Byslamia and I left Martin's Shadow today. We only wandered for a little while before we wondered if our home world would ever become like Martin'sPeople unwilling to meet another's eyes, technology covering and replacing everything natural. If all things are possible, I suppose it will work out just like that, somewhere. Not a happy thought.
Then we talked about whether it has to be like that. There was no ready answer so I began to steer us to a future Mycenea. This time, I remembered to put us in an apartment, with sufficient funds and identification and appropriate papers. We shall see, shan't we?
We arrived today. For a moment, we thought I had miscalculated because it was just as I remembered. Even the money. We then learned that we were in a tourist area, an area that was being re-enacted in a historical sense, our world. They were largely successful though it was eerie for us. Byslamia was considerably distressed when we got to our apartment. She found dishes drying in a rack. Do we create our place here or do we displace someone else, who will stay away until we leave. I believe it is the former. If we displaced someone, when that person returned they would undoubtedly learn what we, the crashers were doing. It would raise too many questions. If we returned, the neighbors knowing we were trespassers would call the police or something. I imagine our minds might be taking care of these details, but I would expect that to be so in older, experienced Amberites. Not myself. Again, we will see.
We decided to go on a tour of the Castle. I was curious to see our former homenostalgia played a large part. But I was also curious to see what they would say about us. The royal families have an estate in the Old Town, so we won't see them there. Part of me would like to see how we'd fit in, but it really would be unlikely to amount to anything. Mother and my sisters are long gone. They might not even have a decent portrait of me after all this time, so the resemblance could be a moot point.
We slipped away from the tour group and went to our rooms. Mine is largely the same except for one wall. There, hangs a sword with a black dagger that I recognize as Evander's. Curious. I had broken mine. I would have thought that action would be reflected here. Perhaps I am not powerful enough to make those reflections. Or, a small part of me wishes things had worked out differently between us. How much could anyone learn of a person just by traveling through their Shadows? It makes each person quite vulnerable, actually.
According to the pamphlet, I would be queen in three years from Now when I left Mycenea. I also kept the throne for 62 years. That's a respectable reign though I wonder what I did with my sisters. Byslamia's room is exactly the same.
We walked around a bit, exploring. Four people entered the parlor next to us and we slipped through the arch just in time to avoid them. I thought they might be one of the Royal family or a guard that registered our trespass. The lights came on and we could have left, easily avoiding them. I was feeling a bit daring and cocky, so I stepped out to greet them. Byslamia was more than a little alarmed.
They called me Margery and approved of my hair. They called Byslamia, Beth. They were shooting a film. My counterpart is to play Queen Cassandra (how odd to write that) and Byslamia was to play herself. I was bemused by the circumstances. I was acting like another person who was to play the Queen I have not yet become in my own history. I nearly laughed when they explained my own motivations and psychology to me. But the real actors arrived and were distinctly not amused. In fact, Margery was furious and stormed out. She did look a bit like me though the wig had to go.
The director was a bit confused but thought it was part of a practical joke. We did not dissuade him of the idea. We did get hired as stunt doubles when they learned I could fight. For so simple a job, we signed more papers that Mother does for a treaty! I was a bit out of sorts when I met another double, Mark who looked just like Evander.
Byslamia's double arrived today and everyone is confused. I thought they realized we were not actors. Now they are questioning how two of us, exact replicas of their ancestors, arrive together as friends, precisely when they are making this film. I think we side-stepped the issue sufficiently. I also think it makes their heads hurt.
I fought Mark for a scenehe's dreadful, really. The battle scene at the harbor was great fun. I will have to be careful not to raise too many questions. Margery is pointedly not speaking to me. The crew is being helpful in keeping us separated. They give me cues when I need to leave. The producer even asked the director to ask me to lay low while a journalist writes a story about her. I guess I threaten her position. Poor girl. How do you compete when you are acting the part of someone who is standing right next to you, even if she doesn't know it. In fact, the not-knowing is probably making it worse for her. I agreed to lay low. They did suggest the possibility of a sequel for me. It sounds like fun.
It's been six weekshow time flies. The film is done and there will be a final bash tomorrow. What are they going to hit? We will leave shortly thereafter.
I called Princes Florimel. I wanted to know if we could come back here. She assured me that most things should remain safe here until we return, if I set things up that way. I arrange for the apartment to be kept up and hope it all works out. We are to return in a year to talk about a sequel.
I even spoke to Owen about Shadows and Time Flow. I synchronized our months and days between Amber and Mycenea II. We'll hope for the best. We went through to Amber. Owen says my drawings are better though I should try and focus on something or someone outside myself, draw what I know. She suggested Byslamia.
We set off again. Our goal is a city, or place named Shom Dao, where I can continue learning my fighting skills, and hopefully other ones as well. I don't just want to fight all my life.
