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Cassandra's Diary.36


Day 200/25

We took Mother and Ketcham through to Owen's shop. The party consisted of Owen, Kent, Mother, Ketcham, DeWinter and myself. Mother took it in stride and Ketcham was pleasantly surprised. The range of goods available to couples was still truly amazing. We let them wander through the store, knowing the sales team would answer any questions and give recommendations. Both Ketcham and DeWinter, and Mother, were particularly taken by the proliferation of color-printed catalogs. Such printing was not available in Mycenae or Gianassa, and DeWinter's never stayed in one Shadow long enough to read even public magazines. All in all the trip was highly successful and all of us came away to plenty to fascinate for a while.

Day 220/25

DeWinter found me in the study today. He started the conversation by sitting down and saying that we had really strange kids. Then he asked “How was that possible and why am I surprised?” He saw that the signs were all there right in front of him. He was quite distracted, though he wasn't really in a conversational mood. Rather, he was thinking out loud. He eventually came to the conclusion that he really had to learn how they think. Already they are going in different directions. Soon, he felt, they would drift so far; he wouldn't be able to understand them. It was a good suggestion, because it was a valid concern. But I don't just don't know how he could do it.

Day 221/25

DeWinter's method was to help each of the children with there homework. In this way, he'll know what they know and be able to know how they think. The first is a given, but I question the second. But, since I had no better suggestion, we'll see what happens.

He started with Kai-Revere. I rather expected that, since they are so much alike already. But that proved to be not quite advantageous. While they were working, DeWinter asked him what he wanted to do when he was grown up. Kai was confused by the question. Did he want to be a veterinarian?

Hunh? No.

DeWinter said why not.

He learned everything in the book on horses.

Why wouldn't he want to continue that?

Kai shrugged. He learned it because it was interesting, but it was easy. He wanted something hard to do. He'd rather hire one anyway.

I suppressed a smile and DeWinter went to dunk his head in the well.

Day 222/25

Next he tried Xhimena. He was pleased to see her so organized and quite willing for him to help. She sent everything out logically. He asked her the same question. 'What do you want to do when you grow up?

She said, “I want to be smarter than the turtles.”'

DeWinter said that “intelligence is different for each person.”

'No', she replied. 'They are smarter. Everyone says so. Are they lying?'

He was in a bit of a fix. He couldn't really say that everyone else was lying. He just muttered that she'd understand later.

She nodded. 'It's because I'm little.'

'What do you mean?'

'When I'm big, I can know some things. Just like when I'm big, I can have a companion like we gave to Tralee.' That reference stressed his brain and he just shook his head, not trusting the conversation any more.

He decided to think of another tactic.

Day 226/25

Tralee is feeling a bit left out. She has friends but she has nothing in common with them. She'd lived a life or work and responsibility. They have yet to face it. While she was always fed, it was nothing elaborate. In comparison, they are connoisseurs. In fact, she has little in common with them. I keenly felt her loneliness. When growing up, I was faster and stronger, until I learned to hide it. But given my abilities, and social class, there was no one I could really call friend. And I really never got the hang of it. As is evidenced even in my adulthood. She was appealing to me for answers, and I had none to give her. I promised I'd think about it.

Later that day, I Trumped Florimel. She was in the forefront on knowledge of social situations. She was a bit busy, but said she'd get back to me. The exchange was brief, but her comments led me to believe she understood Tralee's situation. In Mycenae, with the highest standard of beauty running to blonds, I wasn't considered particularly beautiful. I was in position to judge, but could Flora's beauty have isolated her along with her social standing? It seems possible. I know that until I talked with her a bit, she intimidated me.

Day 233/25

We got a message from Amber. It said that Flora would leave in a few days. It sent the household into a flurry of activity. No one wanted to put a bad face in front of the princess. It paralyzed Tralee. Then she was virtually hysterical. She shook, she cried and held on for dear life. It took a long time, but I held her and let it subside, slowly helping her get control of herself.

I had Vis pick attendants for Flora. Two men and two women. I should have anticipated this would result in a grappling contest to determine who was most fit for the duty. It was a protracted, messy battle. It worked its way down to 3 men and 2 women. Then they had to stop to get weapons.

I told DeWinter and he shrugged and said I was in charge of Flora. Some help he is. In the end, I got one man and woman for each shift. I could have saved some trouble had I mentioned Carmella would need one. But, I forgot.

A second round of fighting was cheerfully undertaken.

Day 235/25

There was still no sign of Flora. I was tempted to Trump her, but thought that would be intrusive. I was distracted when a messenger came to collect me to go to the school. Apparently, there'd been some trouble. I collected DeWinter and we went.

We met the headmaster. Kai-Revere had gotten into a fight at the school. A small group of 10-12 year olds said “challenging remarks” to Kai and his friends. He said it was unusual that Kai took all three boys down, especially when defending the object of the remarks.

I was inclined to be lenient, since it had been established that Kai was defending his friends. DeWinter was not so sanguine about it. We asked if Kai had been hurt. It wasn't written down, so I assumed he was not seriously injured. They went to check anyway.

When they left, I took a look at their report. Kai hadn't taken them down. He had pummeled them into the dust. We went to see Kai. He was in the infirmary with the others. The other three look like they got hit by a pack of weir. We promised to reprimand Kai and then took him home.

Before dinner, we went into the study and sat him down to get his side of the story. The three antagonists had called the remarks to his friend Tommy first, and then to him, when they didn't run away. So far, so good. Tommy was quite angry at the insults. Then Kai made a remark back to the antagonist and they hit him. DeWinter nodded, as if Kai had just confirmed something. And indeed he had. It didn't take long for Kai to reveal that he had goaded the others to hit first. He was actually quite proud that he did this, avoiding making the first strike. He knew he'd be able to take them all, especially after all his training and his practicing with the weir.

This was problematical. We acknowledged that he probably would not lose against many here. But, that didn't make him a hero. I told him it would make him a bully. DeWinter had him test his strength. Even I was surprised at what I saw. DeWinter lay down on the floor, making himself rigid. With effort, Kai lifted him up over his head. DeWinter, when he got down, said we are different from other people. He should think of it as a secret. Kai was confused, but agreed he had to keep the secret.

For his punishment, he had to write a paper with three suggestions about how to avoid such situations in the future. And, he had to apologize to the others and lose his next fight, if he couldn't avoid it. He was so dismayed. He had no idea which of the three items was worse. I think it was the idea of losing any fight.

