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Cassandra's Diary.40

Day 196/28
Toweropolis

Things have been going smoothly. I've employed teachers to come in and teach a bit more about technology, especially electricity and electronics. Hopefully it will give them some help for the more advanced shadows. Everyone's taken to it with ease, thankfully, though some of the children are confuse why the philosophy behind this world isn't the same as Gianassa. But, they're becoming nicely adaptable, I must say.

While I haven't enrolled them in formal schooling, for security reasons, I did enroll them in a variety of social activities: a few sports and track and field events. And music lessons, that sort of thing.

Eidolon is proving to be the most socially adept. He's engaged in a lot of activities: sailing, river boating, dances and theatre. He almost always has something going on. Kai-Revere tried to talk him out of this. Kai claimed it just slowed down his training. Eidolon just gave him a funny look before continuing on with his schedule. It's apparent to me that Eidolon is becoming interested in girls and society at large, but Kai still seems to be unaware of them. Hmm, I wonder if I should be concerned. I think I'll just let him discover this on his own time.

Instead, to Kai's disgust, I bought him new clothes and went through some etiquette training and dance lessons.

Xhimena surprised me with a question this morning. She asked if I was going to sharing secrets with her at some time. Secrets? You know, other-daughter secrets. Oh. I thought she was referring to Tralee's initiation but then she said that the Weir girls say the moms always have secret fighting information. Oh. Oh! I said of course, hoping that when the time comes, I'll have some secret information to share with her.

She went happily off to play.


Day 217/28

Kai had a man-to-man talk with DeWinter. He thinks he's ready to take on his own cases. He's taken out a number of newspaper clippings and has “stuff” lined up. He believes there are six possibly major crimes that are going to happen.

Looking them over, we can see no correlation in what he's projecting. I suggested that we bring in a professional to let Kai see how it is done and to learn the process. DeWinter is looking into it. He contacted O'Sullivan who lined him up with a number of applicants; well over 100 people. But they were all professors and we thought that a practical application would be more advisable.

I looked into my phone folio and found 2 detective agencies. He went to see them.

The girls are becoming increasingly focused on their surroundings. They've taken to tearing apart anything that focuses their attention in order to find out how things work. So far they've dismantled the irons, garbage disposal, incandescent lights, the doorbell, and the vacuum cleaner. Katie and Shauna have kept up with their questions and we just replace what they can't put back together again. And I bought a dozen building kits, both mechanical and electronic. Within the week they built a device that opens and closes the living room blinds. Wires are everywhere in the house. We've stepped on the occasional part or tool that was overlooked. I find them amazing.

Kai, though, has dismissed everything they were doing. I was incensed to over hear him say, “well, I thought you were doing something useful.”

Really, this superior attitude has got to stop.



Day 218/28

DeWinter introduced me to a detective, from the Five Star Detective Agency, who will teach the boys and Tralee on criminal investigation procedures and criminal behavior. His name is Mr. Holly, and he's quite overwhelmed by his new assignment. I sat in on some of the classes, but I made him so nervous, I had to leave. DeWinter, more wise than I, had elected to skip the session.

The boys were very excited and told us everything they were taught. So, I learned a bit anyway. But then, when the girls said they wanted to go, Kai said that girls aren't made for being detectives.

That's it, I've had enough.

DeWinter just winced and the girls glared but nothing more was said. Kai just kept talking, unaware of the currents he'd created.



Day 219/28
Attitude Adjustment?

DeWinter found a teacher for Kai. A woman martial arts teacher. Ah. Her name is Mrs. Makishihami. She was a tiny Asian woman, in her thirties. In the first session, Kai never hit her once. In fact, he grew so angry he went after her. Just for a moment, I saw DeWinter and Dalt in his rage. So, the woman won a few more times until DeWinter and Eidolon had to sit on Kai until he calmed down.

I talked to the woman. She's really very nice. I confided that I feared that Kai's confidence has developed into arrogance. She nodded, in agreement, I think. After that display, it was obvious. She agreed to continue teaching until he knew better.

By dinner, Kai had developed a theory that she was a criminal trying to infiltrate the house. How else would she know secret tricks? In fact, maybe she was a Chaosian--that was why she could win. We said nothing. He was trying to salvage some pride. He'd learn.

DeWinter asked him how he knew this.

Kai said he had a hunch.

DeWinter tried to explain that a hunch did not equal a fact. And reliable hunches usually developed from extensive experience. It didn't sink in.



Day 220/28

I'm nor sure why, but I thought I should go and talk with Dalt. Like DeWinter, he has a temper. How did he learn to get around it? And he's never rude or condescending to shadow folk. I thought I'd get some insight.

I Trumped him.

He was walking along a busy street. He pulled to a side and brought me through. We never got through to my question. I started to explain Kai's attitude but he just shrugged. He said Kai was like any other Amberite: arrogant and rude.

Before I could fully ask the obvious, he answered, yes, he thought I was just the same.

I admit I was astonished. Did he really think that of me, and his nephew, after all this time? All I could say was that was a very…hurtful thing to say. I left before I said something I would regret in my fury.


Day 236/28

Kai still hasn't learned anything. He's now trying to become more scientific to develop his spy theory on Makishihami. He's even gotten Eidolon to watch for clues in her fighting. The girls are somewhat delighted that he's having some trouble. I think Kai's attitude has created more ill will than I thought. It's not irresolvable yet, but I do wonder what I have missed.

The girls have taken to training. Kai tried to dissuade them. He said that they couldn't do it; the teacher was too tough. And if he can't do it, they can't.

They ignored him. They jumped right into class and loved it. Since they were willing to listen, they did very well.

Day 239/28

O'Sullivan stopped by today with a few files for me to go over. One person, in particular, had his attention. A criminal, called Malefic, was imprisoned 20 years ago. Apparently he'd been my arch-nemesis once. A parole review granted him a release because he promised to go back to his “dark dimension.” He'll be out in 15 days. Hmm. I wonder where this dimension is? I asked O'Sullivan to arrange a meeting. He made a few phone calls and got me into the prison in a week. The warden was reluctant because he thought that my presence might undo all of Malefic's rehabilitation.

If he's had 20 years of rehabilitation, a one-hour visit should do much, if they were any good.

Day 246/28
Discovery: Amberite or Chaosian?


We went to the prison, a formidable structure. Tall black walls with spikes on top, loaded with huge Gatling guns. It reminded be a bit of the Courts. I joined the small queue waiting to go inside.

I'd done some research on Malefic. It seems he can take over people, use them like robots. His maximum was five people at one time. And he could do it to DeWinter, Kai and Eidolon. At least, he could do it to our shadow-selves. For some reason, Cassandra Towers was immune.