It's been a week only and we've already arrived. The city is high in the mountains, far from any major population or thoroughfare. The city itself is small but fortified. We approached the gate and a man or guard emerged. He reached for his weapon and stated he was our first obstacle to gain entrance. I instinctively drew my sword in defense, but I told him I would not fight. Apparently it was a correct response and he stepped to the side and said we could pass. At the gate, a woman placed a bowl of water on the ground. I looked at her then Byslamia who looked at me just as confused. I didn't want to offend her so I told her I didn't understand. All she said in return was that we may pass and continue. That was a test?
At the door to the school we met the third obstacle. I admit I have no idea of what to do. When I try to pass I get hit. If we fight and I win, I failed, I guess. He's very fast. I studied his stances and moves and they were very odd. We fought for three hours to no avail. When the sun set, we came to this inn.
Perhaps fighting was not the way. Perhaps they were testing my creativity or some such thing. I thought perhaps I had to use other abilities to demonstrate how much I wanted to learn. So like the proper princess I am, I tried to sneak in. All that brought me was the pain from the 50' fall as a hand cut my rope. Byslamia got truly angry then. She went in and demanded to talk with the headmistress. They let her in! I tried the same thing, and was refused.
After a few hours and a few inquiries I learned that she can not come back out. Then anger replaced all my frustration. She was not to become a hostage! Of course, true to form, my anger ruined my form and the guard rendered me unconscious. When I came to, I just picked myself up and went to the inn.
I returned this morning. I tried everything I could think of to pass through. I asked, begged, pleaded, demanded, accused, pried, poked, tricked, everything. Nothing I said or did accomplished anything. At a loss, I was just determined to get through to Byslamia. So, we fought. For 6 hours. I did win. I stepped past the collapsed guard and across the threshold when another guard emerged. Perhaps they were tested my resolve and endurance? I fought for another 8 hours. I was getting winded. I won again and met a third guard. I was unwilling to give up my few precious feet inside, so I went to a wall and sat. Then I slept. I don't know why I felt safe doing this, but I did. I also knew I was failing their test.
The guard was still there when I woke. I sat and watched and I realized I could get Byslamia out. Or myself in. I could have hit myself. I Trumped her, which I could have done yesterday. She pulled me through. I almost laughed at the guard's expression as I disappeared. I would have, if it wouldn't have hurt so much.
What was amazing was the Sebastian was there. To learn? No. He said we must return to Amber because someone was after his blood. I wonder if he means there is a feud against him? It turned out that he is the same age as Martin was when someone went after him. Sebastian was warned by his mother's ghost. Apparently Fiona was en route. So why was I needed?
There was a letter from Benedict. He suggests I get further training at a place named Shom Dao. There are three tests to pass, the first being the hardest and the last the easiest. Ha!
I escorted Vialle to dinner and afterwards we all met in the library to discuss Sebastian's situation. They mentioned a Hall of Mirrors at one time. It is a haunted section of the Castle which doesn't exist but some nevertheless find themselves there.
Sebastian says he spoke to his mother in her old home, which is also a brothel. Fancy he finding a trail there. What made him look there, hmm? Each woman who married to Random's line (beginning with his mother) has suicided in despair. A family curse? Random said he would ask Benedict (repeatedly, if necessary) for any information. He was only 7 at the time, but Benedict would have been old enough to know more. Sebastian, Martin and I will go to the brothel. I have been given the task of bodyguard.
We met Em, the proprietor of the establishment. She led us through a secret corridor to avoid other patrons (and gossip, I suppose). When in the room, things got a bit fuzzy. Sebastian began speaking to the air. I could only see a rippling, hazy cloud of colours in the shape of a women, a drowned woman. Sebastian took her hand. He said she was afraid to talk, says it is not a curse. It! She faded and reappeared but it is not the same. It embraced Sebastian and I watched as his face changed. Something was wrong, I knew it. I pulled my sword out and launched myself at Sebastian in the attempt to knock him out of contact. As I approached I saw him bleeding and convulsing. I heard a voice You can save him. Take my hand! I did so and a blanket of cold draped over me and I felt my body shut down. Then I heard Byslamia's voice?! No this way. Don't sacrifice Sebastian to save yourself. It is not worthy of your honor. Turn toward the light.
I started to do so, but the light felt like death and I hesitated. A hand grasped my shoulder painfully. I see Byslamia. But how? Suddenly I knew Sebastian was dead. I cut away from Byslamia, but was trapped in the dark. Then Owen was there. Is it really her? Who is really here, if anyone? I dragged myself to Owen as Byslamia clung to me. I have never felt such pain as I did then. It increased to an agony as we moved away from the light. It almost felt like an affirmation that I was still alive to feel the pain. Byslamia screamed as I emerged from sleep. In the fog between worlds I saw her arm where I severed it. Its claws were embedded in my chest and then faded. I was so cold!
I woke in my old room in Mycenea. That can't be! It faded until I was in the brothel again. Owen is there and she took us to the infirmary. Llewella was also there. She brought Sebastian and I managed to carry Martin. I am very tired but in no pain. There are scars where the claws were. I felt something against my mental shields!