This problem might come up with the other children. So, we had a family meeting. To make things readily apparent, especially to Mother, we had Eidolon lift DeWinter. That astounded Mother and Byslamia. The weir looked proud of their charges and Richard was only mildly surprised. Jim and Toby looked impressed, but not particularly surprised. With a great deal of discussion on the ramifications, we all agreed to keep the “secret.”

The family dispersed, but Mother and Byslamia remained behind, as I thought they might. Mother was more than a little distressed. How do you teach an Amberite child discipline, responsibility and consequences if no one can stop them? Byslamia had her head in her hands. She said she was trying to recalibrate her brain.

The discussion was mostly speculation. I told Mother this was why we wanted the children to stay together. They would curtail each other, at least from excessive pride and arrogance, which Evander suffered in spades.

But, even so, surely they knew they were different too? They didn't believe that. So, we had Byslamia do the test. To her own surprise, she also could lift him, but only to her shoulders. How many women of over fifty years could do this? That gave them both much food for thought.

Day 236/25
Ravens

I took a little walk with Xhimena, like I do with all of the children from time to time. When I asked if she had anything she wanted to talk about, she said no, but in an evasive manner. I asked again, if she had any secret things to tell me.

Well, she liked to climb on the roof and sing.

My mind flashed to our peaked roof, with no handholds, nothing to stop her plummeting to the ground. I stifled any reaction, and asked her why she went up there. She said that was where the ravens come. Ah. Could I see these ravens? She was pleased and said sure. She went up around midnight.

I went to Vis and asked him why there was no one up on the roof as lookouts, as the children did in Tiryns. He said it was because there was no easy way to get up there and no other buildings close enough to threaten the roof. For the weir to say that made me very nervous.

I told DeWinter what Xhimena said, and I could hear his thoughts on our “strange kids.”

We went to bed early. Around 10:30, Xhimena came and got me. She led me back to her room and got undressed. She went to the window and opened it. I had a bad feeling about this. We were on the third floor. A fall would kill her.

She leaned outward, until she was on her toes. Her hands just grasped the gutter. Gah! I lurched forward to catch her, but she swung out, then up and over.

Oh, I so did not like this.

I got into the window and stood. I was tall enough, that there was considerable tension between the gutter and me. I swung out. I could feel the gutter start to break off with sharp cracks. I rolled up and landed on my face. I crept up to the peak, next to Xhimena.

We talked, about the weather. We picked out shapes in the clouds. If we weren't so far up, I would have been quite pleasant. Soon she whistles and then begins to sing wordlessly, almost like a lullaby. A breeze picked up. I detected an oily hot-metal smell and she sung faster, almost a jig. I could hear sounds of wings coming closer. Three birds, ravens, landed nearby, and five more followed. One walked to us. These were no average ravens; they were more the size of eagles.

I asked Xhimena, "Where are they from?"

We are from better places than this --offered one of the ravens.

They talked! 'Why is their place better?'

The leader said they had “hotter chicks.”

“Then why do they come here?”

Because the child calls so nicely.

I had eye contact, so I did some light probing. They had soft wards on their minds. I felt a tingle when I touched their feathers.

They explained they are from a world of Shadows. Their story was of a family with a gift for secrets. They learned how to make and wear feathers. Then they learned to fly and talk, watching for special words. They made other feathered creatures that are not as wonderful, to use as camouflage when they moved to other places. The one with this bright idea was made King of the Ravens.

I wanted to see them without their feathers. For this they traded my earring. It hops onto my leg to get the jewelry. Then it spread its wings and the feathers slid off like an opera cloak. He had a dark form, black and shining, with a silver outline. It looked like a letter “Y” and it slid closer.

Its voice was high-pitched, almost soprano, and child-like now, very different from the raven's croak. “I could teach you Cassandra.” It knew my name! And, I learned, my lineage, all the way to Dworkin. With a brief 'thank you', I told them I had to get Xhimena back to bed. He donned the feathers and gave me a knowing look.


I broke off a roofing tile and threw it down to get the attention of the weir. DeWinter came out and threw a rope lasso to the chimney. We climbed down to solid ground. All nine of the Ravens followed. I introduced them to DeWinter. They offered greeting to 'DeWinter, son of Oberon, son of Dworkin.' DeWinter was suspicious, as usual, by now he had a healthy dose of paranoia.

They weren't hungry, but they did accept wine. We put then into to bowls only the leader drank from one. The others eyed the second bowl. I asked them whom they were working for. They answered in trade for my pants. I laid them on the ground and he walked over them twice. He left the bowl and the others rushed the second bowl.

They have a mission: Meet the girl, sing and tell stories. I told them to tell their King I want to talk to him.

I saw the leader's wing crack open and he put my clothing inside his wing somehow. The five leave, then three more. Finally, so does the leader. All we were left with was to put Xhimena back to bed. She asked if she could see them again. I told her we had to think about it. She liked them, she learned things and they took her places. Oh? Where?

She learned songs from the mermaids. What mermaids? The ones at the port? Port Gianassa? She thought so, but a cursory scan of her thoughts told me the port city she had been to was actually in ruins.

These Ravens were taking her into Shadow!

How many times had she gone up to the roof? She thought about it for a minute and said thirty. And how many times had she met the Ravens? Thirty. And what has she traded? A pair of pajamas, once some hair.

Ah.

I told her not to go to the roof until further notice. Then I told Claw to have someone watch inside and out, for any activity toward Xhimena's room. Then she should have someone trump us at 10 am and 10 pm, so we can learn the time differential here.

Then we Trumped to the drawbridge in Amber. It was fairly late in Amber, perhaps 11 pm. We went to the library to do a little research. Four hours later, we'd found nothing on bright creatures in raven's clothing.

Day 237/25


At dawn, we got a Trump from Benedict. He was on the roof of the castle could we meet with him? We got instructions on how to get up there, and went. Apparently, there are some flat parts. He was there, with Random. Somehow, perhaps through the servants, Benedict knew what we were researching.

This revolved around a bit of history. Queen Faiella was also known as The Witch. These Ravens existed by her sufferance, literally. She had the means, with a thought, to destroy them. Oh. It is possible, these Ravens see Xhimena who may be the next One. In fact, should Xhimena indeed have the power, she is also responsible for their existence and could likewise, possibly, in time, destroy them should she choose. Oh, my. I was concerned with protecting Xhimena but now I might be protecting these Ravens. There was little more in the way of information. Even what Benedict knew simply scratched the surface. The rest was secret only to Faiella, who, of course, could not be asked.

So, in the end we went back to Gianassa, with more to think about and even less answers.

I was surprised to receive a visit from Fiona, who joined us for breakfast. Kai-Revere sat next to her. He tried to make polite conversation, making compliments on her clothing. She gave him a look that was probably indecipherable to Kai.