Inside we were seen to a receiving room. Malefic was escorted in with a 10-man escort. And he was blindfolded. I asked them to take it off. They hesitated, but I said that if he was reformed, it should be all right. They still hesitated, and then elected to call the warden.

The warden came in a few minutes later. He must have been hovering nearby. He agreed that they could remove the blindfold. They did so as the guards drew their weapons. DeWinter made them put them away. The warden was surprised and rather pleased.

Malefic was fairly good-looking, with very dark hair, and surprisingly young for someone to have been in prison for 20 years. I couldn't tell his eye color because flames leapt from his eye sockets, sweeping up to his forehead.

We spoke. Apparently we had some sort of odd relationship. He usually called me Cass and I called him Mal. He sardonically assured me he was going to leave. We talked a bit about how he came here.

He said he walked. Patiently, like I was a child, he told me there were other worlds out there.

The more we talked, the more I came to realize he was no ordinary shadow person. Could he be an Amberite? A Chaosian? Whatever he is, he has no knowledge of it. On impulse, I asked him to draw his parents.

Amused, he did so after someone fetched him a paper and pencil.

It wasn't anyone I recognized but something was familiar about them. I asked the warden if I could escort Mal to his home. The Warden was so pleased at how civil and almost friendly we were to each other, he agreed immediately. I could tell Malefic was certain I was just trying to make sure I was getting rid of him. Well, he was in for a surprise.

When I got back home, I looked through my Trump deck.

His parents didn't look like anyone in particular, but I did get a shock. From what I could see in Mal's sketch, his father had Oberon's eyes.


Day 253/28

Today we were escorting Mal home. The children all wanted to come along. DeWinter distracted them by saying they had to handle the press instead. That diverted them immediately, and they went off to prepare.

We went to the prison and saw Malefic escorted out, manacled and blindfolded, with an amazing amount of guards. Without too much fanfare, we ignored the press and headed out. We convinced the guards Mal could ride with us. I drove with Malefic next to me. DeWinter elected for the back seat, the better to watch our guest.


Day 256/28
Escorting Mal

We've been driving cross-country all this time, camping in isolated areas. I could have Shifted sooner, but this gives me time to get to know him and I'll see just how he gets back home. DeWinter has taken a dislike to him, though.
He thinks Mal is “shady.”

I did ask him to draw his home, as he remembers it. As well as draw a place he'd like to go to. To use his imagination.

His Shadow looked dark and grim. It didn't look nice at all. His “dream” shadow though was very imaginative. It was rather Arabic, with many scantily clad women. He would be the Sultan and he would be a member of a supernatural race that has burning eyes. D'Jinn.

He was puzzled and surprised that I knew of them. He's read about them while incarcerated.

Last evening while we were relaxing for the evening, I walked the Pattern in my mind. I wanted to see him through the Pattern Lens. It was odd. In this Shadow, I could see glowing motes everywhere, particularly about his head. They gave off flashes whenever it hit my skin, and then they went out. It was the same with DeWinter. He sent ripples out around him as he moved; he was more vibrant than any of the guards, as I expected. And, I wasn't too surprised to see the same with Mal.

Looking at Mal, I could see he was a real as DeWinter.

But, who is he?


We arrived at the send-off point. I made my challenge. I said I could take him anywhere he could imagine he wanted to go. The challenge was: could he come up with something I couldn't do?

Again, he was sardonic and amused, much to DeWinter's annoyance. He said he'd like to go somewhere where he could understand what little memories he has of his past. Good enough.

We bid goodbye to the guards and we rode onto the Shadow path he indicated. We drove for quite some time before I diverged. I think that surprised him. I began to shift. The terrain shifted, becoming more crowded with cars, then quickly becoming a desert. The car flowing into slightly different shapes, contracting and moving to fit the Shadow. Mal had gone very still in the seat next to me. In the rearview mirror, I saw DeWinter had become very pale. Thinking about it, I realized I always kept the transitions between Shadows from being too strange, for the sake of the children and the Weir. It never occurred to me that changes such as these could be fairly new to DeWinter.

When the car became a living thing, DeWinter finally shouted for me to stop.

I pulled over. Through the seats I could feel the heartbeat. When I asked the car if it was all right, it blinked dashboard lights in reassurance.

Of course, reassurance comes in fleeting moments.

A boulder landed in front of the car.

There was no mountainside for it to have fallen from; we were surrounded by rather low tress. In fact it looked like it had been thrown. I really didn't want to think about that.

The car backed away from it.


Mal pulled out a silver ring and began to put it on. The next instant, DeWinter had a gun drawn and aimed at his temple. Mal froze. DeWinter told Malefic to show it to me. Mal held the ring up and I reached for it. It was a stupid thing to do.

I was paralyzed.

DeWinter saw that immediately and made a perfect shot that tore it right out of my hand. Unfortunately, it shot right through the car floor.

The car didn't like that.

It gave a scream and began to buck. We were tossed around, partly stunned by the concussive shocks of slamming into the roof repeatedly. I managed to get a hold of my door and yanked it open. I heard DeWinter and Mal rip through their doors and roll out, cursing. Dizzily, I spilled out and rolled away, as far as I could.

Right to the feet of the dark-scaled lizard warriors standing around us, bearing katanas. They wore fright masks.

This day kept on getting better and better.

I stood, hands out in non-hostility. I heard Malefic and DeWinter landing on the other side of the car. There were five warriors on my side, three on theirs. And DeWinter began to fight. Damn it! The ones near me weren't fighting, so possibly we could still get out of this. I yelled for DeWinter to stop.

It took a few seconds, but I heard him go silent.

Moving slowly and carefully, I went to them. My guards kept an alert distance as they followed me. Mal had been stabbed in the side with one of the katanas. He was pinned to the ground.

DeWinter was standing over him, a sword drawn, but down.

I pulled the katana out and did a quick field dressing for the wound. It would have to hold. The guards were amazingly interested in what I was doing. No, it was distressing. It was as if they'd never seen first aid before. And if that's so, then they could be a lot more brutal than I liked.

Hmm, on the other hand, they could just be cadets out for a training mission and had never seen a fight. Yes, I like that positive angle. I didn't believe it, but I liked it.

I spoke in Thari, which they understood. It also surprised them. How did I know the pure tongue? Um, I grew up with it?

The leader said to wait. His scales detached like a horde of bees and they flittered away into the trees.

Except it wasn't just that his scale armor had done this, for when the armor came apart, there was nothing inside. These warriors were hollow.

I the meantime, I entertained the troops by patching up DeWinter. He had about five or six wounds. That meant they were pretty good. I apologized to the car, which was now just whimpering and quivering. I took some cloth and did what I could to patch the car's wound.

