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Cassandra's Diary.26

Day 239/19

It's been a week since the party and things have mostly been quiet. Simone and I have had a few chances to talk. Generally, it's been ordinary topics, things that have an interest with one of us. We've skirted the issue of Sebastian. She, I think, wants to talk about him, and we have, but it's been rather difficult to avoid saying something…impolite. I'm not even sure if I've succeeded with that much.

He's so consumed with having control over others, to be secure in the knowledge that they are on 'his side'. She made mention that Sebastian had given her an ultimatum: either she return with him to “their” shadow to do “their” work and give up Amber and the rest of the family, or she should not bother coming back at all. Now, most people might see such a threat as being an exaggeration. But, she's Chaosian. She sees it as a literal choice. I can very well imagine how difficult a choice it was for her: Her father, or the rest of the Family. Hm, sounds familiar.

She decided that his work in his Shadow was just that—his. She wanted to see these people he'd come to almost hate. She wanted to know her family, and while she didn't directly contradict Sebastian, I think she knows his opinions and observations are not always reliable, especially when it comes to people. So, when I had extended an invitation, she decided to take me up on it. This way she'll have some autonomy as to where she can go and she'll be near her grandfather and great-grandfather.

Still he was furious with her, and I know he blamed me for subverting his daughter away from him. This was the first time they'd seen each other since then. He ran into us at one of the Holiday's events and greeted Simone as if all was well; as if he hadn't virtually disowned her. He spoke a few words to her, ignored me and blithely went on about his business. I could tell she was very confused. I heard later in the day that he'd already left Amber, no goodbyes, no conversation, nothing. I wonder if Sebastian had so easily written his only daughter off. Perhaps it won't matter all that much. She has Martin and Random as kin, she's welcome for as long as she wants at Tiryns, and the rest of the family likes her, so she can move around and see then at will. I suspect that I won't be seeing much of her, after all.

Simone did ask me how she did at the party; if she'd made any horrible gaffs that she wasn't aware of. I told her no. We talked a bit about her and Sebastian. I tried to allude to the fact that some aspects of Evander and my relationship had some striking similarities, but I'm not sure she caught it. If she did, she didn't want to talk about it much. It's a shame. Sometimes I'd like to talk about it, to see how other people see it.



Day 248/19
A night on the town with Grandma catching Chaosians

Tatasha's been getting a bit bored around Tiryns. Admittedly, it's a busy, but routine sort of place. Lots of work, lots of projects that can interest people, but…it's hard to explain. I fear she's beginning to drive Mother to distraction. Byslamia has been running interference with Mother while I handle Tatasha. I had an idea that tonight I'd take her into town to help keep up with my contacts. She was agreeable.

I got her appropriately plain clothing and did her hair and makeup. When we looked suitable we headed into town. She thought it all adventurous. I didn't think she quite understood that we looked like "working girls". I was worried how she'd respond when she got her first proposition. After all, she's not known as a goddess here.

I shouldn't have worried, we got lots of propositions, especially since we almost looked like a matched set. It seems that is desirable in places like this. She loved every minute of it. I largely kept in contact with a few acquaintances. We went a bit further into some of the more “seedy” sections of town. There was a new place, I've forgotten the name, where all of the serving women were topless. I hadn't seen that in Amber before. What made the place stand out, though, was that I saw Clin sitting at a table across the room talking with a man.

What could he be doing here? How had he found his way here? Why had he left his family again. I was worried that he'd realized that the family I'd left him with were probably not his, but another Shadow copy. I wondered if he was angry with me. I went over and called his name. He turned, but I saw that it wasn't really him. There were subtle differences, but it was unmistakably another person. His name though, was Clin. I was starting to wonder if that wasn't a title, rather than a name. And when I'd called his name and he turned, it was unmistakably shock in his eyes.

To keep anonyminity, I introduced Tatasha and myself as Murder and Mayhem. Tatasha opted to be Mayhem. Clin's companion was agreeable to having us around, but first we had to quietly to wait at the bar until they finished their business. Assuming we were backdancers, he gave us 3 silvers to retain our interest. That's quite a bit of money for what we were supposed to be, and for where we were.

Intrigued, we went to the bar. The odds of two people of that race stumbling into Amber was odd. Enough so, I decided to see what I could learn. They finished their meeting. Every once in a while, he'd glance over my way. I watch him, he watched me and was getting increasingly upset by the minute. I warned Tatasha to be ready to run. I had a feeling he would try and get out of there in a hurry. Clin handed over a large purse across the table, the little man took it. The deal is done and sealed with a drink.

