The goddess appeared in the sacred spot where the goddess always appeared and her attendants immediately made obeisance and welcomed her. This was Ssalessh and I'm not really a goddess, but the natives think so. My name is Zhelan and I am a Duchess of Amber.
The sky was a darker blue than Amber and the denizens of this shadow were gecko like humanoids. It was where I usually come when there were Trump to draw. Trump allow me to move from one shadow land to another.
I acknowledged the acolytes and retired to the living quarters that were maintained for me. In a scurry of feet, the Luggage settled in a corner of the room while I carefully set out my tools.
The blank sheet of paper in front of me held no inspiration today. Where did I want to go? So many places to choose from, but I was in a mood for something different. I picked up a pencil ----
And was riding a horse across a high mesa.
Confusion was an inadequate description of my reaction. It was as though I had appeared here directly from sitting at the desk in Ssalessh, yet there were clear memories of renting this horse and some fishing equipment about 3 hours ago. And memories of the man at the station giving directions across the mesa to a trail on the other side. There I would find a verdant valley with a river and I was going fishing!?
I reigned in the horse and checked the landscape. The Luggage was dutifully following behind. If only it could talk, would its recollections of the last few hours be the same as mine? Nothing like this had ever happened before. Maybe I was simply asleep at the desk in Ssalessh? This shadow was vaguely familiar. I think I'd been here about 250 years ago. I reached for my Trump and shuffled through them.
Father hated to be disturbed for things like this but what if there were more games afoot at home? Maybe I was somehow a target. Perhaps he would know something. I concentrated on the Trump of Bleys and reached out. The Trump became active in my hand and I could feel the contact, then the slight delay while Bleys erected his wards. He had become so cautious since the recent events.
"I'm not paying for bail, or abortions." His usual greeting.
"Wish it were something as simple as that, father. I was sitting in Ssalessh working when suddenly I am on a horse in another shadow. I don't consciously remember getting here and yet I have a complete memory of doing so. I'm sorry if that didn't make a lot of sense to you, it certainly makes no sense to me." Father was standing on the deck of a ship, the wind whipping his hair and cloak around him. The ship was in Amber or close by. (Was he out with Caine? Curiouser and curiouser. What was he up to?)
"I've never heard of anything like that before. You weren't taking any hallucinogens were you?" Bleys seemed distracted.
"Not that I am aware of. Just thought I'd call and see if you had any insight on the situation. I am going to follow through with what's happening here and I'll let you know if anything else happens." I broke the Trump contact.
Dear Dad was less than helpful as usual, and I felt like an adolescent for calling him for something so trivial. The contact had at least established that I was awake and not fallen asleep at the desk in Ssalessh and just dreaming all of this. Or maybe I was still asleep at the desk and the contact with father was part of the hallucination?
"Luggage, do I have a pair of binoculars in there?" I addressed the trunk that had trotted up behind me.
The Luggage settled down to the sand and after a few minutes stood back up. Obviously not, or if it did, the Luggage was not inclined to give them up at this time. Note to self: need to pick up some form of optical enhancement device.
Shielding my eyes with my hand, I scanned the horizon. Behind were the horse tracks showing the direction that I had come. In the direction I had been heading, the edge of the mesa was not too far in the distance. I indicated to my mount to proceed. What the heck, it made no difference at this point if this were dream or reality, let's play it out and see what happens.
It didn't take much longer to reach the edge of the mesa and descend to the valley below. The promised trail at the bottom was close. The verdant valley stretched between two plateaus where the scent of the trees was astringent, like Aloe. It was a cool refreshing scent. Moving through the trees I came to the river where small gold fish swam under the surface of the slow moving water. . . that bubbled around me.
Not again. I was just starting to enjoy the last place.
The bathtub was filled with a wonderfully warm and scented bubble bath. The high tech fixtures of the bath were luxurious in their style and décor. Standing up I stepped from the tub, soapy bubbles sliding down my smooth skin. The towel I wrapped around me was warm, thick and soft. Exploring beyond the bath confirmed that this was a hotel suite. A meal had been laid out and a rack of garments awaited perusal.
I remembered checking in here and meeting that very handsome Jean Pierre. But how could I remember something when it didn't feel like it had happened to me.
I continued drying off and moved to the window. The last person that I had interacted with, that I was sure of, was back on Ssalesh. I had memories of talking to people here and the last shadow, but no consciousness of actually having seen people. I depolarized the window; I wanted very badly to see people right now. And there they were, thousands of them, hundreds of thousands of them. The city went on forever, the air cars, the hover cars, and the skywalks full of bright pink people. I knew this place this was Vereema. My last visit had been about 300 years ago. More than just seeing people, I felt a desperate need to interact with them. To establish that reality wasn't rapidly slipping away or something in the incense back in Ssalessh.
The rack of garments seemed to be very carefully selected with my tastes in mind. I picked out a cobalt blue jumpsuit that had a silver shooting star design over one shoulder. There were matching shoes and a hip pack.
I dressed quickly, headed for the door as I called to the Luggage sitting in the corner. "Well, lets get out there and see what's happening. This is just plain nutty, but doesn't seem to be hazardous, yet."
This floor of the hotel was very tastefully done in a retro style. The lift shaft even had functional elevator doors. I pressed the old-fashioned elevator button and the doors slid back to reveal a round grav-shaft that dropped approximately 600 feet.
'Now what was that you were saying to yourself about not being hazardous?'
Eyeing the vertical drop I decided that a Trump in the hand was the best course of defense just in case the grav-shaft should fail. I stepped out into the lift but did not immediately move down.
"Lobby Please." I spoke to the air and then slowly began to descend. Well the grav-shaft seemed to perform as normal, but I kept the card at hand. . . As I stepped out into a very lush and tropical jungle my shoes sank into the slightly boggy soil beneath me.
There was no evidence of any technological constructs anywhere, just a large gargoyle-like winged beast that seemed to be saying something.
Another shadow, big surprise. But this time there were no memories of getting here or meeting the creature in front of me. This shift in reality was different than the last two. The creature was different also. It was 'real'. Like Amber and father were 'real'. This creature was not shadow stuff, but 'tasted' different than I was accustomed to. It was tall and the body was covered with bronze colored scales shading to deep blue along the ribs of the wings and on the chest, shoulders and head.
It seemed to be asking if I felt like a cistern. That couldn't be right, could it? Why would anyone want to know if I felt like a water reservoir? I finally puzzled out that the language was an archaic and highly accented form of Thari. The more I listened to it speak, the easier it was to understand the vernacular. The creature did not appear threatening so I decided to converse with it.
I informed the creature that I was all right except for the matter of my shoes, which were quickly being destroyed by the bog they seemed to be sinking into. We exchanged names his was Keladrian.
"Perhaps a change of venue." I suggested. The creature agreed and said that it could 'spin' us to another location. I sensed that it was near exhaustion for some reason. Perhaps this 'spinning' of his was a hard process. That and not liking the current place that he had brought us, I offered to Trump to someplace appropriate.
Shuffling through the Trumps I turned up the card for Quasmir. It would do. We could rest, eat and converse in a more civilized environment. Besides the bog ruining my shoes, there were things out there in the jungle that seemed to be taking an interest.
I concentrated a moment on the card and saw the picture change to resemble the land as it currently was. The portal opened and I stepped through, closely following the Luggage and the Gargoyle.
Quasmir was a favorite of my father's and mine. We met here often, that is to say every twenty to thirty years. The large open terrace we appeared on led through a gauzy curtained arch into a private dining room. In the middle of the room a samovar sat on a low, round table surrounded by floor cushions. The smell of roasting meats and delicate spices entered into the room through an identical arch directly opposite where we now stood. That arch had a beaded curtain in addition to the gauzy one. The faint sound of wind chimes created a Zen-like feeling.
The Luggage trotted to a near corner and
made itself at home.
"I'm going to get us some food, make yourself comfortable." I told my new companion as I headed for the beaded curtain arch.
"Is there perhaps some place I can
freshen up?" It asked.
I indicated a door to the left and continued
through the curtain. A young boy saw me step from the room and ran off
down the hallway. He returned shortly followed by a distinguished looking
maitre 'd in a European style tuxedo. This man was not wearing a turban
and introduced himself as Hajij. After ordering food, I returned to
the dining room.
I was rummaging in the Luggage for a change of shoes when the food arrived. Then a man stepped out of the washroom. He was tall, around 7 feet, very muscular with dark hair and blue eyes. He moved gracefully and his skin was a warm bronze. He was wearing a bronze colored jacket, hiking shoes and comfortable looking blue jeans.
"Who the hell are you and what are
you doing here?" I demanded.
"I am Keladrian." His voice was
deep and melodic.
"The food is here, shall we eat?" I needed time to think and cover my discomfiture. He may be from Chaos but he was amazing looking.
We discussed the odd occurrences as we ate. I told him what had happened to me and he told me that Vereema had been stopped in time. No one in the shadow had seemed to be moving. He could tell that I didn't belong so he decided to remove me from there.
"How did you get to Vereema, you mentioned
something about spin or something. How do you do that?" I didn't
expect an answer, I wouldn't have given one, but one can always hope.
"I really can't say." He hedged.
After further discussion we decided to re-visit Vereema to see if it had returned to normal after he had removed me. The theory being that maybe I was the catalyst for whatever strange things had been occurring. Keladrian was concerned about how quickly he could return there from this shadow. So I mentioned that it was possible to return there in one Trump.
"Give me thirty minutes." I said as I left and went to another room in the restaurant. If Keladrian could keep his secrets so could I. After finishing a Trump sketch of Vereema I returned to the dining room where Keladrian had made great inroads on the comestibles provided.
I activated the Trump and we stepped through. Keladrian seemed a little disoriented from the Trump, but Vereema was as he had described. The air molecules stung as I walked into them but Keladrian did not seem as bothered by it.
"How do you do this shadow change
with those, 'Trump'?" Keladrian asked casually as he moved over
to another batch of air to take a breath.
"The same way you do 'spin' I guess."
I mentally chalked up a verbal victory, though I was too busy trying
to catch a breath to smirk.
Neither of us could tell anything about
the cause for this unnatural disruption of this shadow so we returned
to Quasmir via Trump.
The food on the table had been refreshed while we had been gone.
