stood there torn between being stupefied and furious as she climbed out of the hole. With a smile, she announced she was here for a visit. Surprise. DeWinter bellowed, “What the hell do you think you're doing?” We told her what her 'incoming' teleport had sounded like to us. Her smile wilted as I told her I was going to have to explain my panicked Trump call to Shapir. And the King. Oh, Lady.

It didn't take long for her to realize what she had done. She didn't know the teleportation spell would have that auditory effect. She assured me she could explain it to Random, but DeWinter was not convinced. While they argued, I trumped the King. Before I could say a word, he assured me that he had troops ready to leave. My, he acted quickly. I hated the fact that he was taking my word of trouble, and it was all for a false alarm. I told him they could stand down. He was puzzled, and DoBlique, possibly to get away from DeWinter's arguement, popped her head into the Trump contact. She explained what she had done. In fact, she unfailingly took full responsibility, though she did try to pass it off as an experiment. Random was not convinced, but broke the contact before saying anything more. Sigh.

Shapir also understood. He'd gotten everyone to Julian's lodge. I was too tired to try to Trump them back, so he offered them hospitality until I was rested.

When I was done, I went back to the two. The weir had gone to their various tasks, and DeWinter was jamming sharpened stakes into the crater. Anything that fell into that crater, magically or not, would be getting a sharp reception. He obviously didn't like the vulnerability that DoBlique just made manifest. I didn't laugh, nor did I stop him.

DoBlique hadn't Trumped us because she explained "the Elder" had been trying to get her on Trump non-stop for weeks. She was being careful to block all Trump since she wasn't sure she could handle the Keeper of the Logrus. Everyday, he made the attempt at her. It was her turn not to be amused when she realized it was I that had been Trumping her. How else were we to contact her? We'll have to go by some sort of signal.

DoBlique told me that my attempts at contact had been so strong, so pointed, she was sure it was an attack.

DoBlique let us know she'd be staying until Yule. I had gotten permission from the throne for DoBlique to visit; I just had to make sure she didn't leave the estate without my escort for a week. Technically, she was still a criminal in Amber.


Day 175/18
Another memorable Yule

Yule was today. There wasn't much preparation for me. It was suggested that I go into town for gifts, but it wouldn't be the same. If there was anything in the city that anyone in the family wanted, they would just go and get it. I felt the point was to find something for each person, to be gotten while thinking of them. Not to get a token, just for the sake of presenting a trinket.

We did, however, go into to town to get some dresses. I wasn't about to trust any magical garb this time, though it seemed to work for DeWinter last time.

Yule was just as I remembered. The Yule log was burning brightly, snapping and lending cheery light to the library. Bleys arrived in his sleigh, filled for gifts for the staff. Just the process of gifting the castle staff took over an hour. Martin was shuttling around tag-less gifts for the family and we helped pile them up. It was a bit funny. The last year we were here, DeWinter wouldn't help without prodding. Now, he just went up and helped unload. It's wonderful how much he's fit in, in such a short time, Amber time, that is.

I was chatting with Kate, whom I'd not seen for a while. March went by, his gift from Martin in hand. It was a pair of red mittens. March was intrigued by the idea that they were attached by a long red string. He cheerfully showed me how it was that you put the string through your jacket so the mittens would never be lost. I could hear Owen chuckling and managed just to smile a little.

Things were progressing nicely. More of the family were arriving and everyone was chatting, catching up on time absent. The room was filling up. During the first few hours of the annual celebration, folk from the city come into the castle if they wish to pay their respects. I learned from Vivant that in recent years, perhaps because Moran loved the Yule event, more people were actually taking up Random's 'open door' of Castle Amber.

Then, from the corridor, a shout rang clearly through the room. “Death to the Queen!”

I snapped to my feet, going for a nearby poker. We'd gotten our usual seats near the fireplace, so I had it in hand in a flash. But I was too far from Vialle. Masked men were moving through the doorway, shoving aside surprised townsfolk in their holiday garb. Everything seemed to drag for several moments. I saw Random turn and Martin jumped in front of Vialle. Benedict grabbed a crystal decanter. Julian shoved Vivant into a chair and started towards the men. Everything was happening at once. One of the attackers raised a crossbow and drew aim on Vialle. He fired as Martin completely blocked any shot at the Queen. But Random had jumped as well, landing he shoved Martin aside and pushed Vialle down. The bolt hit Random in the throat--penetrating his neck with a crack of sound. The masked men turned to escape and I threw the poker. I just managed to catch one in the back, impaling him through the ribs. He was tough enough to keep running--though not well.

They were out the door. Julian followed, amazingly quick, Benedict was a step behind but right after him. I just managed to get behind those two. Julian ran into the hall--and twisted as a crossbow bolt took him in the shoulder. Two more struck him rapidly and he stumbled. He staggered and fell and Benedict drew himself to the doorframe's cover, before peering out. We could hear the attacker's retreating steps as they ran. Benedict chanced a look around the corner and went to Julian once the corridor was safe. Julian waved him off, urging him in harsh terms to go after the assassins. I was already on the way. I got several steps down the hall and heard Benedict sprinting after me.

Benedict and I ran after them, keeping back enough to have cover while they took some shots at us. The weapons were of the repeating design I'd seen before. Three strings, three shots before they had to reload. We went down the stairs after them, finding cover at the base. These men were taking the most direct route out of the castle--the main entrance. But the assassins were trapped between the guards at the drawbridge and us.

While it was obvious that they had entered the castle by stealth, the masks and weapons were enough to have the men at the drawbridge move to engage the five.

Two were fighting the four guards, keeping them at bay while their compatriots reloaded. I whispered to Benedict that I was going to rush them, while they were busy with reload. It was my thought that if it were a bad idea, he would stop me. He didn't. In fact, he said we would both do it on his count. I appreciated the 'we.' He told me to take special note of the one with the gold vest. We had to take that one alive. We didn't have time for him to tell me why. This was Benedict, after all. I'd trust his evaluation.

But I did have time to notice that the man in the holiday vest had downed two castle guard with his swordplay.

We rushed them, two hundred feet away--the length of the main hallway. One managed to get his crossbow up and ready. He shot Benedict in the chest. I got to him before he could fire again, fracturing his arm with one blow. I sent him staggering and Benedict hurled him against the wall before his wound sent him falling to his knees. The guards on the drawbridge were down, though they had brought down one invader. The one I'd injured with the poker went down next; he wasn't going anywhere. That left one retreating. Of course, it was the one Benedict had pointed out we had to have.

With all the help in the castle, I didn't think Benedict would be abandoned. I left him bleeding and went after the fleeing man.

He was fast, almost as fast as I. He took the carriage road, which made following him much easier. But it was still a hard race. I gained on him by inches along the long road down. It was a long, long while before I was within arms' reach.

Our chase lasted about an hour.

