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Cassandra's Diary.31

Day 90/23
Shadow Hunting

We've been riding through Shadow for the past week. I've made sure it was uneventful; therefore it's been slow moving. That's to our advantage, since it's given us time to plan things out carefully, as best as we're able. As a team, we all have something to do. DeWinter, who has the most experience, has been planning out what he wishes for a defensive retreat. It's quite detailed. He wants something like an acropolis, highly defensive and he's even gone to the effort to make a general floor plan, with all the features he deems necessary. DoBlique is in charge of magical defenses, so she'll require specifics of her own. She did specify that she wanted to be a goddess there. If I want her to have the magical capabilities to deal with these Chaosians, this might be necessary. So, I'm putting this into the equations. For my part, I want to have an extremely limited access, only the three of us, unless we give permission, and a much faster time-rate. I'm the one who's going to put this together and find the Shadow. Truthfully, it's going to take a while. I've never tried for something so specific and keeping the variables in place while shifting requires special concentration. Each morning, after going through my daily meditation and exercises, I go through my checklist for what I'm searching for. It seems easiest, thus far, to place everything in a hierarchy of wants. Find a general Shadow that meets the criteria, and work our way closer and closer to our goal. It's been slow, but we are making progress.

Day 174/23

We have arrived, but we've hit a snag. We are in the adjacent Shadow and we just need to cross over to where we want to go. However, that limited access that I mentioned has taken the form of a river of molten stone. Apparently, in planning this carefully, I left out a means to get in. When I mentioned something to this effect, DoBlique just put her hand over her mouth, eyes wide. DeWinter's face remained carefully neutral, almost stony. I told him he might as well let it out, and he broke up laughing. Really, he was bent over and he could hardly breathe. DoBlique just shoved at him and told him to stop. I was largely on his side; it was a ridiculous situation.

Day 175/23

I believe I found a way in. I've been shifting for a Shadow for us to use. Logically, somewhere in my assumptions and unconscious, I must have envisioned a way in. I've traveled up and down the river, leading myself, through self-examination, to what would be a likely way in. I know I don't like heights, so I've discarded looking for anything that might be an overpass. What I found was a deep crevasse that seems to be leading to a cave. Cool air emerges from it, hinting at an exit far from the molten river.

Inside it is quite damp, the only light is reflected from the walls. I'm going in, since I have to “allow” the others to get in. It extends quite far. By the time I realize it is more than just a jaunt through a small tunnel, it seems to late to go back. DeWinter and DoBlique remained behind so they can Trump through. Unfortunately, it's too dark to see the trump and I was silly enough to forget a light, again. Surely, it can't be much further.

Day 176/23

By feeling for hand and foothold, it took a very long time. Warm water is dripping from the ceiling, leading me to think I was just under the river although it feels like about eight hours had passed. I was getting desperate when my internal clock was telling me that more than twenty hours had passed. Surely the dark was contributing to my disorientation?


Day 177/23

The cave has gotten a gray mist, I sure sign of light and hopefully an end. The passage has begun to move upward and I'm moving more quickly, hoping this will end soon. By midday, I was out on the other side. I thought I would be further into the Shadow, but I was just on the other side of the river. From my vantage point overlooking the river, it was only a mile wide.

I Trumped DeWinter. It was an extremely difficult connection; confirmation that my desire for limited access was being met, at least from a Trump standpoint. I was shocked when I asked how long I was gone and he replied it had been about forty hours! He did pass me some food. The contact held, but just barely. There was no question of bringing them through. They'll have to go through the tunnel. Leaving them to work out the mechanics of bringing the mounts and supplies through, I got some sleep.

Day 178/23

When I woke, I Trumped them to see how they were fairing. Now that I was rested, the Trump was stronger, but not by much. Certainly not enough to bring them through. They'd gotten the mounts down to the crevasse and everything lashed down. They were about to enter.

There was little to do while I waited, so I decided to scout a bit so avoid any unpleasant surprises. I walked in a half-spiral pattern, increasingly further out from the cave exit. About five hours out I encountered a good-sized village inhabited by some black-skinned goblins. I wonder who had these creatures in their minds as I was shifting. Ah well, at least DeWinter should know how to speak with them. Three little warriors came out to confront me. I couldn't understand a word they said.

I offered some food to them, which they found revolting and/or unpalatable. At least I assumed that's why they spit it out. The leader took my hand and licked the back of it. Going through the cave I had picked up an enormous about of oily dirt. He gestured excitedly toward the east, but I don't know what he was saying. I backed off and went to search for water. I was filthy from the trek through the cave and wanted to clean up some. The warriors just watched me go.

. As I bathed, I realized the oily residue had worked its way into my skin and was not coming off. The area was quite arid and it took me a little while to realize the substance was protecting me from the heat.

The others still hadn't come through so I explored some more. About 15 hours out from the cave, due east, I encountered a city. I suppose they get no visitors because a few guards with some very nice halberds rushed out to me when I appeared from the trees. Perhaps it was because I was so much taller than they. They gestured with the weapons for me to get down on the ground. I didn't feel like placing myself in such a vulnerable position, so I shook my head. They cursed at me. Ah! Now that I understood. DeWinter loves to curse in goblin when he's angry. So, I cursed back at them.

Perhaps not the most diplomatic way to start a relation, but DoBlique's goblins always took it as a sign of strength. These ran back to the city and closed up the gate.

I waited for a few hours. I didn't make any threatening gestures or movements. They just watched me. They got tired of this and shot a few arrows in my direction. I dodged most, but one hit me in the shoulder. It hurt but only as a bruise. Apparently my skin was hardened as well, because the arrow just bounced off. The goblins were making an excited racket and opened the gate.

A few minutes later a procession came through. I assume it was the leader that came forth to speak with me. If I understood him correctly, his name was Ish-eck. He presented me with a black torc. Not wishing to insult him, I put it on carefully. Through pantomime, I indicated I would return tomorrow. I had to get back to meet DeWinter and DoBlique.

It took about five hours, traveling in a straight line to get to the cave just before they emerged. I hardly recognized DeWinter. Even his eyes and blond hair were jet black. DoBlique had cast a spell to prevent her from the transformation (or just to prevent getting dirty) so she looked the same. They had made torches which sped their travel time considerably. Still, we were all tired and decided to camp before going further in.



Day 179/23
A test for Godhood?

We made our way to the city. Yet another procession met us outside the gate. DeWinter talked with them. DoBlique translated as I stood near the mounts, near her. She said they were calling me the Night Hag. Apparently, I rip off the heads of my enemies.
Ah. I sardonically said that it gives me a role to try and live up to. DoBlique smothered a laugh. She was referred to as the milk-titted goddess, because her skin was so pale. DeWinter just glared at her. I think he didn't think it appropriate that I knew what I was being called.

We were led inside. We had to pass three tests, one for each of us, to ascend to the acropolis. They were believing we were part of their pantheon and we had to prove it. I supposed this was part of DoBlique's desire to be a goddess.

DeWinter met the first challenge. We heard a blood-curdling scream. The crowds parted to reveal a crate, roughly six foot by twelve. Inside was a very large alligator, also black. DeWinter dispatched it easily, when it was released, by thrusting his sword through its head. The goblins were ecstatic with this.

My test was quite different. I was led to a platform with many, many wind chimes hanging from it. They called them the Chimes of Blood. The platform as about twelve feet high, twelve feet wide and ten feet long. A goblin struck one corner, which set the nearest chime ringing. The reverberations swept through, setting the others off. The nearest goblins began to run away as the sound carried through to them. Those caught in the range, including DoBlique and DeWinter, were down on the ground, clutching their heads. Blood was running from the goblin's mouths and ears. I, on the other hand, was unaffected. I frantically ran under the platform, stopping the chimes as quickly as I can. It took about five minutes. DoBlique and DeWinter were largely unharmed, if a bit deafened by the chimes. Most of the goblins should recover, or so I am told.

We went to the base of the acropolis. Here we met the third of the tests. Some Thing, invisible, attacked us. All I could tell for certain was that it was about twelve feet tall and had at least six arms. I just had the thought that their number system must be based on the number three before I was thrown into a wall. DeWinter attacked and was also thrown aside. I took a handful of dirt and threw it up into the air. I had to get too close to it to do so, to give DoBlique a target. It grabbed my head and lifted. I tried to hit it with my sword, but it wasn't doing any good. It was like hitting metal. It began to squeeze and I heard a distinct crack. DoBlique was chanting. Then six lightning bolts hit the creature. I'm quite sure of the count, because I felt each any every one of them. I was still in its grasp and quite ungrounded.

I woke up an indeterminate time later. DoBlique was hovering near, apologizing constantly until I reassured her I was fine. Both of them had their hearing back, so we proceeded up to acropolis. As we ascended, DoBlique remarked that she could feel herself gaining more magic. Then she was fairly glowing with it.

Day 182/23

We've started the build of a prison for our Chaosian…guests. I want to keep them secure until we find out what we will do with them. DoBlique will stay behind building her lab. I found that I can talk with her through the torc. DeWinter and I will be going on ahead, tracking the Chaosians.

Day 193/23

We left today. Another trip through the tunnel. I was Thinking that our transformation would serve us well so I asked DoBlique to cast a spell on us, to keep the transformation while we are on the other side. It only took five hours to leave. The torches helped immensely. As we were leaving the cave we heard and felt a strange buzzing. It felt as if something was crawling under our skin. We supposed it was DoBlique's spell activating, since we were still jet-black when we emerged. But our transformation had gone a bit further. Our skin was still black, but our nails were now about an inch long and quite sharp. Even our arms are about half a foot longer. DeWinter was now fully eight and a half feet tall. We were like dark trolls. The better to hunt Chaosians, eh?

Day 195/23

We've arrived at a black citadel, completely surrounded by a flaming moat. I talked with DoBlique through the torc. Her voice echoed oddly. Mine did too, apparently. I gave her an evil troll laugh, causing her to laugh in return.

Day 197/23
Hunting Chaosians

We've been watching what sort of visitors they have here. It seems there are a number of different species here, so we should fit in. But there were very few, too few to get an idea of what we're for. Still, we decided to risk it.

Inside we met orcs, dog-headed men, and many different sorts of people. No trolls, fortunately. I doubt I could explain how I didn't know their language. The guards were very smart and conscientious. Top notch quality here. I decided to play dumb, literally. DeWinter speaks for both of us, since he knows the language. We're given guard duty, to help keep the peace. Ironic, given our reason for being here. But it'll give us a good chance to roam and look for the Chaosians.

Day 201/23

We've been mostly roaming around, “keeping the peace” as such. It's a fairly orderly place, so our “work” has been light.

Later in the day we saw two of the three Chaosians. They're definitely here. I spoke with DoBlique. She's having a difficult time leaving the Shadow without me there. We'll probably have to bring them to her.
We'll have to come up with a plan. Since we've been staying in the barracks with the other guards, we've had precious time to ourselves. DeWinter asks for a day's leave. I've learned enough of the language to say something about ancient troll mating rites. They laughed and joked with each other. I'm not so good that I could tell what they were saying, but DeWinter took exception to it. The next thing I knew, we were fighting all of them. A few moments later, we were standing in the room surrounded by unconscious guards. Well, we couldn't ask for better timing. Why not get the Chaosians while we could. There was no one left to stop us.

We bluffed our way up into the upper levels, a restricted area for our sort. I said we had an important message for Master Carpelli. Strictly, it was the truth.

We got to their chambers and found Carpelli. I rushed in, and we all fought. He spoke three small words and three purple rings appeared, transforming into two dozen or so, sparkles that hit me in the chest. It hurt, but not too badly. Our new skin helped. But when I hit him, I accidentally killed him. Frustration! Killing him would accomplish nothing. He had to set an example for what he and his House are doing.

