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Cassandra's Diary.28

Day 223/20
Dalt becomes a Good-Will Ambassador

I Trumped Dalt to have a discussion. I couldn't get details as he was in the middle of a battle and cut the contact short. Of course, he didn't need to escape.

He contacted me much later and came through. He had cleaned up and was dressed very nicely: hair cut, clothes brushed, shoes polished. He'd obviously taken care. The image was enhanced by the large tawny lion he had under one arm, a present for Xhimene. It was easily three times her size. I brought her to him, and he spent some time playing with her. I got our discussion underway before the rest of the children learned he was here.

I told him of Tremerule's communication with the King and his declaration of vengeance on me for Dastard's death. Would he arrange a meeting between us? I wanted to convince him that Dastard might be alive. Dalt gave it some brief thought and said he'd try. Then he went back to playing with Xhimene. She liked him; he made her laugh. Then the rest of the children, following Kai-Revere and Eidolon came in and any further talks were put aside.

Day 228/20

It's been a pleasant couple of weeks. Nothing untoward happened. I did broach the subject of moving into Shadow for a while. I'm finding it increasingly important that the boys and Xhimene have a chance to experience more than Amber, having opportunities for a more comprehensive education, and gaining some perspective other than a member of the royal family. Mother was unconvinced. I can see her point. Amber is relatively safe; she's only heard some of the more extravagant tales and we do have enemies out there. I couldn't impress upon her that many of the royals have extensive learning and experiences that Amber cannot provide. We've tabled the discussion for a while.

Day 231/20

I received a letter from Dalt. He's had no luck with Tremerule as of yet, but I should give him a few more weeks.

Day 239/20
Speaker of the Law, Weir-style

One of the weir children came to tell me that I had a visitor at the gate. I went to see whom it was, only to find out that it was a man from Aes. He announced he was a Speaker of the Law from Aes bringing accusations against my weir for desertion. I invited him into a salon to speak further. When I asked about his credentials, he showed me about three dozen wolf bites on his forearms. Some important persons in Aes had learned that these weir were alive through the word of a traveler. He refused to give me a name, stating that only a Senior speaker could give me that information.

He went on to say that many centuries ago they had deserted their Clan Law to follow Eric and remain in Amber. When he died, they should have returned home and did not. The penalty was death by evisceration if they were to ever return to Aes. I asked a great deal of questions which only confounded and confused the poor man. Especially when I asked what Tatasha had to say of this. He was a bit affronted that I would take liberties and call the High Mother by her given name. I broke the news to him that she was my grandmother. That did not make him feel better. It was apparent that he was unauthorized to give me any real information; in fact his job was solely to tell us the accusations. If I wanted more, I'd have to ask the High Mother.

I Trumped her and brought her through, to his shock and panic. I think he wasn't used to dealing with any at her rank. She asked to see Xhimene first, playing with her and making a fuss. Xhimene loved it. Before she went to see the Speaker, I lent her one of my robes, since she came directly from her bedchambers and a guest.

Stuttering, he gave her his speech. She asked for the name of the traveler that supplied the information: Tremerule. This accusation had come from five centuries before. At that time, Tatasha had taken the taint of any possible dishonor upon herself-- but weir law says that if someone still has grievances, they can bring the charges up again. Apparently, someone had. Still, she let him finish before going full throttle and began screaming at him for the imbecility of it all. She went on for quite a while. DeWinter was impressed.

Eventually she dismissed him and he ran out. Then we brought in Vis and Claw and explained the situation to them. They became very quiet and still. Tatasha asked them what happened. Through disjointed and resisted questioning they admitted that they had defied the leader of the clan by electing to stay in Amber after Eric died. They were getting increasingly uncomfortable during our prying but Tatasha needed to know exactly what happened. I believe she took their "guilt" earlier because of her own feeling for Eric and their loyalty for him touched her. Now, I think she really needed to know exactly what happened.

The main opposition against the weir leader came from Tear, Vis' brother. He wanted revenge for Eric's death. Extremely reluctantly, Vis admitted that Eric and Tear were close. Exactly what that meant has to be left to speculation. Tear died while leading parties along the Black Road. He was still attacking Chaosian parties 40 years afterwards. The rest of the Weir had stayed because Tear would have been killed by the Clan leaders if he had to stand alone. The men were going to try and make a viable clan break. Therefore, if the future was to have any chance, the women of the weir decided to stay as well.

Tatasha then asked how large the clan was now? Claw admitted that by clan law, they were not viable. They were less than the hundred they had started out with. With the attrition they had suffered, they were currently at 75. I had this perverse thought that I had better take a census, because I didn't think there were that many.

I did asked how one is considered part of the clan. Tatasha said it could be by Blood or Honor. Anyone who served to aid a weir clan could be considered part of the clan. If all the parties accepted, both the Arden Rangers and Rebman fighters could, technically be considered part of the clan. We should probably clear this technicality with the parties intended. That settled that technicality, should it become an issue. Tatasha seemed to be satisfied and left to settle things in Aes.

At that point, I got a Trump from Dalt. He'd arranged a meeting with Tremerule at Castle Black. I gave him a brief on what his nephew had been up to.

Day 240/20
A Brief visit to Mycenae

In the morning I Trumped to Mycenae to see if Tremerule had done any damage there. I was in for a shock, though not what I had expected. The time differences there were drawing us further apart in age...almost thirty years had passed. My sisters were approaching my mother's age and they were looking at me differently. How must it feel to see me, unaging? What do they think of me? Or Mother and Byslamia? Do they resent us? Perhaps that is why I've never been invited for some of their weddings, for most of them had families now. Give it another few decades, and they will be gone. Not only will they fade away, but as I walked through the city, I could see definite changes in industry and culture. Do I return, to see them all before this passes, or do I let it all go? Would I be able to say I am Mycenaean, when everything I've known is passed and gone? It was most unsettling. It made for a most poignant reminder of why I'd been trying to make some familial connection in Amber. Why I was trying to forge some sort of relationship with my father. Because all too soon, there will be no one left of my sisters. I saw none of their children, nor was I invited to visit with them. Mother's colleagues are probably all gone now, or most of them. The next generation won't even know who I am. Like in the future Mycenae, we'll just be people who have a remarkable resemblance to some portraits on the walls. I empathized with DoBlique who was still mourning for Dastards death. Despite their differences, he was her family and had been for a long time. I'll understand the loss each time one of my sisters passed on. I was feeling very old.

I stayed for most of the morning, talking with my youngest sister, Linea and then with Chyrseis. She hadn't married, preferring to follow the tradition of having a consort. I filled her in on Tremerule and she said she'd get back to me if she learned anything. By the time I left, I realized that none would visit me in Amber, though they said they might. And she would not be contacting me in this matter. I returned to Amber, much sadder than I had left.

Day 241/20

I wrote to Cecilia and Tharkh, hoping they were doing well. I proposed that we might be traveling through to Glantri and would they mind if we stopped by to see how they were doing? It'll be a few weeks before we got a reply.

Day 249/20
Chaosian Attacks/ Black Adder Rescue

I went to Castle Black, Trumping through to Dalt. He introduced me to Tremerule who was not even twenty years old in appearance. This was proven true later by his actions as well. It was amazing, but he looked more like DeWinter than he did Dastard, but the resemblance was clear. Dalt settled himself in a nearby chair. We were speaking in the dining room.