He said he'd like clothes like hers. She was wearing high heels and some finely detailed black dress that showed a lot of leg. Something obviously from shadow.

Fiona responded to Kai. "If you like them, I'll see what I can do about getting you some just like them."

I knew he was focusing on how nicely made they were, not the style. But Eidolon just caught the obvious statement. He put his forehead on the table and groaned. A faint look of amusement passed over Fiona's face. She directed her attention to Xhimena making, literally, 'girl talk'.

After breakfast we went to a study. Fiona brought the subject around to the Ravens. She got all the information we had. She went through many questions, ostensibly to ascertain Xhimena's intelligence. I think Xhimena acquitted herself well.

Fiona then moved on to try and test her abilities. She had Xhimena pull her own finger, think of her. She did so and Fiona lurched off the chair. I suppose she succeeded because Fiona chose not to defend herself. Fiona said Xhimena showed a talent for instinctual magic.

She knew only a little more than Benedict about the Ravens. The clothing they'd already gotten could be used by them to assume our forms. She had Xhimena tell her precisely what she traded. As she said before, the pajamas: she made two trades with them the top article, for a feather. The bottoms for learning how to fly. She traded some hair in order to meet the mermaids.

Fiona asked her, 'Why do you trust them?'

Xhimena said she knew when they were lying. She even tested it. She told them to tell her a truth and a lie, in no order. They said that her home here is nicer than the one in Garnath and that her father is a terrible man. She said the first was a truth and the second was the lie. I wasn't so sure, but I don't know how she knows.

The Ravens had come because she had sung so sweetly. How did she know what to sing? Xhimena said she learned the Raven Summoning song in a dream. Just like the mermaid song. Well. We sent Xhimena off to play.

Fiona said Xhimena was very precocious. She recommended that Xhimena not associate with the Ravens, at least until she was a little older. At present, it would be dangerous for both involved, though she couldn't say that they meant her any harm.

Xhimena did pop back in to show us the feather. She'd had it hidden in the floorboards of her room. She said it made her tingle. The magic was cold and slippery, like a Trump. Fiona asked me if I could feel it. I took it and felt a tingle through my arm, raising goose bumps, and down my back. To me it felt warm and tingly, not like a Trump. I gave it back before I did something. I think with something like that, it would be easy. Xhimena went off again.

Fiona thought we were dealing with the Old Ones: the Fey.

Fiona said there were five major varieties of Fey: air, water, spirit, fire and earth. That sounded right. In Mycenae, we have a similar thought. The ancient thought there were five basic elements of all things and these were the same categories as these Fey. I was always partial to water and spirit. We would have to wait and see where Xhimena's interests lie.

The most disturbing thing is that these Ravens could cast spells. She said she would make a charm that would let me know when a spell is cast on her. She reiterated that she did not believe that the Ravens meant her any harm. She thought they were testing her and thus far, she's passing the grade. She did not recommend any formal schooling in magic on the basis that it would ruin her. It would set false or inaccurate limits, perhaps making it impossible to overcome in later years. I thanked her for her help. She said I was welcome and should any developments occur, she would like to know about them. She was truly interested in Xhimena's welfare, not that I had any doubt. But it seemed more than I expected from Fiona.

That night I had Xhimena make an agreement with me. There would be no flying and no visits without an adult nearby at all times.

Day 242/25

That evening I took Eidolon to Amber. I was getting a few supplies for the shop, but it would be a good excuse to have Eidolon meet with Evander. He's had little chance up to now. We went into town first when I gave him the choice. I was a bit surprised to find him less than amiable to it. He thought Evander was “dumb.” I gave in a tour of the town, but he didn't elaborate more. Gerard was at sea, though he would be returning tomorrow or the nest day. We went back to the Castle. By the time we got to my rooms, he was perturbed by the fact that no one knew who he was. I trumped DeWinter and told him we might be here a day or so, and could we get some clothes for Eidolon? He said he was surprised the Trump worked? Why? He waved the questions off with a “Later.”

We went to dinner. March, Grace, Sabrina, Kinkel, Dorimae, Blythe, Martin, Random and Vialle were all there. Eidolon asked me to present him to the King and Queen. I was reluctant, but did so. He acquitted himself well, despite Random's humor, to get to sit next to Random.

Joy.

Random did tell Eidolon to watch out for March. Eidolon's eyes grew larger, but he didn't ask why. He just stared at March for a bit and then went back to eating. The food was excellent. Being in Shadow so long, I was reminded how more potent things in Amber were.

Eidolon out-did himself. He managed to make and hold a conversation with everyone around him. I've never seen him so chatty. He got himself invited for brandy and cigars later. He gave me pleading eyes, to say yes. Now, I'm not sure that Random would give them to him, but then again, I wasn't sure he wouldn't. I made the blunder in saying I had to ask his mother first.

He shut his eyes in pain. My mistake was compounded by saying this in front of the King. We went to a drawing room.

I Trumped DeWinter and got him to come through as escort. I have a feeling I wouldn't go over well as an escort right now. He agreed to come through. When I was done with the call, I went out into the hall where Eidolon was. He was gone. I looked around, wondering if Random had come by and taken him up. I looked around outside first, and then got some of the guards to look. Nothing. I went to the barracks, to see if he went to Evander to get permission.

About a half hour later, we found him in the same room I had been in. He had volunteered to escort Lady Francine and Vestalowen to their rooms. I found DeWinter and they went to the library. By having the guards look for Eidolon, I lost any remaining esteem in his eyes.

Sigh.

. Three hours later, just before midnight, there was a knock on the door. It was one of the kitchen maids. She grinned impishly and said she had been accosted by Lord DeWinter who asked her to deliver the champagne, along with some pastries. Hm…DeWinter would probably want some privacy. I took one of the Family Suites. This way, Eidolon got his own room. They returned and I took them to the rooms. Both were grinning. Eidolon spent the time telling stories or our adventures in Paris and encountering Ygg. We settled in to a lovely, quiet night.

Day 243/25

We had breakfast. March said that Gerard would be back today. I penned a note to send to Gerard to have a word with him. Vialle chatted with Eidolon…it's amazing how much he can talk. We watched the guards training and in mid-afternoon, Gerard showed up, inviting us to dinner at his home. Eidolon was bursting with enthusiasm.

It was a rather informal affair. DeWinter did not join us, having committed himself to a card game. He called it a “guy thing.”