Clin headed for the back door, I followed. I got out the back door but found myself looking at an empty alley. Suddenly, I felt a hand over my mouth and one around my head. I pulled my knife and cut into the wrist as I was being lifted up. I could feel the knife hit muscle and bone. I kicked out but never scored. It was then that I realized belatedly the attack was coming from above me. Clin was suspended from the building side. I moved the knife up and around. I felt a loud screech as my assailant was seriously hurt, then the hands seemed to melt around my face. Shapeshifter!

I was dropped, only about 7 or 10 feet, but I had a horrible pain running down the back of my head. It could have come from the wrenching motion he made before he dropped me, or from when I hit my head on the cobblestones. Either way I was in trouble. Howling came from the roof as he moved up the wall, spikes giving him purchase as he moved.

The little man came out and found me. My body was numb, I could only give a feeble reaction with my arms and legs. He didn't like what he saw. All I could feel was some tingling. He went to find a doctor, though he said he didn't have much hope. Tatasha had followed him and wasn't too happy with the way things were turning out. He left and Tatasha tried to use my Trump deck to get more immediate help. It was too dark for her to contact anyone.

That was when I saw the silhouette at the roof. It was still there, waiting. I could see it starting back down the wall, probably to finish the job. I warned Tatasha, but I couldn't move, not even to crawl away. The danger, being exposed, set off my Circumstances. I could feel the energy building.

It landed and Tatasha attacked. 110 pounds meeting 260 pounds might seem to be an unfair fight. It was. Not that Tatasha didn't do her best. She really connected a few times. Now I know how I look when I'm really angry and ready to kill. No, I think she's scarier. She wasn't holding back.

Just as it broke one of her legs, I felt the tendons in my neck finally pop into place and I could move. I got up and distracted him away from Tatasha. He was now armored, no wonder she was having such a hard time. He had red eyes and lots of teeth and was now towering more that seven feet. To bad I can't Change in Amber.

We fought, neither gaining much over the other. My best opportunity came when I made a feint and went for the eyes. Then, when he parried, I leapt into him, not away. I got right up to him and drove the long knife into his eye. He brought his arms around my waist and began to crush. I pushed my whole weight into the knife and he began to convulse. Finally, he dropped to the ground dead.

My armband went off again. I was ready. I was sure I had a Chaosian here, but he still wasn't moving. We had to get into better lighting to examine him. No, the movement came from the mouth of the alley. The little man had returned. And, surprisingly, he actually did bring a physician. Tatasha's leg was broken in three places and the assailant was dead. The little man introduced himself as Vicious Sid, or some such name. He wasn't happy when I told him this was his drinking companion. Since he was dead, Sid shared what the contract was for. By his description, he was supposed to "rough up" Martin. Sid wasn't happy when I told him who fit the description of his target. Messing with the royals, as he put it, was a stupid idea. I realized he didn't know who I was.

Of course, I was disguised as a prostitute.

He was surprised that I could move. Injuries like I had with my neck were almost always fatal. I shrugged, said the lights played tricks and he let it drop. I told him I was going to get some help to take the armored one up to the castle. I was going to collect some sort of reward for this night's work. He cautioned me not to make myself too noticeable; it was bad if the royals notice anyone. He went off to see about getting splints. I opened the back door to the tavern and used the light to get DeWinter to come through.

He picked up the Chaosian and I picked up Tatasha. Sid came back, really surprised to see DeWinter. Well, actually, all he could see was a really large, tall man, single-handedly picking up a 260 pound shaper.

We walked off for a bit, until I was sure we were out of sight, then we Trumped to the castle. I told the guards we had a dead Chaosian, not that I was going to take any chances. It was unlikely that this could be the Chaosian who'd been attacking Amber and the Golden circle, but it could be an accomplice.

I put Tatasha down just as my armband went off. The shaper had woken up and kicked out, landing DeWinter into the moat. DeWinter, not taken completely unawares, did get a hold on the Chaosian and drag him down with him. They stayed down, so I dived in, shouting for the guards.

I hadn't realized I had quite a few cuts and scrapes. I found out when they bled into the water, drawing Something from the depths. More than one thing. They felt like eels sliding past me. One opened jaws and attached itself to a cut in my side. I found DeWinter, dazed, and rapidly got us to the surface, kicking other eel-like things out of the way. The guards helped us out. Attached to my side was a 9-foot eel. I ripped open its mouth and flung it back. It'd taken about an orange-size hole from my side.

I pushed water out of DeWinter, and had just gotten him breathing when an alarm came from the other side of the castle. I ran over there. Somewhere along the way, I managed to acquire a sword. The armored thing was there. It made a strange sound and nine-killers came from the garden maze. I diverted the guards to deal with the things. I went for the Chaosian. I think it was the best odds all around for our side.