The meeting itself was redundant because he'd already learned that Dastard might be alive and realized that I was not responsible for any of the events that happened to him. He was calling off the vendetta. I did get a list of names of those he talked to in Mycenea. I was about to ask why he bothered to have a meeting in the first place, since this was all settled, but my armband went off distracting me. I looked around but saw nothing.

We continued to talk, while I tried to see where the danger was. Tremerule was being fairly judgmental, though I think he thought he was showing unusual restraint being in the room with an Amberite.

Aegis warned me again. I moved toward Dalt and told him something was wrong. He looked curiously at me, Tremerule continue to expounded on the horrors of Amberites, and I moved away to try and pinpoint what was going on.

Then the explosions burst.

There were five of them. I jumped onto Tremerule and bore him down to the ground. He protested my touching him. All I had time to do was to tell him to shut up. The detonations came from the hall. Staying over the boy, I saw them standing on the stairs, almost at the top of the landing. Five Chaosians. They chanted and five demons appeared in the room, humanoid with black alligator faces. Dalt began to fight the nearest one. I had come unarmed, so I took Tremerule's blade. He was a bit indignant about that, but I didn't have time for a debate about it.

One came inside the blade and I punched it. Its skin was armor-hard. It took a few seconds to realize that the blade wasn't going to be effective, so I tried a punch hit with the blade. It was difficult but it worked. I kept two at bay as best I could. Then I got hit by another.

I could hear Tremerule chanting. Perhaps he was praying, because nothing was happening. This was a bad situation. I could feel myself beginning to Change; a cold power came through the floor and up my legs.

I was trapped. Trapped between the demons, trapped because I couldn't leave Tremerule to them. I was certain he was the target. To get to him, they began to attack me. Their tough skins protected them from the worst of my blows so it would be an exercise in attrition. Fortunately, even though I hadn't changed, I was healing far faster, almost regenerating as fast as they were wounding me. I could get used to that.

But, they had numbers on their side and they began to overbear. I grabbed one and brought him, it, down over me to use as a shield. I screamed at Tremerule to get the hell out of there!

He scrambled away but was paralyzed by a spell cast from the stairs. He hadn't seen the Chaosians, or he forgot about them. I couldn't tell you which, but the situation just got a little worse. I knocked out a second one and jumped toward the boy.

Dalt had three demons on him and it wasn't going well. I dragged Tremerule to the table, pushing him underneath. Then I upset it enough to use as a shield. Actually, it was large enough to hold back all of them. I got it up just in time as three bolts hits from the Chaosians. I caught some of the peripheral of the bolts and I was momentarily dizzy. Apparently, the regeneration doesn't work on magical damage. I did see Dalt get hit hard and go down underneath the others. He had two still working on him; the third was unconscious, or dead, on the floor. He wasn't moving.

I had one hand on the table and one hand dragging Tremerule, who was just starting to move again. I kept the demons at bay as I made our way over to Dalt. I have to admit, DoBlique has some really tough furniture. I briefly wondered if it was because of her lifestyle, or her brothers. Or both. My thoughts were interrupted by another onslaught of bodies and claws.

By the time we got to Dalt, Tremerule was stable enough to drag Dalt. He had some monstrous bruises. I'm still amazed he withstood as much as he did.

We made our way to the kitchen. I could see the Chaosians moving down the stairs, keeping us in view. So far the table was shielding us from their magic. Eventually they were going to launch a spell that would take care of our obstacle.

At the door, we saw that the kitchen was pitch dark. If anyone was hiding in ambush there, we were in serious trouble with no chance for defense. We didn't have much choice. We went in. I directed Tremerule to the back door. I closed the door behind us, used the table to barricade it, hopefully giving us a few extra minutes. I picked up Dalt and we ran for it.

We were almost blinded by the sunlight as we raced outside. It didn't stop us from seeing the group of Chaosians riding towards us. We were in a bad place. Dalt was stirring but far from able to do much of anything. I could hear the barricade go down.

Then the lead Chaosian called my name. I turned and could see it was Nachoth. This was a suspicious coincidence, but I didn't have much choice. I moved us out toward the horses.

One of her riders cast a spell just as the kitchen door opened behind us. Then he was hit with a black, spiky ball and was down. His spell went off the mark and hit me instead of Tremerule. I couldn't move. Paralyzation. They wanted us alive.

The rescuing Chaosians grabbed us and kept the others at bay as they dragged us on their horses and rode off. I thought Chaosians hated horses. But of course, they're Black Adders, not Chaosians.

It took about an hour for them to get us away. By then, I was fairly steady. Nachoth filled us in with some details. Those were Murkweir. The others in her group were not aware of my identity and demanded to know why she had them rescue a bunch of Shadow people. Thinking that my identity would not help her situation, I introduced myself as Annette. I was traveling with him, I pointed at Dalt. He, they'd heard of. He got us some respectability by being a well-known enemy of Amber. Nachoth jumped at the chance and said it was always a good thing to be friends with the enemies' foes. And, Dalt would owe her something. The thing is, he would, too. And Dalt would agree, whether he liked it or not.

They left us there, to leave a trail for the Murkweir to follow. They did leave us one horse. I got Dalt on it and we began to walk, quickly. I covered our trail as best I could and began shifting as quickly as I could manage it.

Day 250/20

In the morning I Trumped DeWinter to let him know I'd be a few days. I had to make sure Dalt was all right, I didn't want to head straight back to Amber. If they were following us, they'd guess who I was and we'd be in trouble. Trumping to Amber was not an option. Even if I could convince Tremerule to go, I could imagine what the Church would say: we'd kidnapped Dastard's son, we set up the ambush to trick the boy, all sorts of things. As much as he might hate it, heading further into Shadow for a few days was logical. Bless him, he didn't argue with me.

By the end of the day, I found a traveling circus. I still remembered the lingo and the forms, so I got us a spare couple of beds. Dalt was waking from time to time, but still in bad shape. I'd hazard a guess he'd be down for a week or so. Tremerule thought our stay of the circus was the silliest idea he'd ever heard and said so.


Day 252/20


We've been working our way through a few towns. I did a few shows to earn for our passage. I think Tremerule was a bit astonished that I didn't just demand passage or take them over or something. In fact, I think I'm slowly wearing down all the horrible things he's ever heard of Amberites. I wasn't particularly easy on the boy. He was about to be ordained into the Order of the Sacrificed Unicorn. This whole notion of forced celibacy, especially when you consider he'll live for a very, very long time was unnerving, and perhaps a little silly. It was apparent that he'd seen little outside the church, certainly not enough to test his resolve in choosing this life.

We took turns taking care of Dalt. He was going to be bedridden for at least a week. When he was able, we planned what we were going to do. Once he was well, we'd take Tremerule home. They could defray any hostilities toward Amber, making it clear we did not plan for this to happen.

In the meantime, I assigned tasks to Tremerule to help around the camp. His hands were not accustomed to much in the way of labor, but he only complained a bit at first.