I tackled him and we both went tumbling. He was up in a flash and so was I. We grappled. Again, he was almost as fast as I, almost as strong. This meant he was almost at the level of an Amberite. That worried me. I couldn't afford the slightest mistake. Whatever was going on--it was of the utmost importance.

I didn't even think about whether Random might already be dead.

It lasted longer than I wanted, I overcame him and I wasn't particularly gentle about it. When he was unconscious, I pulled off the mask. I didn't know him, but he looked familiar in some way. Thin handsome face, and very black hair. I realized I was being Trumped. It was Martin. I hefted up the assassin and held his face so Martin could have a look. He was surprised. He said it was someone named Jurt. I had no idea who that was, but Martin didn't like it.

I heaved him up, over my shoulder. Martin reached forward to bring us through to the castle. I moved to step through but Jurt's legs began to give off black sparks and dissolve as I pushed into the Trump. Nothing like that had ever happened, but I knew from studies that a bad Trump translation could be fatal. I tried to get him out of the Trump contact before it was too late, but the sparks began to consume his body. I dropped Jurt to the ground and all I could do was watch the body unravel and smoke. Martin looked a bit pale when I turned back to him. There was nothing else to do but to go through to the castle.

Martin needed to talk to a few people and I took the opportunity to find DeWinter. He was in the kitchen. He'd coordinated the staff to barricade the door to the rear drawbridge and they were boiling some oil under DeWinter's orders. Apparently, there was some concern that additional attacks would be made. I kissed him and left him to his tasks, going to make sure Kai was all right.

One of the staff fetched me a half-hour later. We were having a meeting in the infirmary. For once, I wasn't the one in the beds. Instead, Julian was there. I could deeply sympathize with him. He'd been hit in the abdomen and was completely prone to avoid causing further damage. Having gone through that myself, I understand why he was not particularly happy. Benedict was there, the bandage peeking through his blood-soaked and torn shirt. He was sitting in a chair. Neither Random nor Owen were present. I asked Martin how Random was and he replied that Owen had already taken Random into Shadow for treatment. He said that Owen believed Random would pull through-- but what the long-lasting effects of the attack might be, he didn't know, yet. He looked worried.

Random had switched the Regency from Julian to Martin two years ago--so all this was on Martin's head now.

We discussed the entire affair. Benedict offered an interesting point immediately. He pointed out that the attackers had aimed above Vialle's head. She'd been seated. He suggested that Random was the target from the start. If they announced they were after the King, Random would have defended himself. He would have either dodged the bolt or escaped the room. That was a nice compliment to Random, by the way. Instead, they'd planned this to appeal to his sense of chivalry and honor. He would not stand by as his wife and queen was assassinated. They counted on the fact that he would come to her side, to protect her, thereby ensuring his actions were more predictable for their attack. It was not long before we all agreed that Random was probably the real target.

And it had worked.

Martin took all this in stride. He did look a bit harried. Until Random returned, he was acting Regent and not pleased with the state of affairs. He'd been rudely handed the reins after seeing his father almost fatally injured. So, he not only was dealing with that, but must do so with a show of confidence. Whoever instrumented the attack should not know they might weaken Amber in any way.

As for the matter of Jurt, no one was happy--though no one believed that it had really been him. Before she left, Owen had speculated that it was a Logrus-ghost, the opposite of a Pattern-ghost, apparently. I've heard of them, but I really don't know exactly what makes a Pattern or Logrus-ghost different from another form of ghost. They are solid, not phantoms. It could be that they take the form of someone who is not dead. Possible. Sebastian once claimed he'd seen a Pattern-ghost of Martin. Without Fiona or Owen here, we had little information from which to draw any conclusions.

If it was a Logrus-ghost, though, Martin agreed with Benedict that one or more Chaosians were responsible. It would be advantageous to investigate the Chaosian embassy, where the largest contingent of official Chaosians could be found. Benedict accepted that task, turning to me to accompany him.

I was a bit dumbfounded. Surely Benedict didn't need any help? We left the infirmary. As we went downstairs, Benedict diverged into the library while I went to DeWinter. I let him know where I was going and asked him if it would be all right to lend Martin his Trump. I think Martin needed a show of support and DeWinter was good at that.

He agreed to this, so I gave the Trump to Martin and went to my rooms. The weir had positioned themselves for maximum defense in the suite. Nothing was getting through. Claw had the four-poster bed upended and placed Kai behind it. Blades were bared. Nothing was getting through again. Still, I told them of the attack and said they should be prepared in case of another one. I went to meet Benedict in front of the castle.

We walked to the Embassy. We didn't speak much, but I did ask how he was going to handle things. I didn't know if he was going to go in angry, cold, and impersonal, that sort of thing. I wanted some gauge as to how he expected me to act. He simply said to 'follow his lead'.

Helpful.

We got to the Embassy and Benedict proceeded to pound on the heavy door. It took a while for the door to open. It was fairly late in the evening. We were let into the fortified vestibule by a servant. The servant then shouted an announcement through a message tube, to someone elsewhere, that Prince Benedict and Princess Cassandra were presenting themselves for audience with the Ambassador. It was then that I realized that we hadn't changed at all. My dress was ripped and Benedict's shirt was still bloodied and torn. He obviously didn't think this was important.

Madame Chanicutt, the Chaosian Ambassador came to greet us about half an hour later. Benedict informed her of the attack on the King. Her composure was almost complete. There was just the slightest flicker of an eyelid at the news. Benedict did exaggerate the King's condition a bit, though he didn't really lie. He just said that there was a grievous attack on the King and he it was unknown as to whether he would live or not. It was true, technically. We didn't know for sure that Random would live. Madame Chanicutt's face twitched a little at this. She immediately offered the complete cooperation of the embassy. I doubt she had a choice, really. If it was a Chaosian attack, and any Chaosian was caught, it would be seen as a breach of the treaty, possibly the start of another war. She had to cooperate to forestall that outcome.

Benedict nodded and rose. He said that I was to aid him in gathering information from the Embassy though I might need special requirements. He turned to me, a silent inquiry as to what requirements I might require.

I'm proud to say, I didn't gape.

I wonder if any of the complete surprise showed on my face. I was going to do this? I said I would need to interview the members of the embassy and Chanicutt agreed to this. Benedict nodded again and began to leave. He brushed past my shoulder and whispered that I should “kill no one I didn't have to.” I suspect the guards around us could hear that whisper, so it was probably for their benefit. Two of the nearest guards seemed quite attentive.

Once Benedict left, I asked Madame Chanicutt if I could have a change of clothing. It was perhaps a transparent ploy, but I was establishing a sort of order. That I was, for better or worse, representing the Crown, not pleased for being here, and in control of things for the duration of the investigation. I got the clothes as Madame Chanicutt went to get an aide for me. She returned with a man, Kress, who would be helping me in my task.

