Cassandra's Diary.4

Day 1/Year 4

It's been a long time since I took up my little book. So much has happened; I scarcely know what to write. Weapons study took up a fair portion over the last few years, but there was much more. I admit, just before I left, I almost changed my mind. I could live here for the rest of my life. But, I should see Byslamia and Mother. They must wonder what became of me.

Let's see. The first year was mostly introspection. I know now that I was angry at Amber. I suppose I was hoping for something more, something they could not really give. I was angry because what I was seeing was a family, or, at least some of them really didn't care about me, Cassandra. Fiona was willing to violate my mind for whatever reason. I resented the opinion of others that her victims really didn't have the right to know why she did what she did. Evander just wanted to use me. Random was willing to sacrifice my future, or even my life, in a venture that barely deserved the attention. But I would be at risk from DeWinter and Dalt, his brother.

I looked back and realized that, though they did not show their feelings in a way I perhaps needed, Julian and Florimel were two that advised me, for my better good, as opposed to their own plans. Of course, there was Byslamia, the truest companion I have ever had.

Then I let the anger and resentment go. It was easy here, because of the people around me. They might not like me. A point in fact, there were some I did not care for. But that did not stop the general good will and compassion they felt for everyone. Even me. It emanated from everyone grew upon itself. I was once told that all Shadows were an imperfect reflection of Amber or the Courts, depending on the distance from one or the other. With all this here, it must mean that there is great good in both of those places. I just have to see it for what it is. Or could it work the opposite? Could all that this place is, be reflected in Amber and the Courts, making them better over all? I think it is possible.

Aside from weapons practice we had chores. I spent time in the kitchens, starting out washing dishes. I think they did not envision me there and had to get used to the idea. I admit, I wondered why I chose to work with food, since I can just cook trail food to get by. Perhaps it is because their cooking technique, so simple with its tools, all the emphasis is on the food, not the gadgets. Eventually, I got to steam and prepared vegetables, then a few main dishes. I found great peace as I experimented with herbs and spices with various dishes. It took a long time to practice; the poor students had to choke down one or two of my failed attempts. By no word was spoken of it. No reprimands or complaints were made. I did get better, with the help of those around.

Each day we had a few hours to ourselves. I spent mine in a little corner of the gardens. I practiced my drawing skills. I did some plants and small creatures. I found it helped if I meditated first, to focus myself on the task at hand. In fact, meditating helped anything I did. As time went on, the wildlife around me grew less fearful and began approaching. The first large creature was a condor; a huge bird that looked like it could carry me away without difficulty. It was an ugly creature, with harsh feathers and carrion features. But I saw it fly. The large wings were eminently suitable for the high altitudes. It was large, so its lungs could breathe deeply. My first days there, I was always cold and short of breathe. I could appreciate its adaptation. In fact, it was perfect, in its own way. Even, beautiful.

After that, more and more creatures came by. I drew them all, keeping my meditative state going to assure them I meant no harm. After a while, I simply didn't exist to them and they came within a handspan from me. I continued my "not-here" state each day. After a few months, I noticed that my little bench was always empty when I went to it. Sometimes, bits of chalk in new colors would be left there. I took it as implicit approval for what I was doing.

Other than that, my duties included copying texts that were deteriorating. It was demanding because the originals were beautiful and none of us wanted to replace it with inferior copies. So illumination and calligraphy were also skills I learned, and each one of us was allowed to have a few of our creations as our own.

As day to day events, this might be a dull life for others, but I was happy and content. Maybe it is only dull when you cannot see what is around you.

There was one thing. About a year and a half into my sojourn, Benedict came to visit the school. There was an air of hushed excitement when I heard there was a visitor, but I had no idea it was he. He watched our training quietly and spoke with the masters. No one really knew who he was, except that he was a master in his own right and highly respected. To my surprise, he invited me to tea that afternoon which I gleefully accepted.

I tried to do the tea ceremony correctly. I hope I did. No word was said if I made any mistakes. We spoke of the school and what I was learning and a bit about his travels. It was a comfortable conversation, despite him being Benedict. His identity and reputation was strangely unimportant. He was a master who happened to be an uncle. Nothing was said about Amber and I for one was happier for it.

He did come once more, and we had tea again. I had just been accepted into the Red rank, the highest I could go before becoming a Master myself. Again it was a wonderful afternoon, though I knew I would be leaving for a while. I knew I had to see Byslamia, to make sure she was well, before I finished my training. I feel no great rush to continue things will happen as they happen. It was odd. I got a sort of epiphany about Benedict, even though we did not speak of Amber. It had been mentioned in Corwin's journal and in conversation that Benedict chose not to take the throne. I think that puzzled people. He was obviously suited and the eldest living. Who would not want it? But now I wonder why they question this. How could anyone live here, become infused with patience, compassion and the sense of oneself and hope to keep it all while being King, or Queen? I knew it would be an almost impossible task. But, now that I have gained just a little sense of it, I know that Amber's throne is not for me, even if I ever aspired to it.

I don't know if any of this showed, but the realization was that I may never be of any importance in Amber, and I didn't care one whit. I could only sit in silence to remember this moment. Benedict might never know what he has influenced, but I will always be grateful. All I had to do was hold on to this moment for as long as I could. And if I forgot? Well, I'll come back before it fades, to relearn it again. Now I understand his garden in Amber. His little place to remember who he was, in the middle of a world that would erase it easily. Perhaps that is why he so rarely visited there.

So, I have asked leave and my things have been returned. Such a long journal entry and it says so very little, given all that I would want to say. Tomorrow I leave though I am not sad, really. Shom Dao will be coming with me.

Day 2/4

        It didn't take me long to reach Mycenea. Travelling through Shadow was much easier now. Everything looked pretty much the same. I made no show of my arrival; I was very happy and calm. It was almost jarring how busy everyone was. Byslamia was overjoyed to see me. She wanted to know everything. I told her as best I could. I don't think she understood how I could be happy in a 5 by 10-foot cell with two robes to my name and no shoes, but she tried.

Day 5/4

Byslamia is dreadfully bored. She tries to hide it but I can see it in the lines of her face and in her eyes when she looks around. I felt a pang of sorrow; I thought she would be happy being in her home again. I mentioned that I was going to return to Amber and saw the longing. I told her that my Shadow-riding skill was much improved and she mightily tried to be enthusiastic. Not wanting to prolong her sorrow, I also mentioned that now two could ride as well as one. And there it was..hope, in her eyes. Without further ado, I asked if she wished to join me and she fairly jumped up to begin to pack. I almost laughed, not at her, but at the fact that my friend will be with me. I don't know when she stopped being merely by aunt and became my friend, but I thank the day.

I did learn that, to them, two years had passed! I had no idea.

Day 9/4

It's taken this long to get ready. We spent a few nights in banquets and family gatherings. I know I have no place here. My sisters will see that it will carry on. I wonder at the Cassandra of the other Mycenea-I hope she was happy though it is not a role I see for myself anymore.

What took so long was once I realized I would not be living here again, I liquidated my assets and found out that Byslamia had done the same. Imagine that! Just the idea of leaving has put a glow on her face and a spring into her step. An adventuress at heart.

Day 13/4

We move through Shadow easily. Byslamia had her things transported to Amber but elected to travel as I did. That means with barely more than was on our backs. I don't think she cared. But, oh, how we talked. I think she was letting her burden off by speaking about Mycenea, not that she wanted to go back, but letting that slip behind her. I spoke of Shom Dao, and I think she might want to visit herself. But mainly it was companionable silence, both of us simply enjoying each day.

Day 21/4

We arrived in Amber today. If I thought Mycenea was busy, Amber was doubly so. Even the guards at the castle door seemed too busy to talk, servants rushing around, not enjoying themselves at all. What a shame.

I went to my rooms after seeing Byslamia settled. Florimel had done a miracle. The walls had been re-plastered and the inner wall removed. It was all clean lines and quite Spartan, given Flora's taste. It suited me perfectly, though how she knew, I could only guess. Perhaps it was like Trump. She could see the inner person, by designing what they would like. Still, it was twice the size of my little room in Shom Dao. How would I ever use all this space?

One note of interest. The lighting were scones in the walls, but they were magical, not lit. I pull a rod down and the lights dim and go out. Very nice!

On the one wall is a beautiful quilt with images from Mycenean Olympic games. I must remember to show it to Byslamia. Flora is a wonder.

It was today that I found out that four years had passed since I left.

Random was busy in conference so I left no message. I would be seeing him soon enough. I did visit Evander. I was shocked at how much older he looked. Then I remembered that Corwin also looked very old after being in there for so long. Something about imprisonment? About these dungeons themselves? I don't know. We talked about my travels a bit and Shom Dao. I think he would really learn something there. To help him keep his spirits up and his health intact, I showed him a few exercises I thought he would be able to do without straining his depleted strength.
Corporal Samuel promised me he would look in on Evander and make sure he had something to occupy him; a book and such.

I did learn that Sebastian has been away for almost as long as I have; though no one has been able to find him. I wonder if anyone tried to find me? Trump hasn't worked to find him. He was last seen in Glantri. His wedding has been postponed. I feel sorry for Jennifer; she must be mightily worried.

Oh, and Owen had a child- he's a year and a half now. I'll learn the particulars later.

Day 22/4

This morning I Trumped Julian. I think he was a tad bit surprised to hear from me. I hope he isn't upset at my long absence, though it might not be long for him. I asked him if he and his family would join me for dinner in a few days, to reacquaint ourselves. He readily accepted and said he was glad I was all right.

This afternoon I went to Owen to show her my drawings. She looked them over and pronounced that I was ready to try and create a Trump. My strongest drawings were, of course, the animals I had observed. We arranged for lessons two or three times a week for a few months. I won't be getting drawing lessons, but learning to find the correct form and lines correctly, for each study. I did show her my scars from IT. It was curious, they were almost gone. Only faint lines remained. She hadn't thought that was possible and attributed it to Shom Dao. I privately agree on that assessment.

I visited Benedict's garden. I can now sense it is a protected place, though I don't know how or why. I sat to meditate and attract what was around me. I was very successful. So much so, I attracted a little girl. Princess Aurora, specifically. It was jarring; her voice seemed so loud here. She announced that the garden is off-limits to everyone. I was unsure; I might have broken some private sanctuary of his. Given my assumption of why it was here, I hated to think I might have intruded.

Aurora was on a little pony. When he began to try and eat some of the flowers, Aurora's temper flowed freely. She reached back and them hit him squarely on the nose. Horses don't like that. He flicked his head and she went flying. Then she started to cry. Lady preserve us from bawling children. Especially spoilt ones.

I quietly calmed her down. Her idea of being a Princess is that she can get whatever she wants. I dissuaded her of that notion. I showed her how to make friends with the pony, whom she has named Sir White. Appropriate, since he is white.

This afternoon, I did see Random. He welcomed us both back and kept giving me strange looks. He said I looked different somehow, I looked well, just different. I think he's trying to evaluate what I have become. I could feel a little smile break through but said nothing.

Day 23/4

Today was a quiet day, mostly spent getting ready for dinner. I admit, I have grown unused to dressing up. I was at a loss. Byslamia was puzzled but helped me through it. I think she's beginning to see how different my life has been.

We gathered together. Julian asked where I have been and I told him. He seemed pleased and perhaps impressed. He's heard of Shom Dao though he hadn't ever attended. Shapir expressed an interest. I encouraged it and Julian nodded. I told him that there were three tests, but like Benedict, did not tell him what they were. I know now, he has to go through them on his own. Julian understood.

After dinner I gave them my gifts. I tried to explain why I left and what I had learned. It was difficult to say without being insulting. I hope I got it across, that it was my impressions that were being overwhelmed and not any overt actions on their part. I think they understood.

I gave Julian one of my books I illuminated. I took three months to do. It was of the animals and wildlife around Shom Dao. He handled it carefully and was silent for a while. I was almost afraid he didn't like it. Quietly, he thanked me. He said it would replace the one Random used crayons when he was a child. I tried not to look horrified, but fear that I failed. How could Random have done such a thing? All that work ruined. It amazes me sometimes that he lives. But I could see he liked the gift.

I gave Vivant a set of music from Shom Dao, also illuminated. Her reaction surprised and touched me. Tiny tears formed in her eyes as she looked at each page. A soft sound, almost a cooing, came from her as she went from page to page. I had no doubt she liked it, more than I had hoped.