I strengthened them and learned it was Sebastian who was trying to heal me. I had to fight to keep from snapping at him. After what we just went through, you'd think he'd abstain from such invasions. He can be so thick-headed. I told him to ask first and did not let him in.
We stayed the night. Vialle visited and then Llewella. Vialle guided Martin home. I think she just might be used to his hangovers, and that is what we told her happened. Llewella locked the door and checked out scars. She said I must protect them from further damage. A knock on the door. I bet 10 gold it's Byslamia. Llewella bets its Fiona.
It's both. Byslamia left when she realized I was just hung over. The rest of us discuss what happened. It is of such a nature that I cannot disclose even here. All I can say is that Fiona doesn't want anyone learning about this and Llewella believes the more that know, the better. I agree with Llewella. It became obvious that Fiona and Llewella do not get along. Much like my sisters, actually.
I left and smoothed things over with Byslamia. Then I left Amber, camping in Arden over night.
I was moving quickly through Shadow today. Too quickly for my horse. Something about hellriding caused it to sicken. I took him to a doctor and I had to leave him there for healing.
It's been 2 days since I began looking for a mount. I found a place where I could have ridden what I assume were giant worms but declined. Today I found a bag with sugar cubes in it. Horses like sugar. So, as I walked I left a trail. By midday, a 20' dragonfly with four wings tentatively approached. I made friends with it and off we went. There is intelligence in its many eyes.
Two days by air and I am in Mycenea. Mother is fine. She was even happy to see me. I trumped Byslamia through and the visit was enjoyable. I spent most of the night talking to my sisters. I guess being removed as competition has made me much more likable.
I arranged for Mother to see Evander in a few hours. I think they'll benefit from the visit.
I can't believe this. I Trumped Random and sent Mother across. I followed in time to see her collapse in disorientation. Byslamia never reacted to Trump in this way. The next thing I know is that Random begins striking and kicking her! Quite cheerfully, I might add. I admit to being too stunned to react, which was a good thing. This was actually Ire, Evander's conspirator!
I left the room and Trumped Julian. All I had to do was say her name and he wanted to be pulled through. I alerted the guards and Ire was imprisoned. They placed her in a buried chamber where she will not hurt anyone. I checked in with Evander and he assured me he knew nothing about her plans. I think I believe him.
Random and Julian learned that Mother is in a stasis cocoon under her bed in Mycenea. Obviously this wasn't a long-term plan for the maids would have surely found her before long. I got the instructions to free her and went back, bringing Sebastian and March in case she had friends there.
It's been 12 days but Mother is fine and Ire's work is undone. Mother was almost beside herself when she learned of Ire's treachery. We called Owen who came through. She examined Mother and said that mother has been slowly poisoned for the past 6 months. She is magically weakened but fine. Mentally Ire set herself up as a confidant, ensuring she can do as she pleased and learn whatever was going on. Gevalia, my oldest sister, some of the other sisters, the groundskeeper, a harbormaster, mother's chambermaid, a chemist and a few guards have all been tampered with. Thanks to Owen, it is all repaired. To know she was so vulnerable has shaken Mother up quite a bit. She is still ill though. The poison will continue to cripple her lungs until she dies. Owen recommends we take her to Glantri immediately. Mother is practical and dying is not. She agrees after making Gevalia crown heir.
It took 2 days to return the dragonfly to his home. He is happy to return (and so are the guards). I Trumped back and we took Mother to Glantri. It is very different from Mycenea and Mother will know no one, so Byslamia and I are resolved to stay for the duration. It should take about 2-3 months.
We met Prince Bleys and his wives and children at the Embassy. He seemed pleasant enough, though I can't imagine what he needs so many wives for.
It's been 17 days. Mother has been given the Family description and stories. She thinks it is an odd family. She's a very astute woman. Her recovery is going well and despite our efforts is beginning to want to go home. Since leaving this magical Shadow will undue all our work, she will stay. It might be a difficult few months.
At dinner tonight Byslamia and I met a Captain Winter. He delivered one of Evander's daggers with a proposition. He will free Evander from prison in exchange for my association. I think he believes I am angry at Evander's imprisonment and he has no idea I was involved in that particular resolution. I told him I would consider his proposal. We will meet again in 4 weeks. Given time differentials, it should be enough time to decide how to handle this.
It's been 2 days and I figured it's safe to go to Amber without arousing suspicion if Winter is watching. I Trumped Owen to go to Amber and while I was there decided to get a Trump of myself made. It took all afternoon and the evening, but it's done. It shows me against and exterior wall of the castle. Behind me are three windows. The one to my left shows a night sky with a shooting star. Good omen, there. The middle one has a stormy sky while the right shows sunshine over mountains. I stand in a soft, warm red coat and black trousers and riding boots. I hold a sword out, with its tip down to the ground and a hand on the pommel. I am laughing, almost mischievous. I can't say that's how I envisioned myself, but it is appealing. I have enough made for Byslamia, Sebastian, Random, Julian, Martin, one extra for myself (Owen suggested this) and three others, just in case.
