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Cassandra's Diary.9

Day 100/5
After My Rescue

We left immediately from Grey Demesne and proceeded on to Castle Black. I wasn't sure how I would cope with the entire mess. For one thing, telling DeWinter. It seems so harsh in this early stage in our relationship. I did know I wanted to keep busy.

Day 107/5

I think that my desire to keep busy influenced our Shadow walking. We battled bandits, moved through violent storms and outran river floods. It then occurred to me that I was so preoccupied, that I wasn't leading at all; DeWinter was. Oh my. Is this how he always travels? From his earlier remarks, I assume so. It's a wonder he's survived this long.

When we arrived at Castle Black we found Dalt's troops were gone. Thankfully, with DeWinter's presence, for once I did not have to fight to gain entrance. Doblique greeted us and seemed fine. She, too, had removed the collar and chains Luke placed on us. she told us that she told Dalt to take his troops away. So, he was currently out in Shadow returning them to their homes but would be back soon.

While DeWinter and Doblique spoke together, Tatasha led me away for a private talk. Apparently the confrontation between Dalt and Doblique was far more serious. Dalt was particularly upset with her…fixation on Sebastian; he did not approve. That came as no surprise. I wonder what he will say to DeWinter when he has a chance. Tatasha heard almost the entire argument, remarking that they tended to shout loudly. I could only shrug and say it was their way. DeWinter's too, for that matter. Tatasha even went to far as to offer her Weir reinforcements. I was a bit surprised at that. I think Tatasha thinks well of Doblique, though she can't quite understand her yet.

We made our way back to DeWinter and Doblique. It wasn't hard to find them, they were loud enough for us to track them to her suite. Oh yes, they were having a heated “discussion”. We approached slowly. Perhaps they would finish before we got there. No. at least, we were able to get some gist of the topic. DeWinter was insisting she seek some medical attention and she was adamant she didn't need it. She said Sebastian would tend to her and he said Sebastian wasn't good enough. He actually recommended Owen.

They continued until I rapped on the door, then all was silent. Doblique bade us to enter, which we did. With a few questions, the argument continued, albeit much more quietly. I was disturbed by the entire thing. She said she was fine. I wondered. Perhaps Luke had not had any time to…affect…her. How to know for certain? I doubt Sebastian was skilled enough. Perhaps she was correct and she was fine. Somehow I didn't believe it. I did see that she would go into no details in front of her brother.

Tatasha, throughout the discussion sat close to Doblique, occasionally touching her hand, shoulder, being there. Doblique was not certain how to receive this, but made no motion to stop the attention. It was certainly more physical warmth than she normally allows. But Tatasha has that way about her… getting close to people.

I asked to speak with Doblique alone and Tatasha jumped up and led DeWinter out before he was aware he was leaving. She said something about having to talk with him.

I told Doblique that I knew more had happened with Luke than she had spoken of. It was the sort of violence that women are always aware of, at least as a potential. One of the first things we are taught is not to blame ourselves. The second thing we are taught is that the first is the easiest thing to say, but the hardest to believe. That is where family comes in. And not having any mother or sister, if she wanted to talk, I was ready to listen.

She confessed that having all brothers did make things more difficult. But, this wasn't the first time this had happened. In fact, this was the eighth time. I couldn't conceal the fact that I was appalled at the idea. I rose and held her. I couldn't imagine going through that sort of assault numerous times, all alone. She stiffened, but when I did not let go, she sighed and relaxed and began to talk a bit. Luke had been in the castle for about 7 weeks. And it was real, not in UnderShadow.

She still insisted that she was fine. She did not want anyone inside her head. I was gaining no ground, so I said I was going to be a bit more… “Amber-ish”. I said that I was going to find Luke's body and kill it. She certainly had as much right to this as I did. I held up my hand so she could see it shake at the very thought of going near it. I told her that just being near him might wake him up. I doubted it, because he had lost his identity, as I had. But, he was so powerful in some respects, I couldn't know for certain. I was certain, however, that if she had any traps in her mind, one that might “call” him back or give him a way to escape, she could not accompany me.

So, I made a deal. If she had Owen examine her, she could come with me. At the very least, she would know she wasn't putting her relationship with Sebastian at risk. Doblique asked if I made the deal, knowing how she felt about Sebastian. I said "yes". She nodded and agreed that it was a very Amberite thing to do.