Shapir I gave a puzzle box. My skills are far too lacking to have made it, but when I saw it I knew it was for him. It has catches all around. Twelve to be precise. And different combinations opened different compartments. The Master who made it was a genius in engineering. Shapir spent many minutes examining it, trying different combinations. It will take a while to figure them all out. He said it was a perfect gift.

The evening ended happily, though far too quickly.

Day 24/4

I inquired to Dame Louisa about Benedict's garden. She says there is no rule against going there. Aurora was probably told this to keep her from doing anything destructive to the area.

I worked in Owen's study on the third floor. She's set up residence for a while, though I don't know why. I was surprised when she picked up one of my sketches of Sir While and pronounced it ready to be powered; though she didn't know what would happen with an animal. She thought probably nothing. Nevertheless, I tried and was surprised when the horse answered me. I spoke to him as if to anyone else. Owen was equally surprised and placed a hand on my shoulder to observe. Sir White likes carrots.

She then told me it might have worked because Sir White is not a normal horse. His sire is Morgenstern, who is not a horse, and a mare. Apparently, Morgenstern does not sire often, the animals usually going insane. I can't imagine any mare letting Morgenstern getting close to them, not that they may have a choice.

I Trumped Julian to ask him about Sir White. I told him of the Trump and he immediately asked to be pulled through. With a quick greeting to Owen off he went, me trailing behind after I took Owen's leave.

At the stable I arrived in time to see a battle of wills between Sir White and Julian. Julian won, but not for lack of trying on Sir White's part. Julian examined Sir White and pronounced him whole; he need not be put down. All the while, Sir White tried to get close to me. I wonder if the Trump contact has created a bond in his mind.

Day 26/4

A quiet day, except for Aurora. She came to the garden in tears. Julian has reclaimed the horse. Apparently he was promised to Random to do as he wishes. Aurora was devastated that he was no longer her horse. All I could think was for her to get papers drawn up saying Sir White was hers. It was my thought that Random could explain why the horse she's been riding for as long as she's been able, is no longer hers. I later found out that she took my words literally and used crayons and paint to make a "deed" saying he was hers. Needless to say, it didn't work, though Random was amused. Aurora must have been upset. I felt bad for her. I know what it is like. And she has few friends to play with amongst all the adults in the castle.

I tried drawing Evander during my visit. It's much more difficult than I expected. The setting is not conducive for posing, psychologically as well as physically. Also, he's changed so much, it's difficult to find the right form. Owen says this might be the best practice for me. If I could do this, I could tackle many others. Gerard visited as well. He was his usual happy, cheerful self. Apparently he's been coming down here a couple of times a week for the past four months. I'm glad. He scowls and gnashes and Gerard, but I think he does enjoy the company. I also found out Owen and Vialle visit as well. He hasn't been lacking for company.

Day 27/4

I Trumped Mother today and she asked me to come through. Of course I did. She introduced me to her new Court Wizard Coriolanus, who bears a striking resemblance to a younger Evander. Will she never learn? Needless to say, this alarmed me. But after a brief conversation with Coriolanus, I was struck by his ability to keep Mother a bay without bringing down her wrath. An accomplishment in and of itself. No, he seemed to be a gentleman, in the full sense of the word.

Day 29/4

It's been a few days of Trumping but with Random's permission, we brought Mother through to visit Evander. He and his cell were cleaned up, Chef Robert did wonders for a small dinner, and the two had a wonderful dinner. It probably was too short for him, since almost no one ever came into his cell, but I hoped they enjoyed themselves.

Day 57/4

Mother Trumped me today. It's been a quiet month, mostly spent working on Trump. She seemed agitated and asked if I could come through. I did so and found myself in a secluded section of the garden. It took a while, but she revealed that she was with child! She knows it's Evander's, since she's had no "relations" with anyone in quite sometime. She's extremely distraught. No one there knows yet, but she does not know what to do. She wouldn't tell me any specifics, but carrying me had some side effects, especially with the Court, that she does not want to live through again. Mystified, I asked if she would come to Amber, if I found a place for her to stay. She was unbelievable relieved when I asked and accepted almost unconditionally. She wouldn't tell me if she wished to keep the child, though I think she wants to bear it.

I talk with her, keeping her calm, trying to get her to take one step at a time. First, tell my sister, than set her up as Regent, begin preparations for a small trip. She asked if I knew anything about Amberite pregnancies. No, I missed both Owen's and Vivant's so I hadn't a clue. I thought perhaps there were manuals or books on the subject and promised to inquire.

I Trumped Owen and she came through. Mother told her she suspected she was pregnant and Owen confirmed it. It was odd. Owen asked Mother if I should be present. Apparently there is some doctor-patient privilege that supercedes direct relations. How odd.

Through their talking Mother admitted that when she carried me, she went through bouts of insanity. A fear ran through me. Insanity? It was the worst of all fates in my mind. She went on and, though she was vague on details, she admitted to having intimate relations with each change of the guard during each rotation. Quick mathematics left me aghast. If she was telling the truth (she did admit to being insane) that would mean over 120 men! I thought it couldn't be true but Owen sat there calmly nodding. Owen herself admitted to wearing no clothing at all during the last few months of her recent pregnancy, while pursuing many men herself. It was normal if you carried an Amberite child. An she looked so pleased as the memory! Or was she smug? I was distinctly uncomfortable with the idea of ever going through that myself. I have never thought about going childless, but this was certainly a time to start! No wonder those in Court thought she was insane. What Mother had to live down since then. I would explain my own treatment at the hands of those around me. I bet they were waiting for me to go insane at any moment.

Owen completed her examination and pronounced Mother healthy and hale. Now it was time for Mother to make a decision. She was calm when we left, promising to let me know when she decided what to do. She gave neither of us permission to speak to anyone about this until she had decided.

Day 59/4

Mother has decided to bear the child. I don't think she knows what to do afterwards, though there's plenty of time for that. I did tell her, she could take the child back, no one would criticize her right, and no one would be witness to the pregnancy and its side effects. Or, she could leave the child with me or anyone she trusts, and we could say it was mine and she was helping through the term.

She gave me permission to tell Evander and Byslamia, though I think she wanted to tell him herself. I ask her to trust me because many possibilities were opening up, if I were to play this correctly. I almost started to reach for smelling salts when I told Byslamia. She was there when Mother had me; she knows what to expect; though the thought plainly distressed her. I assured her it was normal, if such a word could be used, and related Owen's own admissions. The conversation did bring to mind Vialle and Vivant, but I pushed those thoughts aside immediately.

I went down to Evander for a light lunch. Gerard was just leaving and Evander was pretending to be happy about it. Evander claims he does not know why Gerard feels it necessary to describe a beautiful day when he can't see it, but I retort that it is probably because he can't see it that Gerard describes it. He chooses not to discuss it. I ask Evander if he ever thought he would take Random up on the idea of serving in the military. I get a resounding no as an answer. I obliquely hint at a possible reason, but he didn't get it. Eventually, I told him he was to be a father again. Actually, I told him a number of times, because it didn't really sink in at first. When he did, he demanded I go tell Random he wanted a meeting. Now came the bargaining.

I was loath to possibly ruin what fragile relationship we had. How real could it be? He was helpless and desperate for company. I had no idea what he would do if given even a tiny bit of freedom. I was not willing for the child to be used as I was. So, I offered him a deal. If he promised to never use the child in any plot for the throne, or any machinations at all, I would see Random and set the wheels in motion. I think I hurt him then, but I had to have some reassurance. If Random allowed him to carry out his term, it would be for 140 years. The boy would grow up in a fifth of that time, plenty of opportunity to be used. I do not wish for my brother, for my mother was carrying a boy (ah, well), to live with what I did. If I could help, he would have a father in his life, as well as a mother. Evander agreed.

I went upstairs and relayed Evander's request for an audience. He was surprised, but said he would tomorrow. And, that I was not to meet with Evander until after that meeting. Knowing Evander would be waiting downstairs for some word, I thought it cruel, but had to comply.

Day 60/4

Evander was brought up to see Random. The meeting lasted for over 2 hours and then he was taken back to his cell. Evander's whole mien was shocked and horrified. I was not allowed to see him.

At dinner, Random was in a very good frame of mind. Vialle, on the other hand, was not. I spoke with her; hoping things were all right. She spoke of one of her latest sculpture, a python circled and crushing a mouse. The allusion was plain, even Random got the message and was uncomfortable about it. Vialle went to some length to describe the cruelty and over-use of power from the python, giving me an idea just how the meeting had gone.

I went down to see Evander. All the lights were out. I could hear him pacing and murmuring to himself. I spoke to him and he all but shouted at me. He expounded on how insane Random was, though he wouldn't say more about it. They have another meeting tomorrow. He did say that if anything were to happen to him, I was to go see my grandmother (I didn't know I had one!), Kat. She might be close to Mycenea.

Day 61/4

Another meeting. This time for three hours, before going back to the dungeons. This was becoming ridiculous. If Random wanted to refuse, fine, but this was being unnecessarily cruel. I say that Vialle was packing to leave for Rebma. Could she be that upset and Random?

I went to speak with her and found she was going because certain families of the guards who were killed by Evander had heard about his possible release. They were quite upset by this. They believe she is influencing Random, as she did when Rinaldo was in prison. So she's being "sent away." Also, both Random and Evander are being unconscionably stubborn about the whole thing; a common trait for Amberites.

I helped her pack; not pleased with the mess I've made of things.

Day 62/4

The same thing, nothing accomplished. Evander did ask me to send for Gerard, if he would be so kind to visit. Now I know he's breaking, if he is so sincere. He asks for Owen as well. I Trump them, wondering if I should. They ask for privacy to speak and I am forced to leave.

Day 63/4

I asked Sebastian to help me find a house. I've heard that homes are expensive in Amber, but I need something fitting for Mother and I do not wished to be taken in. He agrees and says he'll let me know if anything is available.

At dinner, Random announces that Evander will remain in the dungeons. I was crushed that the negotiations couldn't have gone better. Then he announced that prisoner Ericson would serve in the army. Evander is brought in, looking so much different; it is no wonder no one might recognize him. His hair is almost completely grey; two braids hang down from his temples and on each side of his beard. Random congratulates him on his position as a lieutenant and lets him go to prepare for his assignment.

As quickly as I could, I go down to Evander's cell with two bottles of good wine. He's not happy that he will be a mere lieutenant, but the deal has a few provisions. If he serves well and gets promoted, each promotion detracts a set number of years off his sentence. If he does badly, gets demoted, the reverse is true. He has hope to do well, unless Random sabotages the chances. I don't think he will. Random wouldn't have agreed if he thought it was too easy. I think he'd just want Evander to work for it, though. I'm not sure, but I hope Evander is up to it. At least his son won't have to visit him down here.

Owen came down as well, to congratulate him. I admit to feeling intruded upon, but could not deny Evander the little party it turned out to be. We got more wine and stayed, drinking until dawn, telling stories and celebrating. I think the guards thought us very strange.

Day 64/4

I called Mother to tell her the news about Evander. Just the possibility of an infrequent visit from him from time to time, made her so happy. Thinking she might need a bit more knowledgeable companionship (Owen can't be around all the time) I asked if I could tell Vivant. She was so happy, she agreed without reservation.

On the way to Arden, I passed Julian. I tell him the news and learned he knew nothing about it. He was the Regent, I would have thought Random would give him the courtesy of letting him in on what was happening. I was frightened. Ire was Evander's partner. Would he resent Evander's change in status? I know how he feels about Rinaldo. What would he do to Evander? I was not happy at the thought of being between the two of them. He remarked that he should reinstate his rank in the army and my feelings of trepidation grew stronger. He must have seen my look, because he reassured me that he will look after Evander; make sure he succeeds. I think I could have fainted right then, I was so relieved. I thanked him from my heart and we continued on our way.

I also received a Trump from Sebastian. An acquaintance of his has found 5 places for me to look at. I admit I was eager and wanted to know the details. I was surprised when Sebastian didn't have them. He let the man say there were 5 places and got no more information? Given Sebastian's record for inviting danger, I thought this was foolhardy. Then he told me that the negotiations were just being set up. I tried to explain that I wanted help in finding a place, not for him to do all the work. How else would I learn of these things? He shot back that I was being difficult and an argument ensued. The general gist is that he wanted to make sure I pay what was owed, because we "elite" would take advantage of our status to pay less than was due. I took umbrage at his tone. Of course I expected to be given lenience in paying, because then I would owe those owners something. And a royal ear, wherever it might be, could become much more profitable in the long run. It wasn't like stealing a coin from a beggar who had nothing. Anyone who already had property, probably had wealth elsewhere. That means influence is a weightier coin. Sebastian just railed on about me being an elitist and his tone was decidedly insulting. I thought this was odd coming from someone who is in direct line for the throne. But, he does not wish to think of himself as a Prince or even and Heir. It is my opinion he is keeping himself purposefully ignorant of his responsibilities, duties, and ramifications of his position. A foolish enterprise. I ended the conversation before our words went too far. He finished his side by washing his hands of the whole thing.