I went to my rooms but they are not ready yet. My old room is occupied so I take a guest room.
Owen was at Breakfast as are Shapir, Sebastian and Martin. I Trumped Julian and went through (Random was busy). I told him about Captain Winter. Apparently he's one of Deela's sons, half-brother to Dalt. I gave him one of the Trumps and learned that Vivant is with child. How wonderful! I can tell he's very happy about this and I'm honored that he told me. He says that there is a Tide of Energy (I heard the capitals in his voice) that passes through Amber every 100 years. He believes it facilitates pregnancies. Does that explain Random and Vialle's child?
Speaking of that, I trumped Random and went through. I gave him a Trump after meeting the Begman ambassador. I filled him in on Winter. Random says he's one of four sons of Deela, though the identities of the last two are unknown. Winter is the most reasonable compared to Dalt who Hates Amber. He's even tried to attack Amber with his army but failed. Neither Julian nor Random seem to think he's much of a threat.
I returned to Mother. All is well. It's been two weeks since I left. I got a copy of Corwin's journal for Evander to read, minus the escape scene. He'll understand. I also went to Mycenea II to get an idea of the time there; I still have 6 months to go.
This morning I spoke to Random again. He wishes me to be a secret official court traitor to work with Winter and find out stuff. He was fairly vague. I am uneasy about this but I'll do it if he really wants it. I'd think Sebastian would be far more suited than I.
I had lunch with a Duke from Glantri and his son, a Marquis. The Marquis and Mother hit it off splendidly and he invited us to see some ice floes up North. It'll be a diversion and get us out of the city for a bit. What's important is that Mother is looking forward to it. The Marquis' sons, Tebastian and August are going as well. August is a bookish fellow and Tebastian is full of himself. Tebastian kept the conversation at dinner flowing easily while August actually said something if it could be pried from his lips.
Before we leave I pulled Julian through to ask about Random's proposal. He was decidedly against the idea. His reasoning is that my position is precarious enough as it is and this assignment would endear me to no one. I just figured I'm a lousy liar. I can do it if it is important or a social nicety (how nice to see you, Fiona) but generally I'm not good at it.
We left today and the trip was pleasant enough, I had no trouble keeping Tebastian engaged in his own conversation and August spoke if spoken to. Sigh. At least I didn't have to ride in the stuffy carriage. At dusk we set down at a small lodge for the night. I wonder if this is rough living for them. Well, it never hurts to get a good night's sleep.
Last night was hardly what I'd call restful. Mother and the Marquis were having a wonderful time and decided to take a walk. It looked like they were pitching the rest of us. Is Mother having a liaison? Is she finally over Evander? Later I checked on them from my bedroom window. It was Fortune's blessing that I did! A large shape was creeping towards them in the underbrush. I flung open the window and shouted a warning. Then I grabbed my sword and ran downstairs.
Outside the Marquis was fighting the thing, Lady it must have been 15' tall on its hind legs. It was fairly reptilian in looks. As I broke into a run, another one intercepted me so I was forced to fight it.
It was a while before anyone else showed up with one exception. At one point my creature blew frost on me and my arm was encased in ice. As I struggled to break free, someone dashed at the creature, distracting it. He yelled to watch its breath and where I should aim for. As I broke free, the creature threw the man into a copse of trees nearby and turned back to me. The Marquis shouted and when I looked, he was completely covered in ice and Mother was defending the two. I only felt a bit better. Mother got weapons training just like the rest of us, but I can not recall her ever using a sword in my life. Needless to say, she was out of practice.
I killed my creature as I saw Sebastian, August and a few servants come out the door. I got to Mother's side in time to deflect a blow. I took care of it and I think I told her to attend the Marquis. Like I said, Mother is practical. She knew her limits and even if she disagreed, it was not the time for an argument. The oddest part of the fight was I could swear the thing Talked to me in Thari! Thari is not the native language in Glantri. Are they intelligent? Do they come from another Shadow? Why were they here? By then the others got there and the creature was dispatched. They called it a snow wyrm.
The Marquis was freed and he and I were bone-cold. They took him in while I tried to find my erstwhile protector. He was gone and his trail led quite a ways to the west. Whoever he was, he could not have been badly hurt, there was no blood and the tracks looked normal.
Inside it seemed to take forever to get warm. The Marquis was doing badly. We decided to get him to the infirmary via Trump. I called Byslamia and then things got really scary. I sent Mother ahead while Tebastian and August carried the Marquis through. As we passed the Trump contact seemed to distort and twist. I focused as hard as I could. All I saw were them arriving at the other side and Byslamia collapsing.
