Now that I'm back to being myself, I have a number of things I must do. First, before I meet anyone else, is to make sure the Elder left no more surprises, especially inside my mind. Then I must meet with Xocet and Clin, get Clin back home, and then find those spider-like things, Nine-killers. The weir were able to track them as far as Arden and they informed the Rangers of this. I was pleased that they not only took the initiative but also initiated contact with the Rangers. They've been so insular, I was surprised that they did so and told them this.
There still is no answer from DoBlique. I'll try again in a few days. DeWinter is insisting that I take it easy for a few days, to recover from the recent stresses. I feel a little guilty about doing this, but I can fill the time by being a Mother. Claw and the others say I am back to normal, no residual scents, and reconnecting with Kai-Revere has been painless. Actually, with all the women around, he's barely noticed I was gone. That's a good thing, right?
Destine left today. She stayed because she wanted to make sure there were no problems (there are none) and because she is enjoying her time with Tatasha. So much so, she's going to Aes with Tatasha and having a bit of a vacation of her own. I promised Tatasha that I will at least get her to Aes and stay for a while before calling her for another emergency. She just laughed and gave me a hug.
An Internal Battle
DeWinter and I are going to the castle's infirmary for Owen's examination. I think she was a little surprised that I asked her to do this. I was frank with her, I did not want to have this done, but I had to do it. Depending on what was done, if anything, I could be placing someone in danger and I do not want to be someone's tool. I don't think Owen was happy about the state of things, but she couldn't fault the logic. To make myself feel better, I had DeWinter "watching" first so he could make an exam should it every become necessary and second so that I knew only what I wanted occurred. I didn't fool Owen, nor did I try. To be safe, she heavily warded the room. That took DeWinter by surprise.
The last few days have been otherwise uneventful. I did manage to make Trumps of both Max and Bison. Max thought they were interesting and Bison said I had great discrimination in choosing my subjects. Cheeky, isn't he? And to think, years ago he would barely speak to me.
The exam began well enough. My wards from Mycenea were fine. Those from Shom Dao are brighter and much stronger. Owen suggested I find a third. Hm. That will take some thinking. Mycenean wards are very logical and structurally regular. Shom Dao is very different, being primarily organic and irregular, if that is a correct description. I'm thinking the third should be different from the other two, perhaps something elemental.
Owen went a bit deeper. She was almost done until she found a little knot of magic tucked away. She almost missed it. She continued through the rest, making sure there were no other surprises. There wasn't, so she returned her attention to the anomaly. Neither DeWinter nor I could see it, not having the Sight for such things.
It was quiet for a long while. DeWinter and I started talking about what we could do. The most active I could do would be to have DeWinter leave and get some help. But even though hours seem to pass here, it's only been a few minutes. By the time he could return, it would be too late. Faintly we heard Owen to tell us to wait. Her "voice" is very tense, strained.
It was a very long time that we waited. I was beginning to get very worried. If all of us were trapped here, we could be killed, or worse. I told DeWinter to get ready to pull out and knock me unconscious. Owen's voice came sharp and loud, yelling for us to wait, can't we be a little patient? I wonder if she knows how long we sat? It was a sign of her distress, that she broke her composure like that. Something was definitely wrong. After a few minutes, she managed to tell us that she was under a magical attack, interspersed with some creative invective. Then she said she needed some energy, quickly. We shunted as much to her as we could without depleting our own resources too quickly.
It wasn't enough. Well, there was only one other way to generate a lot of energy. I recreated the scene from the hot air balloon. DeWinter caught on and we put aside our inclination for privacy. In the scene, we could see Owen at the aft, sitting with her back to us. The energy levels increased by 200% and more. We continued and got them well over 1000%.
We maintained this for a long while. Owen said it was helping, the attack wasn't getting past her third shield. It had completely and quickly torn through her first and her second didn't hold it back for long. With the added energies, it wasn't getting even the slightest foothold on her last shields. But how long could we continue this way?
I could see a sort of dome around DeWinter and I. There was also one around Owen, with some swirling, snake-like "vines" surrounding hers. It was the manifestation of the attack.
Owen tried a variety of tactics, none of which we could see. The shield was holding strongly, so I suggested that I walk the Pattern in my mind. I might be able to do it in time. DeWinter would be needed to pull out of contact and he doesn't know how to do walk the Pattern in his mind yet. Owen could, but if she fell, it was all over. As soon as we stopped, the energies would begin to diminish. So, I began.
It was more difficult than ever because of the urgency and their presence. I approached the First Veil and barely got through it. I was frozen in space for a second and then finally broke through. How would I get through the others? As I walk, I tried to get up some speed, to bring some momentum to my movement. Along the way I got an interesting idea. If Suhuy had done this and was Chaosian/Logrus-based, trapping the "vines" between us as we generated Pattern or Circumstantial energies, we might just kill it. Before I got to the second veil, DeWinter's voice broke in telling me Owen was almost out of energy and the attack was starting to make holds on her shields. It is fortunate that stopping would do no harm. It was a jolt that my concentration was broken and I was back with him.
We began to make energy. This time I envisioned our time at the Beach. I was aiming for the water to bee our energy, hoping to trap the attack in some way. Owen was still there, but this time she was buried just above the low tide edge, only her head being above sand. A scarlet vine was wrapped around her head and extended out into the ocean. Every time the tide came in, it threatened to drown her. I suppose that was my own mind visualizing my fears.
I next tried Martin's Shadow, the bar I once went to where we danced on the ceiling. Owen was encased in cables and a tube went from my belly to her. Once the energy was back to where she was safe, she managed to open a private connection with me. She didn't want to disturb DeWinter, since he was generating most of the energy. I told her my idea to burn it out from my end. She was worried that it would rebound back to me. But she also admitted that we've been dong this for about forty-five minutes. It seemed like many more hours. We had to come up with something; or else we will not be able to continue. She did find out what the purpose was. It was designed with the idea that I would probably go to Fiona for my examination. Apparently Suhuy was not aware of Owen's ability with mental reparations. A strange gap in knowledge, in my opinion. It wasn't designed to kill her. No, it was far worse. If it succeeded, Fiona would be a mental vegetable. No one could predict that I would be actively involved nor that I would bring in someone else, namely DeWinter. He couldn't plan that we could work to sustain her this long. I felt satisfaction that we still had some surprises against him.
We progressed along, getting no where fast. I took the initiative and tried to shunt some of the circumstantial energies against the cables. Nothing. No effect whatsoever.
I changed the scene so that we were in House Merquier. It was my turn to generate the energy or a greater portion thereof. I was trying to recreate the danger, to increase the energy. It's a tricky thing to try and fool your own mind, to try and believe something is real even when you created it, when you know it isn't real. I must be good at lying to myself, because it began to work.
Suddenly I felt as if I was falling. Next thing, the scene changed and Owen was prone on the floor and none of us had any clothes, weapons, or tools of any sort. The cables had disappeared. There was still this tendril linking me to Owen. DeWinter could see it now and wasn't too pleased. It was a bit grotesque, considering the long tendril was actually my tongue. He rallied to the task but I was definitely worried. Which, of course, increase the energies and I felt the circumstantial energy kick in fully.
The tendrils tried to pull away at first and then directed themselves at us. They surrounded us but I was only peripherally aware of this. DeWinter couldn't see them at all. As we continued, I could feel them try and tighten, but become brittle, drier. I could feel them start to burn up. Vibrations ran along the floor. DeWinter knew what I was trying to do, and just muttered something, perhaps he was shouting. It seemed muffled with the tremors and all. He said something about "crazy" and me being "determined;" the usual. He reached out and grabbed a tendril, which really scared me. He had no idea what he'd just done. Thorns erupted, stabbing through his fist. He gritted his teeth and held on. My fear sent the energy through the roof and shock waves burst out around all of us. It was desperately trying to kill us.
I could see smoke drifting up at some points. I knew we were gaining some ground. The attacks were becoming more frequent, more aggressive. It was in a terrible situation. It had to attack us, but it was inside my mind, which was providing the energy to destroy it. If it killed me, it would cease to exist but it had to defend itself. But I was drawing my own energy, which it needed. It was in a nasty quandary. Of course, it was not intelligent, so it just acted to defend itself, which ended up destroying itself.