Now came the difficult part. I had to figure out what to do. I'd given it some thought while changing, so I just asked for a list of the members of the staff and for them to prepare to be summoned.

The newest member of the embassy was the Logistics Officer. He'd only been here for a few months. A promising candidate by his embassy functions, though I had doubts. Whoever did this had good intelligence to not only get into the castle past the guards, but also to how Random would act. Could anyone learn that in just a few months? From what I know about Chaosians, it takes longer than that to adjust to life here.

Before the Logistics Officer, the previous assignment in the embassy was for the Adjunct's Officer, a member of House Hendrake. The embassy Keeper, the mage, was Alais of House Sawall.

I spoke to the Adjunct, Vike of House Hendrake. He'd been here two years. I did try for a more personal meeting, inquiring if he knew Vintar. He didn't, it was a large House, after all, but was curious how I knew him. I said I had met Vintar briefly, but perhaps he wasn't a member of House Hendrake yet. That confused him. I shrugged it off, saying I sometimes saw into the future. Not strictly a lie. I did know Vintar from sometime in his future, through my adventure with Galantia. Perhaps it might give me some air that I had unusual abilities; that it might give them pause before lying. A slim hope, but I had to try. It could also have been posturing because I was feeling out of my depth.

Most likely.

Vike was direct and openly helpful. I got a bit of useful information, if I were to trust his words. He admitted he could have planned such an event. He thought Madame Chanicutt could have done it as well. He thought she was going a bit “crazy”. She'd been here way too long and it was “affecting” her. He believed it was due to the fact that she left the embassy far too often. He also pointed out that crossbows were not used in the Courts. If he wasn't acting, he didn't even know what a crossbow was; I had to describe it. He also said the Logistics Officer was in charge of the courier service. Any communications to and from the embassy to the Courts or otherwise, would go through him. So, nothing was narrowed down at all, which is what he probably planned. The only thing going for him is that Hendrake was an honorable house, supporting the treaty. Still, being sent here is a punishment for most, if not all members. I wonder what he did to be assigned here?

I next spoke to Keeper Alais, who also admitted to having the knowledge and abilities to plan the attack. Wonderful. Everyone was helping so much; I would never finish the investigation. He'd been here 26 months and 3 days. That sounds like a man who hated the place, if he counted the days. He attributed hubris as his only motivation. He was very friendly, to the point of learning our colloquialisms and mannerisms. He's adapted more than any other here. To my surprise, he even gave me a Trump of himself. He's here with his daughter, Bitra. I don't pretend to know Chaosian thinking, but it seems odd to bring your daughter, as a possible liability, when you plan an assassination.

As to why he was here, he said, very reluctantly, that he volunteered for the position. I must have shown some surprise, because he elaborated. He said he'd had some differences with his wife. Fundamental differences. He volunteered for the position to get his daughter away from her, and I supposed no one would follow them here. I did have to promise not to say anything unless this confession had some bearing on the investigation.

I did try to see the servants, but they are so downtrodden, there was almost no information to gain from them.

The Logistics Officer, Ebbus, was last. He refused to answer questions and Kress had to ask Madame Chanicutt to intervene. She arrived, clearly not happy with having her sleep interrupted once more. I was surprised she'd gone back to bed. I wouldn't have. I supposed she thought everyone would just cooperate. When he resisted her demand for cooperation, she told the guards to kill him if he continued to rebel. That cured him of his reluctance. I think she meant it.

He was responsible for the complete workings of the embassy. Because the environment of Amber is so alien to them that most, when they arrive, never leave the embassy for the duration of their stay. That stunned me a bit. They never leave the building? Ever? It was a large building, but still, I remember thinking I would go crazy for having to stay on my own estate for the pregnancy. Imagine spending years on a small plot of land. Being in Amber was not just a punishment, but a self-imposed prison. I hope they had some serious entertainment. And that they all got along. Ebbus was not entirely rational, or was that cooperative? He was certainly angry that he had to answer my questions. It was his opinion is that Alais is the most intelligent of the entire staff.

It was clear that Ebbus hated Amber. He hated the assignment; he hated what he has to put up with. It was one thing that he had to put up with the regular visits from the townspeople for supplies and cleaning, but he mentioned that breathing the same air as the “Amber monsters,” was beyond the pale. I thought at first that he was referring to the people of Amber. But he described them and I realized he was talking about bugs. Flies, beetles, just simple insects. I made my face wooden, so I didn't laugh outright.

I sympathized with his troubles and he spoke a bit more freely. He told me why Alais had come here because his wife had been an Amberite cultist. Alais was furious at learning this and it caused an insurmountable breach between he and his wife. He took his daughter here, to be away from her. According to Ebbus, Alais hated Amber with a passion. Madame Chanicutt later corroborated some of this. Alais did volunteer to come here, but his wife was not a cultist, as far as she knew.

I Trumped Benedict, hoping for a bit of guidance. I told him that I had only one tentative suspect. Kress had confirmed that no one had left the embassy that evening. So, it had to have been planned in advance. How was I supposed to determine their activities, if they never left the building? I suspect that they would not like it if I asked for their logs. This was, technically, Chaosian territory. There had to be another way.

Benedict suggested I figure out their movements for the evening. All right. I also Trumped Martin, to ask about Random and to tell him, in the shortest usage of words as possible. Since they could not hear Martin, I was able to keep the conversation somewhat ambiguous.

We talked with Alais and Bitra separately. Madame Chanicutt had decided not to bother trying to go back to sleep and attended the meeting. Bitra was his daughter, but she's also 127 years old. So much for being a liability to her father. I was feeling very, very young here. Madame Chanicutt, Alais and Bitra are all Logrus Masters. Alais, being the Keeper, was also responsible for the security of the embassy. He knew all of the magical “passwords” and was a skilled mage. This night, they'd had dinner, as usual, and equally usual, retired to their rooms to play some sort of game. I think something akin to chess. Bitra offered to teach me how to play. For people who hate Amber, they were friendly. Or were they unusual in that they were curious? Something to think about.

It was also revealed that because they are so far from the Courts, any use of the Logrus would leave traces. Madame Chanicutt said there were none. But, if Alais had the means to drop the magical shields, he could have used a spell to teleport the assassins into the castle. All he had to do was shape the spell, teleport himself there; bring the assassins through and return, restoring the shields. The only opportunity he had was when he went to the water closet for post dinner ablutions. Possible.

Bitra did confirm that her mother studied Amber intently. Her father did the same. Even though he might hate it here, there was a matter of pride that he would want to do well here.

The matter of guilt could not settled very easily, as father and daughter somewhat supported each other's whereabouts. Madame Chanicutt had both Bitra and Alais arrested, just in case. Either could have done it, both were skilled enough. It was here that I was at a loss. I have little knowledge about the Pattern much less the Logrus. How could I know what is possible and what wasn't. I Trumped Benedict and brought him up to date. He said I had found a lot of information in a small amount of time. Strange, I thought I had found very little. He said that he sent his appreciation for Madame Chanicutt's cooperation. I relayed this and she was clearly pleased to be mentioned favorably by Benedict.