After a half hour or so, the dark scales returned and reformed into a warrior. By the sound of galloping growing closer, he'd brought friends.

The newcomers rode something between a large goat and a llama, with sharpened hooves and flames coming from their nostrils. There were five of them, all women, one of them a leader. At least, I thought so by the elaborate masks. It took a second to realize that the faintly Asian theatre masks weren't masks at all, but their real faces. The leader said that if we were trespassing, they will kill DeWinter and Mal, but I could go.

Sorry, didn't like that idea.

Three women joined us then, with even more elaborate clothing and faces. A caste system based on looks, or three different species? I think the first, somewhat.

The leader of this last set wore a black chrome gown and her mask/face was almost pleasant. The first leader said I spoke the pure tongue, but did not smell pure. The last woman just looked at me.

She dismounted. Actually, she passed her leg through the beast until she was sidesaddle and then dropped to the ground next to the beast. She was a bit shorter than I. She came closer and inhaled. She said we are all of noble blood though DeWinter was Chaosi.

That certainly puzzled DeWinter. He was hard pressed to hide his shock.

She ordered a pavilion and the dark warriors hastened to obey.

While we were waited, I tried to Trump. Of course, they didn't work here. The woman watched me and Mal watched the women with a hungry fascination ever since they had grouped him with us as 'noble.'

One of the women saw his locked gaze and displayed herself. Her skin under the blouse was a black sheen under the silk. He caught himself fascinated and looked away. Well, he had been in prison for 20 years.

Two hours later they were ready and the women moved to the pavilion. We stayed by the car, since we hadn't been invited.

A four-eyed creature, just a bit over a foot tall came over. He shook his head at the damage to the car and indicated we should get out if he was going to do any work at all.

We got out.

I helped Mal stand. The creature picked up one of the car doors and motioned for me to remove the bandage on the hinge. I did and the car shuddered.

I stepped back. I wasn't sure who had called the small creature or what need the Dark women saw to repair my car.

The small thing swung the door into alignment and then slammed it where it should go. The car screamed and bucked again. A few minutes later it was still. I tried the door; it worked fine. The creature did the same with the second door, with the same results.

I had no idea how to communicate with the car. I said I was sorry. The dash lights blinked. I tried the radio, thinking it could talk to me that way. All I got was swing music. Since I doubt there is a radio station in the vicinity, I assume it was the car's way of saying it would be all right.

The music, on the other hand, fascinated the guards. They went still, listening to the unfamiliar tune. I shut it down.

Getting out, one of the guards pulled his sword. DeWinter and Mal started to react, but then dropped, immediately unconscious.

I stepped over them and pulled my sword.

All of the guards pulled theirs in return.

What the hell started this?

The last dark woman leader arrived again, “Put them away.”

The guards complied immediately and reluctantly I did so as well. I checked both of my men. They had strong pulses, but I don't know what hit them.

I thanked her for that, and for helping with the car. She looked at it and inquired what had helped it. I described the little creature that was still there. She motioned him over after looking at the car. She pulled her blade. At the distance I was at, I didn't think I could stop her.

She swept the blade up to her face and then down to either shoulder. I remember something about that...oh, yes, DeWinter had asked Random not to do that when he was knighted.

So this was an honor...right?

Well, the creature seemed pleased at any rate. And he literally grew another two inches while I watched.

She turned to me and invited me to the pavilion. She said the two men would sleep for a while. It would give us a chance to talk. She assured me that nothing would happen to them.

I placed them in the car. I told the car if anything happens to me, or if it is attacked, it is to run as fast as it could. It blinked that it understood. Hopefully, it would give the two a chance to wake up. I closed the doors and went with her.

I learned more than a few things. Faiella Silverbrow was of noble blood. So am I and, the dark woman believed, was Mal. Amazing.

Could I have found someone from my line?

The thought pleased me more than I would have thought. Incidentally, the food in the pavilion was fantastic.

Anyway, Faiella was a Changeling of the Ying-Ko, half mortal, half fey. The leader was a member of the Black Zhan Zi. I remembered hearing of them. They were part of the Unsidhe.

Oh, this did not seem at all good.

DeWinter and Mal woke up before long. The dark leader said we could address her as She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. I'll call her She here, but never neglected to call her by her full title. She warned me when the men joined us that those not of royal blood cannot eat the food, for it will kill them.

Ah. Well, I let Mal try some. He didn't die.

She was curious about him. She asked if she could taste his blood.

That made DeWinter sit up quick. I could tell he was thinking vampires. He really does hate them. I made a motion to not do anything. He sat back, but watched carefully. Mal, though, was more than a little nervous, but let her do it. I handed him a small knife and he cut his forearm. She tasted it but She said she was wrong; he was not of the royal blood.

Damn!

But She went on, Mal was Zhan Zi, of Chaosi blood.

Ah, well. Still, he could be descended from Corwin...or Deirdre for that matter. I can't explain why I keep hoping that is true.

We explained the situation as we saw it.

The guards said nothing.

She elegantly noted the boulder still directly in front of the car and looked at the warrior leader. He still said nothing. My respect grew a little more, for he did not try and deny what happened.

She invited us to stay, though we were free to go. Mal was inclined to stay. I think they intrigued him. I said I had a challenge to meet. He thought about it. As I hoped, his curiosity about his people was stronger than his curiosity about these. Or else, he read my reluctance to leave him here.

I thanked her for her invitation but said we had children to get back to. Ah, in this I discovered that children were very important by the Zhan Zi. She did not seem insulted. She bid us goodbye and said we were welcome to return. She told me she had many answers for me.

DeWinter didn't know what to make of that.

I wondered if we had found the Fey we were looking for.

We drove away and I shifted as quickly as I could. The car did not stay alive. And it wasn't quite the same as before. I made one Trump to Claw.

Was everything all right at home?

Yes. The boys have a zeppelin now for capturing the Flaming Skull.

What!

We had to get back before they do something really dangerous, if we weren't too late. I told Claw to put a moratorium on any further investigations until we were back. She nodded. We'd been gone for three weeks. Apparently this Flaming Skull character had been stealing or burning all the food stores in the city. He was trying to bring the city down and under his control through threats. The children went after him and saved the city. DeWinter went back to restore any semblance of order.

My plan was to get Mal back to where he belongs as I had promised and then get back home.


Day 257/28
Nachoth visits

I Trumped Benedict before we moved on. He was riding in a car so I had to keep the contact open. I explained the situation. He asked to see the sketches Mal had made. I handed them through and he glanced through them. He said that Mal's parents closely resembled Chaosians from House Nemirab, a major House in the Courts. He thought it probable that his parents had been killed in Shadow as this would explain Mal being orphaned.