"Ok, so what do we know? Obviously my presence or absence of it in Vereema did not change the problem." I plopped down on a pillow. Keladrian could not shed any light on the problem either just provide more questions. Who was this shape-shifting Lord of Chaos? Why did he 'rescue' me from Vereema? Maybe he was actually behind the strange occurrences that had been happening. Why was he hanging around helping? What was his stake in it?
"How about we try to go back to the
other shadow that I was in before Vereema?" I wondered how much
longer this interesting individual would hang out with me? Not that
"Give me 30 minutes and we can go."
Again I left to go to the other room to construct a Trump sketch.
"First Vereema is slowed, now the
other shadow is uninhabitable." The only thing the two had in common
was the strange experience I'd had there.
"I want to go back to Ssalessh. That's
where this started this morning. Maybe it's affected also." I suggested.
Keladrian agreed to accompany the Luggage
and I to Ssalessh. Where we found nothing unusual.
"The people here worship me, so it's
a little strange, but otherwise it's nice." I stepped through the
Trump following the Luggage and Keladrian.
"It is peaceful here." Keladrian
seemed to be less disturbed by the Trump transfer this time.
"Nothing. I feel nothing different
or strange. And you?"
Keladrian agreed that nothing appeared
out of sorts.
"I want to get an idea of the time
differential." I called to one of the acolytes. "How many
suns has it been since I was last here?"
"It has been 14 suns since the goddess
last graced us with her presence. Is there anything we can do for the
"No, thank you, that will be all."
So, what had I learned from that. That seemed a little long but the
time differential in this shadow was not consistent. There was another
point of reference I could check out, one that might be a little more
reliable. My memories suggested a couple of hours on Ssalessh, 4 to
5 hours on the mesa shadow, then another 3 to 4 hours on Vereema, then
what? Another 2 hours with Keladrian for about a total of 12 hours.
Now my experiences suggested only 30 minutes on Ssalessh, about an hour
and a half on the mesa shadow and at the most 45 minutes on Vereema,
then the time with Keladrian. So that was a little under 4 hours.
I reached into my pouch and pulled out Bleys' Trump. I really hated calling him again in so short a time but there was just too much to discuss.
There was the usual wait for contact and
then there was Bleys, still on board the ship, but looking unhappy.
"Hello, father. How are things
going?" might as well start with some socializing instead of
"Not well, I just lost a ship."
He definitely was not in a good mood. Well, no hope for it but to forge
"Sorry about that, How's Caine?"
It was a cheap barb, but with father you had to get them where you could.
When he didn't respond, I continued. "A quick question, how
long has it been there since I last Trumped you?"
"Two hours, why? What's the matter?" He seemed interested.
I explained what had been happening and
then mentioned the shape-shifter to Bleys. "He mentioned something
about using 'spin' to get through shadow. I don't remember hearing anyone
call shadow walking 'spin', not even Fiona or Brand" The last
comment was obviously a mistake.
"You weren't talking to Brand and
Fiona about Chaos were you?" I had his attention now.
'No, just saying that I never heard
them mention anything. By the way, what about this shape-shifter, what
should I do about him?" The attempt to change the subject was
not very successful.
"Don't fuck him." Well,
that was to the point. "Tell you what, I'm pretty much finished
here, tell me which shadows those were and I'll check into it."
"Well, any good ideas?" I turned back to Keladrian and damn father anyway, I became acutely aware of how near and real he was. It had been a long time since I had been around anyone real who wasn't a relative. And he was so good looking.
We stood in silence for a moment. " I was hoping that you could come up with something as I am all out of things that we can try." At that moment I made eye contact with Keladrian and felt the blood rush to my cheeks. I was sure that the visual imagery that my father's admonition had called forth was mirrored quite plainly on my face.
I turned away quickly and cleared my throat. " Yes, well . . . " Think quickly. There were so many questions and ideas racing through my mind. One step at a time. Why was he here, or more exactly, how did he end up being in Vereema at the time he did. I don't believe in coincidence. Was he part of what had been happening to me?
I composed myself and turned back to Keladrian, " I want to thank you for your assistance in rescuing me from Vereema, but I am sure that you were on your way someplace. I don't want you to feel that you need to stay here on my account. So I will understand if you have someplace else to be. Not that I'm ungrateful, mind you . . ." Just shut up Zhelan, you're babbling now. Much would depend on his answer to this. Was he sent here to watch me, part of the problem with shadow, or just someone passing through? If either of the first two were correct he would choose to stay with me, maybe. If the third option, he would leave and continue his business, again maybe. Nothing was ever simple; there was always the possibility of layers of deception upon layers of intrigue when one was dealing with 'real' people. If he was part of this problem or here to watch me, he might leave so as not to arouse suspicion. If he was just an innocent bystander just passing through, he might still want to stay and see what was happening. I might in his place. Or there could be possibilities that I was not aware of. There were just too many permutations.
"I have no particular place to be
at this time. I think I will remain here if that is alright with you?"
He just stood there, maybe the faintest hint of a smile on his features.
His body language was hard to read and I was hesitant to try his mental
defenses yet. So the ball was back in my court.
Damn him. Why couldn't I be more like Bleys,
or Fiona? They would know the perfect thing to do or say in this situation.
For the good of Amber, I must be careful here. Perhaps if he weren't
so 'male' I could think more clearly.
I decided to try another tack. "Don't
feel obliged to retain this shape on my account. If you have another
that is more comfortable for you." I offered. Boy that was stupid.
Here we are standing in my bedroom in Ssalessh and I just invited a
man to make himself comfortable. I was sure that I blushed again and
he was definitely smiling now. Damn, damn, damn.
"This form is fine with me, does it
bother you?" Was there the hint of mockery in his tone?
More than you can possibly know, I hope.
"No, you're fine." Don't say another word, just turn nonchalantly
away and get it together!
There was definitely a smile on his lips
now. (Don't think about the lips) But he turned away and began looking
around the room. "Do you come to this place often?"
"No, not really, every now and then."
Of course the Luggage chose that moment to go to the corner and make
itself at home on the carpet I had placed there specifically for it.
And of course, Keladrian had to notice how accustomed the Luggage was
to these surroundings. "I come here when I want to paint."
I indicated the many paintings hanging on the wall. Most were of landscapes.
None were Trump-powered. It seemed easier to think when he wasn't looking
so intently at me.
"Do you have many such places in shadow
as this and Quasmir?" Boy how obvious can you get. Do I feel like
I'm being pumped for information or what?
"Keladrian, I think something strange
is happening. Luggage, we may need to go." I heard a strange noise
from outside like the sound of thousands of wings. These looked more
like locust than crickets and they were filling the room and getting
"Do you think that you could take
us someplace else, you know with that 'spin' thing that you do? I'm
thinking that if we go someplace I know that we would still have problems."
More of the insects had bitten me and I was feeling a little woozy,
they must be poisonous. "Now would be a good time." What was
taking him so long to move us? I started reaching for a Trump just in
case this was the set-up he had been waiting for.
Suddenly the world swirled, and my head
spun. Was it the means of transport or the effect of the locust bites?
I found it hard to concentrate and my coordination was going. I recognized
the first symptoms of shock and remembered that there was a med-kit
in the Luggage.
When we had arrived at a new destination,
I turned to the Luggage. "Luggage, my med-kit." The properties
of the Luggage were quite amazing. It has a round top, reminiscent of
a pirate's chest. When it's open you could see the inside of the lid
covered with red velvet. The rest of the inside is never completely
visible. No matter what the condition of the garment when it goes into
the Luggage, it always comes out clean, neatly folded and pressed and
smelling faintly of Lavender.
Keladrian seemed intrigued when the lid
of the Luggage popped open and a med-kit shot up like bread from an
over eager toaster. I expertly caught the med-kit in mid-air though
my coordination was off. I knew my face must be losing all color and
my hands shook as I tried to open the med-kit. I finally got it open
and extracted a blue package. Ripped it open and swallowed the two pills
"Luggage, I'm not feeling really well,
can you take the med-kit back and get me a blanket?" I spilled
the contents of the kit back into the Luggage and wrapped myself into
the blanket that was supplied. I barely noticed my surroundings though
I believe we were still inside a building, but there was no light outside
the window and no furniture in the room. Which meant no place to sit
down except on top of the Luggage. And I was getting very cold.
I slipped to the floor, "I think I'll
just take a nap." I don't remember anything past that point.
It was still dark outside when I woke.
Whether a few moments or a day had gone by, I had no idea. My mouth
was dry and tasted awful and I was sure I didn't look my best, if how
I felt was any indication. Sitting up I took in the surroundings. Keladrian
was sitting in the only doorway to the room, which was bare of anything
but dust, grime and the three of us.
"Is there anyplace around here?"
more than anything, I wanted to shower and wash my hair. The interrupted
bubble bath in Vereema seemed so long ago.
"What did you need?" asked Keladrian.
No information, just answer a question with a question.
"A bathroom would be good about now."
someplace where there would be clean clothes and a pair of shoes that
matched my outfit. I was not impressed with the places that Keladrian
choose to 'spin' to.
Keladrian stood up and appeared to be thinking.
I really didn't need another of his shadows right now.
"Never mind. I know someplace we can
go." I pulled out a Trump. The place that I was interested in was
someone else's private shadow. Maybe it would be safe there. I took
out the Trump for Texarami. This was one of Random's favorite hangouts.
I wondered if he had been back there since he'd married Vialle. Maybe
he didn't need to now. I'd like to ask him about that someday.
Keladrian, the Luggage and I were soon
walking down the main street of a wild Mexican border town. It was perhaps
2 in the morning and the only people about were drunk or furtive. I
could understand why Random liked it so much here. There was an edge
to the place. The streets were threatening and most people packed weapons.
But inside the buildings were some of the finest jazz clubs in shadow.
And the dessert heat provided the proper winds for sailplaning.
"Where do you suggest we should go?"
Keladrian did not seem as taken with Texarami's charms.
"Over here, this place will do."
We went through the swinging saloon doors, which were a distinct line
of demarcation from the grubbiness of the street outside to the refinement
of the interior. The man behind the walnut counter was impeccably dressed.
The scar running down the right side of his face was the only indication
of the world outside. An older woman entered the room through stylish
beaded curtains as she heard us enter. Her black Spanish-style dress
contrasted nicely with the maroon flocked wallpaper.
She adjusted the shawl on her shoulders
as she approached. "The name's Madrigal. This is my place. What
can I do for you, Senora, Senor?"