In Arden, I met with Vivant. I told her about Mother and that knowing look came into her eyes, just like in Owen's. She readily agreed to visit Mother for companionship. We talk for a few hours and then I headed back to the castle.

At the castle, guards are moving about the grounds, including Benedict's garden. I have a sneaking suspicion of what's wrong. Aurora and Moran (Vialle's son) are missing. I checked Benedict's cottage, though no one enters it, and find it empty. I Trump Julian, to perhaps bring hounds through, but they won't go.

I grounded myself and tried to get impressions from the animals around. I've not tried this, but other than walking around with the guards, there's not much else for me to do. A fox reacts. I see an image of red hair (Aurora's?) about 2-3 hours old, still the image is still in the fox's short-term memory. I found Moran's tracks where he tried to obscure them. There are faint signs along the way but disappears within a few yards.

Sebastian arrives as a leopard and also senses nothing. We all keep trying anyway.

Tedra found a "hole" in the ground; a seam running a yard in the ground. He hand passes through the solid ground as if it weren't there. Then, an anvil rises up through the ground and she tells it to look for the children. It drops back down out of sight. I look around, but it appears I am the only one surprised by this trick. Sebastian changes into a bear and begins to dig, encountering only more dirt. Then Tedra drops into the ground, keeping verbal contact. And I thought Sebastian did things impulsively. How was she going to get out, much less help the children? Sebastian sinks to his knees able to arrest his fall at that point. He says he needs help and Julian volunteers. He then asks for my help, which I think was insulting to Julian. I know Sebastian has some difficulties with Julian, but that was a public slur, though nothing actionable, thank the Lady.

Sebastian asks me to do my "trick" which I think he means meditation. I do so. He joins minds with me and I feel a current burrowing through him like voltage. He drops down some more. I don't think it is according to any plan. Plan? Sebastian? Nay.

I tried to Trump him and it works; though all I see is darkness.

Llewella receives a Trump call from Tedra, who is apparently alive and well in the dirt. Llewella asks me to come near, just to be certain. The next thing I know, Aurora is being passed through. Her mother is ecstatic and the current in the ground goes out. During my meditation, it was determined she was somehow linked with this phenomenon. I'm not sure, since I was focusing elsewhere. When the link is broken, there is an eruption of the earth and she and Stargazer, the father, are flung backward and unconscious. Moran comes through, then Tedra.

I Trump Sebastian who is fine. He says he wants to stay. Of course he does. All of us are wondering how long this will last, what the side effects might be, and he wishes to stay. Random concurs, and the rest begin filing indoors. I stay, on the off chance Sebastian needs our help, Random sitting beside me on the grass.

He kept us there for two hours. He really didn't understand why, if I didn't want to, did I stay? I guess he doesn't understand that he might need our help and we might know that. And, that we wouldn't leave anyone in trouble unless we had a good reason. When he Trumped, Random finally told him to come out. I pulled him through; he weighed twice his weight, which is not inconsiderable, with black pebbly skim. He said he hadn't really wanted to come back out. Random and I didn't say a word, but we both simply turned and walked into the castle. Sebastian stayed behind to shift back to his normal form.

On the way back a soldier hailed me. It was Evander, sorry, Ericson. He had been on the assignment and was "happy to serve with you, ma'am." In an aside, he whispered that it was one step closer to a promotion. I tried not to smile and give anything away.

Everyone is fine, though Aurora's parents are still unconscious. She's just disoriented and Moran was napping.

That night Sebastian introduced me to a Mr. Hurstcastle, the broker who's looking into the houses in Amber. He suggests a carriage tomorrow, to view each of the houses. We agree on the 9th hour.

Day 65/4

Master Hurstcastle met us in front of the castle with a carriage. He was fashionable, if uncomfortable, dressed in formal court clothing. The day promised to be quite warm. Looking at his girth, it would be a wonder if he didn't pass out from the heat by mid-day.

We started at the farther most estate, five hours by carriage. It was almost intolerable and he sat trying to talk with us while mopping his brow. His handkerchief was sodden within minutes and we finally persuaded him to remove his jacket. The contortions he went through to do that in the small enclosure had me valiantly trying to not laugh. It was doubly difficult when I noticed Byslamia biting her lip to avoid the same thing. Fortunately, Hurstcastle was too occupied to notice.

We arrived at a nice little estate that hasn't been lived in for 50 years. There was an apple orchard off the side and a 10' wall enclosing it all. We pulled up to a heavy iron gate through which we could see more apple trees, a formal garden, overgrown, and a marble fountain.

Try as he might, Hurstcastle could not work the lock on the chain on the gate. I managed to get it from him and opened it easily. Honestly, the man is incompetent at anything physical.

Inside, we looked at the three-story house. I liked the look of it, almost a little villa. But, I could almost imagine the state of repair it could be it. We approached and a roofing tile fell, hitting Hurstcastle squarely on the head. Down he went, the scalp wound bleeding freely. I knew it probably looked worse that it was, but I thought to go inside to find something to bind the wound.

Inside I took no more than a few steps before my armband went off. I froze but only saw a cat walking toward the back of the estate. I followed it a bit, until I got to the kitchen, one hand with a lantern (with oil still in it) and my sword in another. One glance inside told me there were inhabitants.

I back down and call for whomever to come out. No one does. Byslamia asks whom I am speaking to and I reassure her all is well. Then, a man drops from the second floor to the main entryway. He made no sound. He infers he is a ghost and demands to know who I am. I tell him my name and he demands my lineage. I don't know why he needed to know that, since I doubt this is his property. At Eric's name, another drops down and grabs me into a dance. He seems pleased at my relationship with Eric though the first is not convinced. The first asks me to partake of a truth test. I don't know why I felt it important to go along with this, but I do.

He lights a candle and asks again, whom I am descended from. I say again, the granddaughter of Eric. Then the world became dizzy, then went black.

I woke in a bed, in an unfamiliar room. As I rose, I saw 6 children surrounding the bed. Behind them, Byslamia is sitting in a chair and a man is at the door. I ask him what is going on, but he remained silent, simply opening the door and speaking to someone outside.

About 20 adults file in. They are definitely not ghosts.

As best as we can figure out, they are followers sworn to Eric since the Patternfall War. They elected not to be exiled with the rest of their brethren, but stayed. They continued to call me Queen until I set them straight on Random's occupancy of the throne. They still bend their knee to me, making me uncomfortable.

We gathered Hurstcastle, who was still blissfully unaware of anything and got him back to the castle, and into the infirmary. Inquiries later reveal that the estate is the Merkis Estate. General Merkis was one of Eric's generals in charge of the Weir, shock troops for his army. I ask Sebastian who owns it and he agrees to look into it. I honestly didn't expect his cooperation.

Later he tells me that it is owned by General Merkis' sister who may live in Eregnor, a nearby Shadow. Her name is Lady Celia.

I went to Gerard who tells me it is 8 days away. Since I don't know her or the Shadow, it might take longer. He suggests we ask March. His mother is Duchess of Eregnor and he has her Trump. I Trumped March, but he didn't answer.

Byslamia and I have lunch. I know she is a bit unnerved by the band of "murders and thieves" in residence. Somehow, I doubt they could be all that and remain hidden all these years. Even so, they seemed willing to listen to me, even if they are fanatical. Would that be so bad? I have no plans for the throne, which they accepted. There was a certain attractiveness in the idea of having sworn people to guard me and mine; to have a protected place, a haven. I don't know yet. They might choose to just go home, now that Eric is dead.

After lunch, I talked with March and he agrees to see if his mother will allow us to Trump through. He calls her and she readily agrees. From her words, I think she would Trump a snow wyrm through if it meant she could see March. I go through, then Trump Byslamia and Sebastian, with Bubo through. Sebastian has Lady Celia's address in the capital, so it will be easy to find her.

We are obligated to stay for dinner, a 7-course affair with much pomp and circumstance. It's strange to think of March growing up in such foppery and gildedness as surrounded us. It just doesn't fit him. He looked ready to cry when we had to sit through a poetry recital. He refrained since it was his mother's poetry.

Day 66/4

We went to Lady Celia's. The "inn" she stayed at looked like the most opulent palace I've ever seen. We were dressed in walking clothes though I'm sure even my best gown would look shoddy here. Everything was either gem-studded, gold-gilded or both. Impossibly wide skirts made me question how one would fit through a stable door much less through a hallway. Everyone of rank wore tall black-haired wigs so I was "in fashion" in one sense.

Unfortunately she was no longer living there. Nor was there a forwarding address; at least not one handy. That was Sebastian's cue for negotiating. We were instructed to have some tea while the clerk went to "make Inquiries."

We got the information. It cost $1000 Bells for it, though what that meant, I had no idea. Sebastian went to exchange some money and it was only later that I learned that three bells were the equivalent of one Amber gold sovereign. One person could live for a week on a sovereign. That was some expensive tea!

He did return with the money and we got the new address-at the palace. Dusty shoes and all, with our identities as Amberites as our banner, we went. Fortunately, not only was she there, she agreed to see us. We have tea with her, though this cost us nothing. March surprised us with formally introducing not only our names but out bloodlines in a most courtly fashion. The man has surprises.

Not only does she have the Estate, she has three houses! Without a doubt in her mind, she agrees to allow Sebastian to handle the sale. Then, I admit to being partly amused and appalled at his effrontery, he solicits her for donations to his orphanage fund. She hands him a "small sum" which will keep those children fed for years, and we return to Amber.

This is when Sebastian learned what happened to Hurstcastle. I had completely forgotten about him. He, of course, railed at me for "breaking his moneychanger" and went to visit him. We, on the other hand, went to dinner.

Day 66/4

Byslamia and I went to see the estate, to assess repairs. It strikes me as odd that I didn't even look at the other estates. I admit this is almost perfect. Arden forest is within sight, an orchard to our right, ample gardens and lands all around. It was far from town, which I didn't want to live in, and far enough that Mother might not get into any trouble. While we were there, I explain to the Weir that I am not going for the throne, but if they wished to stay, they were welcome. If they swear loyalty to me only. I was outright when I said this does not include Evander, or even my mother. I do not want anyone using these people against my wishes. I fear they would be a powerful and lethal tool if used poorly. In exchange, I would protect them as best I can. Their leader, Vis, is the first to take the oath. He slashes his and mine hands, each of the others tending to their own. Then I shake hands with each. There was a strange buzz in my hand each time I touch them. I think the bond is stronger than I might suspect.

Sebastian Trumped with rather bad news. The estate is worth 19 million sovereign! Byslamia and I have a little over 2 million, total. I was astounded at the price. How could I raise such money? How could anyone?

To keep busy, I assign work for everyone; clearing out the orchard, listing repairs needed. I took note of the children, they will need tutors. And food. At that thought, I suddenly wondered if they've been reduced to stealing for food. When I asked how they obtained their food, they said it "comes to them." I feared this was a euphemism for stealing, but they demonstrated by "calling" a rat out to one of their hands. It was dispatched quickly and held up for display. Food. I felt as green as Byslamia looked. Definitely need some changes. I admit there is a disturbing similarity with their abilities and my own.

When I asked about their heritage, the arranged themselves into a choir. They sang the WeirRider song, a tale about their nomadic life and home, a stormy, foresty harsh land. One woman, Slash, admitted to attending Evander's mother while pregnant. I was relieved that at least one would know what to expect. I really have to contact her one of these days. But not now. Three women, no four, in one house, with one pregnant, is not a recipe for domestic bliss. We'll see.

Day 67/4

The next day, Mierclaw, one of the children, arrived with the lists I have asked for. They must have worked all night to get this done. I will have to be careful. It would be easy to become a tyrant to such people, and I do not want that.

I sent Mierclaw to get measurement for each person, describing what I would need. Then Byslamia spent the better part of the day buying supplies. In the afternoon, I explain our need for experienced help. She said she has a niece who is an accomplished housekeeper, if I was interested. If she is half as good as Dame Louisa is, she's hired without an interview. I placed great stock in Dame Louisa's recommendations. She will contact Hillis that very day. She'll also ask about a steward.

