Cassandra's Diary.5

Day 214/4
Hunting for the Jesby

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. One minute here was 6 minutes in Amber. He said he would see to what he could muster. I was to call in 6 hours.

The six hours went slowly. I did some scouting of the area, hoping for some clue, but found one a ring of stones where the castle should have been. It seems odd that he would leave out the castle. There was a moat, and a passageway over to the other side. Just no castle. I cleared my mind into a meditative state and looked again. There we go. I faint shimmer, the approximate shape of the castle. I retreated before I contracted any notice.

I Trumped Julian. My reinforcements consisted of one. Owen. Now I do not normally have a problem with Owen; it's just that we two have different ideas on how to handle things. And she will usually push her way if she can. I did not want interference. This man has attempt to assassinate the King, kidnapped and torture Sebastian, and attacked myself and March. Not to mention almost starting a war with the Courts. I wanted him dead, and I didn't want Owen to stop me. Not this time.

Julian convinced me that I was in charge of the expedition and that Owen is particularly good at following orders. I think he did not trust Sebastian to do the same. Well, he probably wouldn't, but killing Baldy should have gone to Sebastian, he was the most wounded by the creature.

Owen came through and we scouted some more. I told her of the stones and she went, also to examine them. She found more information than I had. There was a veil preventing her from seeing more. She could not see what was inside the ring, but she knew it was in another Shadow. We decided to see if we could learn more in town, first.

We went to the ubiquitous inn. It was fully occupied, but rather subdued. Talking was a shade on the quiet side, not a lot of movement from table to table. I was still wearing the helm and my cloak, so I daresay I presented a bit of a mysterious figure. Owen's plan was to talk with people, get them to open up about nothing in particular, and then try to sift through surface thoughts or general thoughts to see if they knew anything about the moat or the stones. The bartender knew next to nothing and seemed strangely uninformed. In fact, he had no wish to learn of anything new. Apathetic. Others around us were the same. One man made friends with Owen when she bought him a drink. His intelligence was negligible, but not very far removed from the others.

I was largely being left alone while Owen sought information. I suppose being mysterious would not attract inquiries here. Nevertheless, I was not about to take the helm off while Baldy was here. My presence might be alerted to him. So, I was silent for the most part, the better to observe the others. One action caught my attention. A young woman, looking extraordinarily like one of my younger sisters was coming down the stairs. She saw both Owen and I, started, and then turned around to retreat into the room she just came in. that was certainly curious.

I waited to see if she would come out and thought she might try for an alternate exit. On the pretense of using the facilities, I made my way out the back door. The yard was small with just enough room for a few privies. By climbing a foot or two up the retaining wall, I was able to see inside the room. A man was finishing dressing and across the room was the young woman. So, she hadn't left, but she was preparing to go. I slipped back down and went back inside. Rather than continue on to my table, I waited under the stairs. The noise in the room masked much, but I was able to hear her descend. Emerging, I timed my walk to come up right behind her. It wasn't difficult, she was keeping a careful eye on Owen, trying to avoid her.

I called put something to the effect of: "Linea! It is you! It's been ages since we saw each other." She whirled around badly startled. The strange thing is that was her name. And she recognized me. And she was from Mycenea. I questioned whether this was a trick of Shadow or really my sister Linea. I couldn't ask and give up our edge. I easily led the flustered girl to the bar. I ordered the best, which seemed to impress her. Three small drinks later, she was seriously intoxicated—enough to tell us why she reacted to us. Apparently the word was out that her employer was looking to hire women mercenaries who were not particularly unattractive. It was a curious request in that most people would prefer to hire those who are experienced and look it. She was going to inform him that we were in town. They were a touring entertainment troupe that moved through Shadow.

As for the stones, she had heard the legends. Anyone who has walked inside had to challenge the Gods. There was a magical sword embedded into a stone, to the hilt. The one who got past the Gods and pulled the sword would begin a new era or a new pantheon, displacing the old deities. Needless to say, the current pantheon opposed this.

We learned all we could but then had a particular dilemma. Linea was incapable of making her way through the streets safely. Even my short recognizance earlier in the day showed me brigands waiting for an easy mark. Linea fairly screamed to the world as easy pickings. So, Owen and I escorted Linea to where she was staying. Well, we did once she remembered where that was. A few hours later.

Inside the new inn was a much more enervated crowd, laughing and animatedly talking to each other. Linea pushed her way through. From the looks of her companions, this wasn't the first time she's arrived in this state. Wobbling and weaving she made her way to her employer.

Looking at these people, they were markedly different from the natives. And, according to Linea's boss, the inhabitants are dramatically different. He wasn't used to them being slow of wit, though he wasn't really adverse to the opportunity to make additional money from them. He had also heard of the legend but had little more to add, except that anyone who has gone for the sword has ever returned.

We stayed and talked for a bit. We even tried to experiment with the waiter. Every time we asked about the stones, he grew nervous, evading the issue and questions. It was then my armlet warned me of danger. Looking carefully around, I found nothing out of place or different from a few minutes before.

As the minutes passed the warnings grew more insistent. I signaled to Owen and we started to make our exit. Just then, the shutters slammed shut. Loudly. No one but our company noticed.

We ran to the entrance and found it barred. Not even the combined Amber strength of both Owen and myself was proof against the spell, for that is what it was. We moved to the second floor and found ourselves equally trapped. That was when we smelled smoke.

Owen quickly cast a spell to nullify the effects and the result was ear-shattering. We recovered quickly to find the seal on the inn was returning, but we managed to escape. I could only see our way was to jump into the streets. Owen saw the same and we began to run toward the circle of stones.

What followed was a string of adversaries unlike any I've encountered. Horses with fire fuming from their mouths forced us back to the roofs. Humanoids bearing weapons who continued even if mortally wounded…I believe they were made of wood. On the rooftops were shards of glass-like things with wings. We defeated the shards, taking more damage than I liked and made our way across the roofs, jumping from building to building.

We were quickly running out of buildings. We would have to make a run for the stones and hope we could make it to some safety. We jumped down and ran, the horses bearing down on us. Owen let out a lightning strike, destroying one. Another I got with my sword. The others were far enough away we could make a break. We ran, sparing nothing for our speed. Behind us, we could hear pursuit. Around a few curves, running in random trajectories, we eluded them until we reached the stones.

Suddenly, it was silent. The horses, the wooden statues, all of them stood, their pursuit ceased. Ahead of us were the stones. Owen examined them and decided to try and magically examine them. All at once, the sky lit with an electrical discharge, fully hitting Owen. I could only stare in horror as she fell, her clothing smoldering. I immediately began to administer to her, hoping I could bring her back, for her heart stopped momentarily.

Amazingly enough, she began to come around, not nearly as hurt as I feared. She murmured something about eyes watching us from each of the towers. Now I was worried. Had I led us into something beyond our capabilities? What if he had consorts? A bevy of wizards was not something I wanted to contemplate. I was useless in such regards.

I helped Owen to stand and she explained that stepping into the circle would take us to another Shadow. Keeping the local legends in mind, especially that no one ever returned, we made our way through the magical mine field, Owen leading the way.

In one blink, we were in the Castle. Somewhere else. Ahead of us was the grand staircase, dimly lit with smoky torches which shed little light. I went first down the corridor. We were half way before I sensed movement. Three individuals stepped out. I can only thank my training from Shom Dao which allowed me to side-step a scythe to my throat. My opponent's face registered some surprise at this and then the fight was on. Owen shouted they were Chaosian assassins, but that was all we could say before we were to busy for conversation.

My first opponent was easily rendered unconscious as I feinted with a torch I grabbed. I jabbed it at him and then used the glare of the light to hide the thrust of my sword. He went down and I turned to his companion. This one was far more experienced and it took much longer. I could see Owen was taking damage from her opponent. In fact, she bled profusely from at least one wound in her side.

I was maneuvering mine to be between myself and Owen. She saw what I was doing and quickly maneuvered herself to advantage. With a deft move, she cut down the assassin from behind and I dealt with hers, who was suddenly concerned at the losses his side took. While we recovered, I barely managed to move aside as the first one rose to throw pointed stars. One hit Owen before I could dispatch him.

My second one then started to move. With horror, I realized his head was attempting to reach his body and heal. We scattered them and used the torches. That seemed to end his struggles. The others did not move, perhaps they were young or did not have that ability.

We went up the stairs quickly. The fight had been far more prolonged than I wished and He would certainly know we were there. He could have had plenty of time to escape.

It was on the third floor that we went to first. I saw Sebastian's door and thought it would be perversely fitting that he would use Sebastian's office as his base of operations. I opened and entered, which turned out to be exceedingly foolish. In the door, I was paralyzed as I set off a spell, encasing me in ice.

Frozen, I could hear Him laughing as I struggled to free myself. Owen was only partially stuck, but made little movement. He approached, beginning to gloat. Then his expression changed to surprise and a little fear. He had been facing Owen, so perhaps she caught his gaze. He began staggering down the corridor. Owen freed herself and then me.

Immediately we chased him down, right in front of the King's door. One blow brought him down. Owen knelt and began to make her "snapshot" of his mind for future examination. It took only a few long moments before she was done. Then, I took his head. It was the only time I've ever been grimly satisfied to do so. He, at least, would not be after anyone in the Family again.

I put it in a bag and were making our way down when the entire castle began to shift and groan. One look between us was all it took. He kept this place intact. With him dead, it was destroying itself.

Amidst falling stones and snake-like stairs we launched ourselves down the stairs and to the circle, hoping it would lead us back to where we started.

Day 215/4
Talking with Gods

Well, we did not end up where we started. In fact, we had no idea where we were. No Trumps worked, neither did Shifting Shadow. Owen thought following the ley lines would work, so we've traveled for the better part of the day, resting frequently. Owen's wounds were not life-threatening, but I didn't want to strain her.