The question was, were they traveling through Shadow when this happened (he seemed to think this was unlikely) or were they exiles from the Courts who died, leaving their infant son behind.

He thought it was more likely Mal was a Black Adder, a descendant of an exile. As for why the father had Oberon's eyes, Nemirab was Dworkin's old House.

Ah. I asked about the possibility of House Nemirab allowing Mal back, since he was innocent of any crime, but apparently that is not the way the Courts treated the innocent offspring of exiles.

I fumed. It was such a waste.

Next I Trumped Nachoth. If I was taking Mal into a Black Adder enclave, I wanted warning. She was in a room, looking even thinner than the last time I saw her, if that's possible. Which is saying a lot, since she is very thin. To my surprise, she wanted to come through. She grabbed a few of her things and came immediately.

Mal got another surprise and Nachoth appear in front of him. I gave some introductions and got a new story from her.

Yes, she had gotten to be head of the House in Shadow. But her strange new idea about cooperation and a more relaxed position toward Amber got her into trouble after a while. So, she's now exiled from the exiles.

Actually, I think she was more annoyed than anything. Her time in Paris made her too...flexible, too...radical for her clan.

Imagine that. So, she was trapped in Shadow with no one willing to try and understand her position.

I'm only upset that she never tried to reach me, in case I could help.

We talked a bit, that night, about the Courts. Like the other Black Adders of descendant generations, neither Mal nor Nachoth had ever seen the Courts. We were both trying to be neutral, but it's hard to describe their rigid caste system and social rules. In fact, rigid is one word you can't avoid, though I suppose Chaosians would call it discipline and honor.


Day 258/28

This morning Mal hit me with a surprise. He's decided not to seek out his kin. In fact, since Nachoth wants to see Paris, he'd like to see it as well. I was a bit confused and concerned. If, at some late point, he wants to see them, it will be very difficult for him to cross Shadow, and I might not be available. Shouldn't he take advantage of this opportunity?

But, he firmly declined; regardless of anything I had to say.

Well, then.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense really. He had been unsettled about what Nachoth said about her fellow Black Adders. If she were to be considered unacceptable, he'd be downright scandalous. I think he'd have little patience with them.

Perhaps he's wiser than I? Likely.

I asked Nachoth which Paris she'd like to go to. That confused her.

It seems that her understanding of shadow travel was very different than mine; enough that my questions had little meaning to her.

Ah, did she want the Shadow we had actually been in, as it is now, or the Shadow that was close to what we had left. That confused her even more...and I never really explained it. Did she want the dream of what she left, the memories, or did she want the reality of the shadow, as it is now? Since she didn't understand the difference, and I couldn't explain it, we opted for the reality. If she didn't like how things had developed, we could find a close approximation of Paris at the time we left later.

I Trumped DeWinter to tell him the change in plans. It threw him for a loop, though he understood anyone wanting to stay away from Chaosians or Black Adders. And Paris is always a good idea.

He told me the children had been very active. In fact, they are getting medals for heroism. The newspapers love them and the feeling is returned. He's a little worried about it. I told him to get himself and ally. Claw would be good, until I returned. We're both worried this hero thing will all go to the children's heads, and it will be hard to undo.


Day 259/28
Returning to Paris

It only took one day to find Paris. You know, in a strange way, all my "important” Shadows are fairly “close” together. I wonder if this means we are not traveling as extensively as I would want? Something to think about.

But, it only looked right, on the surface. As soon as I saw it was a matriarchy, we left. Nachoth didn't protest, but wondered why we had to leave, since I found the city. But it wasn't our Paris. I could only say that she'd understand once she saw more.


Day 264/28

Well, we kept trying. The first time I saw discrepancies in the newspapers. People alive when they shouldn't be, events happening that shouldn't be possible. Nachoth was spooked the first couple of times. We kept arriving at the same inn, with the same people, as if we were living the day over and over. After the third time, she did whatever she could to do something different. If she went to the park in one Shadow, she went to the theatre in the next, anything to avoid reliving the same day over and over. I did note that we kept arriving in 1917, so we were in a 1:1 relationship with Mycenae, Gianassa and Aes. Good to know.

In the next Shadow, I found there had been a war the previous year. Not impossible; it was some dispute. The President was a man I didn't know...ah, but the Chancellor was the former Dr. Herron. Well, we couldn't stay there. I'd want to have him killed again. He could be a very nice man, as Nachoth pointed out. Hmm, but it still meant this wasn't our Paris.

Mal had remained fairly quiet the last day or two. At first, he would get a newspaper and compare it to the previous ones, page per page. As we continued on, he got quieter. I think the implications of Shadow travel were a bit daunting. If even the tiniest adjustment meant a whole new world, then the possibilities were...infinite. I think the poor man was stunned with the idea.


Day 265/28
Our Paris

We arrived today. The feeling of homesickness, which I wasn't even aware of, dissipated immediately. It felt right. Nachoth just looked around smiling and I think she felt it as well.

All of Europe was doing well. There was an enormous explosion of prosperity, with France leading the way. They had formed a League of Nations and most of the European nations had joined in. The American States were thinking about it. It was amazing that it got as far as it did. For one thing, the League members had to give up their armies. Many balked at that idea. How could they defend themselves without an army? The answer was to form the army of the League, with people drawn from each member. Interesting, and progressive thinking. There was even talk of some of the Eastern countries joining in.

A check in the phone directory told me Pablo was alive and well. He had his own gallery, a highly esteemed one. Looking for Monad, I found him listed as the Chief Director of the Louvre, a prominent position. I wonder why he left government service?

We settled in to the now-familiar inn. I sent a quick, private note to both Pablo and Monad.

I Trumped DeWinter. It was still a 1:1 time ratio. Good. I told him to get the children ready for a holiday, and I'd look for some housing. I made sure I had enough money to see us through. It took the afternoon, but managed to rent a villa. It had enough room for everyone, was secluded from the neighbors, and had a lovely enclosed courtyard for practicing. Arrangements for buying it will develop later. It was easier than I expected, even though the woman didn't recognize me.

That night I excused myself and took a walk. I just wanted to see the city. Really, I felt like I was home. More so than any place outside of Shom Dao. Even Mycenae didn't feel like this. I guess it is because it has become almost an extension of myself, or what I want to be. People unafraid to speak up, yet friendly and helpful; unafraid to make progressive suggestions and attempts. A land exploring everything in art, science, and magic.