After dinner I found Chef Robert about a cook. He is pleased I asked him and will find someone as quickly as possible.

Day 68/4

Byslamia and I start our Shadow-riding. Since all things can be found in Shadow, perhaps I can "find" money. No one thing, which can destroy an economy, but we travel from Shadow to Shadow. I look for a Shadow that happens to have a bank account for 1.5 million for Byslamia. I drop her off and go to one for me. We make the withdrawals and I go pick her up or Trump her through. Then we send on the money to Sebastian.

When we amassed about 4 million, Sebastian Trumps me. Celia is willing to part with the estate for 2 million, only! I have some reservations. Could she be a little unsettled? Who would sell their property for a tenth of its value? Perhaps the association with Amber is too painful. Or, considering her opulent lifestyle in Eregnor, she has more than enough, and doesn't care. Sebastian assures me she is sound so I agree. We pass the money through. All we have to do is sign some papers and it's ours, with our original funds intact. We were verifiably giddy at the thought.

We did make some more stops for working capital, for any renovations needed. We bring in about 500,000 sovereigns in gems and a chest of gold doubloons worth about 2 million.

Day 69/4

Sebastian Trumps us and we go through with our find. He begins yelling at me, something about being stabbed by my "psychos". I can see his arm, though healed; the sleeve is stained with his blood. I was confused. Why was he yelling at me? Then he tells his tale.

When the papers were signed, he went to the estate to see it. He saw some people (Weir tending to the orchard). He called to them. When they did not answer, he used his ability to go over the wall and fence. They asked who he was, did not believe he was my cousin, and then he passed himself off as a plumber. When they took him to where there was a leak, he admitted he wasn't a plumber. They put him in the cellar, to determine what to do next. He attempted an escaped and one of them stabbed him.

We had one of our regular arguments again.
I was indignant that, knowing the estate was mine, he saw fit to just go in without a by your leave. He saw no wrongdoing in his trespass and demanded me to do something about those "psychos". I left before I said something I shouldn't. I went out to the estate to get their side of the story. It was pretty much the same. I was at a loss. I don't really want them stabbing relatives, it can't be good for family relations, but I wasn't sorry they guarded the property. Actually, they were upset because one of theirs had failed! Sigh. I told them they acted correctly, but he was my cousin. I would have to see what legal ramifications are in Amber law. My homeland allows for one to protect themselves and their land, violently or lethally, if necessary.

I asked Owen about it and it is her understanding that my people or I were in the right. Sebastian being royalty does make things sticky, though. Sebastian could demand satisfaction, if he chose. Then I would have to hand over the person, to step in myself.

Vis then informed me that they had sent out two trackers after Sebastian. Lady, if they find him before I find them, it will be a mess. They are no longer on my property. I Trumped Sebastian to warn him. He was none to pleased to speak with me or hear my words. I can only hope he'll be sensible about this.

I Trump Owen again, but she's says she is too busy. Apparently she's organized a rescue for Florimel. What? She's gone missing. I ask to be Trumped through and find myself on the steps to the castle. Florimel was last seen leaving for Eregnor. Apparently Lady Celia's mother or grandmother promised a house to Florimel, should the family ever decide to sell. Carmella was tracking her from their apartment in Shadow. I Trump Byslamia and have her send the two trackers (they were found earlier) through. They are Barrel and Cupp. I must give them better names. Byslamia comes through as well.

Despite Sebastian's feelings right now, I Trump him. His abilities would be eminently suitable for a search. While he was seriously displeased to hear from me, he came immediately when he heard of the search for Florimel. We meet Owen at the front steps of the castle. The search party now consists of Owen, Kent, Sebastian, Shapir, Byslamia, Myself and Barel & Cupp after I Trumped them through with Byslamia. Perhaps their tracking abilities would be useful. The plan is that Sebastian would go help Carmella through her end of the trail. Shapir, Kent & Jenny will take the hounds from here. They had tried to Trump one or two through, but it failed. Apparently it causes them to go mad. Myself, Byslamia and Owen would take the trackers to Eregnor and start there.

While the others got started, Owen prepared a few spells. Particularly one that would give us a directional on Flora's location. Then we Trumped through to Eregnor's capital, thanks to March's mother. The first spell gave us the same direction as Lady Celia's estate, though we were too far to tell for sure. I, for one, was certain she was there. Flora was coming here and there were a great many questions about the lady we had no answer. Why she would do this to Flora was one, since she was perfectly pleasant to the rest of us. Perhaps it was a long-standing feud? No, I would think Flora would have known about it. That's the usual way of things, in the normal worlds, that is.

We made our way through the city, Barrel and Cupp locating her scent. Owen did call Random to ask him if Lady Celia was a citizen of Eregnor. If so, her rights and security were more guarded. Owen did not wish to cause and Incident with the government of Eregnor. Random suggested that we go the tax offices to see if she was listed. Owen and Byslamia head off while the rest of us keep an eye on all the entrances.

Eventually they returned. Lady Celia was not a citizen of Eregnor, but of Amber. That technically puts her under the auspices of Random. We call Sebastian and pull him through with Carmella. We call Shapir and get Kent and Jenny while Shapir sees the hounds back.

Sebastian reconnoiters the area through flight, but saw nothing of interest. With only a relatively short debate, we decide to enter. Owen brings down the perimeter shielding. She had some tricky magical wards on the gate surrounding the house.

We enter, moving quickly for a side door. The kitchen is occupied and Byslamia enters, distracting the cook. Just as cook moved closer and she was about to deliver a strike, Owen struck him with a mental attack. He went down noiselessly. I wish I could say the same about the assistant. I do wish that Owen would have refrained from her action. It looked like Byslamia was relishing the experience.

We subdued the assistant and Barrel and Cupp found a door leading to downward stairs. At the foot we found a locked door. Making short work of it, we found Florimel. Owen somehow got through all of us and Trumped her through to Amber. That pretty much left us standing in the room, looking pretty foolish.

We took the stair back up and left as we came.

In Amber, Flora was in the infirmary, guests were being refused. Really, Owen can be quite imperious about her domain. All I wished to see was that she was resting comfortably. We were informed that she was concussed and had some circulatory damage due to the tight rope that bound her. The important part was that she would be found.

DAY 70/4

Random has been busy. He had the moneychangers freeze her account. Random sent Gerard, Owen, myself through to track Lady Celia. We do so, like good dogs and find her at a remote townhouse. Gerard breaks through the entrance door with one blow (it was a good inch or two thick!). He dispatches the nearest fellow, by picking him up and throwing him.

We move through the house. Gerard and I move up stairs while Owen takes the lower level. I broke through another door to find a room full of men. I found myself sinking into Shom Dao training, time dilating a bit. I knocked one out with the pommel of my sword, using the motion to run another through. The last was dispatched with a simple kick and I was through to the next door.

Inside, there were more men, a female servant and the wanted Lady Celia. As they moved in, Lady Celia aimed a short staff at me. I couldn't dodge them all and took the brunt of the staff. I lost valuable seconds recovering from the lightning bolt that shot through me. As she aimed again, I managed to pull to one side, letting one of her henchmen take the bolt. He went down and another took his place. I fought, hampered by trying to maneuver so that Lady Celia could not escape. It wasn't entirely effective; she got to a nearby window. With her escape imminent, I hurled myself through my opponent to tackle her. I got a hold of her but her guard was coming for me. So, without a thought, I used my sword to pin her to the window through her upper thigh. Vaguely, I heard the female servant screaming. I dispatched the last one quickly as Gerard entered. He'd dispatched the reinforcements behind me.

We took Lady Celia to Amber, along with her "allies". While Gerard handled that, I took as many of her papers with her, hoping they would shed some light on her activities.

It was later, through Florimel, that we learned that the maid is the real Lady Celia. The woman we were dealing with, for many decades had impersonated her. They had eradicated the real Celia's personality through spells and were siphoning as much funds from her estate as possible. When they agreed to sell the estates for such a low price, they were merely getting more money than they had ever had. They didn't want to push their luck in getting the full amount and that made everyone suspicious. Lord Kent was the one to discuss this with Florimel, who had been promised one of the estates, should the family ever wish to sell. Celia's grandmother had made the promise and Florimel simply wanted to ask why Owen and I were given priority over her. She had immediately recognized that this was not Lady Celia, causing Celia to imprison her. And brought her whole scheme to ruin.

So, it turns out, I did not have the estate, and it will still cost me 19 million crowns.

Day 76/4

I've spent the time since my last entry making my way through shadow finding sufficient resources. The difficulty is finding enough without taxing the economy of Amber. Too much of one resource means a decreasing value as the commodity floods the market. I've focused on a variety of gems, semi-precious and precious stones, materials (like silks), amongst others things. The cost of this is that it is taking far much longer. The benefits are that I am gaining much experience travelling through Shadow.

I did have some small inspiration while travelling. I am attempting to not only find housing for mother during her pregnancy, but a place I can call my own. Did Eric ever have such holdings? A brief stop in the records room, with the help of the records master there, I found he did indeed. But with his death, It all passed into the hands of Corwin, his full brother. I went to the library, sometime in the afternoon and tried to Trump Corwin. It took quite some time. Hours, in fact. Eventually, he answered.

He was different than what I expected. His hair was cut short and much silvered. Someone lights lamps around me as I talk. He is wearing a tuxedo and is quite distinguished. Obviously, he could not talk then. I passed him a spare Trump but, curiously, my hand passed through his. His seemed unconcern with this. Instead he asked me to meet with. Each of us would make our way to each other, and meet somewhere in Shadow. I agreed.

I went to dinner and made plans with Byslamia. I did mention the Trump Phenomenon with Owen but she did not have any answers. Fiona did not deign to answer.

Byslamia did mention to me that the Weir were upset about the incident with Sebastian. Apparently, the girl was considered to have failed her duties. They will set up a "trial" for her and wish for Byslamia or myself to attend. Since I will be going to meet Corwin, Byslamia will attend, though we will keep in contact. We are in uncharted waters. I suspect that the Weir deal harshly with each other.

Day 72/4

I left this morning. Nothing auspicious occurred to mar the day.

Day 77/4

It has been a pleasant trip thus far. Byslamia did call about the proceedings. The verdict of "innocent" is not an option. If the verdict is that she dishonored me, she will be executed. If she dishonored the clan, she will be exiled. If she dishonored herself, she will need to run a gauntlet. If she is merely accused of combat negligence, she will lose a rank. Byslamia will speak with Vis to determine how the options are carried out, and what the girl says about it.

I finished the journey in a forest where the trees shine like brass, as opposed to the golden hue of Arden. Corwin is there. He was curious that I was able to Trump him when even Fiona couldn't. I admit, that was an entertaining notion; that I could do something with Trump that Owen and Fiona couldn't. Hmmm.

We talked and had a bit of a picnic. Eric had a number of titles and holdings, the prominent one being he was the Duke of Garanth and Lord of the 5 Eastern Vales. He did not want to simply hand them to me, being untried, at least to him. He did allow that I am the Steward of Eric's holdings. I agreed for that would give me time to learn what I need to, and to prove I can do the job. Give it 10 years, or so, and I will petition for it again.

The one price is that I would have to proven kinship. I would have to touch his pattern. His is different from Amber's in that I would not have to walk it. When we got there, I touch it after a few moment hesitation; one never knows what could happen. As it turns out, Corwin lied. I did have to walk it. Sneaky.

His pattern is different, though. It was like being in the middle of a whirlwind with vibrations running through and lightning over head, charging the atmosphere. Needless to say, I did succeed (else this would not be written) and he wrote his compliance with our agreement in a letter to Random.

We talked for a bit more before I departed.

Day 91/4

I returned to Amber today. It was a direct route to Amber involved no searches. Yet, it seems to be like walking through molasses whenever I tried to shift Shadow. Much more difficult. Hence, it took two weeks to return. At the castle, I was disturbed to notice someone had been in my rooms. There was a faint smell of pipe tobacco in the room. Nothing is missing, but the idea of someone invaded my personal quarters in annoying in the extreme.

I slept easily, being tired from the journey. I was awoken by the smell of the pipe again. Did whoever used my rooms for assignations not know I had returned? I eased myself from the bed and saw a man in the leather armchair in front of the fireplace. My eyes adjusted to see his identity.

Eric. Grandfather. I moved closer and he asked who I was and why I was in his room. How do you answer such a thing? We talked and he seems to realize he is a ghost. He's not spoken to anyone since and wanted to know how Corwin fared on the throne. I told him who I was and he decided it was alright that I stayed in his room. I told him Corwin gave up the throne and that Random was King. I fear the news upset him greatly. So much so, he vanished immediately.