I took me about three minutes to realize I was better than this Chaosian. Much better. I can't say that too often, so it was a happy realization for me. Still, he could heal, so it took a bit to inflict enough damage that his healing, or shifting, couldn't accommodate it. Bits of armor fell and blood flowed.

He yielded. I demanded he call off the nine-killers. He did so. Then I offered him a choice: his word he would comply with the protocols of being a hostage. We wouldn't hurt him if he didn't try and escape, nor attack. Rather like the rules of hospitality, but with enemies. He hesitated for a second. The guards lifted their swords ready for a word from me. He agreed. He was well aware how close he was to dying. I made him lose the armor. What we saw was a well-built man, perhaps 150 pounds, rather non-descript, with white hair and a very narrow face. He called himself the Beastmaster. Wouldn't you know it?

March, Kinkel, and Random arrived. Random had the Chaosian taken to the dungeon. DeWinter suggested he escort me to the infirmary.

Really, the rush of the fight hadn't left me. In fact, I had no desire to see the infirmary. I did, however, have a desire to see DeWinter.

I let him start me towards the kitchen entrance, then I diverted us to the gardens. Circumstances went into full mode when I realized that nine-killers might be in there with us. A word or sound from that Chaosian, and we could be attacked. DeWinter hadn't a clue what I was about until we got there and it was too late then. Sigh, I'll never know what his plans were.

One thing to note, Tir appeared in the sky above us. At least, I think it did. There was no moon and I was the only one to see it, I think. And the stars Sang.

Then I passed out from the pleasure.

Day 249/19
Healing

I woke up in Glantri, briefly as they were patching up my side. I was remonstrated for not only injuring myself, but letting the wound open repeatedly. I nodded, yes, I am a Bad Amberite. Naughty Amberite. Then I was allowed back to return to Amber.

Tatasha was well, though she didn't realize she can't heal in Amber the way she does in Aes. She was appalled at the idea that her leg will take 4 weeks to heal rather than a few days. It seems she said she wouldn't return home until not only she could walk, but the guards that fought beside us could walk as well. I went to find her rooms.

It was late and no one about. Rather that wander up and down the hall looking for someone, I went to ask Lord Hendren where the linen closet was. Why drag someone out of bed when I can do for myself? Hendren was amused with the notion, enough to not only show me where it was, but to help me set up a room for Tatasha. I suppose that was a gaff. Ah, well.

I went to find Random and DeWinter. They were both in the dungeon. I went to the Chaosian's cell. Neither of them could see me, and I don't know if the Beastmaster could. He was chained to the wall with an iron helm around his head. Slits existed for him to see through and to eat. Nothing more. They were just finishing up so I didn't learn anything. We walked upstairs. Random was saying how impressed he was with DeWinter. A few whispered words with a lot of Angry Attitude (which DeWinter does so well) and their prisoner folded almost immediately. He said DeWinter was almost as good as Julian. DeWinter wasn't sure he was happy with the comparison.

DeWinter and I went riding up Mount Kolvir. We just wanted to get a way for a few hours. We'd put off having an anniversary celebration. We spent the rest of the night riding, talking, walking, loving. I gave him a scarab torque I had made. Nothing ostentatious. He could hide it under his shirt if he wished, or wear it exposed, as he saw fit. I'd remembered it had some meaning for him, especially in relation to our marriage, long-life, symbol of eternity or something, and prosperity. He seemed to like it. And, I gave him a simple book. It was a collection of pictures of everyone in the estate and the closest family members to us. Anniversaries are for us to remember what we have and what we've become a part of. He really liked the book.

We got back to Tiryns a few hours before dawn. We slipped into the house and raided the kitchen. Actually, we ate a huge breakfast and then proceeded to make breakfast for everyone else as they woke up. We were pretty coordinated. Then, we slept.

Day 264/19
Clandestine Meetings

I got some of the information Random got from the Chaosian. Benedict and Random led the interrogation. For one thing, Clin was really Clin. The whole time he was helping me find Chaosian spies, he was one himself. I was furious! How he must have laughed. Oh, I wished I'd killed him. I must have seemed so gullible. He basically outlined what they had done. No new information, but it confirmed what we already knew.

I wanted to go back into the shady parts of town.

I took DeWinter with me. I tried to make him scruffy, but with so little notice, it was hard. If he could just grow a beard in an hour it would be easy. I mussed his hair, got him some coarse clothing, and dirtied him up a bit. He still drew attention, but I thought it would be fine. It would detract from what I was doing.