Day 257/20
Getting better acquainted


Dalt is up and about. In a few days he should be ready to ride. Tremerule has only complained a little about the work. I think he wanted to complain more. His hands are those of a person unused to hard labor or menial tasks. At least, that is how he expressed what we were doing. But, his pride wouldn't let him appear any less able than any Amberite. Dalt remarked that I was being rather harsh with the boy. I thought he would benefit from the experience. I think Dalt approved, despite his comments. Dalt and I even had a few moments where we connected, laughing over a shared a joke or two, often at my expense. Tremerule left us alone, disgusted with the two of us.

I'd been doing my sword act to earn our keep. Actually, I brought in quite a bit of coin. Even Dalt was surprised that I fit in. I suppose he never thought I'd do such a thing as working. It wasn't the same without DeWinter, but I managed. Tomorrow, I'm having Dalt join in. He'd make a great straight man, and he wanted to get a bit of a workout before we left, a test to make sure his wounds had healed.

Day 264/20
Tremerule's Home Safely

We left the circus five days ago. I was flattered that they wanted me to remain. But they didn't press and gave us two horses to travel with. Today, about noon, we arrived at a Temple of the Sacrificed Unicorn. No one remarked at our presence, though much was made for over Tremerule. He entered the temple and formally invited us to pass over the threshold. I supposed this was a formal declaration of hospitality.

Dastard was there, though he looked awful. He had a long suffering, haunted look about him. He greeted his son stiffly, formally. I think Tremerule was nonplussed at seeing him, or how he was acting. Dastard turned to us and said we were free to go without harm. That was it. No inquiry for refreshments, or a nice bath. No words for bringing his son back to him. Nothing. We turned to leave. Dalt was visibly tight around the shoulders. He was holding back his anger. We left. There was nothing more to do.

Day 265/20

We rode out for a day. I did fill him in on what happened at Castle Black and our debt to Nachoth. He nodded in understanding and said to take care of myself. It was time to separate.

I Trumped home to DeWinter. He was sitting in the kitchen having a bite to eat. He pulled me through, giving me a deep hug and kiss. It must have been hard waiting, even though I Trumped him each day to let him know we were alright. I settled in briefly and then we went to the castle to report to Random.

Random informed us that Dastard had associations with Clarissa, the exiled Queen. I'm not entirely sure of the story, but she was kept in a locked Shadow. She's found someway to communicate outside and Dastard was the recipient. She was behind the assassinations, with Dastard's help. In the end, she betrayed him She got Murkweir to kill the Queen of Chaos. Dastard wasn't needed anymore, so he was captured. He wouldn't go into details, but Random said their incarceration was very, very bad. Their methods for extracting information were never known to be gentle. There is something very wrong with Dastard, and it will be a long time before he got better. Stargazer and Bleys, who'd also been captured were the same, though Bleys was bouncing back quicker. The Queen was also alive and relatively unharmed. She'd had to watch as each of her court ladies were tortured and killed. Clarissa had devised the weapons and slipped them out to Dastard. They were smuggled in to Amber via Xocet. Ah, another Chaosian betraying us. I am really getting rather weary of befriending Chaosians only to have them turn around and betray that.

We spent a few minutes filling him in on the attack on Castle Black. Even if I wasn't wary of Chaosians, the timely rescue was looking more suspicious. After all, of all places in all the Shadows, the fact that she was there was a bit too convenient.

There wasn't much more to be said, so we returned to Tiryns. Kai-Revere and Xhimene were happy we were back. We had a quiet evening, retiring early.

Day 267/20

I got back into the routine with the house quickly enough. DeWinter and I even got a bit of sparring in before he soundly trounced me hand-to-hand fighting.

Day 269/20
Shopping


DeWinter and I received an official invitation to a formal party at the Castle, hosted by Owen and Kent. It was in five days. It was time to do a little shopping. Besides, it is always fun to dress DeWinter up a bit. So, we heading into town to have something made. It took about an hour to get the order together. DeWinter cooperated mostly, though he had little opinion on these things. He discarded all the things he thought too silly which left a much smaller pile to work with. I did manage to sneak in a few things here and there. He grumbled a bit but let it go. He didn't even see the extra sets I discreetly had made.

My dress took much long, if only because DeWinter was seeing to each detail. All in all, it took about three hours, long passed when my patience usually runs out. But he was enjoying himself, perhaps as much as when I was ordering for his clothes. Normally, he'd be sitting outside, waiting, but I had my way and they let him inside. I think the whole tactical process intrigued him. I know he intrigued all the young girls.

Everything will be ready in two days.

We walked around town for the rest of the afternoon. It's almost spring, so it was a fine day. We returned home late in the evening, fended for ourselves in the kitchen. Then I went to tuck in Kai-Revere. He and Eidolon had me relate, again, the story of how March and I were captured by the Chaosians and fought our way out of House Murkweir.

Day 271/20

We went to pick up our clothing, making sure that there were no adjustments that were needed. DeWinter looked resplendent. The tailor hovered uncertainly as DeWinter inspected the stitching and the fit. After a few minutes, he said, "It's okay." The tailor was let down just a bit and I assured him he had done a wonderful job. He sighed in relief and we headed off the to dressmaker. My dress was fine. They had done a wonderful job. It was an absolutely perfect fit. Next week or next year I may not fit into it, but right now, it was superb workmanship, though it seemed a bit more extravagant than I remembered ordering, but DeWinter was really pleased. In a role reversal, he complimented all the ladies. They blushed and laughed as they packaged everything up.

Day 273/20
An Engagement

We were assembled in the formal dining hall on the second floor of the castle. Most of the family was there. Now, none looked as fine as DeWinter, but Bleys looked marvelous. There was no sign of trauma about him. Stargazer, on the other hand, looked more like a wax reproduction than his own self. His eyes were flat and his expressions didn't seem natural. If I didn't know better, I'd say this was a Shadow of himself.

When we were seated, Chef Robert announced and escorted each course personally. He was having the time of his life. Simone had been taking lessons from Silviera, obviously. She interacted with the servants, even eating dishes even when she didn't know what they were. She was sitting to DeWinter's left and she surprised him about talking of the weather. That's where he learned that there was no weather in the courts. That baffled him.

At the end of the meal, Kent stood and announced the formal engagement of Nikolaus and Silviera of Family Boding. Random toasted the two, with most of us following afterwards. House Boding a well-known house, apparently, providing security for other Houses in time of need. They are a very old House. The marriage will take place at the Cathedral of the Serpent in the Courts. That means a long expedition for any of us going. Nikolaus and Silviera will be leaving for the Courts later that evening. They should be back between six months to a year, which equates to about ten years in the Courts, the traditional period of time of a betrothal. This will give them the necessary time to conduct all the ceremonies and protocols that a Chaosian betrothal demands.

The engaged couple left around midnight via a Trump gate of Owen's making, along with Gerard, the Owen, Owen and Kent. They actually left a bit later than they had planned because everyone was having a good time. March, Kinkel and the rest of us continued on in the spirit of the night.

March asked DeWinter at one point, if he ever attended a marriage where he was security and not the target. DeWinter pretended to think about it a moment before saying no. March clapped him on the back and told him to count on going. We should be prepared to leave sometime in the next six months.