I called Owen, thinking that It, or someone was playing with my mind. She verified that ghost are indeed seen, very occasionally, in the Castle. She herself had seen Eric and Oberon once, though she hadn't talked with them.

Day 92/4

I made an appointment to see Random. I only had to wait until just before lunch. I gave him Corwin's letter, which surprised him greatly. He confirms Corwin's wishes. I am now the steward of 7 holdings, 5 of the Eastern Vales, I have a small house in town, and overseer of the Valley of Garanth (which is where my estate is). As the Duke, I get 1/10 of the taxes. I have access to $250 million to execute my office. I hire a cartographer to get me a current map of Garanth, since nothing has been done in over 50 years.

Byslamia tells me that the girl has expressed her wish to run the gauntlet. It is done, and she takes some serious damage. Nothing permanently crippling, but she retains her rank and is only temporarily hurting.

While at the castle I talk to Dame Louisa for help in hiring additional staff. Hillis, her 30-year-old niece has experience as a housekeeper and is looking for a position. Knowing Dame Louisa, I take her word and hire the woman immediately. Chef Robert recommends Nielan as a cook. He's only slightly older that Robert and has an excellent reputation. The last person I dealt with was to hire Barnes to tend the orchard.

Later that day, Lady Celia visits. She only takes her mother's portrait and a few other pieces. She did mention that the antique clock on my office desk disturbs her. It has 6 keys but she doesn't know how they work. Her father did. It was something between Eric and her father and it makes her very uneasy, though she can't explain why.

Day 102/4

I've spent the time frantically trying to get the house ready for Mother's visit. I can only hope she will be satisfied. I made sure to introduce pictures of the Family, both of Mycenea and Amber, to the Weir, so no other misunderstandings occur. We drilled with protocols regarding a variety of possibilities. I also managed to hire a tutor for the children.

Day 106/4

I trump Mother. She says she will be ready to leave in two weeks, one week my time.

Day 108/4

I have arranged for a dinner. A small affair, to see if the staff is ready. I know they are trying very hard, but I didn't want to subject them to more discerning guests, at the first. So, I have invited Sebastian, Owen and Kent, Byslamia, and Dame Louisa. I made sure rooms were ready for anyone who didn't wish to take the 2 hour ride back to the castle. I spoke with Nielan about the menu. Invitations went out today.

A curious thing. There was a letter in my mailbox. It was a blank sheet of paper. Nothing I did revealed anything, so I tossed it away.

Day 111/4

Everyone has responded to the invitations, except for Sebastian. He is currently out of Amber, so that isn't surprising. I know he went back to Glantri, to explore the snow wyrms caverns. I wouldn't be surprised if he had been captured again.

Day 113/4

The dinner party went well. The weir performed admirably. I hate to think the punishment if they dropped a bowl or something. I know it is outside normal social rules, but I had to thank each one and commend them on their performance. I was very proud with all that they have learned in so little time.

Most of the guest decided to remain the night. As I was readying to retire, a heard a crash of broken pottery in a nearby room. I was waiting to see if it was more than an accident when Dame Louisa appeared at my door. She was a bit nervous. Apparently there was a man in her room. It only took a few moments talking to him to realize that they assumed they would be fulfilling any function my guests might desire. I gently sent him away, to Dame Louisa's relief.

Day 118/4

Mother is to arrive soon. Between learning of Garanth and preparing for her visit, there hasn't been much time for recreation. Random is of the opinion that something has indeed happened to Sebastian. No one can reach Sebastian by Trump. Even Owen can't force it. It occurred to me that since I reached Corwin when no one else could, perhaps I could reach Sebastian.

I met with March to discuss the possibilities. I would need to get closer to the Courts, assuming he was there, to increase the chance of it working. He speaks with a few people and determines we can get close to the Courts. Owen has a Trump of a Shadow in the Black Zone area, named Colatta. With my current inability to Trump, we practice and discover that March can pull me with me, if he is the one to initiate the Trump call.

We start making plans and I informed Julian of them. In case anything happens, someone will know precisely what we are doing. We were near the outskirts of Arden when we met. He did a curious thing, then. He was silent for a bit and then drew his sword. With it, he moved around me, very focused on the sword. Then he gestured for my belt, which he took to Morgenstern. When he was done, he explained that the sword ritual was to rid me of unwanted influences and that Morgenstern has my scent, for the future. I admit it is a heady thought to imagine myself in trouble and Morgenstern bearing down on my enemies. I almost feel sympathy for my unknown, future assailants. Almost.

I met with March at the Castle. With minimum preparations, we Trump to Colatta. We had discussed a possible cover story for us being there. He was set on a Holiday at the Beach scenario. And he kept asking about a bathing suit. Why would anyone wear a suit to bathe? What would be the purpose of combining the two? It must be some odd reference.

Colatta is beautiful in its own way; black-ish ocean, pink sands and palm trees. It was private and quiet. March took out a Beach Towel, a garish design to lay on the sands, obstensively to back up our holiday story. I settled down and began to Trump Sebastian.

We were close, I could feel it. I made contact, saw him. I asked him quickly where he was. He shot back "House Merquier" and cut the connection. He did not seem to be injured or very distressed. March and I discuss whether we should inform Random, to try again for a bit more information. I felt we needed to know if he was a hostage, if they were planning on an execution, or if we had any time constraint. March acceded to the reasoning and an hour later decided to try again. We were fools.

As I initiated the Trump calls, 9 lightning bolts descended on us, surrounding us in a circular field. We tried to Trump to no avail. Around a copse of trees, rider descended on us. In another foolish moment, I tried to Jump through the lightning field. It was the last thought I had for a while.

When I woke I was in a well appointed room, richly ornate in a style that could only mean the Courts. I rose, finding a gown in a nearby armoire. Tea was brought by an extremely humbled servant. No eye contact was made and I received the most minimal responses to my inquiries.

Eventually a woman arrived who introduced herself as Lady Frahil. She informed me that my host is of a neutral House and would remain unnamed. I ask that a message to go King Merlin since I was acting on the King's business. Well, I was, but not that particular King. She agreed to see to it and left me alone.

I tried to walk the Pattern in my Mind to no affect other that about 6 objects flared brightly before shattering. I gathered the pieces of their magical items (for that is what I thought they were, to be so affected by the Pattern) and disposed of them in a trash receptacle. An hour later a small crew came and very cautiously removed the receptacle.

Soon after a man entered introducing himself as Thelbane, an emissary of the King. For privacy, he warded the door till it glowed green. Then without a word he approached a few steps and began a mental assault. Instinctively I sent a quick jab to his midsection and he doubled over. I continued until he was rendered unconscious, which took just a couple more hits. I used the bedclothing to tie him up and found a Trump of Sebastian on his person. I tried to Trump Sebastian, to no avail.

My assailant gained his senses and I broke a vase. Placing one point to his throat, I told him to remove the ward from the door, for that is what is was. He nodded and I removed the gag. A few soft words later he vanished, leaving me cursing the entire affair. I should have known better.

I spent the next hour using the Pattern to send "flares". If nothing else, it might alert others to something amiss here. I had done quite a few flares when a small cadre of guards entered. There were about 14 of them. They announced that I was their prisoner and I should accede to their authority. I dispute this statement and they prepared to fight. It wasn't a speedy fight, but neither was it very difficult. I dispatched 2 right away and then their captain. That seemed to astonish them and I took care of the rest. At an auspicious moment, I leapt through the door and began to run. Down a hall a saw two guards at a door. Hoping it would lead me to either March or Sebastian, I dispatched them and entered the room.

In a chair, nude and bound, was March. He stared fixedly in front of him. Oblivious to the fight outside or to my entrance. Hurriedly I shook him, rousing him a bit. He seemed to know who I was, but just barely. I took his hand, pulling him along. I was sure guards would be descending on us momentarily. March's stamina and recovery are impressive. Within a few minutes he was running unassisted and asking questions. Guards met us along our path; which we did not know, running as we were blindly and erratically.

Six guards met us at a staircase. March proved he was much recovery by dispatching them within a handspan of seconds.

During the course of our rampage we met about 23 more guards. Either these were Shadow people, not of the royal blood, or the Courts train their people poorly. Having seen their servants, I could not say for sure which, but they were little encumbrance on our movements. Then we reached another stair, to be met by another cadre. 15 men again. This time they were exceedingly arrogant. The captain pulled a crystal from his pocket and spoke into it. "Are they to be taken alive?" He received his orders, after assuring his commander that neither of us was Sebastian (he is here!) And announced "You can kill them." March and I took him at his word, even though it was not intended, and began to fight. March, becoming tired of the entire affair, shouting an expletive, threw his sword at the captain, impaling him squarely in the chest.

Again the guards seemed both astonished and outraged by the unorthodox behavior. It gave time for March to gather momentum and wade through them, with myself at his back. He fought well but suffered a deep cut to his side. I had no idea how long he could last, since it bled copiously.

The time seemed to go for hours. Sometimes we ran, sometimes we managed to hole up in an unused room or storage closet. I tried to Trump Sebastian once and got no response. The place was a maze and the chances of March and I finding him were growing slimmer as the hunt became increasingly fervent. I even tried to call the Weir though there was no hope of them answering. I suppose I was getting a bit concerned with how we were going to find a way out.

March had an idea. If we move, like walking and running, technically we should be able to shift shadow. We had no better idea. I supposed it would work if we were a distance from the courts, assuming the principles there worked the same way here. We waited until the passageways were clear and then moved. I had March try the shifting while I watched for patrols. It would keep his mind active and aware. I was worried his wound was more severe than I thought. We had patched it up but it still bled.

Amazingly it worked. He shifted us to a secret passage that led to an underground cavern system. Complete with fresh water. We rested while I cleansed his wound again. Mine own were becoming annoying, but were not dangerous.

March led us through a series of tunnels, groping along in the dark, trying not to make a sound. Eventually we came to a surface, far out in Shadow. Now we began to make haste.

I received a Trump call. Wary, March stood by while I answered it. It was Sebastian. At first I was relieved but his happy, jolly manner seemed forced. Then my armband went off and I cut the connection.

We ran, shifted to mount and rode, hard. We had no intention of stopping any time soon. A few hours later, I received another Trump call, a powerful one. We stopped so I could answer. It was my thought that it could be Fiona, or perhaps Owen. Again, my foolishness almost ruined us. It was He. The bald man. The attack was powerful and I knew he was breaking through my wards. As I grew desperate I began to move my mind like the animals I often observed and Called. Birds, rodents, dogs, anything I've been in contact with, becoming as feral as I could, projecting pure fury, wordless rage against this man. I sensed confusion and the contact was broken.

Day 123/4

We've barely stopped for air. March is doing well, considering the strain we've been pushing ourselves to. We've begun to think we might be out of danger; we've moved so far from the Courts. I got another Trump call and an attack is pushed through. Before I can try and resist, March rendered me unconscious. Twelve hours later, I was able to return the courtesy to March.

We have to get back to Amber. There's no telling how far this Chaosian's range is. He might very well be tracking us. I take over Shifting and lead us to Corwin's Pattern. I know I can walk it.

Day 128/4

We made it. I barely gave myself time to rest before walking the Pattern. I return to Amber, specifically Owen's. With a few words I practically ordered Owen to push a trump through to March, in order to rescue him. I would imagine my urgency came through clearly. And my appearance was probably disturbing. We had not stopped or rested since we left the Courts and I probably showed it. She Trumps March and pushes until she can identify herself. March drops his defenses and allows himself to be pulled through.

We immediately informed Random what we learned. To their time, we left two days ago. Owen scanned us for controlling spells and found none. Through a mental link she got, and imparted to Random a clear picture of our assailant and Sebastian's warden. It is assumed he is of the House of Jesby or perhaps a priest of the Serpent (not a well-liked faction amongst Amberites) or perhaps a member of the Black Adder, which is not a reassuring prospect if the name is any indication. We are not told much of these orders. Instead, Random confines us to house arrest, for the safety of Amber. I understand completely and was just gratefully to bathe and sleep.

Day 129/4

I had Owen send word to Byslamia letting her know I am fine. I wish she were here.

Day 134/4

March and I are taken to the King. There are about 10 guards outside his offices. Random is inside, as hospitable as he usually is. Without much of a prelude, he announces he has some bad news. We are going to the Courts. I answered with unpleasant news of my own: No we're not. I think that took him by surprise. So began our little discussion.