We talked a bit more. She wondered if she should tell Sebastian what happened. I said their relationship wouldn't be as strong if she didn't. Of course she countered by asking if I had told DeWinter. I hadn't, but knew I would. I wasn't certain if he would not blame me in some part. Doblique said he would be upset, but wouldn't hold me accountable in anyway. I hoped she was right.

As for our deal, she began to make some seriously nasty plans for what to do to Luke. Under other circumstances, I might just have had some sympathy for him. No, I take that back. I was sorry he wouldn't realize what we were doing. He was too far gone. I could only imagine what he was doing to others in UnderShadow.

In the end, she agreed to allow Owen to examine her but only if I was there to oversee. I readily agreed though I knew too little to afford her protection. But, since I knew she needed no protection from Owen, I could spot her. I had Owen's Trump out before she could change her mind. Owen, as was usual, was willing to help. She said she needed a few minutes before we Trumped her through. I took the time to find DeWinter and Tatasha and let them know the change in plans.

I found them in the courtyard, fencing. Tatasha was pressing DeWinter hard with furious strikes. DeWinter gave ground, but none of her blows got through. It looked serious until I heard them laughing.

I watched for a bit until I realized they weren't going to stop anytime soon. So, I called to them and they broke off. I told them of Doblique decision and that we had made a deal. I wasn't going to get into the details just then. DeWinter just looked at me. “She changed her mind, just like that?” Well, no, not really, but she committed herself just the same. He shook his head and said I was dangerous when I talked. I could only grin.

Owen came through. We got settled comfortably, Doblique having changed into more appropriate clothing. Then we began.

I was able to see the structure of Doblique's mind. The experience wasn't at all what I expected. I suppose I expected to be in a sort of Shadow of the mind. Instead, we were looking into the mind itself. Owen explained what she was seeing, for both our benefits. I remained largely silent, trying to absorb what I was seeing. Doblique had taken the implants Luke had placed and was pulling energy from them, rendering them useless over time. I think Owen was impressed with her resilience. Throughout we found remnants of previous invasions, though I said nothing to Owen. It was for Doblique to explain or not as she chose. She chose to say almost nothing. She was using the new power to strengthen her psyche, build up defenses.

We came out for a bit, hours later, to rest. Owen mentioned that some of the past traumas had… affected her, coloring her viewpoints. It would explain Doblique's self-view of being a “Bad Girl”. Most of it had to do with her Circumstances. Doblique had discovered hers very early on in her life. They were enacted by violence and pain. I repressed a shudder at the thought of having to trust someone with that. How can you care for someone who would be able to do such a thing to you? It would have to be a strong relationship, indeed. I inferred that she found them out after, or during an assault. No wonder she thought she “deserved” such treatment. Or that she was “bad.”

We talked a bit about others who have had far worse, Owen knowing far more that either of us. Perhaps it made Doblique feel a bit better-- at the least, she could have more control over it. Owen revealed that hers was to be given a "gift while outdoors". Oh my, with that I would avoid all lawn parties at all cost!

Owen stayed the evening and finally got to meet Tatasha. They got along well, though everyone gets along with Tatasha. Owen suggested a “slumber party,” some sort of get-together for “girl talk.” I hadn't heard of such a thing and it was rather new. We had plenty to drink and eat, were in dressing gowns or comfortable clothing. Talk ranged widely. Tatasha was delighted to hear that Owen was not only married, but had children. She gave me a "Significant Look" to make sure I was paying attention. The talk moved through Amberite pregnancies, children and on to sexual antics. Owen confessed that during her pregnancy she got to know "almost" every male Amberite. I believe she said "eighty percent". Immediately the room went silent as we all tried to think who she didn't catch. Or those she did. Either way, she sat there smiling smugly, refusing any attempt to learn more, though she did allow that Gerard was not one of them. Whew! I hadn't event thought of the implications to that.

Eventually the conversation grew more… specific and I discovered I was not quite comfortable yet. Luke's treatment of me was too recent. A month ago, I would have been fine, but not now--. I made some pathetic excuse and went to take a walk.

Day 108/5
DoBlique's Fine

Owen finished with Doblique, just some routine checking and pronounced her fine. After all that, Doblique really had everything under control.

I spent the morning writing letters to both Vivant and Shapir, thanking them for their help. Vivant for her time in Amber and Shapir for his words that helped both of us in difficult times. I hoped I didn't embarrass them, for I was very effusive with my emotions, but it did not seem to be a time to be… reserved.

Owen left for Amber and we prepared to leave. It was my idea to head for Corwin's Pattern, that being the last and only place I met Luke. It would be interesting to travel again with so many people, about 75 or so.