Both Bitra and Alais went under spell-lock in the Embassy's holding cells.

I have some serious reservations about this. If Alais hated Amber so much, why did he come here, of all places? To rid his daughter of our influence, to have her see us in our “true light?” Hardly possible since they never leave the embassy. And he's spent so much time learning about us, how we act, how we talk. How can one learn so much and not learn to understand us just a little bit? It just seems a little too pat.

They'll eventually be remanded to Amber's custody. Fiona has already been called in to do a mind scan, to determine their guilt or innocence. In the meantime, I've arranged to meet with Kress at dusk tomorrow. Or rather, today. We will try to make some contact with those Chaosians who are not officially in Amber.

I got back to my rooms, exhausted from all the activity. It was four bells. I vaguely remember DeWinter asking me questions as I crawled into bed. I might have answered something, but I fell asleep before finishing.


Day 176/18
Another attack?

I woke late today. DeWinter had waited on breakfast for me to wake up. We went downstairs and ate, allowing me time to bring him up to date. Just as we were about halfway done, I got a Trump call. Answering it, I saw Vis at the estate. He was quite calm when he said there was a dead monster there. I probably wasn't completely awake, because I just told him to wait a few minutes and Trump me back so we could come through. I said to DeWinter, there was a monster in Tiryns; did he want to come see it? I began to head to our rooms, to collect Kai. DeWinter tossed his napkin onto the table and rose. “Yup, that's my wife.” I had to smile.

We got to Tiryns via Trump. What we found was a rubbery black…thing. It was in the precise location of the crater DoBlique had left behind. The stakes DeWinter had placed had impaled it, apparently before it could do anything. The snow and cold preserved it. I woke DoBlique, who wasn't happy about the pre-noon disturbance, but was clearly upset when she saw the remains at the crater. We removed it from the stakes for examination. Whatever it was, we assumed that it followed her through her spell.

And it couldn't be a sign of good things.


Day 178/18
I get a Job…

I learned that Flora is already in the Courts, talking with Merlin about what has happened.

DoBlique is still trying to figure out what had transported itself along her magical trail. She'd been in Shadow, in a town that resembles Amber closely. That version was called d'Amberville. It is her intention to go back and investigate from that end. I'm a bit hesitant about that. I'd rest easier if someone was with her.

With that thought, I Trumped Martin. There weren't many people who could go with her. Any of the Elders would stand out, making it awkward, I think, to remain unobtrusive. If it is any enemy related to Paris, then all of us that were trapped there are sure to be noticed. That left only a few: Richmond, Capella, and Evander. If I can convince the Regent that Evander is best suited, all will be well. After all, almost no one knows what he looks like, and fewer know that he is out of the dungeons. It just might work. My second point of reasoning is that his skills and personality are directly opposite to DoBlique's. If they can come to some understanding, they could compliment each other nicely. I think that Evander has proven he does have honor…he could have escaped long ago. This would be a chance for him to prove himself a bit.

I went and talked with Martin. I was gratified that he understood what I was saying and readily agreed to the plan. In order for me to reassign Evander, he gave me a writ, stating that I was a Deputy in Charge of Investigation. I wonder what it meant. The writ simply said that I was working under the King's office, able to use the private and secret resources of the realm. I signed it, agreeing to the position. It looks very official. It will get the job done. It'll be nice to have a position, even though it's temporary.

Then I went to find Evander. I found him near the barracks and had him collect his things. The guard on watch did not question me at all. Curious. As we walked toward the gardens, I explained the situation and his part in it. We sort of worked out the details a bit. He had to return to Amber, and he stipulated that he would do so upon a successful completion of the mission. He didn't have any arguments about working under DoBlique. It's ironic. If they find out what's happening, it will be because two wanted “criminals,” in the eyes of the public, will have risked themselves. I'm a bit nervous and calm at the same time. I don't think I will be able to anticipate what they will do, but I believe that they will do what is needed.

We Trumped to Tiryns, thanks to Byslamia. We found DeWinter by the crater. They'd tried moving the body, but it had turned to sludge. It was rather disgusting. We then found DoBlique. I introduced Evander to DoBlique who looked him over. With a bit of discussion, she placed him as a servant, a rather down-on-his luck sort, though her words were a bit more…biting. Still, she seems to be willing to take him along, even if it is because it will make me feel better. As a test, though, she did draw a knife, aiming for his throat. It was a quick move, but Evander blocked it easily and caught her arm. She was satisfied that he might come in handy. I did make it clear that I wanted to have regular contact from them, progress reports if you will. One or the other should contact me every day or so. It would be clearer once we know the time differential. Perhaps I'm being overly cautious, but this is my first official task, and I really want this to work out.

I left them to plan. I went and told DeWinter what was about. He walked around me, looking intently at my face and head. No horns, no concussions, therefore I must be just another crazed Amberite. I had to laugh. Then I said if they didn't succeed, he gets to fix the mess. 'Oh, thank you very much. Is that how it works.' I smiled, yes, unless he wanted me to run off into Shadow. 'Sure, a perfect thing for a nursing mother to do.'

I don't think he was as displeased as he made out.

Day 179/18

I met Kress at the docks. We are beginning to seek out the illegal Chaosians in the city. We started by going to several taverns, gambling clubs and the like, asking people questions. Actually, since he knows these parts of town better, I let him do most of the talking. I'm going to have to learn how they speak to each other. My diction, I think, will stand out a bit here. Thankfully, I did dress down severely. We did spend a lot of coin, so at least the recipients of our questions got something, even if we didn't.

DoBlique and Evander left at dawn, after promising to contact me immediately when they arrive.

Day 186/18
A Lead?

We've gotten about a dozen names to check out. We've been slowly working our way through the list, crossing out dead-ends. Some have already left, the rest are just strange. They either aren't human, don't speak the language well, and/or they are just too nervous to talk coherently. Our cover story is that we are looking for a missing teenager. Since there is no teenager missing, they don't bolt for the door—they weren't guilty of that. We are in those parts of town where there are no torches whatsoever. I've been very cautious about a possible ambush.

This night, we ended up at a boarding house. We made our way up the creaking, shaky staircase. Kress knocked but there was no answer, even though I was sure I heard someone behind the door. While Kress waited, I went to check for a back door. There was no movement. Then I saw Kress involuntarily leaving through the second-story window. I went to him, he was in a great deal of pain. The moon wasn't full, so there was no chance I could see a Trump enough to activate it. He was alive, and I could just hope that he will hang on enough for me to get upstairs to that room, where there was a light.