We searched the area. We found no Trump or anything else of consequence. We left the city quickly.

Day 202/23

We left the Shadow and were heading back to Amber. We were still quite puzzled about how it turned out. I mean, we checked his quarters, but there was no sign of his being a Chaosian. DeWinter pointed out that he died very easily. Could it have not been Carpelli? I suppose that could be the case, though it would be more than a little annoying. Shadow searching, or finding things in Shadow is one of the few things I thought I was good at. To make such a silly mistake…DeWinter supposes they could have set this up as a blind. If so, I would very much like to know how they did this trick. But, in the meantime, we'll keep looking for them.

Day 203/23

DoBlique is getting more than a little frustrated herself. She simply cannot leave the Shadow, no matter what she tries. Every time she goes through the tunnel, she comes back out on the same side as where she entered. We're going to have to go to her and let her out.

Day 210/23

DoBlique hit on an idea. She was trying to take some of her newly gained goddess-magic with her and it wasn't working. She created a statue of herself and imbued it with the magic, rather like a container. It caused a severe lightning storm, no doubt alarming the natives, but in the end she was able to get free. She met us late last night.

Day 211/23
No-win scenario

We've found an abandoned castle.

At least, this is where my searching has taken us. Rather than have a moat, it has a long chasm running around it. We waited and watched but saw no sign of habitation. I would have left to continue looking, but DeWinter wanted to check it out.

Inside, the floor and surfaced were all heavily covered with the dust and dirt of years of neglect. Not a footprint in sight. DoBlique cast an infrared seeing spell on us, so we could avoid torches for a while.

We moved downward. At one point DoBlique stopped us. A warning spell told her of a tripwire we were about to set off. We moved under and around it, and continued. A silly mistake, I think. It let us know there was someone here. We might have given up before long.

Another level down, we began to hear faint music. Moving closer, we could see torches on the walls and smell food. At a door, I opened it a fraction. Inside a man was sitting, reading a book. Musical instruments floated around him, playing. He was alone I closed the door.

We did some quick planning. He had magical defenses, so DoBlique doubted we could take him out with a spell. So, it would be a rush on him, and hope we could keep it quick, before he started a prolonged fight, and quiet, so we didn't draw the others to fight us.

On the count of three, we DeWinter and I rushed him. DoBlique cast a black web spell on him and he went down. I got in my strike before he could do anything. I hit hard enough to hurt a normal person but not kill them. He was only surprised and stunned. Then I hit with my full strength, and he went unconscious.

The music was still playing, masking our sounds. There was a door at the far end of the room, hidden from my previous glance. Peeking inside, a man was fencing against a construct, which he had speaking in my voice. I didn't recognize him, but he looked like a Merquier.

The same procedure. This time the web missed the man; he threw the construct into it. He and I began to fight. Oh, he's good. Definitely a match. As we fought, I heard DoBlique call out to get ready. What did that mean? A flash lit behind me and part of the ceiling exploded. Sounds of fighting came from behind. Oh, dear…

I maneuvered us around. DoBlique was dagger fighting with the third Merquier. Him, like the first, I recognized. By process of elimination, I turned to my opponent and remarked that he must be Carpelli. That made him nervous enough to break out into a sweat. He didn't know who we were, but my voice told him everything. He knew who he was fighting. Where was DeWinter?

I disarm him long enough to force the fight to hand-to-hand. He wasn't nearly as good. My long arms and thick skin make it easy to get him in a hold. DoBlique fell to the floor. The third one and I are in a stalemate. He had DoBlique and I have Carpelli. He cast a spell, forcing DoBlique to do his bidding. He said if I hurt Carpelli, she should kill me. DoBlique turned and was ready to do something to me. I had to bluff. I told him; even so, I would kill Carpelli. His third brother was unconscious, and he had no idea what we'd done to him. If he yielded, I would spare them, for now. His eyes narrowed in distrust. He was clearly unwilling to risk having this brother killed. But could he trust my word? In the end, I used my reputation and slightly better position to convince him to give me his parole. His brother did likewise.

DeWinter was unconscious, but fine. Carpelli released DoBlique. She was furious. She hated people taking over her mind. We collected the third, which was still unconscious, and heading back into Shadow.

Now what? I had to see what we need do in relation to pressing suit against the Courts. I tried to get hold a few people but I was having no answer. Perhaps it was the Shadow. I moved one over and got Fiona. I would have Trumped Julian, but he might be a little too biased to give me all the details I might need. I think he would have liked the idea of pressing a suit against the House. I explained the situation. Albeit briefly: I have three Chaosians who murdered my sister and have attacked me. This is a series of attacks from House Merquier. What do I do now? I had to move yet another Shadow away for the connection to be strong enough to come through.

The three of them ware not happy to see Fiona. One looked ready to pass out. A brief questioning followed. We knew Carpelli. The other two were Bernifold, the one who first gave his parole, and Aphon who was unconscious at the time. I learned that their vendetta went back to the day March and I escaped their house. I was accused of killing 56 of his House. I was confused. I certainly couldn't have killed 56 Chaosians…they were just guards, right? He hissed at me, Five generations of Merquiers were gone, because of me. They apparently didn't know about March, or about the fact that I had been kidnapped first. I filled them in on that fact, but left March's involvement out. No need to aim these guys at him. One of them looked thoughtful at hearing this.

They grew up learning the stories, and they decided to rid the Shadows of me. They pursued the vendetta until their Elders told them to stop. The House was receiving some unwanted scrutiny from the direction of King Merlin. But these three didn't. The Elders caught them again. They were convicted by the counsel of Elders and exiled.

During this time, Fiona watched Aphon. He was the only one who refused to give his parole. True, he was bound and gagged, but you never know. She disdained Carpelli, who had the manners and subtlety of a boar, and spoke almost entirely to Bernifold

Now I was in a bad position. They were exiles, which meant the House Merquier could deny any knowledge of their actions. In fact, they could use it to make themselves look that much better since they had tried and convicted those who would act against the Treaty. But they admitted to being merely children when all this happened. Due to pride, or perhaps more long range plans, their House allowed these three to go on hating me, not bothering to admit to the additional facts that would explain my attack on their House. I feel strongly that these three were sacrificed in the hopes that they would take care of me and perhaps Amber. Still, some things didn't sit right. Later, I wondered why a House would sacrifice Carpelli. He has walked the Logrus. I know enough to know that this is rare. It places him in a unique social position, in the Courts. Perhaps Merquier didn't intend that. If one or both of the other two were responsible, say Bernifold, they might have been chagrined to find Carpelli willing, and able, to stand with them in their exile. They were all rather young when it happened. Bernifold looked surprised, closer to shock when I told him that I was under majority when this happened. In fact, he's older than I am, right now. It seemed to put a different context on things. By their laws, I was a minor when this happened. I was not responsible and he couldn't think that a “child” would be the troublesome and nasty person I was made out to be.

I can't kill them; I gave them their parole. I can't take them to the Courts for trial. House Merquier would use it to their advantage. By the rules, I am now responsible for them, as long as I keep the parole. Depressed, I saw where this was heading, before Fiona suggested the same to me, in private.

I had to let them go. She asked me, as a favor to her, to give them 24 hours after the parole was released. Then, I could go after them. But it wasn't that easy. If they do nothing more, I will leave them alone. But I can't give up the parole just to kill them. It would be breaking the spirit of the notion of parole. And if I did it anyway? I would be proving them right. Aphon just sits there glaring. He never gave his parole. If I killed him, I would be seen as being weaker. Carpelli might, just might, be under the madness of the Logrus. It could pass. Or, I could be making excuses for myself. Bernifold was the most reasonable of the three. He actually looked like he was considering what I was saying. If I did anything to his brothers, it would destroy any chance of him coming around. And all this would just happen again. And again, and again. I couldn't put them in our Shadow prison. Carpelli, with his Logrus, would tear the place apart, including all the people, trying to get out. They certainly didn't deserve that.

I gave them their 24 hours. They looked at me in disbelief. I was sick of the whole thing. I told them to go---run. Aphon took off immediately. Perhaps not so stupid after all. Carpelli, after a minute or so, did likewise. Bernifold wanted to say something, I think, but I had long since stopped being in the mood. I told him again to go. He did, walking normally, almost as if relaxed. I'll bet he was waiting for a knife in the back.

All our work, for nothing. I sat quietly. Fiona did say she was sorry about my sister. I had her sympathies. I almost laughed or cried. Almost everyone talks about her as if she were a cold, hard, nasty person. Almost unfeeling. But of all the family, aside from DeWinter, she was the only one to say that.

She and DoBlique went off the talk about the spell she used for our transformation. I sat with DeWinter. He put his arm around me; I leaned into him. We didn't have a thing to say.

Before long, the two of them were running toward us. Fast, like something was following them. I peered, and saw nothing. A shadow fell upon us. Looking up, I saw a ball coming toward us. As it got closer, it grew. And grew and grew and grew. It was the size of a bed, and we started moving back. Then it was as large as a boat, now we were running. Then it was a harbor, we stopped by Fiona and DoBlique. It grew further, until we could see it for what it was.

Someone, Carpelli no doubt, had cut off the top of a mountain with Logrus.

Then he threw it at us.
We could see the black tendrils running from it. Fiona and DoBlique were casting something. There was no way to run before it hit. Then everything went black.

Black. I was lying on sloping ground. I could feel vibrations near me, movement. Reaching out, I felt Fiona. She was awake, as were DeWinter and DoBlique. They'd caused the ground to rise up and wrap around us, creating a very strong bubble. Fiona told us it would be a while until the surface above us stopped smoldering and we could breathe. Give or take, it'll be a few days.

In the meantime, she and DoBlique went about trying to get rid of our transformation. Apparently it was very unstable and could blow at any time. Wonderful. DoBlique was aghast, but I wasn't blaming her. How could she know that would happen when we left the Shadow? So, they spent their time working out the safest way to get rid of it. I turned the time into an exercise to learn. I followed along as if in a classroom. I got to see the two of us with the magical tracings running around us. It was rather pretty, in a way. They are going to siphon the magic away. Slowly, so that it collapses. Most of the time was spent creating magical containers for the energies. I guess I present a small problem. Fiona says that they will have to be careful with me because Faiella's line has always liked to absorb magic.

Day 214/23

We are free and ready to return home. I thanked Fiona for her time and help. She nodded and departed. We went home, dropping DoBlique off along the way.

Day 218/23

We arrived in Amber and then to Tiryns. Just in time for a quick snack and a good night's sleep.

Day 219/23

Vis found me this morning. There are two people approaching along the road. They are not riding anything, but they are moving too quickly to be natural. Kai-Revere thought it was visiting or attacking Chaosians. DeWinter said Chaosians don't visit in Amber. I went out to meet them. That's when I learned that Mother had replaced the black wrought iron gate with another. This one had a lovely apple leaf pattered to the iron. Unfortunately this one did not have all the protection spells placed on it. Damn. I wished they had consulted me about the idea, if nothing else. Ah, it was too late now.

The figures approached. It was Madame Chanicutt and Bitra. I escorted them inside to one of the salons. I close the curtains and windows, and they seemed to relax. We chatted for a few minutes. I'm certain the Bitra doesn't remember me. What a shame. They are here because they have brought a message to me from the Courts.

She pulled out an ebony wand. It is from the House Klee. A minor House. A cadet House of House Sesphere and known to be vicious negotiators. I didn't like the sound of it, but we got past the language problem and learned that aggressive would probably be a better word than vicious. She'd brought Bitra here as a courtesy, should I want someone else to open it. I wasn't comfortable with her risking another for my sake, but they were probably able to handle magical traps better than I. Almost anyone else is better than I.