Day 276/20

I received a letter from Tremerule, assuring us that he was safe and sound and thanking me for the help. I wrote back, pleased that he thought of us. I'm hoping we can keep up some sort of correspondence.

I also got a letter from Cecilia and Tharkh inviting us to stay with them in Glantri. I accepted the invitation and got Mother and Byslamia to agree to accompany us. This is to acclimate Mother to traveling in Shadow. If we show her to odd things, perhaps we can convince her that that might be the worst we would subject her to. Or, better, she might like the uniqueness of Shadow. And the lamias are nothing but unique. Both the boys are terrifically excited by the impeding trip.

Day 300/20
A Visit to Glantri

The entourage consisted of myself, DeWinter, Kai-Revere, Xhimene, Eidolon, Mother, Byslamia, Jim & Toby, and three weir. We moved quietly through Shadow until we reached Shadow and then Glantri. It took ten days travel time and we arrived in winter. It's strange how we always arrive in winter. The boys had a few million questions along the way. They were waiting for any sign of an ambush, or a fight. They weren't thrilled to have to ride in the carriage, though DeWinter and I switched off letting them ride with us from time to time. What if Chaosians were waiting to attack us? Could I take them? How about dad? How many Chaosians could we take?

We stopped at the embassy and had tea before going on to the lamia's estate. All the boys behaved themselves admirably and Xhimene made a great impression with Lucille. When we left, the boys asked why Random wasn't King here. The entire rest of the trip consisted of trying to get the idea of Shadow and politics across to them. It didn't work, because I was still making it too complex, but it passed the time. They asked some good questions, though.

The house itself had undergone enormous changed since we were there last. Everything had been repaired and painted, the lawns were well manicured and the saplings were fully-grown. There were even groomsmen there to greet us.. A woman with steel-gray hair came out to see who had arrived. She had a rather stern-featured face but it transformed when she learned who we were.

She showed us inside and we were greeted by Cecilia and Tharkh. I'd given the boys a general idea of the lamia's physique, so they wouldn't make some sort of blunder. Instead, they were tongue-tied, trying to figure out what was under all the dresses. Aegis gave me a twinge in warning when Cecilia hugged me. I could only suppose she contemplated, just for an instance, of using her magic to enthrall us. The moment passed and it didn't happen again.

We were shown to our rooms. Each of us had our own room, including the boys. The weir were not happy since it made any sort of protection incredibly difficult. Then we had an enormous meal. They had prepared enough food for thrifty people. All the boys ate as much as they could. They were racing around afterwards with high energy. Eventually it dissipated and by the time they were ready for bed, they all but passed out.

Day 301/20

Breakfast was almost as large as lunch. The boys gave it everything they had. In the meantime we chatted with Cecilia and Tharkh. It's been 15 years since I last saw them. Again, the time differences tripped me up. I'd no intention of abandoning them for so long. They weren't all upset with that. They've been acting as consulting mages and scryers. For an example, they read tea leaves for Mother. Apparently they said that she is on the cusp of an enormous anger. That puzzled us a bit. The both of them were acting in an unofficial capacity in Glantri since divination is only sanctioned if done by clerics of an order or another. Since they never wanted to join any of the orders, a portion of their payments are "donations" to a number of religious institutions. This has backfired from time to time and they've been arrested twice. They said this all quite cheerfully and Mother blanched. DeWinter just shook his head.



Day 307/20

It's been a fun visit. We've been lucky to stay this long because Mother thinks the two of them are just crazy. But, after everyone calmed down it went well. I told the staff we eat as much as they do, all the rest of the food would just go to waste if they continued making so much food. By the second day, the boys had forgotten all about the girls being lamias. To alleviate the intensity, we took a few day trips, once to the zoo. On the third day, we got a note from the Duke. His schedule was too busy to allow for us to visit, but he was kind enough to write and say he was happy we came.

On the fourth day DeWinter took everyone up in one of the flying machines. I sat that one out. The next day, we all went ice-skating. At one point there was an interesting show. The ice was cleared and there was an ice ballet performed with ships and cannons. That sent the boys into raptures. Amber's ships don't have canons.

Day 319/20

We are back in Amber. The trip back took longer, but it was easier. I'm thinking there might have been a little interference in traveling. I wonder Mother's reluctance had any affect on things?


Day 326/20

Xhimene surprised everyone today. She's only six months old and she's already crawling. Amazing.

Day 20/21


Xhimene is really getting rambunctious. It took two weeks after she started crawling and then she was standing and trying to walk. Her legs aren't developed enough yet, but if she holds on, she can get away. Once, when trying to get to a book, she upset the entire bookshelf on top of herself. It fell at an angle, so she wasn't harmed, but she was scared. There was a number of incidents, like this, but to her credit she never made the same mistake twice. But, she's getting more adventurous as time goes on.

Day 50/21
Xhimene Speaks

Today Xhimene talked. I was playing a simple game with her and she responded, "Okay, Mother, I can do that." A full sentence. I could only stare at her. She was pleased with herself.

We did call Owen in for a checkup. We needed to see how Xhimene was developing. We were a little concerned that she was growing faster than her body can keep up with. Owen said Xhimene was fine. She confirmed that there is a lot of mental acuity for her age. Not like Aurora, would is twice as advance for her age) but more like Blythe. As far as her movement goes, we should try and curtail her standing and walking. Her legs aren't ready yet, and she could actually do some damage if she tries too much too soon.

Kai-Revere thinks Xhimene was far more interesting when she didn't talk. This is probably because she follows him around and asks a lot of questions. But, she can't keep up with any of the children and I can see she's getting frustrated. And, it's not fair for the boys, either.

So, to that end, we started to gather the kids in as teams for their games. Xhimene got to be the referee, or at least pretended to. We urged Kai-Revere to include her in his games, Eidolon as well, but we also made sure they had time to themselves.

Day 92/21

We received the official invitations to the wedding. It's easier to list who is not going. Julian, as you might guess. Everyone knows of his love for Chaosians (Not!) so he will be in charge of Amber's defense. Martin will be acting as regent. Fiona will absent herself because she doesn't want to go. Farris, Stargazer, Sarek, Steele, Rourke, DoBlique and Coral all will not be going.

Benedict will be in charge of security. According to him, we will be working our way to the Courts by caravan. It'll probably take about eight weeks to get there and another eight to get back. We have some time to prepare before we are all heading out.

Day 93/21

I went to visit Max and his ladies. I made sure to show them a picture of Tremerule and Nachoth. . . just in case. Then we did a bit of riding.

Later that day I Trumped Nachoth and I went through. This time she had much nicer quarters. In fact, it was the former House leader's rooms. In answer to my questions as to why she was so providently at Castle Black, she said she was tracking down a shadow of Florimel who resides in the Castle. They'd been there for quite a while, waiting. They are looking for some help. The attacks on her people have been continuing, if fact they're getting worse. Last year alone, 30 people have been killed. At some point, I think I'm going to have to do something about it. If her House deteriorates too much, the chances of them being able to influence any sort of peace agreement will become nil. And, she's going to die. I told her that anything that I can do would have to wait for a while. I told her I couldn't go into details just yet, but she seemed to understand. I did tell her of the possibility that Murkweir had infiltrated the Church. They might be using the organization as a front. She said she'd look into it.