I got up the stairs. There was a single candle on a solitary table in that room. In the corner. Almost in front of it, was someone, near the bed. His face was cast mostly in Shadow, but I could tell he was very, very large. And he did not speak Thari well. All I got out of him was that Chaos was bad. He knew Kress was a Chaosian? Apparently so. I said that was my friend. I just managed to dodge, mostly, the bed as it was tossed at me. I landed badly as one of the legs of the bed caught me in the hip. I felt my leg dislocate and spent precious seconds putting it back into place.

I got up as he rushed me. I had my sword out and managed to hamstring him. Actually, he's so large and it was dark enough, all I did was give him a really nasty gash. It didn't help that my aim was off in order to avoid the chair that missed my cheek by less than an inch. I told him I wasn't working with the Chaosians, but got hit by the chair on the return trip and I hit the wall.

I just managed to get out that I was hunting Chaosians and that made him pause. 'Really?' Yes. All in all, I got him to cooperate. I heard Kress making his way up the stairs. I managed to convince our host not to kill him. By the way, his name is Clin.

Clin's skill is that he can smell Chaosians. He said he knew Kress was one when he entered the building. This had enough potential that I tried to hire him. Except he didn't want money. He said he wanted to be paid with one “fine carcass.” Accounting for a language barrier, we managed to decipher what he wanted. A woman. It had been “a very long time.” We righted the bed and table and got the candle burning again. Now I got to see him. He was almost seven feet tall and had the face of a boar. I could see how it could have been a VERY long time.

My initial thought was to take him to the castle, to see if he could get any sort of scent on the two assassins that are still alive. It doubted it, but it was worth a try. Kress went back to the embassy.

The guards at the drawbridge were just a bit nervous at seeing Clin approach, in the full light around the castle. Trying to keep the situation light, I smiled and waved and said he was okay, he hates Chaosians. They checked us over with a glance, making sure I didn't have I knife at my back or anything. Then they let us pass.

We got down the stairs to the guards' post before we had to stop. Clin was just too large to fit through the narrow corridor. Hm. I spoke with the Captain of the guard to see if the prisoners could be brought to us. There were plenty of us around, it wasn't as if they could escape. He readily agreed, but had to clear this with the Regent.

In fact, Martin came down himself to see what the Captain was talking about. He took a step back when he saw Clin, but nevertheless said hello. Again, he took my word and let the prisoners out to meet Clin. To say the least, they'd lost any scent after being given new clothes and after bathing. Martin wasn't happy. I did tell him how Clin was being paid. That elicited a broad smile.

Day 187/18
Another Attack

Both DeWinter and I are becoming increasing worried that we've not heard from either Evander nor DoBlique. While I knew they will act as they see fit, I did expect them to at least let me know they arrived safely.

Clin and I went to another club. We'd gone into town to track down Chaosians. He'd found a trail leading from the rendezvous point for the assassins. It traversed quite a bit, but not as much as I thought it might. Like someone had laid low for a while. Along the way I found Clin had gotten lost years ago. He has two wives and three children whom he hasn't seen in years. He has one boy and two girls. He'd heard about Amber, how 'all roads lead to Amber.' He figured that if all roads lead here, he should be able to find the one that leads to his home.

At the club, the bouncer almost didn't let Clin in. They changed their minds when I said I'd pay for any damages. There were a number of people there. They looked up, their attention arrested by the sight of Clin, but eventually went back to whatever they were doing. Clin took a chair, ripped off the back, and sat. I noted it was a practical solution to the fact that all the seats were too small for his seat. Perhaps I'd need to set up an account.

He used one of his upright ears to indicate which person was the Chaosian. If he was a regular here, the waitress might know something. When I asked her, after we placed our orders, with a substantial tip, she told me to play up to her when she got back. I watched her go and realized I'd have to do a bit of acting. Fortunately, Dorimae had unintentionally prepared me for this.

When she came back, I flirted heavily, giving her a reason as to why she could not get away. It worked, amazingly well. The Chaosian's name is Xocet, known to be something of both a mage and warrior and he had a penchant for gambling. He usually won.

I drank my beer, waiting for a game to start. It would give me the opportunity to learn more about him as I watched him play. The beer was very thick and rich. My tongue grew numb after the first swallow and I was pleasantly warm. I'd have to watch how much I drank. Clin drank milk.

Eventually a game started and I joined in. He is unusual for a Chaosian. First, he was dressed totally as an Amberite and he wasn't clean-shaven. I've never seen a Chaosian with a beard.

It took a little while to learn how to play, so I lost for a while. After an hour, I began to win a few hands. One of the others made a comment about Beauty and the Beast, mostly for Clin's benefit. I told them that wasn't fair, I couldn't help that I wasn't as attractive. They looked at me, then him, and back at me, plainly astonished. I had to work not to smile. They thought I was crazy if I thought Clin was attractive. Clin just gave a snort and continued to drink his milk.

It was almost dawn when the game was down to just Xocet and myself. The others hung around, glad to see someone else winning. Xocet was very focused on the game, not bothering to make small talk. The others shared stories of their travels, while I did the same. Most seemed to have come from one Shadow or another. By dawn, I had won seven times in a row, cleaning up. Xocet said I was skilled, I said I had a good teacher. He winced when he realized I hadn't even known how to play.

We went outside when I said I wanted a word with him, possibly to hire him. We found a bakery that was open and talked. I learned he knew who I was, so any pretense wasn't necessary. I told him what we were looking for. He said he didn't know anything, but might be willing to help.

Any further discussion was interrupted by a Trump call. It was March. He said it was an emergency. He was shirtless and had a sword in one hand, his other reaching to bring me through. I told the two I would be back, and I went through.

Into a battle. That might seem and exaggeration, but when you see a hundred or so black-clad warriors fighting to get through the castle corridors, it seems like a battle. March and I moved forward, into the fray.

They wore black silk garments that deflected most of our blows. The only way to inflict harm was pummeling damage, not cutting. That slowed us down quite a bit. I was still feeling the effects of the beer, meaning I was feeling no pain. And, I'd only had two in the evening. Powerful stuff.

We fought for a while. It was difficult to see so many of our castle guards falling. These were formidable opponents, but they never gave up. I'd time to estimate that there were probably more than 150 attackers. Where were they coming from? I yelled the question out to March and he yelled back, “Magic!”

We killed these and went up to the King's quarters where we'd heard sounds of fighting. We started once again. This time, there were only about a hundred or so. I think I definitely accounted for about twenty or so. March just waded through them, killing them without hesitation. The guards continued to fall. It was so hard to watch, I know I lost some of my composure. And I wasn't the only one. Doromea was so angry, I saw her kick one attacker, almost tearing the fellow in half. The entire fight took over three hours. Once it was over, the tally of invaders was about 300. Many of our guards fell, which made all of us very angry.