We brought wine for the dinner. Gerard and The Owen lived in a modified townhouse: modified to his size. The arched doors were 10' high. We had a nice long conversation. Rourke, March and Nicholas ran the Navies in Gerard's absence when he and The Owen went on vacation not too long ago. He was pleased with their performance. The Owen is retired now. She works now with a circle of volunteers dedicated to improving Amber. For example, many people come here with nothing, in the hopes of a better life. About 1 in 200 make it, often as contract labor. The others, because all the economic and skilled craftsman places were already filled, were left destitute and the numbers were growing. They were trying to find alternative solutions for these people.

When we got back, I couldn't find DeWinter. Eventually I Trumped him. I saw him, cigar clamped in his teeth. He was in a townhouse of a friend of Kinkel's. The card game must still be going on. I surmised he'd be a while and simply said good night.

Day 245/25


DeWinter got in quite early. When I picked up his shirt, I detected an unexpected scent. I knew there was at least one woman at this poker game. I could smell her cosmetics and perfume…something floral. I asked him who she was and he was very reluctant to talk about it. I have no doubt he was innocent of anything…immoral, but now my curiosity was peaked. I eventually got him to admit it had been a party for Random's birthday and there were women there. Kinkel had been in charge. I wasn't pleased at the lies, but let it go.

I spent the morning working to commission a wing addition to Tiryns. Part of the commission was to ensure that all unskilled labor would be contracted to use any who are destitute. If necessary, they could ask The Owen for recommendations. I wanted either a circular or rectangular area surrounding a courtyard partly open to the sky. The girls would all have rooms surrounding the courtyard. This way, they would be together when they wished, and have their privacy at the same time. When we got back, I'd get a gardener to landscape inside. I'm planning that by the time we return, they would be old enough to want separate rooms. It should be done by the time we return, so I set up payment upon completion.

Gerard said he would send Junior Captain Erickson to the castle with some documents. He arrived at noon and we met in the gardens. I complemented him on his promotion. He was pleased with himself. It did, after all, remove thirty years from his sentence. Apparently that was enough chitchat for me, he turned his attention to Eidolon. "Do you want to be in the military?"

“Nope. Well…maybe in a scholarly fashion.”

That severely puzzled Evander who frowned at him. He remarked that he thought his mother would be smarter than that. That remarks seriously angered Eidolon. Evander dismissed his feelings, saying he was a child and had no comprehension in these matters. I thought Eidolon would explode.

I acutely felt Eidolon's situation.

DeWinter took Eidolon for a little walk to calm him down. I tried to explain just what Evander had done to anger his son, but as usual, he dismissed my arguments. He is the father; therefore he is right. That is what he believes and that is all he will hear.

We were heading on our way to another argument ourselves, so I switched the talk to other matters. We actually made our way to a pleasant conversation. I debated with myself, but in the end decided to tell him of Mother's marriage. He was surprised. Why would she do such a thing?

Why wouldn't she?

Because Mother likes quality. Why would she submit to anyone lesser?

Do you think of anyone else is automatically lesser?

Of course.

Oh, what arrogance! All I said was that all things are possible in Shadow.

I think I finally said something interesting to him. He asked me why I care? Because he's family. We don't have to always agree, or like what another does. But we are family nonetheless. To my surprise, he took my hand and kissed it.

We found DeWinter and Eidolon in a deep discussion. He sent his congratulations and best wishes for Mother through Eidolon. Then he said to be careful. He said you hurt the ones you love. Eidolon was confused at that and DeWinter's face darkened. He had duties to attend to, and made his leave.

A few minutes later, there were shouts from the stable. We ran out to see Evander riding towards Arden at a dead gallop. DeWinter cursed and ran for a horse. I Trumped Shapir. I debated leaving Eidolon behind, but he was latched onto my arm and it would take too long to dispatch him. Eidolon and I went through to Shapir in Arden, hoping to head Evander off. It became a race.

I Trumped DeWinter as we rode. He was with Random and had told him what happened. He wasn't following because Evander had cut all the horse's tack in the stable.

Twenty minutes later we made it to an outpost and switched horses. Eidolon and myself got our own horses. An hour later, Evander was in Arden. Two hours later, our horses were getting tired. We made it to another outpost. By this time Shapir had a thought to where Evander was going.

We rode, coming out along a Cliffside. Shapir pulled his blade and I did likewise. I didn't see nor smell anything of Evander. We were at the mouth of a cave with a cover stone blocking any entrance. I remembered this place. Gerard had taken me along it once. It would get us into Shadow very quickly. I told Eidolon to do the talking, if it came to that. Then I made him stand to one side. We stand guard to the portal. I heard a horse rear to a stop.

The next was a sense of déjà vu. Once again I was facing off Evander. He dismounted and said something to that effect. Actually he wondered that I hadn't learned the first time. He told us to step aside. 'It was high time he left Amber.'

He advanced and was blocked from above by Bleys landing in front of us. We all exchanged words, trying to reason with him there was still time to undo what he has done. Evander didn't care. Actually, he said it would matter if he had any sense of family and I do. But he didn't and never did. I reached with my empathy and found…nothing. Not any feelings towards one way, another, for us.

It was a bleak moment.

It was a standoff until he attacked. Oh, he's not only good; he's better than he was before. He held off Bleys. Not to mention Shapir as well. I was an after-thought in such company. He's very, very dangerous. Bleys kept us in the fight, coordinated our efforts to keep him at bay. It seemed to go on for hours. I felt I had to do something to break the stalemate.

I threw my Trump deck to Eidolon, yelling for him to contact someone, anyone. Perhaps Fiona. I thought that she would have the means to take him down, means he might not be able to protect against. Unfortunately, my action threw off our defense and Bleys was hit, badly. Shapir couldn't cover and Bleys took a point through the ribs and in the next moment Shapir's blade was broken by some trick of Evander's. Then Shapir took a knife to his side.

Danger. Of course, now I could feel the energy flowing. We were in serious trouble.

Evander backed off to let us compromise. Let him through, and he'll spare us. I had the feeling he would go straight to Mother. Perhaps to challenge Ketcham, since I foolishly alluded to him being better. Ketcham is a better person, but not a better fighter. I couldn't take the chance that Evander would let Ketcham live.

I kept him talking as Shapir made his way to a very shaken Eidolon, who was crying now. Eidolon was so rattled; he couldn't get anyone by Trump. I put a hand on Bleys and sent the energy to him. The only reaction I got that it was working was a slight widening of his eyes. He took on the banter with Evander. I motioned to Eidolon to go to Shapir. If he could get there, Shapir would Trump somebody.

It didn't last and the fight resumed. Bleys and I against Evander. This time we were both taking injuries.