I Trumped back to Tiryns and sent a message back to Random. I beginning to think Random isn't going to do anything about this. Not that he has a whole lot of motivation. Still...


Day 98/21

DeWinter's been working with Gerard in regards to the traveling logistics. It's getting quite complicated. And the weir believe they are going. Frankly, I just can't imagine them being able to blend in. We even started a few tests. I got Simone to help.
First, they cannot speak. The house became a tomb as each and every one of them went silent. Then she adjusted their wardrobe. No matter how hard they tried, they were just too...alive.

DeWinter broke down first and just told them they couldn't go. We don't have a lot of happy weir.

Kai-Revere now thinks that Xhimene was far more interesting when she wasn't talking. Now that she's begun, she follows him around asking him all sorts of questions. It hasn't quite driven him crazy. He's showing an amazing amount of patience.

We did hear that we would be required to have some servants; otherwise we lose any and all status. Where in the world can we do so on short notice? In the end, I had to appeal to Florimel. She is conversant with Chaosian protocols. I'm afraid we put her into a dither. She'd assumed we knew we needed servants. Not likely. Who would tell us?

In the end we got a sufficient entourage, including Byslamia who was pretty excited about going. In the meantime, we had some of our clothing altered to Chaosian standards. First, they were lightly armored and stiff. It was like walking around in little cages. The boys asked if they could have them when we came back. I have an image of them making little suits of armor with them.

Day 108/21
Leaving for the Courts

We're ready to go. We said goodbye to everyone and started out. It's going to be hard, I think. We've spent so much time with them in the past few months. Xhimene will be hit the hardest. But there is no question of us taking any of them with us.

We met the caravan and got everything loaded. Benedict was leading the way, of course. We volunteered as scouts and I was surprised that he accepted us. Well, actually he said he'd try us out for a couple of days.

Day 109/21

When we broke for camp this evening, Benedict asked DeWinter if this was how he always traveled. He replied no, it was usually raining. Benedict explained that expecting danger while Shadow traveling is tantamount to calling it. He suggested that DeWinter watch and learn from Gerard, who had the same problem when he was younger. I gathered that Benedict was encountering a bit of resistance while shifting. DeWinter accepted this with a good amount of grace.

Day 137/21

Riding with Benedict was pretty easy. I watched carefully what he did. In essence, when scouting, we were looking for hazards, and to make the trip easy and safe. If it was too easy to move through Shadow, we had to see if it was a Shadow trap, or a sink hole of sorts, like when we got trapped in Paris. And we had to look for dangers coming in from adjacent Shadows. Three times along the voyage we lost the caravan and it took a while to find it. First, it was because Gerard was very good at not leaving a trail behind him. Second, Gerard was leading them off the trail because he was avoiding particular hazards. Hazards that we hadn't seen. I wasn't of any particular help, but I like to think I learned a bit.

The mid-point was in a place called Ghost City. Gerard had DeWinter leading the caravan and he successfully dodged a thorny problem. He told me later that he thought he'd figured out what Gerard was doing. The rest had a prolonged stay there because Benedict wanted to scout a week ahead of the caravan. Riding with him, I saw landscapes I could not have imagined. Even my horse because some armored, reptilian beast. I could feel the bones moving under me.

In the meantime, DeWinter told me later, the others went sightseeing, shopping, out to clubs. DeWinter escorted Byslamia when they went dancing. They stayed out all night and then went out for breakfast. It seemed everyone had a wonderful time.

As for us, we continued to scout. A few Shadows felt uncomfortable. One had no gravity; another had air that was almost too thick to breathe.


Day 145/21

We Trumped back to Gerard and started mapping our route now that we would be on the Chaos side of things. They even came up with some plans to create temporary Shadows to by-pass some of them. There were two benefits to this. It would make it comfortable for all and it is very difficult to ambush. DeWinter and I just sat and listened. I can only imagine we were learning what everyone else knows. This little trick would have come in handy when we were looking for DoBlique.

Sigh.

Day 167/21

We got everyone moving along. Benedict started creating little pocket Shadows like a string of pearls. I even got to try and do it for a while.

Before we got too far to the Courts I did Trump Nachoth to see if she learned anything. She did. She knew I couldn't come through, so she had written down what she knows. It wouldn't give me any time for questions, but I was accepting all the help we could get.

There are 25 different groups of BlackAdders. As far as she could tell, none were aware of Castle Black and none had lost any people recently. If there are any groups she doesn't know about, they can't be powerful enough to set anything up. And none seem to be insinuating themselves into the Church.

But she did put two people into place to watch the Church, to see if any Chaosians had infiltrated. They haven't seen anything but they are now two days overdue to report in. She doubts that the Church or the Courts are actively working together. There is too much of a disparity in thinking. She did put another BlackAdder in and he found out that there was a group of trans-Shadow smugglers that "help the poor" with the help of the Church. These smugglers do have Chaosian connections of some kind.

Day 168/21

I got a hold of Random just before breakfast and gave him the information. He, in turn, handed it to Vialle. She will write a letter to Dastard to giving him the information and asking if she could be of help. It made sense. Dastard, like most people, would have an easier time dealing with Vialle rather than Random.

Day 182/21
Entering the Courts

We reached the Black Zone today. There are several thousand troops waiting as an honor guard through the Fire Gate as we move through the Boulevard, passing the Cathedral, moving back out of the Boulevard and into House Bodann. Bodann's House makes Castle Amber look like a gingerbread house. It's easily four times larger with weapons bristling all over.

We passed through seven gates and seven checkpoints. The Lord of the House greeted King Random in an Old Chaosian dialect. It was a complex arrival ceremony. In light of our cultural bias, the ceremony was cut to only 30 minutes or so. King Random, to our wonderment, became eloquent in his acceptance. In light of the Chaosian sensibilities, he extended his speech, to an hour. Even from where I stood, the Lord of the House looked pleased. There was another twenty minutes more as each member of the family was introduced, not including DeWinter. Bodann introduced his council of seven.

Then we were shown to our rooms.

The ceilings are quite high, so much so that the light doesn't reach the top. Candles along the way-- they looked like bones-- were glowing. Our rooms were adjacent to Byslamia's. Ours had every conceivable weapon adorning not only the walls, but also the ceilings. DeWinter was both impressed and pleased. Byslamia, on the other hand was less than thrilled. Her walls had snakes all over them. Real ones, thousands of them, moving and sliding over each other and around. I touched one and it felt real.

A few hours later we went to dinner. We are all segregated according to rank. With all the House together, I came see the family resemblance, especially to Vintar. He was still younger than I remembered and I gave him a few cryptic remarks so that he might remember me in the future when I meet him for the first time. I was surprised, the Chaosians near us actually talked to us.

Following protocol, for the first half of the meal I was talking with a woman, Mathera, across from me. By her comments, I would guess she was about 200 years old. DeWinter was talking to a man, FiServus. During the second half of the meeting I spoke to him while Mathera talked with DeWinter. He filled me in on the lineage of House Bodann and I tried desperately to remember everything he said. I doubt if there was going to be a test, but you never know when it might come in handy.

After dinner, we saw a play put on by children: something about Amberites. The boys all walked around with an odd swagger and every "princess" had a dagger at her hip. And they talked loudly, exclaiming a lot. It was almost a parody, though I'm not sure they meant it that way.