We started at the Cracked Pot and I found a note from Sid, saying he got some information. Interesting. Oh, and the bartender, Sam, had sent one of the kitchen boys after to Sid to see that he was on the up and up. Problem is, the kitchen boy, Robbie, hadn't returned. It's been two days. Damn. Well, I hope he's still alive. Now I would have to track down Sid.

We trolled through the streets. DeWinter was becoming increasingly surprised at the places I've been frequenting from time to time. I don't think he suspected. All I was doing was eliminating each place, one by one, until, I hope, we run into Sid. Eventually, we made our way to Krazy Kali's (the topless bar) to find Sid.

I'd heard during the interrogation, Benedict was decided unhappy by the fact there was such an establishment in Amber. His tone to Random said it all. No matter that Random was King, to Benedict, this was His town and he didn't like what he was happening in it.

We went into the bar separately.

The waitress I ended up talking to was Kicker. She pegged DeWinter almost immediately: mercenary, recently on the outs, or slumming. I asked how she knew that and she pointed out his sword. Quality blades are obvious and DeWinter would never take an inferior blade. I should have thought of that.

Kicker had a message for me. Sid wanted to talk with me when I was around. He'd left word with Kicker and she agreed to lesd us to Sid's house. There were lots of twists and turns. DeWinter was following, but I don't know how we could not get separated. It was a maze.

Eventually we got to a building. She rapped and the door opened an inch. I could sense one of the men behind the door, about DeWinter's size. After a few curt words, Sid came downstairs to escort us up. I wasn't going up unless I knew he was there. I think I might have impressed them by knowing about the man behind the door. Later, I learned that their names were Bucko and Big George.

Upstairs, the first sight that drew my attention was the male hanging upside down in a corner. He had a sack drawn over his face. By his build, he looked to be rather young and he was still breathing. I suspected I found the missing Robbie. Sid continued to talk, not noticing where my attention was, or he didn't care. Or it sent me a message. Sid said he'd found some rumors. The Chaosian was said to be working with a silent partner here in Amber. One person worked with them to gain entry from the eastern part of the city and helping them move around the countryside. East side? That's wine country, not farm land, and furthest from Arden. Not a usual direction for entry. I told him about the Chaosian and made up some story about getting in good with the Royals, you never know when that might be useful. Actually, it's almost the truth. I omitted the fact that I was one of those Royals. He shook his head and told me I was being foolish. The royals are a pesky bunch. Once they notice you, you're in trouble. They come around asking you to do things for them, usually getting mixed in something dangerous to one's life and limb.

Very informative.

He said there was once this man who was stealing naval supplies and Gerard had found out about it. This man had two attack dogs, really vicious ones. When Gerard cornered him in his place, he sent the dogs to attack Gerard. Gerard threw the dogs out of the third-story window and then threw the man after them. Sid tried to impress upon me that the thief weighed over 200 pounds and Gerard threw him like he weighed nothing. I smiled at Sid but assured him I could take care of myself.

I'd wondered why he was helping me. I wasn't paying him, nor was he working for anyone else. Just about them he told me I was rather attractive. Ah, he was interested in me. I put him off a bit, first alluding to the large man he saw in the ally and then admitting he was my husband. That perplexed him. What was a backdancer doing being married? What man would allow his wife to keep working? I said he was a very understanding fellow, but I also wasn't what he thought. A few oblique words, some obfuscation, and he came to the conclusion I was an assassin. I let him think that and assured him I wasn't intending on intruding into his work, which is the same thing.

Random had told me Sid sometimes worked for him, and he was dangerous. I had no intention of challenging him any time in the future. In a strange way, I rather liked Sid.

At any rate, I put off his suspicions and got him to agree to set up a meeting with another person. One who'd seen the Chaosians move around Amber. Then I left, taking Robbie with me. It took some doing to assure Sid that Robbie knew nothing and even if he did, he wouldn't say anything. We actually made a bet—50 gold to his 5, that Robbie wouldn't talk. If he did, I paid up and Sid would kill him. We determined that three months was long enough time to see what the kid did. It was all rather silly. Robbie was hanging right there. He could hear what would happen to him if he said anything. Still, Sid let me take him away. We went and found DeWinter. He was rather close, but hadn't wanted to try and get inside. Good thing, too. I filled him in and on the way to the Cracked Pot, I tried to impress upon Robbie not to tell anyone anything about what happened. Robbie knew who I was. I was hoping that my royal status would induce him to comply. I wasn't sure he understood just how precarious his position was. DeWinter made it simple for the boy to understand. He asked Robbie if he'd ever slept with a woman. Robbie said no. DeWinter said he wouldn't if he didn't keep his mouth shut. Robbie stopped talking immediately.