I took the better part of the next day to get there. I found the Marquis doing fine but Byslamia was in a coma. Actually, they said she had no brain pattern (whatever) at all and was clinically dead. That I understood. I just didn't accept it. They called in a Trump master who agreed that the situation was hopeless. I still didn't accept it. I Trumped Owen who came straight through, in a towel, from her bathing chamber. I found her clothes while she examined Byslamia. She didn't have much hope, but in the end she called in Fiona. This made me nervous but if she could heal Byslamia, I would do what she wanted. She then called in Farris and they went into a meditative state. It didn't take long before Byslamia and they awoke. They explained of another layer of existence, kind of attached to Trump plane
anyway, they are not nice. They wait for strain or weakness in Trump contact then pull their victims in. if they are not freed quickly, they forget their identities and cannot be retrieved. Byslamia has no recollection at all of what happened. She just thought she fainted. I on the other hand feel great remorse. I keep placing her in danger. It's a wonder she doesn't run screaming when I walk in the door. It's actually worse that she does know what happened.
I went to Amber to decline Random's position. He seemed pleased that I refused the position even though he said he was angry by it.
I thought to pay a visit with Sebastian while I was there. I was directed outside in time to see a giant owl land unceremoniously and gracelessly onto the front lawn. It shifted into Sebastian who was none the worse for where. His idea is to learn how to fly.
We have lunched where I meet Ick, a troll woman(?) he brought to work in the castle. He fills me in on the two assassination attempts on himself and one on his fiancé. Even his future in-laws had their house burned down by arson. On top of that Julian had decided Sebastian needs a few lessons in etiquette (true) but it seems they are painful lessons. I think I saw fear in his eyes. I wonder what he did to deserve that?
I have a mind to discover more about the snow wyrms. He agreed to go on my adventure without even asking what it is about. He must be desperate to get away from Julian. Then I went into Amber City to get some armor.
Byslamia is not well enough to Trump so I tried Prince Bleys. He was willing to pull me through. I found myself in a tomb-like archival area in a library. I was obligated to at least have a glass of wine and some talk before I headed off. He was generally enthusiastic about my upcoming trip and suggested I get a Ring of Ice Protection. I could get it at a local shop and said I should spend no less than 1500 but no more than 3000 sovereigns.
I got back to my rooms, found everyone fine, and then went to bed.
Word got out about my fighting the wyrms. The Duke thanked me and asked for my attendance and participation at an upcoming demonstration. Byslamia and I volunteered a martial arts display and they were nice enough to go along with it. The rest of the day was spent buying supplies and the ring (from a VERY eccentric shopkeeper).
The demo was today. Three men watched intently. 1: Hurd, a regimental champion, 2: Konyard, whose father is world champion and is himself quite good, and 3: Stackel, Crown Saber Master of the Ducal Court. I fought their top 5 regular fighters. It was uninspiring.
Byslamia and I showed a few katas and a brief sparring session. It was plain to see that they saw little value in the movements. They were not translating this to a martial situation. I called for a board to demonstrate that the body is a weapon as wella formidable one, if trained. That got their attention. Hurd challenged the demonstration's authenticity. It was dangerously close to calling me a liar. I new I was not and figured he'd make himself a fool in front of the others. I told him to get three boards which he did. He examined and proclaimed them satisfactorily. I broke them and watched his face. I kept mine stoic - I'd never broken three before! Ha!
In the afternoon, I went to their training center. I wanted to see if I could come there and learn more. More tests were involved. The teacher wasn't just going to say okay to just anyone who came in the door--- so he said. I wonder how many people come in the door in order to use naked steel against a guy who's a world champion, just for the chance to say they're good? Curious place.
Anyway, I won. In 3 minutes. He called over another and this time it took 15 minutes. Then a third was called and it took a half hour. Then they declared they would tell the headmaster about me. Why are there always three tests to get into a school? The unfortunate thing about this is that I don't think I will learn as much as I want to.
At lunch I pulled Sebastian through and explained the objective. He's thrilled and that makes me nervous. Does he have no self-preservation instincts at all? I know this is dangerous. He went out to get supplies.
We left today. We took mountain ponies (I have to remember to get my horse back). Sebastian brought an owl, Bubo, with him. I guess they talk to each other. By evening we reached the lodge and he could seem the wyrm remains. He was quiet then. So was the owl. I feel better now.
Today we camped on the glaciers. Thanks to the rings we are comfortable. His owl sees the wyrms first, though it is far away. We set up a perimeter alarm.
We moved out. Three were ahead. By midday they were an hour away and they noticed us. As they moved closer I shouted in Thari. That stopped them cold, if you pardon the pun. After a few minutes 8 approach, four to each side. We talked and we are invited as visitors. I tried to Trump Byslamia, but it doesn't work. Is it something with the area?
We were taken to a warren of caverns. We were introduced to an old wyrm and least three times the size of the others. He can't even leave the chamber he's in. He asked us what was the news from Shadow!!! They know about Shadow. Unfortunately, we don't know what they are interested in and tell him nothing is new. We are dismissed and shown to a suite. A Very Palatial Suite. At least 50 rooms.