She opened it without incident. The wand was now a sheaf of black papers bound in a hard cover.

The first page was the honorifics. The second was expounding my lineage and antecedents. The third was the actual message. The House of Klee proposes information and services that would be of a curious interest to Princess Cassandra. House Klee will provide these upon a face-to-face meeting under cloak, shield and ward of the utmost discretion. These are matters that endanger me, my blood, House, properties, allies, etc. House Klee felt they could offer a special insight into these matters. The fourth page had a Trump card. The document was signed Morghast of Klee.

Madame Chanicutt was willing to speak a little bit of House Klee, unofficially of course. She didn't know much about them; they were a small House, but honorable. They have always held up their honor. They are quite insistent on it. They left. DeWinter and I went to the Castle. I dropped off a report of what had happened with the Merquiers and the recent visit from the embassy. Then we walked to see Flora.

What we ended up doing was a bit of shopping. Rather then interrupt their trip out, we accompanied them. It was quite nice, though Flora did fetch me a hat and scarf to wear. I don't usually do so, nor do I know why I need one, but it seemed to make her happy. And I always like picking out clothing for DeWinter. It took up the rest of the afternoon. Carmella and DeWinter seemed to get along just fine. It wasn't until dinner was done that I felt we could talk to her about House Klee. She said: the message was giving me the fullest opportunity to make whatever preparations I required. I was in complete control. We will meet on my ground with my security and as much magic as I want. I set all the parameters. Three is the traditional number. One senior speaker with two assistants who can move into position in case the first one gets killed.

Day 221/23
A Visit from House Klee

I've heard nothing from Random regarding my report, so I thought we should just get this over with. Using the Salon again, and after setting up refreshments I Trumped Morghast. The Trump isn't as cold as ours, and it was noticeably weaker. I got it activated sufficiently in about 30 minutes. An hour more and contact was made. The odd thing is he couldn't see me. He was pleased that I decided to contact him. He looks young, relatively untried, and probably expendable. I asked him what this information pertained to. He handed me a package. I gave it to DeWinter who opened it. It had three Trumps, one for Aphon, Bernifold, and Carpelli.
And though I knew what was going on with them, perhaps House Klee knew more. Also, I most certainly wanted to learn about this House. We arranged for me to Trump again in a few hours while he has time to get his aides together.

In the meantime, I got everyone out of the House. If there was an attack, I wanted the majority safe. So they set up the barbeque pit for the wild boar we were gong to have tonight. Kai emphatically wanted to be a part of the hunting party. Of course, I said no. But Eidolon was going. A quick check with Mother confirmed that that was not the case. Eidolon was not happy about this. I wasn't happy that he lied to Kai-Revere.

I Trumped Morghast of Klee again. I passed through a man first, then a woman, then Morghast. The woman was Grelldella and the man is Klahdeth. We settled down, had a bit of refreshments and began.

This matter came to their attention a number of years ago. My “raid” on House Merquier was a successful one. Time passed. Then one of the senior officers of House Sesphere developed an interest in one of the senior members of Amber. Rather like a hobby, I suppose. It was directed at Prince March. They hoped March would be at the wedding. He wasn't, but they did see me and DeWinter. They were surprised to find us rather convivial. An inquiry was made in regards to any information or connection between March and myself. Therefore they learned of the raid.

Since that time, they learned that House Merquier had destroyed or corrupted certain merchants in the Black Zone. These merchants belonged to House Zoefel. House Merquier, taking those they corrupted, exported them out into Shadow. Zoefel went to House Sesphere with the request for assistance. They, in turn, tracked the merchants to the Silver Circle (a reflection of the Golden Circle, according to DeWinter). Zoefel let the matter drop but some of the Klee Elders figured out that the Merquiers were breaking the treaty.

House Klee is in no position to challenge Merquier. Time passed again. Something went wrong. Unhappy with their new masters, the merchants rebelled and moved to the Golden Circle. Merquier lost all control with their people. They were forced to abandon their projects when the attention of King Merlin became too uncomfortable. When the three Merquiers were exiled, they went to the Golden circle (odd how they knew where to go and what was set up!) and took over. Sesphere had the information. Klee owed them a favor. This was repaid by receiving the information. The Sesphere Elder did not believe we raided House Merquier. They thought the Klee could give us this information to “destroy the playing field.” Ah, I think he meant level the playing field.

Despite being told we were not to be disturbed, one of the weir girls came in. She said there was a matter I had to attend to. Leaving DeWinter with the Chaosians and two weir servant, I went out. Vis met me in the hall to tell me that Evander was at the gate insisting that I speak with him. Sigh. I went and told DeWinter. He went to talk with Evander while I spoke with Morghast.

A few minutes later a heard the banging of a door slamming open. Opening the door, I saw DeWinter and Evander dragging a boar-faced man through the house. It was a half-changed weir, though not of our clan. I showed the guests to the library and went to see what happened. I intercepted a wounded Vis. We were just going to talk when I heard s shriek from the kitchen. It was loud enough the Chaosians must have heard it.

Running, I got to the kitchen just as Evander was putting a knife to the weir. Actually, he had already started working on him, hence the scream. DeWinter was holding him down with the help of some of the other weir. He looked just a bit guilty when he saw me. I didn't even try to hide my shocked look. I ordered Evander off the man and an explanation. Evander said this was a spy sent here from Aes. He was using camouflage spells and had been here for some time. I asked a few questions and Evander became a bit supercilious with me (as he often is.) DeWinter gave him a dressing down for it. What to do, what to do?

I Trumped Random, no answer. Martin, ah he was working out and was in the middle of some push ups. Then I heard the woman's voice. Ah, he could have…delayed… opening the Trump connection. Random was on vacation. As for my questions, he didn't really give me any answers. I think I'm on my own.

I began to delegate. Evander searched the house for any additional spies. Martin, once he's…available, Trumped through. He and DeWinter Trumped out with the renegade weir to take to the dungeons. I accompanied Evander on his inspection; apparently he'd gotten a spell of some sort, to make the camouflage ineffective. Unfortunately, the range was fairly short, a few meters at best. He was confident, though, that he could smell anything outside my normal weir. That was surprising, since I haven't tried that. I just don't seem to have that trait. For my part, I can call small creatures, and he cannot. Discussing this, I realized this is probably the first real, noncombatant conversation I've ever had with him. We got everyone inside, with most unaware of the reason, while we checked the grounds. We found nothing and he left for the castle.

I went inside and found Xhimena, Mother and Byslamia entertaining the Chaosians. Mother gave me an exasperated look at abandoning our guests. I returned a look that hopefully conveyed that I had a reason.

I brought out a chessboard, hoping to delay their departure while Martin contacted Random, who should know what had happened. Morghast had an unusual variation of chess involving magically folding the board until it was a mixture of sphere and box. Some moves became interior, some exterior, each with its own rules. Xhimena liked the magical trick.

While we were playing, Martin Trumped me. He had little more to add than that perhaps I should invite them to Yule. Exasperated, I left him to the rest of his evening. A few minutes later, Morghast received a Trump call. He said little on his end, but he did receive a wand, similar to the one they sent me. It had the Klee sigil at one end: a mouth with four fangs. He handed it to me, saying it was additional evidence of what he has relayed. It went through the introductory protocols and the third page outlined that they had been purchasing numerous white candles for exporting to the Golden Circle. They are specific in color, shape, and size and they were definitely enchanted. Their purpose was to debilitate anyone in the range from making clear decisions. They were sent (by Chaos agents) to the Church of the Sacrificed Unicorn, including the prelate's office. That could explain Dastard. He also asked to speak with me privately. Since the only real privacy is outside he indicated he would try it.

The porch was as far as he could go. He said he had some odd instructions. He and his aids are not to leave Amber until the three Exiles were no longer a viable threat. Sigh. That could be a long time. The open sky made him quite ill. He actually swooned a bit before I got him indoors.

I got some rooms readied and I can only hope for the best.


Day 222/23

The Chaosians have not had a good night of it. The wind rattled the windows; the house “talked” and the weir have a tendency to call out the “All is Well” signal regularly through the night. This is usually done by howling. I'd gotten so used to it, I was barely aware of it any more.

In the afternoon, I Trumped Dalt. At the very least, he should know what is going on with the church. I filled him in on what is happening. He grew very grim when I told him about Chryseis and he wasn't happy about the candles. He just kept asking: what do I want him to do? DeWinter returned about then. He said that Evander was a great interrogator. Honestly, I don't want to think about that. But, I received an Executive Summary: a clan in Aes has been converted to the Church of the Sacrificed Unicorn. Their goal now is to destroy Amber. They've burned down forests, to build weapons and ships. They plan to take over Aes and then attack Amber. Wonderful.

Dalt repeated his question: What do I want? I answered honestly. I want Merquier to leave us alone. I want their influence and the church's gone from Aes. I want Merquier to pay for what they have done. I want Mycenae and Aes safe from them. I was reluctant to say this because I should be handling my own affairs. But with the Chaosians here, I can't very well run off and do much. And the castle is being strangely quiet about what's been going on here. And, Dalt could be killed. I asked: Had he ever fought against someone with Logrus before? I did tell him I was worried he'd get hurt or killed. His face softened and he said then he won't get killed. He even promised. I showed him the Trump of the three exiled Chaosians so he knew who to look out for. We have a threefold problem: subverted clans in Aes, enclave in Mycenae, and Chaosian/Aesian spies in Amber.

Day 236/23

It's been fairly quiet at Tiryns. DeWinter kept the children occupied with their own 'mission.” He told them that the Chaosians have brought valuable information. But, some other Houses from the Courts might want to embarrass us by killing them while they are here. No one would suspect Kai or Eidolon as guards or watchers. He gave them a briefing and they spent their days keeping watch over probably imaginary spies. They had stars in their eyes the whole time. It got a little convoluted regarding the real and apparent change of command, but we managed to keep everyone on top of what is really happening, as opposed to what the children know.

Day 237/23

I went to Mycenae to see how Portia is doing. Parliament is still in some emergency debates. They've determined that the Prime Minister's mind is infected and he is currently in prison. I offered to cure his mind, but they haven't taken me up on it. I feel badly since he really isn't responsible for his actions. The whole scandal has embarrassed the Majority party who had followed the PM. Minor parties are excited at the opportunities presented to them. The PM, and the Majority Party were Progressives. They're trying to redeem themselves by moving to a much more conservative stance, but that is being seen as weak. Our “arcane” investigators are looking into the possibility that Portia did this deliberately to have Chryseis killed and assume the throne. I found out she'd currently in prison, along with Colonel Jetney and Baroness Aldea. The rest of my sisters are under house arrest.

Day 238/23
A coup in Mycenae

I've been asked to speak with the investigators. I've agreed. A curious thing happened. Outside the Palace grounds a group of male demonstrators are demanding equal rights for the first time. It was bound to happen sooner or late, but the timing is suspect. Parliament guards are now ranking over the Palace Guards who are being seen as “too loyal and confused” to the royal house and are compromised.

My first priority is to get Portia out of prison. I spoke with the investigators, but didn't get far before there was a commotion at the door just prior to it being opened violently. A regular army woman announced that there was a riot in progress. In fact, the Palace was on fire!

I immediately Trumped in DeWinter to act as an anchor to get my sisters and anyone else out of the palace. Then I Trumped to my room, the easiest access point into the palace. I arrived and heard a curious ratcheting sound. A series of clicks, nothing of consequence until the explosion and a bullet hit me in the chest. I didn't quite fall, but I did see I was standing in front of some sort of machine with a pistol braced in it. The ratcheting sound was occurring again, so I rolled off, stopping the sound. I staunched the wound as best as I could. The trap's trigger was interesting. There was a lamp against one wall. On the opposite was a photosensitive plate. I Trumped in, as usual, landing and interrupting the ray of light to the plate. That set off a cog system, which fired the pistol. Someone here knew a bit more about Trump than they should. Enough to know how it works and where I would end up precisely.