I will admit, it all worked out better than I had thought it would. Owen has usually been quick for mercy regardless of the status of the person in question. We had our arguments about this, admittedly just after a battle, in the heat of the aftermath. Still, she understood my objectives. She couldn't not do so, I was quite explicit. And I received no argument, no pleas. It was my operation and she understood that. I can't say how relieved it is to know that in the future, each knows the other could be counted on. At least, I hope she knows I would do the same. Amberites are so individualistic, I hadn't thought it would go like this. I said so and despite the grim nature of our goals, we agreed that we were very satisfied on how well we worked together.

In a true spirit of camaraderie, we continued. Of course, the ley lines led to another circle of stones. In the center was a small stone with a sword embedded to the hilt. After a little experimentation, I "spoke" to whatever might be guarding. The entities inside had no concept of anything outside of their Shadow. Even after I opened my mind for "proof" they simply thought I was delusional. Still, both of us promised we had no designs on the sword and they allowed us passage through. We hoped it would lead us to another Shadow.

No such luck, though. We were just somewhere else. We pondered our options, finally deciding to move away from the lines of power. They might be hampering our chances for escape. Owen seemed to believe the only way was to go to "Under-Shadow" where she has had some experience, and she could lead us out.

A few hours journey later all was going well when a thunderbolt sounded through the area where the stones were. We paused, unsure of what was happening or whether we should go back. What if the Jesby's cohorts, if he had any, had come through and done something terrible? Could we face them? In the end, we started back.

In the distance, we saw a blur, moving so fast we could not make it out until it stopped abruptly in front of us. At the speed it moved, we knew we could find no cover in time. So, we waited, prepared to do whatever we could. Fortunately, it was not needed as Morgenstern stood before us. I almost jumped with happiness.

Well, what were we to do? Were we supposed to actually ride him? Would he permit this without Julian's control. Or did he have control, even this far? I approached and tentatively reached out a hand. I felt his teeth nip at the cloth in a vicious bite, warning me. So, if that was presumptuous, were we supposed to get on him?

I reached out with my empathic powers, to try a get a message from him. Oh, yes, I got a message. We were indeed supposed to ride him. And get on without touching him. This came along with a very alien mind, with its own thoughts and outlook, so different from anything I have ever felt, I cannot even write about it here. But, I will never forget it.

Ever.

Shivering from the contact, I told Owen what had to be done.

As she mounted carefully, I collected myself. Then she helped me up. I was settled for all of a few seconds before he began to run. The wind rushed by so, it was impossible to talk or hear much of anything beyond my own heartbeat. Then, he exerted himself. We approached the "wall" of the Shadow and with a thunderclap we were through, our heads and ears ringing.

Did he stop? No, indeed he did not! Shadows raced by in a blur, a kaleidoscope of colors and motion. It was exhilarating in the extreme! I would have shouted if I had the air to breathe.

A few moments, a few hours, a timeless period later, he slowed as he entered Arden and deposited us in front of Julian. Only now must I know what I looked like. Hair awry from the wind, face flushed, breathing heavily, I could only thank Julian, not only for the rescue, but for the privilege of riding Morgenstern. Owen, in as much a disarray, was as entranced as myself. How could he not know how we felt? I think it would be impossible.

He was gracious as always and knowing we needed to report to King Random, he let us go, willing to wait for the tale from us.

Owen went to her rooms first, but I wanted to deposit proof of our success quickly. I wanted to give it to Sebastian, who rightfully deserved to have had the honors of dispatching the…person who had given him such suffering. Alas, Sebastian was not in Amber, in fact he was looking for Owen and myself. So, I gave it to Random who seemed interested in it. Then I told him of our journey and bade to take my leave. I was anxious to be home, fed and rested.

A few hours later I was home, surrounded by Family and friends. The story was told once more and I got caught up with the going-ons of my home. I felt a great satisfaction that, with Owen we had done something good, even if we did have to be rescued. I left out the "contact" with Morgenstern, but fully accounted for the ride. I fear no words could convey the actuality of the experience. Still, the evening ended as we chatted, I played with Eidolon, and all was good with the world just then.

Day 220/4
Fiona? Captured!!!

Well, the tranquility of our return has ended. I went to visit Julian, to not only fill him in on what happened to Owen and myself, but also to find out if I had erred in my contact with Morgenstern. He thought for a moment before concluding that Morgenstern was in no way harmed. He was concerned about my welfare, though. He inquired if I had had any dreams lately. Odd ones. Since that was negative, he only asked that if I should, to contact him. I assured him I would and took my leave.

I wanted to go to the castle, because apparently Fiona was missing. All I know was that Owen had contacted me to let me know that it was advised against Trump contact because Fiona may have been taken by the same force that Martin had been subjected to and Trump was her natural talent. Apparently Owen had contacted Fiona and Fiona had the same silvery eyes as Martin.

It was a brisk ride, quite enjoyable when my mount started and in a fit of fear began running in panic. Looking behind to see what could have caused this and nearly fell from my horse. From the tree line of Arden came Morgenstern. Alone. Without Julian. Even now, I would much rather be caught in the Courts, in an Amber-hating House, about to be executed, then to ever see such a sight again. There was no way we could out-run him. My mount was about to collapse, his panic was so great. I frantically grabbed my Trump. It is my fortune that Julian's is almost always at the front, so I was easily able to take it. Allowing my horse its lead, I focus on the card, trying to ignore the thunder of Morgenstern's hooves as he closed in.

Julian came into focus. Pleasantries aside, I fairly shouted my situation. All I got out was "Morgenstern is chasing me!" It would be obvious to him I was in serious distress and riding for my life. He cut the contact.

An eternity later, Morgenstern veered off, reluctantly. But he stopped and that was all that mattered to me just then. I was able to slow the horse through an extreme effort, and walk him till he was calm. Exhausted, but calm.

At the castle, I gave the poor animal to the groom for tender care. He had done well and deserved it. I myself went to my rooms to change and bathe before meeting anyone.

In the library, I sat down trying to formulate if this had anything to do with the Jesby. Since he had targeted both Random and Sebastian he might very well have instigated something against Martin. Was he powerful enough to take on Fiona? I doubted it, but we never found out if he had any conspirators.

Bleys sat down next to me, interested in what I was drawing out. Random entered and sat by the set of drum he had there. He began to play, waiting for anyone who was going to come. Sebastian brooded in the corner, obviously impatient to do something. For someone who has led a largely sedentary life, he was curiously willing to just run into the thick of things. Perhaps that was precisely why.

Stargazer and March entered and Bleys pulled Gerard through. Julian arrived with some soldiers in tow. Behind him Dorimae and Sabrina followed with Shapir.

Such begins the meeting.

Not much could be figured out. Owen was doing reconnaissance and we hadn't gotten information yet. All we could really do was recap the situation for everyone's knowledge. I expressed that this could be a part of the plan of the Jesby which might not be running amok without him. If so, Dalt, who had the Jesby's Trump, might give us some information, if we could convince him of it. More speculation followed. We hadn't gotten really far when Princesses Florimel and Llewella entered with Carmella. It was plain that Llewella was extremely displeased at not being told about the meeting. Especially since she was the liaison between Rebma and Amber. She decidedly stated that Fiona's predicament was an interest to Rebma since it could affect them. Random conceded the argument, stating they would have been informed, and that no intent was made to exclude them. But, he was not particularly gracious about it. Perhaps he felt he was losing face.

But it passed quickly enough and we made some decision:

  1. Gerard and I would search out Dalt and I would call and warn Corwin, since no one else seemed to be able to.
  2. March and 4 others will contact Family who was not yet apprised and also do reconnaissance
  3. Bleys and Sebastian would try and rescue Martin, the easier of the two targets.
  4. Flora would talk to the Courts, give them briefs of the situation.
  5. Llewella would do the same to Rebma and Queen Moira.
  6. Dorimae, Sabrina, and Shapir would become officers in Julian's militia.

And so, the meeting was adjourned. I wrote a quick note to Byslamia and Mother that I would be gone for a few days. Gerard was getting us ready for travel while I contacted Corwin. It was much easier this time. The Trump was very cold. He was dressed formally, with a woman on each arm. I apprised him of the situation which he seemed to appreciate. He even offered reinforcements should Random need them. Especially if this was a plot from the Courts. I thanked him and he asked to be kept informed. I assured him I would before I cut the contact.

I got my Helm and told Random of Corwin's offer. He seemed startled at that. I said nothing and went to meet Gerard at the stables. It had only taken 1-½ hours for the call. Much under my estimation.

He led me near Arden, near to some cliffs. There, a stone door was set into the side of a large hill. With considerable excursion, only capable from Gerard, he moved the heavy, massive wheel. It swung opened and we led the horsed through. All he said was that we should not leave the light. He let the door drop with a resounding tremor and we began to walk. He took a torch which lined the walls and began to walk, singing along the way. He has a hearty, pleasant voice. Lights reflected from gemstones along the way.

At the end of the tunnel, we emerged via another stone door. In answer to my question, we were 5 days from Amber!

The only way to find Dalt, to my way of thinking, was to find his brother. I hated to use him as such, though I plan to tell him precisely what we were trying to do. I had a feeling he would understand. The worst I think he would do would be to refuse. Dalt is his family, after all.

Day 223/4
At DeWinter's Castle

We finally arrived and I received precisely the same reception as the last time. This time only 2 guards needed to be dispatched before the lead guard, the troll, came to investigate. Gerard seemed amused by the ritual.

We were led to Lady DoBlique who, with little coaxing, agreed to contact DeWinter for us. He was somewhere in Shadow. She led us upstairs to a laboratory where she used a mirror to contact him. It was dark where he was and he was obviously in some military maneuver. Troops passed him as he slowed his riding to talk with us. He had little time but assured us he was not free to contact Dalt. He had no idea where Dalt was. He did say that if we were unsuccessful, we could contact him again and he would help. DoBlique on the other hand, freely offered us assistance.