We shuttled in as many of the guards into the infirmary as we could. There were no orders to do so, but it was done nevertheless. I felt an enormous pride in our guards. These were opponents well beyond their capacity to defeat, but they stood their ground. I was gratified by their loyalty, so were the others. It was only just that they get all the primary care we could provide.

And we learned that our black invaders were Chaosians. Removing a few of their masking hoods made it clear. The pale thin faces, the slightly aberrant features.

When all that could be done was done, then we began to see to our own injuries. I had a nasty gash that went right through to the bone, from the edge of my nose to my ear. March stitched it up before going to attend to his own. He told me that DeWinter had instructed him not to contact me. But, since it was so serious, he did it anyway. I asked how DeWinter was. March called out into the crowded room for DeWinter to sing out. I could hear DeWinter sing a verse of some song in reply. I would guess that meant he was fine. Good. I'll fight with him later. Imagine trying to exclude me from my duty to protect Amber. I left before DeWinter saw me. We would have our little talk later.

It would be a while before we could do anything, or learn how this had happened. I went back into town. I was in full fury. I got to Clin's first. His landlord was berating him about the door I had kicked in earlier. There was a huge hole in the side where I had broken the latch. He threatened to make Clin pay for it, though the price was ten times what the door was worth, including labor. I told the landlord I would pay for it and handed him just slightly more than what the door was worth. He turned pale when he saw me. He wasn't looking at a Princess of Amber he was looking at a dirty, disheveled woman with blood everywhere. I could feel the blood seep down my cheek; the stitches had opened when I yelled. The landlord didn't argue with us at all.

Then we found Xocet's rooms. Clin was able to track him easily. I suppose that my appearance, plus Clin's was the reason no one bothered us on the street. In fact, a path opened up for the entire journey. We went into the inn, learned that his room was on the top floor.

He did try to be cooperative. He said he knew nothing about it, but suspected that every known Chaosian was going to be hunted down, by the Chaosian Embassy, if nothing else. He was adamant that he could not tell us what House he belonged to, not even when Clin picked him up and roughly handled him for a minute. After Xocet cleared himself of his breakfast, he said that if he told me his House, he would be of no use to me.

All he could say was that eight, perhaps nine Houses could have the resources to commit to such an attack. Hendrake was one, though it was probably was not them. They highly value honor, so they would not breach the treaty. Sawall was another, as was Helgram. Both use magic, which could only be the way to bring that many attackers through to Amber.

I didn't necessarily believe him--but it did get me to think. Who could have the resources to do this. Perhaps not one of the Houses directly, but could it have been to repay a debt. The Courts do not use money. They do keep account on favors owned and due. He said it was possible, but it would have to be a very big favor.

Perhaps. I'm thinking that it might not be a big favor, but maybe many, many little ones over a long period of time. Who, in the Courts, had the ability to gather such a large force and use magic. I'm not sure why I leapt to the Elder, but it was a logical conclusion. The question is whether it is a correct one. He's had several millennia to gather as many favors as he needed to do anything he wanted. I kept my thoughts to myself.

As for Xocet I gave him until tomorrow to find out what is going on. I trust he will try because he knows Clin will be watching and can track him wherever he goes.

I went back to the castle via Trump. The infirmary was a little calmer. That is until DeWinter saw me. The gash on my cheek was almost fully opened by now. He planted himself in front of me and loudly berated me for joining the fighting. I stood and listened, not bothering to answer any of his accusations or haranguing. I know he was blowing off steam. The room was pretty quiet by the time he was finished. I asked if he was done and he looked at me. Then he nodded and said, 'yea'.

We went and saw Dr. Foom. She tsked over the gash and proceeded to steam it, to loosen the remaining stitches. That let the wound bleed heavily and I grew light-headed. DeWinter's arm kept me upright. Foom produced a set of tiny shells, like clamshells. She used them to close the wound and then began to apply some sort of glue. It only took a few minutes to dry and she removed the shells. Would I have a scar? She said 'most definitely'. I don't know why I said it, but all I could think to say was, “Cool.” Perhaps because it was not what was expected of me. Still, both she and DeWinter gave me disapproving looks.

Martin was in a bed, having suffered many cuts and slashes. He was trying to get up, but the guards pinned him down until Foom could attend to him. I've seen her do this before. She took out a series of long sharp needles, placing them in his forehead and scalp at regular intervals. I helped her to remove his shirt and helped to clean the wounds. Once she saw that our hands are steady and quick, we were drafted as nurses, to assist those wounds still needed attending to.

A few hours later, we were done. We got to our room in time to collapse into sleep.

Day 188/18
A Family Meeting in the Library

Twelve hours later DeWinter and I went into the city. We found Clin and Xocet, though they didn't have much news. Xocet couldn't find out much because Madame Chanicutt was apprehending most of the few agents in the city. I don't blame her. The Chaosians were looking none too good right now. Xocet believes, though, that none of the Houses were responsible. Strangely enough, I believe him.

There was a family meeting at the castle. Just prior to it, Martin sent a message to me that he wanted to see me first. He asked me what was happening with DoBlique and Evander. All I could say was that I didn't know. But, I did tell him my worries that it was the Elder. As for sending anyone to look for them, he'd have to think about it.

At the meeting, almost everyone was there aside from Flora and Gerard (who were in the courts), Shapir, Random, Vialle, Sebastian and Simone.

To my surprise, Martin said he believed it was the Elder. For those who did not know of him, or the Logrus, we digressed for a bit to explain it. Then they were given brief instructions about how to know if someone was using Logrus against us.

Fiona confirmed that a spell was how the Chaosians got access to the castle. Then she said these weren't just Chaosian troops. These were Chaosians, noble Chaosians. The difference was the same as the ones between our guards and ourselves. Funny, I thought they were much better than trained troops. How could we have prevailed against that many of noble blood. Surely they should have been as tough as the other Amberites. I just don't understand.

I did show a sketch of the creature that appeared in Tiryns. It has no name specifically recorded, but it is a Chaosian creature some of the family called a 'ninekiller'. It is used for tracking, the end result being to slay its target. They often move in a group of 4 or 5, so there are probably 3 or 4 more running around. Richmond has experience with a hunting pack. They can track through Shadow, shifting will not lose them. They have round bodies, not much smaller than a beach ball, with nine tentacles anywhere from two to six feet long. Their bodies have a shell and the varying lengths of the arms makes it difficult to get in close, so they can be very difficult to kill. Wonderful. They will either be near Tiryns or hiding around the estate. It makes sense that we didn't see any evidence. The tracks would vary in their distance from each other. We wouldn't even know we were looking at tracks.

Back to the matter at hand, Martin has contacted King Merlin who immediately asked that Martin contact Madame Chanicutt to collect every Chaosian in Amber for questioning…and possible execution. Later, Martin was very interested to learn she was already doing that, though she couldn't have gotten such orders yet. I wonder if she's going to get them out before she gets the official orders.