We explore and I found an odd room. I got Sebastian to see it. It had four desks, one in each corner. An invisible wall protected them. He siphoned off the energy, against my judgment, and was successful. We found maps, ledgers and a watch log. Each desk was under a particular heraldic symbol unknown to us. The preface of the watch log read: In Shadows, all Blood is Ours.
Sebastian then tried to put the magic back. He was successful at that as well, but ended up disappearing. I waited for a few minutes, perhaps 30, and then got a bit nervous. Since he and his owl seem to have a close relationship (?) I went to get Bubo. It was my thinking that the bird would respond to Sebastian, if he was still there. I dropped off the watch log and a crystal pyramid Sebastian had absconded on the way back. I had Bubo on my arm when I heard voices. Not the sibilant voices of the wyrms, but human voices.
I peered around a corner and saw four men in black armor doing an obvious search of the area. Sebastian must have triggered some alarm when he tampered with the magical field. A fifth being followed, he was not in armor. Not that he needed it. He was easily 7' tall with two sets of ram's horns on his head, glowing eyes and fangs. Avoiding them would have been easy, but I was disturbed that if they caught Sebastian, what they would do to him. Even my brief readings told me they could possibly be from the Courts. Not necessarily a friendly idea. If they were to learn Sebastian was not only from Amber, but of Random's line, he could be in some serious trouble. So I presented myself to them and struck up a conversation, trying to explain away our presence and apologize for our inadvertent trespass. It seemed to be going well when the leader noticed the missing pyramid and watch log. I went to retrieve them.
By the time I got back, he had changed his form into that of a normal man. He introduced himself as Marduk and explained that we have to address our trespass. The only way to do that would be to go to the Courts. Another option would be to kill us right there. Even if they are not terribly good at fighting, which I doubt is the case, the odds are not very good. It was rather civilized aside from one incident. Sebastian had revealed not only that we are Amberites, but that he was of Random's line! Fool! Now they know they have a hostage worth keeping. This is one of those times he should have lied. Sometimes I could just kill him myself and do the Chaosians work for them. But seriously, I wish he would learn to keep his mouth shut. I wanted to ask why there was so much enmity between Amber and the Courts, since as far as I know Dworkin was a Chaosian. I got as far as saying Dworkin's name when Marduk slapped me. I fought hard to not return the gesture, partially because we were in a weaker position, partially because I have greater control. We give our word to go peacefully and he agreed to let us Trump out to let others know where we are going. All things considered, he didn't have to do that. We tried, but the Trump still did not work. Sebastian sets Bubo free to return to the city.
Traveling on Logrus tendrils is odd, but curiously easier. He sent forth the tendril, a blackish ribbon on which we walked. It was like the moving sidewalks of Martin's Shadow, except it goes through different Shadows.
Destination The Courts
We traveled for 3 weeks, the Trumps failing to work the entire way. Was this Marduk's doing? Nevertheless, Marduk was hospitable and saw to our comfort. Still, we did not have time for much in the way of amenities so we began to approach the Courts looking rather bedraggled. I had no idea it would take us this long to travel. Marduk and his men must have been in the caverns when we arrived. What were they doing in Glantri, so close to Amber?
We are shown into a palatial sitting room. Everything in the castle was built on a very grand scale, more to impress the natives, I'm sure. Lady Grisla, Marduk's grandmother, is the Family Head. At least I can deal with a woman leader more easily than not.
That was the assumption. She was amused by our situation, disbelieving our lineage due to our appearance, and slightly annoyed Marduk hadn't simply killed us to be done with it. That did not bode well.
We were sent out to bathe and change our clothing. When we returned, more of their family were there to inspect us. The Great Debate began. Should they kill us (few saw us arrive and they would not believe that we were Amberites), let us live by using us against Amber (mind control, spying, etc) or letting King Merlin know we were there. It was a fine show. I don't know the Courts. Anywhere else and I would be tempted to believe that it was a game to watch us squirm, until they were satisfied and gave us over to Merlin. I would have obliged. Squirming, I mean. In fact, I'm not sure I didn't, though I tried valiantly to appear unconcerned. We were way out of our league. But in considering how high the attrition rate is here, especially for those in lines for thrones, I wasn't sure it was posturing for our benefit.
I do think I understand why Marduk brought us here. The treaty between Amber and the Courts is that our lives are sacred on the home territories. In Shadow, they could have killed us without any fear of retribution. While in the Courts proper, they must decide if they want to take the risk. So, in a way, Marduk saved our lives. I think I'll forgive the slap.
Grisla invited us on a four hour tour of the grounds. Probably so the others can debate things freely and not give their hand away to us, partially to impress upon us their importance. Eventually Marduk returned to tell us we will be able to go back to Amber. He had an audience with King Merlin and got a few favors in return for our freedom.