Day 111/5
On the Track

We were travelling, making good time. I received a Trump call from Sebastian who wanted to come through. He wanted to join our little expedition.

That afternoon, we found a suitable place to make camp. I knew we were near Corwin's pattern and it was time to talk with DeWinter.

I led him away from the camp where we could be alone. I told him he should know why I was so focused on destroying Luke. He was surprised because Luke is acquainted with Dalt, and though he didn't care for him, he didn't seem that bad. I corrected him, saying that was Rinaldo, not Luke. He thought they were the same person. So had I. I wished someone had corrected me on that, but apparently few knew this.

Then I couldn't prevaricate any further and told him what Luke had done. I did not go into any great detail, but I don't think I had to. By the time I was finished he was very quietly angry. Just a hint of "Dalt" showed through his face. He gripped his sword and between clenched teeth asked when and how we were going to kill him. I said Doblique and I hadn't worked out the details. I said he needed to think how this might affect us, or how he feels about me. It didn't go farther than that as he embraced me and time stopped.

I could have stopped him, but I kept Shapir's words in my head. I cannot let Luke "win". If I couldn't be with DeWinter, then Luke would have won. I will give him no satisfaction. DeWinter and I will heal together.

Day 112/5
Help in Strange Places

We moved on. We entered the Shadow housing Corwin's Pattern. DeWinter was still quite angry. Doblique noted it and asked if I told him. I nodded and we kept an eye on him. During a mid-day break, she had her talk with Sebastian. Now we had two very angry men. Once, while picking up a trail, DeWinter and Sebastian were off to one side talking as Doblique and I conferred as to how to approach the body if it were there. We were interrupted once when DeWinter felled a small tree, roots and all, with his hands. Did I mention he was Very Angry?

We found the Pattern and to our great frustration-- my hunch was wrong-- Luke was nowhere to be seen. We found no sign of anyone, though the Weir picked up a scent of a woman. Could it have been the women I met the last time I was here? We decided to track her. I took DeWinter, Tatasha and two more Weir.

We moved south through two Shadows. Eventually we saw a rider ahead. We were going to overtake him or her, so the rider stopped and waited for us to approach.

It was a woman of slight build, that much I could tell. Aside from that, all is a mystery. She wore a silver mask, covering her entire face, matching the silver gloves on her hands and forearms. She introduced herself as Mask (naturally!)

I introduced myself as Cassandra of Amber. She seemed startled at this, though I don't know why. She said she was of the Courts. This could bode ill-- being outnumbered, it was easy to see why she might be a bit defensive, so I got off my horse to face her.

She placed her hands inside her sleeves. I froze, waiting for her to move. She must have seen this because she remarked that in the Courts, it was a disadvantage for a mage to place their hands where they could not cast easily. I thought a moment and clasped my wrists behind my back, the more difficult to reach my sword. She bent her head in acknowledgement of my gesture.

I said we were looking for an Amberite named Luke, with which we have some business. She said she was also looking for him, but to kill him. "A meeting of the minds". We established that everyone was trying to kill him. At least, she intimated she was acting for her Crown, though she said she wasn't supposed to be here. Hence the mask.

She had been tracking him for months though found no trail. She also hoped he would be here. I told her of Luke's fate in UnderShadow but we had to find the body. She said that would be much more difficult if his mind were elsewhere. We did say we had the body that was currently hosting him. That intrigued her. She said she could build a spell to track his original body's location. A magical compass, so to speak.

We agreed to all ride back to the Pattern and confer further there.

Once we got back to the others, Doblique was very worried. She whispered that this woman was very powerful, magically. I admit I had some doubts. It seemed too much of a coincidence for her to be here. I've gathered that many do not like Luke. Though she said she was going to kill him before any of us made such a claim. I was worried she could destroy the host thereby freeing him from UnderShadow. Even Luke might have allies, even if she was under his control.

While camp was being set, I Trumped Fiona. There was no answer at first but I said it was about Luke. She opened the connection. She had no knowledge of a person named Mask from the Courts. She could not help me in my decision of whether or not to trust her. When I mentioned we were at Corwin's Pattern, she asked to be brought through.

When she appeared, Mask and Fiona faced each other. Within a few seconds, there was no one standing between them and it was tense for a few minutes. Fiona approached and the two began talking. Mostly esoteric, magical conversation. I suppose Doblique was the only one to understand any of it. Then they spoke briefly about the Courts as we all sat near the fire with drinks. Fiona asked how long it would take to create such a spell. Mask shrugged and said it depended on proximity, and the talk soon turned back to magic.