I walked around, reconnecting with streets I remembered, shops I'd frequented, places I knew. I breathed the air and watched the people. The only downside was they still had that silly statue of me in the park. Well, it's a good reminder for humility.

I found myself, in the wee hours of the morning, at a nightclub, a prosperous one by the queue in front. I debated going in when I caught the eye of the entrance attendant. He made room for me in the line and when I was inside, found a spot for me to sit. Unusually solicitous. I wondered if he recognized me, but he made no comments, aside from some light flirting. In fact, once I had a seat and a drink, he let me be.

The club was packed, dark and smoky. The music had moved a bit from where I remembered and I spent a few hours trying to catch up. I was content.

The walk home took me by the Seine. The lights of the bridges had an uncanny resemblance of Corwin's home.

Curious connection, since I found Paris before I ever knew what was on the other side of his Pattern.


Day 266/28
Engagement?!

I got to the inn just at dawn. I came around the corner and managed to duck back before anyone saw me. There were five guards out in front. An assemblage of motorbikes, cars and people were out in front. There were about twenty women, or girls, holding armfuls of flowers. The plates on the cars showed they were government vehicles.
Monad, you fink!

I Trumped Nachoth. She was in the bath, so probably alone. She said the President was here to see me. I told her to relay that I would speak with him if he sent everyone away.

It took twenty minutes to clear everyone out.
That was amazing considering moving the brass band I'd missed tucked away in the lobby. Eventually, I went inside. It was very...charged. People were curtsying, giving hugs, kisses on both cheeks, the usual Parisian greeting.

Mal was bemused and amused.

We exchanged a few words, the President and I. He'd brought a leather folio with numerous newspaper clippings of me. He compared the photos with myself and concluded that I must indeed be the Annette in the stories. But, he did not ask what I had been doing all this time, though he was pleased I now had a family.

We talked and he tried to get me to talk to some Swiss diplomats. They were working on a treaty for them to join the League. He seemed to think my voice would lend something to the proceedings. I only said, I would think about it before I walked him out to his car and bid him a good day. Then I got some breakfast.

Nachoth and I talked about Paris, what had changed and what hadn't.

I took the opportunity to say something to Mal. To the point: his former occupation, criminal mastermind, well, not here. Not ever.

He waved that away. He said he was done with that. I think I believe him.

I was about halfway through this lovely morning when Pablo arrived. I had forgotten how he exploded into a room. He was more extravagant than the last time I saw him. He wore a white silk suit with a gold cravat. He gave me a hug and kiss before allowing me to introduce him to my friends. He sat and joined us. He was the fink, not Monad who told the President. They'd been having dinner and the President wanted him to come over today. And, Pablo had to refuse because he wanted to see me. Of course the President asked whom he was visiting and, of course, he couldn't lie to the President.

Um hmm.

Now that I think about it, I wondered that all of Paris didn't know I was back. I suppose he has some restraint. I tried to be severe, but it's hard when he's making me laugh. I ended up inviting him, his wife and daughter to dinner tomorrow, instead.

Mal didn't know what to make of him though. He thought Pablo was taking advantage of the situation by kissing me. After all, Pablo wasn't the President. By the end of the breakfast, with all of Pablo's exuberance, grand gestures, and extravagant praise, Mal just concluded Pablo was insane. Nevertheless, when Pablo left, the room was too quiet.

Mal remarked that this place, and its people were strange.

Nachoth said it was both refreshing and sincere. He looked a little incredulously at her. “But, those aren't qualities you admire,” he remarked.

Nachoth replied, “No, but they make you feel safe.”

He gave her a sharp look, but said nothing.

That morning I Trumped the whole lot of children through, with one surprise. I had pulled all the children through and found myself grasping the hand of a man I didn't know. I looked at DeWinter, but he just looked grim. I pulled him through and DeWinter followed.

This young man was tall, blond and very good-looking, perhaps in his mid-twenties.

DeWinter dropped the bombshell. He introduced the young man as Robert Rassendyll, Tralee's fiancé!

I just stood there for a full minute. I couldn't think of anything to say.

Both Robert and Tralee just looked at me.

Mal thought it was all tres amusing. Evil man. Wait until his turn.

Tralee hastened to explain that it wasn't a formal engagement, not yet. Not until we gave our blessing. I recovered as best I can and got everyone to go find his or her rooms. The villa wasn't ready, so we had to relocated everyone to a different floor of the inn so we wouldn't be split up. I told Tralee to help Robert find his. Then I talked with DeWinter.

I think he was as stunned as I was. He'd only learned about this twenty minutes ago. Ah. They'd met twelve hours ago and Robert proposed in three.

Oh, my.

So, DeWinter didn't know much more than I did.

Oh, my.

I asked Mal if he knew of the family. He said he did, they were very prominent. They are also a family of assassins. He knew the boy was carrying at least three guns.

Oh, that made me feel better.

Mal is so amused. I went to talk with this Robert.

We went onto a little balcony. He did seem stunned himself. He did seem enthralled by Tralee. But it was so quick! What do I do?

I Trumped Owen. She was outside, by a campfire but the looks of it. When I said I needed a sanity check for my children, she smiled and called Kent over. I explained the situation. Even they looked shocked. This has got to be some record, even in this family. In the end, they just said what my head was trying to tell me-- be calm, be patient, watch and learn. It will sort itself out. But Tralee would have to do it. I knew that if either DeWinter or I stepped in, she'd resent it. My heart still wanted to thrash Robert, but I managed to shut it up.

I took the opportunity to ask Kent and Owen about Kai-Revere and his arrogance. Kai still hasn't learned what we are trying to teach him.

Kent was amazed at his stubbornness. He thought I should work with Eidolon, who Kai might be more willing to listen to.

Hmm, a possibility. Again, time will solve some of this. The problem is that someone might call him on his ideas, and it might cost him life or limb. Good luck.

One interesting note: Robert elected to stay with the boys rather than a separate room, with or without Tralee. If I'm not mistaken, the boys will be his chaperones. He's trying to show his honorable intentions. Interesting.


Day 267/28
A Very, Very Long Day

The next day was just one surprise after another. The first happened right away. Some casual conversation was running along, and suddenly I'm hearing Kai-Revere say something rude to his sisters, something about 'girls not being as capable.'

I was so furious, I was shaking.

Robert called him on it.

I was so angry with Kai, I didn't stop Robert.

Robert told Kai that, “You are no gentleman. Apologize to them.”

Kai looked at him, astonished. “You want to repeat what you just said to me?”

Robert did so.

Kai said they should take this outside.

I got things under control enough that they didn't do this in the street. But I was at a loss of how to stop this and not sure I should. We ended up in a little salon. I couldn't think how to undo this, and a part of me really didn't want to.
If I told him Kai could win, Robert would be, should be insulted. And Kai would be too smug. But, if Robert got hurt, Tralee would be very upset with us.