The last thing I saw was it completely burn up and then we were back in the infirmary. Our clothing was soaked from the strain. DeWinter wanted to just go and kill Suhuy. We were like-minded. Owen was fine, though we could really stand to bathe.
We left to go shower as Owen went to make a report to Martin. Since she hadn't been generating the energy, she was still presentable.
Normally the showers have a placard hanging outside indicating if it was in use and by either a woman or man, since it is still communal. DeWinter managed to shift it so it was on edge and we bathed. This took an unusually long time and we did have to clean up a bit. I tried to leave a number of times, but DeWinter was in a very playful mood. Once we were done, though, I saw a note someone had slipped under the door. I was hoping that it wasn't a chastisement and found it was from Owen. She just wanted me to know that Evander was back in Amber, having been rescued by March and Nicholas. She had meant to tell me before our session. We must have been bathing for a long time because it was an extremely detailed report on how March and Nicholas tried to find him, but couldn't. Then she'd gone into UnderShadow, emerging from time to time closer to him. She eventually found him and he had "Changed" in the weir fashion. He'd been caged and shackled, so he had been effectively trapped. She Trumped him back to Amber where the Change reverted and he was back to his old self. Actually, the Change had started immediately when they went into that Shadow. It came upon him so quickly; he felt he was a danger to DoBlique and had run off before he did something to her. He's already given his report to Martin and is back on duty. They are still trying to find DoBlique.
I went to get dressed and then to find Evander. We took a walk and he gave me essentially the same report, though much, much more formal. But, I could tell that he was shaken by the experience. He'd never Changed before, even when he tried. He was disturbed by the savage feelings that came over him, the thought that people were just food walking around for him to choose. I'd never had such a feeling when I've Changed, so I was a bit worried as well. He did know that an uninitiated Change meant he had to go through with the cleansing ritual, as I did, so the experience didn't consume him. He dismissed the idea though, saying he'd not Change again, nor did he need it. I asked him clearly if he meant for the matter to go unresolved. He did. I was disappointed. He did surprise me by asking to go after DoBlique. I think he was genuinely worried about her, or perhaps he was upset in failing in his mission. Unfortunately, I could not allow this, not after what happened to her. He would just Change again and be a danger, especially since he would not talk to Vis or any of the weir about the change.
DeWinter and I went back to Tiryns. The poor man had to listen to me vent my frustration with Evander through the first quarter of the ride. It was done fairly quickly and I had gotten my equilibrium back by the time we arrived. Some of the weir children ran out, asking if we bought them anything in town. I said no and I saw a few of them exchange some money. Strange. I said I'd better give them something to do. They gave a little cheer and ran inside. DeWinter just shook his head. Oh, yeah, Amber is real safe, he said.
So we had a pleasant argument. Amber is safe. After all, we'd been married now for almost ten years. And we'd been in real danger only for about two of them, if we were to condense the time together. That makes for a twenty- percent danger level, which isn't too bad considering some of my relatives. He really thought I was crazy, and we continued our debate while putting Max and DeWinter's horse in the stable and walking in the orchard. It was energetic, refreshing and oddly fun. He was enjoying it as much as I was.
After a bit, I noticed Claw hovering nearby. I asked if she needed anything. She said no. I asked DeWinter if we were done. He said no. Hm. Claw said to never mind her, she was just watching, she learned a lot when we argued. That was puzzling enough to shut us down for a moment. She took the break to ask me if I had promised the children to send them on a mission? What? Apparently, my idea of giving them something to do was translated as a mission. DeWinter chuckled, saying he loved this place, clapping me on the shoulder and "have fun." Then he went into the house.
I'm going to have to watch what I say. Claw was serious when she said they thought I had promised. Saying I didn't seemed
low. I suggested a spying mission. Could each of the children go into town to find Chaosians? I know they are all in the Embassy right now, so it would be safe enough. If they did find one, they could report back. Claw said this might be a good training mission, if each had an adult with them. She'd work on that.
I received a note from Fiona. I don't think I ever got one from her before. She has lovely handwriting. It was a Official Commendation for young people of our limited experience to have performed admirably in our last situation. I just wished I knew what situation she was referring to. A side note, she did say that she'd completed her interrogation of the Chaosians and none are guilty of the attacks on Random. Damn.
Flora, Gerard and Demi have returned to Amber from the Courts.
I did go to see Xocet. I found him in Clin's basement where Clin had chained him. Clin was of the opinion that Xocet was being "uncooperative." Xocet hadn't found any other information, though he did have one thought. When all the other Chaosians were locked away in the Chaosian Embassy, could she also be removing evidence? That was a disturbing thought. Still, I trusted Fiona to be accurate if she said none of the Chaosians were party to the attack.
Xocet and I did get diverted into an odd debate. He didn't really come out and say that Amber didn't win the last war with them, but implied that other battles between them hadn't gone as well as Amber has portrayed in the history. He just can't believe that we could actually win against such numbers, it must be falsified data. We really didn't accomplish much except to say that we are both very loyal, but we were also trying to be civilized about it all.
I did step away to Trump Owen. After all, Xocet's idea might be of use. I sent a compressed "arrow" of information. One, I didn't think anyone could intercept it and I didn't want Xocet to know what I was saying. I took his thought and my questions and sent them to her. She replied freely, no one on that end would "hear" saying that we are not beholden to Merlin's orders to Chanicutt. That meant I really didn't have to turn him over to the Embassy. Second, Owen said that if Fiona stated that none of the Chaosians in the Embassy were guilty. She would not have made such a statement if it weren't true. She's very thorough about these things.
Nevertheless, Xocet thought he should deliver himself to the Embassy. If he were to find anything out, it would be in there. To make it look good, since it might not be believed that he would just walk right in; Clin escorted him down as a "captured" Chaosian. Clin made sure it was believable, bouncing Xocet around a lot and used Xocet to knock on the Chaosian door rather than knocking. Before he went in, he gave me his belt, a ring and a choker. The latter turned invisible while wearing it. I promised to keep them safe while he was inside.
It's been a quiet month. Truthfully, I don't know if there are any other leads to follow, so the investigation has come to a complete halt. In the meantime, I've made Trump of Bison, Cutwind and Max. Eventually, I might make one of the other adults, but they are the leading figures, along with Claw and Vis, so it will be enough.
I still owe Clin his payment, since he did track down Xocet for me. I had introduced him to Ick, the troll in the kitchen. While they were curious about each other, there was no real interest. There are no women in the city that would be interested, nor physically able to handle a six and a half boar-man, so the only solution would be to take him home. He was a bit suspicious, since he hadn't been able to find his way home, but he allowed me to retrieve a few mental pictures from him to use as a guide. The pictures weren't particularly visual, more smells and impressions. His sense of smell is so keen, though, it is a picture in and of itself. I think he believes I will leave him behind and renege on our agreement.
I think I can do a number of things at one time. DeWinter and I will take Kai-Revere and Max. I will lead Clin home, take them by Shom Dao so DeWinter can see it, take us to Mycenea since he's never been there, and on the way back find Max's home. He's been away for a long time and he must be lonely, though he's not said one word about it. To be safe, in addition to taking the safest path I can manage, I'm taking a number of weir along. It'll end up being a rather large party. I wrote to Martin, still Regent for the year, letting him know where we were going and we are available if he needs us.
Out in Shadow
We found Clin's home Shadow. Actually, I really didn't. But I found what he remembered. His wife and children are just as he recalled. Too much so. To him, nothing had changed and that was my first clue that I found what he was looking for, not the real Shadow. I thought upon it for a bit. I could tell him this wasn't the real thing, but I doubt he'd understand. I barely do myself and it would be hard to explain. His real wife and children, they might not be alive, more time might have passed. I saw he was happy here, happy to be back with his family, in the world he remembered. I decided to let this pass. It was as real as it needed to be, for him and his new family.