We had dinner and the two found they shared some of the same acquaintances in the Courts. I think that meant that Mask could be fairly highly placed, there. Once done with eating, Fiona said goodbye and was gone in the prismatic shower of a Trump connection. I was going to ask her if this would be a good time to tell her of my Trump trick, but it was too late.

Fiona had said nothing about her evaluation of this Mask, so I inferred that meant no immediate danger in trusting her. So, tomorrow DeWinter will Trump Dalt and make arrangements.

Day 113/5

DeWinter Trumped Dalt who said we were to meet him at home. That meant back to Castle Black. He would see what he could do by the time we were there.

Day117/5
Dalt Knows Mask

We were back again at Castle Black and DeWinter Trumped Dalt again. Dalt said he could get the body and bring it to us. Or, some of us could go with him, but not all. In the end, we decided that Doblique, myself, DeWinter and Mask would accompany him. Sebastian would stay with the others as the only one who had Trump. Neither Doblique nor DeWinter had any and neither would countenance being left behind. I didn't even consider it. That left Sebastian. We needed a way out, should we get into Trouble. He was not happy about it, but I promised to bring him through as soon as possible.

We Trumped at a small mansion that had been locked up for a long time. Sheets covered the furniture and dust was everywhere. Dalt went to a long couch and pulled off the covering. There, in place of the sitting cushions was the host body. You couldn't even tell there was anything there.

Mask moved forward and greeted Dalt. He nodded and it was clear that the two knew each other. The rest of us looked at one another, wondering who she might be.

It took fifteen minutes to cast the spells and she announced it did not work. The original body was well hidden. Dalt said he knew where the body was and we all turned to look at him. He said he had to make a call first, to get permission to get to it. He pulled a Trump out and made a call, though I never got a glance at the person at the other end.

When he was finished, he said he could take two others with him; the rest would have to stay behind to be brought through by Trump. We discussed the matter and it was decided that Mask and myself would go with Dalt while Doblique returned to Sebastian with DeWinter. I did note that Dalt didn't even ask me to follow his instructions. Either he thought I wouldn't make trouble, or I was too insignificant to worry about. Probably the latter.

Day 188/5

Dalt led us to a rocky, arid Shadow, devoid of any signs of civilization. I was a bit tired, as was my horse. He had set a ferocious pace. I wonder if he thought he would lose me? Dalt said his instructions were to get us there and then stand aside. The rest of up to us. If we wanted his help, or got into trouble, we would have to ask him for it. I said I had no trouble in asking for help, should we need it. He just looked at me.

We were at some cliff sides and down one face was a cave. We climbed down and were at the mouth, with enough room for everyone once we Trumped them through. The entrance was blocked, but we could see blue crystals everywhere. Mask examined it and said there were some arcane wards set in place, to keep someone or something inside. Whoever was inside was awake.

DeWinter and I readied ourselves and she brought down the wards. We entered. It was entirely made of crystals on the inside. DeWinter and I moved to both cover the entrance in case the person tried to escape and each other in case of an attack. I called out, but there was no answer. I stepped forward once and something fell from above. In a flurry of motion, I caught sight of an unshaven, unbathed, dirty, hungry man heading for the door. With one move, DeWinter caught him.

He brought the man out and we tried to get him to calm down. Even administering water, the man was half-mad. I wonder how he could have stayed alive for so long. I saw no water source inside the cave.

When he learned we were Amberites, he screamed, both mindless sounds of fear and obscenities. In the end, we had to gag him. I tried to tell him that we were going to try and get him back into his body, but he was almost rabid. Perhaps the transfer to this body unhinged him. Sebastian looked like he wanted to kill him right on the spot. The man was a BlackAdder, the exile House of the Courts. To me, he was too pathetic to bother with. He'd done nothing to hurt us, even if his family had, and really there would be no satisfaction from him.

We left the man gagged and tied him to a horse once we got back to the surface. Then we made our way to Castle Black.

191/5
The Final Thrust

We arrived back at the mansion where the host body was. Sebastian asked for a moment with the BlackAdder. I knew he was still filled with anger at what they had done to him. I hadn't helped any by taking away his vengeance. Besides, I hadn't the stomach to torture this... well, I don't know what to call him, but he wasn't a man of caliber.