Random demonstrates that we would not be going far into Shadow, but to a defined spot in between. Sebastian will be brought there and we can return him home. We will be meeting by some place known as Ygg. I am loosely knowledgeable from reading Corwin's journal.

I admit to being somewhat disturbed by this and so I was resistant to the plan. Random asked about whatever I was worried about and I listed my issues: This opponent has my Trumps. He has done terrible things and presents a danger to my Family, both in Amber and Mycenea. Time flows much faster in the Courts and he may have had time to muster reinforcements, so I was not enthralled by the notion of becoming bait in an exchange situation which might be a trap.

Random's reply was to ask if I Trust him. I was saved from answering from March who inquired what he meant by the question. I admit, I did not know how to answer. As a King, not really. A monarch, no matter the realm, must do what she or he must to ensure the safety of their charges. If that means putting their subjects at risk for a necessary cause, so be it. I understand that. But, if he meant as a man, I couldn't answer that. I've never known Random for any appreciable amount of time outside the role of King. I would have to say no. As King, I could only trust that he would do as he saw was necessary. That did not mean my goals and concerns would be met in any way.

In the end, Random made the only promise that would ensure my cooperation. He swore he would protect my family, especially those in Mycenea. As the King of Amber, he had much more resources to do so, far more than I could. I know that. He also said he had a plan, but if we knew about it, we could compromise it. Given baldy's penchant for invading minds, I understood that, too. My only request further into this matter was to ask for "Lt. Erickson" to accompany us. I wanted another Amberite, one that could fight with us, along. Besides, it would get him out of the city. We leave in a few days.

I went to the Estate to see Byslamia. I talked with her about what happened, but only in the loosest of fashions. I did not want to alarm her unduly. She seemed to accept that Sebastian had gotten himself into a bit of a jam and the Courts were returning him to us, with an escort. In fact, she never questioned the whole thing as odd. Thinking back to some of the things Sebastian has done, I realized that it was eminently plausible.

I borrowed a Trump from Owen and Trumped Mother. She was at sea. She'd left a bit early since the signs of her pregnancies (her behavior becoming erratic) were developing more quickly than when she was carrying me. She was prepared to Trump through and did so.

We had a nice dinner and caught up on the events of Mycenea. When Mother retired to her rooms, she said she was pleased with the house. When I said I bought a little place, she had thought she would be living in a much humbler dwelling. I was pleased to disappoint her.

That night I had a conference with Vis. I wanted Weir along with me but they had to be volunteers. I made no veiled comments about the possible danger they could be exposed to, especially given baldy's methods. He conferred amongst the others and 14 volunteered. I chose 2, Bison and Cutwind, for their youth and adaptability. I needed that because I had no idea what we would be facing.

Day 135/4
Retrieving Sebastian

We left at noon. Mother was not happy until I mentioned this was the King's business. Then she was pleased that I had a trusted place with Random. I declined to tell her we were bait for a trap, most expendable. I spent the early hours of the morning meditating, trying to hold on to the serenity of Shom Dao. It was slipping away quickly, and that was a fight I could handle.

At the castle I met Father with my 2 weir. March had decided to bring along 2 companies of men. So much for being inconspicuous! Father was given on company of 30 men. We left for Ygg.

Day 137/4

I managed to find time to fill Father in on the real status of our mission. He looked sternly at me when I mentioned my stolen Trumps. I believed he would have remonstrated me then, but remembered his position and kept silent.

Day 138/4

We arrived at Ygg. We weren't really sure this was the place. After all, it is supposed to reside precisely between the Courts and Amber. We haven't traveled long enough. There was a huge tree here. The circumference was over a hundred feet. I know it spoke to Corwin before the Pattern was remade, but despite our attempts, it was silent to us. I meditated and found no unusual energies in the area. March was uneasy. He felt we were being watched. Again I "felt" the area and could discern nothing. March even went so far as to Trump Owen since she had been here a long time ago. She thought we were in the correct area.

Then one of the Weir announced that someone was approaching. We stood, ready. We could see immediately that they were Chaosians, but there was no sight of Sebastian. I stayed in my meditative state, moving closer to their flanks in case this was an ambush. They dismounted. The two groups warily eyed each other and a familiar voice called out "Hey March, you Dumb Ox!"

He drops the armor he had shaped to and there stood Sebastian. March waved back. Sebastian called again "Bring any beer?"

March: "No, you moron!"

Sebastian: "Moron? You're the one who forgot the beer!"

With those affectionate words the leader led Sebastian to March. Once he was delivered, they backed up for a distance, mounted and rode off. Never once did they see me.

We left the area immediately. Sebastian did say that his mind had been tampered with, but he sequestered those portions away. Still, he warned us to watch him, and so we did.

Day 140/4

We arrived back in Amber, delivered Sebastian to Random who placed Sebastian under immediate house arrest. I returned home.

Day 150/4
A Domestic Scene?

We have settled into some sort of routine. I usually rise early and attend to my meditation area. It will serve the same sort of purpose and Benedict's garden, but more to my style. It is a small enclosure a fair ways from the house. To my right, I can see the apple orchard. To my left, in the distance, in Arden. It is a rough circle with herbs and plants surrounding, using natural geography to make it private, but will allow any creatures to come and go. I found a stone seat, not unlike the one I haunted in Shom Dao, a perfect size for meditating and drawing. I did include a small pond to the left of the seat and a sand and stone garden to my right. While the eye is never really blocked from gazing outward, neither is anything intruding on it, not the vision of the house, the road, or any other dwellings. The only rule here is that nothing is harmed. I have put some large amounts of time here, making it a little haven. From time to time, Byslamia has sought refuge, to read or enjoy the silence. Usually in the afternoons.

This is understandable for the household is still trying to deal with mother. Her amorous proclivities are increasing and Owen says this is just the beginning. But, she seems delighted at everything and everyone, so it's hard to stay angry with her. I have made great inroads toward my administrative duties. Sometimes I go to the Castle to look up figures and such, other times I send Byslamia. For her, I usually have sent her to the far corners, to look into books and figures. This often entails she must stay overnight at an inn or hospice, or else arrive home in the early hours of the morning. I do this so she can get away. It took only a few trips for her to catch on to my plan.

Mother is 7 months along and progressing well. Owen has forewarned us that the 8th month will be far more…vigorous. Also, a month or a few weeks after the birth, she will become very despondent. I think the baby create a veritable fount of energy which she is enjoying. When the child is born, this energy will dissipate leaving her very depressed. This is not unlike some people who quit a particular drug all at once. Owen stresses that this is her most vulnerable time for IT to strike. Just what I need. Another assailant waiting to pounce along with the others.

Day 151/4

The day passed pleasantly. Though the night was entirely different. I awoke in the middle of the night to sense 3 people entering my room. One moved closer as I mentally pictured the objects in my room. I really must take to the practice of having a sword nearby. When the approaching one was close enough I sprung for the candelabra and struck. I leapt up to see Mother and two Weir, one collapsed on my bed, all of them nude, looking at me as though I were acting oddly. Quietly, I trust but firmly, I told the Weir to leave. They departed immediately.

Mother's explanation had sound, if mistaken, reasoning. She is so filled with joy she wanted me to share it. So, she brought the Weir. I diverted her from this idea and took her downstairs for something to eat. That occasionally works and it was successful tonight. She did impart the name of her new child. Eidolon. What sort of name is that? I've never heard of it. Nor mine for that matter. I knew of no other with my name there, so perhaps this is a tradition with her.

This morning, Mother had all her clothing removed from her room. Again, Owen says this is natural, so we acquiesced to the situation. I did manage to strike a bargain with her. Second floor, clothing is optional, though the main floor she would have to dress. She agreed readily.

Day 164/4

I went to Random to ask that Evander be allowed to visit. Mother's…entertaining is draining the energy from the entire household. The male Weir are hard pressed to keep up with her and she is up almost continuously throughout the day and night. She seems to only require a few hours catnap each day.

Day 168/4
Evander visits

Evander, or should I say Lt. Ericson, arrived with two other obstensively to survey the land of the estate for more updated records. He seemed pleased to be able to visit, until he met Mother. She opened her door, nude as always, wearing garish makeup on her face. She announced she was going to organize the streetwalkers into a Union. Evander looked stricken at the sight but before he could say anything, he was swept into the room. I bid a hasty retreat. I admit to feeling a bit petty. After all, he sired the child; it is his duty to attend to Mother. He will be unable to perform his duties, Mycenean if nothing else, due to his position in the army. But he can see what we are going through.

Day 170/4

Again the day passed uneventfully, but at night, as I was about to ready for sleep, my armband went off! I carefully looked around my bedroom but nothing was amiss. The range of my armband isn't great, so the danger must be nearby. I got my sword and went downstairs, thinking the range extended to below. I found a Weir unconscious against the stair wall. I dashed upstairs to Byslamia's room. She came quickly and we went to Mother's. Inside I heard laughter but decided to intrude anyway.

Inside Mother was in a man's arms, or rather half over his shoulder as he carried her to the window. With a quick jump, he was through the window with me following. I attacked and Mother fell. Owen wasn't long in coming and she saw Mother upstairs.

At the commotion, 2 Weir arrived and we kept the fight up against the intruder. The night was dark and so his face was obscured. Within a few minutes he was subdued and I sent one for ropes.

As we tried to keep him secure, he awoke at some moment. Before I could react, he was free. The remaining Weir and I exchanged blows with the man though he kept his own. I did score well when my blade bit deeply into his side. I'm sure it penetrated through to his back. For my move, I received a vicious elbow to my jaw. It could feel the bones snap. I swung to disable, managing to hamstring him. He was not happy, if his curses meant anything.

He tried to go for the open and I went to tackle. The world spun as I was struck. I think I did a full reverse somersault before I landed.

I got control of my senses to see Owen had returned and was engaging him mentally. The other Weir was down. A female Weir arrived; it was too dark to see anything other than a female form and also attacked. I got to my feet, unsteadily, as he was pinned down. I moved closer to see it was Scar. Owen goes into his mind and disables his ability to move. Then she tells me it's Dalt.

Dalt! I know he hates Amber but I have done nothing to him. Could DeWinter have been so angry that I missed our meeting to send his brother? That seems absurd. If he knew anything, he would have learned I was "detained" in the Courts.

Looking him over, he's not as I thought he would be. I always pictured him as hulking, a stereotypical form that seems to follow those who are not so bright. And if the Family agrees with nothing, they agree he's not very smart. Apparently she managed to find out that he had learned of Mother's child and was here to "save" the child from Amber. Kidnapping an unborn child!

We haul him into the kitchen. Owen and I have words when I don't immediately agree to have his wounds tended to. I really didn't care if died or not. From everything I've heard, he's repeatedly caused grievance with almost every Family member and shows no inclination to stop. I guess he saved Owen's life and therefore she didn't have cause against him. I, for one, see little reason to allow people who attempt kidnapping, waging war, assault, amongst other crimes to continue unscathed. When it is against my own family, on my own property, I am doubly incensed. I spoke sharply to her, reminding her own words to me on my rights within my own property. She was quite angry.

I called Gerard for his assistance. Then I call Julian. It was night and his room was dark. As soon as I spoke Dalt's name, he told me to pull him through. I did, and it wasn't until later that I realize I did, in fact, pull him through. Why?

He appeared nude and with a sword. He took a few steps to Dalt before he noticed Owen. He stopped and lowered the sword. Gerard Trumped but I couldn't pull him through so Owen did so. Owen sat with Dalt's head in her lap while Gerard tended to patching his leg. I was interested to learn that Gerard has a very gentle, fine touch with a needle.

We discuss the options. If he is taken to the infirmary, which Owen insists is necessary; I lose province to the Crown. I could put him in the cellar, which pleased me. I don't mean to be bloodthirsty, but I want the message to be clear: My family, my property is off limits. Violators will be harshly dealt with. Perhaps that would cause someone to think twice before pulling such acts.

Owen arranged to operate in the kitchen, though she wasn't happy about it.

In the meantime, I checked on Mother. Byslamia was a wreck and Mother was neatly tied up. I think Byslamia was at her wits end and Mother was enjoying herself immensely.

Dalt was placed in the cellar. I know I cannot do this indefinitely. First, he is too close to Mother and secondly, I do not have the people to watch him. Or ward against Trumping out.

Day 171/4

I talked with Julian. He went into some small details of Dalt's past, which does included kidnapping and assault.