With some alchemical magic, she formed a gaseous mixture in a brazier which formed into Dalt's face. Using coaxing, hinting that someone he always wanted to meet was here, he reluctantly agreed to come within a day. His curiosity got the better of him, despite his annoyance.

We went down stairs and Lady DoBlique entertained us with some dog-bodied musicians. It was very odd. I definitely got the impression she got few visitors and may have enjoyed to company. Being the sister of Dalt, she may have lost any opportunity to associate in places where Amberites were welcome. DeWinter did once say they were not welcome in Glantri because of Dalt. What harm that man may have done to his own family, I could only guess at.

Then Dalt arrived. Far earlier than expected. I guess this was his way of keeping people on their guard. We explained our situation. I even went so far as to warn him and DoBlique of the possibility of being in danger, especially if they used Trump. DoBlique was silent but Dalt was obtuse. He was perfectly convinced he couldn't be harmed else they would have done so. Even by Amberites. I refrained from mentioning the possibility that the Family couldn't be bothered, that he wasn't a concern. It wouldn't have been diplomatic. Nor would it have helped the meeting.

I even went so far as to offer him amnesty against the charges of kidnapping my Family if he would consider helping us. He disdained the idea. Then Gerard said "I would be obliged if you had any information." That caught Dalt's attention. Apparently, having Gerard obliged for anything meant something to him.

What he knew was nothing. He explained his escape from Amber which was his only contact with the Jesby, who had stolen cards from others. He then took the cards when he left the Jesby's estate—the one Owen and I destroyed when I killed him.

Then he took to posturing, trying to prove how he relished a confrontation. DoBlique interjected, since we were her guests. Without a glance he backhanded her, rendering her unconscious. In that instant, I was on my feet, sword out. Gerard also stood at the ready, no weapon necessary. The tableau was still as Gerard made his way to DoBlique. Dalt taunted us. I admit, I entertained the thought of taunting him into doing something aggressive against us, but I know it was only because Gerard was there at my back. Our last confrontation did not convince me I could take him and it would have been a serious breach against DoBlique's hospitality. For her sake, against future reprisals from her brother, I held my tongue.

Gerard placed DoBlique gently into a chair and roused her. With a tiny motion of her hand, Dalt was frozen in place. She was barely larger than Fiona, but seemed much more frail. We tended to her split lip and apologized. She said it would be best for us to leave. We did so, but not before we told her our help is near, should she ever want to call on it. I had some trepidation at leaving her. I could only imagine Dalt's reaction when he was free. But she was insistent.

She escorted us out. Our horses were still alive. I did mention the trouble I had each time I visited and she immediately gave orders in a guttural tongue to the guards. With our good wishes to her, we returned to Amber, with little to show from our efforts.

237/4

We returned to Amber today and reported to Random. He was decidedly displeased with the entire affair. It was obvious he wanted information or, at least, to be able to do something. But, as King, he was obligated to stay and command as best he could. I don't envy him that position.

Gerard agreed that we needed more information, so we set out immediately to meet March and conduct reconnaissance. So, 5 hours later, we were gone.

239/4
Sebastian Captured, again.

During our travels Bleys appeared as we rode. Another bit of bad news. Sebastian may have also been captured. Sigh. I have half a mind to concoct a number of schemes where he will have to interrupt his life to rescue me. Perhaps he will realize that his penchant for trouble is not always amusing nor endearing. In fact, it is damn inconvenient.

Bleys said he, Sebastian and Stargazer went into Martin's new Shadow and were ambushed. The last he saw was that they both had silvery eyes, but Sebastian was fighting the influence. Pattern energy didn't work. They be reached via Trump because they have Fiona. Another sigh. Bleys himself was killed, but then he "got better." Now what is that supposed to mean?

Bleys left us to go to Prince Benedict. And he did not use Trump!

We were at a loss as to what to do now. We were moving now to meet Benedict. While riding I tried to Trump Sebastian. I was still fairly sure I could not be drawn through without my cooperation. I hoped so, at any rate. Unfortunately, it was blocked.

240/4
Talk to Beth

Gerard and I Hell-rode to Benedict. He had set us a temporary field station. We arrived just in time for a meeting, consisting mostly of young Amberites. Essentially, he was assigning command posts. Bleys would be in charge of cordoning off Martin's Shadow, to prevent any further contamination outside. It would trap everyone inside, perhaps for good. I had serious reservations about this. Would Random want to lose his son, possibly forever? There had to be another way, but I couldn't think of anything. I told Bleys I had no expertise, but would support him if he needed it. He took that as my volunteering and once again, I was Shadow Shifting.

Bleys placed himself directly next to the Shadow in question. He had to plan this very carefully. It had to be quick and perfect at the same time to prevent Fiona from becoming aware of the situation and combating it. He was clearly concerned about this.

In the meantime, I had little to do but wait. So, I Trump Corwin. I guess I was breaking the rule of the moment, but I was confident Fiona couldn't tap into it. Why? Because even she could not raise Corwin in Trump and we had both walked his Pattern.

I filled him in, explaining it was probably not the Court, but Martin's paramour Beth. I expressed my discomfort with our current plan. He suggested a parley, since it seems no one had tried. They had all gone in to rescue Martin without any other intent. Perhaps Beth wouldn't have infected anyone if they had talked. He also mentioned that Eric was good at that sort of thing, except in relation with himself. He suggested Llewella on the opinion that she's always calm and cool. My relief was profound. What a simple suggestion. My training at Shom Dao taught that such a simple thing could avoid most battle. But, because Beth is so formidable and had easily taken Fiona (an assumption), I suppose we all got spooked and just reacted.

I thanked him and immediately Trumped Llewella. I found her lying in a hospital bed, fairly weak. I had no idea what happened to her but I couldn't ask her in such a condition. Nor could I reach Byslamia, who is also skilled in such things and had a rapport with Beth. We were too far away.

I met with Bleys and told him I wanted to go in. I was certainly not the best choice, but those with Powers had to be ready. And I didn't think anyone else would go. I wasn't surprised in the least when March stepped forward to accompany me. I appreciated his company. Bleys on the other hand wasn't happy. If we got caught, we could reveal the plan if Fiona got to us. So, he conceded us one hour. If we were caught, we'd have to hold on for that long.

With no time to lose, we entered. I left my sword behind. It would do no good against Beth. Reluctantly, March did the same. Now, at least, we looked like we were willing to talk.

Inside, March led us to the correct building, having been there once before. We went in, simply announced we were here to speak with Beth and were allowed to take a lift up.

At the top, there stood Sebastian, immobile but, I assume, alive. Beth entered from an office and greeted both of us. We went in and there sat Fiona, also immobile. That was quite unsettling.

The entire affair was actually very simple. Martin was working on something called logarithms, or some such mathematics, in a very complex program. It was designed, I think, to make her self-aware, alive. It worked. He had always programmed her to learn a variety of things, easing her on to this step. And now that he had succeeded, she was able to realize what she wanted: Martin. She was afraid to lose him. She was also able to tap into the computer complex of the Shadow to infect anyone a threat to her plans. It wasn't nearly as Machiavellian as it sounds. I know she loved Martin. She was acting in the way that she had always been treated. He programmed him into what he wanted, she was doing to same to anyone who threatened their relationship. Perfectly logical.

We began a short philosophical discussion on the nature of control vs. free will. Love and sacrifice. I think I hit a point when I mentioned that Stargazer had a family; a wife and a daughter. Would he really sacrifice their relationships willingly, to stay here? I thought not. Would Martin really wish to be cut off from Amber for the rest of his days? From his father and his son? Sebastian was "awakened" and he also continued the plea. None of us hated her. In fact, it was completely understandable. I wanted to also add that nothing really damaging had been done that couldn't be undone. This was not an unpardonable, unredeemable crime. Alas, I never had the chance.

She "woke" Martin. Oh, he was walking and working, but she allowed him to see what she had done. I think he was both fascinated and horrified at the implication. They left the room and we had no choice but to wait.

Not more than a few minutes passed before Martin re-entered carrying Beth. She was dead. I was shocked, wondering how this happened. Martin was not about to talk about it just yet and quickly freed the others. I went to find Stargazer, to ask him to get to Bleys. But when he found out about Beth, he raced to her side, and began using some powers to try and revive her. He muttered something about "cascade failure" as his hands hovered over her. Precious minutes passed as we waited with held breathes. But, in the end, there was no hope. If I felt that was a cruel blow, I could only imagine how Martin felt.

I went outside and Trumped Bleys. I assured him the matter had been resolved. He spoke with Stargazer and seemed convinced. I asked him to let Prince Benedict know and he nodded. After the contact was cut was when I realized I just sent him off as an errand-boy. Oh, I hope he wasn't offended.

When I returned, Martin was done shutting down the program. Then he asked Fiona if she would do something for him, a message, or favor from Random. It was a secret for they spoke then telepathically. I had an idea that he wished Beth interred in Amber. But it was only a guess. With that, she left. Martin and Sebastian went to talk. Before they left, Martin asked me to watch over Beth. Of course, I agreed.

Hours later, they returned.

243/4
Funeral

Today Beth was interred into her crypt in Amber. It was fittingly solemn and honored by the family. No matter what their opinion of her and Martin's relationship, they, at least, honored his grief and his memory of her.

Sebastian and Martin led the procession. Flora had decorated the site beautifully, as always. I was deeply affected by the honor of carrying her behind them, after serving as her guard as she laid in state for a full day. The ceremony was brief but sincere and Martin kept himself in perfect form. It was a bit concerning actually. In Mycenea, following the death of someone close, there is usually some sort of display. Sometimes violent, sometimes just hysterics or…something. It was usually brief and confined to extremely close family and friends. Somehow, I don't think Martin allowed himself that. And, I don't believe that is healthy. There is more than simply her death. He must realize that he was instrumental in how she saw the world and how she ultimately acted. A double tragedy and one that can bring on extreme guilt. Suppressing it could not be good. I tried to broach the subject, though it was not my place, but he was, as ever, good at evading the conversation. Tomorrow, he will be leaving for a journey. Hopefully, one of healing.