Sebastian leaned over and said that if he or any of his House ever came near him, he would get more of this— with those words, he shaped his hand into claws and ripped through his stomach and abdomen. The Adder screamed, to have it echo from the host body. He had been returned to his original form. Sebastian went to tie and gag this one. I noticed that Luke's body still wasn't dead. No surprise, gut wounds take a long time to die from. I motioned to Doblique and she shrugged. Neither of us would get anything from this. She stepped forward and asked to watch as I took his head.

I pulled my sword and with one chop (well, he wasn't moving) severed it cleanly. Sebastian then said they can get information from a brain even if it has died. I wondered about this, since even Owen needed the Jesby alive to get any information out. Still, we had to be sure. I thrust my sword through the crown and twisted a few times, making sure nothing was intact. Then I pulled it out and cleaned it before sheathing it.

It was rather anticlimactic. It was done, and though I felt safer, I didn't really feel better. The work was yet to be done. Dalt said he would take the BlackAdder out into Shadow. No one argued with that. Sebastian did say that he didn't have to make the ride comfortable; show he be the worse for wear, no problem. I thought that was beneath him and was startled to see the same expression on Dalt's face. Double take.

Before he left, Dalt held his hand out to me and I shook it. I suppose we have a sort of truce. Though he gave me a look that I have yet to decipher.

That left us to continue back to Castle Black.

Day 201/5

We had arrived at Castle Black, deposited Doblique and Sebastian, picked up Tatasha and the Weir and are now in Aes. Tatasha wants to head for Amber immediately. I asked if we could wait a week or two. She seemed to realize that things were catching up to me and said, of course, that would be fine. I just wanted a few days to stop and rest.

Day 204/5
Birds and Bees

Looking back, I realized that DeWinter and I have made love numerous times without heeding the possible consequences. With our circumstances, I think it would be prudent for some medical attention. I could have asked Owen, but I suppose I wanted to know first and be the first to tell DeWinter. I expressed this to him and said I would be leaving to tend to the matter. Some people would rather not be a party to such exams, but he seemed glad to not be excluded.

We slipped out that afternoon, after I told Byslamia was we were about.

This time I would lead. I really didn't want to out run a tornado or volcano, or something of that sort.

Day 206/5

We've been travelling a bit, becoming more and more accustomed to each other's presence. There was time alone to talk, make love (the damage has already been done), all the little things that can make life pleasant. I hate to say it, but it was good to be alone with him, without distractions. I love my family fiercely, but they can be overwhelming and it's nice that he doesn't have to worry if he's not making a “good impression.”

We emerged by a large lake surrounded by tall mountains. Nestled at the mouth of a river running into the lake was a large city, similar in some respects to Mycenea, though far more formal in manners and attire. My clothing was what I was used to, though much heavier due to the mountain air. I thought DeWinter was very dashing in the black suit. Actually, the bowler hat made him look almost adorable, though I could only tell him if I was out of arm's reach. Perhaps if I were running. No, I'd be laughing too hard to run. Still…

We wandered through town and eventually found the town hall and a city directory. There were clinics to each of the Life Sciences and we were able to find a place for the examination. We also received maps to the various hotels, trains and sites of the city. It was fun to put our heads together trying to figure out where we needed to go and how to get there. He said he's never been to a place as nice as this. For all his experience, he's really only seen the darker half, or so it seems. Perhaps an extended Shadow walk is in order.

We arrived at a clinic. The receptionist was very surprised we had no appointment, especially during The Season. DeWinter said we've stopped here unexpectedly and asked what that meant. Each year, the water comes from the mountains. People pour in from all over because the water is said to have healing properties. If we haven't got a hotel, we probably won't, though we might find some hostel or private residence with room. I said I wasn't ill, I just wanted an examination. She thought for a moment and fetched a physician. He didn't have time, but gave us the name of a doctor who might. He wrote his reference down on a card with directions for getting there.

We left and I was worried about where we would stay. DeWinter shrugged and said we could always find a park bench somewhere, he done that before. I don't think he was kidding. I've never done that and I don't think it is something we need to do. Though I suppose it wouldn't be worse that camping on a trail, but it didn't sit right. Well, we'd figure it out.

The physician we were to meet is a Dr. Creighton. We took two streetcars along the cobblestones, which made for a very bumpy ride. We found ourselves in front of a lovely townhouse, attractive and neatly kept. We were shone inside to a waiting area. While DeWinter rummaged through the books, I turned to the glassware in front of the windows. They were very strange pieces. I looked through one and saw the reflection of another room.