Shom Dao is both very familiar and different from the last time. All the junior students are now elder masters. Still, the place has that timeless sense and is as serene as I remembered it. They don't have tourists, so the party took up two adjoining inns, filling them completely. If anyone else arrives, it'll be interesting in how we will accommodate them. Still, no one looked askance at Max, even though he talks. In fact, they are delighted with him and like in Amber, leave his stall door open so he can come and go as he pleases.
I think it is time to leave. DeWinter likes it here, even though he isn't much on mediation. He thinks everyone is friendly and he's even managed to finagle a lesson or two, enough to give him something to think about. Rarely is there a lesson without something to think about. The weir, on the other hand, are finding things a bit too quiet and serene, so they are getting bored. They haven't said anything, but I can tell. We'll leave in a day or two.
Mycenea is very much the same as I remember it. Only three years have passed here. On the night we arrived, we were given a small private party at the SummerHouse, since Court is adjourned for the season. It was all very proper and civilized. As we were getting ready to retire, DeWinter remarked on the social niceties and wondered how they could have produced me? It was then that I realized just how much I've changed over the last few decades. I straightened my shoulders, sitting as befitting a lady and felt myself go right into that particular niche that I had lived with all my life. I told him I was just like all of them, but that a particular person, with predilections for hot-air balloons had corrupted me immensely over the years. He looked pleased with himself.
After dinner we had talked about Mother and Byslamia and little Eidolon, catching up on what people were about. They wondered about Amber and how I was dealing with my "rough" existence. I could see them thinking of the few servants, me wearing trousers, the lack of technology, yes, it must seem frontier-ish. I told them that very rustic atmosphere promotes self-reliance, making us independent and self-reliant, and tough. Intellectually, they understood, but they didn't understand at all. But they did understand DeWinter. One of my younger sisters remarked that making him laugh was fun, especially since it was such a challenge. I nodded vigorously in agreement. While Chryseis and Portia began to talk of political matters I did get to speak to some of my younger sisters, like Tryseus, who wasn't as timid about asking questions. I think that many of them are sick and tired of the many court members constantly looking for favors and attention, so DeWinter was a refreshing change. They were intrigued that he did not wish to be considered a Prince of Amber, almost giving up his title. It was a very romantic feeling for them. Perhaps I should invite one or two to Amber for a little while. Perhaps not. Once they live in Amber, coming home would be very difficult and disappointing. Since they cannot move through Shadow, it might be cruel to do that to them.
I was woken to a Trump call. I reached for my deck, thumbing through them to find that it wasn't anyone I had a Trump for. I woke DeWinter, just in case and opened the contact. To my surprise, it was Evander. He was put off a bit by my lack of attire and felt better when I dragged a sheet over myself. A glance at the clock showed it was just past three in the morning. He would have cut the contact but I pointed out that I was awake now and not likely to go back to sleep any time soon. There's nothing like having "Trump icicles" move across your scalp to wake oneself up in a hurry. He nodded and said that he was concerned for DoBlique. It appears that no one is doing anything to find her and he insisted a number of times, that he was 'not' investigating the matter. I think it was a rebuke for refusing to allow him to go after her. I told him I would look into the matter as soon as we were back in Amber. I knew that Rinaldo, Nicholas and March were all trying to find her. At least, they had volunteered to Martin to do so. I told Evander I would be leaving for Amber in a day or so, his time. He appeared appeased though curious at my phrasing. He doesn't quite believe in the time differentials, but is taking my word for it, for now. I learned that only three weeks have passed since we left.
I noticed a disquieting thing today. I've seriously underestimated the power of an Amberite baby. Perhaps it is a survival trait, but he is never alone. All he must do is whimper a bit, and someone comes running to pick him up, feed him, or just hold him. And he's quite accustomed to the attention. I foresee a very spoiled child in our future. As DeWinter and I ate breakfast, I casually remarked that I was thinking about beginning a Reign of Tyranny. He choked a bit and said what? I explained what I was seeing and he said he'd look into it.
DeWinter said it was worse than I thought. Kai-Revere is never alone. He actually timed the nurses and the weir. At the slightest sound, it takes any of them under a minute to pick him up and coddle him. What was worse, when they are out of reach, it took less than a minute for a castle staff member to come in and pick him up, even though they are entering a royal suite uninvited.
We tried to explain our problems with the situation with the weir. Claw picked up on it right away. I asked her how long she responded to her own children. Sometimes she said she waited ten or fifteen minutes. Right. The other weir looked at her as if she had just betrayed them. I got their attention back to me and said I was not going to have a spoiled child, prince or no, as a son, or daughter for that matter. We were going to break both the weir and Kai-Revere of this, starting now.
Oh, we have a stubborn child! The weir are trying mightily to do as I wish, but one of the women broke down today. She just couldn't stand to hear him cry, and he'd only been at it for twenty minutes. I had no idea of the power he holds over them. DeWinter and I came to the conclusion that we had to break Kai of this habit, before we will make any headway. I've arranged for us to stay a week in a remote cabin, far from any neighbors. The weir will have to make due on their own for a while. I am certain we can do this.
Dealing with a Demon-child
It took a day to get here. It's a lovely place, all woods and streams and mountains. It would be lovelier if Kai had cooperated. The first day of Tyranny did not go well. Neither did the second or the third.
Those three days, he cried for six hours at a stretch. At first, he just wasn't happy about being ignored. Then he got angry. We could move very far from the cabin and still hear him. Amazing lung capacity. I foresee an Olympic swimmer in the future. By the third day we were both gritting our teeth. I suggested we lure in a bear or something. If it roared loud enough, perhaps it would drown out our child. DeWinter thought torturing a large cat or something might work better. We've dubbed him a "brain-sucking demon child." Almost all the crying was in anger. Kai-Revere was very, very angry. After the fourth hour, though, he realized he was getting both hungry and uncomfortable, and the crying became real. It took the fourth day for him to realize that if he didn't cry except when he really meant it, we would come. We made a truce. He's a very smart baby. Or the two of us together are more stubborn than a six-month-old baby.
We came back to the SummerHouse. It's taken a week for the new 'training' to set in, but its working. I don't blame the weir, they expected to take care of Kai-Revere as they do Eidolon. I wonder how the two boys will get along with each other when they are older. Eidolon will definitely be a spoiled little boy unless something is done. I know Mother is raising him as she did me, but I know that Mycenea, with all its rules and etiquette gave me the discipline I have. Eidolon might not have that in Amber. I really hope I will like him when he is grown.
We left today. The last stop will be to find Max's home Shadow.
Finding Max a girlfriend?
We finally found his home Shadow. It was difficult, because Max's memories are fainter; he's been gone for so long. The hills are rolling and grassy, the weather warm and sunny. It's as if it is an endless Savannah.
A stallion and two mares met us. They questioned Max about his strange trappings (the tack) and the creatures he allowed on his back. It didn't take me long to see this is a very male-dominated culture. The mares were ignored, though they had their own private conversation. It took a bit, but the stallion decided we might be intelligent, especially when I spoke to him, in equine. In the end, Max vouched for us and we were allowed to remain.
The stallion talked with DeWinter's horse. He began to bristle angrily when he was ignored until he realized she couldn't talk. He was amazed and confounded that the animal was as "dumb as a rock."
We were allowed to roam a bit. Some of the mares came to speak with me, curious at the notion that I might be as smart as they are. I hoped I proved them right. They did mix-match our sexes, though. They referred to me as a male and DeWinter as a female. But, they also referred to many of the weir as male, even Claw. It took a bit to understand what they were mis-construing. I looked directly at them when I spoke, which indicated to them that I was male. DeWinter, who didn't know the language was more intent on looking around, assessing any possible dangers as is usual for him. Since he didn't look directly at them, they thought he was female. I corrected them, showing how different creatures interpret signals differently, and it was a novel idea to them.