"Two rooms please. On Random's tab."
I hoped I'd remembered the correct establishment.
Madrigal looked us carefully up and down,
"O, but of course." Madrigal continued to look at us as she
called to the man behind the counter. "Sam two rooms."
"Is there anything else we can do
for you, Senora?"
"Dinner would be nice. Can it be sent
up to my room?" I knew that food would be the next concern after
Madrigal nodded then turned to Keladrian.
"And you, Senor, what can we do for you?"
"I will have dinner with the lady."
We were shown to the rooms and I immediately
headed to the bathroom. A hot shower would clear the head and a change
of clothes would surely make me feel more competent.
I felt much better after the shower and
wardrobe change. A more practical pair of leather pants and cowboy boots,
a blue cotton shirt and small print kerchief tied about the neck had
replaced the cobalt blue jumpsuit. I debated briefly on how many buttons
to leave open then settled for demure.
The food arrived but there was no sign
of Keladrian. And there really wasn't enough food for both of us. Amberites
have very fast metabolisms and we can put away a lot of food. I sent
the waiter back for more. I was annoyed that Keladrian wasn't waiting.
I looked out the window but there was nothing outside to indicate where
he had gone. Disgusted I sat at the table and started to eat when a
Trump contact interrupted me.
Better see who it was before I answered.
I pulled out my Trump to see which one was active. Bleys!! I answered
"Father, I didn't expect to hear
from you so soon."
"Are you alone?"
"Yes, for now."
"Better bring me through." I extended my hand and brought him through. As ever, he was dressed impeccably in orange and red work clothes with not a hair out of place. I wondered what he thought of where we were, and felt compelled to explain.
I brought him up to date on what had happened
since we'd last spoken and then, "So after I woke up in that hovel
that he took me to, we came here. I mean I needed to change. The shoes
I had just didn't match the outfit." I paused a moment then added;
"He has the room across the hall." It seemed important to
stress that we had separate rooms.
"Don't you just hate when that happens?"
I wasn't sure if he was serious, but Bleys could certainly make you
think he cared about what was important to you. "I think I'll just
hang around and meet this Keladrian."
There was a knock at the door. It was the
waiter returning with more food. As I let him in I saw Keladrian across
the hall with a shopping bag marked Jose's Commissary. Apparently someone
had been out shopping. I wondered what needed to be purchased.
"Foods here" I told him.
"I'll be there in just a minute."
"Feel free to let yourself in when
you're ready." I told him as he disappeared into his room.
I let the waiter out and shut the door.
"He'll be here soon." I said as I turned to father.
I had barely sat down again when the door
opened and Keladrian entered the room. He stopped when he saw Bleys.
"Father, I would like to introduce
Keladrian. Keladrian, this is Bleys, my father." Now that the formal
introductions were over, I concentrated on eating as I could feel the
testosterone in the room building.
"Well, Keladrian is it? Where do you
come from?" Bleys at his most charming rose and offered Keladrian
"Here and there." Keladrian shook
Bleys hand and it was obvious that the two were sizing each other up.
"I doubt that. So, tell me how you
came across my daughter."
Keladrian explained how he came into Vereema
and realized that something was wrong with the shadow and went looking
for what was causing it and found me.
"You knew that she didn't belong there."
Bleys raised an eyebrow.
"I do try to fit in wherever I go,
father." I shouldn't have bothered; neither of the men seemed to
notice I was there at all.
"Do I belong here?" Keladrian
"Point taken. My question to you is
what are your intentions regarding my daughter?" Time to crawl
under the table. Could my father embarrass me any more?
"In what way?" Was this a life
skill they taught where Keladrian came from. Never answer a question
unless you can answer with another question?
"Let me be succinct. I will crush
anyone who harms my daughter. So again, what are your intentions?"
"I think I'll hang around and see
what happens, if that's ok with you?"
"It isn't up to me." My father
turned to me. "Pumpkin, what do you want to do?" Could it
get any worse? If Keladrian started calling me Pumpkin, I don't care
how strong he was I would kill him.
"I think I would like to pursue this
problem a little more out here in shadow for awhile. And if Keladrian
wants to hang around, I have no problem with that."
"All right then, you call me if you
find out anything." Father patted my hand.
"Thank you father. If you hear anything
interesting from home, let me know." Bleys left the room by the
door but was gone from the shadow before he was 5 feet down the hall.
That left Keladrian and I facing each other
over the remainder of the food.
We passed the rest of the meal engaged
in verbal fencing, parries and ripostes. Neither one of us giving any
information away and trying to get the other to reveal more about their
home and background.
Finally I was tired of it. "This is
getting us nowhere." I tossed my napkin on the table. "We
should decide what our next course of action is going to be."
"I agree." His smile felt genuine.
While we formulated a plan, I pulled out
a sketchpad and pencil and started making drawings of Keladrian. A Trump
might come in handy at some point if I could get the time to do one.
We finally decided that we would wait in Texarami and see if whatever was happening would happen here. If and when it did we would try to find the source. If things went wrong and we had to split up we would meet back in Quasmir. I gave Keladrian my Trump of Quasmir I could always draw another one. I decided to teach him how to use the Trump by having him take us to Quasmir.
We finished up our planning in Quasmir
and I had the Trump for Texarami in hand when an expectant hush smothered
the shadow. The usual sounds had ceased. The quiet did not last long
before the floor underneath began to buckle and shift. The entire shadow
seemed to heave and distort.
I began to hear strange whispering voices,
which seemed to be speaking in Thari. An older version of Thari than
used in Amber, but not as ancient as Keladrian spoke. Though I concentrated
on the voices as much as possible, considering the earthquake that we
were experiencing, I could not make out the words. A sudden shift in
the flooring caused me to lose my balance and my head struck the wall.
Blinking my eyes I realized that I could not see. I leaned up against
the wall and slide to sit on the floor. The smell of dust was strong
but did not overpower the sudden frightening fact that the Trump for
Texarami had gone warm in my hand.
Panicked I reached into my belt pouch and
felt the other Trump. All warm.
Where was Keladrian? "Help me, I can't
see." My voice was not as calm as I had hoped. I tried a Trump
memory and felt no connection with the Trump. We were stuck, I was stuck.
I did not know if Keladrian was still around or not. I had never felt
this much fear in my entire life. Just when I was sure that I would
pass out from panic and fright, I felt a Trump shift and my vision cleared.
We were once again in Texarami.
I stood up in the alley. Though it was
around three in the morning, it was bright as day and a warm wind was
blowing. I felt three distinct Trump signatures appear. The largest
was about a half mile away, a medium one about 100 yards from the first
and a smaller one that I couldn't determine direction or distance. The
old adage of from the frying pan into the fire sprang to mind. I turned
to Keladrian. "You wanted to wait here until we were attacked,
I think this qualifies." I told him as I retrieved a handgun from
Things began happening just too damn fast.
Keladrian looked out of the alley and said, "You're right."
I didn't know what he had seen, so asked, "Is it something you
want to wait here for or do you want to move on?"
"This would not be a good place to
face this." Whatever was coming was hot and bright. I could see
the garbage in the street begin to steam. Keladrian began looking around
and the next thing I knew we were standing on a roof. "What the
hell was that?" Another facet of Keladrian's power? I turned toward
the source of the heat. A large winged serpent was heading our way.
A bright hot orb of light surrounded it. I got the impression that I
didn't want to be in that orb or close to it.
"We're moving." Keladrian stated
as we suddenly shifted to a river canyon about 30 miles from the city.
I recognized this canyon. Random and I had gone white river rafting
through here. This wasn't shadow walking, we were moving across distance
in the same shadow. I had never experienced anything like this before.
"We need to get it to follow us."
Keladrian stated. Was he out of his mind? The handgun I had picked up
wouldn't make a dent in what was back in the city.
Keladrian must have picked up my amazement
from the expression on my face. He indicated back the way we had come.
"Do you not care what happens to the beings in this place?"
I looked back and saw that the buildings in the city were starting to
ignite. I had two thoughts. How could we attract its attention? And
we could always leave this shadow once it headed our way.
I pulled my own Trump out and concentrated
on it. If this didn't get its attention, it would provide some defense.
As soon as I activated the card, the head of the snake snapped in our
direction. "I think we can say that they are definitely after me."
"It would appear that way." Keladrian
was looking around again as the flying snake came streaking towards
us. We shifted again and were now standing on a bluff overlooking the
river canyon. The winged serpent had already reached the spot where
we had been moments before. It paused and seemed to be searching around.
Apparently it could detect my Trump activity but not whatever it was
that Keladrian was doing.
Without turning toward me, Keladrian said,
"Wait here." then disappeared, and reappeared about 200 feet
above the snake thing. As he started falling I could see him shifting
shape. When he collided with the winged serpent, he had assumed the
same shape though smaller. The force of the impact knocked the larger
snake creature into the river.
The meeting of water and hot orb created
great bouts of steam impossible to see anything through. The light from
the snake creature's orb was extinguished and it became darker though
the glow from Keladrian still provided some light. Whatever was out
there the snake was only one of the three Trump signatures.
I looked down at the handgun that I had
gotten from the luggage and decided a bigger weapon would be appropriate.
"Luggage, I need a weapon." I turned and discovered that there
was no sign of the Luggage. Shit. Where did we leave it? I thought back.
The Luggage was with us in the alley but
I don't remember it when we were in the river canyon. Damn Keladrian
and his hoping around. He lost my Luggage. Well, I would just have to
go back to the city and get it. Besides, how dare he tell me to wait
here? I started climbing down the bluff. I couldn't see what Keladrian
was doing anyway and he hadn't returned yet. I heard and then felt the
shock of a lightening strike. Maybe he was in trouble. Halfway down
the bluff I saw him appear above another bluff. Ok he seemed to be fine.
Suddenly it became very dark. He must have shape shifted out of the
flying snake form. Getting down the bluff would be a little trickier
but not impossible.
I didn't realize how close I had gotten
to where Keladrian had knocked the snake into the river until I heard
the hissing and bubbling nearby. I adjusted my trajectory away from
the sound of thrashing water. Somehow the mission to retrieve the Luggage
seemed very important. The thrashing noise in the water stopped and
I heard wings start to beat. No way I could outrun a winged creature
in the dark. Finding a nearby stand of mesquite, I hunkered down trying
to be small and invisible.