We had a drink at the Cracked Pot. Sam, the bartender, looked a bit shocked at my appearance, but he recovered himself. He agreed to keep taking messages for me. I flirted with DeWinter in true backdancer fashion. I caught a surprised laugh out of him. I think acting wasn't one of the skills he thought I possessed.

We went back to the castle, washed up and had a lovely night drinking brandy in my room in front of the fireplace.

Day 265/19

Claw somehow learned about our upcoming meeting and wanted to go. Someone must overheard what we were saying. I won't use the term eavesdropping. Actually, Claw insisted on going. I could see where this was heading. I've given quite a bit of leeway to Claw over the years and I think she felt she was the dominant of the two of us. Rather like wolves, they are. I have no intention of taking her or any of them with us. First, they don't fight as a group and when it comes to Chaosians, we'd have to work together. Second, DeWinter and I are more than a match for what I expected. Third, I had to establish that I was really in charge of this house. She wouldn't take my refusal. She said we'd have to fight about it if I wanted to stop her. That came to no surprise, so I said I'd think about it.

Day 269/19
Boom!

Kai-Revere woke me today. He was sitting on our bed asking if he could have a clock-dog. He and those darn gorhaz. I told him no, but he's trying to come up with some reason to get me to get him one. I tried to divert his attention. I told him how about a little brother or sister. It almost worked.

He asked: A sibling and a dog?

Sigh.

I spent the day playing with Kai. Mother and the rest were surprised I was pregnant again. But, they starting thinking about preparations.

At midnight, DeWinter got a Trump call from Dalt. Actually, it was something like a warning. An army was invading Begma. He alluded that he was with the army, but was giving us a warning. I supposed we ought to tell Random.

Kai was still up and begged us to take him with us. I couldn't see the harm, even though it was late. So we Trumped to the castle. I picked up my mail at the master clerk's office.

Kai made certain he said hello to every single guard he saw along the way. Most of them smiled as he went by. It took a while for Kai to get up to the third floor, but he made it. I got to read my mail while he climbed. As we were walking along the corridor, Kai got it into his head to launch himself at DeWinter's knees. DeWinter was caught off guard and went down quickly, Kai looking triumphant. The guards made sure they didn't smile or laugh.

The mail was mostly invitations. One from Flora to visit her for tea. One from Benedict before he left. One from Evander—he was coming up for a month's leave and he was inquiring if Mother was taking any holiday soon. I'll have to pass it on.

We filled Random in. He questioned why Dalt would bother giving us a warning. It wasn't his style and he'd never done that before. We couldn't answer that, DeWinter hadn't time to go into details over the Trump. We tried to reach Dalt, no answer. Random tried to reach March, who was in Begma, again no answer. We talked about it for a few minutes but were interrupted by the alarm bell going off.

We were out the door. I yelled at Kai to stay there. DeWinter pushed Random back into the office to prevent him from getting hurt. I went downstairs. The commotion was coming from the drawbridge. A wagon sans driver had coming up the road and stopped. It bore three bodies: Big George, Bucko and Sid, all made of solid wood, with pained expressions on their faces.

Kinkel had come down as well. He Trumped Sarek and brought him through. I went to fill Random in. He was still on the third floor, at the front of the castle. DeWinter sported a split lip. Random's small, but he should not be underestimated. I filled them in and said I wanted to get a look at Sid's place. Random agreed. DeWinter would have come with me, but Random had other ideas. Since he was determined to keep the King safe, he could stay here and do guard duty for the night. DeWinter grumbled something, but he was caught.

I knew I should take some backup, so I asked Kinkel if he would like to go with me. He lit up a bit and agreed. I just hope I don't' have to tell Owen how I came about getting her son killed. I put on my disguise which took Kinkel aback. Then I did the same for him. He really got into the spirit of the moment. I even remembered he shouldn't take his sword, a clear clue he didn't belong. He got a plain one from the armory.

We practiced our roles on the way. By the time we got there, he modified his speech and posture. He'd fit in pretty well, I thought.

We got to Sid's place. The door was open. In fact, there was no door. All that was left were some melted hinges and the smell of burnt wood. On the far wall was a message in red paint. At least, I'd hoped it was red paint.

"Amber must be destroyed."

We searched and found little. It wasn't until I was in Sid's office that I found a false panel in the floor. Kinkel was searching the desk drawers. I reached for the panel and my armband went off. It felt like it was gong to take my arm off. I signaled to Kinkel that someone might be in there. My armband goes off if someone means harm to me. I got my sword out, to use it to open the panel. I was off to the side, hoping to avoid lightning shots or crossbow bolts. Or an angry demon, or something. I lifted the lid.