A huge surprise then: Random appeared.

He watched for a few minutes and then told Evander to stop on the count of three. Evander ignored him, giving us a complex series of blows to counter. Bleys took two more injuries.

On Random's count of four, a lightning bolt hit Evander. In the head--I think. There was an enormous flash. I was blinded and numbed by the discharge. Scorched earth surrounded us.

When I was somewhat recovered and seeing again, I Trumped DeWinter to take Eidolon. Then I pulled the knife from Shapir's side and began treating him. Bleys was poking tiny holes in the unconscious Evander with the tip of his blade. Random was getting a report from Bleys.

Sociopath?

Bleys shrugged. Probably.

Random said to take Evander to the dungeon.

I stood at that.

Bleys said it wasn't wise. Random didn't budge.

I Trumped DeWinter, asking him to bring Shapir and me through to the infirmary. Since Random was being an idiot, I had no reason to stay.

I saw Random's head turn toward me when I said that to DeWinter.

We got Shapir settled. I fell into the role of a nurse and assisted Dr. Blythe. Then I went to my rooms. Eidolon was so upset; all he could do was flail at me. All I could do was hold him till he stopped crying. Later, when he fell asleep, I told DeWinter what happened.


Day 246/25

We packed our things to go back to Gianassa. Bleys had been tended to and nothing more was said to us, about the state of affairs. As far as I was concerned, we paid for our loyalty to Amber in abundance. Far be it for me to need to ask what would happen to Evander. But, I'm not going to live here again, knowing he's dishonored our line, and would do it again to serve himself. Him, sitting and rotting under the castle as a daily reminder. Amber can't make me do that on top of everyone else. Random can't make us do that.

Day 256/25

We've been home a week and all this time and Eidolon's had nightmares each night. During the day, his mood swings rose and fell at the slightest cause. One moment he's playing with the others or studying, the next he's snarling and picking fights. Kai-Revere is very shaken by this. Each in their own way, they are very consistent in their ways. This irregularity is too new.

One solution I've done is making all the children sleep in one room. They end up like a pile of puppies. Actually, they all like it and it does seem to have a calming effect on Eidolon. He's sleeping through the nights now. But, still I'm worried.

DeWinter left to get DoBlique. She, too, knows what it is like to be betrayed by a parent. And, I think, we need all the help we can get.

Day 258/25


I know something is still wrong. I Trumped Fiona, but she recommends Owen, who is far more knowledgeable about child psychology. So, I Trumped Owen, who came through almost immediately. From the look on her face, she didn't like the look on mine. I explained the situation while outside. Then I sent for Eidolon. For privacy, they took a walk. A sat and waited.

They return and Owen attempts something. Eidolon calls out and falls. Owen is suddenly out cold and I have a severe pain in my abdomen. I get her awake and carry Eidolon into the house. So far, the weir are watchful, but they do not interfere.

I get them something to eat and drink after I wake up Eidolon. Owen explains that that is the pain Eidolon is feeling. He is feeling the consequences of Broken Trust. I trust she's stating the obvious for Eidolon's benefit. He's curled up in his chair. He says his father is a monster. She looks at him. I could feel her trying to tread carefully, wanting to heal him. She asked him, 'Do you think you're a monster?'

After a minute, he nods.

Owen says that DeWinter's mother was a monster, but DeWinter is not, right?

Eidolon looked at Owen with a little hope.

She continued, 'Don't you think it's possible that you're not?'

After a minute, he nods slightly. Then he ran into my lap. All I could do was give him a hug. All that pain is such a little body. I wished I could take it into me. It's just not fair that he should have to deal with this.

My own anger was just as acute. How dare Evander do this to his son, a little boy! I knew the risks; I took the chance and now wished I'd left him there in the first place. I let Evander lull me into believe there was hope and Eidolon is paying the price. I am as well, but I believe I can deal with it in time.

Eidolon says he wants to kill Evander. He's not even calling him Father any more. Can't say I blame him for that. I do, too, I told him. He asked if he could help me. I said all right. Then he makes me promise. Since I doubt Random would give me the chance, I could promise. There was a definite sense of rightness and comfort in this morbid little huddle of ours. Even Owen joined in. Up close, I could see her almost ready to cry. We are there for a long while.

She says the enemy is within us. Only our sharing and caring, and lots of it will dispel the physical and emotional pains we feel. She even goes far to write down a prescription for DeWinter to assist with. I felt my face break into a small smile. I told her he'd want refills. She nodded happily. He can call her anytime. She says she'll stay for a day or two.


Day 260/25

DeWinter contacts me around midnight. He's at DoBlique's castle. He'll Trump me when he's ready to come through. Since I was awake, I went to the kitchen for something to eat. That gave me plenty of time to brood. Owen decided to go home. She'll stop by to see how things are going.

By 4:30 he Trumps me and they come through. I got a long hug from DoBlique, and I knew DeWinter had filled her in.

Day 262/25

Things are better. Both Eidolon and I can sense it. Of course, DeWinter was a great help. But Eidolon and I have achieved a…bond. One I never thought would be possible, or even likely. Whenever one of us is feeling…affected, as Owen decreed, we seek the other and talk it out. Who better to share the pain than with someone who is feeling the same way? That I am feeling it, too, helps Eidolon not set up false expectations with himself. Having to share takes away my own false expectations. So, together, we are healing.

DoBlique is helping as well. She remarked how surprised she is by how close we are becoming. Did I sense even a hint of wistfulness? We gave her a few extra doses of hugs. I think she felt a bit of quilt, because she later confessed to me that she once tried to kill DeWinter. Apparently, she thought she was the one to sentence him to death by fire. I told her DeWinter remembered it was Dastard who did this. She seemed certain that she was right. Still, all their memories had been tampered with so much, how do we know what is truth? My own experiences led me to think it was Dastard. I don't think she believed me. All I could do was say that we all do things we aren't particularly proud of. But she shouldn't try to take on more than we deserve. That serves no one.

She seems to be thinking about that.

Day 268/25

Owen came by to do a check-up. We are fine. She says it is probably all right to go back to living normally. Eidolon had trouble getting the girls to stay out of his room. I eventually had to enforce his wishes. They did so, but teased him a bit. They'd run into his room and threaten not to leave. He'd chase them out with much shrieking and laughter. He'd be more convincing if he wasn't laughing as well.

Only Xhimena isn't doing as well. She's been strangely quiet all this time. I thought she'd relax with time, but apparently not. And, she's not talking to me about it. She just says she's fine. I mentioned this to Owen and we had a talk with Xhimena. It took a while but she told us some things.