Afterwards, I took a moment to ask Owen about our rooms, especially Byslamia's and to inquire if there were any practice rooms. There wouldn't be much for us to do and I wanted some sense of normalcy in my routines. She said she would see what she can do. Later, it was Vintar who came to see what was wrong. He said he understood completely that she might not care for the snakes and set about getting the decor changed.

The people were generally nice though restrained and refined. I found myself slipping into my Mycenean habits, which seemed to work nicely, for me at any rate. If I made any blunders, no one said a word. By the time we were ready to retire, Byslamia found that the snakes were gone, the ceiling looked like a sky and it even had a lovely balcony overlooking a Mycenean-like harbor. She was thrilled and I was faintly envious. But I couldn't ask DeWinter to give up the weapons motif which was part of the collection of one of the family's founding members.

Day 187/21

We've started to relax a bit. No one's trying to kill us and everyone is quite friendly, once you see the signs. One Bodann, Sempher actually took us out "on the town" once or twice, which in Chaos is a strange experience, since there is neither an "out" or a "town". The wedding will occur later in the month. His wife, Rosiera asked if I would be willing to answer some questions about Amber. Nothing strategic but, rather about the people. I think she's quite invigorated with all of us descending into her House. I had little difficulty talking with her. She said she was surprised at how young I am. I suppose I conducted myself well enough.

Day 192/21

Other guests of honor have begun to arrive. I was chagrined to see House Murkweir here. I could only imagined what they might cook up, remembering what they did at my own wedding. I planned to keep an eye on them. I was interested to note that their Elders were half the age of any Elder in Bodann. I watched them for a few days and realized they were watching me in return. I don't care. I won't have them ruin this wedding if I can help it. I kept my scrutiny circumspect, but they don't have such manners. I almost found it gauche.

Day 198/21

Sebastian arrived today. Frankly, I wasn't expecting him at all and I'm not sure I'm pleased to see him. He came in swaggering like the young boys from the play, wearing a Dragon-scale cloak and a three-day stubble. And no servants. He was shown in and after he made himself presentable, he tried to ingratiate himself to any and all Bodanns near. By the end of the day, the Bodanns were virtually running when he came near. Imagine alienating so many in such a short time.

Day 200/21

Sebastian came to see me. He believes that the Murkweir are up to something and he thinks it has something to do with me. Instinctively questioning his judgment, especially since I have seen nothing of the sort, I said I would take it under advisement. I was surprised he was willing to extend himself on my behalf, considering the last time we had spoken. He looked puzzled and said I was "goofy". When I asked him to clarify the meaning, he said "dim-witted."

Oh!

I thanked him for his time and said I would attend to my own welfare, thank you. He left and I went to speak with Benedict. I told him what Sebastian said. Sebastian may be completely unfit for any social discourse, but I was going to get a second opinion anyway.

Benedict said that he thought the Murkweir were worried about me. That took me aback. Why? Because I could challenge them for the crimes they committed against me. House Bodann would be honor-bound to defend me as their guest and future relations.

Oh.

I admit to being slightly tempted to take that route, but it would be a poor wedding gift to Nikolaus. But, I can dream...

Benedict just smiled and asked if I would like him to talk with Sebastian. I gratefully accepted his offer.

Day 201/21

Sebastian was miraculously changed. He'd shaven, well-clothed, gave all the Chaosians the personal space they'd required, and was subdued, respectful and quiet. We were awed by Benedict's powers.

Day 228/21
Nikolaus and Silviera Married!

Today is the day. We assembled at the Cathedral where the Prelate of the Church gave a long speech on the union between the Courts and the Kingdom of Amber, an unprecedented event in both their histories.

The bride and groom were the first in the Cathedral. They had done a vigil for the entire night and were waiting for us as we entered the nave. Each House entered according to their proximity to the succession to the throne. House Rascal, with only 57 members was the youngest house and therefore the last to enter. We also entered in order of our rank, which meant I got to watch everyone move through and get an idea of where I should go. At the last minute, Fiona had arrived. I supposed she just wanted to avoid the month-long ceremonies and such.

The Cathedral itself was interesting. There was no stained glass, but rather pockets of colored energy forming pictures.

We stood for the entire day, through the longest ceremony I've ever attended. While we had been warned, it didn't hold up to reality. All I could remember were all the times I'd complained as a child to having to stand during one of Mother's ceremonies. I take it all back.

Of course, not everyone can do this. A leg will go dumb there, one would fall asleep there, and every so often, someone would fall down. It's considered bad form. We stood at arms length from each other, so propping someone up is difficult. As long as it isn't apparent to anyone else, we can get away with it. I don't know why anyone who falls is left there. Later I found it's considered wrong to mitigate or call attention to such a weakness.

So we stood for the entire day-long proceeding. It seems a silly way to have a ceremony. While I could hear everything, even though I was fairly behind most everyone, I found my thoughts wandering. I devised ideas for games for the children. I wondered what everyone else was thinking about. Oh, I really ought to get a few Yule gifts so I won't have to rush later on in the year. What type of Shadow should we live in...Hmm, advanced enough so that they could gain a familiarity with all sorts of things... but where the weir won't go crazy. Nothing too confined. I was thinking of perhaps the mountain city. I wondered if Dr. Creighton was still practicing? Probably not, though she seemed to believe in our Shadow-shifting. Maybe some place new? I was hesitant because I thought it was more important for us to go where we know the rules... lessens any unwelcome surprises. I started outlining just what we might want, all the parameters. My thoughts meandered like this for a long time.

And still we stood. I did catch the sight of Moran collapsing. I was surprised he lasted so long. Unfortunately, he was in front, so no one could surreptitiously help him. A short while later, Byslamia started to wobble. I reached out; making sure my shoulder remained fixed. With the reinforced, stiff clothing, I was able to catch a hold of her just as she collapsed.

Just then the great "rose window" that wasn't at the back of the Church began to open. The Abyss was there, monstrous and awesome. It was then I could feel IT coming through toward us, the Enemy. Most everyone seemed completely unaware of its presence, though I can't imagine how in the face of such malignancy. Does it come from here? Is that why it hates us? As it filled the hall, it could see scores of people dropping. I saw Beauty fall out of the corner of my eye. I could see Fiona and Owen; they were unmoving. I can only suppose this was expected and I should do nothing. Certainly Chaosian protocol demanded I not speak or move away. But how many people here knew what lay in the Abyss? Could they be affected? Did this explain some aspects of the Chaosians?

Still we stood like statues, this time some of us trembling. I tried thinking good thoughts, of happy times, my husband, and my children. The Prelate was conducting a ritual and I could feel the Enemy retreat back out into the Abyss. The ritual was the reaffirmation of the wedding. I would love to have a few minutes to talk to the Prelate. I'm sure he knows the affect it's having. I'd like more answers about the Enemy.

If they have them. If they'd tell me.

Afterwards, we filed out in the order we entered. Sebastian, who'd stood closer to Random, was looking more than a little ill. I remembered he had been marked by the Enemy in our long-ago encounter. I gently shook Byslamia, rousing her enough to walk out on her own.