The next thing I know, I was thrown backwards against the wall and the entire room was afire. The windows were blown out. My dress was aflame. I could hear Kinkel over the roar of the flames. He was trying to kick out through a wall, between the studs. It was getting hard to breathe. I kept trying to put out my hair, and my eyebrows were long gone. I tore off the dress, using the remains to cover my mouth. I dropped down and leapt over towards Kinkel. He'd made a hole enough for us to push through. He was closer, so he went through first. He fell twenty feet down to the next roof and then through it. I followed, missing the hole he made and jumped to the ground I put out my hair again and went to the front door. The first floor was still whole. Apparently the fire was contained on the second floor. I wanted to see if I could get to the panel from below, possibly to find proof of what happened, or evidence of how they did it. As I stepped inside, the second half of the trap was laid and the first floor was on fire. Not only that, but there was some sort of shield now over the opening in the doorway. This time I saw the fire start. It pushed down from the place where the hidden compartment was. Following Kinkel's precedent, I kicked through the wall and eventually got out.

A crowd had formed and they were starting a water brigade. On the outskirts of the cluster of people, I saw someone bolt away. I'd really hoped it was someone responsible for this. I gave chase and ran him down. One blow and he was unconscious. I took his jacket, since I wasn't wearing much. I was starting to realize just how burnt I was. I used what I could find to tie him up and gag him. Inside a pocket I found a book in a language I couldn't recognize. I pocketed it, picked him up, found Kinkel none the worse for wear. He elected to stay behind and help with the fire. He suggested I take my prisoner back and get myself to the infirmary.

At the castle, I had the man placed under guard. Random and DeWinter arrived to see what was happening. At the horrified look on DeWinter's face, I realized I was hurt much worse than I was feeling, but I still wasn't feeling much pain. I gave Sarek the book. He said it was a spell book. He went to the dungeon to make sure our fellow couldn't escape. DeWinter escorted me to the infirmary. Owen got me to Glantri just in time.

Events were starting to wear off and the pain was getting quite bad. I was just finding out what limits I could take before the medicaments went into effect. The pain spikes were bad enough that I was beginning to Change. The doctors were a bit intrigued and noted in my records I was a lycanthrope. Does that apply? I always thought lycanthropes, at least the term, meant an infliction, someone who became one due to a disease or outside influence. But this is a natural thing for the weir, right? I'll have to ask. Would you call Chaosians the same thing? Curious. They gave me much topical anesthetics to dull the pain to stop the Change.

All told, I was stabilized in 6 hours and left an hour after that. It took that long just to sign the forms. We went back to Amber and I was confined to the infirmary.

Day 270/19

Vialle was my first visitor. She filled me in on what was going on. Apparently Sarek was making some good progress in fixing Sid and his friends. She then helped the time go by with stories of Texorami, the saloons, card parties, shoot-outs, and riverboats. It sounds like fun. I wonder if DeWinter would be interested in going there.

Later I found out that it was the Crimson Pirates might be behind the fire. There could be a ship in the harbor, they're checking on it. Fire is their usual method of attack.

Vialle left after a few hours. Those of us in the infirmary began talking things over, especially Kinkel and myself. We were interrupted by Owen receiving a Trump from a rapiered March. He was cut up.

With not much to do, I helped as Owen's nurse. All he could talk about was the invading army in Begma. They carry a standard that is a Ball of Fire and he estimated about 80,000. The troops are arriving by shadow path. He didn't know who was leading them.

Is it possible someone could be leading them through to Amber through the Eastern shore? Seems unlikely. There would be lots of time for us to see them coming. Still, anyone who attacks one of the Golden Circle knows eventually Amber would respond. And we would have lots of time to move out, gather a force, and strike.

So, is this a political game? To show that Amber does not have the strength to protect them? Or, is this a feint, and the better target isn't Amber at all? All these thoughts jumbling through my mind. And no way to prove anything.

Belatedly, I remembered Kai still in Random's office. Random went off to fetch him, and returned a few minutes later. He shrugged at me. I told Kai to stay there, so he won't move unless I or DeWinter say it's okay. DeWinter went to get him and I asked a servant to get him some lunch.


Day 271/19

Sid isn't wood any more. Neither are his friends. Unfortunately I have no answers. I was a bit worried. Could the mage also be the one rumored to be the partner of the Beastman? There's also a rumor that it is his daughter, which means another shifter could be moving through Amber. Owen just said, 'that we'll know soon enough.'