Compromise.

I warned Robert on how we fight. In hand-to-hand, Kai fights the Weir way—with few rules. I don't think he believed me when I said Kai was a match. After all, Kai is only ten years old.

Then the girls offered advice to remove his belt and shoes, having seen the Weir use sudden leverage on such things. Xhimena suggested he should undo his cuffs. He shrugged and did so.

I think he thought we were all being too solicitous, though he politely went along with it.

Once both were prepared, they nodded to each other and began.

Kai almost took Robert out in one punch.

He hit Robert right in the stomach. Robert staggered, went very still and three shades redder in the face. I think what we had said was starting to sink in, literally. Kai had stopped a second, fully expecting Robert to fold.

To his credit, Robert recovered his breath in time for Kai's second attempt. Robert went for a spin kick and caught Kai in the ribs, sending him crashing into a wall.

In fact, whatever Kai did, Robert made certain he wasn't directly in line for the hit. Robert dodged and feinted, but didn't let Kai hit him again. Time and time again, he threw Kai away from him. Ah, judo. Kai just got angrier and angrier. Finally, he lost his composure altogether.

For another half an hour, Kai just kept picking himself up and rushing Robert. Robert would side step and push Kai into another wall. It was like some horrible game of “dodge wall,” Kai just kept trying to smash Robert down. In fact, he had so lost his composure; he never once changed his tactics. He just yelled inarticulately and kept charging.

After the umpteenth time that Kai hit the wall, he was so angry he punched the wall. His fist went into the plaster and got stuck. The fight was over.

Robert was sweating and breathing heavily, but had no injuries. I thanked him and suggested he take time to freshen up. He left, Tralee following. She was not happy with Kai.

Nor was I. Kai was still furious, so talking to him now was useless. He kept trying to get his hand out of the wall. I sent everyone away, except DeWinter. I adjusted a chair and sat, waiting for him to calm down a bit. He had to; there was nowhere he could go.

Eventually, we got him out of the wall. His hand was broken in a number of places. Actually, it was mangled horribly. If he weren't an Amberite, I'd say he'd lose the use of it.

DeWinter was quite calm at seeing this. Part of me wondered if he'd ever done that. DeWinter straightened the hand out carefully. Now that the adrenaline was gone, it hurt quite badly.

Kai knew we were angry. Well, I was. I wasn't sure about DeWinter, though I know he was disappointed in Kai. I told Kai he made a terrible display of himself. We were going to take him to a hospital, to get his hand splinted and set. If he knew what was good for him, he wasn't going to say a word, not to anyone. Kai just hunkered in his chair while we arranged for a taxi. It was sinking in that he was in a lot of trouble, though I could tell he didn't know the why of it.

The hospital staff took him to x-rays. They gasped at the result and apologized but there was nothing they could do; Kai would lose the use of his hand. DeWinter waved the information away and had them set it as best they could. The whole time, no matter what the staff said or asked, Kai said nothing.

A few hours later we got back to the hotel. We were greeted by a lot of long faces. What now? There had been another fight. Ah, Tralee and Robert? Yes. I sent Kai to bed. The sedatives and painkillers were setting in, though they wouldn't last.

I found Tralee first. She said Robert had apologized to Tralee about the fight. Tralee had missed the reason for the fight, but thought Robert had taken unfair advantage over a little boy. I told her Kai was not a normal little boy and he deserved what he got.

Oh? Then I approved of the fight?

Yes. Robert had acted the gentleman to her sisters.

She jumped up and went to find Robert.

He'd gone. Sigh. Where did Robert think he was going? He couldn't get home no matter where he went. Ah, but Robert didn't know about Shadow. As a matter of fact, he knew nothing about Shadow, Amber, the Courts, Amberites...nothing. It hurt my head to think how we could explain it to him.

I got Bison to track him down and bring him back. Tralee apologized and Robert looked like he felt better.

We had two hours until dinner. I had a little talk with Eidolon. Actually, I think Eidolon was just as frustrated with Kai as we were. He said he'd help, but he wasn't sure what would get through to him. Hmm.

It was then that I realized that Pablo would be arriving with his wife and child. We got everything ready and I hoped Pablo would miss the hole in the wall. Or, at least, not comment on it.

They arrived and I got another shock. Celeste, Pablo's wife, looked exactly like me. It was very disconcerting. Their little girl, Annette, just looked between me and her mother, confused. Xhimena stepped forward and made friends, and the situation abated a bit.

We went to dinner.

Chef Richard had outdone himself. He'd found many new things to try, from the French cuisine. I'll be curious what new recipes he'd concoct. I found myself liking Celeste. She was very, very different from me in all ways but our looks. She was soft-spoken and polite, friendly. Once, we went to freshen up and we had a little chat. She was relieved that Pablo and I had never been lovers. I reminded her that one, it would never had worked between us; two I cherished Pablo's friendship and; three, he married her. Not me. She was much more relaxed and happier for the rest of the evening.

Even DeWinter had figured it out by the time coffee came around.

They left rather late, around midnight. Everyone went off to bed. I got another shock, several actually before the night ended.

We were lying in bed and were intensely involved with each other when a voice spoke, “I could come back later, if you're busy.” I jumped out of bed in one direction and DeWinter went the other. He grabbed the nearest weapon and got the lamp. He pulled it up, to strike, pulling the cord out of the wall. In the instant darkness, I heard him say, “Oops.”

I cautiously moved to the door. I opened it enough to let light in from the corridor and got a robe.

It was Pops.

He stalled around the subject of why he was here long enough for DeWinter to heft a shoe threateningly.

Pops eventually said that if I were going to bring Xhimena to the attention of the Zhan Zi, it would be a bad idea. It would endanger her.

Ah. I see. Well, thank you for that. I didn't bother to tell him I had no intention of doing so. I'll try and get answers, but not at the risk of Xhimena.

Eventually Pops left, after DeWinter hefted the shoe a few more times. I asked DeWinter if we could retrieve the evening. He thought it was possible. He picked me up and threw me on the bed, throwing himself down beside me. We were making nice progress when there was a knock on our door.

I asked who it was.

It was Eidolon. He said he'd found a note and thought I should see it. He slid it under the door.

It was a note from Robert to Tralee. He said he appreciated her forgiveness. But, he had to do the right thing before the engagement could be formalized. He had to go to his family, to ask to be relieved of his oath to their traditions. He would return as soon as possible.

I showed it to DeWinter. He sighed and rolled out of bed to get his robe. No, there was no retrieving this night. We got dressed.