Day 235/21
Afterwards

Now that the wedding is over, we've been spending the time celebrating. Fiona left the morning after the ceremony. The food became more ornate, there was more drinking, and dancing, Chaosian-style. DeWinter and I talked. I'd found out that our room had once belonged to one of the oldest members of House Bodann. DeWinter wanted to do our "slither dance". I suggested we could incorporate the weapons into the dance. Okay, he said, as long as he could see all the weapons while we danced. Then he waggled his eyebrows. He was enjoying himself.

Day 236/21
Heading Home

We left today. Benedict surprised us by leaving to attend something else. Gerard surprised me by soliciting my aid as caravan scout. Hmm, responsibility for looking out for anything that might want to get or harm the King and Queen of Amber, or any member of the royal family, or any of their entourage... eight weeks of fun.

Day 292/21
Home

We arrived back in Amber without incident. The family dispersed and we headed back to Tiryns. Kai-Revere presented DeWinter and I with gifts. He'd made, by hand, leather gauntlets, with large spikes along the backs of the hand. Since we weren't allowed weapons during the visit, he thought these would suffice. They were supposed to be done before we left, but they were a lot harder to make than he thought they'd be. We made a bit of a fuss, tried them on and examined them. They were better than anything I could have made at that age.


Day 330/21
Monitoring Lessons

Well Amber has successfully delivered just under 800 births. A population explosion, to be sure. So for a week or so, everyone involved raced around from one delivery to another.

Kai did ask me to tell him about the trip to the Courts. He was vastly disappointed that there were no attacks, no monsters, nothing out of the ordinary. I had omitted any reference to the presence of the Enemy. It would just make him a target and I only know for certain that Fiona, Llewella, Sebastian and I felt it. I couldn't go around talking about it. He had me tell it three times and confirm with his father that there were no monsters or anything "cool" that I missed. Even then he didn't want to believe me. I told him I don't lie. Kai didn't believe me. DeWinter settled the matter by saying I didn't lie and he'd get no dinner. Kai stubbornly persisted and breakfast was included in the "no eats" deal. After Kai dragged himself off despondently, I told DeWinter that breakfast was probably a bit much. Yeah, he said, he got "a little carried away".

I got caught up with what Kai-Revere and Xhimene have been doing. Claw offhandedly mentioned she had been giving Xhimene lessons. What? Well... Xhimene really liked her knife, so she'd been teaching her... stuff. All I could think was that Xhimene wasn't even a year old and already she'd been given a knife. I told Claw to show me the weapon. Oh, it was a large blade, well kept and well sharpened. I didn't bother to hide my disapproval. I let it radiate out. Claw knew I was displeased and couldn't look me in the eyes. I told her to show me what she had been teaching my daughter.

We went and found Xhimene. Claw placed the blade on the floor. She carefully said "Sharp!" to Xhimene who reached over and touched it. "Sharp," she repeated. Claw picked up the knife and moved away. She looked at me as if to say, see, not that bad. But it was the careful way she had said 'sharp'. As if Xhimene would only do one thing, nothing more. I held my hand out for the blade. Claw looked like she would refuse. I raised an eyebrow. I was willing to fight if it became necessary. She sensed this, remembering that I won the last one and handed it to me.

I knelt by Xhimene and placed the blade on the ground next to her. I asked her to show me what else she knew. Xhimene picked up the blade and threw it up into the air. It did a couple of perfect spins before landing tip down into the floor. She clapped her hands and laughed. I glared at Claw.

I showed DeWinter and his first reaction was that Xhimene was 'amazing'. He was pleased. Then he caught on that I wasn't all that pleased. Still, it was impressive for her to do. Kai can't even do that. He tried a few more reasons why I shouldn't be upset. Finally, I just grabbed his lapels and pulled him down to my level. "She's a baby! Not even one year old!" I think he then understood just why I wasn't happy. Or maybe he just knew I wasn't happy about this. I called a stop for any lessons with our children without expressed approval.


Day 25/22
Observing our Amberite children

The weeks have gone quietly. We've spent much more time with the children, taking day trips from time to time. Kai-Revere is very enthusiastic in everything he does, always cheerful and upbeat, but he doesn't always pick up on subtleties. He's much like his father in that way. Xhimene is just the opposite. She's very quick, but a bit on the reserved side. Eidolon is smart and quick. There are times he almost takes advantage of Kai-Revere, but he doesn't let it go too far. Too bad his father doesn't learn something from him. He's highly independent.

Observing them playing, I noticed that Eidolon tended to partner himself up with Kai and the two of them would be a team against the weir. I'm seeing a possible problem with this; they are already thinking in terms of themselves as better and separate from all others. I remember having some of the same problems growing up and it didn't make me any friends. In fact, I don't have any real close ones even now. I want to spare them some of that loneliness. Besides, any non-Amberite can bring something necessary and special to them. But, how do I get this idea across? This is just reinforcing my idea that we need to leave Amber for a while. Eidolon is becoming like his father, and Kai is following right behind him.

I tried to talk to Mother about this. She wasn't seeing what I saw but Byslamia, bless her, did and tried to reinforce what I was saying. Mother's still resisting all this, though.

Day 29/22

Yule's approaching fairly quickly. Our trip to the Courts took almost all of the spring and summer. Sigh. I rarely see Amber during the best seasons, something always calls me out.

I've started inviting some other children over: Rhiannon, Aurora, Andromeda, Tigh and Ergian. Maybe the boys will learn something, aside from making friends with other Amberites.

Day 32/22
Kai-Revere's first punishment

DeWinter was very angry today. He caught up with me walking down the corridor and pulled me into our room. He pushed me against the door, obstensively to stop him from storming out, and began pacing. Slowly he told me about one of the ball games the boys were playing. Kai caught the ball and went for the goal. One of the weir girls tried to stop him and he gave her a forearm smash to get her out of the way. The girl went down in a heap. DeWinter had to repeat this twice, in case I didn't get it the first time, or because he didn't believe it himself.

I waited, fuming. He went on to say that Kai went on to make the goal and only then did he go back to check on the girl. She was unconscious but okay. I almost didn't believe him. That Kai would go on running for a stupid point in some stupid game, leaving behind someone hurt and bleeding...

I was out the door and halfway to Kai's room before DeWinter virtually tackled me and dragged me back. He calmed me down, assuring me that we will be punishing him, but after dinner. I wasn't sure why he thought we should wait, but later I realized I probably shouldn't do anything when I was angry. Or to bring home the idea that punishment comes even if it is a little late? Ah, I have no idea why we had to wait, but we did it anyway.

I told Claw and Vis not to be alarmed at anything they might hear. Warning them was common sense. After all, Kai can be very loud. After dinner, we went up to his room. I sat while DeWinter leaned against the door. I explained what was bothering us, that what he did was wrong. He understood, but I could see it was only in an abstract way. The girl was fine and probably wasn't very angry with him, if she was at all. I explained that he once hurt Eidolon, so this was the second time. He has to think about what he's doing to other people.

DeWinter and I had talked about it beforehand and agreed. A simple spanking was in order.