Keladrian's appearance nearby was startling.
I don't know how many more shocks I could take tonight.
"Now would be a good time to leave."
Leave it to Keladrian to understate the obvious.
"You think?" and then we were
standing in a similar desert canyon as the sun was just coming up. There
was nothing but dirt and rocks and the river nearby. There was no vegetation
by the river. Another stunning shadow. Keladrian was carrying a body
over his shoulder. I could just discern the charred remains of black
and silver clothing.
"He was with the Chaos Lord and threw
a lightening bolt at me." Keladrian explained as he dumped the
body on the ground. "I thought we should find out who is chasing
"That was the plan, however did you
have to leave my Luggage behind."
"The Luggage?" Keladrian looked
around and seemed puzzled. He shrugged and started to remove the belt
from the body on the ground. "We should probably secure him."
I saw a pouch drop from the belt and was
intrigued. What did our new captive have with him? Opening the pouch
I was surprised to find Trump. Trump that I didn't recognize. There
were 8 cards in all. I spent some time reviewing each image while Keladrian
trussed the body.
Three of the Trump were landscapes. The
first was a courtyard of a black gothic castle. Featuring black stonework
and gargoyles. The second a modern high tech apartment with glass walls
overlooking a large city, the third a large functional coliseum. The
last five were of people and these I paid particular attention to. An
old man with an insane look in his eyes stood before a black background.
I felt very uncomfortable looking at this Trump. The next was a gorgeous
young man with a shock of white hair. The background was chaotic and
abstract. The eyes were compelling. Following was a stern faced older
woman with steel gray eyes and hair in a classic pageboy cut. She was
wearing working armor. A real killer. The next was of a young man in
front of a workbench; there was something about him that seemed dangerous.
The last Trump was a young woman with short red hair and a scattering
of freckles across her nose. She was standing in a forest.
While I had been looking through the cards
Keladrian was saying something about interrogating our guest and whether
I thought I could be of any use in that. I did mention that I could
probably tell if he were being truthful when we noticed that the person
we were discussing was awake and watching us.
"So, the hunter becomes the hunted."
Keladrian turned his attention on our prisoner. "Why were you after
her." He indicated me.
"After her?!!" he really didn't
need to say it with such a sneer in his voice.
I continued looking through the Trump and
tried to ignore his poor manners.
"Give those back." The man turned
towards me and indicated the Trump that I was holding.
"I don't feel inclined to do so."
I hadn't finished looking at them and he was very rude.
"Then kill me." Well, that seemed
a trifle over the top for 8 cards.
"Always an option." There, maybe
that would make him think we were ruthless and bloodthirsty.
"I want my cards back."
"What is it worth to you? The truth
for the cards? Let's play a little game. You answer a question, truthfully,
you get a card." Hey, I could be good at this interrogation thing.
"My choice of card?"
"No, I don't think so. A random card."
"Alright but I get the card when I
give an answer."
"We'll see." Keladrian did what
he does best and loomed.
"Ok, first question. What is your
intent?" Bad question. A little too vague. Oh, well, bluster. Maybe
"My intent is to leave here with my
self and my honor intact."
I looked down at him sitting in the dirt
with the charred remains of his clothes and trussed in his own belt.
"Too late. Now answer the question."
"I don't understand you." He
had called my bluff. But I had more bluff
"Very simple, three little words,
what's your intent. Answer the question." I tried to do my best
Fiona impression and silently wished for Keladrian to loom with a bit
He looked at me and then to Keladrian.
"To capture the Rogue."
The statement must have meant something
to Keladrian as he certainly twigged on it.
"Give me a card." He turned his
gaze on me.
"Very well." I shuffled the cards
and drew forth one and placed it back in his belt pouch, then laid the
pouch on a rock out of his reach.
"Whom are you working with?"
Keladrian asked the next question. A good question I thought.
"Lord Ballak of Sawall." The
answer meant nothing to me but was the truth. I placed another card
in the pouch.
"Only 6 cards left, make them count."
Keladrian did not look at me, his attention
fully upon our guest. "How did you become aware of my presence?"
The questions that Keladrian was asking were almost as informative as
the answers. I decided to keep out of the process for a while and see
what could be learned.
"A series of watch posts were established
on the perimeter." This question and answer were so interesting
that I forgot to give up another card. We ended up with a two for one
bargain, as our guest didn't notice the flaw either.
"How long have they been there?"
obviously these answers had meaning for at least two of the three participants
in our little drama.
"Since the defeat of Sytaxia."
This time I did remember to reward him with a card.
"How did you track me?" Big time
question. This could be important for the future.
"Didn't. We tracked her." He
"They can travel the same way that
I do. I noticed when they showed up in Texarami. They must have the
same abilities." Trump was not just a hidden Amber pastime for
Dworkin, father and myself. There were others out there like me. File
that away for future thinking.
"They use the Logrus as well."
Ooh. Keladrian offering up information! Mark that in your calendars
boys and girls.
"Are you responsible for putting Zhelan
in her situation in Vereema?"
"No, Amber is." Blow me away.
Who in Amber would care enough to bother with me? I put another card
in his pouch.
Keladrian turned to me. "I am sorry
I have monopolized the questions. But there were things I had to know.
You may ask a question if you like."
"I think we need to try to focus our
questions a little. Ask something that can't just be answered by a yes
or no, or a short two or three word answer. Something like, what other
incidents in shadow were you and those you associate with, responsible
"Good question. So, answer it."
Keladrian turned back to our guest.
"The locusts were Lord Ballak's idea.
The earthquake was Lila's. And of course there was the burning of that
hovel back there." He practically sneered the word hovel.
"That 'hovel' was Random's favorite
shadow!" His manner infuriated me. I couldn't tell if his reaction
to that information was shocked or mocking. I gave him another card
anyway. We now had two cards left.
"How many in the Courts know of my
home and those who live there?" Keladrian was back to the interesting
"Very few." This was not worthy
of a card. Keladrian didn't think so either.
"That answer is not sufficient. Expound
more. Of the 'few' that know, what is their level in the Courts?"
"It is not widely known outside the
House of Sawall. I expect that it is confined to certain members of
the Royal family." The last was a guess. I could tell that our
friend was not entirely sure of this answer. Keladrian didn't ask. I
didn't mention it. But I did put the second to last card in the pouch.
"Did you have any questions that you
wish to ask with our last card?" Keladrian turned to me.
"I don't think that what I need to
know that he has an answer to. What I want to know is who in Amber is
responsible for Vereema and the other things that were happening to
"I know the answer to that."
Our reluctant guest seemed eager to answer the final question and be
done with this.
"Very well then, answer the question."
I concentrated intently on him. I wanted to make damn sure that he was
being truthful on this answer. Many things could depend on the outcome.
"Corwin is." Corwin? The answer
felt 100% solid and true. But how and why? We had no cards left for
answers and I had many more questions. I took one last look at the redheaded
woman with freckles on the card I was holding. I concentrated on the
card just to the point of making it active and then shut it down. I
had a 'taste' of this woman. Enough to recognize her if I met her in
person. And I could draw sketches of all of the people on the cards.
Maybe someone back in Amber would know who these people were. I carefully
placed the last card in the pouch.
"Are we done?" Our guest stood
up and the pouch disappeared from the rock and appeared in his hands,
which were no longer secured behind his back. When we did not respond
he stepped backward out of this shadow.
I turned to Keladrian. "This is way
beyond what I am prepared to deal with." I removed a Trump from
my deck. "I am going to the top."
"Yes, but my top is different than
yours." That was a statement that I could not argue with. "I
need at least one hour. If you will wait for that long, we will discuss
our next actions."
"Alright. I owe you an hour."
No one had to say who was driving on this trip. The last thing either
of us wanted was to deal with the Lords of Chaos again. Keladrian took
us through two very sparse shadows. When we came to a tropical location
with a beautiful white sand beach I told Keladrian that we were stopping
Keladrian parked himself on the sand with
an intense look of concentration. As I headed to the beach I noticed
about a dozen hazy fuzz balls starting to form around his head. Magic!
I hauled off the leather pants and cowboy
boots. The shirt was pretty much a total wash but the bandanna could
at least be used as a washcloth. I cleaned up while Keladrian was busy.
About 50 minutes later when the little
dragons that had formed from the fuzz balls were starting to fly away,
I hauled myself out of the surf and began dressing.
As far as I was concerned there was no
decision to be made. I was going to Amber. I had an obligation to tell
the family what I knew, or thought I knew. I wanted to take Keladrian
with me. I thought that the family should be aware that there was someone
out there that Chaos was also interested in besides us. Keladrian didn't
seem to have any clear idea of where he wanted to go except somewhere
he could 'prepare for battle'. He asked me if I had a Trump of myself.
Having a Trump of someone gives you an advantage over them in some ways.
I wasn't prepared for that much trust in this relationship and I told
him that. I convinced him that Amber would be the safest place to be
and that he could get some undisturbed time at my father's estate. I
didn't tell him that I planned to bring him to Castle Amber library
first. If Bleys were home, there would be no way I could go to the estate
without him knowing we were there. I didn't want to face that right
now. With all the coming and going at Castle Amber I was hoping we could
sneak into the library without comment.
There was no one in the library when we
Trumped in. I left Keladrian in a corner doing his thing and moved away
for some privacy of my own. I pulled a Trump out and looked at it. I
had never had the occasion to call Random since he had given me his
Trump. I looked down at the face of my uncle and made contact.
"Yes, who is it." The
contact came quick, clear and sharp. He was very nearby. I recognized
that he was standing in a hallway somewhere in the castle.
"Uncle Random, it's me Zhelan.
I have something important that I need to discuss. Are you free?"
"Why don't I meet you in the library?"
"I don't think that would be a
good idea right now. Why don't I come to you." I could see
that he was standing in a corridor somewhere but I haven't been to Castle
Amber long enough to have memorized every spot in the place
"I am about 40 feet down the hall from the library."
I terminated the Trump contact and quickly
left. When I opened the door of the library I could indeed see my uncle
standing in the corridor down the hall. He was in full majestic regalia
and it hit me that my friend was now King in Amber. Funny how I never
thought of him that way. As I approached him I noticed that he was standing
in front of a room and the door was slightly ajar. I didn't know if
he had been coming or going.
"I need to talk to you about something
important, but I don't think it a good idea to discuss it in the hall."