Unfortunately, that isn't always the case.

She gave a small smile and said that we "rarely know in advance, but we always know soon enough."

Perhaps, but it smacks of complacency and that's dangerous.

Day 272/19

I got a Trump call from Dalt. Our exchange of information was brief, but meaningful. He delivered Sid and the others to the castle. They were going to be used for kindling at Sid's house. I wasn't surprised that Dalt didn't get into general murder against helpless people. He's in Begma with the invading army. He told me to tell Farris to expect 100,000 men on her eastern border in Kashfa. He'll Trump back with more information.

I was stumped. Why was he helping us? He said he wasn't about to let just anyone get to Amber and possibly "kill his nephew."

A light dawned.

Now, he might want to overthrow Amber, but he wasn't about to let anyone else hurt Kai.

All I could say was , wow, I'm glad that, for the most part, he's on my side. When I told Random, he didn't believe it. I did. It had a certain ring of truth. Owen thought Dalt had “gone over the edge again.” I don't believe it. It's too pat an answer. Too easy just to label him that way. He was very lucid. I don't know, it just felt…normal…for him to give that reason.


Day 273/19

Kinkel got to go to work today. He wasn't nearly as burnt as I was. I'm getting a bit of reading done.

Ow.

Day 274/19

I've been trying to reach Dalt, but I'm getting no response. Same with Rinaldo. Just on the off chance she got herself involved, I tried DoBlique. For once she wasn't in trouble. She's been seeing a merchant prince and was happily whiling away the time.


Day 275/19

DeWinter went to check out Sid's house. Or what remained of it. Nothing much was left standing. I've lost another Trump deck and the knife Shapir gave me. Losing the Trump is both embarrassing and inconvenient, but losing the knife really hurt. There was no message for me at the Cracked Pot, so I get to rest a bit longer.

Day 282/19
Suhuy

DeWinter and I spent the night looking for either Kicker or Sid. No such luck until much later in the night. Again, we tried to make DeWinter look scruffy. He's getting better. He just can't seem to let go that air of military command. He went in first and got into a game of knife throwing. He was enjoying it. The target was a chalk drawing of a man in white armor. He did draw attention when he spit out his beer. It had been the first taste, so he wasn't prepared. He hadn't made a fuss when he saw how dirty the place was, and he said nothing about the various unidentifiable smells wafting through the air, but the beer was the last straw.

He yelled out that “someone's pissed in my beer!” The bartender got him another one.

I learned that Kicker was upstairs working. We waited a while and eventually she came downstairs with an older man.

I just froze. This old fellow was a spitting image of Suhuy.

Now, was it really him, or was it a Shadow? I'd hate to skewer an innocent man. He fit in here, mostly. His clothing was threadbare, but he spent money freely.

I put on my 'act' and Kicker and I flirted with him. I got Kicker alone for a minute and got her to arrange to get him back upstairs. She managed that quite quickly. What we needed was backup.

I tried Owen, but she just suggested I call Random. Frustrated, I did so. I didn't have much time before Kicker would run out of excuses. Random tried to block the call, but I kept pushing, closer, closer, finally he let the call go through, sword in hand. He wasn't too pleased; he was obviously spending the evening with Vialle. I think he forgave me when I told him who we might have run into. He wanted to talk with Suhuy, so I should get him up to the castle.

Wonderful, how would I go about doing that? He said "carefully", right on cue and closed the contact.

I went upstairs, DeWinter behind. He did not want me going into the room-- "You can give your message from the corridor."

I knocked and was told to come in. I opened the door to find Suhuy in bed lying down, Kicker was sitting next to him in dishabille. Black winding patterns ran all around Suhuy's thin chest and down under the sheets. Logrus? I tried to go inside the room, but DeWinter had a hand on my waistband. I knew that if Suhuy was here in Amber, technically he should have gone through the Embassy. So, being caught out, he probably would follow some rules, I just didn't know what they were. I was hoping it meant he'd be civil about this. I finally got free from DeWinter.

I stepped in as DeWinter muttered a curse. I announced who I was. That sent Kicker to the far wall wailing, "oh, my lord, she's a princess!"

I got a chagrined look from Suhuy. Then I asked him on behalf of the King, if we could escort him to the Castle for a quiet meeting. He gave his word he would not try anything and I gave my word we would get him safely to the castle. I was careful about that. Once he was in the castle, he was on his own. That way if Random wants to throw him down into the dungeon, I won't be honor bound to protect him.

He waited for me to leave so he could get dressed. I wasn't planning to. He saw that in my face, I think. He got up and dressed.