I left the room, walking into a smoke-filled corridor. I went for my sisters suites, which brought me closer to the fire. It didn't take me long to realize that the fire was on the grounds not in the palace. And it was already under control. Delia, the third eldest of us already had it under control by directing the water brigade.

I found Matyias, sister number four, no three, and guided her to my rooms. I showed her the trap, trying to warn her of any other attempts. She was more worried about the excessive bleeding that I couldn't stop.

I Trumped DeWinter and just managed to bring the investigators and him through. He carried me to the bed muttering something under his breath. Whether it was toward my would-be attackers, or me, I'm not sure. But I wanted as many people to see what had been set up. Surely this would be proof that the family was in danger. Meanwhile, DeWinter had gotten someone to get some surgery tools. He began to stitch me up. He said it wasn't going to be pretty. I told him he gets extra points the more tools he uses. He looked at me askance and said yeah, he'll finish his degree by working on me. I almost protested that this wasn't my fault, but I figured he could see that for himself. Still, he wasn't kidding about the degree. He keeps having to patch me up. I'm going to have to become more alert if I'm going to see our twentieth much less our fiftieth anniversary.

By the time the nurse enters, he was done. By now the room was filled with guards and investigators. DeWinter went to quell the men's demonstration. A quarter of an hour later the ether wore off and I was seriously in pain.

I took my mind off of things trying to talk with the investigators. I was making headway when the doctor arrived. The bandages were holding, so I wasn't in critical need. Underneath all the murmurs and talking, I heard the sound of a gun cocking. I thought they had triggered the trap. When I looked up I saw the doctor bringing the gun to bear. The investigator was in the line of sights. I threw a pillow at him at the highest velocity I could manage while swinging my legs out, hitting the investigator. More damn bullets! I felt the familiar surge of energy now that I was back in danger. I kicked the doctor out of the way, rolling under the line of fire while I was at it. The gun went off missing us and the guards earned their pay. They waded in and tackled the doctor. Unfortunately they pushed him into the light beam and a gun went off. One guard went down and the rest clubbed the doctor to unconsciousness. Now I was ready to pass out. Fortunately, the administrator was fine, if a bit shaken. The bandages were no longer holding up. I tried to get someone to get DeWinter. These people were not going to protect me as well as he could.

While I waited I babbled on about a wide assortment of things. My sisters were becoming increasingly distressed but I was slowly stabilizing. I was talking about going to a shadow where everyone has guns because maybe then I'll learn how to duck. No one was amused.

Then I got the Trump call. It was Martin. The world started to wobble. His eyes went large and I told him I was a little busy right now, and cut the connection. Then the assistant surgeon arrived and under intense guards he performed another patch surgery.

Day 239/23
A New Monarchy in Town

Well, I didn't die but I was quite nauseous when I woke. I hate ether, especially when I get too much. The stitches were pretty, though. I was surprised that I was alone. I got up and found all my clothing gone. I wrapped some sheets around me and went to the door. Two guards were there. I ordered some clothes and had one send for DeWinter. All I could do was wait.

Linea arrived bearing clothing and was strangely dressed. She had on a more militaristic dress. She's the least military-minded of us all. The dress was more like Chaosian clothing with Mycenaean embroidery. Now I was alarmed. I tried to raise the Pattern in my mind so I could see if this was real, if I was in UnderShadow or something. This was too odd. I was still too weak to do it.

She said there is a new leader for parliament. Getting a description, it sounded like Carpelli. I drew a sketch and she confirmed it. Parliament is verbally attacking me, denouncing me. This new man is making it clear he hates me. Then the trumpets sounded. She left saying that King Carpelli has arrived. King?

I went to the door after she had time to get beyond hearing range and quickly took the guards out. Then I made my escape. It was easy since I was wearing the dress and no alarm sounded.

Where could I go? My Trump, sigh, was in the palace somewhere. It's been thirty years since I was last here. Who did I know that was still in the city?

It was easy to take out the guards at the palace gate. They didn't pull their weapons, not on me.
I went to the house of an old schoolmate, Sophia, hoping she wasn't a part of the general uprising. I was only two miles away. I introduced myself to her maid as Madame DeWinter. She wasn't in, but I met her younger sister, Lily. I bluffed my way into the house and asked to speak with her privately. Then I told her of the situation. Her husband Stephen arrived and she asked him if he knew of anything going on in the palace or heard anything in the clubs. He said, you'll find out soon enough.
Uh oh. He mentioned the new King, which confused Lily and he then called her a few names. I knocked him out. She thanked me, thinking I was punishing him for his rudeness. Little did she know. How do I explain his mind might be tampered with? I got her out of the room on some pretext and then examined him. His mind was filled with frustration, and was becoming a dark and nasty place, but he wasn't tampered with.

I tied him up and changed clothing. When she returned, I explained the situation. I needed art supplies. Paints, brushes, that sort of thing. Perhaps charcoal, even, though it wasn't a medium I liked. I did tried to draw DeWinter with lead, but I really needed paints to get it right. She left to go shopping. Then I turned my attention to Stephen, who was awake now.

I told him that independence and equality was a wonderful thing, but he better be careful of who he enlists to help him and all the other men. I didn't have days to convince him and I couldn't let him go. I certainly didn't want to kill him. So, I was rude and went into his mind. I showed him what the Merquiers had done to me, and others, especially focusing on scenes with the Dagger Jesby. He was almost sick. And he really didn't want to deal with people like that. I took a chance and untied him.

Lily returned saying she couldn't get any supplies because the art stores were guarded. I didn't know whether to be more alarmed by he fact that they had the foresight to prevent me from gaining supplies or that Lily was walking around in only stockings and shoes. When I asked, she explained that there was some sort of emergency in the palace and that all the citizens who would show their support for the King should do this. Stephen was ready to have a fit at her calm undress. I eased his temper down and left to try myself. I put the dress back on and left. I told Stephen if it was not safe to enter, to have the drapes closed.

About a third of the people were undressed as Lily. At least in the vicinity of the palace and a two-mile radius. It took about forty minutes to find a store. I bought the paints. As I tried to leave I was accosted by three men, just outside the door. I went back in and they followed. Still, I had time to find “weapons”. That meant anything that came to my hand. So they came in and I took out the first, easily. The last two were a little harder, because of this stupid dress, but I managed it and got out the back door. I'll have to remember to have the shopkeeper recompensed for the damages. I took a circuitous route back. The drapes were open. Hoping that meant anything, I went inside. All was well, relatively speaking.

Day 240/23
Rescuing DeWinter

It took six hours to make the Trump. Then I had to rest. My injury was not helping my endurance. I rested and then Trumped DeWinter. He was naked and chained and much the worse for wear. His nose was broken and I could tell his right arm was dislocated. Always the right arm. He won't be able to break the chain. I'm gong to have to come up with some sort of plan. And quickly. I hated having to break the connection, but I wasn't going to get him out this way.

The first thing I did was fix Lily's mind. It was almost easy. Oh, she was livid at the thought of walking the streets naked, but it was a perfect cover. All of those who are naked are loyal, because no one here would walk about like this under sane circumstances, when in their own right mind. So, I undressed and left. I think I was embarrassing the young couple.

I had to find Captain Seglum. I found his former residence, but he'd moved and he's Colonel Seglum now, and retired, living somewhere in mid-town. I went to the military archives and managed to convince the bookkeeper to give me his address. It was much easier when I asked for his cloak to wear. He realized this was a pretense. Then I told him who I was. I basically ordered him to locate ten retired officers who would be of use in this crisis. He was to have them here by the day after tomorrow. If necessary, I was going to lead another rebellion.

Then I went to see the Colonel. He opened his door, naked. Sigh. I got inside and was going to knock him out when a knock sounded on the door. There were two guards out there. I told Seglum that by the order of the King, he cannot tell them I am here. He put me in the closet and let them in. They asked about me, but didn't use the catch phrase “by the order of the King…” so Seglum didn't tell them about me.

They went upstairs to search the house for me. I could have left, then, but I didn't want to lose Seglum. When they came downstairs I was perfectly sited to knock them out. I did so and turned in time to duck, as Seglum was just ready to hit me with a chair. I ducked and knocked him out.

I laid the three neatly on the floor and proceeded to clear their minds of all influences. When they came to they were completely changed men and quite mortified as to what they were doing. I sent the two to go back to the palace and see if they can get into the physician's quarters. I wanted my Trump. They agreed and left, after promising that they wouldn't take any risks. I returned to Lily's with Colonel Seglum and a sledgehammer, chisel and candle.

When we got back, I instructed them in how to make and maintain a Trump call. It took 45 minutes before they could see DeWinter. I went through and the connection collapsed. Now we have to wait until they get back to us. While we waited, I tried to tend to him, but his positioning made it impossible to set his shoulder. So I put my arms around him and just held him. Almost an hour later, the contact came through. DeWinter was almost worried because the guards were due to come back soon. I set the chisel and he held it. I swung the sledgehammer. I had one shot before the guards came running. So, I put everything I had into it. I didn't take into account the adrenaline running through me. I had absolutely no idea it would not only break the chain, but I drove the chisel deep into the wall with two of his fingers. He didn't even cry out. Either he's been hurt worse before (true) or his pains are far worse elsewhere, because that had to hurt. We didn't have time to talk. The guards were approaching rapidly. I freed his hand with a pull and we were through the Trump as fast as we could without collapsing the connection.

We emerged in the house. Danger adrenaline was still running, sending waves of energy through me. Stephen and Lily and Seglum were all looking at us. I took a look at DeWinter and saw the damage. He was fairly bruised and battered, nothing that wouldn't heal. I was appalled to see what I had done. The last joint of his last two fingers were gone. I ordered linens and used Stephen's shirt to staunch the wound. Lily came rushing back and I was able to bind the wound. The horrible part was that the euphoria hadn't passed yet. I knew I caused his wound, and I could end up doing far worse if I didn't get this feeling managed. But, my feelings weren't acting under my control. Yet.

DeWinter saw me looking. He had tried to pass off the injury, but I think he thought I didn't really…I don't know what he thought. But I do think he wanted me to understand I had better be careful in the future. And that he wasn't happy about what I had done. So, with a comic glint in his eye, he did the thing that came to mind.

I got the first spanking of my life.

Stephen and Lily ran from the room when he pulled me over his legs. Seglum, quite inappropriately, stayed. He had this bemused look on his face. It's not every day you see one of the Royal family being punished. For my part, it didn't hurt a bit. I actually had to force myself not to laugh. It also had the unfortunate effect of putting me very close to DeWinter. All I could think of was that he was expanding our horizons with each other.

In the end, I very sincerely told him I was sorry. He nodded. I kissed him and all the energy, contained until now, spilled out. Seglum ended up easing out of the room when things progressed beyond his expanded horizons. For our part, I had to exert all my control so that we did not consummate our relationship right then. It would have been safe, physically, to have another child. But then we would have to wait for a century until we could have any more. I really wanted us to have that margin for the future, when I may not be able to maintain control. Fortunately, DeWinter cooperated. We still managed to enjoy ourselves, but it took hours for the energies to dissipate.

Later that day I was Trumped by Martin. We had an unusually excellent connection. He wanted to invite us to a party. He didn't have any dates or times, he simply wanted to get a feel for who and how many would be attending. He intended to hold it in his shadow. We accepted, gladly. I've always enjoyed his parties there.