I turned when I heard someone approaching. DeWinter put down a book hurriedly, as if he didn't want to be caught reading it. In fact, yes, he was a bit red about the ears. Curious, I went to look at the book. Its title was, “Abnormal Obsession of the Hyper-Aware Consciousness.” That didn't seem too horrible. Even flipping through showed nothing in particular. I gave him a puzzled glance but he refused to comment. I put in down as the door opened.

A woman entered in a wheelchair. We established our purpose and gave her the card. Within a half-hour, I was upstairs ready for the examination.

It was pretty routine and I was pleased that she was one of those doctors that liked to chat, rather than leave you in cold silence. She did note some anomalies, though I expected that, not being a native here. There were some ovarian anomalies and my internal temperature was a tad high. All in all, I was fine and not pregnant.

That set me back. I know it would not be a good time for children, but in an absurd twist, I was wondering why not. Was there something wrong with me? Had something been done to me? Unfortunately, this doctor would have no answers.

We finished up and talked a bit more. I asked her about the book and what a hyper-aware consciousness was. Apparently, it has been documented that they receive visitors from other worlds. These beings inhabit a person's mind, if they have sufficient abilities. I let drop that I was one of those people, though we did not inhabit minds. She absorbed the information for a moment, asked a few questions and then we went down to meet DeWinter. He knew right off what the results were and was as puzzled as I.

With it being the Season, there was no place to stay. So, we left the Shadow. I wanted to show him Mycenea, but didn't want to overwhelm him with my sisters. After all, he's currently contending to my family, not to mention various Amberites. I do want him to stick around for a bit.

So, I took him to the second Mycenea. Plenty of time had passed, so it was unlikely I would be remembered, or noticed. It was a nice idea. It's a shame it didn't work. I was showing him the historical avenues when we came upon a theatre hosting a 'Cassandra film festival'. My face grew red as I realized he might have thought I brought him here to see this. We walked through the crowd and I was steering us past, to get away. He got a wicked look, like he was gong to tease, as he peered into a shop window at the dolls that I supposed were a likeness of me. Before he could say anything in revenge for my teasing him about the book, his thought was derailed as two young girls walked by discussing the film and one remarked that “Dalt was dreamy.” We both did a double take and got away; it was getting scary.

Day 213/5
More Birds and Bees

We rode back to Aes in a leisurely fashion. We could have gotten back in a day, but we were enjoying each other's company so much, we didn't see much of a rush. When we arrived, we were greeted by a soft spring shower and Claw riding out to meet us.

I thought something had gone wrong, for she'd never done that before. But, she said all was fine and drew her horse along side of ours. DeWinter was as mystified. At the gates, she looked up at others and shook her head. Of course, if anyone were to know if there were any changes to me, she would. Ah, they were so hopeful; it must run in the species.

We had talked it through and decided to call in Owen for a consult. At the very least, we should at least know the cause, so we can reverse things when we decide to.

Owen came through with Kent and Tighe. I thought DeWinter would be more relaxed if he dealt with Kent. The two of them left and Owen and I got down to business.

I told her what we've learned so far. Just then, I thought about the time in chasing Dalt that my legs shaped and healed. Could I have changed my body chemistry?

We sent for Claw. All we learned was that the Weir have quite efficient muscle tissue and have children when they are in Season, once every five years. However, she said I did not conform to this, that I was not confined to this pattern. Apparently, this is causing some difficulties amongst the males. Claw said the other Weir women were having some fun with the entire situation.

The diagnostic ended with the evaluation that I was 96% Amberite. The rest was due to a unique blood type with that was enriched and aggressive. Weir, of course.

Owen then went to meet Kent. Owen later left for that high-tech Shadow where she once took DeWinter to repair his heart. They have extensive medical records-- and those records confirmed that he is sterile. What? This was puzzling to all of us, since Amberites are inclined to heal all wounds. There should be no reason for this. We all kept saying, “This makes no sense.” For some reason, DeWinter thought Oberon may have cursed his family. Owen didn't think that would be what Oberon would have chosen.

I then drew a Trump sketch of Doblique to speak to her about a check on herself. If it was the same, there was probably and outside influence, much more treatable, I think.

In the meantime, DeWinter and I need not concern ourselves with the potential consequences. I made sure he understood that. His face brightened considerably with the thought.

Day 214/5
A Horribly Successful Trump

DeWinter and I retired early. I had the thought to try once more to make a Trump of him. We talked, or rather; he did most of that while I tried to sketch. I was starting to wonder if his perpetual bad luck was having something to do with my inability to make a Trump. I tried to take that into account and felt myself in another place. A terrible, horrible place. There was DeWinter, burning at the stake at the orders of his brother. It didn't last long but there in front of me was a Trump. A real one-- no sketch this time. DeWinter glanced over and asked if anything was wrong.