I told Eidolon to not mention this little snag to anyone. With luck, we'd get Robert back, again, before anyone missed him. Bison and I tracked him to the bridge. About halfway across, the trail stopped cold. I doubted he'd jumped, and he hasn't been here long enough to have someone push him.

The area felt different. I concentrated on it, trying to get a feel of it. I heard Bison begin to shout, and then he was cut off. I opened my eyes and I began to fall. There was no more bridge. Actually, I saw that there was no city either, as I twisted to get into a dive position. I just managed it as I hit the water.

I surfaced. Where was I? I had no idea. I still don't. A ways away I saw a wake form. I very big wake. I began to swim rapidly for the shore. I'm a very fast swimmer, but it was faster. It bumped into me as it passed. I could feel seaweed brushing along my leg.

I swam faster. I cut through the water, my energies peaking with the danger. I was about a quarter of the way to the shore when something grabbed my leg and bit. It clamped down hard. I ducked under the water and managed to pry the jaws open. The head was big, about two feet long. I punched it in the eye. It recoiled and I took the opportunity to keep swimming.

It bit again and began to worry the leg. I felt the bone snap as I was tossed back and forth. I just kept punching. On the fifth, it let go and I swam again. I was twenty yards away when it came back. I really need to find a way to carry a sword in Paris. It bit a third time. I took all the energy I had and sent it into the beast. Some of it turned out to be electricity. It let go with a wail.

All my energy was gone. My arms felt like gold weights. I got to the shore. It was steep, so the beast couldn't get to me, the water was too shallow. I pulled myself along as best I could. A voice called to me. It was Robert, looking down the shore at me, pale. I grabbed the hand he offered and pulled me up and over the edge. I made us roll away, as far as we could though the pain in my leg was horrific. I felt the thing rise behind us from the water and I pushed Robert as far as I could. He flew into the dark and I rolled some more. It landed at the spot we'd been, almost beaching in its attempt to get us.

Now that I could see it, it was like the furred water creature we encountered crossing the river to Corwin's home. Could we have slipped there? How did Robert do that? I'll have to ask when we got back.

We had more immediate problems, like trying to get where we should be. I tried to use the Trump, but got nothing. In the distance, I could hear music. It was eerie and echo-y, and empathetic. It sounded like a woman imitating bagpipes.

I got Robert to hand over one of the guns. It worked here, so that was some comfort. I fired at a rock. I saw a white energy crackle around the barrel and the bullet shoot like a laser into the rock. Actually, I was seeing the bullet trace move as if it were happening really slowly. The gun felt hot in my hand. Almost painfully so.

Robert went to a tree to get a limb to use as a crutch or a splint for my leg. He broke one off limb and turned to me. He got three steps when the tree hit back. Repeatedly. I managed to shimmy over there and drag him out of range. He was out cold with some decidedly unpleasant lumps on his head. I couldn't rouse him.

Now what? I was in bad shape and shivering.

I did the first thing I thought of. I called for the mermaids, as I once heard Pops do. At least, I was hoping it was mermaids I'd heard earlier. I was hoping the call was the same. It took three times to get the sounds right. I threw the branch back to the tree. It lifted the torn limb up and it disappeared into the canopy.

I heard sounds from the water. I crawled over, dragging Robert, and trying to ignore my leg. There was a girl there. Her skin was a green-silver, like she was under black light. And she was beautiful. As attractive as Florimel.

I asked her if she knew Prince Corwin? No. Could she help me get home? Yes. But, what would she get in return? I asked her what she wanted. She pointed to my leg. She wanted a taste. Sigh. Well, I had no other options, really. I agreed.

It took about half a minute before she was done.

She looked at me and said I was kin.

Oh, really?

Uh huh.

Ah. I was so tired, I could barely think. Hence the snappy rejoinder.

She got me on her shoulders and waded hip deep across the river, towing Robert carefully. In the middle of the river she said I could go back now. I said I didn't know how. And the bridge was gone. She looked up at me. No, it was still there, she said. I didn't see it. I asked if she could take me the whole way. She thought for a moment and said sure, but I'd have to invite her.

Again, not having much choice, I invited her.

She swam on and the city emerged. She set us down on the riverbank. I thanked her and she smiled with many dark pointed teeth before swimming away.

Looking at the bridge, I didn't see Bison. Thinking he might still be in the vicinity, looking for me, I Trumped him. He was heading for the bridge, DeWinter in tow. I told him where we were and settled down to wait.

They were there in about five minutes. DeWinter didn't like the look of Robert, still unconscious, or my bloody leg, now swollen to twice its size. He lifted me and Bison took Robert. They hailed a cab and got us to the hotel.

Now that he had better light, DeWinter was unpleasantly shocked enough to say, “Holy crap!” before beginning to tend to my leg. It was still bleeding, which indicates how bad it was. Granted, I had been active, but it was a very, very bad bite and break. Robert still wasn't waking. While DeWinter dealt with my leg, I occupied myself by leaning over to check him. I think he was hemorrhaging in the brainpan. He was almost certainly in a coma.

Damn tree.

We got a taxi and got to the hospital in record time. The doctors wanted to see my leg, but I brushed them off. They had little idea what to do about Robert. They started talking about medications and surgery. I had visions of what DoBlique went through. There was no way I was going to make him go through that.

I Trumped Dr. Blythe.

I knew Robert wasn't family, but maybe she'd make an exception for almost family. I explained that my possibly soon-to-be-son-in-law (oh, that sounded strange) was gravely injured. Could she come and see to him? She was through in an instant, bless her.

Blythe looked him over and said she thought she could deal with it. The doctors, entering the room again, were highly affronted by her presence.

Ah, I forget she looked younger than I do. They weren't going to take the suggestions of anyone looking slightly past their teens. In fact, they were starting to get rude and supercilious. When Blythe left to check something out, I had a few words.

It'd been a long day, really, and I thought I'd handled things as well as can be expected, under the circumstance. But this just rubbed me wrong. In one of a handful of times, I used my position. I asked them if they knew who I was. No, they didn't. I said they'd known of me by the name Annette. Two looked like they didn't understand, one didn't believe me, but the others, who'd come to consult, looked like I'd pole-axed them. I said if I could run a government, I could assign my own doctor. If they couldn't be polite, they could very well keep silent. Blythe was more capable than anyone in the world, and they had better show her the respect and courtesy that accomplishment meant.

Now two were angry, but most of them looked like they were going to follow my demands.

Blythe came back and most of them did whatever she asked. I think she was pleasantly surprised. At any rate, they got Robert into surgery. Within a few hours, he had been treated and was resting. Blythe said she would stay a few days to make sure all was going well.