Max wasn't having much luck. Apparently, it is a very involved process to woo a mare away from a herd. I suggested he concentrate on finding a more adventurous mate. He agreed, but said it could take a while. I was of the mind he should try and convince some to come with him to Amber. Of course, he could stay if he wished--start his own herd. I even suggested it to him. He was disquieted about his return. To him, they seem rather transparent, a bit slow. The grasses aren't as he remembered and it was all rather plain. I've seen this before. Once you have a taste of the Real City, all else pales in comparison. I told him I wasn't surprised--it happens to everyone who stays in Amber for any period of time. But, if I hadn't brought him back, he would always have wondered. He nodded sagely, and agreed it was wise to come back, if only for a time. Still, to find anyone to return with him could take weeks. Even in the time we've been here; we've ranged hundreds of miles with little luck, though there are some prospects. If he wanted to do this right, select those who would not only return with him but who could handle the transition, he would have to be careful. I said he'd have to flirt with them more than he was doing. He just looked at me and asked if I wanted to help. I took a second to realize he was joking. I don't think he'd made a joke to me before. I laughed and shook my head. No, I might give a wrong signal and end up telling one of them to stomp on my foot. Apparently he found that very funny and gave a deep, full laugh, from the belly, throwing his head high. It was a powerful laugh that carried far, gaining him the attention of some nearby mares.
In the end we went back to Amber, leaving him to his business. We worked out a signal for a Trump call so that he would know it was I. I would Trump him when I got back to Amber and get an idea of the time differences. He could take all the time he needed. I wasn't worried about him. The Shadow is very picturesque with no large predators at all.
We were on our way back when I got another Trump call from Evander. It's been four weeks in Amber. Damn. I had forgotten to see about DoBlique. Actually, I had hoped the time would continue to flow in our favor. It has, but not as much as I'd hoped. He didn't quite accuse me of negligence, but it was there. He said Gerard had gone looking for her, but he's also dropped out of sight. He pointedly told me that he had talked with Vis about the Change. I think he thought I would rescind my standing orders and involve him once more. He said he went through the Cleansing. I asked him what situation he chose to Change in and he said Danger. It seemed fitting since he rarely ever considers himself in danger. Wait until he goes to a few more Shadows! He's still concerned. I was a bit taken aback. He really is genuinely concerned about her. I wonder how long they had traveled together, for him to get as attached to her as he has, not that he would admit it. I told him we were on our way back and should be there in a day or so. He nodded and cut the contact.
I told DeWinter who was also mildly worried about DoBlique. Those two might argue from here to the Courts, but they really do look out for each other. Rather than wait to get back to Amber, he Trumped back to the castle drawbridge, so he could look into it right away.
It was later in the day when DeWinter Trumped me back. I could tell from his face that he wasn't happy. I asked him if DoBlique was all right and did he want to come through. He said he'd come through.
Once back, he stomped around the fire we'd set up. DoBlique was fine and she'd come back to Amber. But does she call and tell us she's fine, no? Oh, he was in a temper. It underscored just how worried he had been. I just wished he'd said something earlier. I know how easy it is to get caught up in a Shadow and not know how long a time is passing elsewhere. Martin was once gone for almost a year but intimated when he returned that it had been years for him. Our honeymoon lasted for a year, yet it was only a few weeks in Amber. If he'd said something, we could have done something sooner. I tried to reach DoBlique, but she was blocking the connection.
I waited two hours and she opened the call. She was in the bath and I hastily said I'd try back later.
I didn't tell DeWinter that I had gotten through. If he knew she was coming through, he'd just build up the frustration and anger until he exploded once she appeared. An hour later I tried again. She was dressed and I pulled her through. DeWinter was surprised to see her and marched right over. What the hell have you been doing? DoBlique stepped to the side a bit, to be just behind me. She hastily explained that she'd lost her Trump and couldn't get a hold of us. See, there--an explanation. He wasn't appeased and I invited her to share our fire.
She sat and explained that she and Evander had entered the Shadow she'd teleported from. Something went wrong right away. Evander doubled over in pain and began to shift. She tried a numbing spell to rid him of the pain, but it didn't work. He pushed her aside and told her to run. When she didn't move, he ran off as she approached. She lost him in some woods. She didn't know the Shadow and thought she might need a map, in order to track him.
So, she went into a nearby village and found a cartographer. The problem was, she couldn't walk into the building. The townspeople grew frightened and some called out that she was a vampire. She gave a shudder at that. I understood, since I know how much she loathes them.
She ran--they chased her. They cornered her and by sheer numbers captured her and staked her. She hugged herself as she recalled that she died, really died. She had no idea how long she laid in the crypt they put her in, but she was rescued by a "bitch from Hell" and Owen. When we looked puzzled at her, she corrected herself and said Fiona and Owen. Apparently, Fiona had changed into some sort of demon woman when she entered the Shadow. It was all strange, since nothing happened to her the first time she went there.
The whole thing had been very trying and recalling it all sent DoBlique into crying fits. DeWinter was unnerved, pacing back and forth telling her she didn't need to cry about it, she was fine. He really hates to see people cry. I made a gesture that he should give us a moment and he was grateful for the chance to escape.
DoBlique let me put an arm around her and she cried into my shoulder for a long time. I let her, comforting her while she let it all out. I remember not so long ago when she wouldn't have permitted this. She's changed so much since France. Having a chance to grow up a second time has allowed her to be
freer. Being surrounded by people who touched, who cared, who would actually actively protect her has given her the chance to be more open, more of who she was supposed to be. I had hoped it would benefit her, but I had no idea how much she would have allowed herself to change. I know she is a few centuries my senior, but sometimes I can't help but feel protective. I don't want to lose this DoBlique, a happier DoBlique.
She ruined the gown she was in, so we went to our tent. The only thing that would fit her was one of DeWinter's shirts. She's much more
curved than I am. She felt badly that DeWinter was angry with her. I reminded her that he was more worried than angry and that is how he lets it out. Look how he is with Dastard. He barely speaks, he is as his name and it would never change. That was so much worse. I suggested she would have to make the first move, if she wanted him to stop yelling.
Outside, he remarked that that was his shirt whereupon DoBlique went and gave him a hug, apologizing for worrying him. He just stood there and said okay. She hugged him again, saying she really was sorry. Okay. She hugged him for a third time and I gestured to him that he should hug back. Oh. He gave her one, and DoBlique was all smiles again. He tried to hide it, but I could see he felt better.
I, for one, was very pleased. Fiona had once, and only once, remarked that she thought it was a bad idea to bring DeWinter into Amber, and for me to see him. From DoBlique's words, I got the impression that Fiona and Owen had unintentionally found her. They could have left her there, knowing DoBlique's reputation. And yet, they had brought her back. It speaks volumes. I take no credit, but ever so slowly, opinions are being revised. And, they are giving both DeWinter and DoBlique a chance. I think DeWinter has proven himself, but DoBlique still has a long way to go. But, if my generation likes her and Fiona is giving her a chance, there's still hope. Let's pray that DoBlique has more opportunities. We've only spoken about it obliquely, but I think DoBlique likes Amber and realizes we are not as she'd been taught. I think she's become determined to rise up to the challenge and show us what she's made of.
Black Bottom Beer
We got back to Amber today. We went straight for the castle. DeWinter had a thought he wanted to share with Martin. I sent the weir back to the estate to settle in.
Martin was willing and available to see us. It struck me that I've never had to wait to see him or Random. Curious. He even called in Owen to join us. DeWinter's idea is this: every time Suhuy (I can use his name here) attacks, it is against one of our weaknesses. I lose my identity, DeWinter was caused to seek out Amber even though he wanted nothing to do with us, DoBlique was made into a vampire, which she hates, Fiona was destined to lose her intelligence, etc. All designed to attack at our vulnerabilities. It's easy to figure where he would get his information. He'd been in control of DeWinter, DoBlique, and Sebastian long enough to get all the information he needed. The question is why?
We got into a bit of a debate about it. It is generally thought that Suhuy wants to break us down, but I had another thought which was decidedly more unpopular. What if he's trying to build us up? To rid us of our vulnerabilities. Perhaps to prepare us for something worse. I was thinking about Galantia, and the very powerful beings I've encountered before. I could easily envision something far worse, though it is hard to explain to the others.
I was working under the assumption that he could understand us, even though we are not Chaosian. Owen and I are working from polar theories. She believes he does not understand us and that is why he fails. He cannot foresee how situations occur for us to overcome his plans. It would be a foreign notion to him that we are working together. I, on the other hand, wonder if we are that alien to him. It somehow makes him a lesser opponent and I'm not sure that is a wise thing. I do not want to underestimate him. But, am I investing too much into his experiences and age?