Xhimena says there is a dark story here. A killer-thing screaming inside of me. And Eidolon. Owen got her to draw it out and she draws a black snarling wolf with red eyes. It's quieter now, but not all gone. Owen asks if we are still having stomach pains. It's about 80% gone for me. Eidolon says it is the same with him. Owen assures Xhimena it will go away, in time.


Day 269/25
Visit from Florimel

Flora arrived in Gianassa today. I was surprised and complimented that she took the longish route by coming by ship. We got the larger carriages ready and went down to meet her. We were our own parade. We got them settled easily enough. Both Flora and Carmella were charmed by having their own weir for the duration.

She got an invitation to go to the palace for dinner in a few days, in her honor. I know Mother has always admired Florimel and she probably planned this dinner down to the most infinitesimal, exquisite detail.

We all went shopping for dresses. Flora was enthusiastic about our shop. Tralee spent such an inordinate time complimenting me I knew she wanted something. She wanted to know whether she would need an escort. Ah…she was angling to choose someone. I told her Mother would make sure she felt at ease. A companion would not be needed. Flora gave me lessons on idle chitchat for perfect strangers, and just happened to allow Tralee to listen in. I wonder if Tralee caught the compliment. Tralee practiced all afternoon with the boys, especially Eidolon, who proved adept.

That afternoon, I invited some of her friends to a garden tea. It gave Flora a chance to learn about a bit of the younger set that Tralee is associating with. Tralee does well playing the hostess. Having a defined task set her about her business and allowed her to remain calm.

Later Flora asked me if I was considering having someone give her etiquette lessons, and which cultures? Mycenaean, Amberite or Weir. I want to default to Mycenae for it has served me well. But, Tralee is not me and I have to think about this. Preferably, I would have her learn all three. I think she'd do well with the first two, and she needs to understand the weir, if she is to interact with them for any length of time.

She also asked me what I wanted for Tralee? To marry a Prince? To be a Queen? All I want is for her to know what she wants. Flora seemed pleased by the response.

We went to dinner. DoBlique was nervous about turning down her invitation. I assured her Mother would not be offended. Indeed, when I talked to Mother, she said she knew DoBlique would probably not want to go and planned for that eventuality. DoBlique was relieved.

At dinner, I kept half an ear out for Tralee. She was seated next to a young man who accepted her practiced lines and asked her enough questions to draw her out. He was really quite charming. We meet a few of the other nobles and I noted they were all humans. Do not the Felis or Turtles associate socially?

Somewhere, when I wasn't paying attention the conversation between this young man and Tralee had turned to the subject of fighting, specifically grappling. He was not only fascinated by the subject, but that Tralee could and would talk about it amazed him. Soon their heads were bent together and they were talking freely, until they realized they were neglecting the others around them.

The woman next to DeWinter was trying to get him to talk. Poor thing, she had no clue that this could be a lost cause. A man, in his fifties, sat across from me, studying me for a long while. We spoke for a while about nothing consequential. Afterwards, we sat and listened to a five-piece ensemble. All in all, it was a nice evening.

Day 270/25
Visiting Bleys

I went to Amber today, to visit with Bleys, to make certain he was doing all right. I walked to his house and he answered the door himself. He wore a smoking jacket and looked fine. At my inquiry, he said that Blythe told him he got what he deserved. But I think he was genuinely pleased with my visit.

He invited me inside. I noted as subtly as I could, that he was walking rather stiffly. I asked him if there was anything he needed? He gave me a strange look. Did I mean right now or in general? In general. He gave me a smile. He said most of the family would be reluctant to offer him such a thing. He has a tendency to get into rather “interesting and dangerous” situations. I smiled back and shrugged. We both knew I owed him that, at the least. I did not withdraw my offer, even when he gave me the opportunity.

As I was leaving, he said, off-hand, that Random was planning on talking to Tatasha about Evander.

That did not make me happy. From his face, I knew it was apparent on mine.

I gave him a hug goodbye and went up to the castle. I penned a note to Random saying he need not exert himself unnecessarily. As her closest family, I would inform Tatasha of the recent events. Then I went and had some lunch.

For the afternoon, I went to Aes. I had to get this over with; I had put it off too long already. I just hope that I can do it with the most minimal pain. It was unavoidable, of course, but I didn't want to inflict more than I had to. It meant trying to keep my own feelings reined in for a bit.

She was swimming near some shore. I went through, stepping near a sylvan lake. There were fifteen women as guards. Tatasha sent them away when I asked and I told her about Evander. I kept some of the details…hidden. I didn't mention Eidolon's presence, nor Evander's words to us. She didn't need that right now. She seemed unhappy, but not particularly surprised. She said he'd been “broken” since he was three or four years old. When Eric died, she went through a horrible period. In fact, she was highly unstable and the weir cloistered her away. Evander managed to sneak in, to see his captive mother. She didn't say what, but she said she told Evander some things that he never recovered from.

I thought one instance, so long ago, was a poor excuse for what he's become. No. From the moment he became an adult, his own person, he allowed himself to be what he was. He made his choices. I think Tatasha was taking on more than her share of the blame. A family failing? I think so.

We both went back to Amber. Tatasha wanted to talk to Random. I told her I would stay in Amber for a while, in case she wanted to leave.

Two hours later, Tatasha Trumped me. She wanted help to get back to Aes. It was strange to see her look so shaken. I told her I was in the garden. She met me and hugged me for a long, long time. Now I was worried. What had Random said to her? She said she had to do a few things. Would I meet her back here in an hour or so? Mystified, I agreed.

In the meantime, I went to the infirmary to see if Shapir was out or not. He wasn't there, but Blythe told me he was in his rooms on the second floor. His rooms were Eastern in flavor and very comfortable. He was doing well and appreciated my offer. He said that we probably couldn't have killed Evander. I didn't know what to say, so I said nothing. I guess he was trying to offer some consolations.

Shapir mentioned that if Evander had meant to kill us, he could have. It was a consolation, if a small one.

I met Tatasha. It was then that she told me that Random was letting Evander go.

For a moment, all I saw was red. What?! I couldn't allow myself say anything.

She then said that Evander has no mind left. The lightning blast wiped him as clean as a slate. He couldn't even walk, much less eat on his own. He was like a child--- really more a baby. I was skeptical of another trick, but she said Fiona had confirmed this and she saw it for herself.

Sigh.

Well, he'd need an Amberite-size nurse.

I went to ask Blythe for recommendations. She seemed both surprised and disturbed at the news. She had no immediate choices, but she did ask to accompany us herself. Since she was the doctor, she most likely knew what she was in for. I agreed. She went to ask Random for permission.