While I had the time, I Trumped Random and filled him in on what was happening. He didn't have much to say; he simply acknowledged my report.

As for what we are going to do next, we desperately needed information. The best place to go would be to the chief investigator, assuming she's still holding the position.

Day 241/23

After sending Colonel Seglum to see about organizing the retired officers. I went to her office building to wait for the end of day. Dozens of people left, but there was no sign of her. I did see her second in command, though. I followed her home, which made her very nervous. She lived far from the city and I was attracting undue notice, being undressed except for shoes. There were far less subverted people out and about. I caught up with her.

She didn't recognize me. Not that she was looking directly at me. I asked for a cloak and she realized I was faking my attitude. Then she realized who I was. She hustled me into her house and got me a robe. I learned that the chief investigator wasn't just dismissed; she'd been killed. The new King was ensconced in the royal apartments. I had to ascertain that she hadn't been compromised before I told her anything. In this case ignorance is bliss. She didn't have any real belief that I could go into her mind, but she gave me permission. She was clean. The King does look like Carpelli, but older and less healthy. A relation or a shadow? He speaks Thari, but with difficulty, but not with a Chaosian cant either. He has five advisors and then I had no difficulty in placing them. They were dressed as Shaman of the Boar, from Aes. How did they get here? And why?

I didn't tell her much, but I did ask to see if she could get a hold of my Trump. She promised she'd try. I'll get in touch with her tomorrow, to see how she's doing. She was quite nervous and I have my doubt, but I think she'll pull herself together. I went back to the house.

An hour later two uniform men knocked on the door. The housekeeper answered. They refused to give her the package they had stating that their orders were to place it in my hands. We were alerted now. We let them in and I had the housekeeper fetch them some refreshments. When she was gone, I gave the two men my attention. I asked what was happening and contrived to put my hand on theirs. They were also clean. I relaxed. DeWinter knew what I was about and did likewise.

We still needed information. The two officers, one was called Lt. Cork, mentioned that the new King seemed to use magic. Hm. I thought it was time to bring in some consultants. Especially with magic. We had a few candidates: DoBlique, Rinaldo, Owen and Stargazer, to name a few. DoBlique was always inaccessible by Trump and Rinaldo wasn't answering. DeWinter decided to go recruit Stargazer. I brought through Byslamia, Vis and six weir for backup. They didn't know about the magic being used on the people. We'll just have to plan a quick revolution. Byslamia was grim by the time I filled her in on what had happened. She did not want to go back to Amber and fill Mother in. Either I had to do it, or we could fix the situation and then fill her in. I elected to fix the situation first.

While waiting for DeWinter to return, I took a bath. I was half way through when I heard the shots from outside. Should I Trump DeWinter? There was no time. I couldn't round everybody up, make the connection and get them through before whoever are outside gets inside. I ran downstairs, heading for the others. As I reached the first landing, at least fifty soldiers burst through the door. My weir attacked immediately and all pandemonium broke loose. Stephen was in a corner firing a tiny handgun. I didn't see Lily or Byslamia.

I looked out the window and saw we were surrounded by hundreds of soldiers. We were in a no-win situation here. But I'd bet my weir could get out. Most of the soldiers that had come through were down. I helped with the rest. I walked passed the women and shouted a retreat, telling them to use the back. The weir disengaged immediately and fell back. I'm sure they expected me to go with them. They were going to be disappointed. I grabbed Stephen, and hauled him upstairs. I told him to hide in the attic. There was a chance he would be missed. He didn't want to go, but I told him someone had to stay free to warn others. He nodded and ran. I went to the bathroom and retrieved the Trump I'd hid behind the radiator. They didn't' work! It was a false deck! They looked real, but they weren't. Someone knew enough to copy the deck exactly.

The soldiers were coming up the stairs. There was no chance to run. I turned and walked down the stairs. Seeing as I was still undressed, they assumed I was no threat, loyal to the new King. I let them. It was only a matter of time until they learned who I was, but I didn't want to give up one minute of potential opportunity. When I was placed in the salon, Byslamia and Lily were brought in. Actually Lily was carried in. She'd been shot in the back. Byslamia was furious, but no one would let us see to Lily.

The soldiers searched the house looking for me. They found the Trumps but not Stephen. A major had a strange compass that pointed to the deck. My Trump case had been exchanged for false cards and magically bugged. The soldiers were perturbed because of all that got away. They counted six escaping, which meant that my entire weir got away.

We were seated on a sofa. Then I got a Trump call. I answered it immediately while addressing the major. I managed to turn the perspective of the call with me so I was facing both of them. This way, they might not realize I was speaking on another's behalf. It was DeWinter. I asked the captain why they bothered to surround this house, why they cared if a few servants got away, whether we were arrested and what they intended to do with us? DeWinter got the message in one. He didn't ask any questions, he just held out his hand to bring me through. I asked the man how long he was going to hold me and my aunt. DeWinter withdrew his hand. He knew I wouldn't leave Byslamia. The soldier didn't answer anything, he just told me to be silent. DeWinter said he'd get help and signed off.

Then one of the shamans walked in. I sat. He questioned the soldiers; disgusted that anyone had gotten away. It would be a ridiculous situation, but the weir are better than a hundred Mycenaean men, at least physically. To be fair, Mycenaeans have no cultural or military training to deal with them. Otherwise it might be a different story.

The shaman was particularly unhappy that I had escaped. I sat back down. We were largely hidden by the press of bodies in the room. And all the men were controlled and didn't know who I was. It was a situation destined to weaken the very forces they were using to control everyone. It would have been amusing except that in any second I would be discovered. For the failure to capture me, he killed the major in charge. Then he turned to the captain.

In a frantic attempt to avoid being killed, he said that perhaps the houseguest would know something. Houseguests? The captain pointed to me. The crowd began to part. I leaned back and did my best to act like Tatasha. I put a mocking smile on my face. When the crowd had fallen back enough for the shaman to see me, I gave him a derisive wave. I would not show him how much I was out of control of the situation. In short, I acted like an Amberite.

He actually paled when he saw me. For a second, he really thought I was the High Mother. I could let him direct the situation, or I could do something about it. I stood and pointed at him. For his crimes, I Challenged him. The captain didn't understand, but the shaman did. He could not refuse. Not and retain honor or command. I demanded the duel take place outside.

As we walked out, I told Byslamia to use the distraction to get away and get help. No one knew her here. It had been thirty years, after all. My Trump deck was in the palace, out of our ability to get to it.

Outside, the soldiers surrounded us. Then we fought. The bad news was that he was much faster than I, highly experienced, and trained in a fighting form I was completely unfamiliar with. The good news was that could take more punishment than he thought possible. The problem was that I would eventually take too much damage to continue fighting, probably long before he would grow tired. Just when I realized this, he performed a crushing blow to my sternum. I could feel it break under the contact. I kept out of reach while regaining my breath. All I could think was that I was going to die. And it happened again, the energies poured in and I was ready for another round. I knew I could do this all day. Forty minutes later he got his second wind.

I had numerous broken ribs and contusions and all sorts of minor injuries. Another ten minutes or so I realize that while he is fast, I am much stronger. I suppose it took so long to figure out because I'm usually the quicker, not the stronger. The trick would be to get in close enough for a firm hold. I had so much energy; I was literally bouncing in between strikes. It's caused him to get rather annoyed; thinking I was showing off. He began to lose his composure.

I left an opening to draw him in. He dealt a severe strike and I got him into a chokehold. It was a risk to let him give me a possibly fatal blow but I had no choice. The part of me still rational knew that eventually he'd wear me down. He grabbed me around the ribs, squeezing while I do forced his head back. He wasn't going to give in or yield. Being a weir, he'd lose too much esteem if he yielded. With a sharp shove to his neck, I killed him.

The soldiers were still standing in a circle around us. A few had hold of their comrades, preventing them from interfering. Most were just gaping. The nearest captain stepped forward and made a motion. I knew the signal. He was going to signal for them to open fire on me. I knocked him out. I challenged anyone who dared to commit further acts of treason. More than a few were uncertain of the surety of their actions. Most were simply frightened at what they had witnessed. I know I had just taken another step farther from my heritage. They would never look at me in quite the same light again.

Then I got the Trump from DeWinter. He saw me and was appalled. I doubt he ever thought about the fact that he pretty much forced the connection and before I even knew it, I was through. Granted, I helped, but his effort was remarkable. After I was through, he just went through my deck, not saying a word. He Trumped Rinaldo. Unfortunately, the timing was not quite right and he was considerably embarrassed when he interrupted Rinaldo, Cassiopeia and Diana in intimacy. Everything was sorted out and we were through.

Rinaldo took one look at me and went to get his Trump of Blythe. I suppose I was in worse shape than I thought. No one would permit me to leave the room nor get a mirror. Now that the fight was over, it took only a few minutes for the energy to bottom out. Every pain receptor I had went active. I tried to remain still, but it only made it worse. It was indescribable. Blythe entered and took one look at me before leaving for a moment. There wasn't much I could do. I couldn't stop moving, because I felt worse, if that was possible.

It was DeWinter who came up with the idea of going to Aes. As soon as he mentioned it, I jumped on it. Tatasha gave a yelp when she saw me and brought me through the Trump. Within minutes, I was all better though she said I'd have to wait for a while for it to “set in.” So, I changed clothing and allowed Tatasha to convince me I needed a massage.

What a unique, wonderful experience. I half contemplated hiring a masseuse in Amber, but I figured the poor soul would be worked to death.

Day 242/23

I went back to DeWinter. As soon as I went through I lost some of the healing I'd gotten. I hadn't stayed long enough, but we had time constraints. I went back with two shaman of the Grey Fox tribe, the better to fight the usurpers in Aes. DeWinter told me that Random refused to lend us Evander, even though he was one of the few that knew the weir customs and what would be involved. I was seething. I dropped them off in so they could get up to speed on what was happening. I took a brief detour to Amber. About 25% of the pain came back once I stepped on the drawbridge. Fortunately, there were no visible injuries.

I met with up with Gerard while in the castle. Even with his help, and Kinkel's volunteering, I got no aid. To say I was bitterly disappointed would be an understatement. The worst part was that I wasn't even told of a reason. I suppose I should have just gone to Gerard, but Random had gotten so annoyed when I last spoke to Gerard. I could have asked other members of the family, but Gerard agreed with me that the weir could be too difficult to handle, especially if they were better trained than the one I fought. Not many of the family choose to train in unarmed fighting, and those that did were those who Random would not allow to help. I suppose I should take this as an object lesson of some sort, but I doubt it would match Random's intent. I guess we'll have to handle it ourselves.

I went back to Aes. Tatasha had recruited two weir shamans--Grey Fox and Tripleaf--to aid us in Mycenae. I was heartened when Kinkel volunteered to help DeWinter look for DoBlique while I tried to contact Dalt. DoBlique would know different magicks than the shamans, which could be very useful, and Dalt would stand up very well against the weir since he's fought them before.

Day 245/23

DeWinter reported that he's in Nolava, the last place DoBlique had been, but he hasn't been able to find her. Every time he leaves, the trail leads him back to that shadow. He'll continue to try and narrow down the possibilities. I suggested going in at different spots to sort of triangulate her position. He'll get back to me. I, on the other hand have had no luck contacting Dalt.


Day 249/23

He's found her. They came through and I could tell they'd had an argument. Perhaps because they started up in the middle of it after coming through the Trump. She feels there is something terribly wrong in Nolava, something with Dastard and Tremerule. She's been looking for Dalt and all trails lead there. She wants to go back and DeWinter thinks if anyone goes through, it should be him. Ah, the heights of chivalry. Should we forget that his face is one of the most wanted in that Shadow? I didn't think so, but he was willing. I agreed with DoBlique that we two could disguise ourselves much more easily.