Kai got his first spanking across my knee. At first he couldn't believe what was happening. They he got angry about what was happening. As I predicted, he grew very loud. I could hear pounding on the door. Eidolon was trying to get in to help Kai. A detached part of me commended him for his efforts. Eventually Kai realized just how upset I was and just how wrong he was. I stopped and let him up. I expected him to run away as soon as he was free. Instead, he threw himself into my arms; so sorry he was sobbing.

I held him and helped him calm down. It took a while and we stayed with him for a while. Eventually, we got him dressed for bed and tucked in. He peeked over the covers and asked if we were going to send him away now. I have to fight not to smile. Very seriously I told him we loved him and we wouldn't ever send him away. We gave him a kiss good-night and left.

Out in the hall, DeWinter fairly lifted me up and swung me around. He thought I handled the whole thing marvelously. I wasn't sure about that but then he told me one story of when his mother punished him.

He'd been eight-years-old and a bit rambunctious, like Kai. Deela had a practice session set up in front of everyone and she encouraged him to show her all he had learned. The blade sessions involved life-sized marionettes for him to strike. He worked and worked, finally demolishing it. She ordered another one, this one prepared in advance. The dummy target was dressed like a girl. He questioned this and she replied that since he was such a "bloodthirsty little monster, it shouldn't matter to him."

That he remembers the incident after a couple of centuries, shows how crushed and humiliated he was. So, Kai was punished but not humiliated or left to feel shamed.

Day 53/22
Yule and traveling plans

Yule has arrived. DeWinter and I have been working non-stop to get Kai and Xhimene's gift ready. It was all DeWinter's idea. He's much better at coming up with ideas than I am. We were making a miniature mechanical horse. All Kai would have to do is 'peddle' and the legs would move, mimicking a horse. Xhimene was getting a miniature carriage that can be pulled around. He carved out the main body while I made the seats and saddle in leather. Then I sanded it all down while he did some of the painting. We both worked on the detailing.

While we were working on this and doing our other shopping, he brought up the idea of going out into Shadow for a while. I think he's beginning to see some of the advantages. Or he wants a change of scenery. We made the decision to go on a Shadow-walk for about six months to a year. Kai and Xhimene will grow up and I'm sure they'll exhibit growth and evidence of the benefits of living and learning in Shadow. If nothing else, Kai would catch up a bit to Eidolon and the other children. We'll leave a week after Yule.

Yule celebration was wonderful. The children all loved their gifts. We had a bit of a rush trying to get something for all the children at Tiryns. But it made for a very loud but celebratory household.

Later we went to the castle. Martin, as usual, left all the nametags off his gifts and once again we wandered around talking with people and trying to find the gifts that were intended for us. I ended up with a lovely miniature china tea set. I traded it with Aurora for an equally lovely negligee. I gave DeWinter his gift later that night when we were alone. I'd gotten Owen to help. I gave him an extensive set of shadow catalogs for women's clothing and...paraphernalia. DeWinter's gift was that he could go through them and pick out whatever he'd want me to wear. One choice for each month. I'm not sure if I specified if it was for a year or not. Actually, I don't much care. It would be fun anyway.

He was scandalized and shocked at the implications, especially when he flipped through a few of them. Some of them got a bit...racy. He really is a boy scout, but I figure the ideas will be percolating for a while.

Day 54/22
Dark Portents

I got a Trump call from Tatasha. Actually, it was a spell. She was standing next to the woman who had cast the spell. I don't know why she didn't Trump me, since I'd given her one, but it wasn't the time to ask. After making sure the connection was solid we exchanged a few pleasantries. Tatasha realized she couldn't say anything without the woman hearing, she went off and got a small blackboard.

She wrote "Political turmoil here. Cultists" "Black Foxes." "Sanguinity."

Through cryptic phrases she implied that a faction was on its way to Amber to try and bring back Evander. She thinks they might believe he'd make a better ruler than herself. As to their aggression level, she responded, "Beware of weir priests." Wonderful. Somehow these Black Foxes know that Evander is being held in Amber. They probably don't know it's because he committed crimes. I suspect they would try and take him out of here. They believe Tatasha had something to do with his incarceration. As for any possibility of visiting Aes, she said it would be a very, very bad idea. If she learned anything more, she'd get back to me.

I spoke to Claw and Vis. The Black Foxes is an important clan, but a relatively small one. They'd once been formidable, but that changed a long time ago, about the time that Tatasha became High Mother. Tatasha, Evander and I are of the Black Fox clan. All of us were. I can see the picture now. Many left to follow Eric, most died in the wars. A faction split off, depleting the clan further and they've not recovered since. No wonder they've come to resent Tatasha. They focused on her as the source of their troubles and the means of recapturing their former days.

Sigh.

We went to the castle to tell random someone might make off with one of his less-than-favorite Amberites. On the way there, since Random was not responding to Trump calls, I Trumped Gerard with the information. Unfortunately, Gerard was at sea. The officer in charge of Evander, or Lt. Ericsson, was a Colonel Breearie. He'd take care to tell the colonel whatever she needed to know. Ooh, that's interesting. I wonder how Evander is taking to the notion of not only being ordered by an 'inferior' but a strong-willed woman to boot. I'd love to see it.

Random was out of the castle, but we were shown in to see Vialle. That's where the strangeness of the day began. Something had happened to Random and he was communicating through a red stone, not unlike a ruby, or else he was the stone. No explanations were really offered. DeWinter didn't buy any of it. He thought it was just Random being strange again.

Now I wouldn't put it past Random, if only for the chance for him to confound DeWinter, but I touched the jewel and it was him. I gave him the information, which he said he'd think about it. He was a bit testy. I can't blame him, having no body for a month would get to me. No cigarette breaks over the moat. He was more than a little annoyed that I told Gerard before I told him. That was confusing. I was thinking I was working my way up the chain of command, as I knew it. Tell Gerard who'd tell the King. After all, Gerard is in charge of Evander. And Random has, from time to time made comments that I've disturbed him with excessive bits of information, now he's almost offended that I spoke to anyone before him. Sometimes, I do not understand him at all.

In the end, I told him what Tatasha implied in her communication. Random gave me only one instruction: that I was not to tell Evander anything about this. As an inducement, he said that if Evander resisted being taken to Aes, or removed from Amber, he would strike his sentence in half.

That is a powerful inducement. All Evander would have to do is prove himself. I didn't have much doubt that he would do so, because, if nothing else, he does keep his word. But, I was disturbed by other possibilities. What if he decided to go for other reasons? Ones he thought justifiable to the throne? Amber's throne.

And, of course, he would be even angrier that I did not seek to warn him. We haven't spoken to each other in a very long time. Since Dara's appeal to the family to keep Oberon's promise to her. Icy is the only way to describe our relationship, now. This might very well sever any chances of recovery.

We went back to Tiryns. DeWinter made a brief stop to borrow Tatasha's trump from Evander. We thought it best that I do not make an appearance just yet.

Day 56 Year 22
Leaving Amber

We left for Amber today. Kai-Revere tried his best to cajole a seat in front, but ended up riding behind Cutwind. The party is small: DeWinter, myself, Claw, Cutwind, Kai-Revere, Xhimene, and Slash. Mother still doesn't realize that time will flow differently for us. But, I only plan for us to be gone somewhere between six months and a year. Hopefully, it will be a pleasant experience.

Next stop, Shadow.



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