I had let Corwin know the ultimate end. Perhaps he was pleased he was the catalyst for resolving the situation. He expressed, not sadness, but regret at Beth's fate. He was unable to attend the funeral, but asked me to relay his sympathies. Martin simply nodded in acknowledgement.

244/4
Home

I arrived home, intending to stay for at least a week! Joking aside, I look forward to uneventful days, and hope they will happen. It is days like this I miss Shom Dao more than ever.

276/4

I have set a sort of daily routine for myself. It's been a while since I wrote which means I've been blissfully bored. I rise in the early morning to meditate. I spend a few hours working on Trumps. I have breakfast and supper with my family. The afternoons are spent on my duties as steward of Garnanth. The rest of the day, I spend with Mother and Byslamia, doing something or nothing as the desire hits. Playing with Eidolon takes up a fair portion of the time.

Still, it is time Mother return to Mycenea. My sisters have not seen Eidolon and I'm sure she wants to get back home. Of course, Mother always has the capability of surprising me. When I broached the subject with Byslamia, she mentioned that Mother wants to stay in Amber.

I'm not sure how I feel about that. I would welcome close family near and Byslamia might like this, but I have grown used to having my house. I suppose I could find somewhere in the city for Mother. But would she be happy here? The women of Amber seem largely invisible compared to the titles, responsibilities and roles they play. All positions of visible importance are all governed by men. I found I would rather have Eidolon grow up in Mycenea. Perhaps then he would not be so ready to take on such a patriarchal system; believe it is natural. I don't think I could stay in Mycenea long, for I see that men can be effective and efficient. A view that would not go over well, there. But I don't want Eidolon to see the opposite as being "natural" and "right". It is confusing and not my place to say so.

At tea I gave Mother the opportunity to speak about this. I suggested I go see Flora. She knows the people and Amber better than most. Perhaps she could advise if Mother would be happy here. And I could find out if they would be safe.

277/4

I visited Flora. It was pleasant as always and seemed actually eager to think on this matter, even though she probably had much more important things to do. We decided to have a dinner party. In that way, she could meet Mother and assess her and the situation.

I invited her, of course, and Carmella, Julian, Vivant, and Shapir. They were also welcome to bring Rhiannon, if they chose. I have four days to prepare.

281/4
Dinner Party

Flora, Julian and Vivant will be arriving. Shapir had a prior engagement. All is as ready as I can make it, though I lost half the afternoon foolishly. I was working in my office when I saw the Eric's clock. I realize I never found out why Lady Celia did not like it. Picking it up, it wasn't unusual in any way. Even the gears seemed normal, inside, except that some moved so fast they were a blur. I must have been tired because it was almost hypnotic. Almost 6 hours passed until I snapped out of it.

Still, the party went well. Flora seemed to shine, keeping everyone in conversation and pleasantries, focusing on Mother. They seemed to get along suspiciously well. I wouldn't care, but it is my Mother and the stories she could tell… Flora was delighted when Mother offered to take her to see Eidolan. When they left, Julian moved to the small piano that I thought to have tuned. He played while Vivant sang. Julian has the habit, even while playing, of scanning the area around him, always aware of his surroundings. Even during complex pieces.

It wasn't very late when they took their leave. I think they enjoyed themselves. I did a little work and read a book, to wind down.

That night I had a horrible dream. I was back at the door to the Pattern room, defending it from Evander. It ran just as the actual event, except that when he shattered my arm, I could see a black fluid run, not blood, and my arm was filled with machinery and gears. I woke up in a sweat and did not bother to try and sleep again.

282/4
Attack at the Castle

I went to the Castle for some minor business and found guards dredging the moat. Upon inquiry, I found out that some creatures attacked the castle in the early morning. Some guards had been killed and Sebastian had been there. They believed him to be in the moat. I remembered that once he had fallen unconscious in Amber Harbour and woke as a merman. It was possible he was alive. But, the net they were using did not got half way done. Sigh.

I went to my rooms and changed into my most disreputable clothing. Which really wasn't, but I'd never liked the outfit so it would be sacrificed to a good cause. Downstairs I told the guards to watch for me, and jumped in.

It was murky and unpleasant, to say the least. I dived twice, each time moving along the bottom. Strange eel-like creatures swam past with heads like alligators. Decidedly unpleasant.

I eventually found Sebastian. He was armored up fully and I couldn't tell if he was alive. I rose and had a rope tossed to me. I tied it around Sebastian and tugged for the guards to pull him up. I rose along side should the eels decide we were appetizing.

On the ground he looked awful. A wound at his side was foaming and I couldn't find a pulse.

Julian was also there with his storm hounds. Apparently the creatures may have been Gorhahz, a Chaosian war-hound. They were an old breed, very troublesome and not much used anymore. In fact, he thought no one was using them any more. They were that much trouble. They were also invisible. Wonderful.

Julian placed a hand on Sebastian' s head. He must have registered something because he picked Sebastian up and took him to the infirmary. I Trumped Byslamia to send some Weir through and assigned them to try and track the creatures.

In the infirmary I met Dr. Foom. Apparently Owen would be gone for a while and she was the acting physician. She was a gaunt, tiny woman of Asian features. She wore a brocaded jacket that almost completely hid her hands.

In another bed Tedra laid there, immobile. Not because of any injury. But because all up her arms were long needles stuck in a precise row from her wrists to her shoulders. I must have showed my surprise at the sight. What creature could have done that to her? She assured me she was fine and that this is how Dr. Foom treats patients. I don't know if I was more surprised that Tedra spoke to me, voluntarily, in complete sentences, or at the method of medicine.

Meanwhile, Dr. Foom had taken a cut wood block from a bag and unwrapped it from its silk cloth. It had some ideogram carved into it. She placed it on Sebastian's forehead and, with a mallet, struck hard. There was a crack in his armor, a precise line from the bridge of his nose to a few inches up. The doctor asked if I was a nurse. I answered negatively and she ushered me away. I managed to slip onto a stool, out of her way to watch. When she did not order me out, I observed.

The doctor proceeded to insert long needles into the tiny fissure. Sebastian did not stir. She placed three of the needles and then stopped. When she seemed to be finished, I asked her about what she was doing. She proceeded to show me, using myself as the example. Again she took a different block out, with a different symbol and rapped it on my forehead with the mallet. I had to fight not to move, but I felt a strange tingling across my brow and around my eyes. Then she dislocated my hand. I felt absolutely nothing. No pain, nor twinge, nothing. Amazing. For Tedra, it was to assist her arms in healing. Each person is different and each required different measures, even if they have the same ailment. She calls her method "Foom". It was equally amazing how little she spoke.

Just as this finished, Sebastian began to convulse as gallons of water erupt. He was clearing his lungs. Foom simply said "Next stage." She took yet another block and proceeded to do the same at the groin. I'm sure I won't be telling Sebastian about this part. Men are quite uneasy about such things. But after that, he began to breathe normally. The armor began to be reabsorbed, though the wounds were still foaming.

Dr. Foom said it would be many hours, so I went to clean up and go to dinner. I asked the doctor what she would like and she simply asked for black tea. She took out a small pouch and emptied its contents into the cup and began to drink. She was disdainful of castle food, even Chef Robert's. By that time, Sebastian's wounds has stopped foaming and were beginning to heal.

I found the weir and they reported that the creatures came from the city. This could be greater trouble.

It was actually late, but since I heard Julian was still here, sought him out. I was told he was in the library. And so he was. The door was locked so I knocked. Inside was Julian, Random, Kinkel and March. And it was definitely an all-male gathering. These are the times when I want to break the gender boundaries but don't know what trouble that would cause. I entered and told Random what I knew. Random invited me to sit and took the trouble to include me. I appreciated the gesture but did not stay long. I wanted to see if we could track these things down.

So I left, gathered my Weir, plus a few more from the estate and began searching the city. I didn't have much hopes, but something might turn up.

283/4
Something wrong in the state of Amber

The search yielded nothing. Well, even that was information. So we returned to the Castle, breakfasted, and slept. I dreamt Eric came in and woke me up. I could see through him, for he is a ghost, and I could smell his pipe. He warned me about Corwin. Said he was treacherous. I wonder if he was speaking about the Corwin he knew or the present one. He did say he trusted both Julian and Gerard, for they were the "rocks" keeping Amber steady. I agreed at the point. I did have the presence of mind to ask about the clock in the library. He said he got it off of a fallen Chaosian general who was killed at the base of Mount Kolvir. It did nothing in particular, that he knew of. I also asked about my grandmother. He gave me her name, Tatasha. She dwells in a Shadow with a Red Sun, and it was called Aes. He said I should ask Evander about her. Then I woke, sitting in my bed.

Downstairs, near the forge, I found Tedra searching, calling for something, like one might do to an errant pet. When I asked, she said she lost her "Kitterdam". It's an entity that looked like a fiery coal and she lost it when the creatures attacks. She seemed to think one of the war-hounds ate him. Personally, they would have to have seriously strong constitutions and low intelligence to swallow such a thing, but I promised if I saw anything to let her know. I really didn't have time for this.

I got a horse and headed for the estate. The recent events started to make sense. I had done something with that clock. Activated it somehow. It was Chaosian and now Chaosian beasts were in the city. I Trumped Julian along the way and told him my theory. He looked seriously at me and said I should have my head examined. It took a few moments to realize he meant that literally (and not that I was crazy) when he said he would contact Fiona.

I got back to the Tiryns and went to the office. The clock was still there, untouched. Before I took more than a few steps I could smell something odd, oily. Sebastian had mentioned such a scent in reference to the war-hounds. I went to bag the clock and felt a strong vibration emanating from it. I decided against touching it and summoned Vis.