We went to see King Merlin. He was not at all what I expected. He's younger than Random, who is the youngest of the Elder Amberites, yet he looks much older. Either time passes much more quickly here, or the job is a tough one. Probably both. Corwin did have his "liaison" with Dara and in a few years or so, met Merlin as a young man. We spent a bit of time with him and he was pleasant and charming. I even made him laugh. I expressed the opinion that there was no point in us to being killed. We were no sport, no challenge. It would be like stepping on a baby bird that was floundering on the floor. For some reason, he found this quite amusing.
He did answer one mystery. Our Trumps didn't work because they become cold when we use them and we are still using the rings of ice protection! We couldn't 'connect' with the cold of the cards as we were 'protected' from it. I haven't felt that foolish in a long time. He invited to his upcoming wedding which Sebastian eagerly accepted. I had serious reservations. To place myself where I could do more harm and be used in games was not appealing. I said so and I think he understood that I felt out of my league. He was gracious at my decline and Sebastian, perhaps coming to an agreement (or realizing his fiancée would be very worried about him) also declined. One thing, I inadvertently let slip that I was slapped. Merlin got a look that said he was not happy about that. In fact, I think he might have been angry about it. I would not name Marduk, since he worked so hard to keep us alive. Even if he did not do it for altruistic reasons, he did not deserve the King's attention.
We Trump Martin who's on his way to the wedding. Once there, he makes sure Sebastian is whole. Sebastian seems pretty oblivious to Martin's concern. Then Martin tells us that we've been gone for 6 months! Byslamia must be beside herself! Oh, I think we are in a world of trouble. Wonder if it's too late to go to Merlin's wedding
Later: Fiona pulled us through since she is one of the few powerful enough to do so at this distance. From there, I hope to get to Amber or Glantri. We emerge in an office of some sort. It suits her. It is austere with no frills. Her secretary, Maria, orders food for us. While we wait, Fiona smokes. Curious, but she is one of the few people I wouldn't have thought would smoke. After all, it is usually either an addiction or a pleasure. Fiona seems too strong for the one and not that self-indulgent for the other.
Of course, while we are there, we explain what happened to us, including Sebastian's indiscretion. Fiona will have no trouble believing him. After all, he's providing an example by telling her about all our mistakes. She's one person I would rather had not known how far I've messed up.
She was curious about the crests we saw in the library. She pulled out a heraldic book (it just happened to be lying about). We find one of themthe House of Merquier. That's Marduk's House.
She gave us privacy to Trump anyone we need to. First I Trumped Julian. Oh, he was angry at something! He tells me to Trump to the steps of Castle Amber, Not to him. When Fiona returns, she offers to use her Trump. I ask if she has one of the entrances to Amber, she does and we step through.
The guards eventually let us by, I thought they were suspicious because we just returned from the Courts. Who knows what could have been done to us. We entered and see guards everywhere. Something was definitely wrong. I thought that because of the wedding, and many of Amber's Elders were there, security had been heightened to compensate. We go to Random's office, where we hear the Regent is. But the guards also said that Julian was not in the castle, like we were supposed to meet. The mystery is solved when we walk in a see Evander there.
I thought it was some trick, but no. Random went in search of Sebastian and disappeared. Martin didn't want the job though Julian thought it was his responsibility. Martin took the throne, stripped Julian of his position as Regent then made Evander Regent. Why? Apparently it was Gerard's idea, so that Evander could walk in the King's shoes for a little while. Julian and Martin had a falling out and Julian has not been to Amber since. Evander is fairly certain that the family hates him and will eventually dispose of him. Hence, the guards. Actually, he no longer wants the job. Guess Gerard made an astute judgment.
Random told Benedict he was leaving and made arrangements three months ago.
We heard a scuffle outside. Julian entered and we could see the guards decorating the floor outside. Then came a second shockhe's missing his right arm from the elbow down! He's still very angry. Wasn't I supposed to meet him on the steps?
I filled him in on what happened. He is unconvinced and believes Evander and I planned this from the very beginning.
My head was spinning by this point and I went to see Byslamia. She turns out to be the one constant. Sebastian went to March and the two of them are leaving to look for Random. Byslamia and I greet each other even though Fiona is there.
We have to plan. Sebastian can run right off, but we need to think about things. Fiona Trumps March and summons him. There's no other way to put it. My room becomes the War Room. Sebastian joins us because March is there. Even Evander puts in an appearance.
Fiona doesn't stay long. She's confident we will plan something. Then she asks How many Shadows are in this room? Sebastian and I step outside. He uses his abilities to see that everyone in the room is not real. In fact, the entire castle isn't real. Sebastian goes into the room while I Trump the real March. I get an answer, and he's not in my rooms. I called Sebastian and he runs out. March picks up on my urgency and pulls us through. We are back in the real Amber.
We get to tell our story again!