I got DeWinter to come through. I was going to need someone to help me get through this. I got together carriages and horses. I planned to ride as much as possible. Tatasha was still rattled enough to not be planning anything, and I was grateful for something to do. It was late afternoon before we actually left.

On the way out, we met with Julian in Arden. I wonder how he knew we would be coming through there. I think he was ascertaining the truth of what he heard about Evander and I don't blame him. He said I should be careful. He said that Corwin went through some profound personality changes after his amnesia, but he did recover. Julian remarked in passing that if Corwin had been the same man, that he would never have gotten through Julian in Arden. True the damage was not as severe as Evander's, but one never knows.

Day 288/25
Taking Evander home

We've spent the last two weeks keeping Tatasha's spirits up. I've not had a more nerve-wracking trip in my life. I was torn between not wanting to even see Evander, much less helping to care for him and resisting being pulled into pitying him. And there was the anger. We suffered by him and we will never be able to deal with him about it. And whatever he became, he would never be our father, except strictly by biology, not in spirit or mind. Tatasha was in a likewise situation. She wanted to take care of him, but was afraid she'd botch the job again. I said she had the unique opportunity for a second chance. Not many people get such a chance. She was cheered by this.

But, we made it to Aes and got Evander installed into his rooms.

I talked with Tatasha about one particular concern. Evander, eventually, will begin to walk and move around. Already he is stronger than anyone there. It won't talk him long to realize that it takes several people to stop him. She grew pensive, acknowledging what I was saying.

Tatasha then complicated things. She said that, what she didn't mention to Random was that Aes has…restorative properties.

Actually, I knew that but didn't know that Random didn't know. I guess that means we have no idea how quickly, or how fully Evander will heal.

Reluctantly, I found myself offering to help if need be. She agreed that she didn't want to do this alone. She's well aware of the difficulties of raising Amberites, and I appreciated that she wasn't trying to do this on her one. So, I told her I expect her to Trump me if she felt at all out of her depth. And I would stop back from time to time to check on things.

Before I left, I asked her permission to mentally examine Evander. To establish a baseline of sorts, to measure his progress when I'm visiting. She granted permission. Inside, there wasn't much there. Even his energy levels were low. The only memory he had was the smell of lightning and even that was faint, but distressing.

The question is, what do we do about this, if anything? As it was his last trauma, it has become his first in this new life. Do we leave it? Later, it might come back to haunt him and us, and any future relations. If I suppress it, and it emerges later, the same thing. Or worse. If I erase it, I don't know what the ramifications would be. There were no easy answers and Tatasha said she'd think about it.


Day 290/25

Tatasha said we'd leave the memory. I believe she hopes she can establish a strong enough relationship with Evander before it becomes a problem. I hope she's right.

We finally got to Gianassa. I was relieved to be home again. I got a bath, got in touch with everyone, and relaxed. I put putting off telling Mother what happened. She doesn't even know about the fight. I did not want to put any negativity into her wedding. And that brought me to a point, which really disappointed me.

We missed the wedding! And no one even Trumped us.

We weren't so far away no one could reach us. We won't see the ceremony, their dress, the songs and celebration. Nothing. Irrationally, I blamed Evander again. Because of him, I missed one of the most important days in my Mother's life.

All my pent up feelings had to go somewhere. I pointed to Claw. Her, me, out in the courtyard, now!

She happily ran to get there and we proceeded to let it all out. DeWinter had to help me into the house and Vis carried Claw back in after our match.

Day 320/25
Ling-Kai

I finally told Mother about Evander. Byslamia was matter-of-fact. All she said was “Good, he's gone now.” Eidolon had the same reaction, and perhaps he was more than a little relieved.

Xhimena had an interesting question. She asked me if she could sharpen her teeth.

Why?

She thought it would look good. She was being evasive again.

Talking with Xhimena, I got another little surprise. Apparently, she made some more friends, not birds, but girls.

From the moon.

She calls them the milk-girls. They met while I was gone. When she was in her room, she heard the sounds of steps “splashing”. The steps came to her room, and the girls came down them. They only visit when the moon is out and not covered with clouds.

It sounded just like Tir.

I was more than a little angry that she'd been having these…people…over and hadn't mentioned it to anyone. She pointed out that she just told me. I answered her that she knew how I felt about unauthorized visits; yet she said nothing to her grandmother, or Byslamia. She had no answer for that. I was highly displeased.

I let it go for now. I had her tell about these girls. She said they were…soft, like cookies. Their greetings to her included biting her finger. When she returned the gesture, she actually bit off one of their fingers. She still had it. It was in her secret place.

I went to DeWinter to fill him in. We were going to take another trip. We had an early dinner, took a nap and woke up in the early evening. We went to her room. The moon rose high, and milky white stairs descended to her window. They were like Tir's except they were opaque as if they were made of milk and we couldn't see through them. Xhimena said it would be easier to walk up them without our shoes. Otherwise they'd be very slippery. I didn't bother to ask how she knew; I knew she'd gone up them.

Five girls came down them, into the room. They looked like they were between 12 and 15 years old. Their skin was milk-white and they had large eyes and sharp teeth. They greeted her normally, but they were watching me very carefully. They knew who I was. They call themselves the Ling-Kai.

We went up the stairs. They were about four feet wide, plenty of room, right? Two of the girls walked on either side of Xhimena, ostensibly to protect her from falling off. DeWinter and I followed. As we went up, I could see some of the weir on the ground. They were unaware of us, the stairs, or anything unusual.

They obviously couldn't see us.

Going up the stairs was like wearing seven-league boots. As we ascended, we moved at increasing speed. The stairs somehow arched in a strange manner, allowing us to descend easily to the 'ground.'

Somehow I doubt we were really on the moon. We were on a crater filled with a substance much like whipped cream. We sunk to ankle-depth but it wasn't difficult to move around. There were no buildings, pathways, and no artificial structures at all. Above us, we could see Gianassa, but not as it should look like. It was laid out above us, with the planet spread out above us like an orthographic map.

The girls worked with Xhimena to shape the creamy ground substance into a little gazebo. They worked it like clay. As they shaped it, it grew harder and heavier. When I tried it, it just smeared and splashed when I let go. Some of it hit DeWinter. He just said, “Later, dear, when we get home.” Oh, this is a bad sign. He's so far gone, he's making jokes.

I don't know where we were, but I suspected they brought Xhimena to a place where she would have fun. I asked Xhimena how long before she went down, to be where she's supposed to be when we all wake up? She said a half hour. The oldest girl said that sometimes she stays until midnight.