He and I Trumped Random has Owen pull him through. That, it turns out, was a mistake. I was informed that once he was there, Dalt fell into his purview. I was so angry, I could hardly say a word. Owen went on, seeing as I was not saying anything, tells Random that Dalt got the information from his sister.

Before he left, Random asked me what punishment I was going to vote for. I said to throw away the key. As if that would do any good. Quite frankly, I have yet to hear of anyone who actually stayed in the dungeon. At least Evander is still fulfilling his sentence. I doubt that Dalt ever would.

Random told Julian that he was in charge of security. I know I froze then. It was MY land!
Bleys and Gerard are to see to Dalt's transport to the Castle. Rangers are outside the property while the Weir tend to the house and nearby grounds.

Byslamia had untie Mother, who was unaffected by all the going-ons. No, that's not true. She was very happy to see the guards. Within the day, Dalt is removed.

Day 172/4

Sebastian Trumped me to tell me he thought that baldy possibly had Martin because no one could communicate or find him. I tried to Trump Martin. It was difficult and I had to push, but I did get through. He was concerned that Sebastian was in trouble and wanted me to pull him through. As he reached toward me, my armband went off. I was never so happy that I cannot pull anyone through. I cut the connection and informed Sebastian.

This evening, Sebastian Trumped again, asking about the dragonflies. Specifically, he wanted to know how I found them. I told him, knowing this meant he was going to go after Martin. It was foolish, I think. He's barely recovered from his first capture and now he's going on. Will Random do nothing to stop him and keep some part of his line intact?

To round out the evening, Evander decided to have a row. He's become extremely alarmed at Mother's behavior. He believes she's bordering on insanity. I understood his feelings because I was there myself. But, before I could say anything, Owen sent him a barrage of lectures. He was so furious and distressed, he simply left. I went to follow, Owen giving me a few pointers in my argument, but I doubted I needed them.

I found him with the others near the orchard. I asked Lt. Erickson if he would escort me and he agreed before I could finish. We walked for a while, each waiting for the other to speak. Finally I began the talk. I let him say what he wanted to and told him why is wasn't wise or possible. Eventually he calmed down and we were talking amiably. Of course, I got a Trump call then.

It was Owen. Apparently the Weir are exhausted and she wondered if Evander would "visit" with her, though Owen didn't put it that way. Evander resigned himself and we hurried back. I wish he'd more time to adjust.

When we got back, we found Mother collapsed on the stairs. Something was very wrong.
We got her to her rooms. Owen determined she went to Under Shadow. I went cold. That was what happened to Byslamia and we barely got her back! Owen Trumped Fiona and talks to her in a strange language.

The rest took hours but was oddly tense but repetitive. Mother would awaken, we would give her sweets or anything designed to keep her awake. Still, she would fall unconscious. Owen repeatedly Trumped Fiona, speaking in the strange language, even when Mother was asleep. It was so rude; I wanted to break something. We were informed of nothing, but this blatant exclusion told us something was wrong. Once Owen asked my opinion of what they should do and it was all I could do to say that "My opinion matters little in this." I meant that since I was deliberately being kept ignorant of so much, what value would my opinion have. I know she was confused by my response. Honestly, I don't think she gave half a thought to the results of her actions. And she accuses Sebastian of the very same thing.

Eventually Fiona Trumps through. I stood by, completely useless, Byslamia is relegated to the position of a servant, fetching whatever Owen requires. Evander is stalking the corridor outside. I wish I could tell him something.

I went to speak to him, telling him we know nothing. At least, only Owen and Fiona know anything and they were not speaking. Scar came to tell me that Julian had arrived and I took the opportunity to get away for a few minutes to see what he required. He was as gracious as always. He noticed right away that I was distressed and frustrated in the extreme. I briefly told him how useless I was. A snap of his glove to his thigh and a quiet "I understand" told me he knew precisely how I felt. It was a wonderful connection right then, just what I needed. He told me to tend to Mother and he would wait. Even after I said it could be a while.

Upstairs, Fiona finally tells what is occurring. The baby is psychically awake. Every once in a while he psychically "kicks" and that is what is knocking Mother out. Again, discussion occurs. They seem convinced this won't do any real harm to Mother. I, for one, am not so sure. Just the thought of her going to Undershadow disturbs me. But my suggestion was not received with any indication it was a possibility. I wanted to remove the child. He is along in terms, so he is viable. And Mother would be out of danger. Of course, I wondered if they would even consult with Mother. I admit I was in a hellish mood by this time. The only reason I submitted myself to this is because Mother seems to be comforted by my presence. Finally when Mother was unconscious, they ask me if she should be informed. Of course! She bound to notice she keeps collapsing. She picked up on the fact the Fiona and Owen had been speaking in a strange language, or mentally, so she becoming worried.

They tell her and she's rather pleased that her son is so precocious. Since she's so close to having the child, within days, she agrees with their suggestion that we wait. She did ask for everyone to leave so that she could speak to me privately. Owen, I think, was a bit reluctant to leave the room, but did so. Fiona left.

It's odd, but Mother has been showing no sign of her previous adulation. In fact, she almost back to her normal self. She tells me that should something go wrong, I was to assume power of attorney. The child's safety is paramount. I considered her for a few minutes and realized she was entirely in control of her faculties. I accepted her decision gravely, for it is her right. We both assured each other that it probably won't even become a factor, and everyone is called back in.

I went down to Julian, now that everything seemed calm. He inquired about Mother and I told him everything. I would have told Evander, but Owen saw him first. Julian presented me with a new saber, since mine had been broken in the fight against Dalt. I held it and was deeply touched. It was beautiful. The silver blade was clear, with wavy strengthening lines all along the centers. The hilt was red and black, Eric's colors, and it weighed perfectly. How he knew the length and balance, I couldn't say. Nor where he found the time to have it made. But it is greatly valued. It is unfortunate that I could not find sufficient words to express my thanks. I only hope my demeanor said enough.

Julian stayed for dinner. Even Mother dressed and came downstairs to dine. She did wonder why she had no clothes, but was rather undisturbed by the whole notion. It was a nice, quiet time, just like I wanted to have when Mother first arrived. Afterwards, Julian expressed his appreciation of the Weir. I believe he understands my preference to have military-trained guards as opposed to fully trained servants. The undertone in his speak suggested he was respectful of the Weir.

Since the evening was so quiet, something HAD to happen. Sure enough, Mother went into serious contraction about 3 a.m. By 6 o'clock, Eidolon was born. He was sound and whole. His eyes opened very soon and he seemed to need no prompting to begin crying. Once everyone had been cleaned and settled, we brought Evander in and even Julian, who had not yet left. Later that morning, I introduced Eidolon to the Weir, who passed him carefully amongst themselves, gathering his scent and visage.

Later that afternoon, I went to the castle while Owen did a few sketches of the child. I met with Random and he showed me The Book. Here the names of new Amberites are entered along with other important events of the Family. I made him enter Tetasha, Evander's mother, Evander, Mother, myself, and now Eidolon. It's official now, I suppose.

Day 175/4

Mother is now feeling the effect of Eidolon leaving her. She sleeps for 10-12 hours a day and is very lethargic and listless. We are all trying to keep her active.

Day 178/4
To Mycenea

I had taken to riding each morning with Mother. She seems to be very happy with it, the new scenery and the activity of riding. I take a couple of hours each morning and Byslamia and the others do so for a few hours in the afternoon. Evander usually keeps her busy in the evening before we are ready to retire.

She was disturbed this morning by a dream. She is convinced that something is wrong in Mycenea. Owen smelled the presence of IT. I agreed to go and check things out. I didn't want to dismiss her idea, because it seems to be plausible that something has gone wrong. I certainly didn't want to insult her by ignoring her worries. Owen agreed.

I went to the castle and borrowed Trump from Random. That was kind of him considering the luck I had with my own deck. He gave me cards for Amber Castle, Owen, himself, Vialle and, reluctantly, Julian. I wonder if he is uneasy with my relationship with Julian.

I went back to the Estate and got the sketches. This way, they would have something to see about their new brother. I suspect he will be a very spoiled little boy.

I went home and everyone was pleased that the delivery was smooth. I did not go into any details of what really happened. I focused more on his precosciousness gave them the picture. No doubt, they will be in the papers for all to see. I spent the afternoon there and had a pleasant time.

Day 185/4
IT attacks again

Mother and I went for our usual ride. She's much stronger now. An hour from the estate her horse spooked by a snake in the grass. At least, it acted like there was one, but I saw nothing. It became extremely panicked, almost out of control. I sensed a chill, not unlike when I encountered Sebastian's "mother". I snatched Mother and Eidolon (who was in a carrying sling) from the saddle and on to mine. I managed to keep control of my horse. I had the benefit of touch, so it wasn't very difficult. After a short while, I got control of mother's horse and we returned home. I informed Owen that a second attempt had been made. Apparently, IT will act three times before subsiding. Owen informed Fiona.

Day 186/4

        It occurred to me that Fiona was told about IT, but I doubt anyone else who knows about IT has been informed. So I Trumped Llewella and she invited me to tea. I have seen people who have been there and had read Corwin's journal so I had a small idea of what to expect.

I went through and found myself immersed in water. I know I can breathe down here, but it took a few minutes to take the chance. Still, there was an uncomfortable pressure until I thought to breathe out the air in my lungs. Then, it was fine. Odd, but fine.

I filled her in on the happenings at the estate and I think she was pleased that someone had done so. We sat and talked for a bit. The "tea" was unlike anything I've had before, thicker, with an oily consistency and somewhat intoxicating. I didn't have much, but it didn't take much for me to feel a bit light-headed.

I did mention my difficulties with Trumping which led me to mention meeting Corwin. There was an amiable exchange. She got to learn about my meeting with Corwin and she helped me with the subsequent difficulties with Trumping. She figured it out that I could pull Julian through because he was in the dark. My mind had to become much more focused and in a slightly different "phase". We tested the theory and when I concentrated, I was able to pull her through. She was very correct and it was refreshing that she not only was willing to help me, but to do so without enacting a teacher-student relationship. I wasn't an acolyte, but just someone who had a curious problem. At the end, Llewella invited Mother, Eidolon, and myself to a Rebman ballet.

I returned to Amber, happier at the outcome of the meeting, and not a little bit because of the tea.

Day 187/4
Assassination attempt

I went to the castle to return Random's Trump. I also had a plan to possible capture baldy, as we are calling him, for lack of his real name. As I passed Sebastian's room I thought to stop by and see if he wanted to come with me. He, after all, has been the one mostly targeted by baldy. There was no answer, so I went to my room and wrote a note. I returned and slipped it under the door. Of course, the timing being what it was, Sebastian was now in and he opened the door.

I was just about to explain my visit when alarms rang throughout the floor above. Random's guards were shouting and we immediately raced upstairs. I am justified for carrying my sword at all times.

In Random's suite we see his guards and secretary are down. The secretary is decidedly dead. Random was on the balcony, shouting to someone below. He was hunched and holding his stomach. We hear his words clearly enough. There is an invisible foe in the castle. I sense no mind in the area but I go onto the balcony and place myself in front of Random. The wall of the balcony is behind Random so he is as secure as I can make him until we get him to safety or secure the area.

I Trumped Owen and pass Random to her. With the King out of harm's way, I go to the body. As I was standing over it, it begins to shift, slowly, into a young man who was just into his majority. I pointed this out to Sebastian but Sebastian headed for the roof. There, I learned later, the trail ended.

Julian arrived to take over the affairs of the castle until Random was healed. I did find a few minutes to tell Julian my ideas. Baldy knows I cannot touch or pull anyone in Trump. If he did, and he has control of Martin, then there was no fear of losing his hostage when Martin asked me to pull him through. Still, I was able to get through to Martin. If I Trumped Martin with sufficient backup either I can pull Martin through or we can get Baldy. Either way, we would win. Julian said he would think about it.

As I left the castle, I learned Sebastian had put himself in the dungeon. Apparently, Baldy had forced a Trump call on him and rendered him unaware. This was when I was knocking on Sebastian's door. He didn't answer because Baldy had control of him. When I went to write my missive, Baldy had moved towards Random's suite, immobilizing the guards. I was putting the note under Sebastian's door when he came to, not realizing he had been "out."

It was extremely annoying to have been so close to our adversary and unaware of it. If I had been just a little like Sebastian, I would have walked in to write the note and possibly caught him. Or killed him. I prefer the second notion.