"Then let's go to the library."
I couldn't allow that. I had promised Keladrian undisturbed time to
do his thing.
"Maybe another room."
"Well then," he opened the door
and stepped into the room. "Let's discuss it in here."
I was into the room before I realized whose
room we had just entered. And he was standing there, Uncle Benedict.
I have always tried to avoid my Uncle Benedict. He wasn't alone in the
room; here were two other people with him. I use the term loosely, as
one was a 7-foot tall, black-skinned man in dinner dress. I noticed
that Benedict also seemed to be wearing the Sunday finery. Must have
been some state function. The other person was a woman who was wearing
what the ladies of the court like to call 'traveling gear'. Long dresses
are not meant for traveling. She seemed innocuous enough.
Random said to Benedict "You remember
Zhelan, Bley's daughter."
"Zhelan" I wasn't sure if it
was a statement or a question. Benedict intimidates the hell out of
"Whhatt?!!" that was artful.
I wanted to shrink into my boots. I was acutely aware of how I must
look in my wet hair and clothes with soot and dirt all over. At least
my face was clean.
Random turned to me and said. "I'm
sorry I can't wake him up."
"Who?" This conversation had
definitely taken a turn south.
"Bleys. I thought you knew."
Random seemed very solicitous.
"I'm sorry uncle, who are these people?"
I had important matters of state to discuss and I didn't know if I could
speak freely in front of whom was here.
"Oh, yes." He turned and indicated
the tall man with black skin. "Allow me to introduce the Ambassador
from Chaos The Lord Solomon Drake, Duke Sawall."
"Sawall??!!" I backed towards
the door. This must be some crazed nightmare. I escape to the safety
of Amber only to find the enemy within.
"People named Sawall have been trying
to kill us. That is part of what I needed to talk to you about."
I explained that I had a recent encounter
in shadow with a Lord Ballak and Lila. I left large gaps in the story,
such as what the attack was, who was with me, capturing and interrogating
the man in silver and black, how I escaped, and the partial destruction
of Texarami. But this Lord Drake recognized the names and stated that
they were a discordant group from his family, not officially sanctioned
and he assured me the matter would be taken care of. He seemed sincere
enough. At least he believed he was telling the truth.
Then the Lady Isabeau was introduced and
revealed to everyone's amazement, except for Lord Drake (strange that)
that she was Fiona's daughter. Somehow picturing Fiona pregnant made
The story I got from them was that Bleys
and Fiona were both unconscious. That's what Random thought I wanted
to talk to him about. I gathered that Fiona was a bit more vocal in
her unconsciousness than Bleys had been. Go figure. Aunt Fiona never
did know when to shut up. It was a statement made by the Lady Isabeau,
my cousin! That seemed to sum up the conversation for me.
"Lady Fiona doesn't' believe she will
be awakening anytime soon."
The time stoppages were mentioned and the
fact that Fiona believed that Corwin's Pattern was behind it. I mentioned
that I had also heard this rumor out in shadow. It was getting more
difficult to explain my information without mentioning participants
to the events but I did try to keep as many details quiet as possible.
"If Corwin is behind this, has anyone
tried to contact him by Trump?" I thought it was a reasonable question.
I know why I hadn't tried to contact Corwin by Trump.
"He isn't answering." Random
"He's smarter than that." This
last was one of Benedict's few contributions to this dialog.
"Or he's in trouble." I couldn't
believe I answered Benedict back like that.
"If he is at the center of this disturbance,
he may not or can not be contacted." Random added.
There was a pause in this conversation.
Random filled it by saying. "So are you going to introduce us to
"The one you left in the library.
Why don't we all go there and meet him. It would be more comfortable."
Damn you just couldn't put anything past the elders. And you had to
admit that Benedict's quarters were the last place you wanted to have
a meeting due to the lack of available furnishings.
"I promised him some uninterrupted
time." I tried to put Random off.
"Then why don't you introduce me first?"
Random indicated the door to Benedicts quarters. Keladrian was going
to kill me. But I couldn't say no to Random, and not just because he
We walked down to the library. "I
just can't get over the fact that you are married."
"I know what you mean." Random
"Does she make you happy, Uncle?"
I really had wanted to have this conversation over a glass of wine,
listening to some jazz but I didn't know when I would have the opportunity
"Vialle is amazing." He seemed
truly happy when he said this.
"Then I am happy that you are happy.
You really are my favorite uncle." This was not meant as a suck
up at all. Though hopefully he would remember this when he found out
about Texarami. Maybe if Amber and Vialle kept him busy enough, the
shadow would be repaired before he ever returned.
"That's not saying much considering
the choices." We were laughing when we entered the library.
Keladrian was doing something that was
glowing and quickly shut it down as we entered.
I made the formal introductions. And I
could tell as he spoke with Random that he was not pleased with me.
He was however less pleased when a few
moments later Benedict, Isabeau and Lord Drake entered the room. It
was obvious to me that he recognized Lord Drake in some manner and did
not like him. He did after all know something about the Lords of Chaos
that attacked us in shadow. The boys pretty much had a pissing contest.
It was difficult to discern if there was a clear winner. Keladrian seemed
upset that Amber should have an Ambassador from Chaos visiting them.
He seemed to have some information about the Patternfall war but not
the outcome of it. Drake said as much to him. Then Keladrian made an
interesting comment. Something about Amber being important to him and
that Lord Drake's line tried to destroy it.
I didn't understand a lot they were talking
about. After they agreed to not really like each other but at least
be civil we got down to sharing experiences with the time stoppages.
I was surprised to discover that Vereema hadn't been the first time
that I had been time stopped. Isabeau stated that according to her mother,
Fiona, that before I left Amber there had been a 6 month time stoppage
here in Amber itself.
The matter of Corwin's Pattern came up
again and Keladrian said. "Creating another Pattern, that would
not be advisable."
It appeared that Lord Drake and Lady Isabeau
were about to set out on a journey to find Corwin and or his Pattern.
Keladrian then mentioned that he thought he knew where it was.
Random took a moment to consider all the
information and then commanded me to go along with Drake and Isabeau
on this expedition to Corwin's Pattern. I tried to decline. After all
I have no skills at warfare or magic. I didn't see what I could contribute
Then Drake piped up with; "You would
refuse the command of your King?"
I looked at Random. I kept forgetting that
King thing. I guess as King of Amber he did have the right to ask this
of me. I hoped that he asked me as a friend and was not commanding me
as a king.
My final decision was prompted by the thought
of my father lying comatose because of whatever was happening. If there
was any small part I could play in aiding his recovery, I had to try.
I reluctantly agreed to go.
Benedict insisted that we depart from the
stables of Amber within the hour. I would have preferred to wait for
morning. It looked like Keladrian would not get those 90 minutes of
uninterrupted time that he needed.
The group started to leave the room and
I dreaded the moment that I would be alone with Keladrian. Lord Drake
swept from the room first followed meekly by Isabeau, then Benedict
and finally Random. Random seemed about to say something else to me,
then changed his mind and left. I turned to Keladrian.
"No one ever comes to the Library."
He mocked at me.
"I am sorry Keladrian. I misjudged
events here in Amber. I thought the library would be safer than the
estate. If it is any consolation to you, I did not tell them everything."
"Apology accepted." I could tell
that he was not totally mollified.
I took out a Trump and we went to the estate.
We had an hour to prepare. Not much time and there was much that needed
to be done.
When we reached the estate, I found the
"Time is short. Within the hour we
must leave. Within the ability of this house, provide this man with
anything he requests. My father's and my life may depend on it."
I realized my tone was just short of demanding. But I was concerned
about father and distracted. The servant looked respectful, though she
was hiding a 'not again' sigh.
"As you wish, milady." She bobbed
a very professional curtsey and looked to Keladrian with expectant eyes.
I found another servant and requested that
travel gear and clothing be prepared for myself as well. The young man
put down his feather duster. "At once, milady." With a bow
oddly distinguished in such a young man, he turned and exited the hallway
in the direction of my suites.
"Thank you Zhelan." Turning to
the servant, Keladrian said, "A set of saddle bags with camping
gear, provisions and a bed roll would suffice. And show me to the armory
so that I may choose weapons for this trip."
"As you wish, Milord." Again
the professional curtsey. "Would you prefer your provisions to
be delivered to the foyer or brought to you in the armory?" Even
as she was speaking, the young woman dressed in a 'House' uniform of
red and orange -- which by the way does NOT clash, father would never
allow that -- turned and gestured politely for Keladrian to follow her.
With a grin and a slight bow to me, Keladrian
followed the servant. "Deliver them to the foyer you may, more
than adequate I am sure they will be."
Shortly past the atrium was a heavy wooden
door ornamented with inlaid wood, extremely well crafted and joined.
The design, floor to ceiling, was that of roaring flames. All executed
in various types of wood, bright redwood, dark cherry, the flames almost
seemed to dance in the evening lamplight. The only flaws were two large
sword cuts through the inlay. Obviously old, and perhaps unrepaired
due to... sentimental value?
One entire 40-foot wall was devoted to
swords, sabers, katanas, ninja-tos, machetes, rapiers, etc. And if these
were the racked blades for general use, then the private reserve must
be something to see!
Pole arms were racked in another corner,
and though still obviously of excellent quality, they obviously did
not hold the heart of the owner of this place, as did the blades. Another
corner was devoted to various missile weapons -- bows of all designs,
slings, bolas, atlatls, blowguns and some wicked things that Keladrian
hadn't even thought of before. A row of 'wooden men' and practice dummies
lined a third wall. Very well used practice dummies.
No guns or other self-propelled weapons
were evident. Neither were any mass-drivers, rail guns, sonics, energy,
or plasma weapons. The room seemed devoted to more simple means of destruction.
Upon examination, most of the weapons were
of a length and balance to be perfect for someone shorter and with a
smaller hand size than Keladrian. However, they were weighted for someone
stronger than he.
Still, many of these beauties would do
The house woman stood in the doorway, looking
after Keladrian, with eyes just short of measuring. "Is there anything
else our guest requires?" her voice was honey.
"This will do fine" Keladrian
replied as he walked past her, oblivious to anything but the weapons.
He wandered a few minutes examining the various implements.
While the servants were doing the work
of trying to get the travel gear rounded up and packed, I took out my
Trump of Bleys and tried to get a response of some kind. After all if
Isabeau could speak with her mother while Fiona was unconscious, maybe
I could speak with my father.