DeWinter said, “Curfew, do you know the word?”

Xhimena wouldn't look at him. The oldest girl looked a bit angry with Xhimena. I suspect she was angry because Xhimena had given her some assurances, or didn't say she was breaking some rules. For whatever reason, they did not want to make me angry. I said we could stay for half an hour. Xhimena made to protest, but the look from the Ling-Kai girls overrode that response.

I asked the girls what they did on the other nights that Xhimena did not visit.

One said, “Pine away.”

Hm.

She said they had once asked her to visit forever.

DeWinter made an unhappy sound.

The eldest said Xhimena had refused. She asked if there was a problem with Xhimena visiting them. I said that sleep was very necessary for her growing up. The Eldest got very protective. Does it do her harm? It could. She looked at Xhimena and said this is not good.

We left shortly afterwards. This time the view of being high up and falling toward the ground was very acute. I had a huge adrenaline rush by the time we got back. The “whipped cream” that had splashed on us evaporated as a white vapor once we were off the stairs. I thanked the girls for their hospitality. I said I would think about future visits. The eldest smiled and said we were welcome any time.

They left, the stairs vanishing with them, and we were left facing Xhimena. She was crying. She knew she was in great trouble. I told her to get to bed. We would discuss this later. She didn't argue, but did so straight away.

DeWinter and I had a discussion. What shall we do? She will try and get around anything we do. Somehow, I don't think a spanking will suffice with her, but she needs to be punished. We both agreed that it had to be fair, not more or less, for the situation, than we would do with Kai-Revere. DeWinter came up with the proposal. He would take her back to Amber for two weeks. Just him and her, at Tiryns, alone. No visitors, no toys, no sisters or brothers, no weir. I thought about it for a long while. It would be a punishment for her. We went back to her room and told her. She just nodded and cried.

Day 321/25
Research

Xhimena said goodbye to everyone, very subdued. DeWinter, Xhimena and I went through to the drawbridge. The two of them got horses and went on to the estate in Garnath. I went to the library. Perhaps there was some research to be found. I started with any accounting of the Moonriders of Ghenesh. I had this half-certainty that the Ling-Kai were also the Moonriders. There was little I could find. So, I turned my attention to learning about the Fey.

To my surprise, I actually found something, about 6 hours later. There are three versions of Fey history. Three books. The first version said there were three types of Fey. The first were evil, with no compassion, only serving their self-interest. The second were servants of creation gods, no longer under their direction, since the gods are gone. The Fey are jealous of the creations of the gods but they can't stay away; they are always drawn back into interaction.

The third theory said that they are slaves to a cognate power that destroyed their universe. They tried to stop it, but failed. In this new universe they were locked into being slaves of the new creation. If you can understand the relationship between the Fey and the universe, you can therefore understand the universe. The last are “White,” closest to being nearly people. The “Grey” ones are further away, and the “Black” ones, the first example, are savage and bloodthirsty.

The second version had categories of Fey and held that they aren't really bad. There are four different types: Flora (land, trees, plants), Magic, Fauna (people, animals, animated beings), Inanimate (Nonliving things with functions, such as mountains), Creator (invents and shapes new things).

The last version has eight types: most are extinct because they learned they could destroy each other. Slowly, they are eradicating each other. There is Earth, Air, Water, Fire, and Phos, the spark between states.

This last one seems to most closely the situation as I've seen it. The Ravens could be Air, the Mermaids are Water, and the Ling-Kai are Phos. It remains to be seen what forms the Earth and Fire beings will take.

When I finished going through all the material, I found it was dawn. I stretched, cleaned up and had some breakfast. Dorimae and Sabrina were there. They seemed surprise to see me there. Grace was in Shadow Yoth, learning martial arts. Apparently they have a strange philosophy. The legends go that vigilantes were people who were once struck by lightning and now take advantage of others. Masters learned the martial arts to stop them. I had a moment when I wondered if she was making it up, given my situation with Evander. I decided to dismiss it.

They did ask what I had been studying, pointing to the large stack of notes. I said I was trying to get a handle on some people I met in Shadow. They asked what language I had written in. I looked at my notes and realized I didn't know. Picking up one of the three books I had gotten most of my information from, I didn't know the language there either. I could read it; it looked like Mycenaean Thari to me. But, if I glanced at it through the corners of my eyes, I could see the real language. I didn't know what it was, but I understood it.

I went back to the library. I learned the books were brought to Amber by Faiella. Things are becoming clearer. I have to learn more. Perhaps there is another resource on the Moonriders. Master Resort said there was some information in the archives. We went down to the dungeons, were some of the storage rooms were. They were dark and damp, but we found what we were looking for. Master Resort gave me a book, after we searched for about an hour. It was a personal accounting of the battles against the Moonriders, written by Eric. I wonder if I might be able to keep it?

I took it to my room and read it. It was a much younger Eric that wrote this, not much past his teens. It was a day-to-day journal of his experiences, observations and knowledge of the nine-year war against the Moonriders. Actually, the war wasn't against them. The Moonriders were considered gods in an adjacent Shadow. Their followers were the ones that conducted the war. According to Eric, the Moonriders never participated in the war at all. I wondered if it had anything to do with Faiella being Queen at the time.

It was fascinating reading, giving me an insight into Eric that I never had before, but it didn't give me the information I needed. I required more specific information. I gathered my notes and things and got a horse. I had a bit of traveling to do.

Day 332/25

It took some time in shadow, but I managed to find Benedict. I got as close as I could and then Trumped him, once a day. He eventually answered and brought me through. Apparently, I was on a war ship, a flying one. My presence there could bring considerable embarrassment and loss of face if a woman was found on board. Unfortunately, that meant that I had little time to find out what I need to.

And, unfortunately, he didn't know much. Faiella was a mysterious woman. No one knows what Shadow she came from, nor all her abilities. He did know that with some Earthen Folk, probably Fey, she had the stairs to Rebma, the Faiella-Bionin, built in one night.

If she had any knowledge that could help me, she never told anyone. Except, perhaps Oberon, which wasn't any more help.

There was only one person that might know more, I thought. Corwin. Benedict agreed it might be possible. He also had a penchant for the mystical and Faiella might have passed on some of her knowledge. We both agreed that for Xhimena's safety, I had to do something. I thanked him for his advice and left before I could harm his reputation.

Day 337/25

I got back into Shadow and headed for Corwin's pattern. If he can't come to me, or have his ghost talk to me, I'll have to go to him. I just hope he can get me out again. He did infer, once, that it would be difficult. But for Xhimena's sake, I have to try.



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