He wasn't pleased but he acquiesced to the situation.
Day 251/23
Rescuing Dalt

We've arrived. Just prior to entering the shadow, DoBlique got our disguises ready. Within the hour, we were two elderly women, in appearance, about 60 years old. She led us right to a large church where we were met by a pair of young priests. We were shabbily dressed and apparently not the sort to be allowed inside. This was a far cry from the church discipline I had visited years ago. DoBlique said we were “working girls” who had come to realize we were damned. We were here for absolution. The two looked at us, skeptical, but not prepared to make this decision. They called for aid and two older priests came to talk with us.

We managed to convince them. Actually DoBlique did most of the talking. I was memorizing that most innocent face of hers while she lied through her teeth. We were brought to a small chapel and instructed to pray before being taken to the convent for our introduction to their orders. We knelt. By my side, DoBlique began to murmur. I guessed it was a spell. Within a half hour, she rose, saying our watchers would sleep for a long while.

She went to a side room and brought back two nuns initiates' habits. I balked at this. I wasn't of the faith, but it did seem too disrespectful. DoBlique is much more practical and convince me that I either put it on or our chances here were nil. I put it on.

We walked through the corridors, she leading the way. A group of nuns walked right by us without a word. At one point, even Tremerule walked by, simply giving us a pleasant nod as he passed. Finally, DoBlique led us downstairs to an iron door. Inside was a very large room. At least it seemed so by the echoes it made. It was very, very dark. There was a lantern just inside the door which only gave us about 5' of light.

A guard approached and I easily rendered him unconscious, despite being almost two heads taller and twice as wide. By his table, there was a pry bar, but little else.

We searched and did not find Dalt. We did, however, find three Chaosians who we knew. There were those that were friends of Nachoth, and our companions from Paris. There were many people here, most too far-gone for us to help, even if we got them out. A few were dead, but no one had noticed. I freed them and managed to carry them to the door. DoBlique was certain Dalt was supposed to be here. We searched again and she found a center stone in the middle of the room. Our circuit led me to guess that the room was at least 50 feet across.

This would explain the pry bar. I leveraged up the stone and looked into the pit. It was pitch dark. Before we could discuss anything, she jumped down. There was a light splash, and I could hear the water as she moved around. She called up to me to get ready. The next thing I knew, she had shot-putted Dalt up to the opening. I grabbed his arms and pulled him up. Then I caught her as she jumped.

Our trump didn't work in the room but it was fine in the corridor. It was tough getting the unconscious ones through, but we managed. Dalt was quite out. We got some medical supplies and began ministrations. DeWinter was rather perturbed about the dungeon. Either he never knew about it, or it was a fairly recent addition to the building. I didn't think it was all that recent, but said nothing.

Day 253/23

Dalt woke after about 24 hours. He managed to eat a bit and fall back to sleep. The Chaosians were better off, but their lesser stamina meant a longer recovery time.

Day 254/23

Dalt woke again, about half way through the day. I know he was feeling better because he immediately began to complain. Sigh.


Day 256/23
Taking Back Mycenae

Today we filled Dalt in on what has been going on. He was quite grim when I related Chryseis's assassination. When we were done with the whole convoluted story, he asked what I wanted. I said when he was feeling better we could go and challenge the shamans. They would not be able, with any honor, to refuse. He agreed, but thought we should go immediately. I balked at pressing him so quickly when he was not at full recovery. He just got up and left. When I followed, he broke into a run outside.

Cursing under my breath, I knew where he was going. I tried to give chase, but he's still faster then I am, even when weakened. I still tried. It was my own fault. Dalt always does things in his own fashion and his own time. We weren't too far from Mycenae, and before I knew it, we were there. I trumped the others and brought them through.

We did a brief search for him in the city. It didn't take long for us to hear word of a Champion of the city challenging the new King on behalf of the Matriarchy. He challenged all four of them!

We followed the crowds to the palace. An area had been cordoned off and there was already a large crowd overlooking the “arena.” We had no choice. DeWinter and I stepped in to voice our own challenges while DoBlique made her way into the palace. Dalt looked entirely too pleased with himself to see us there.

The shaman were preparing to face Dalt's challenge and quickly adapted to include us.

Dalt was to fight the most senior of the four shaman. DeWinter would follow with the next in rank while I finished with the one left. After the area had been cordoned off, the King emerged with his pavilion. I was surprised to see that he had a shadow-copy of myself sitting next to him. I suppose that having all the royal family doing his bidding gave him legitimacy. All my sisters were lined up behind him. Their faces were blank and they gave no sign of recognizing me.

The duels began.

The first shaman was very quick. The two combatants were spinning, whirling, and striking at each other. Each time they broke away from each other, they renewed with increasingly furious and frenzied moves. They became, at times, almost a blur. At the last, the weir moving at impossible speeds, he threw Dalt, who landed very badly. DeWinter almost went to his side, but he knew it would forfeit the fight. The shaman moved to give the killing blow as Dalt twitched on the ground. As he extended himself down, Dalt's hands snapped up and killed the weir. His neck was broken, just that quickly. He stood and threw the body at the King's pavilion.

After the briefest pause, the second challenge commenced.

I must say, DeWinter fought in the most unusual style. One could say it was absurd, but it worked. He fought on his hands. He didn't even try to match speeds with the weir; he knew it would be too risky. However, a fair portion of his height is in his legs. This gave him extraordinary reach without losing any power. And he did not stay in a simple handstand. He flipped and moved about, always ending on his hands. The weir fighting him was very frustrated. Every time he went in he was struck. Next to me, I heard Dalt muttered that he always wanted DeWinter to teach him to fight like that. I thought it gave new meaning to the term kick boxing.

In a desperate attempt, the weir lunged into DeWinter causing them both to fall. They sprawled together in a most unnatural fashion, both with a lock on each other. I was confident DeWinter was the stronger of the two. That was when I heard the crack of bones breaking. The weir was still struggling and I realized it was DeWinter that was hurt. He was lying in a most unnatural way. I think Dalt held me back, but I'm not sure. They continued to wrestle until DeWinter managed to break his neck. I ran out and we learned that DeWinter was gravely injured. He couldn't move. We got a stretcher and moved him off the field. I was going to go for my trump when Dalt reminded me that I had to fight next or everything was for naught. He told me to make it quick, since I was still not fully recovered.

Now he noticed.

I had to trust Dalt to see to DeWinter, though I was in no mood to extend this. There were still two weir shaman left. There was a strange interruption as the self-styled King stood. He tried to speak, but nothing came out. I saw DoBlique was standing amongst my sisters. They are all so blond she fit right in with them. Then spiders came pouring out of the King's mouth and burst from his chest. The spell he had on the others was broken, many of them collapsing to the ground. My sisters came to, and the woman who was to impersonate me rose from her chair. I don't know what it was but once the spell on her released I realized immediately that it was Tatasha. How did she come to be here? In the distance, since the King's men had collapsed, Seglum and the retired army surged through the gates.

There was no time to ask questions. The King collapsed and I turned to face the weir. The good news about the fight was that he was not as good, as fast, or as lethal as the first one I fought. The bad news was neither was I. I still hadn't recovered enough. And here there was no surge of power from the earth. I took him by surprise by simple rushing in and gaining a chokehold. He managed to do a large bit of damage to my ribs and sides before I killed him.

But I was in no shape for a third fight and Dalt had taken DeWinter away. But, Tatasha was furious enough to want her share. She challenged the fourth. She circled him, mirroring his every move. It was unnerving just how exactly she did this. As odd as it might seem, she seemed as if she was drawing power from the man by simply mimicking him. Almost as if she were drawing the power that I've felt her give to me when I was injured. The weir grew desperate and his attacks were sloppy, and with a quick move, she dispatched her opponent with unnerving speed.

I got my third sister, Delia, to make a few speeches to calm the crowds. DoBlique Trumped Owen she came through via Dalt. My sisters were all confused and Portia was still in prison. Owen examined DeWinter and almost immediately got DeWinter out of there. She was going to take Dalt, but first Dalt asked Delia if she would give her leave. He was the Champion, only the monarch, or someone acting as such could dismiss him. She was confused, which was natural since she hadn't conferred the honor on him, nor even knew who he was, but she took my slight nod as a cue and allowed him to go, with her thanks.

Of course, I wasn't invited along even though I wanted to go. I occupied my time by generally trying to give some order to the crowds and the soldiers. Word came that Portia had been freed from the prison by rebels. By the description, I knew it was my escaped weir.

Most of the day crawled by. Slowly things began to be a bit more composed. Portia arrived three hours later than we expected due to the fact that the crowds slowed her progress back to the palace. By the time the sun had set and the moon was high, Portia had a fair handle on things and I went to Glantri. Tatasha said she'd stay behind for a bit. She seemed intrigued by the people and customs.


In Glantri, DeWinter was in recovery from being doctored. He will be fine but he cannot leave for six months so that the magical healing takes has a chance to hold firmly. His back had been broken. Dalt will be released in 5 days, though it's a wonder if he will stay the whole time.

Day 265/23

It's been a quiet week. Dalt's gone, though he stayed long enough for me to bring the children through. I did it after he was discharged. I don't think he'd like for them to see him in the hospital. I've taken Tatasha from Mycenae back to Aes where she will deal with the Boar clan. They have a bit of answering to do. Portia seems to have a handle on the fact that she will be queen though it took a bit of talking to get her to accept it. She never thought she'd live to see it. By the time I left, though, she was acting the part well. I think she'll grow into it smoothly. She did offer me the Prime Minister's office. I admit I'm more than a little intrigued by the idea. I just wonder how DeWinter would like it. It would be for the short term, perhaps five years or so. I told her I would think about it. Byslamia was staying for a while to help where she could. Portia is in good hands.


Day 275/23
Another attack in Amber

DeWinter is settled comfortably in the Embassy with the children. I made him promise not to leave Glantri until the doctors gave him a clean bill of health. He grudgingly did so. Now I just have to get my visiting Chaosians back home.

First, though, I took mother on a carriage ride and told her all that had happened. She was fairly frantic by the time I finished, but relieved that it had been settled. Frankly, I'm not sure it is, but didn't say anything. It would be settled when I deal with the root of my problems. House Merquier and Tremerule and Dastard. I'm not sure how to go about it. I didn't even bother asking Random.

My thought was to go to the Chaosian Embassy and ask the ambassador abut the protocols. I dropped Mother off at Flora's first. I got to the building and knocked for a while. Eventually, the Embassy door opened to the reinforced vestibule. The door closed behind me while the air was purified. A few gnats fell down dead. Then the second door was opened and I entered the waiting area.

The Ambassador met me and invited me for tea. As we waited for the servant to bring some, I told her of my situation, at least the parts she didn't already know. There was the potential problem of a war if House Merquier didn't desist in what they were doing. They were clearly and consistently violating the treaty. Surely she didn't want a second war? She said she would send a message directly to the King of the Courts. Apparently she had the means to contact him swiftly. I was unaware of this.

All we had to do was wait. She wondered why I was worried about war since we won the first one. The talk deviated into a discussion about altruism. It was peculiar when my armband went off. Oblique questions did not give me any clue as to where the danger was coming from. I asked her if my questions or answers angered her. She was puzzled. No, she wasn't angry. I told her I was getting the impression that there was some danger to us there. She said she would investigate. I had more tea, but it had become different. It had the taste and consistency of wet seaweed that dissolved in my mouth. It tasted rather good.