Since trying to contact father was not
working, as if talking with father ever got me anything useful, I headed
to my rooms to get cleaned up and put on fresh clothes. At least I was
saving some time by having the servants pack basic travel gear. I let
the servants in my room know that I would also like some weapons packed,
like a dagger, sword and scabbard, any handguns lying around also. I
couldn't remember if we had any. I know Bleys doesn't care for guns,
but I might have left some here. My favorite rapier and main gauche
were with the Luggage so I had my backup weapons packed.
"Make sure to keep it light as the
gear all has to fit on a horse." I hoped that we meet up with the
Luggage out in shadow soon. "But pack as much as possible."
If Isabeau and Drake duplicate any of the things we pack, we can always
sort through and leave them behind at the stable.
After I dressed I went to my father's rooms,
something I would not do if he were conscious. If I could find anything
that might assist me on this trip, I would borrow it. It is after all
easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission. And really if he
had been as talkative as Fiona seemed to be, I could have asked him,
so it was really his fault in the first place.
I didn't expect the door to be locked.
I would never have contemplated going into his rooms unpermitted, why
should his rooms be locked? Then I realized that there were servants
about that father might not want going through his things when he was
Someone must be able to get in and clean
though, I can't imagine Bleys wanting to hang around watching while
someone cleaned his room and he wouldn't do it himself. He also would
not let his room stay unkempt.
I spotted one of the servants and asked
if someone had an alternate entrance to the room or knew where a key
Venturi, the head of the household, a distinguished looking man, whose faint scars hinted at a past of action indicated that he did not know of such. (I sensed that he was telling the truth, just not all of it.) He added, in a somewhat embarrassed tone, that his instructions from Prince Bleys were not to allow access to the Prince's suites in his absence. Unless certain other measures are indicated. As those measures had not yet been indicated . . .He apologized quite gallantly, but he was unable to provide entrance to his Master's rooms at this time.
I thanked Venturi for his scrupulous care
of my father's possessions. There was no reason to be snide, the man
was just doing his job and I had no time to worry about this little
mystery. I made a mental note to discuss this with father when he woke
up. I really did need to get some paper and pencil and start writing
these things down. "Venturi, please see that paper and pen are
added to my travel gear." Now I need to find Keladrian and have
a little talk.
I found Keladrian still in the armory.
I told him, (that's right, not asked) "We need to have a private
I made sure that no one, including servants,
were within earshot.
"Time is short, so please let me get
through this before you interrupt. I want to review our scorecard.
"Hmmm, even are we?" he chuckled
deeply. "In danger was I, in yon Vereema? I'll have to pay more
attention next time!" His visage grew more serious then "But
you have the right of it as for not telling King Random all you know.
For that you have my thanks, which is no small thing. As for my silence,
I would not cause you problems with your people. But unsure I am as
to that which hold close I should. They know not of your ability to
make the drawings and travel thence?"
"That is correct. It is not a common
thing here. I have no good feelings about this trip. I do not trust
a child of Fiona's and the Chaos lord even less. I have only just met
you, but I have come to value your good will. Someday I hope that we
can be friends. Today I will settle for allies." To demonstrate
my goodwill I held out my hand to him.
Looking me straight in the eye, Keladrian
responded "Agreed we are, the Chaos lordling I have no trust for,
but I defer to your judgment as for which of your kin deserves trust.
Good it would be if we were to become friends, but as with you, that
much trust I cannot give easily. Accept your offer of alliance I will,
and the trust that goes with it." Keeping eye contact he took my
hand and we shook on our agreement. His hand was large and dry and I
received the impression of great strength that was precisely controlled.
My hand was delicate and soft but there
was also more strength behind it than is apparent on the surface. I
smiled, "My judgment is that I would not fully trust any member
of my 'family', not even my own father." I withdrew my hand from
"Do you still have that Trump of Quasmir?"
I asked him. "At this point I don't believe it will serve you and
I would replace it with this one." I handed a Trump to him face
up so that he could see my face on the card.
"As for other preparations for our
journey, is there anyway that you can finish your preparations while
we are traveling if I were to lead your horse? Going by horseback we
will have several hours journey before we leave the environs around
Amber and start to move through shadow."
"An interesting offer, but one that
I think is probably unwise. My concentration would not be on our surroundings,
or the Chaos lordling. No, other arrangements shall I make. And caution
you I will, for loath am I to show my powers over shadow to that one.
If I must shadow walk, then do so I will, but not in the manner you
saw. Shape shifter you know I am, and shapes that walk the shadows are
many. I will assume one as necessary to use their ability with shadow,
most likely a fey horse given our preparations to travel by horseback.
I tell you this so you are warned - teleport us I will not in his presence,
unless no choice have I. My people's method of this is closely guarded,
and no boon of information would I grant him."
He paused and took the Trump and looked
at it. "A place this is not, but rather a picture of you."
He peered intently at the card for a moment, and then looked again into
my eyes, " As the picture of Quasmir took me to that land, will
this take me to you? I am thinking this be a gift not commonly given.
You honor me with your trust." He bowed formally, then grinned
mischievously "A suitable gift for you must I now find!"
I blushed slightly at the last. "This
Trump does not work the same way as the Trump for Quasmir." I explained.
"Concentrate on the Trump and you can contact me mind to mind.
This is not a method of communication to be taken lightly. You saw in
Texarami how the Chaos Lord could spot the Trump working. There is a
way to listen in to Trump communication so secrets should not be discussed
that way. A final precaution. Opening one's mind to a Trump call leaves
you open to a direct mental attack." I paused to ensure he understood
the warning, and then continued. "On the good side, if we are in
contact by the Trump either of us can bring the other person to their
location through that contact. If we get separated, we may need a way
to get back together. If I only had more time I could draw a Trump for
you so that I could make contact also.
About the matter of traveling through shadow.
I am also of a mind to not provide assistance in that. My people use
Trump, very few of us know how to make them. That secret is not one
that I would give up. But I have a concern. The chaos lord that we questioned
also had Trump and I did not recognize the artist. If he was himself
the creator, he could create a Trump for either of us. Let us hope that
he was not the creator of those Trump."
Keladrian looked concerned as he viewed the Trump I had given him. He asked several questions about how one could be harmed through the Trump. I remembered my first experience when Bleys had given me his Trump and told me to contact him. The next thing I knew I had my mind slapped silly. The headache lasted for over two days.
I figured that a demonstration would be more informative but decided to do something a little less forceful. I would also be able to get a gauge on the strength of Keladrian's mental abilities.
"Contact me and I will see what kind of defenses you have."
He held up the Trump and after a few moments
I felt the familiar feel of contact. I followed the contact back to
the source and seized the mind with my own and held tight. I held Keladrian
immobile; I could feel his mind trying to break free. His mental defenses
were not strong and it was not difficult to hold him. This was not good.
It was a weakness that concerned me with the power of the people that
were looking for him. I finally released him
Keladrian seemed disturbed after the demonstration.
"Show me how to defend against that."
"There is one way that can help. If
you had a Trump of yourself you could focus on it and try to jam. However
this has its drawbacks. If you recall in Texarami that is what I was
trying to do when we drew that Chaos Lord out of the city. Something
to keep in mind."
"So if I had a Trump of myself, someone
could use it to attack me?" he asked.
"I would suggest that you not let
it get away from you. I would also appreciate the same care for my Trump
that I have given to you." I waited for his agreement then suggested
that it was time to return for our appointment at the stables.
We gathered up the supplies and Trumped
to the library. From there we went down to the stables where Lord Drake
and Lady Isabeau had arrived before us and had picked out their horses
Keladrian asked Lady Isabeau for assistance
selecting a horse. I went shopping. There were about 20 mounts to choose
from. I hesitated a moment when I came to Drum. This was Random's horse.
He would be a good choice, stable and used to hellriding, but I wasn't
sure that we would be coming back, let alone the horses. I kept looking
until I found a Black Morgan. He was strong and steady. I had the stable
hand saddle him and loaded on the gear.
The other three were waiting in the courtyard
when I came out.
Isabeau led our group away from Castle
Amber, down the western face of Kolvir and into Forest Arden. It was
dark when we set out and it became much darker as we traveled through
the heavy forest. The trail narrowed and I followed Drake who was behind
Isabeau. Keladrian was in the back. I could barely make out the shape
of Drake ahead of me in the dark. About an hour before midnight Isabeau
stopped and asked if anyone thought we needed some light. Her query
was greeted by silence. That was informative to me as it meant that
both Drake and Keladrian could see well enough in the dark. I didn't
answer because I didn't choose to. As long as I was between Drake and
Keladrian a light was not necessary.
Occasionally on the ride through Arden
Isabeau would start humming and then realize she was doing it and stop.
Our long quiet ride continued. Dawn in
Arden is slow. The sunlight must clear the tops of the trees before
any light penetrates below. The birds were aware of the light before
We had been riding for over 8 hours when
we stopped for breakfast. The horses needed the rest.
I dismounted and checked the condition
of my horse. Then loosened the girth strap and the bit so that he could
graze and eat the oatcakes that we had been provisioned with. I checked
the fetlocks and the hooves and noticed Drake and Keladrian giving similar
care to their horses. Isabeau was setting out breakfast.
There was little talk over the meal. Mostly,
'pass the sausages' type of conversation. Finally Keladrian asked how
long it would be before we would be out of Amber. I realized that he
was the only one among us that had never come this way.
"As soon as someone can start shifting
shadow, we will be out of Amber." He was my guest and I felt it
my responsibility to respond.
Isabeau added that it would be another
4 hours before any shifting could be done.
"To where?" Keladrian asked.
"You said that you had an idea where
Corwin's Pattern is located in shadow." Lord Drake added.
"Somewhat." Keladrian countered.
The discussion continued on how to get
to Corwin's Pattern and the best way to find where that could be.
Lord Drake suggested that he could take
us to the Courts of Chaos via Trump, a suggestion that both Keladrian
and I declined right away.
"All right, let's think about this.
When Corwin left Amber to head to the Courts he was going as quickly
as possible by the most direct route. It would seem to me that if we
also head to the Courts by the most expeditious way that we also will
come close to the path that Corwin chose." I thought my addition
to the conversation was inspired.
"Does anyone here know Corwin?"
"I do." I volunteered.