We concluded the meeting by reinforcing the idea that Trump contact is very dangerous if Suhuy is the source of this. Fiona reinforced that by saying that if the Elder, who can assume different guises, contacts us, he will break through our defenses. Not could, not that he would try, but that he would break through them. That scared everyone, because she was including herself in this. And if Fiona can't break free, we are all in trouble.

In the end, the only ones who will accept a Trump call are myself, Fiona, Coral, DeWinter (if it is coded properly), Owen and Stargazer. It is advised that we should be with someone who can watch to see if anything wrong happens. I am to contact Dalt, to warn him of the possibilities. After conferring with DeWinter, we decided we didn't need to contact Dastard. I think that is wise. Besides, he knows nothing about Amber and will not affect us adversely, at least not right now.

The meeting broke up. I did see March, Nicholas and Rinaldo go and talk to Martin about rescuing DoBlique and Evander. I know I can't leave and they know I can't leave. I'm sure they are not just doing this for me, but because they spent five years associating with her. They weren't going to leave them out there. I was never fonder of them than I was just then. I did feel better that someone is trying to help get them back.

DeWinter and I went to Tiryns. I first told the weir what to look for, starting the search. DeWinter began organizing everything so that every inch of the estate is covered. As we Trumped through Kai-Revere woke momentarily, then went back to sleep. I'm wondering if we should be halting any Trump transfers involving him for a while. I've noticed that the children are rarely Trumped anywhere. At least, I've never seen it.

While DeWinter started the search, I Trumped Dalt. He couldn't come here. Not with everyone looking for Chaosians. He'd be spotted, for certain. Nor could I talk about this over Trump. I had to go through. I agreed to, but would have to call him back. He agreed to this. I told DeWinter where I was going, so he wouldn't worry. Strange, isn't it. A few years ago, anyone would be worried that I was meeting Dalt, including me. Now he is my brother-in-law. Amazing.

I Trumped Dalt and went through. I found myself in a large hall in a Tudor mansion. We sat, and I told him what had happened. He wasn't too clear on the whole Elder issue. I don't know if he would believe me when I told him that his mind might be…programmed. I think he was being courteous in listening to what I had to say. It was taking a bit longer than either of us thought, so he went to get some tea. He brought the tray in and poured himself a cup. Then he motioned that I should do the same. I think he was trying to assure me that he wasn't going to try anything.

We drank as I finished what I came to tell him. He looked at me. He said I was hard to figure out. I shrugged and told him that DeWinter found it easier to think that I was “nice, naïve, and a bit crazy,” when he first met me. Dalt said I was nice, possibly naïve, but crazy…

He got up to fetch something…I forget just what it was. I was preoccupied by the fact that the room began to move. No, it was I that was moving. I was falling… Damn, he drugged me! I felt or heard, faintly, Owen's Trump. I tried to reach for it, but everything went blank. All I could do was try and call out for help.

~ ~ ~

What I remember next is both blurry and clear. I woke, in a bed. I knew my name…it was Deela, a former lover of Oberon, now his enemy. I got up and dressed, brushing my blond hair. I was still a little fuzzy about particulars. Where was I? I felt as if I had been asleep for a very long time. I vaguely remembered a battle, being hurt. Where were my children? Did the Church prevail against Amber?

I went to find some answers. There were servants about but they were of no help. They were pale, moving in a false, mechanical sort of way. I did encounter a man, gray-robed with bushy eyebrows. He was moving to greet me. He took my hand and said he'd brought me here, to resurrect me. All the memories were instantly there. I'd been killed. I saw the axe, saw Bleys. We'd been defeated by Amber.

It was quite a shock. I felt intense anger.

I asked him about the Church. He took me to a room where we had something to drink. He introduced himself as Suhuy, of the Courts of Chaos. He said the Church of the Bloodied Unicorn still existed, but it wasn't as militant as it used to be. I said nothing, but I knew I could change that. And my children?

He said it would be easier if he gave me a bit of a history lesson. He was recounting a lot of time---centuries, in fact. All my children had survived. I learned of the changes in the Golden Circle, damn but Amber hasn't gotten stronger. I was annoyed that Dastard let DoBlique and DeWinter get so out of control, that they left. All that work…

We would have continued, except for a tremor rippling through the floor. Suhuy looked a bit alarmed. He went to a window and I followed. All we could see was a black wall of rock. Had the entire house been encased? How could that be? Suhuy took my hand and said he had to attend to something and could no longer remain. He kissed my fingers and vanished. The servants nearby fell to the floor immediately.

I went to find the door. Fortunately, we were right near it. I went outside and encountered more of that black rock. But it wasn't a rock, because it moved. I looked up to see a Dragon. It was simply the largest creature I'd ever saw. The head swooped down until it was looking directly at me. “What have you done with your beautiful hair?”

What ever it was, I refused to be intimidated by it. I held my head up and demanded it tell me who it was. It just asked, “And where is Kai?” Kai? Kai, who? Even as I asked, I felt very uncomfortable with that name. It asked me where the sorcerer was? What sorcerer? It was then that I saw my sons, DeWinter and Dalt. This did not bode well. Dalt was always a loose cannon, even on the best of days. And what was DeWinter doing here? I asked them, demanded them to tell me, but they ignored me. I was indignant at their behavior. But they were just staring at me. Dalt looked uncomfortable and said, “Damn, she even talks like her?” What the hell did that mean?

I told the Dragon that the sorcerer was gone. I was hoping she would leave and look somewhere else. I had a few words to speak with my sons. She cocked her head to the side, “Gone? How rude!”

Then her tongue flicked out wrapping about my waist and the next thing I knew, we were in a glistening cave of huge proportion. Again, I demanded an explanation, and was ignored. Dalt gave a shudder. “I can't handle this,” and he walked out. DeWinter shrugged and stared at the Dragon, “See? The marriage is off.”

Off? What marriage? The Dragon said no, it wasn't off. Her tongue came out again, encircling me with its coils. I refused to cower, especially since there was no place to run. The tip arced over my head and came down, the forked parts covering my eyes. It was very, very cold. And with a jolt I could feel all my memories freeze and shatter. There are no other words to describe it.

I remembered who I was. I was completely unnerved by the experience, even though Deela's memories broke and vanished. Lilith still didn't like the hair. That was when I got to look down at myself. I was shorter. I could tell just by standing next to DeWinter. I had a fuller figure, a larger bust and hips, and I was very blond. All hopes were dashed when Lilith said she could do nothing about this. It was permanent.

With little ceremony, DeWinter began to usher me out. I did thank Lilith for her help. She asked me who it was that did this to me. I felt immense satisfaction in telling her it was Suhuy. With any luck, she'd freeze him up and keep him as part of her collection. At the very least, she might keep him too busy to attack us for a while. She nodded and vanished.