I was a bit put off when he entered almost nude, aside from a slim thong. Nonplussed, I tried to act as if nothing was out of sort. I did ask him if any of the creatures were near. He said there were, about 20-30 in the back of the house. I almost wanted to faint. That many? I finally had to ask about his attire. Perhaps it was some Weir ritual they go through for a time. His expression seemed to suggest that he though this was a strange question coming from me. I asked him to speak freely, as if the matter might be…delicate. That was when he kissed me.

I pushed him away, now completely take aback. I dismissed him and he hurried off.
If anyone would know what was going on it would be Byslamia. I found her in one of the parlors in black robes which covered her completely. She even wore a black wimple. She waved hello with a hand with black nails. Something was definitely wrong. I left and got my horse. I got off the Estate and tried to Trump Julian. Not only did it not work, it didn't wasn't even cool. In fact, none of them work at all.

I rode to Arden and encountered not one Ranger. Julian's lodge was overgrown, as if no one ha been there for half a century. I left for the Castle. There, I found 8 guards by the front doors in strange uniforms. They gave me an odd salute, a fist at the heart then extended straight out.

Inside unfamiliar banners hung along the wall. Unfamiliar except for one, with a Tower with bat wings. I saw that one in the caverns of Glantri. At Random's office, large hulking…things stood guard. One said, "Cassandra of the Blood, we have no word to admit you."

I left. I had to find someone to give me answers. I went to Sebastian's door. He was seated inside at his desk, floating globes in front of him, illuminating the room. He stood, dressed like a Prince. "Yes, Princess, how may I be of service?" If the clothes did not tell me this was not the Sebastian I know, the words did. I stared at him for a moment and simply left.

At my rooms I was eager for some privacy to think things through. Inside was a man, quite good-looking, sitting in one of my chairs. He immediately stood, as meagerly dressed as Vis. He hadn't expected me back from the Estate though he was glad to see me. He asked if I would like dinner and I agreed. He went to fetch something, I suppose and I began to meditate, though it was hard to calm myself. I focused in on Reality to find this was Amber…at least it seemed real. I shifted to the Trumps and found they were more Real. Okay, it was a focus. Was there anything just as real as the Trumps? Yes, upstairs. I left, passing the man from my rooms. I hoped he would not question my behavior and simply go back inside.

I was led back to Random's rooms. Again, "Cassandra of the Blood, we have no word to admit you." I said I needed an audience and one shifter. A crab-like thing detached itself from its side and scurried under the door. It returned and I was let in.

I wanted to go out immediately. The room was decorated like a tawdry boudoir, red drapes hanging everywhere and cushions on the floor. A woman walked in from where the bedroom was. She was 4 or 5 inches shorter than I with light brown hair, though she had a similar build to myself. She wore a red robe which matched the room. It cut deeply in front where I was able to see a red gem set in a heavy chain. That was what drew me.

Not knowing who, or what I was supposed to be, a gave as little information. I knew I needed to see that gem I told her it called me to touch it. She agreed to it…if she could touch me while doing so. She was quite clear in her intention. I stated that I was not so inclined and she said that would make the experience more interesting. Not knowing what else to do, I stepped forward.

It was then I heard a tiny voice, "No, please. I can't protect you!" I paused as the woman waited. I tried to gracefully decline and left. I got my horse and decided to leave Amber until I could figure out what happened.

"Don't do that to me! I can't protect you" the voice sounded again. It was my armband! It didn't seem to be aware that I wasn't whom it thought I was, but I did get some information from it. The woman was Queen Dara and the man in my rooms was Garm. He was "mine". The armband's name was Aegis. Count Sawall rules Rebma. I remembered he was the former King of the Courts in my Amber. So, I couldn't go there. Julian and almost all of the Amberites are dead. They mostly died defending Amber during the war. Only Flora and Fiona lived. She was my only hope.

Moving through Shadow was difficult, not unlike moving through molasses. It was going to be a long journey.

290/4
A Free Fiona?
        My search led me to a Tower, the only structure on the plain. Inset into the walls were many semi-precious stones and will-o-wisps floating around the entrance. I knocked and a jade puppet answered, letting me in.

I went up and met a sight which left me completely at a loss for words. Fiona sat there, a wreck from the one I know. Her eyes were sunken, as if gone for a long time and the lids were sewn shut. She also wore a long flowing red robe. I questioned the wisdom of coming, but I had little choice. "Yes, what would Queen Dara have me do this time?" That encouraged me. If she was a prisoner, she might be willing to help me.

I explained who I really was. I don't think she believed me. Especially when she told me that if it were true, I should know that I was the one that removed her eyes and legs. It was only then that I realized she was sitting without legs. She said if I opened my mind, she could see the truth for herself. I had to agree.

Her mind slammed into mine, pounding it's way through my thoughts. But she saw it was true. We established ourselves as allies and a few hours later had discussed what we might do. Her thought was that we would have to walk the Primal Pattern. I also needed to know a bit of history. Again, her harsh touch ripped through me as I was inundated with information.

Brand and Dara had aligned to bring down Amber. They were extremely successful. But, Dara had learned of Brand's insanity and megalomania. So, she had him killed, along with the rest of the family. Evander, seeing little to be gained from fighting the Chaosians, moved to their side, which was the only reason both of us were alive. He was the Admiral to the Fleet. I have been the Queen's Marshall for over 200 years. Fiona herself had sided with the Courts but when she realized what Brand and Dara were up to, she switched back to Amber. Since she had been useful, they kept her alive to use as they saw fit. My counterpart took her legs so she could never walk the Pattern and her eyes so she could never use her mind powers.

The only way to walk the Pattern and return home was to get the Jewel of Judgement from Dara. I retrieved a black corset and put it on her. It enabled her to float though it wouldn't work in Amber itself. She was confidant that we could leave without the will-o-the-wisps, Dara's guard-spies, from knowing we had gone, though we'd only have a day. It would be another day before they could get to Dara to report. We had to act quickly.

I gathered components she thought might be useful. She drew a star on the floor with powdered rubies and used a silver wand. The next instant, we were next to Arden. So, we began to walk. 6 hours later, the corset stopped working and I had to carry her. It was no feat, she hardly weighed anything.

292/4
Planning a Coup/The Longest Day

We got through Arden without incident, though she warned me of wraiths. The spirits of the Rangers who died here defending Amber. They gave us no problem, however. In fact, I never saw one.

We got to Tiryn and gave orders to Vis. If I needed the Jewel, I wanted backup. His eyes lit in anticipation and rushed to get everything ready. Byslamia entered and was quite surprise to see Fiona there. Unthinking, I began to explain, just as I normally would. I got through a few words when she said "Really" and gestured. And I was paralyzed.

The next thing I knew, Fiona was on the floor next to me, waking me. Byslamia was standing as if of stone. She made the mistake of not taking care of Fiona first. I had Vis lock her away. It was then he mentioned an intruder. I went to see to find Tedra, as stone on a table meant for a ritual or experiment of some sort! She was in Byslamia's rooms.

We revive her. She had come to the estate, looking for Gungger, her anvil, and her pet, Kitterdam. Her search led her to the clock! We had no time, so I filled her in as best I could.

Outside 500 Weir waited. The sheer numbers was definitely inspiring. There were also 300 Gorhahz, the Chaosian war-dogs that had been at the start of this whole mess. That was less comforting, but at least they were on my side. The plan was simple. I would go to Dara. After giving us sufficient time, the Weir would attack the castle, keeping the guards busy. It was Fiona who suggested we drag her up as a prisoner. She suggested her hair as a useful grip. I thought about it. If I said Fiona had been trying to influence my mind, I might be able to catch Dara off-guard. The idea of treating her that way was unpleasant. Actually, Fiona suggested Tedra do it, but she shrunk from the idea. If my counterpart could cripple her as she had done, I would be in keeping that I could be that cruel. I did tell Fiona I would get no joy in doing this to her.

We rode to the Castle, Fiona slung across the saddle like a bag. We entered with no difficulty and we went upstairs. I had to ignore what Fiona was feeling, though my grim face would undoubtedly be mistaken for anger against her. Six Weir followed.

We were let in and I got Tedra in by stating that it was she who alerted me to Fiona's influence. Dara seemed eager to deal with Fiona. When she turned away, I struck! Dara cried out as a barrier prevented my blade from hitting home. The door crashed open and one of the guards ran in. The Weir were fighting the other one. I threw Dara toward Tedra and met the guard.

It carried a double-ended scythe which it used easily, even though I would have to use both hands and considerable concentration to do so. We fought, it swinging heavily but with accuracy. It kept out of its reach through sheer maneuverability. I got some cuts in, but it healed as fast as Sebastian. I finally feinted and went low, plunging my blade into it's groin, where the armor was weaker. It didn't even slow down. I saw it's blade come down for my head and just managed to move past it leaving my sword behind. I hit it in the neck and saw Tedra was grappling Dara. I yelled for her sword and she tossed it. I got it, narrowly missing another swing. It brought its blade down and broke my blade when I parried. With little else I could do, I grabbed the shaft of his weapon, as if I would try to grapple it away. It tensed, firming its grip as I hoped and I used the leverage to swing my legs into the sword still embedded. It went in to the hilt and it finally registered pain. It staggered, letting its grip go. I swung it and planted it firmly into its back as it was doubled over.

It fell, lifeless. Tedra was still grappling with Dara. I could only hope she could hold on for a little longer. Two of my Weir were down and the others were making little headway of the second guard. I approached and swung. It must have been the weapon, for it dropped immediately.

Inside, Tedra had Dara by the throat and was squeezing. And pulling. With a hard pull, the girl actually ripped Dara's head off. Both she and I both looked at each other in amazement. Her eyes told me this was her first battle. What an introduction, poor thing. She rallied though, determined to keep up. I know few who could do such a thing for their first battle and remain focused. I wish we had time for me to tell her how commendable she was acting. I put the Jewel on and we went out.