After 15 minutes she returned saying all was well. I got a second pulse from Aegis. She asked if I wanted more tea. I began to have stomach cramps and declined. I had to get out of there. She asked about my mother, describing her accurately and asking where she was. In a burst of paranoia, I struck out rendering her unconscious. I got out the room just as my legs began to give out. What was in that tea? I knew I wouldn't be able to get out unless I could fool them. I pretended to fall. Bitra came up with her father. I was losing all motor control. It was as if I was fighting for control of myself. I felt increasingly warm and had spasms. They called for Klee.

When he arrives, they tell him that the safety of the Embassy has been assured. It hit me them, they were all taken over; they were all gholas. I pretended to be under their control. It didn't take much for them to be satisfied. Either they expected me to continue to fight until I lost or they never expected me to be able to win. They told me to bring my mother and my Chaosian guests here. I got control of my legs and managed to walk to the vestibule.

Outside, I just got out of sight of the Embassy before I couldn't walk any further. I called a young man to me. He was about twelve. I identified myself, which brought him to full attention. I told him to run to the castle and warn the King that the Chaosian Embassy had been taken over by gholas. Prince Benedict knows about them. The boy ran off so fast I wondered if he would have the stamina to get to the castle. I was losing the battle.

An old man walked near enough for me to call for him. I asked him to help me to the castle. He got another to help him and we started to walk, much more slowly than the boy. I wasn't going to make it. I got my Trump out while the man supported me. I Trumped Owen and just managed to bring her through, though the gholas got a bit more control of me before I finished. She didn't even let me tell her what was going on before Trumping Fiona for advice. In fact, the two pretty much ignored anything I had to say even though they didn't know what gholas were.

The only thing that Fiona would suggest was that electricity might immobilize what was taking me over. So, she hit me with a bit of lightning. I don't know if I screamed, but I heard what sounded like 5 million screams inside me. The next thing I knew, I was lying in the street.

She got me to the castle and to the infirmary. By that time, I was feeling a bit better. Owen left to confer with Random. I suppose I had nothing useful in the way of information to add to the situation.

About an hour later I got a Trump from Julian. Claw was standing next to him. Apparently the Chaosians were enough afraid of Julian that they had erected a magical barrier around themselves. They were being a bit difficult and would not be convinced Julian would not harm them. I could tell Julian was just a bit pleased at their reaction. With a little maneuvering, I told the Chaosians that Julian was there for their safety.

I was stuck in the infirmary for another twelve hours until Owen was satisfied the gholas were truly gone. I got a Trump call from Tatasha. I told her of Portia's offer. She was very much against it. She said I would be of much more help in Aes. Sigh. Sometimes I get tired of being pulled in two directions. I didn't want to choose between them. I told her I was just thinking about it.

With all the running around I've been doing, I realized I hadn't slept in about three days, since the time differential between Shadows is too great. I thought it was a good time to get some sleep.

Day 276/23

I woke to the sound of my name. Owen had entered carrying Madame Chanicutt. She told me not to go near her. The ambassador was looking a bit singed. She got a Trump call from March who apparently was in the embassy. He passed Bitra through. From my vantage point, I could see the Embassy was on fire. So was Bitra. They put her out and got her in bed. Another Trump call, this time from Kinkel--he sent Bitra's father through to Owen. Then Fiona came through and began to take care of the ambassador. She and Owen didn't think they could withstand a lightning jolt to cure them. They weren't strong enough and they had been fully taken over. They decided a transformation spell would do the trick. The gholas they believed would not be able to handle the changes. It didn't make sense to me since they use these things in the Courts and Chaosians can be shape shifters. But who am I to say, hm?

So, for a brief time, Madam Chanicutt was a sweeping, frantic, snapping plant. Bitra and her father became baboons. After a few minutes they were restored and the gholas were gone.

Random and Gerard arrived to make sure no one was killed. It wouldn't have looked good if the staff of the Chaosian Embassy were all dead. It would be difficult to explain the King Merlin. I overheard mention that they got the leader behind the takeover, but nothing more and nothing since.

I was given leave to go to Tiryns.


Day 277/23
Housekeeping

Sigh. Today I got to deal with a few problems at home. When I went to ask Vis to do something, he told me I had to talk to Claw instead. Because he had “let” the others leave me behind in Mycenae, he had been voted out of his senior position and Claw was in his place. It made no never mind that I had both ordered and tricked them into doing so. Apparently, what I had wanted wasn't sufficient cause. I had had enough. This wasn't going to work if I have to fight for every decision to be followed. In this instance, democracy doesn't happen. I told him to gather everyone in the back.

I told the Chaosians to stay in the study, since we had private household matters to attend to. They had no problems following those instructions. I went to see Claw. She admitted she wasn't happy with the decision. I think she didn't want to be stuck home all the time. Vis has too many responsibilities to be able to go into shadow any a moment's notice. Good.

The whole clan was outside. I asked them why they thought Vis wasn't good enough? Most stood forward, a sign they supported the decision. I was unhappy to note that Bison was one of them. They thought he had abandoned me. I said I had told them to go. I had Trump cards to get out, which is what I used. A good third of the hundred stepped back. They thought he should have gone to look for me with the others. How? I was in Aes. How could they get there? A few more considered this and stepped back. I woman spoke up; Vis had retreated in the face of battle. I pinned her down. Even the weir weren't a match for a hundred guns and a cannon. She paused and nodded. Next? A male stepped forward and said that instead of helping me, he had them go and rescue Portia. I took him down and put my face right next to his. By this time, I had built up a powerful head of steam. I said that Vis was the chief because I trusted him to do what I wanted and needed. He was capable of anticipating exactly what I would want and the end of the coup would come when the queen was freed. He did exactly the right thing.

This went on for a while until the clan was subdued and they were convinced. I think Vis was going to hurt himself; he was standing so smartly during each recitation. In truth, it was the perfect weir way to show him how much I valued him. But by the time I was done, I realized I had pulled some of the stitches out from the gunshot wounds in my anger and tension.

When everyone dispersed, I went to see the Chaosians. Julian was with them. They were at the window and I realized they saw it all. They were looking at me and being very careful about what they did. I wondered how they would react if they saw a real weir fight. Julian complimented me on my handling of the situation. He saw the wounds and he offered to reset the stitches. I thanked him and saw him out. I explained I was taking the Chaosians home. He nodded and left, riding Morgenstern. It was eerie; that horse's eyes glowed red by the lights from the house.

I had a huge meal and went to sleep.

Day 285/23
Returning the Chaosians to Their Home

I trumped to Aes. I brought the Chaosians through, cutting off a number of days travel. Tatasha had gotten three hundred Grey Foxes to escort the Chaosians and me to the Courts. We thought having a bit of magical help would not be ill advised. I even arranged for them to have an oversized carriage to travel in. It was hung with heavy curtains so their agoraphobia wouldn't distress them. Morghast looked a bit surprised and thanked me for my consideration. We left today heading “south.”

Day 292/23

I felt a distant response from the Chaosian Trump. The Chaosians weren't able to get any feelings from them at all.

Day 297/23

Traveling has been uneventful, thank the Lady, but I did see a number of leopard-spotted riders on mounts flanking us. We got through the shadow with no problems. The weir were astounded at the lands they were passing through. A couple figured out that we were not in their home world at all.

Day 304/23

Today I made a brief contact with the head of House Klee. He was fairly suspicious, but agreed to meet us partway out rather than having us try and enter the House in the Courts. He didn't know about my traveling companions, but didn't think he'd want 300 surprise guests. We'll continue going.

Day 311/23

A Grey Fox outrider came and told me there was some activity ahead. Thirty-five riders were approaching. The Grey Foxes closed ranks on the carriage and the rest were readied. The majority of the approaching party stopped a short ways off. Their mounts were like giraffes with stunted legs. Three detached and came forward. I went forward with two weir. I recognized the old man almost immediately. I never learned his name, but I knew he was Morghast's grandfather. Once I identified him, I had the Chaosians escorted to him. He saw they were unharmed and nodded to me. He still looked a bit annoyed with his grandson. He gave the boy a brief tongue lashing, saying he had better things to do than to come out here and fetch him.

I remarked that since Morghast was under the care of my house, I was taking all precautions against my name being injured if anything happened to him. The old man nodded. He made to leave and I stopped him. He turned back and put the full force of his frown on me. Frankly, after seeing DeWinter really furious, his demeanor did not faze me in the slightest. I told him that I was fully aware of the skills of the Chaosian people. So, meaning no disrespect, he might want to know we saw some strange outriders not too long ago. I thought he would want to know of any potential hazard.

He regarded me for a long moment and then reached up to his face. A tear fell from his eye and he handed it to me. It was a beautiful blue jewel, a sapphire. Before I could say or ask anything more he left. I tucked the jewel away and made sure they were safely away before we turned back.

349/23

I deposited the weir back in Aes and visited a few days with Tatasha before heading back to DeWinter. I was quite anxious to see him. It's been a little over two months since I've seen him. I think this is the longest we've been consciously apart. I was hoping that not as much time had passed for him. I Trumped him and was fairly yanked through the connection. Apparently it's been four weeks since I left. But the reunion was wonderful

Day 363/23

Portia trumped today asking me if I had made any decision. I'd been enjoying my time with DeWinter and the children I hadn't really brought it up. I told her I'd Trump back with a decision. She couldn't really press me too hard given the nature of DeWinter's injuries. In fact, she doesn't quite believe he was hurt that badly, or that he'd recover. How do you explain healing from a broken back? So, I was lying, he wasn't going to recover, or something strange was going on.

I talked to DeWinter about it. He wanted to talk with Tatasha. It was a curious suggestion but I Trumped her and brought her through. Ah, she hadn't ever been to Glantri. I think she felt the energies here because she gave a delighted shiver once she came through. We chatted for a bit. I arranged for a tattoo for Xhimena. Also, the situation in Aes is heating up a bit. Most of the clans want to declare war on the Courts. We were unanimous in agreeing that was a Bad Idea. Fortunately, none of them can get to the Courts so it is a moot point. She decided to let the Clan of the Boar live. The people question this judgment. She said that perhaps she's just getting old, but she just didn't want to kill them. Instead, the men were to be castrated. Oh, my. DeWinter asked her opinion about the Prime Minister position in Mycenaean. She still thought it was a bad idea. She thought, my being an Amberite, I would hold them back, specifically Portia. She'd seen enough of us to think that Portia would become increasingly dependent on me, until she was a ruler in name only. She didn't think 8i would do this intentionally, but it would happen, gradually, just the same. Privately, I could see her point but I really thought I could see if this was happening and either forestall it, or resign. It was only for a few years. I particularly want both Kai-Revere and Xhimena to have the advantage of another culture than Amber or Aes.

In Amber, they would always be of the Royal family. I for one know the disadvantages of this. I always missed the opportunities of having regular friends. And Aes, while the weir have some wonderful qualities they need to learn more than handling their problems by sheer physical action. Both Kai-Revere and Xhimena have propensities for more intellectual leanings--Kai with his problem solving and Xhimena with her writing and imagination. I don't think either of them will be primarily fighters. I think Mycenae would give them some of the opportunities they need, even if they would still be part of the royal family.

Tatasha went home after dinner. We talked some more, still undecided. DeWinter wasn't very convinced that being an Amberite child was any different that any other child. I suggested he get an outside opinion. He brightened and thought of Kent. I agreed. He really does like Kent.

Day 364/23

DeWinter Trumped Owen and invited her and Kent, and the children over for dinner. I was shocked to s4ee how much they've grown. This was not a cliché. The really had grown, by about five years. I knew she had been taking them out into shadow, but hadn't seen them in between their journeys. It was amazing.

