Roberta Tower
Copyright 2001

Time and Tide

an Amber Diary


Chapter 1
Meetings in Shadow

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.

"Oh? oh!!" A shape-shifter. If he wasn't from Amber, then Chaos? I checked him out more closely. So this is what Chaos felt like. I would remember.

"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 I minded.

"Give me 30 minutes and we can go." Again I left to go to the other room to construct a Trump sketch.

When the sketch was ready, I rejoined Keladrian. I concentrated on the sketch, but when it became active there was a strong impression that it was not safe to step through. I crumpled up the sketch and tossed it to the corner. Now what.

"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 goddess?"

"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 just dumping.

"Not well, I just lost a ship." He definitely was not in a good mood. Well, no hope for it but to forge ahead.

"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."

"Thanks father." I broke the connection. Dad doing war games with Caine? Planning another assault on Amber? Sigh.

"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.

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Chapter 2
Attacks and Plots

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?

"Maybe half a dozen." I hedged. While Keladrian was looking closer at a painting, I noticed a cricket on the window ledge. Quickly another joined it. They were making soothing chirping noises. I did not hear his next comments as the crickets that were growing thicker on the sill intrigued me. I did not remember ever seeing crickets in Ssalessh before. And now their number was growing quite rapidly and they were leaving the sill and entering the room

"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 closer.

"Ouch, one bit me." That hurt. We had to get out of here, but if these strange occurrences continued happening where I was or had been, then perhaps we needed to go someplace that I hadn't been before. Which meant relying on Keladrian to transport us out of here.

"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 inside.

"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 a shower.

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 the call.

"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 his hand.

"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 countered.

"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.

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Chapter 3
No One Ever Comes To The Library

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 the Luggage.

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 you."

"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 it'll fly.

"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 more menace.

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 indicated me.

"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 for?"'

"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 stuff.

"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 me."

"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 here.

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 me.

"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 me shudder.

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 answered.

"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 your friend?"

"What friend?"

"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 was King.

We walked down to the library. "I just can't get over the fact that you are married."

"I know what you mean." Random chuckled

"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 again.

"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 to this.

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.

Back to Top

1 Hour Interlude
Conversations in Amber

When we reached the estate, I found the nearest servant.

"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."
The ample blonde didn't quite sashay down the corridor in front of Keladrian, but she made sure that her assets were noticeable as she led the visitor into a hallway of cool butter-colored tile work. The corridor was bordered on one side by graceful colonnades that opened to a luxurious atrium. Tropical plants, the sleepy call of hidden birds, the delicate fragrances of night flowers... the area was a symphony of restfulness. There was nothing artful or contrived about it.

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?

The servant opened the door into a vast echoing room where the scents of wood, leather and lots of well oiled steel drifted out. When it came to weapons, Bleys knew his business. The room was extensively equipped, not only with a variety, and multitude of weapons, but with the tools and supplies necessary to keep them at their best.

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 just fine.

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.
My attempts to Trump Bleys told me nothing more than that Bleys was indeed alive but deeply unconscious. But it also felt as if his state had something to do with the very nature of Trump itself. Something to ponder later along with a whole stack of items. I needed pencil and paper so I could make a list of all the things that didn't add up.

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.
I don't know how Isabeau and Drake plan on traveling, father could always find whatever he needed in shadow. I don't have that ability and I have seen the places that Keladrian goes. If we didn't take it with us, who knew if we could get it later.

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 out.

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 was.

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 discussion."

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.
1. You 'rescued' me from that time stop in Vereema. Doing so endangered both of our lives. I would call us even on that. 2. You and I being together provided an opportunity for those members of House Sawall to find and attack us. However, you now have information perhaps sooner than you would if you were on your own. I count us as even on this also. 3. When I met with my Uncles back at the Castle I did not disclose to them certain things that I have seen. For example your method of travel through shadow, your shape shifting or your method of traveling within a shadow. I also did not tell them about the dozen messages that you sent off. On this point you are indebted to me and I ask in return that you also keep in confidence those things that you saw me do. The people in Amber are not aware of all that I do and my father and I would prefer to keep it that way. Do you agree?"

"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 his.

"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."

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Chapter 4
No Way Out

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 already.

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.
Isabeau lit a lantern and continued to lead the group. We had many hours to go before we could begin our journey away from Amber and into shadow. I got to thinking about Keladrian seeing in the dark and thought about what he was thinking about seeing my back on this trip. All that did was make me self-conscious. Was I sitting up straight, did he find my back appealing? I had to start thinking of something else. This was just driving me crazy. It wasn't like I had never been with a man before. But all my liaisons had been with shadow dwellers. There was never any permanent attachment. They were available and disposable. Keladrian was causing my hormones to race, hormones that I had been unaware of until now. It would be easy to reach out and find out what he was thinking, but I refrained. Not from any ethical consideration but I was afraid to discover that he was not thinking of me.

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 were.

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?" Drake asked

"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 even closer.

"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 masses below.

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 Isabeau.

"I am unfamiliar with Pattern, you say that you cannot shift from here." I questioned my companion.

"No, I cannot." She offered no other explanation.

"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.
Isabeau did not answer but continued to watch the action below us.

"I have no knowledge of Pattern, can you do anything else with it." My tone of voice was perhaps a bit impatient.

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 aware of?

"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." She replied.

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?" Isabeau questioned.

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.
Dropping the carcass the dragon landed nearby and spoke "This does not belong here."

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 form.

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.

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Chapter 5
Conjuration - Gotta Get Me One of These

"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 ground.

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 the dead.

"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 Drake

"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 this trap."

"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?" Keladrian asked.

"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 it.

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." Keladrian commented.

"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 belt.

"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 it.

"He wears the colors of line Ihendra." Drake commented

"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 it.

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.
"So how are these people related to Sawall?" The names of Chaosian lines meant nothing to me. Hendrake, Sawall, Ihendra. What did it matter? They all seemed to be in our way.

"The empress is of line Hendrake." Drake stated.

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.
Keladrian remarked that there seemed to be three lines of chaos involved in this. We had Hendrake, Sawall and now Ihendren. He asked Drake if a Lord of Chaos was capable of setting up the trap that we were in.

"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.

"Of course."

"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, my friend."

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 forward."

"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 of these?"

"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 asked Drake.

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 told Keladrian about the scrye and my conclusions that he was the hierophant. "Can you…" and I made a spinning motion with my hand."
"Yes. But I would like to try something else first. The question is, when should we leave here?"

"I vote for right away."

"We have a chance to wait here and see who is responsible. It worked for us before." Keladrian reminded me.

"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 things.

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.

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