I got a look at Suhuy that is embedded in my mind forever. It isn't a pretty picture. Let's just say that the tendrils running along his body extend to every part, and they multiply. I don't want to know how Kicker did…well I don't want to know. It is too alien a concept. He gives a new meaning for the title Keeper of the Logrus.

Kicker was still “freaking out” as Martin would say that I was a princess of Amber. I assured her it was all right, but just talking to her again, she fainted. I got her on the bed and we went downstairs. I introduced DeWinter to Suhuy who was shocked to find out I had married DeWinter. I guess he thought the animosity from their line and Amber was too deep to overcome. I was happy he was proven wrong.

DeWinter was just itching for Suhuy to do anything to break our agreement.

We ran into only one snag. Downstairs a number of the men were waiting for us, weapons ready. They'd heard Kicker's yelling and they wanted answers. I went back up, got Kicker, woke her. She was together enough to understand I didn't want anyone to know who I was. She came down and she assured her friends she was just fine.

Walking to the castle, I got a good look at Suhuy. He's as tall and as DeWinter and broad in the shoulders, but so thin; he's emaciated, shrunken. We got him to Random. A bit of parlaying, long protracted discussions and more than a little prodding produced some information.

He was here to find out more about the threat to Amber. Suhuy named the person behind the invasion as Dara of Hendrake, recently released from Hendrake prison. Dara III was the one who met Corwin, walked the Pattern, and eventually allied with Oberon.

Suhuy went on to clarify when Random seemed confused.

Dara III is Merlin's real mother. Dara II is Merlin's grandmother, though Merlin doesn't really know that because he was raised by her in Chaos shadows as if she were his mother. The lie was never really corrected.

Dara III helped rescue Oberon, and received promises from Amber.

Dara II, her mother, found out about this and wasn't happy at all. It wasn't part of the "Plan". Dara II worked a grand plan with the Logrus and set about bringing Amber down.

After the war, Dara III fell out with Corwin over the death of Borel and returned to the Courts. Dara II had her daughter imprisoned for treason against the Courts and, especially, against House Hendrake. No one in Amber knew there were two women of the same appearance. During treaty talks, no one from Amber asked after Dara III because of her obvious falling out with Corwin.

Dara II was killed many years after the Patternfall War, still trying to destroy Amber.

Everyone assumed that was the end of it and no one knew to look for a second, younger Dara.

I suppose it is a bit like Tatasha and I. We both look a lot alike. Perhaps at quick meetings, no one would know there were two of us.

I had a few questions for the Keeper of the Logrus. Such as why he would care about Amber when he obviously spent much time in the past fiddling with Deela's children.

Suhuy admitted to controlling DoBlique, DeWinter, etc. but since they were criminals, he rationalized that this makes him exempt from any family retribution. Perhaps, but I reason Kai-Revere is not. According to Chaosian rules, he can call vengeance down on Suhuy (in about 50 years or so).

I did give the Keeper a warning.

In my eyes, Deela's line are not criminals. Personally, if he harmed them in any way, or tried to control them any more, I would hunt him down.

I was specific. It was a person to person arrangement, one that did not involve Random or the law of Amber whatsoever.

He said that if he had been controlling Dalt to attack Amber, he'd have done a better job all these years.

It seemed to reaffirm that perhaps he couldn't control Dalt. So much for being crazy, right. But the comment infuriated DeWinter. He stepped forward and lashed out with a punch before anyone could move.

Suhuy went down, immediately unconscious.

I heard his jaw break just as I heard the lightning from Suhuy's body strike DeWinter. Suhuy had warded his body with some sort of retaliatory spell. DeWinter crashed into the side board, splintering it into kindling.

Luck was with us. Earlier that day, Owen had put a defensive spellward on DeWinter. That soaked up enough damage to save him lasting harm. The punch might not have been the smartest thing to do to Suhuy, but I'm sure it was satisfying.

Once DeWinter was de-splintered and Suhuy was awake, our conversation slowly resumed.

Dara had been imprisoned all this time, a few hundred years Chaos-time. Suhuy thought she'd attacked Amber because she felt that Corwin abandoned her unjustly. Amber's allies from the war should not have been punished, the Treaty was clear on this, but Corwin left her to rot in Chaos. It didn't take much imagination to realize that Chaosian prisons were probably horrible and after that long, she's probably just a bit unstable.

That was pretty much all Suhuy could offer on those topics. At least, that was all he was saying. Random seemed satisfied, and had Owen and DeWinter escort him out of Amber.

Reminding him that he wasn't exactly welcome here.

Random has such an interesting brand of diplomacy.

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