We went around the subject for a while, but speculation is just that. We would accomplish nothing, but at least it is on the table.
Martin said he was initiating some war games with Amber personnel. I would have a brigade housed outside Tiryns. In Amber, that would mean about 400 soldiers. Oh, my. I'd better get some supplies laid in. I asked if the weir could be involved, because I know they would love the opportunity. Martin said sure. We would be on the side of the Greens. The Blues would be "invading" and we would have to stop them from getting through Garnath. I suggested that since the weir are not regular army, they hold the capacity of "commandos" and wear black. Martin agreed, but said they had to have something green, to indicate what side they were on. Was he sure of this? Couldn't we wear black? Nope.
We teased him a bit, having a bit of fun, insisting on black. He teased back, enjoying the camaraderie until he said that he was Regent and he could tell us to get out. Taking that as a dismissal, we rose to go. Owen rose and gave him an elaborate bow, sweeping her arm almost to the floor and backing out. I couldn't resist and did the same. Martin just waved us off, though I think he was trying not to laugh. What stunned him was when DeWinter rose, stood on one leg and hopped backwards out of the room. He stared at the sight, for the first time realizing the DeWinter, indeed, does have a sense of humor. He gaped and we burst out laughing, even Owen. DoBlique was a bit embarrassed about her brother's antics; she just filed out with the rest of us. Owen was so filled with mirth, she offered to buy as a round of drinks should we care to join her. We all agreed to meet in town. DeWinter went with Owen and I took DoBlique to see Evander. I thought he would appreciate seeing her for himself.
We eventually found out that Evander was in a planning session for the upcoming war games. I thought about it for a moment and thought I could get away with interrupting the meeting for a brief moment or two. After all, this did have something to do with my duties, which was for the Crown. I just didn't have to tell them otherwise. I admit it was a stretch, but I so rarely do this, I thought I could get away with it.
We went to the Captain's quarters and learned that the session was being run by a General Hendrickson. I inquired if I might have a moment to speak with Lt. Ericson, if it wouldn't be an imposition. The clerk, knowing who I was, immediately went into the next room.
What I wasn't prepared for was Julian coming out of the room, followed by a three officers. I felt inches tall realizing I had just interrupted another royal in some serious duty. I was keenly aware that perhaps I just broached protocol badly. DoBlique stepped behind me, as if I afforded some protection.
Of course, Julian would never dress me down in front of anyone, so I was spared any humiliation. He introduced me to General Hendrickson. He was an older man, slight of build, like Random. He had long white hair and a high forehead. There was experience there. General Argalf, a woman, much younger that Hendrickson, and a Captain Witt, who was regular army. Hendrickson would be in charge of the Green side. I inquired if he would be interested in utilizing some of my personnel from Tiryns. he was immediately interested. He would get some weir? Certainly. He gave me a smile and a bow. We could certainly talk about it. Julian even went so far to introduce DoBlique, though he left out her rank within the family. That was very thoughtful of him, since it would draw much more attention to her than she should have right now. Once DoBlique saw that her name meant nothing to these people, she relaxed a bit.
I asked Julian if I might speak with Lt. Ericson briefly on a matter I had assigned to him earlier. I just had a few questions. Witt went to get Evander and Julian said I could take all the time I needed, Ericson was not required in the meeting. Evander came through the door in time to hear that. He'd been a secretary for the meeting. I felt some sympathy for the jab, but I couldn't recant my request now that it had been made.
The others went back to planning and Evander stepped out with us. He'd been trying to make eye contact with DoBlique who was watching Julian carefully, if not apprehensively. Outside, he inquired on her health, being as stiff and formal as usual. DoBlique said she was fine and the whole conversation took about two minutes before grinding to a halt. I couldn't ask for more, since we were in full view of a number of other personnel, though out of hearing range. He seemed satisfied and returned to the meeting. DoBlique asked if I was certain it mattered to Ericson that she was all right and I had to assure her it did. Evander had asked, multiple times about her. Even risking a Trump call. She thought about it and decided to take my word for it.
We met the others a tavern near the docks called the Bounty Nets. Owen ordered a round of Black Bottom Beer. I remembered this drink from trolling for Chaosians with Clin. It's very potent.
We had two rounds, while DoBlique sipped hers. I reminded her that she was an Amberite and could tolerate far more than most. Actually, I thought that if we were going to be silly, she might as well join us. She downed hers and went through another to "catch up" with us. With the two, I noticed she was already being 'affected'. Owen left briefly, Trumping to the castle, to leave a notice of our party for anyone who wanted to join us. Then she Trumped back.
After the fifth beer I had the strangest sensation, or rather lack of it, from the knees down. It sort of felt like I was floating by the bar. DoBlique, shorter than all of us, had dragged a box from behind the bar to the front so she could stand on it. I think that notion was inspired by her intoxication.
Grace, Sabrina and Dorimae all arrived at the same time, as our sixth beer was placed in front of us. I had the thought that perhaps I should stop. I dismissed it. I'd never gotten really drunk before, and I couldn't be safer than with everyone else here. Besides, I was curious what it would be like.
Owen and DoBlique told the newcomers they were far behind us, so they should catch up. It was decided that the three of them would order five beers. It might not seem fair, but they downed the beers very quickly, which would make up the difference. The stuff hits quickly and Grace, after all, is not an Amberite. By the second one, she was already bobbing and weaving where she stood. DeWinter was trying very hard to be the responsible one which only made everyone laugh. No one can be responsible with this particular group.
By the seventh beer, Grace was pretty far-gone. She had joined DoBlique on the box and they were dancing precariously together. In fact, the only reason they didn't fall off was because they were clutching each other to prevent that. Actually, they were doing much more than simply holding on to each other. By the end of the round, though, Grace drained her glass, head tilted back to get it all. The rest of her body went with her and she fell backwards to the floor. Owen, seeing what was happening lunged to catch her. Unfortunately, she was not particularly sober either, and she was stupefied. She stared at her outstretched arms wondering how Grace had passed through them. Laughing, we moved Grace to a nearby table and into a chair. DoBlique was disappointed and went to make sure Grace was unconscious. Then she climbed carefully back onto her box as if it was now at least fifteen feet high.
Halfway through the eighth beer I noticed that the bar was now very crowded as the patrons watched the Amberites, betting on various outcomes. I went over to see how everyone was placed in the odds. They predicted that DeWinter would outlast us all. It wasn't hard to see why; he was tall, broadly built. It was a logical bet. I placed my money on Sabrina, who outlasted everyone the last time I watched. DoBlique was favored to fall first, so already someone had lost money. New categories were being added as events unfolded. They were even betting on how many people Owen would fail to catch as they fell.
DeWinter was moving steadily and securely, but he was definitely befuddled. At one point, Dorimae put his hand on her bottom and he told me to cut it out. I was a little surprised to hear myself actually giggle at this and Dorimae continued to have more fun. She even put his hand into her shirt and he again thought it was I. Trying to salvage some of his pride, I pulled his hand free, causing him to lose his balance. He crashed into Dorimae who crashed into Sabrina, who fell onto Owen who knocked DoBlique off her box. I felled four Amberites with one move. It was delightful. By now I couldn't feel my hands. I waved them in front of my face, to make sure they worked, rather curious at the effect. Owen almost hurt herself laughing at me. Strangely, it didn't bother me a bit.
Beer 'ten' arrived. Most of those who had bet on us had lost. Most people can only stomach three, at best. Usually it is only two. And we were at ten with most of us standing. Not for long. Before the round was done, both DeWinter and Dorimae hit meltdown. DeWinter climbed on the bar, to take a quick nap and was out. Dorimae was leaning on the bar, then the wall of the bar, and then she was on the floor. We moved her to the table and I arranged her nicely with Grace, draping their arms over each other.