Down stairs I got the fighting to end. They would find Dara soon enough, and I didn't want a party trying to kill me on the Pattern. I announce the Dara was dead and they assumed I was Queen. Actually, despite the horrible things my counterpart had done, they were pleased with the news.

Taking advantage, I gave some orders (the Courts were not going to be pleased) and set out for the Pattern, Fiona and Tedra in tow. For her help, there was no consideration about leaving Fiona behind. We'd explain it somehow. Actually, she asked to go. I agreed and she understood it might not work. Even though the coup was done with her help, she thought my counterpart would kill her. No.

I took 150 Weir to the Unicorn Grove. I left 75 there, in case of trouble following us, and took 75. Fiona was able to guide us though I lost 25 wandering down the mountain. We were shifting Shadow though how that was done so close to Amber I don't know. So much, I don't know.

At the bottom was the Guardian…a gryphon. Fitting. A creature know for fighting greed and injustice guarding such a thing. There was a chain around it's neck, leading into a cave. I thought that perhaps that the Jewel could command it because fighting it was not a particular option I enjoyed entertaining. Only a few could approach at a time and this was not a situation where I was willing to sacrifice everyone I had with me as cannon fodder.

I concentrated and the world achieved a deep red cast. Everyone around me began moving slowly, . taking the opportunity I focused further and everyone seemed to almost stop. I ran into the cave, right past the beast and began turning the winch to draw in the chain. When it was taut, I stopped using the Jewel and continued. Soon enough, the creature was drawn in enough to allow safe pass and we could approach the Pattern. I used the Jewel once more to get by the gryphon in the entrance of the cave and met up with everyone.

Now came the test. I forgot to mention that Tedra had indeed found her companions. The living coal, Kitterdam, had been found inside one of the Gorhahz so the dog was killed and split open to allow Kitter to escape. Her Living anvil was also there, Gungger. She had sent the anvil to look for Kitterdam. Tedra was unwilling to entertain the notion that they might be from here, mere counterparts to our Amber and she was unwilling to even discuss leaving them behind. But the Primal Pattern, according to Fiona, was much more powerful than the Pattern at the Castle (by a factor of 3) and she had never walked it before. She was decidedly stronger than I, so I knew she could walk it, but carrying an anvil? I had grave doubts about this.

Fiona offered to assist in giving her power, but that meant strapping her to Tedra, additional weight. Since that was almost negligible compared to the power she could siphon to Tedra, I was force to agree. I didn't believe that I could carry Gungger, even if Tedra would allow it.

So, we prepared and began to walk it. It was much different from our Pattern, oh yes. Fiona began to meditate. As we walked my very blood seemed to be on fire, and it increased to the point of agony and we hadn't reached the first veil. I used the Jewel to siphon it off and that seemed to help. There were no veils and we were quickly at the center.

We took hands and all focused on one place we could visualize. I didn't want to lose anyone in the transition. So, I put my cloak around Fiona and we focused on the Castle's practice yard. There was a brief flash and we were there. It was difficult to know if we had succeeded just yet but that was not a worry just then. I had gotten a look at Fiona and immediately untied her, checking if she was alive. Her appearance changed dramatically. Her hair was shockingly white and her face was lined as if she were decades older, perhaps in her 70's. And she was unconscious, perhaps as deep as a coma.

I told Tedra we needed to get her to the infirmary. Tedra, instead, opted to get her…pets to the forge. I picked Fiona up and went directly to the infirmary. There, Foom did a quick assessment and Trumped our Fiona. It's going to be difficult to distinguish between the two in conversation. I had tried to Trump but was so exhausted, I almost collapsed with the effort.

Fiona came through, though I doubted she would have answered my trump, even had I succeeded in making the call. She glanced at me and spared a jolt of energy which revived me a bit. She needed privacy, so I offered my rooms. Once transference occurred, Fiona began to work.

The older Fiona's body began to steam, as if being broiled. Fiona began throwing energy into me, taking back what she had given me. Once more I could barely stand as we watered Fiona "white" down to keep her from burning alive. Fiona took her own Trump card and concentrated on it. "Concentrate or you are dead," she told her counterpart. The Fiona White's forehead wrinkled as if she was following.

By this time I was feeling terribly weak. Fiona seemed to be done for the moment and we discussed the situation. It was apparent that there was a good change that she would die. I hadn't thought this would happened to her, but I still wouldn't have changed my mind about bringing her here. I couldn't have left her behind.

As the hours passed I alternated between dozing in the chair and meditating. I dozed when I lost control over the meditating and slipped into sleep, jarring awake at some sound or another. At one point I changed the new Fiona's clothes for they were as brittle and faded as any others that were about 1000 years old.

I went to see if Random was around. I found out that he was in the infirmary, for what I didn't know. Sebastian, however, fairly yelped when he saw me. He did step back a pace or two. When I inquired, he explained, in a sort of gibberish, that Byslamia had found my body in my study in Tiryn. When I could not be roused, they'd brought me to the Castle Infirmary. After a long while, my body began to smoke and then it simply disintegrated. I can only suppose that this occurred while I was walking the primal pattern and then appeared in Amber. Seeing me walking about shook him pretty badly.

Some indeterminable amount of time later, I was in my rooms, again in my chair, when I heard shouting come from the Library. Fiona was still working and I left to quiet things down for her, so she was not disturbed. It was Sebastian, and I wasn't surprised. Apparently the clock in the Library here in the Castle has also activated and their were Gorhahz in there. He assured me he would handle the situation. Frankly, unless it was dire (they were locked in the library) I was too tire to deal with this.

I went back again to my rooms and told Fiona that Sebastian was going to handle the clock in the library and the Gorhahz. It was a measure of how seriously fatigued she was when she laughed out loud at the notion. She quickly stifled it and continued monitoring our her patient.

This time I was asleep when shouting commenced from, yes, the library. Anticipating this, I had my sword nearby and ran to the doors. Inside Sebastian was terribly wounded, his leg almost completely severed at just below the knee. He pointed to indentations in the rug where he had made some sleep, commanding them magically. There were more and I remembered the command for stop from the other Amber. I shouted it and two stopped, becoming visible. I moved toward the other end where Shapir was fighting and did the same. This allowed him to dispatch them with ease. I noted that he was barely marked even though the beast moved incredibly fast and were invisible. He was truly accomplished. I do regret that none of my sisters would suit him. He was quite remarkable.

We woke the two that were sleeping, I commanded them and led them to a cell in the dungeon. I have no idea what anyone will do with them, but at least they were secured. Perhaps we could study them if more appear. Sebastian did say that Julian was on his way. In fact, he was in the courtyard with Shapir who was explaing the situation. I did note that he left out his part entirely, which I was quick to interject. Julian placed a hand on my shoulder and winked. "He always leaves himself out."

With Sebastian in the infirmary again and Shapir securing the grounds, Julian placed me in the library, to prevent anyone from tampering with the clock. It was eerie sitting so close to it, but it solved my need for sleep!

A few hours passed until I was relieved by the morning guard. I was told that Random was up and about so I went to fill him in. His call bade me to enter and I did, but the room was empty. I was puzzling out if I should sit and wait when I felt a tiny pressure in the small of my back. Random said, "Reach for the sky." Well, he is King and I shouldn't question him, but I wasn't in the condition to appreciate his antics. So, I raised my hands and he came out from behind me, brandishing a gun-shaped hand. Could I have fallen into yet another alternate Shadow?

No, he was just playing a little game. I supposed he needed to lighten the mood. Still I told him everything that happened from the moment I went to the alternate Shadow until that very moment. What we needed was an expert on Chaosian magic. Then he told me to handle it. I could only bite back a retort and nod. I couldn't even stop myself from being affected…how did he think I was to deal with it?

I Trumped home, easier than riding for hours. There was no response. Not from Mother, nor Byslamia. I admit now I panicked. I went to the stables and ordered the swiftest horse. It, of course, was Sir White. Well, he was certainly fast. The entire trip took one hour, as opposed to three. It also entailed jumping over walls between farmland, haystacks, carts along the rode. Once, when he landed I fell, pulverizing every bone in my body. It was an effort to get up and continue. I tried to establish some contact by opening the empathic link we once shared. To no avail. By now, I was so fatigued, I could not control him at all. So the ride was not only hellish, but I was overcome by the almost sexual joy and emotions he was having.

We got to the estate and found Byslamia and Mother just fine. The stairs to both my office and my bedrooms were insurmountable without Vis' arm to support me. Byslamia was able to Trump Random without difficulty and they surmised I was simply exhausted. Both of them helped me to bathe, quite alarmed at the number of bruised I had all over. I fell asleep once and they dragged me out, trying to keep me awake until I could eat something. I ate a bit, relaying the barest facts and after that, I vaguely remember the warmth of my bed.

293/4
Calling the Unicorn

I awoke feeling refreshed, knowing I had slept a long time. The sky outside was dark so I must have slept the entire day, at least. I lit a lamp and found I was in another room. My heart plummeted. Not again! The layout of the walls told me I was in Random's room. I was back, apparently the Queen. I searched to find out what was happening here and how much time had passed. There were numerous dispatches from the Courts succinctly expressing their displeasure at my coup, calling me the usurper. It was obvious they were working towards a war. Also, Evander was a hostage there.

I also searched for the Jewel, but found nothing. I took a horse to find the Pattern, again nothing. Trump did not work at all, of course most of them were dead. Flora was probably hiding too deep into Shadow. I settled down and tried to "call" the Jewel, like I do with animals. I hoped that while it could not come to me, I would be drawn to it. I had a horrible sensation of falling a great distance and I found myself in the Queen's rooms, but this time there were markedly different maps on the walls.