It took us four hours to work our way through the caverns and back to Amber. Does she live that close to Amber? Oh, my. Dalt went his own way as we got close to home. I did find out how they pulled this off.

Dalt had waited for my return Trump--and never gotten it.

After mulling several options, Dalt had Trumped Owen. He apparently was insistant with Owen that there was something seriously wrong. And she agreed once she spoke to DeWinter and found out that I had, in fact, Trumped Dalt and left Tiryn.

It meant that Trumps were more dangerous than anyone suspected.

Somewhere about then, Dalt decided I needed a rescue--and DeWinter hatched a amazingly dangerous scheme.

The two brothers went off into Shadow. He and Dalt had staged an argument that our marriage was finished. That I had just left, given up. Dalt argued that something else was going on and that Lilith would be upset. DeWinter said he didn't care--the marriage was over and done. The next thing they knew, Lilith was there. The rest was history. Lilith tracked me down and took them along to show DeWinter that I wasn't abandoning the marriage.

I was going to ask two things of DeWinter: how did he know she'd show up if they argued about this and why did he think she cared so much if we stayed married?

Owen came around to examine me. For now, I'm staying in our rooms. I don't want anyone to see me just yet. She confirmed what Lilith had said. The change was done at the molecular level. She didn't know if there was anything to do, though she had one possibility.

Then I made the situation worse when she asked if she could check my mind for traps. Now I know I could be a trap, and I know someone will have to do this. But I'm so tired of people going into my head, and losing my identity. I'm in another body, for heaven's sake, I didn't want anyone in my head right then. Owen was coolly angry, probably thinking I was being obstinate again. I didn't care and I didn't stop her from walking out.

She said I was on my own.

Day 189/18
Bitter

Today I felt another bitter disappointment. Getting up this morning was difficult enough. None of my clothes fit, and my center of balance was way off. It didn't feel unnatural, but it didn't feel right either. Then I went to feed Kai, and realized I can't. This body hasn't had a child recently. It hurt me deeply. I had to spend a long while composing myself.

I had Mother and Byslamia brought in. Mother didn't faint, but she looked a bit green. I don't think she realized such a thing could happen. We did test the fact that I can receive Trump. I can, but it makes me wonder about what happened. I know Suhuy can appear as another person when he contacts us, but now it seems that he can intercept whoever we are calling. That makes no Trump safe. I felt better when I heard that this was a new Trump trick, even for Owen.

Day 192/18

DeWinter was being wonderful about the whole thing. I know he has issues with his own mother, and it must be difficult to see her every day. He went so far as to be able to lie with me, but I didn't push for anything more. The question is, can we adapt to this?

Owen arrived at mid-morning. She may have a solution. There is a woman who has had experience shapeshifting other people. She might be able to put be back to the way I was.

Owen Trumped her and brought her through. Her name is Destine. She comes through wearing slacks and a straw hat over her dark hair. There was just a hint of grey running through her hair. She's taller than I, perhaps five foot seven. She looked me over and said that I wear this body well. Whoever did this, did a good job. For my part, something felt odd about her.

We talked about the procedure. It wouldn't be that difficult for me and she'd prefer that I be conscious through it. Largely, it depends on her getting enough of a sense of what I am supposed to look like. That is the trickiest part. And I wasn't a pure Amberite. I am also weir. That has to be taken into account. The solution was simple. She should meet Tatasha. Tatasha would just be getting back home, and here we are bringing her back again.

I gave her a tour of the estate, introducing her to the weir. I could tell they weren't happy with her, not at all. I introduced her to Roskovich, who was very hesitant. He didn't know who I was. Max took things better and Destine was delighted that he could talk.

On the way back to the house, one of the weir boys offered Destine an apple. She smiled at him and declined. He almost looked affronted. Did she think it was poisoned? Destine smiled again and said she'd take the other one. He looked shocked and gave her one that was in his pocket. When we went away, I asked her what was wrong with the other one. She said it had a worm in it.

I showed her to her rooms and let her get settled. While she did this, I went to find the weir. They were having a conference outside the house, with DeWinter. All they could say was that she smelled funny. Like creatures they had encountered in the PatternFall War.

We had dinner and I noticed that the female weir took turns bringing in the dishes. Each passed close to Destine, probably getting her scent. Afterwards, I decided I was just going to ask her. After all, she will be doing things to my body, if not my mind. I wanted to know what I was dealing with. Mother was scandalized that I asked her what species she was, in front of everyone. To her credit, she didn't become upset. But she did want to go somewhere private. I agreed to this and she allowed DeWinter to come along.

She is originally a Chaosian. In fact, she admitted she was a self-exiled Chaosian, having escaped into Shadow many many years ago.

Living in Shadow for many years, it did happen that she was discovered and attacked by a Chaos Demon. The attack was not something that she was quite prepared for. She didn't kill the demon, but rather during the battle she absorbed it--effectively doing the same thing.

Whether this is a natural ability, or she got lucky, she'd resorted to it a number of times, whenever demons have attacked her. The total number she quoted was seven. That is what the weir were sensing--that she was Chaosian, and that she also had some part of demon to her. She mentioned that she had 'refined' her body several times over the long years, but she wanted to assure me that she would give no harm. She also said that no one knew about her 'demon-eating' ability, not even Owen. It had never come up. We promised to keep her counsel.

I wasn't all that upset with the news. Maybe it was because I really wanted my form back, and that Owen trusted her, but I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Besides, I might get into trouble because I trust too easily, but it's yielded more good than not.

Day 195/18
Solutions

Tatasha is back. Owen had told Martin what happened to me and he'd sent Stargazer to fetch her for us. To say that she and Destine got along would be an understatement. Tatasha can make friends with anyone but Evander it seems. That night, we could hear them laughing.

I wasn't surprised.

Day 197/18

They were still giggling in the morning, but Destine says she's ready.

Mother thinks their behavior is just scandalous. I had to remind her that they were grown women, and of everyone in the house, we cannot throw stones about sexual activity. She dropped the argument, right away.

We gathered in the parlor. Owen arrived, bringing Blythe through to observe. Owen's has been talking about retiring from Court Physician when Blythe is out of medical school. The way I figure, this sort of arcane shaping doesn't happen too much. At least, Owen's not seen it. So it stands to reason that Blythe hasn't seen it. It would be a good learning tool for her.

I lay down on the floor. Destine placed her hands on two nerve centers of my body: above my heart and a few inches below my stomach. It was the eeriest sensation. I could almost feel her merging into my body, felt her will moving in me. It was both awkward and pleasant. I was sort of lost in the feelings. It seemed as though it took hours, but the clock only said a little over thirty minutes.

I stood up and I was the right height. Everything was back the way it should be. Destine got up and said DeWinter and I should dance a bit, to 'work out' any problems. DeWinter turned on the victrola, and we danced. Everything felt right and natural. We then went upstairs, to dance some more.


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