I called out to the betters, asking who was winning. One man came by and measured each of our shoulders. That confused me. I couldn't tell what category they were assessing. Sabrina was number 1, Owen 2, I was four and DoBlique was three. While I was returning a chair leg viciously ambushed me. I fell to the floor gaining a terrible gash on my forehead from the assault. I got back up as the crowd cheered. I got into a new category: best recovery. Owen came by to see to my forehead, which was bleeding freely. She removed her shirt, using it as a bandage. Actually, I think she was going to tear the hem, but yanked it so awkwardly that most of the shirt's body went with it. She looked rather odd in only torn shirtsleeves. She got more cheers from her act of goodwill. Or was it that she didn't wear anything under her shirt? We did eventually find out about the shoulder measurements. They were really measuring the sway factor for each of us. That meant I was next, right?
DoBlique climbed onto the bar and began to crawl back and forth along the length. I have no idea why. As she passed, she asked me if I changed my mind about DeWinter. Nope, I still liked being married to him. She shook her head. Owen said he grew on a person and DoBlique agreed; he was like mold. I protested and they just laughed. She resumed her travels along the bar. That DeWinter was still laying there deterred her not a bit. She studiously crawled over him.
By the end of the tenth round, DoBlique was at one end of the bar. Unfortunately she didn't stop and went right over the end. Owen tried to catch her, with the same effect as before, though she did get a handful of hair. We moved DoBlique to the table and another chair leg attacked me. We concluded that they were Chaosian chairs, sent to ambush us. I elected to stay by the bar. I now had two gashes on my head.
Beer number eleven arrived. It was an endless mug. No matter how much I drank, it didn't seem to end. I decided I would try and "chug" it, if that term is correct. Finishing it was the last thing I remember.
I woke in Amber, in my rooms. DeWinter wasn't there but I still had a shirt on my head. I got up, bracing myself as the room spun around me. I managed to find my clothing. It was all nearby, but pieces moved as I reached for them. I figured out that if I lay down on the floor, it was much easier to get dressed. Rather than try and bring the boots to me, I went to the boots.
I was just finishing up when DeWinter came in. He stood in the door, just looking at me. I got up and said hello. He said hi, do you want me to get you some food? I waved the thought aside. No need in making him fetch food for me, I could go down to the kitchen and get it myself. He grunted and I peered at him. His face was very bland and he didn't say anything. I made my way to the door, only to be accosted by one of the walls. I pushed it away and told it to get out of my way. Even the door latch was troublesome, though DeWinter gallantly fixed that. I walked along the corridor. DeWinter walked beside me and eventually gave me his arm. Amazingly, the corridor steadied immensely. Usually, with Circumstances, he could make the whole castle shake when he touched me. I had to laugh. Black bottom beer is the answer to Circumstance!
We got to the kitchen and found that after half a sandwich I was no longer hungry. I also learned that it was well into the evening. I'd slept through the entire day! I was curious to know how much I won on the bet I placed. I was sure Sabrina won. But I didn't want to walk all the way into town. So we went to find Owen. She was happy to get her shirt back. She'd thought someone had stolen it. I reminded her she had been tending to my wound. Sabrina had indeed won. I'll have to find out what I got. But later. DeWinter asked if I wanted to take a walk, to clear my head. Things were a bit fuzzy, but I didn't want to walk. Both he and Owen suggested a shower, a cold one. I didn't much like the idea, but they said it would help.
We went back to our rooms, DeWinter still quiet. Why was he so steady? Shower. Oh. I went and got my robe, getting to the showers all by myself. I turned it on, stepped in
and screamed. I couldn't help it. I'd forgotten that the showers, the cold tap, was fed by the underground stream straight from the snowcaps on Kolvir. Lady, it was Cold!
It did clear my head, though. I got back to my rooms to find that DeWinter had started a cozy fire. I shivered in front of it until I was human again, then went back to bed.
I Trumped Max and quickly ended the Trump. He was very busy with a mare. He didn't need me to interrupt!
We got Max back to Amber with four mares. He made introductions and immediately began showing them around Amber. I was pretty certain that they'd not seen any warfare, so I was uncertain whether I should use them as scouts in the upcoming war games. It might be too much for them to deal with, too soon. DeWinter and I have been meeting with General Hendrickson and planning things out. DeWinter's expertise is with larger forces while I've had limited experience in such things. I'm more used to small unit tactics. So, in the interest of cross-learning, he will be in charge of the weir while I advise the brigade. I'm looking forward to this. The brigade is camped outside of Tiryns' walls already. It begins tomorrow.
It's been four weeks since the start of the war games. At first it was pretty quiet. Every few days the Blues would make a feint, and there would be sightings--that sort of thing. We all knew they are trying to wear us down, perhaps to strike where we are not expecting, when we are not expecting it. I have noticed there have been no sightings or movement from the northern route through the mountains. We are estimating that the Blues are almost two times our own force. We hold the western front of Amber, which is all of Garnath. It's a large area and our side is stretched pretty thin.
Did I mention Julian is leading the Blue side? That is worrisome all by itself. There are some benefits. He isn't using the stormhounds; they wouldn't understand the notion of war games. And for whatever reason, the Rangers are part of the Greens.
Most of the soldiers are fairly new and have limited experience. Most were not part of the Patternfall War. Those that were, are officers. We are using clatter swords, wooden constructs that make an awful noise when they hit an opponent. One strike to the head or three to the body, and you are out of the maneuvers. Because the Weir heal so quickly, if they get hit once or twice and retreat, they can go back into the fray. Anyone else is relegated to the surgeon's tent for "healing."
By the third week, we've only had one engagement. I got a message by hawk saying that Arden Green had engaged Blue. Later, another arrived saying Blue had pulled back. I didn't like this one bit. Julian was up to something. But, all we could do was continue to train and prepare.
At the fourth week, Lt. Ericson with three other officers arrived from the Inspector Generals' office. There was a term that was used. The soldiers said they were very "strack." It took a bit to decipher, but it means they are not well liked because they were totally by the book. They were here to make certain that every single regulation and expectation is met to the letter of the law. And that meant everything. They even inspected the weir. I was a tad bit apprehensive. I might have been more worried, but they were not regular army, though they were disciplined. Apparently they remember the training they received under Eric for they passed inspection easily. I was immensely proud of them. Hah! Even though the officers sent the weir children away. I was a little miffed; how else would they learn? When the inspection was done, I pointedly did not notice little weir bodies around the camp. Otherwise, I made sure to support every single evaluation from the IG officers. We had to do this right.
Blues hit hard, today. They came out of Arden and we were clearly outnumbered. It was clear that Julian had hired mercenaries to help his side. So, odd fighters, trolls, all manner of things came at us. The odds were six to one against us. The referees were very upset, frantically going through the rulebooks trying to decide if this was permissible. I took their book and threw it in the river. Julian had every right, and I had every expectation, he would use everything he had to win. That was what war is all about.
We just had to be better.
We took heavy losses, but we did just barely manage to hold the valley. But, I wasn't done yet. Max did volunteer himself and his mares to scout. I readily accepted their support. Hendrickson thought this was wonderful, allowing him to redistribute his men a bit. Especially when I told him that Julian only knew about Max, not the other four. To any outsider, they were just really big horses. He chuckled and planned.
Then I went to DoBlique. I checked the rules. There was nothing there that said we couldn't use magic. The problem was, DoBlique only knew how to use deadly sorcery. She was used to playing for real. There were many trips to the "drawing board" trying to come up with something.
We were hit again. We all felt our stomachs drop as the tides of fighters came at us. At least fifteen to one odds, all against us. But we were ready. DoBlique, the crafty sorceress she is, sent clouds at them that caused minor vomiting and intense itching. They were so preoccupied by their discomfort; it reduced the odds to eight to one. Bless her heart.
The weir had been practicing. They can't use their claws, so instead they had little powder bags. All they had to do was run in, "slash" someone and retreat. So while the regular army moved against the tide, they did a series of hit-and-run maneuvers which were devastating. DeWinter was deservedly proud at how his force contributed to it. He hasn't admitted it, but he is having a great deal of fun.
We held the valley.