"Benedict told us that Corwin's Pattern
was about a 5 day hellride past Ygg. I know something of that place.
You know Corwin and Keladrian might know where the Pattern is."
Drake laid out what we thought we might know.
"5 days hellride is a lot of shadows
to cover." Offered Keladrian.
"We move to the area and look for
a disturbance." Again from Drake
"There are many things that we should
be looking for." Keladrian continued being enigmatic
We finished our meal while the horses rested.
I thought that maybe it was time to make an overture to the Chaos lord.
You know what they say about keeping your friends close and your enemies
"So, Ambassador. Lord Drake. Is there
a title that you prefer or may I call you Solomon?"
"Solomon is alright for now. Titles
are important in their place."
"I'm not much for formalities."
"But where would we be without titles
and Kings. And how would we know where our place in the bureaucracy
is without them?" Drake really seemed to believe this.
"I'm not much for bureaucracies either."
Isabeau was gathering up the breakfast
items as we discussed politics.
"The chain of authority is important,
without them there would be . . ."
"Chaos?" I finished for him.
"My family spends entirely too much time on the pursuit of who
should be in charge."
We readied the horses and Drake took the
lead followed by Isabeau. Keladrian and I continued in the same order
After another 4 hours of riding Drake suddenly
shifted us through shadow. This was a different feel than shifting with
Pattern and was disconcerting at first. We were moving forward on our
horses but the terrain was moving past us faster than we were moving
forward. The landscapes that moved past us were not homogenous or contiguous.
It was difficult to look to the side, so I tried to focus on the environment
around us but it just wasn't there long enough to catch details.
After half an hour we reached an evergreen
forest that was not Arden. The moving sensation stopped briefly and
then began again.
The next time we stopped we were near a
skirmish between humanoids and giant scorpions. We were on a small hill
going down to a seacoast. A wooden fortification near the shore was
in flames and the humans were holding out on a small hillock completely
surrounded by the bugs. The human fighters were in full plate armor
with a Roman Legionnaire design. They were circled around a small group
of civilians and the battle did not look to be going their way.
Drake paused on the hill and I wondered
why we did not move on. He muttered something about not being able to
shift from here and then suddenly his cape flowed up around him and
formed into wings. A 30-foot dragon rose from Drake's horse and mounted
into the sky. Keladrian rode past Isabeau and I and grabbed the reins
of Drakes horse. "Let's fall back." He shouted.
Isabeau seemed to be glued to the spot.
Not my responsibility. Following the direction of her stare I could
see a number of the scorpions had spotted us and were very rapidly approaching.
I wheeled my horse around and headed back up the hill.
The large black and purple dragon began
spewing green acid towards the scorpions. It was a very colorful sight.
But where the acid met the ground the prairie grass burst into flame.
The dry grass, fanned by the wind off the sea burned rapidly up the
hill. I didn't know which would overtake us first, the fire or the bugs
but I wasn't waiting to find out. I rode up the hill to the crest. I
paused there to check out the situation. Keladrian had gotten Isabeau
moving up the hill and dragon Drake was laying waste to the scorpion
When Keladrian and Isabeau reached my location
I asked them, "Why are we stopping here? Isabeau if Drake is unwilling
or unable to move us from here, can you?"
Isabeau looked unsettled and said; "I'm
blocked. I haven't done much of this but I can't shift from here."
Not good. Maybe the same had stopped Drake
also. I reached into my pouch. The Trump were still cold.
"We have an out if we can get Solomon
back down." I indicated the wheeling, spewing dragon laying waste
to the plain below us.
Keladrian was watching the destruction
below and said, "Might as well save the humans."
The dragon had broken off its strafing
runs and was flying behind the burning fortress. It appeared through
the fire and smoke then spread its wings against the backdrop of the
sky. It's mouth opened but I didn't hear any sound. The horses chose
that moment to act up and the Morgan that I was riding bolted. I managed
to bring it back under control and return to the others before we could
go very far.
Keladrian handed me the reins of both his
and Drake's horse and commanded, "Take the reins." Then he
dismounted and changed into his gargoyle like form. The one he used
when we first met. He flew off to the fortress leaving me alone with
"I am unfamiliar with Pattern, you
say that you cannot shift from here." I questioned my companion.
"No, I cannot." She offered no
"Can you do anything else with Pattern?"
It was important to know if it was all Pattern that was blocked or just
the egress from this shadow.
"I have no knowledge of Pattern, can
you do anything else with it." My tone of voice was perhaps a bit
Isabeau snapped back some comment about
there being a reason for that but that she is not the one to tell me
what it was.
The fact that my father never saw fit to
teach me to walk the Pattern has always bothered me at some level. Am
I not a true daughter of Amber? Her comment sparked immediate suspicion
in me. Had Fiona told her something about the situation that I was not
"We will continue that conversation
later." I pause to gather my composure.
"I ask about your other skills with
Pattern to gain information about our situation. Are all of your Pattern
abilities blocked? Can you do anything at all with Pattern?" obviously
I needed to be more specific in my request.
"I can still use Pattern to see."
We had been watching Keladrian fly to the
fortress below. He had disappeared behind the building and now suddenly
the fire from there seemed to be reversing itself and pulling into the
middle of the building.
"How did the fire go out so quickly?"
I had my suspicions but nothing that I
would share with her.
The black dragon seemed to have tired of
scorching scorpions but stopped long enough to pick up a carcass on
his way back to our location.
Somehow that did not surprise me. Drake
returned to his human form and confirmed my impression that he is not
able to use his power to leave this shadow. We speculated about the
problem while we waited for Keladrian to rejoin us on the hill.
Keladrian returned shortly and mentioned
that he had spoken with the humans below. They told him that a Goddess
Dorienne is responsible for bring the scorpions into this world. None
of us recognized the name, but it might not be her real one.
We discussed further the condition of this
world being blocked from exit and Keladrian attempted to shadow walk
also by turning into a Pegasus. He was unable to shadow shift with that
Lord Drake again offered to Trump us to
the Courts and again we declined the offer. Seeing no other alternative,
I pulled out my deck of cards. I was careful to keep the others from
seeing the Trump as I shuffled through them. Of the land Trump that
I have it seemed to me that Ssaleesh would be the closest to our agreed
upon course. I activated the Trump but that way is also blocked.
We could be here awhile. I didn't know
whether Keladrian could use 'Spin' to move us from here but I would
not ask him to try. That decision must be his.
We began a discussion about shadows with
no egress. I have no experience with these. Drake seemed to know something
but he was not saying much. The four of us sat there on our horses and
wondered what to do next.
"Well, I think it is just about time
for lunch." I gazed around us. Besides the body of water below
we seemed to be surrounded by miles of rolling grasslands. The nearest
thing to shelter was the burned out husk of the fort near the water.
"Yes, it would seem to be a good time
to rest and ponder our options." Drake was also looking around
and I'm sure seeing as bleak a landscape as I.
Despite the pronouncement of lunch and
pondering options, no one seemed in a hurry to move. It was at that
time that an ominous thump disturbed the silence of the landscape. I
noticed that Drake was very quick about pulling his sword. I moved my
horse to see around him and immediately jumped from the saddle to the
My Luggage had appeared and was covered
in muck and strands of seaweed. It was glowering at Drake who was pointing
his weapon in the Luggage's direction.
"Oh, my poor dear. Are you all right?
Get me a towel." The Luggage spewed a towel forth and I began wiping
him down and checking for damage. Besides the muck and seaweed he appeared
to be unharmed. "I have missed you and was very concerned."
"A friend of yours?" said Drake
as he resheathed his sword.
"My apologies for leaving you behind,
at the time it was unavoidable." Keladrian apologized to the Luggage.
I don't think the Luggage was aware of
their remarks. It was obviously quite happy to see me but was visibly
agitated towards Drake. Whether because he had pulled a sword on him
or some other reason I did not try to ascertain.
After remounting my horse the discussion
of options was resumed.
"The women can make lunch and tend
to the horses while you and I go survey the fort." Drake stated.
This earned him some black stares from both Isabeau and myself.
It was suggested that the only visible
shelter was the burned out fort. Keladrian mentioned that we needed
to consider the fact that this place and the fort had been part of a
trap. We all rode to the fort anyway.
As we passed the field of battle there
were mangled human corpses among the burned bodies of the giant scorpion
like creatures. Trails of smoke still meandered to the sky from among
"I've seen worst slaughters."
Drake mentioned in passing.
Dismounting from our horses we led them
through the breached doors of the fort. The fire that had burned there
had touched every bit of wood but the charred wood was not warm to the
touch. Something that Keladrian had done to put out the fire had sucked
out the heat as well. I would have to ask him later what he had done.
Inside the walls there was a large open
courtyard area with perhaps 9 buildings of various sizes. The buildings
had stone foundations and wood walls and roofs. The wood for this fort
must have come by boat as there were no trees in the area that were
large enough for the timbers we saw here. There was no sign of the scorpions
or their attack inside the fort and the burn Pattern was too regular.
"An enemy we have not seen caused
this fire." Keladrian noted as he looked at the burn Pattern.
"Why would they need this destruction
if their goal was to trap us here?" Drake voiced a question that
I myself had been wondering.
"Maybe the scorpions were for us and
this place just happened to be in the way." I countered.
"Does the name Dorian, Dori Ann, mean
anything to any of you?" Keladrian asked.
"I know a Dorien." Responded
"A woman?" asked Keladrian
"Not usually." Replied Drake.
Keladrian paused at this last from Drake
then continued. "The people I spoke with said that they had been
cursed by the goddess Dorrian. Perhaps that is the same person who constructed
"Acham's razor." Stated Drake.
"I would discount the theory that there was more than one agency
involved in these two events."
"I might have thought the same thing
before yesterday. But it could be more than one group responsible."
I said. "Keladrian do we know what this goddess looks like?"
"I did not ask."
"I can still catch one." Drake
added almost too eagerly.
Keladrian shook his head; "I think
they have had enough of gods and monsters for one day."
While the men discussed this I found the
well that I knew must be inside the walls of the fort. It was about
4 foot by 8 foot across and the water was perhaps 6 to 8 inches down
from the top and was covered with soot and debris. Not fit for the horses
to drink let alone the four of us. "The well is over here."
I asked for a pole arm from the Luggage
while Drake looked around for the pump. He found a moveable stone at
the base of the angel statue and pushed it aside to reveal the pump
while I used the pole arm to test the depth of the water.