We took her to the hotel, and then we all went to the villa. I was fairly exhausted by the last 24 hours. I took Tralee aside and told her Robert was going to be fine, but he'd had an accident. She took it calmly, not really knowing how bad it had been. She and Blythe went to the hospital to see to him in the morning.


Day 268/28
Long Talk with Kai-Revere

We got everyone packed and to the villa by noon. Kai was feeling much better now that Blythe could give him some really potent painkillers that wouldn't work out of his system in a few hours. We made sure Blythe had everything she needed, and then a few things. Hopefully it would make her stay a pleasant one.

That afternoon Kai and I took a walk. I told him we were very disappointed in him. I told him his display was...well, shameful. I explained that I thought Kai had pushed for a fight, thinking he would win, when he was totally in the wrong. And he compounded that by taking on someone he believed a shadow person. He didn't understand. I asked him, if he could learn faster, or was stronger, or faster--did that make him a better person.

Well, yeah! He sounded that it was an obvious answer.

So, how did he explain that it didn't work with Robert?

I tried to talk about moral codes. He just was too young to get it. So, why didn't he? I thought about it as we talked. I'd always been in a position of privilege, so where did I get my ideas. From Mycenae, of course, and Mother. Position meant to serve, not be served. But, we've traveled through Shadow and met people who felt the same. Why didn't Kai understand? Was it something he's confused with, maybe the Weir way?

But, if we didn't solve this, he was in for some really rough times. He was still wrapping his head around the idea that he had been in the wrong. And he was miserable about losing the fight, and that we were angry with him.

Mother and Byslamia taught me from early on my duties to those less fortunate. And, Mycenae's social structure is so rigid; in it's own way, that it made some choices very clear-cut. I still have those tendencies, even though I am removed from that social structure. So, if Kai gets his characteristics from both DeWinter and myself, it stands to reason some of this stubbornness came from me. How did Mother and Byslamia, not to mention the staff, deal with this?

What if, when I gave them trouble, they relied on form and function? At least long enough for me to get the message. It could be the same with DeWinter, come to think of it. He was raised in the Church. Hmm. We don't have that structure here. In fact, we were all quite informal by Mycenaean standards. So what do I do?

I took Kai to show him the statue, near Notre Dame. They'd kept it up. The Statute of Liberte, 30' tall not including the 120' obelisk. Kai spent a while looking over the name of the people who died in the war. I think he was a little daunted. Then he finally looked at Lady Liberte and realized it was I. He looked impressed.

I asked him if he could figure out why I didn't like the artwork. He puzzled it over and said, 'it was because the dress didn't cover me up, and I was half-naked.' He said he didn't like that either.

No, that wasn't it.

He thought about it some more, but couldn't come up with a better answer.

I said that nothing I've done was for the sake of a statute. I gestured to the city around us. Its continuity, its prosperity was its own reward.

He seemed eager to listen.

So, I plunged ahead: here was his punishment. He grew grim again.

He was going to get a job.

That surprised him. Why did he need one of those? We had enough money.

Nevertheless, he was going to get a job, something that helps people. Furthermore, he is not to tell anyone who his parents are, nor receive any payment. Upon further reflection, I told him he had to find this volunteer position on his own. That would give me some idea of whether or not what I had to say was sinking in. It would have to meet our approval. He will continue his studies and his work until I say otherwise.

We walked back. We didn't talk much.

He was pretty dejected. All at once he was back to being a ten-year-old boy who was very ashamed of himself. He asked me what I thought about him. I asked him if he knew we all loved him, no matter what? He seemed hesitant, but said yes.

I said we would always love him. But that didn't mean we always liked what he does.

He nodded.

We got back to the villa and he went off to his room. I told DeWinter of our talk. He thought about it and was pleased. He said he would never have thought of making Kai get a job. He thought it was a great idea, inspiration or not.


Day 269/28
Long Talk with Robert

We went to visit Robert. He woke up late yesterday. He feels awful, but Blythe assured us he would be fine. In fact, she'd completed her last examination and will be leaving. Barring unseen complications, he should recover nicely. She was worried about possible amnesia. He didn't remember his accident, which was common enough, but he didn't seem to remember his recent past either. I asked her what she meant. She said he didn't remember Tralee from the previous weeks. Ah, I explained that it was because they'd only met, what, two days ago. Her eyes widened at that, but only gave a little shocked smile.

That was fast, she said.

Don't I know it!

Robert was happy to see everyone. We visited for a while and then they children decided to go to the gift shop for presents. He seemed a little surprised at their easy acceptance.

I nodded to Tralee that she should join them. I wanted to talk with Robert. She was a little nervous, but left. I sat and said I was impressed by how he handled himself thus far. In fact, I was starting to like him. I think he was surprised by my forthrightness.

Hmm, wait until he meets Tatasha.

So far, he's been a perfect gentleman as well as resourceful and clear-headed. He thanked me.

I asked him what he remembered. He remembered everything up to getting hit. I briefly thought about leaving him in blessed ignorance. But, if he is to be a part of this family, he'll have to drop that little quirk.

I told him what happened.

He looked at me as if I were a bit crazy.

I took a chance. I took his hand and gently let myself into his mind. I told him not to panic, but I was going to let him see what I saw. His mind was strong, but not particularly shielded. Gently, I replayed the memory.

He was taken aback at what was happening. He winced each time the tree hit him. Ouch. Then he caught on to the fact of what I had just done. I withdrew and said that our family, our extended relations and us are very different from what he might expect. It'll take time to accustom himself. And, I went on to tell him that he had dropped into another world. It was our family's ability to walk amongst them. So, if he wanted to go home, we'd have to help him since he can't get there on his own.

I tried to talk about time differential, but as usual I just muddled it. But, I said we sometimes travel and don't get back to people we know for a long while. For example, I went almost a decade without seeing my Mother. That took him aback, since he said he was close to his family. Perhaps I can make a Trump of that world, so he could come and go.

Still, he has to learn of some of the pros and cons of being a part of this family. I know if it works out, he and Tralee will want to stay somewhere, rather than follow us everywhere. I hadn't thought of it, but if all the girls find somewhere different to live, when they grow up, it'll be more than a little tricky to keep track of different time shifts so I don't miss too much time between visits. Hmm, disconcerting thought.

I told him if he wanted to go speak with his family that was perfectly all right. But one of us would have to take him. He's welcome to join us for a while, to decide whether he wants to continue his relationship with Tralee. And her with him. But it did mean he would be around us, closely, for a long while. He said he'd think about it and have some decision before he left the hospital.

As for everyone else, few know what happened, but everyone is safe and sound, and that's all I can ask for.


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