I couldn't show it to him. No. I got a robe on and went to ask Owen what would happen if I destroyed this one. She said, "Nothing"; I would be able to make another, though I would have to get past these "memories" first. Making any Trump besides this one would be difficult until then.

I went back, trailing the ends of DeWinter's robe along the floor. I hadn't realized what I was putting on. I went to the fireplace, tore up the Trump and tossed it in. It took a long time to burn, but eventually, it succumbed to the flames.

At the time, I didn't consider the irony of a Trump that depicted my lover burning alive being tossed into a fire.

Day 215/5

We left for Amber today, again with all my Weir, Mother, Byslamia, Owen, Kent, Tighe, Eidolann, Tatasha and DeWinter. Tighe insisted on riding with the "Hose Court” and after considerable deliberation amongst most of the adults, we conceded that we were baffled by his request. Tatasha said that because most of her women wear the short tunics with colored hose, he must have labeled them "Hose Court". Understanding came to all and he was allowed to ride up front.

The day went easily though the Shadowshifting was a little difficult. I moved to the center of the group and found it easier, though I will tire after a few days.

Day 216/5

Owen offered to spot me leading for a while. She said she's not really moved groups through Shadow and would enjoy both the opportunity and practice. By the end of the day, though, she said it was moving much more slowly, not having the knack quite yet.

Day 217/5

I took over for a while and then suggested that we “split” the group. I would take half and move to Amber while she took the other half and stayed with me. This proven much easier and we made good time.

Day 222/5
Trump Trips

We are just outside Arden, or a Shadow thereof. I got the Trump of Sebastian out and tried to contact him. He said he got permission for DeWinter to visit, but I think it wise to have the writ on his person before he entered. There was no answer from him or Random. We settled down to wait a few hours.

After the midday meal, Owen received a Trump and pulled Sebastian through. I think she was a little exasperated with him, once he announced he had been in the Courts again. Oh no! Had he been captured? Sebastian tried to explain something had gone wrong with his Trump, but it was exceedingly difficult to understand his round-about way of talking. He needed to calm down.

Still, he handed the writ to DeWinter and moved off to Trump Doblique with the sketch I made for him. We talked a bit until I noticed Sebastian was not getting through. I approached and he muttered that she was too far. That was odd since she was really only a few days away. I placed my hand on his arm to give him a boost and the next thing I knew, I was in Castle Black. Doblique was in her bathing room, just putting on her robe. We all stood startled for a bit and Sebastian left, giving her some privacy. Doblique confirmed that she, too, cannot have children. I assured her this was good news, that it probably wasn't something inherent with her. She tried to be cheerful about it and said she should talk with Sebastian. I Trumped Owen who brought me back to Arden.

Owen offered to take the group through Arden while DeWinter and I Trumped Julian to let him know we were coming through. I was thinking it was simply a courtesy, one that wouldn't take long, but DeWinter agreed so quickly I thought he must have some reason. I complied and the rest moved off. I was reaching for the Trump deck when DeWinter reached for me. We hadn't had much time alone for a while and I realized he wanted to take this opportunity before anything could go wrong. Like being thrown in the dungeon, or something. Not that he said as much. But it was a while before we resumed our ride. I was interrupted by a Trump call which I blocked. I still don't know who it was.

When we were composed, I Trumped Julian and told him of what was happening. I don't think he believed it, or wanted to believe it. He said to come to his lodge and meet him there.

Vivant met us outside the house to greet us. She led us up and in, where Julian met us. We had lunch, it being a little awkward. Julian and DeWinter seemed to be having some sort of invisible contest between them. After, Julian read the writ and pronounced it valid. Then he offered his home for a second time, when we were due to leave. It was apparent he wanted to make sure DeWinter left. Perhaps with frequent, but brief contact the two will come to some sort of arrangement. I do not want Julian to be disappointed, but I will not break my relationship with DeWinter because of it. Sigh.

Julian escorted us to Amber. We were told that Random and Tatasha, along with Vialle and Owen were in the Library. We made our way over there. I did get the opportunity to remark to DeWinter, so that Julian could hear, that I wished I could have seen the King and Tatasha meet. She's so forward and tactile, it would have been interesting to see Random's face. There. Julian was warned, if a little bit without bringing insult to Tatasha. Somehow, I don't think it will be enough.