The water was cloudy and murky; nothing
could be seen through it. There must be a plug or drain but it was impossible
to find. Then Drake did something that caused my stomach to roil. It
was like looking at one Drake superimposed over another. One of them
was standing and looking into the pool; the other had a black aura rising
around him with writhing black tentacles. These tentacles reached out
into the pool and moved around. Whatever power he was using was disgusting
to me, but whatever he did seemed to work as the pool started to drain.
We were left with a two-foot deep pool full of muck, soot and debris.
Not something I wanted to spend time cleaning.
"I have some tarp in the Luggage,
we could put it in the pool and fill it with water." I offered
"Do you also have rope and stakes?"
"Of course." I had the Luggage
get the items that we needed and we set about getting clean water into
the pool. The horses would need water soon. The water that flowed from
the pump had a slight salty flavor. It needed boiling before I'd use
The wind blowing off the water was cold
and none of the buildings in the fort were suitable for shelter. "I
have a tent that is large enough for all of us. I will set that up while
someone makes lunch."
Isabeau sighed and offered to make lunch.
Keladrian attended the horses and Drake offered to assist with the tent.
While we were eating lunch Drake made the
comment that it wasn't a shadowling that had trapped us here.
"You dismiss things very easily."
"It is unlikely that a shadowling
could mold shadow well enough to trap us all." Drake responded.
We spent the next few minutes bantering
clues back and forth and were no further ahead. But we were having a
conversation. I decided that now would be a good time to make those
sketches of the person that we had interrogated in Texarami and the
people that had been on his cards. Drake had promised to identify them
for us. I went to the Luggage to get a sketchpad and pencil. When I
opened the lid I found a body lying in the Luggage. Oh dear. This wasn't
the first time that I had found a body in the Luggage. It had a bad
habit of baiting people. It would put something valuable on the top
and leave it's lid open. When someone tried to take the item the Luggage
would attack them. The body belonged to a young man about 25 with loose
tunic and black pants. There was a spiral Pattern on the tunic. He seemed
to be a well-turned out young dandy with earrings and a sword on his
"You just take that outside and get
rid of that body. We don't need it in here." The Luggage looked
sheepish but trotted off to comply.
"What is that, did you say there was
a body in there? Maybe it has something to do with our situation. I
think we need to see this body." Drake stood up.
"Very well. Luggage, dump the body
here." The Luggage promptly spit the body out on the ground. Isabeau
seemed a bit put off but Keladrian and Drake moved closer to examine
"He wears the colors of line Ihendra."
"Who is line Ihendra?" Keladrian
asked for the rest of us.
Drake gave us a family tree discussion.
It meant nothing to me. I still don't know who or what line Ihendra
is and what it means that a body of that line was in the Luggage. Drake
took a dagger from the corpse and took the body from the fort to bury
I sat with my sketchpad and began the interrupted
task of putting faces to paper. When Drake returned I handed him the
sketches and he examined them.
The Man with white hair was unknown to
him as was the man that we had interrogated. The older woman he identified
as a Hendrake warlord named Betrel. The woman with freckles was Dara,
line Hendrakes greatest failure, but also an acquaintance of Benedict.
The old man was Suhey. Drake mentioned that the young man must be of
some import in the courts if he had a card of Suhey. The last card was
Drake's cousin Ulris.
"The empress is of line Hendrake."
After viewing all the sketches Drake said,
"These cards show that this young man is a bit reckless. I would
not recommend that you try to contact any of these people, but these
two..." he indicated Ulriss and Suhey, "I would highly recommend
avoiding. If you had a chance to meet Ulriss in person, I think you
would get along famously." I wasn't sure if I should be insulted
by this last comment so chose to ignore it.
Drake handed the sketches to Keladrian.
"Do you recognize any of these?"
"My connections to the courts are
tenuous at best." Keladrian responded.
"Well, if we ever get out of here,
you are more than welcome to visit me at Tor and I will show you around.
In fact you are all invited to visit me at Tor." Drake was expansive
in his invitation. I didn't feel like taking him up on it and I was
pretty sure that Keladrian would not take him up on it.
"I think we can assume that it was
someone from Chaos. It is still possible that it could be someone from
Amber." Drake admitted.
"Did anyone from Chaos know where
we were going?" I asked
"Possibly." From Drake
"Did you tell anyone from Chaos where
we were going?"
Suddenly Isabeau startled. "I just
heard Zhelan ask you that question 5 times."
The time problems had caught us here.
It was Keladrian who mentioned that if
the shadow was being disrupted then maybe the barriers were also. He
asked me if my Trump were active. I said yes and he asked me to open
a gate. I told him that I couldn't open a gate but I did try the Trump.
They still weren't working.
Then Drake asked if I had a Trump to someplace
that was having a time problem. Keladrian asked about Vereema. I told
them that the only place that I had a Trump to with time problems was
Amber. So much for Keladrian not giving information away about my secret.
Hopefully the others would not notice.
Drake wanted to try something and he and
Keladrian headed outside the fort. I wanted to try a Trump scrye but
did not want anyone to see what Trump I was using so went around the
side of the tent. Isabeau began cleaning up from lunch.
The cards were acting strange. Some seemed
to work and others just didn't feel that they were working at all. I
concentrated and tried to get the best reading I could. I wanted to
know if there was a back door out of this trap and what or who might
be the key. I definitely got the feeling that there was a back door
and the hierophant came up as the pivotal card in unlocking this trap.
To me there was only one person who I could envision as the hierophant.
I needed to speak with Keladrian.
When I returned to the front of the tent
there was a nice fire going and Drake and Keladrian were back. Drake
did not have good news about the outcome of his experiments.
"Whoever set this trap up is aware
of our abilities." I said
"Even Keladrian's?" Drake asked.
"Then perhaps no one way will provide
an answer. But hold a moment." Drake held up a hand and his head
turned toward the gate. "Come and join us by the fire if you will,
I heard a clearing of the throat by the
gate and an armed fighter from the earlier battle stepped forward into
the light of the fire.
"Begging your pardon." He said.
Drake made an expansive gesture, "Come
"I thought you and your people had
left." Keladrian stated.
"They have. But they are in need of
my aid. The walk is long and we have wounded and women and children
with us. They need safety and comfort." The centurion explained.
"How many days of food and water do
you need?" Keladrian asked.
"Keladrian has told us about the curse
of the goddess that plagues this land. My question is did you see the
goddess?" We had discussed earlier if one of the people that either
Keladrian and I had seen or that Drake knew might be this goddess. The
man nodded and I passed him the sketches. "Do you recognize any
"No, Majestrix." He stated after
viewing the sketches.
"The goddess may be wroth with us
as well. We need some information if you can help us." Drake offered
"I will answer your questions."
The man stepped into the light.
Keladrian asked him to describe the attack
on the village. We got the story that the man and his companions had
come to this remote outpost of the Pah Empire. About a year ago the
goddess had appeared and cursed the Pah Empire. One city after another
was destroyed. They had arrived at this outpost by boat trying to flee
the destruction. He described the appearance of the goddess. Divinely
beautiful, platinum hair entwined with light. She was dressed in imperial
purple. Nothing that helped us identify who she might be.
Keladrian mentioned that he had something
he would like to try and went into the tent while Drake helped the man
fill his waterskins and Isabeau sorted through our supplies to pack
food for the refugees. After the man had his provisions and left Drake
mentioned that the man was not of this shadow.
"Great, this shadow seems to be a
great big hole sucking everything into it. Was it just him, or were
the rest of the group he was with also from another shadow." I
Drake suggested checking the bodies in
the slaughter outside to see if they were from this shadow or not. While
he was doing that Keladrian emerged from the tent and told me that it
appeared that conjuration was not blocked in this shadow. He mentioned
that he managed to conjure provisions from the essence of this shadow.
If they are from the essence of this shadow then how did he know that
this shadow was not blocked from leaving by conjuration? My father tried
to talk to me about magic on a few occasions but it seemed like a lot
of work for relatively small return.
"I vote for right away."
"We have a chance to wait here and
see who is responsible. It worked for us before." Keladrian reminded
"We didn't have time problems creeping
up on us there." I reminded him in return.
"We have lots of information, we just
don't know its relevance." Sometimes Keladrian says the funniest
Drake returned from checking bodies and
told us that all the bodies were from this shadow. Keladrian asked him
if he thought that the centurion could be the perpetrator. Drake did
not think the man had the power. Keladrian then explained conjuration
and how he thought he could create a portal out of this shadow using
that power. The question was asked when we should leave.
I mentioned again that we had already had
a time stutter here. If this shadow collapsed with us stuck inside…
Keladrian was concerned about the gate being left behind and someone
following us with it. We discussed several options on how to destroy
the gate. I suggested that we wait until the last minute to go through
so that we could defend the gate ourselves. Obviously magic doesn't
work that precisely so that would not be an option.
Keladrian asked if anyone practiced sorcery.
That was a big no. I was surprised that Isabeau had not answered. Fiona
has always been big on magic. I determined that if we made it out of
this that I would ask dad to teach me sorcery or some sort of magic.
Keladrian thought that it would take him
a little over 2 hours to do the spell. Isabeau, Drake and I sat around
the fire and waited. Drake eventually pulled out a flute and began to
play. He played very well. I picked up my sketchpad. The subject matter
was compelling, the flute player by firelight. I also sketched Isabeau.
She had pulled out paper and pencil and made a few attempts to write
something but then put it away in disgust. I did not ask but captured
her pouting lips. Isabeau stood up after about an hour and started getting
the horses ready. I thought it a bit too soon for packing. I waited
another 30 minutes and then started taking the tent down.
We were packed and ready to go by the time
that Keladrian returned with a charred piece of timber in his hand and
said that he was ready. We held the bridles of our horses and I made
sure the Luggage was in contact with me. We all put our hands on the
burned timber and Keladrian did something and we were on the beach of
that tropical land that we had stayed when Keladrian had sent his messages.
It was different than Trump travel though just as fast. We had a discussion about how much time had passed while we were trapped. I tried to contact Random to get an idea but there was no answer. Isabeau refused to try to contact Benedict on his Trump. There was another discussion about the best method to continue on our journey to find Corwin or his Pattern. After reviewing several options it was decided that Isabeau should lead from here as Pattern had the best chance of finding Ygg.