We took about a 20% loss. We knew Julian wasn't done, but spirits were very high. I immediately bought out some of the mercenaries who were willing to change sides. That brought our numbers back to full. Then Owen arrived, obstensively to check the "wounded." I don't remember who suggested it, but she was working for Amber's side, that is to say, the Greens. I Trumped my sister Chryseis, got Owen to make a Trump gate, and got 200 Mycenean soldiers. Now we had greater numbers, though it would take a few days for them to be spread through the ranks and for them to learn the rules and how to use clatter swords. But they are the most disciplined soldiers we have. I was pleased to see that one of the Mycenean officers was Captain Seglum, whom I haven't seen in a long while.
I was preoccupied with thinking up something demoralizing to Blue. It was a tricky thing. The Blues are Amberites, after all. Anything that I might use wouldn't be effective against them. For example, having the image of a unicorn hanging above us like a giant standard wouldn't bother the Blues at all. Just the opposite, in fact. But, if Julian was going to hit as hard as before, we needed a psychological advantage.
Did I mention DoBlique is crafty? I was in Tiryns when she teleported in. At least this time there was no crater though she did set the rug on fire. DeWinter jumped to put it out, berating her soundly for the damage. She was unperturbed, though she wondered at the odd effects Amber has on her magic. But she was ecstatic. She'd come up with an idea and we set about testing it.
The Blues hit once more. This time the odds were seven to one against us. They were not prepared for what hit them. First of all, our numbers had increased, not diminished from the last battle. DoBlique's magic turned the tide. She had adapted her teleportation spell to target metals. When you think of all the metal holding a horse's tack together, if would effectively hinder any cavalry. But she went one better. She targeted the trumpeters. That meant no signals, no orders. All the trumpets just vanished. The whole attack became a mess as no orders went in either direction. Two thousand fighters thrown into disarray. It was a mess. They had no momentum and we held the valley once more.
Of the 2000, we "killed" 1,200 and capture a little over 600. They couldn't even retreat. Morale couldn't be higher.
Spirits are still high. This was the last week and we've seen no other action. The Blues are using other avenues to enter Amber. Garnath is just not cost-effective.
We celebrated tonight. Green has won. I'm a bit stunned at Garnath's success. I just hadn't thought we could really do it. There is a Officer's Dance for the victors. The mercenaries have bought clothing for the affair, surprised that not only have they been given payment and food, but that they have also been invited. Garnath Greens' have adopted DoBlique as their mascot. They even went so far as to buy her a green gown, a costly one for that matter, for her to wear. She was dismayed because she doesn't look good in green. It did make her look rather sickly. She's too blond and pale to pull the color off. But the two of us worked with cosmetics and accessories, minimizing the effect. But she couldn't hurt their feelings and not wear it. At the dance, she was at no loss for partners. I sometimes forget she's a very beautiful woman. Even the weir attended and most of them danced with her. Julian formally commended General Hendrickson, to much applause. The rest of the night was spent in dancing and merry-making.
A pleasant day with games and a beach
DeWinter, DoBlique, Owen and I were all called to meet with Martin. He was very pleased with how the war games turned out. It was a good chance to put a lot of training into practical use. In fact, he plans on having one every year for a while, to keep everyone's edge. It thought it was an excellent idea, just so long as I never have to go against Benedict. Then the test would only be a matter of how many men and women I can keep alive. But, it has given me a few ideas for the next time, assuming I can continue with guarding Garnath, at least for one more time. Martin did mention that the brigade and the mercenaries put in a formal request to be known as Tiryns' Green, as opposed to Garnath Green. I was deeply flattered and hope we can continue to live up to their expectations. Martin also remarked that no one in the family has been attacked in two months. He saw this as a good sign. It just told me Suhuy might be up to something really big.
Or, I've been around DeWinter too long.
We didn't have much time to talk. A steward came in to say that Gerard, Julian, and Benedict were here to see the Regent. I admit I was very curious and wanted to stay, but we were dismissed. They entered as we left and I didn't get an opportunity to thank Julian for the wonderful learning exercise he provided during the war games. I missed the chance because I thought it would have sounded like bravado.
Instead Owen took us down to play some tennis. DeWinter liked the short skirts and I wasn't completely opposed to his own attire. DoBlique stayed on the side, not wanting to burn in the sun, and watched from under a huge umbrella. It didn't take DeWinter long before he got the rules straight. Then he and I played against Owen, who is still very good.
After lunch we played with something called a 'Frisbee'. It was a simple game though DeWinter had some difficulty with it. He gripped it too hard and threw with too much strength to maintain much control. Actually, it kept going off in a 45-degree angle from where he was aiming. I made some attempt to show him but he very nicely listened and then ignored it. He wanted to work through it on his own. I think I was being a bit pushy.
We'd played near the shore, so I got to introduce Kai-Revere to the ocean. We undressed and swam. He didn't like it much at first, but by the end of the day he was playing with the water. Kai is about eight months old and he's still not talking. This was worrisome until Owen explained that Amberite children take a long time to begin talking.
We should just remember that he understands what is going on around him, he is processing information, and he'll probably not talk much until sometime towards his second year. Physically, he is progressing quickly. We can attest to that. He's beginning to crawl everywhere. Just before the war games, I'd been in the habit of leaving him with the weir women or Mother while I dealt with business, like the investigation. Then I was chagrined to realize that he really wasn't distinguishing me from the other women. The selfish part of me didn't much like that, so I've taken to carrying him in a sling in front of me wherever I go. I must have looked a sight, carrying him, during the war games. He is starting to crawl every where so I have to keep part of my attention on what he is doing, at all times, unless he is with DeWinter. Owen did stress that he might take longer to speak than the others, since there are a number of languages being spoken at Tiryns: Mycenean (which is only 50% like Thari), Thari, Weir and, at times, equine and canine. Hm, Kai must be having some difficulty sorting it all out. I've taken to speaking Thari with him most times. In the last few weeks, he's adjusted himself to my schedule and has become comfortable with my continued presence.
At one point while we were resting DeWinter called me over to the umbrella that DoBlique and Kai were under. Kai was curled up near her shoulder, one fist in his mouth, the other almost over his head. DoBlique was napping. He whispered, "Look, one fell blow and he's knocked her out. That's my boy!" It was all I could do to muffle my laugh, so I didn't wake them, but it was a funny sight.
We did resume the swimming. It was later in the afternoon and Kent had joined us. He'd missed the party at the tavern, but apparently he couldn't get in the door. I do have some recollection that it had been awfully crowded, but we'd been given enough room that I hadn't realized that many people were watching. Oh, my.
Dolphins swam near and I said hello to them, one of the very few phrases Llewella once taught me. They answered back. Kai awake again, I took him into the water and the dolphin came over to inspect him. They were very gentle, they understood he was a baby. One swam up and squirted a bit of water into Kai's face. Kai just smiled and splashed and the dolphin chattered a laugh at him. Others jumped up and did flips calling Kai's name; they liked it because it was easy from them to pronounce.
Owen took the opportunity to ask them how Llewella was doing but something in the translation went wrong because they all got excited and left. A few minutes later, Llewella Trumped Owen. The dolphin had flash-swum to Rebma. What Owen had said was that Moiré was pregnant. Llewella had corrected the misunderstanding. She came through to the beach. She stood there quietly, a bit taken aback, I think, at DoBlique's presence. Then she greeted all of us and came to see Kai. She thought he was a lovely child, even though he was a boy. I couldn't quite smother a grin, but thanked her. DeWinter wasn't sure if he was insulted or not. I was surprised when she took Kai to her breast, for I had no idea she'd any children. Then she spoke a bit with DeWinter, giving him a compliment, and then spoke to Kent before Trumping back to Rebma for a meeting. I was content with the visit. Llewella doesn't talk with anyone she doesn't like, which might mean any number of her family, but the fact that she greeted both DoBlique and DeWinter spoke volumes, so to speak.
I've asked DeWinter if he could teach me a bit more of hand-to-hand combat. He's agreed, so we've gotten onto a schedule of, as he calls it, 'daily wife-beating.' It's an accurate statement. He's very, very good, much better than I am. So, I end up on the ground more often than not. It took the first two weeks before I've been able to minimize the pain levels. Now he alternates the mornings. One morning he'll throw me around the practice circle, the next I'm working out with a bag of sand he's suspended from one of the trees. I have no intention of giving up, but I hope I'm getting better.