Julian is there (and not angry), he invites us to dinner. We talk about what happened. It was all Fiona. At least from the moment we Trumped from Martin to her office. She found a place to set up a duplicate Amber. She was having a little game with us! I was angry, so angry I could have said or done some things very unpleasant. But, you know, it didn't last. I almost felt like the whole affair was tedious. Everyone is careful around her because she is sooo powerful. It could be a front. That way, no one hurts her. Emotional detachment, in the extreme. Or she could enjoy the effect. And the moment you trust her, she makes sure you regret it. It doesn't really bring that message acrossnot to trust anyone. At least not to me. I just won't trust Her, that's all.
Later: we went to dinner, it was very nice, though I was having fun making all the adjustments to everything that's happened. It's hard to accept that so much time has passed. No one said anything so I was surprised that Vivant already had her child. A beautiful girl they named Rhiannon. I'll have to remember to send them a gift, but what? Shapir is there, dressed in Blue and Gold. Julian is wearing White and Gold, almost a uniform-style outfit. When Sebastian arrives with Jenny we go in to dinner.
Afterwards we go to a sitting room. Julian plays on the piano while Vivant sings. Byslamia, when we arrived, asked Julian why Fiona would do such a thing. Julian promised an answer after dinner. So when he was finished playing he took her for a walk. I must be getting used to Amber (really?), because I knew he would take her aside. Just as I knew it would not be explained to me. So when they were done with there walk, he returns while Byslamia stays out for a bit.
Julian brought a large mahogany box with miniature pewter soldiers in it. It takes a while, but he sets up the final battle in the Patternfall War outside the Courts. It takes 3 hours, but he's an accomplished story teller and everyone was drawn into it. Byslamia returns half way through. Even so, she becomes interested. The Chaosians use magic, sorcery, strange beasts and superior forces. Amber takes enormous losses, but is unrelenting. (Do I see a message in there?) They keep struggling on and pushing out. Eventually the Chaosians are demoralized and they break. Amber pushes them up to the fortifications of the city itself. There is no more room to retreat, no way they can all get through the narrow entry into the city. Some person, Julian did not state if the identity is known, called for a truce. It was enacted before some fool could break it up before the war is officially ended.
March is totally absorbed with the details. Battles are a hobby with him. Even Jen is subdued with the realization that her father fought there and survived. I think she sees him with new eyes.
Julian offers accommodations to all. Sebastian and Jen return to the castle as does March. Byslamia wishes to stay, so we do. To be honest, I wanted to go. Julian sees us to a suite and sets up a fireplace for the morning. We don't speak much, Byslamia is preoccupied. We retire for the night.
We returned to the castle early. That's when Byslamia breaks the news. She's going to return to Mycenea. I'm not surprised. She's got to be tired following all over creation and back with no place of her own. I knew she'd want a life of her own. And I told her once before, all she had to do was to say so, and she could leave whenever she wanted. Besides, I'm supposed to be a grown woman. I can't keep clinging onto her and putting her in danger. Still, my last line of defense is leaving. The one open, honest person I know.
I went to speak with Random, determined to do what needs to be done before I lose control. I asked him if I could walk the Pattern. I wish to return to Mycenea. Then I ask for Byslamia's things to be sent there. He says okay. I think I surprised himhe wasn't expecting this. I go back to my room and he follows. He tells Byslamia he will miss her. And for old times sake, he asks her if she wishes to fool around. Of course, Byslamia blushes and he's satisfied.
I spoke to Evander for a while. Told him of his place in Fiona's little play. I thought it might interest him. I walk the Patternit was much harder this timeand was in Mycenea. I brought Byslamia through.
I didn't stay long. I hate drawn out good-byes. As soon as Byslamia was settled and beginning to get caught up in things, I slipped out. I have a few things to do. I should see about that movie, but it wouldn't be fun without Byslamia. So, it's off to Shom Dao. At least this time if I fail, no one will be there to see.
Retracing my steps back to Shom Dao wasn't very difficult. Winter had set in, though, so travelling was a bit slower. I approached the gates and a different man stepped forward to challenge my entry. I gave the same response, hoping they didn't change the tests.
They hadn't, and I slipped through and met the second challenge. Again, the same response. Then I was at the school door. There was a different guard there, but the challenge was the same. I struck a pose with my sword, ready to try again. He did likewise. Some instinct in me waited to see what he would do. I waited and waited. I saw the shadows slipping across the floor as the sun moved along. I almost let my guard down and stepped back, but some inner voice bade me to continue. I stood. Hours more slipped by and I could see the guard getting a bit fatigued. I kept on. By early dawn, he collapsed, too tired to continue. A few more showed up and I thought I would have to do this with each one. Maybe I had failed again.
But, they took their companion and invited me in. That was it? I admit, I didn't understand. It was later explained that the first test was to choose not to fight. The second was to admit ignorance and the desire to understand. The third was hope. To show diligence in being prepared, but the hope was showed by not taking the first blow. Then they gathered all my belongings and this will be the last entry for some time.
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