Mother has gotten a few visitors today. First it was Julian, then Evander. I haven't learned what Julian had to say to her and she hasn't volunteered the information. Evander intercepted Julian to ask to speak to him. Later, Evander told me he asked Julian if he would see to Mother's and Eidolon's safety and well being should anything happen to him.

I few things passed my mind then. First, is Evander involved with something for him to be concerned about his safety or does he think he's in danger? Second, why did he not trust me to do the same? I know I am young, but this penchant of going to a male was irritating. Not that Julian couldn't do it, but the patriarchy of the family sometimes annoys me. Still, I took the gesture as I think it was meant; concern and forethought for him family.

In return for the confidence, I told him of my plan to go see DeWinter. My intention is plain; to tell them the fate of Dalt, as it stands now, and a warning should they ever make an attempt on my family again. Also, I want to determine just how involved DeWinter was in the whole affair. Evander suggested I take backup with me. I said I would consider it.


I left early. I didn't know if he was still in Glantri, so I just focused on him.


I arrived at a Shadow just a day ride from Amber. That portion of the family lives quite close considering their hatred of Amber. Curious. I arrived at a Castle where black-skinned guards stood. Their skin was like tough leather. Without going into much detail, they were very rude. They wouldn't send a message in at all. They wouldn't let me in and I mentioned I was from Amber. That got their attention, though not in a pleasant way. A senior man simply told them to kill me.

I disarmed them and waited.

A small cadre of guards came out led by a troll. At least, it bore a resemblance to Ick, the troll in Amber. The men start to fight while the troll watched. I disarmed them and only then did the troll begin to believe I might be from Amber. He said I should wait while he went inside. I told him to forget it. If DeWinter treated guests outside his gates in this fashion, I could only imagine what would happen inside. I wouldn't go in unless my safety could be guaranteed. And what basis did I have to trust their word? DeWinter could seek me out, instead.

The troll followed for a few steps and asked if I could give him a little bit of time. I said I would not enter, but I would give him one half-hour. No more.

The time was almost up when a woman emerged wearing a large voluminous cloak. She introduced herself as Doblique, DeWinter's sister. I remember that she was the one who told Dalt about my brother. So, I said what needed to be said. If DeWinter wanted to establish any relationship with Amber, he was sadly mistaken if he thought the contact methods thus used were sufficient. Also, should any member of this family were to attack me or mine again, I would make sure they would not be so fortunate to see Amber's dungeon. Lastly, Dalt was lucky to be rescued, but it was my vote he would never see the light of day. I did tell her I knew she was the informant, and she bore some responsibility.

Doblique claimed she had no idea Dalt would use the information as he did. I don't know if I should believe her. Then she told me I could not see DeWinter, because he was dying. That did take me aback. He'd been poisoned and she didn't think he'd see the next day.

I asked why she didn't take him to Glantri and she said that because of the animosity between her family and Amber, they were not welcome. So much for the neutral value to preserve all life.

I took a risk. I offered to take him to Glantri, with no promises that he would make it. She stated clearly that she understood and she was confident that if I could get him there, they would be able to cure him. She also said that Dalt could stay in the dungeon for as long as we care, for she didn't.

While DeWinter was readied, I Trumped Owen. To my surprise, she refused to bring him through, and I hadn't told her who it was. I explained I would have to Hellride. She expected that to be the case. I put DeWinter on my horse behind me. This was to lessen the chance of "losing him" whenever I had to shift. It was my thought that touch would keep him with me.

Without another word, I left.

Day 195/4

It was the most unusual, fascinating ride I've ever had. The landscape blurred and grew increasingly hostile the further I went. Wind storms and walls of fire sprang up at a moment's notice. The trees talked and the waters laughed as I swept through. Even the sky seemed to melt into features and streaming colors. Occasionally, I felt weightless, especially when my mount had to jump. The strain on the horse was considerable, so I changed mounts as often as necessary. It took 9 hours where it would normally take me 3 days. But arrive in Glantri, I did.

I was met at the gate. It was night and the guards, politely, inquired why I was here. I told them I was Princess Cassandra of Amber and I had to get to the hospital. Without another word I was let in and expediently escorted to the hospital.

That was when I learned DeWinter was dead.

Amazingly enough, they did revive him. Magic? It must be. How blurred the line between life and death must be if they can revive someone who has died. After he was stabilized, they ran tests. Then I was given the news. DeWinter has 24 hours or else he would die again. Their beliefs are such that they will revive anyone once. After that, if the patient dies, it is the will of the gods and they will not interfere.

I slept in a little room waiting for some good news.

Day 196/4
Searching for a Unicorn

I was awoken by one of the doctors. DeWinter is getting worse, They've isolated the poison, but the only cure is for his blood to be touched by the horn of a unicorn. Ironic isn't it? His branch of the Family hates Amber. Dalt's heraldic device is a lion disemboweling a unicorn. And he needs a unicorn to heal him. There are unicorns in Glantri and they had some people searching for one.

I called Julian to ask him about the idea of Sebastian becoming a unicorn. He was emphatic that this was a bad idea. Sebastian would be endangering himself to become such a magical creature, very dangerous. So much for that idea. My next thought was a last contingency; to go to the Unicorn Grove. Julian arranged for March to be at the grove so it could Trump directly there with DeWinter, should we be running out of time. I know he hates Dalt, but he was willing to do this for DeWinter. I couldn't lie by omission and betray his trust, should he learn about it later.

Instead I went to the front lawn. I call birds and small creatures all the time, so why not try a unicorn. It seemed absurd and a waste of time, but I was tired at not being able to DO anything.

So I sat. The morning shift arrived and the night crew left. At some point I became aware of someone sitting next to me. I looked to see Kent, Owen's husband. I explained what I was doing. It turns out that he knows a place where there are captive unicorns. He Trumps Doromay, whom I had met once, briefly, at Vialle's gathering a few eons ago. He explains the situation. I told him who my "patient" was, but he did not pass the information on. Prudent, I think.

He pulls her through as she is just as pixie-like and waif-ish as she was when I saw her last. We discuss the situation. Outside of Glantri, DeWinter would only last for no more than 3 hours. It would be tight planning. I was reluctant to cut things that quickly.
With that, Doromay climbed to the top of the fountain and began trumpeting. Obstensively to Call a unicorn. Did unicorns Trumpet? Well, I continued to meditate while people shouted for Doromay to be silent. It wasn't long before I felt the softest touch in the palm of my hand. I glanced down and did a double take. It was a slender fawn, barely walking, with a 2 foot jagged horn emerging from its forehead and a 3-foot tail trailing behind. It was a unicorn, but not even a yearling. Exuding serenity and well being I calmed the creature, trying to ensure it would not get frightened. Softly and lightly, I tell Kent to get DeWinter.

He was brought within a reasonable amount of time. Doromay and I continued to coo and talk to the little one. At one point the little one clearly asked if I was mother. I had no idea what to say to that. I could only say no, but I would help find her. He became extremely agitated DeWinter was brought amongst much fussing and many attendants. We sent them back a few paces and the little one calmed again. I sent to him empathetically what I wished. If he or she would not do it, I would not force it. I was worried the exchange might harm it.

I led it to DeWinter and it seemed to understand what it was asking. Doromay or Kent had opened his palm a bit and the blood was flowing freely. It touched its horn to his palm and the wound instantly vanished and DeWinter woke up. The little one looked directly at me with eyes the color of the deepest forest. DeWinter was very disoriented and I softly and briefly told him what had happened. It was only then that he noticed the unicorn standing next to him. His eyes grew large at the sight. All he could say was that he thought they were bigger. I was about to explain the age of the unicorn when a rumbling could be heard growing louder with each second.

Now I grew concerned. Was mother arriving? With the rest of the herd? We could be in some serious trouble. I was about to order DeWinter and everyone inside when a white blur swept into the courtyard. The next thing I knew I was flat on my back with a unicorn's hoof on my chest. I true unicorn. I very large, grown unicorn. Doromay was next to me in the same position. It was all I could do to send out messages that no harm was intended and that the little one was unharmed and safe.

He, for it was definitely a male, took stock of the situation. Like most parents, he saw that the little one was safe and worry turned into annoyance. He butted the little one in remonstration while the rest of us remained unmoving. He quickly guided his charge out and they were gone.

Doromay and I rose while DeWinter was taken inside for more tests, to make sure all was well. I wanted to speak to DeWinter and go home. I gave them an hour. They were oddly very solicitous to my feelings while trying to remain adamant that DeWinter be tested. Rather than spend time arguing, I let them have their hour.

In the meantime, I thanked Kent for his help. He was very humble about his role. If it wasn't for him, we would not have been successful. And Doromay. She Trumped home after a quick word of thanks from me.

Then came the barrage. It seemed everyone from the staff to the doctors to the hospital administrator felt the need to thank me for what the unicorn did. I tried to pass these off and truly, it became embarrassing. Then some of the priests arrived. They were convinced that my dealing with the unicorn was highly auspicious. They even went so far to say that I was knighted by the unicorn and therefore a paladin. I don't feel like a paladin. All the little one did was to rest its horn on my shoulder. It was so tiny, that horn must have weighed a considerable amount.

I escaped as soon as possible. I was allowed to see DeWinter. Considering what we just went through, my speech must have seemed harsh, but I gave him the same speech as I gave Doblique. He swore he had nothing to do with Dalt's actions and I think I believe him.

I told him that no one at the hospital knew his real identity. He appreciated that and made ready to leave via the window. Before he left, he asked me to remember him to the Unicorn in my prayers.

I Trumped March and went back to Amber. We were closer to the estate, so as we walked there I told him what had happened. It was the middle of the night when we arrived, so I cooked us up some breakfast while we chatted. Then I got a little sleep.

Day 197/4

I went to the castle. I learned that Sebastian and Dalt had escaped from their cells. It is believed that Baldy was behind it. I have had enough. These people needed to be dealt with. What was Sebastian thinking? Was Baldy controlling him again?

I wrote a note to Julian. I was going on a Hunt for baldy. Then Dalt. I had a messenger take it to Arden where he had taken Vialle and her son. I was not going to be dissuaded from my goal.
I got my horse and left.

The first thing I needed to get was some protection. So, I set out for an object of my desire. I kept it simple. It would protect me from any attacks, mentally. If I began resisting a mental contact, it would activate. To offset its power I set it so that I would find it with a person who would be willing to lend it for a time in exchange for something.

Day 199/4

I have arrived at a mountain range that reminds me much of Shom Dao. There was a similar village, though no dojo. Instead, there was a small castle. I encountered a girl, and older woman and a man. Each time they said I had to pass them. Each time I performed the same test as I did in Shom Dao. I was fortunate it worked.

I was led inside to a woman, queen or high priestess, I'm not sure. She led me to a helm on a purple statue that looked remarkably like me. Then she said, "Athena, we have been waiting for you." When I put it on, it fit perfectly, and a purple glow surrounded me. All my gear was gone to be replaced. My clothing became a short tunic (Byslamia would be scandalous!) and my sword became a spear. At my inquiry of what they would want in return, she simply asked that I visit those elderly who were ready to pass on. They had waited their entire lives to see me and it would give them great joy. I felt to be an impostor, but did not wish to cause grief. It was a small price to pay. I was led to a barracks/infirmary where these people were living the remainder of their days. That I was not the person whom they saw did nothing to distract them from the joy in their eyes.

Day 202/4
The Hunt begins

I took my leave having met their request. The entire village met me as I left. I promised to return the helm when I had finished my task.

Then I shifted and truly began the Hunt.

Day 213/4

I received a Trump call. I thought to test the helm out, especially if it was an attack. I placed the Helm on my head and answered. If it was not an attack, I felt badly for the sender. The helm immediately activated and the connection was broken. If it was Baldy, I hoped he had a terrible headache.

I continued on and received a second Trump call. I decided not to risk harming anyone. No one knew what I had done as defense and I didn't want those repercussions to follow. The call became much more intensive and then ceased; the Helm had accumulated quite a bit of energy as the contact was continued. I estimate an almost 5 to 1 ratio against the incoming call. It took a few hours for the glow to dissipate. This was a bit disturbing. I would rather not become a beacon, possibly warning Baldy of my arrival.

Day 214/4

I arrived at a small city laid out in similar design to Amber City sans castle. He's here. I know it. Now the trick is to find him.

I gave it some thought and Trumped Julian. I told him my position and thought I should get reinforcements. It was more important to deal with Baldy than my pride. We coordinated the time differences; it was a 1 to 6 ratio. Six minutes here was 1 minute in Amber. He said he would see to what he could muster. I was to call in 6 hours.

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