Evander is missing
While working at the bag, I got a Trump call. I continued to workout while taking the call. DeWinter was holding the bag, so if I'm attacked, he would know when I stopped striking it. Claw was to one side. She'd asked DeWinter if she could join the class since she wants to teach the others. He's agreed, so we are taking turns.
The Trump was from Gerard. He would have cut the call, seeing as I was busy, but I told him it was all right. He asked what I was doing, and I said DeWinter was teaching me to improve my hand-to-hand skills. He thought that was very unusual. In his experience, not many men are comfortable enough with themselves to teach their wives something like that. I didn't understand at first, but now I wonder if he didn't mean that some spouses don't like to take such a role with their other halves. I know many that would take it personally if their spouse hit them. Still, DeWinter isn't like other men. I asked if he wanted to come through, and he agreed. We went to my study to talk when Gerard said this had to be private. DeWinter had no difficulties with this and said he'd be in the orchard working with Claw.
Gerard was concerned that Lt. Ericson is missing. Has been gone for 37 hours. Since Evander has taken the route of trying to be the perfect officer, he has no friends, no confidants, and no "hangouts". Gerard also believes that Evander wouldn't have escaped. He's had ample opportunity to do so, and hasn't yet. I agreed with him. I wouldn't have sent Evander with DoBlique if I thought he'd break his word to the King.
The question is where could he have gone? Gerard said he has this ability, he called it a people-finder. If he knows someone, he can find him or her within reason. If they aren't in the Shadow or in Amber in this case, he can sometimes get a directional on the target. He's certain Evander isn't in Amber. He thought that I might have some idea of what he was doing since Evander had been working with me for a bit. I reminded him I wouldn't have continued without letting someone know. He thought as much, but he had hoped he was wrong.
I won't lie. I'm worried. Why would Evander be targeted for kidnapping? He wouldn't have left Amber voluntarily. But no one, or very few know he is an Amberite. I wondered if he'd lied about talking to Vis about the Change. Could that have altered his perceptions? I called Vis in. When I indicated to him that I didn't mind Gerard hearing what he had to say, he told me that he checked Evander out and found there had been no Change to harm his spirit. Hm, that meant it was entirely the Shadow that had altered Evander and DoBlique on that occasion.
I had little information to give Gerard. Gerard did tell me the only person Evander had been seeing was Mother. That didn't surprise me so much. Even though Evander had once claimed he didn't care about her, I thought he was lying, even if only a little bit. And he wouldn't want to miss seeing his son. But, I couldn't ask her since Gerard didn't want anyone to know Evander was missing. That included DeWinter, at least for the next twenty-four hours. He thanked me for my time and Trumped out.
I went back to our practice, though I was more than a little preoccupied. It wasn't very long when I got another Trump call, this time from Owen. Yes, DoBlique is here. Apparently she was blocking. I went to wake her up though she was already awake and she Trumped Owen. I few seconds later, she cut the contact saying it wasn't Owen. Perhaps I should try? I did so and got Owen. Apparently, Gerard had confirmed he was with Owen by putting her in a shoulder lock. Owen, in turn had attacked mentally, giving him a painful confirmation she was his daughter. If it had been Suhuy, he wouldn't have survived. It made sense and Owen Trumped us both to her.
All Gerard had figured out was that Evander had taken to scouting out, on his off-duty times, where the nine-killers might be. He might have learned something, say who was sending them, and was taken away for his troubles. Gerard wanted to go after Evander, but thought having a mage nearby would be useful. He did have some doubts that DoBlique could withstand a Hellride. True, she does look very small and delicate, but she does have some large brothers to contend with. She's tougher than the lot of them. She just smiled smugly at Gerard. All right, he'd give her a chance to prove herself. To give her an idea, I let her see some of the surface memories of the Hellride I took with Morgenstern. She turned pale, but she didn't back down.
While Gerard was getting a horse and supplies ready, Owen transformed DoBlique's clothing into something more useful. Long gowns are just not suitable for Hellriding or possible combat. Owen even placed a little emblem on the black leather jacket; it was a burning skull with the word 'Hellrider' at one shoulder. DoBlique liked that touch. We met Gerard who was now in full chain mail and they were off. The last I saw, she was holding on tightly as they raced off. I heard a faint "yahooooo" come from DoBlique as they rode away. Yes, I think Gerard will have little complaint.
I would have gone back to Tiryns except that no one was accepting Trump calls. Not even with the codes we had established. I did get Max, but he was off scouting. I would have walked home, but Owen informed me that now there were packs of the nine-killers running around Amber. When those monsters get into Amber, a few return home to bring more in. That is how they overrun different Shadows. Wonderful. There have been a number of attacks on people, mostly around Arden. Tiryn is close enough that I'd be in danger. A quick inquiry to Martin and I got four of the castle guards. These men had not been involved with the war games and I could tell they were hoping some of the creatures would attack. No such luck.
When I got back, DeWinter wanted to know why I was gone for so long. I told him no one was accepting calls and he realized he hadn't told me of their new system. Oh really? He explained, a little sheepishly, a rather involved code, incorporating Morse code, the weir male hierarchy and Amber time. I took a deep breath. Fine. It should work fine as long as I always know what time it is in Amber, even when I am in Shadow. And the Rank of every male Weir, and Morse code. Sometimes he's too clever for his own good.
I got a bit of petty revenge by letting him figure out that DoBlique isn't here. He realized it when she wasn't present for dinner. I saw him discreetly search the house and grounds and he even got some of the weir involved. It was when we were retiring that I did tell him, oh, I forgot to mention that DoBlique is off in Shadow with Gerard. He looked at me, knowing precisely why I hadn't told him, and got a pillow thrown in my general direction.
Do you know even Amberite pillows cannot stand up to a good pillow-fight? But it was fun.
Gerard did call to say I could tell DeWinter now. They were on the trail so I suppose that DoBlique passed his little test. If I know DoBlique, she just ended up telling him to go faster.
I do have a dilemma. I'm finding out that I'm not the most sedentary person alive. Or rather, I hate having nothing to do. Garnath functions well on its own, it has for centuries. There is nothing to investigate and well; I'm growing bored. Even DeWinter has said he's never stayed in one place for very long. But we can't just go out into Shadow. Even if I didn't think Martin needed a show of support during his Regency, I can't leave Kai-Revere, nor put him in danger. Neither can I put us in danger. I'd like Kai-Revere to grow up with both parents for as long as possible.
But, we're also facing many years before Kai is grown. At least ten until I'd feel comfortable about leaving for any long stretch of time. I know Lilith is out there waiting to get her hands on him. DeWinter and I did talk about having children in general. I just can't see us spending upwards of sixty years here raising three children. And I do want three, if not more, but the others have to wait until the next century. I also do not want our children to be strangers to each other. Even a decade apart, they'd have little in common. Just look at some of the relationships the Elder Amberites have with each other. We want to avoid that. But, if I must stay here, we can have them close together. Even with three children, a couple of year apart would only keep us here a few more years. Then they'd be almost to maturity and we could take them with us. I think we are agreed on it. Now we just have to get something to do. Perhaps DeWinter and I could talk to Martin
maybe he'll have something for us.
I've started by ordering supplies from Amber and Shadow. I'm making hot air balloons. I won't be riding in them, but DeWinter's use of them in Paris has given me some ideas. They would be wonderful aerial reconnaissance, or they could even be good for attacks in the next war games. I've ordered a lot of silk, and three big baskets. Putting a full bladder of water underneath and we could treat it as 'oil.' A few "flaming" arrows and it could take out quite a few people. It seems odd, but no one has used them in Amber before now. I'm making a large shelter to hide them, because I want them to be a surprise.
I just have to resign myself to the fact that I cannot go off into Shadow for a while, even if it is to look for my Father. It grates, but even Evander would be very angry if I did such a thing. I just hope Gerard and DoBlique find him. There might be answers in town, though I doubt it would be that easy.
I love Kai, but motherhood bores me dearly.
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