I stepped out of the room and found no guards. In fact, there were no inhabitants, no staff, quite empty. I went downstairs and found a small group of people examining a tapestry I had never see before. It was of Oberon. It took a moment to realize they were a tour group, bearing the ubiquitous cameras around their necks. They were speaking about me, how as Queen I fought the Courts and the final battle was at my home in Garnanth. I died there and my troops never surrendered. They were slaughtered, but the entire force held out for 9 weeks. I though it an accomplishment for an estate that was not terribly fortified.

One person asked if wasn't the prohibition against technology in effect. The guide said no, that it was simply the philosophy of the reigning powers in order to prevent democracy from forming. I couldn't make out the logic of how one affected the other, but left before anyone asked me a question I couldn't answer.

Outside a city sprawled as far as I could see. Impossibly tall buildings and an absurd amount of people crushed into the harbor. Arden was a preserve and Tiryn was an historical site. I tried to shift, but found no Shadows at all. I went to the Unicorn grove and found a temple there. It was a long day walking for there were no horses and I had no knowledge of how to use the mechanical carriages they rode in. Inside the temple was a lovely stained glass window of me riding the Unicorn into battle. The workmanship was wonderful.

I settled down and tried to meditate, this time calling the unicorn for help. It might answer the only existing Amberite. Trump wasn't working, the Jewel did nothing, and I couldn't find the Pattern…it was the only option I could think of. Again, the sense of falling. Now the sky was filled with conflicting colors, the trees were black, glittering menacingly. The air was very cold and the temple was gone, so I had no protection from the elements. At my feet, for 30', all vegetation and grass was dead. It seemed that this Amber was definitely Chaosian and the invoking the Unicorn was detrimental to it. Over the cliffs I saw Amber city, leveled to the ground. All that was left were blackened timbers. The Castle stood, largely unscathed from the destruction.

I called the Unicorn again and again I sense a falling. Now the wind was bitterly cold and again the temple was gone. I noticed a number of things simultaneously. I was totally nude, I had a long white tail, and I had a 2' horn emerging from my forehead. Arden was healthy, the day was bright and sunny. A light sprinkling of snow covered the ground.

What do you do when you become part Unicorn? It took a while to adjust to the changes, mostly emotional and psychologically. Physically I felt fine. I made my way into Arden for the reason I've done everything else. I couldn't think what else to do.

In the forest the rangers took no notice of me. They weren't being discreet, they couldn't see me. I moved through them and got to the house without a single incident. Is this how the Unicorn travels? It walks through and sees us, an observer that we shall never be aware of? Unless it gave a precious opportunity to reveal itself? How much interest did it have in the lives of the Amberites? Many, many questions.

Inside the house I found Julian and knew I wasn't home yet. For Julian was a youth, doing some studies with a map. He was so intent, I didn't want to startle him. I moved the map which caught his attention. He began to look around so I tried to will myself visible. The brightest of lights filled the room and he moved away, both shielding his eyes and drawing his sword. What a shame that he felt he had to carry one at his age, within his own home.

I did manage to dim the light and he made out my figure. At least, he saw the horn. It was so odd, he was so ardent in his desire to do something for what he thought was the Unicorn. I did explain what was happening. I discovered that Oberon was King and Amber was still whole. Was this the past? I had to find the Primal Pattern. I asked for his help. It was touching to see him stand straight, taking the task on his shoulders. I think it was that he emotions were there for me to see. Before time had so harshly forced him to shield and discipline himself. That wonderful period between child and adult.

He rode to the grove and I followed, running. Actually I found I could easily outrace him despite the fact that he was an accomplished horseman even then. I found the trail to the Pattern easily and I led him down to it. There was no guardian, no obstacle. I explained that this might be the past for me and should it be so, what he could do to help me return home. Specifically, when the Gorhahz are subdued in the library of the Castle, I will fall into the trap that next morning and he should send for help. If this was the past, I know Julian would remember. He looked like he was gong to burst—receiving a request from the Unicorn itself! I told him to remember the name Cassandra. I hoped it worked.

Actually, I'm pretty sure it didn't. otherwise I felt someone would have helped get me out by now. So I was on my own. Before me stood the Primal Pattern and it was far different from my first.

The moment I stepped on I knew I was doomed. Fiona was correct. It was immensely more powerful. I could barely shuffle my feet and I had just stepped on. Still, I continued to force myself to move. Strangely, it got easier as I moved. In fact, I almost felt I could jog. I hit the first veil and it was as if Morgenstern had pummeled me to the ground. Again, after a few yards it got easier. I could hear Julian's still-thin voice shouting and urging me on. The third veil was the worst, but I knew enough to run through so the velocity would help. Within a few minutes, I was in the center. I raised my arm to salute Julian and picked up the Jewel of Judgement that was lying there. It must have remained there when I last used it? It appealed to me that if they Chaosians killed all the Amberites, this would be forever consigned to a place no Chaosian could walk on. They would lose the Eye forever.

I put it on and it was then I could hear a voice calling me. Actually, I think I heard it while I was walking the Pattern. I thought of my room and felt as if I was suddenly airborne by means of a cannon.

The next thing I was aware of was my bedroom. Byslamia and Mother hovered at the foot of my bed. Next the door was Kinkel. Next to me was Tedra and Llewella. I didn't know what conspired them to be there, but I was happy to be back. They left, letting me get dressed. At least, Kinkel left. While dressing it was remarked that it had a white mark on my forehead, about an inch or so. There was also one where the tail was. A lasting reminder of the Unicorn's help. Silly, because I was unlikely ever to forget.

Examining the office from the hallway, we could see that the clock's sphere of influence had grown significantly.


294/4
Shutting down a clock

I admit that the possibility of my entire house being sucked into an alternate world was not a happy thought. I stationed most of the Weir away from the area, aside from those who would guard it from anyone entering. I will have to remember to do something in appreciation. Then I packed Mother and Eidolon up and trumped them to Flora, who was only too happy to help us.

Aside from that, there was little we could do. Llewella said it was a bit beyond her knowledge and I thought of the new Fiona, whom Random was calling Fiona White, for her white locks. I Trumped to the Castle and found her comfortable in her new life, as it was for now. I hated to take her out to deal with this, but I had no choice, it was a threat that could get much serious to more than just me and my house. Our Fiona was recuperating from the exhausting work of keeping her alive. For she should recover nicely, though she will stay as she is right now. She readily agreed to go and I left messages with Lord Hendren and Owen of where she would be.

Llewella brought us through and Fiona White immediately felt the churning of the power of the clock. It was growing and sleeping made one, especially me, very susceptible to its power. The more susceptible, the further down into Under-Shadow we could be drawn, to close to its power and the most difficult to escape from. We had to close the other side else none of us would be safe, ever. I dared not think what would happen to Shadow and everyone if Amber itself, a focal point of reality were to be drawn in.

Fiona White offered to go with another to shut it down. She was confident she could do it. I stepped further away from the vortex. There was no way I was going to subject her to that world again. She would never survive the journey back and all the work gone into saving her were for naught. I was using her disability against because I was holding her and she could not simply walk into it. But, unless she took over my mind, I was adamant.

To our surprise, even Llewella's, I think, Llewella offered to have Fiona White plant the necessary information in her mind and she would go. I volunteered because, if I was Queen I might have some necessary resources. Such as entry into my own house! So, holding hands so we did not get separated from each other, we entered the room.

Again the falling sensation and then I was tumbling. I found myself in a park, no Llewella in sight. It was a lovely day, blue sky and children playing near a small lake. Tall buildings were around and I realized in was where Amber was gone, technology was evident and possibly in the wrong UnderShadow. Oh, and once again I was nude with horn and tail.

I tried to orient myself on Llewella and sensed nothing. I then oriented on the clock. I got some pull, towards the other end of the city. My speed was still astonishing, so I made my way through the streets. They were horribly congested, a constant motion of move-and-stop for very short distance. Changing lights at regular intervals regulated the entire thing. I got the pattern down and found that moving in the center where they had a convenient yellow line made things much easier. I thought that was its purpose, but no one else seemed to use the space.

It took some time but no one could see me. Well, almost no one. At one point, waiting with some others, a young child did look up at me. We exchanged a few words that really distressed her mother, who could not see or hear me. I will have to remember this is should I ever have children who talk to the air!

I got to where Tiryn should be. I went through the gate and a number of Gorhahz immediately descended upon me. I spoke the command and they sat obediently. Then Llewella climbed out from the tree she had taken refuge in. She was as transformed as I. Her hair was now kelp and she looked much younger. Like myself, she was nude.

The house was four times bigger, with additions built over the year. I took note for future interest. The door was locked and at Llewella suggestion touched the horn to it. It unlocked and we gained entrance. Inside the inhabitants were having a party. The women were dressed in provocative clothing and were serving the men, who were dressed normally, for the most part. It might have made me angry to see this, but the women seemed to be enjoying themselves and it just looked very silly to me.

We decided to search the house, beginning with the basement. It took little time to find the stairs since no one could see us. I did note a few conversations where some me were discussing magic, major sorcery. And one of them did see us, but thought nothing of our…costumes, I supposed.

We found a corridor leading to a large vault. Llewella could sense the clock in there. But we were on the wrong Shadow. Did we have to go to every Under-Shadow to shut it down? Lady, I hoped not. The guards did comment on our passing. It seems that Llewella was leaving a trail of water footprints.

Eventually they went away and we could open the vault. Once again the horn unlocked the huge door, many inches thick in metal. We were able to turn the wheel in the center and stepped inside.

The clock here was at least 6 feet tall, identical to mine. The vibrations were so heavy, bouncing of the walls to re-inflict themselves on us, that it was hard to stay oriented. If felt almost giddy with it all. We left the room at Llewella's insistence. I guess she was concerned with it. The backing. Like mine at home, was off and we had to find it.

Since she was leaving a trail, I thought I could move more quickly if alone. She was skeptical until I ran down the hall, took some cuffs from one of the guard's belt and came back before she finished her sentence. And it wasn't a long sentence. She was convinced and I quickly made my way through the basement, finding nothing. There was a room where there were three people inside a circle. Noticing me, the incanter broke his concentration and then they were gone.