Dinner went well. I noticed Xhimena smiling often at Ergian. And he smiled right back. He also did her the courtesy of talking to her normally, not as a child. Not everyone does that. Eidolon and Kai-Revere were so wrapped up with talking with the other boys, that Xhimena was being left out. With a pang I understood how isolated she was feeling. I had that feeling many times when I was a girl. I made a mental note to get some of the female Amberite children over. But Ergian didn't ignore her. He held out her chair for her and talked to her, including her. After dinner the boys invited Tigh and Ergian to a tour of the Embassy. They knew of a few secret places Lady Lucille had shown them. Xhimena caught on immediately that she hadn't been invited. But, she said nothing. There was just a tiny frown line between her eyebrows to indication she was unhappy. I wanted to shake Kai-Revere. He was lucky we had guests. But, Ergian hung back and asked her if she wanted to come with them. She nodded even though Kai looked a bit annoyed. He said she wouldn't be able to keep up and she'd hold everyone back. Ergian said it would be no problem. He went over and picked her up. I think he became a bit of a hero in her eyes, right then. He really is a sweet boy.

Once they were gone, DeWinter got right onto the subject. Was it really that different to raise Amberite children? They confirmed what Tatasha and I had been saying. There are very few children who have the endurance, strength and intelligence to keep up with them. Oh, you could find a shadow where they can find equal in one or two aspects, unless you go for exotic 5races. In the end, we can only hope to expose them to enough differences so that they learn what we want them to learn, to have the opportunity to become the best person they can be. It was something the elders never really had to learn. DeWinter had a bit of a start when Owen began talking about how quickly Xhimena would probably develop into a woman. I was ready for this because it has come to my mind.

Of the elder women, Llewella, Fiona, etc, none had been married. After a certain point, how can you find someone who can physically keep up and have the wisdom and experience they can respect? She pointed out that in our home, she has two parents who are decidedly in love and is surrounded by a people who show their affections unabashedly. Why should she not want that?

The conversation continued on in this vein, mostly with DeWinter asking Owen and Kent a lot of questions. It was after ten o'clock when Lucille came back from teaching. She said she had found the children in one of the walls. They walked in at that point. Xhimena was terribly excited. She thought the whole thing a grand adventure. They had crawled through the secret passages that ran through the embassy. Ergian had even lifted her up to peek into some of the peepholes that looked into some of the unused salons.

While the rest continued to talk, I took the children to bed. As usual, I sat with both as they talked through their day. Kai was particularly worried that Xhimena might be taller than him some day. I asked him why, but he had no answer. I think he was equating being the older brother to being the larger. Personally, I think Xhimena might end up taller that him, but didn't say anything. He thought about it, but couldn't formulate any reasons. Xhimena said she really liked Ergian. Why? Because he talked to me like a real person. And because he saw me, she said. I kissed them both good night and headed downstairs. They were talking about Lucille's class. She was teaching forensic diplomacy. DeWinter renamed it “when talking goes wrong.”

I told DeWinter that I was going to talk with Portia before making any decision. Right now, I thought I could handle it and I wanted to try. He said it didn't matter where we were as long as we were together.

Day 7/24

I went to see Portia. She was rather busy, but rescheduled to talk with me. We had a long heart to heart about the whole thing. I wasn't going to keep Mycenae at the status quo. The men had made their feelings clear; they wanted to be more equal in status than they were. DeWinter would be setting that example, even if unconsciously. We, as a people had to move forward. And she had to examine why she wanted me there. Sure, I helped in the last crises, but their association with me caused that crisis. But I was a public figure. If she wanted to use that, fine. But she had to do what would be best for her reign. I think she tried, but some part of her wasn't letting her be completely honest. I saw it, though, and it made things a bit harder. Still, I agreed to do it, for the interim. If it didn't work out, it didn't work out. I wouldn't start until DeWinter was back up and completely healed. She didn't want to put it off for too long, but she didn't press the issue. I think we could work together.

Day 80/24

It was nice to have those months together, just the four of us. I hadn't even brought the weir through.
I went to talk with Mother about moving to Mycenae. She didn't really understand why. I told her I had over heard Eidolon taunt one of the weir children because he “fought like a girl.” And it wasn't a compliment. He was so used to being better, he would have Kai-Revere on his team and the two would play against the rest of the weir children. He was already setting up the “Us vs. Them” mentality. It wasn't easy but with Byslamia's help I got her to visit with us in Glantri.

Day 82/24

Well, it didn't take any time at all. Mother had taken Eidolon into town and bought him a magical ring, which allowed him to become invisible for a number of times. I had to confiscate it and explain to Mother that it was illegal for children to own or use magic items. It was too easy for them to abuse the privilege and either get hurt or hurt someone else. Eidolon didn't care. She was appalled that he had no care of the legality of what he was doing. That he believed he operated under different rules. Eidolon even got into a fight with Kai. Eidolon was none too happy when arriving to find that Kai-Revere had grown considerably. In fact, Kai is now the same age as Eidolon. Mother noticed though. I'm trying not to have them continuously competing with each other but I think I'm fighting a lost cause. Eidolon is in serious danger of becoming spoiled despite my efforts. I know he isn't mine, but he's going the same route as his father. And look how happy he is. At any rate, Eidolon insisted that a spell had been cast on Kai. Kai said that was dumb, he was just out in Shadow. The poor boy is having his first experience trying to explain the differences in time in different shadows to another six-year-old. It wasn't working. So, they fought.

Mother is considering the idea of moving out into Shadow. We talked about how it works and I assured her if she had any preferences, I would take them into consideration along with everyone else's. That reassured her.

Day 83/24
My Mother is Crazy?

Today was a horrible day. Mother came to present me with her desires in Shadow. It was three pages long! She wanted a military academy, all boys for Eidolon to associate with. She wanted a teaching position in the school so she could keep an eye on him, though it would be nicer if she had an administrative position. It would be close to a town for us to live in. He could visit us on weekends. It went on and on. It sounded more like a prison than a learning experience. No girls? No other non-military children? How would he ever learn to socialize? He's already taken the patriarchal view that girls are “less.” Unless you can see the subtleties, (and I doubt he can), the weir appear to be strictly patriarchal. The women have a lot to say, and a strong role, but it's hidden. Much like the rest of Amber. Why would she forment this attitude? There is so much more he needs to learn besides military things. I know that subject and little more and I'm always floundering through things. Why should Eidolon be equally disadvantaged? Why does she want this? I tried to get her to see this, but she isn't willing. I couldn't push it too far because Eidolon is my brother, not my child. I don't think I have a right to judge. Still…

I showed the letter to DeWinter who was just as appalled as I was. Actually, he thought she was really losing it. He thought this would be a terrible place. In fact, it is almost as if she's trying to make Eidolon into what she always thought Evander was like.

I was almost in a panic. DeWinter went through my deck and got out Owen's card. We got a picnic lunch together while she freed some time. We went riding out and in a field set up. Owen came through.

I was relieved that Owen was just as disturbed as we were. The one thing we all acknowledge was that we couldn't make her see what she was doing. She'd have to see for herself. Rather, than letting Eidolon be an object lesson, we could just take a long route in shadow. She had no idea how long it would take to get to this destination. If she began to see alternatives, she might just find herself changing her judgment. That's really all we can hope for. Other than convincing her to let us take Eidolon out without her. I couldn't do that. It would hurt her too much. I think what she needs is something other than Eidolon to focus on. Eidolon could use that too, though he won't like it at first.

Day 90/24

We are all back in Tiryns. DeWinter has gotten a clean bill of health from the doctors. We are preparing to leave. It will be myself, DeWinter, Kai, Xhimena, Mother, Eidolon, Byslamia, Claw, Bison, and three or four of the weir children with their parents. I'm thinking to get some of them used to traveling in Shadow while they are young.

I did stop by the castle to see Master Resort. He was in the library as usual. Since it would be a week or two until we leave, I was thinking to get them on some regular lessons. I also wanted him to guide me on teaching the children while we were traveling. They know their letters, but they also need to start on mathematics and science. I know enough to get them started, but I'm now sure how much or how quickly to progress. He was pleased and asked to meet with them.

I Trumped Tiryns and had the children readied to come to the castle. Kai was ready instantly, but Xhimena wanted to dress “properly.”

I waited to be Trumped back and when it came I was surprised to see a woman, obviously weir, but unknown to me. She called herself Sansain, of the Boar Clan. And she wasn't too sure who I was. I was a bit alarmed because this meant that somehow she got my Trump from Tatasha. This was not good. She was quite aggressive in demanding who I was. I said she shouldn't Trump someone unless she knew whom she was calling. She became hostile and belligerent, demanding I account for myself. I cut the contact.

The next two connections were her, still hostile and angry. I continued to cut the contact, though once she beat me to it. My concern was that she was setting up a prolonged contact in order to cast a spell through it. She did get out that she was a candidate as the next High Mother.

Now I was really worried.

Eventually, the children were ready and the Trump came from Vis. I got them through without incident. Master Resort was charmed by Xhimena and impressed with Kai's knowledge of horses. They are without doubt, or prejudice, bright children. He arranged for them to come to the castle once a week for lessons. He gave them both exercise books so he could assess their aptitude.

We then walked around the castle, since they haven't been there. At least not since Kai could walk. We met Francine and Vestalowen walking in the garden. Xhimena was instantly curious at having another little girl around. Unfortunately, Vestalowen was barely walking much less talking. Kai was taken aback when Francine curtsied to him. He'd not ever had someone treat him like a Royal before. Even though Francine had borne a Crown Prince's child, she did not consider herself part of the family, even by association. We chatted and I tried to put Francine at ease. But, like many, she would never really feel comfortable around me. Eventually we left them to their afternoon and walked around the castle some more.

Kai-revere so wanted to try the weapons in the practice room. I wasn't having any of it, and he was so despondent one would think the world was coming to an end. We made one stop to see Lord Hendren. He was pleased to be visited by Kai, saying he greatly enjoyed getting letters from him. Apparently, he took Kai's suggestion that there be better lighting in the castle seriously (though probably not for security reasons). He had two prototypes for new wall sconces in the office and asked Kai which one he thought was best. Kai was very uncertain about how one goes to pick out something like that. Eventually he chose the more decorative of the two, because it looked better. Lord Hendren said it was a splendid choice and that was what he was going with. Kai was vastly impressed that his choice was not only taken seriously, but it would be implemented. Needless to say, he was in a much better mood.

We made a brief stop for them to meet Random. After all, the next time he's sees them, they might be fully grown. We had brandy while the children chose “hard” lemonade, even though they didn't know what it was. Apparently that meant without any sugar. Kai forced himself to drink it but Xhimena gave up after one sip. They were a bit tongue-tied and I think Random was at a little loss here. I didn't help much, but we weren't staying long. Kai talked a little and Xhimena curtsied a lot and showed him her math books. Eventually we let him get on with his work and left.

As soon as I got to Tiryns, I trumped Tatasha. I was shocked to see her. She was pale, under her eyes were gray shadows, her hair disarrayed and she had the most awful cough. I gestured for DeWinter to come over to me. He came slowly, not sure of why I would get him into the Trump call. Eventually I just grabbed his hand and pulled. In one of the few times, his stoicism dropped, he was that shocked as her appearance.

Tatasha passed it off; said she had been growing ill for some time. That is why she was gathering all those who were potentially High Mothers to come and be candidates to succeed her. She hoped I would be her selection, for our Wolf clan. Looking at her, how could I refuse? I told her I'd be there as soon as I could. She said that would be wonderful.

I let the connection dropped and DeWinter and I just looked at each other. There was little doubt that the we thought she was either being poisoned, or someone was working a nasty spell on her. We got up and DeWinter went to get ready.

I told Vis to gather all the weir.

We were going to try and save the High Mother.


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