We entered and introductions were made. Julian bowed to her and she made to curtsey in her short tunic. Then she went up to him and gave him a hug. He seemed a bit startled, but allowed the gesture. Tatasha looked up at him and in her own way said, “You weren't Eric's favored, but he always said you could be counted upon.” Julian bowed his head in acknowledgement and said that Eric was one of the greatest kings Amber ever had.

Tatasha almost melted right there. Tears came to her eyes and she took his face in her hand and kissed him. Julian made a motion to hold her back, but again allowed the action, though he had a restraining hand upon her hip.

Random said, “Well, I was gonna say that, too.” To be fair, Tatasha kissed him too, while Vialle elbowed him in the ribs.

That's my grandmother.

I showed Tatasha my rooms and she remembered much. Especially that Evander was conceived right in front of the fireplace. She touched Eric's chair, a few of his books, remembering.

After she was ready, we went to get her a room. I offered mine, thinking DeWinter and I could stay at Tiryns, but she declined.

I collected DeWinter, who had been talking with Random and we all went to dinner.

That evening, in my rooms, DeWinter chatted about Fiona. I had to Trump her because she wanted to know about the Trump trick I played on Luke. He wanted to know why anyone trusted her after PatternFall. I put it in perspective that he could relate. How the war changed everyone, how having not only an insane brother, but one who wanted to destroy everything for his own sake might affect Fiona. I don't think Dalt is really insane. I think he is fanatical and driven, but not necessarily irrational or cruel. Brand was another matter. I wonder if Fiona is so… controlled and remote because of the onus she bears, having been aligned with Brand, at least in the beginning. Food for thought.

I trumped Fiona and found she was in the Castle. She agreed to meet and allowed DeWinter to be present. If nothing else, she would be able to ascertain that DeWinter really wasn't working on a plot against Amber through me. That his intentions were not dishonorable.

We met in her rooms and we talked about Shadow and reflections. I was concerned that with Luke's death there would be serious consequences. From what I gathered from Owen, this could be severe. Fiona said that would be the case if we were normally inclined to go to Shadows where Luke was important, or prominent. Other than that, no-- there would be nothing noticeable. Especially since he really isn't dead. His mind is probably still active in UnderShadow. I'll just have to make sure not to got to an Amber UnderShadow, if I have a choice. Actually, I'm not going to UnderShadow at all, if I have a choice. The problem is, I don't usually get that decision.

Then I explained what I did, how I “saw” the edges of the Trump and mentally grabbed them and twisted. Fiona included DeWinter and asked if he understood-- and he said "no". She used a model as a visual tool and even I got a better idea of what I did. To both our surprise, she turned to DeWinter and asked if he'd ever been tested for Trump ability. He was taken aback, sat straight up, and said "no, no", he wouldn't be any good. She said he should think about it and he could get back to her about it. He shifted a bit but didn't say anything. She turned back to me and just for the tiniest moment, I thought she had a bit of mischief in her eyes.

Fiona wanted clearer understanding of my Trump trick by acting it out a bit. I was unsure until she assured me that she would stop it before we fell. With her being that close and as strong as she is, I believed she could stop anything untoward from happening. I could tell DeWinter was decided against the idea, but he couldn't say anything in front of her. All I had to do was “rattle” the Trump contact.

It turns out, I couldn't do it. It was rock solid, perhaps because she is so strong. Still, she saw what I was doing and understood. Without the focus of combat or desperation, I couldn't do it, but she said it was a creative end to the combat. A compliment! I suppose I was much like the amateur fighter who didn't know the rules and can be the most chaotic and dangerous as a result. They would still lose, but they can do some damage before so.

She also said that it was an interesting trick, but she wouldn't be able to do it. Again, much like a fighter, once you learn a style and become a master at it, it is very difficult to work another way. Like a wrestler trying to do a martial arts maneuver. It just doesn't work. DeWinter thought about that and said she ought to be able to work it in, but she said "no". Nor would she be able to teach it. He asked if she wouldn't teach it because it would make them have an advantage over her. She said no, she would rather encourage different styles as it makes Amber stronger. That is why the Courts failed against Amber. They all learn the same thing; all think Trump is a minor power and therefore lock themselves into rigid assumptions. It would be like having an army solely of cavalry or only foot soldiers. Limited abilities, limited adaptability and creativity. Fiona believed that was why they lost the war against Amber. They couldn't adapt.

The talk ended there and we made our way back. (She still thinks there is something wrong with her. Hmm.)

None of us could imagine Amber City would be under attack tomorrow.


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