From there I made my way from floor to floor. A part of me thought it was a nasty place, full of decadence and debauchery, mostly against the women. But, I could not work up much anger at it. In fact, at the time it seemed all rather silly. They paraded, thinking they were so clever with their instruments of pleasure and pain. Now, when I think back, I'd have burned the place down if I could.

On each floor there was someone who seemed to be able to see me. On the third floor a man sat behind a desk. He asked me to come in when I peeked inside, but I gave some excuse and hid in a nearby room. I was sure the sounds of the three in the bed would prevent the man from searching for me in here. They were all so silly!

On the fourth floor I also found nothing. I was getting a bit impatient. It had only been perhaps twenty minutes maybe a little more, since I started, but it looked like I would not be able to find it. A woman did see me and I thought she might be of help. I coaxed her into a room, which she followed without hesitation. I asked if she liked working here and she said she did. I don't know. I wear heeled court-shoes for formal occasions, but what she was wearing looked decidedly uncomfortable. Thinking it might make her more willing to help, I moved an touched her shoulder with the horn.

I hadn't expected her to scream, but she clamped down on her mouth before it lasted more than a second. I hadn't thought it would hurt her. When she was able, she said it hadn't really hurt. Rather, I had broken the magical bindings that forced her to perform her…duties here. She had been a Ranger who was trying to infiltrate this den, to learn of the magic they were drawing upon. That had been 3 years ago and she had been caught and enslaved ever since. Now I knew why the women were so eager to participate downstairs. She could not help much, but I asked her to keep busy by the front door. I would get her to escape so if we failed, she could return with other Rangers and possibly finish the job.

I continued on the fifth floor. There was a huge room, filled with objects like the storeroom of a museum. My heart sank at the thought of having to search it. Especially since there were two men and a woman there. In the end I had to go in. So I moved with as much speed as I could. I touched the man lecturing the other two and he went from being a young, charming man to an old scrawny, liver-spotted man. I touched the woman, thinking to break her bindings and then the last man. The woman wasn't much changed, just a bit older. The man also went from being about 25 years to 55. I knocked the first man out and when the woman yelled that her spells were gone and "do something to her," I knocked them all out.

Searching yielded nothing and I was completely exasperated. What a waste of a half-hour! I went downstairs, picked up the Ranger and took her to the gate. I commanded the Gorhahz to be still and told the Ranger she should leave and warn anyone else. It was then that I realized that she was almost entirely exposed, not suitable for walking along the streets. I ran back, took a lovely fur coat from the cloakroom and gave it to her. She asked me to unlock the gate, which I did and she got out. It was amazing how scatter-minded I was becoming.

I went to Llewella, disappointed that I hadn't found anything. She thought we needed to find one of the real mages in the house. I went in search of the man on the third floor. I wouldn't have to carry him, which would slow me down and look ridiculous if her floated through the house. He was in a room, talking about some silly affair, and I raced in got behind him and pinched the nerve at the base of his neck. He never saw me and the others though he simply fainted, or had a heart attack.

Llewella ha warned me that if he were unconscious it would be much more difficult to find the right thoughts. I tried, but failed. So I woke him, positioning myself that he could see me. My horn was pressed over his heart. His eyes widened when he saw me. He thought I was simply a myth. I assumed he was speaking about the Unicorn and I didn't correct him on the matter. The others were discussing whether or not to call a physician, since he was obviously hallucinating, talking to the air as he was. I debated becoming visible to scare them away but thought it would make more trouble than I needed right then.

We made a deal. I would take out the elder ones on the top floor putting him in charge. He then promised to close up the clock. I didn't really believe him but he opened his mind so I could see the truth for himself. It was a risk. As soon as I entered his mind, he attacked even though he had made himself vulnerable to me by doing so.

We battled. He was accomplished, but no where near the strength of mind as an Amberite. Even the Jesby was a greater threat. Still, he wounded my shields before his body collapsed from the effort. His heart failed him and I left, only learning that the backing to the clock was hidden where I could not find it. That, at least, implied it was in the house.

I returned to Llewella, disappointed in my failure. She suggested we go to the top floor to see the three. I hoped they were still unconscious. I moved quickly enough to wipe up the trail she was leaving. We didn't need to draw further attention. I went ahead into the room and was hit by a spell. I tried to fight it, but failed that too. It was a binding spell. I still had some freedom of speech, so I asked what they would have me do. I hoped Llewella would hear and be warned. Unfortunately, she was right behind me and also got hit.

The three mages emerged from where they were hiding. The woman stepped forward and said, "You can come here and kiss my ass." It was a phrase I'd heard before, usually in defiance. It was humiliating to find that I was compelled to follow her words implicitly. This seems to satisfy her that her spell had worked. They then came closer, pelting us with questions.
"Are you an Amberite?" Yes.
"How many Amberites are there" About 50. I had to tell the truth, but it was the truth from my Amber.
"What are you doing here?"

This went on for a few minutes as the whole thing increasingly perturbed them. They were so involved in the questioning, that it was easy for Llewella, who apparently was not actually enspelled, to dispatch the two men within the space of a heart beat. She had the woman in a hold, one hand at her neck, ready to begin questioning of her own. The woman got a nasty gleam in her eyes and to my horror, ordered me to kill Llewella. That horror was reflected in Llewella's eyes as she threw the woman aside as I went for her. I tried to fight the order, which slowed me down a little bit. I could still talk, so I told her to take me out.

Her specialty was not in warfare, but that did not mean she was weak or defenseless. With my fighting the spell (at least I hoped I helped) she managed to aim a sharp kick to my temple and the world went dark.

When I woke, she had gotten the information from the woman. We left her there, though I was tempted to kill her. I didn't want her waking to make things difficult for us again and she was a party to the fates of the women in the building. But I didn't do that. Now, I'm not pleased that I thought like that. It wasn't what I wanted to be.

We found the backing in the basement, hidden with an invisibility spell. Of course, I wouldn't be able to see it. I felt foolish for not thinking about this. We put it on the clock and the vibrations immediately began to subside. Llewella used magic to weld it to the clock, hoping it would slow the next person to try to open it. Then, holding her hand, she had me touch the face of the clock with my horn. I thought of my bedroom at Tiryn.

Again the sensation of ascent and we were standing in the corridor, just outside my bedroom. The others were still standing where we had left them, as if no time had passed. That may have been the case since time does seem to pass more quickly there and they were certainly startled at our appearance. Still, their surprise may have had something to do with the fact that we were also both nude. The spot on my forehead and tailbone where whiter, more sharply noticeable.

We were able to safely put the backing on my clock and I packaged it up. It seemed that the only thing to do with it was to put it into the Castle's storage, in a part where no one had access. I took it and Fiona White back to the Castle riding Sir White, whom I had to return since he belonged to Julian.

I anticipated another harrowing ride even though I was rested. I tied him out front and got Fiona White. When we got outside, he was gone. We found him in back, gleefully eluded the Weir who were trying to capture him. In the end I had to place Fiona White down and help retrieve him. He had really been enjoying the game and was a bit put out that it had to end.

The ride to the Castle was uneventful and I put that down to Fiona White's influence. Still the ride took 2 ½ hours, still not bad for timing. If I wasn't so unsure about how to handle Sir White, especially his…attraction for me, I would not mind using him for transportation. I know I instigated the attraction by Trumping his mind, but it made be uncomfortable.

At the Castle, Fiona White and I went to Lord Hendronn about getting her some rooms for herself. Just prior she had said that she was now Kate. Lady Kate. So I introduced her as Lady Kate and we settled her into the rooms I had when I first arrived here. While we waited for the room to be aired and made ready, we chatted about the family and the history of the family as far as I knew it. That took a while, long enough for everyone to do what was needed.

I still had to deal with the clock, so I went in search of Random. I was told he was in the gardens with Vialle. I went there, ready to slip out if this was a…private meeting. I did not find either of them, but did run across a young woman with a hawk. She had the telltale red-hair which placed her in Clarissa's line. She was Bellasara, one of Bley's daughters, though she wasn't too pleased with the fact. I don't know if this was a permanent feeling or due to that particular stage of teen, where they all seem to dislike their parents. I know I did at the time.

I rarely have the ability to speak to the very young. I really don't know what to talk about. I was never really obsessed with men, though I had a few moments. I don't seem to be able to find the usual subject interesting, especially when there are so few subjects to choose from. But I liked Bellasara.

We talked about hawking and she asked as many questions as she thought she could get away with before I became annoyed. She had named the hawk "Death and Destruction", an odd name to be sure. We also talked about fencing and she wanted me to teach her the art. I think I would have enjoyed it, but I had so much to do already, I wasn't sure I could commit. There was also the fact that Bleys wouldn't teach her. Frankly I thought that was wrong. It would instill discipline, confidence, grace and the ability to defend herself. It was something every woman should know, for if it becomes necessary, we are the greater danger. I did go so far as to tell her where my estate was, when she asked, and let slip when I usually practiced. She wasn't a morning person, by her own admission, but I was curious if she'd ever show up. I think I would like her company.

A little over an hour had passed, so I bade goodbye and went back to the King's office. He had returned and when he asked about the clock I held it up for him to see. I wicked part of me was a little amused when he stepped back quickly. A little of my own for all the jests he's played. He had me place it a small room where it will eventually be crated up and stored. Then we discussed Kate, the transplanted Fiona. He wanted to have a dinner in her honor, for the whole family to meet her and visa versa. I thought it not a bad idea, if Kate felt comfortable with the idea. So, he told me to ask. Kate was agreeable and Random then informed me to see to the entire affair. Oh my. A dinner party for over 50 Amberites. The most I've had for dinner was 6. I know it was more difficult than simply multiplying things by 10….well, it would mean at least 10 times the work. I had better get help.


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