Roberta Tower
Copyright 2001

Chapter 11
The Road to Dorad

Drake finally sheathed his sword, which made Isabeau, and I breathe a little easier. The sheath was not shielded so we could still feel the Logrus power in the blade but at least it was not out where it could cut us.

"Confronting Corwin in his place of power would be dangerous." Said Keladrian. "Can you not feel it?"

"Of course I can feel it." Said Drake. "I was righteously angered however."

"So that makes it all right, that makes you invincible?" I snapped. The dress that Corwin had pressed onto me in his shadow was slowly altering back to their original form. I mentally assisted the process as the petticoats were making me itch, which made me irritable.

"I have a question," Isabeau interjected. "Do you think the tree could be part of the problem? Do you think the tree, which is sentient, could be altering Corwin's perception of his Pattern? Or affecting the Pattern itself?"

"I don't think so." Said Drake, "that Pattern is wrong! Even more wrong than your Amber stinking Pattern."

Isabeau just rolled her eyes at what Drake said.

"No wonder the man is insane." Added Drake.

"You say the tree is intelligent?" asked Keladrian.

"Forget intelligent, it's sentient yes. That tree is there!" Responded Isabeau.

"Like the Luggage, or more so?" I asked.

"More!" answered Isabeau.

"Interesting." I mused.

"Did you have any sense that the tree was allied with Corwin?" Keladrian asked Isabeau.

"Damn straight!" Asserted Isabeau.

"Its removal might weaken him, but I don't think it's causing his shortness of vision." Said Drake.

This statement caused another round of discussion about whether Corwin's Pattern was wrong, incomplete, artistically lacking, or just young and exuberant.

Drake insisted that Corwin was blinded to his own shortcomings and therefore could not see the flaw in the Pattern. I did not disagree with him.

"From speaking with him, do you think there can be a diplomatic solution to this dilemma?" Drake asked me.

I hesitated a moment and then said, "That would be difficult to ascertain, it would depend upon circumstances and the people involved, maybe. But probably not."

"Did you tell him King Random was concerned?" Keladrian asked.

"Corwin does not view Random as a mature adult." I said.

Drake mumbled something about how Amberites had trouble following leadership or even choosing who their leaders were.

"We haven't had as much opportunity as you have." My reply was much more forceful than I had planned. His statement had obviously touched a chord.

"We didn't need leaders for a long time, we had Oberon!" Isabeau said.

We had both replied at once and I glanced at Isabeau somewhat surprised. Then I was amused. Oberon had impacted both of us, and all of Amber. Would we have these difficulties if he were still alive?

"Any ideas on an approach he would welcome?" Asked Drake referring back to Corwin and ignoring our latest outburst.

I took this opportunity to move the discussion away from Corwin's Pattern. I had things that were more important to me at the time. "I think there are several factors here that we're not considering. There are other things besides Corwin's Pattern. And Corwin's Pattern may or may not be affecting other things."

"It may also be affected by other things." Keladrian added.

"I think that you would have to agree, at this point, Prince Drake, that part of the problem is the animosity between Chaos and Amber." I stressed Drake's title.

"That is part of our problem." Drake nodded.

"It prevents us, and other people from putting our full resources into the problem of Corwin's Pattern." I said, "Because they're tied up bickering over some idiotic act of Fiona's. Pardon me Lady Isabeau."

Since the others did not interrupt me at this time I continued, "However, if we could remove the reason for the contention between Amber and Chaos perhaps they could get it out of their system and devote their resources to resolving the issue of Corwin's Pattern."

"Clarify please? How do you propose to eliminate the friction between Amber and Chaos?" Drake sneered.

"By waking up Fiona and getting her to resolve whatever it is she did." I stated.

"Do you know how to wake her?" Keladrian asked.

"No, but we have been offered a solution for that."

"We have!" Isabeau seemed surprised.

"Yes, I just don't know how trustworthy he is."

"Mandor?" Drake asked.

"Yes. He offered to help your mother, he said he could help her." I reminded Isabeau.

Drake thought for moment and then said, "Lady Isabeau, I believe if you ask him he would be amenable."

This began a discussion about whether Mandor could or could not help Fiona, the desire not to take Mandor to Amber, and how it might be possible to move Fiona out of Amber to a place we could take Mandor. From the discussion it seemed that the group was willing to try to get Mandor to help Fiona. What it would cost us was briefly discussed, but not nearly as much as I would have liked.

Isabeau seemed to waver slightly on the decision to move her mother. At that point I asked Drake to answer of question I had asked him several days before. Mandor had already said that there were those in Chaos affected I wanted to know if Drake knew any specifically. Drake mentioned his cousin Ulris and after additional questioning finally admitted that the Empress was also afflicted.

With this revelation Isabeau stated "I think we need to get Fiona awake."

"I think we need to be laying more of our cards on the table if we wish to continue this alliance or companionship." I stressed.

For what it was worth, the others appeared to agree with me. We would see whether they meant it.

After that the discussion revolved around what actions to take and in which sequence. Whether to contact Mandor first, Amber, Chaos or just go get Fiona.

It was agreed that we would contact Amber first, then Chaos if necessary and finally Mandor. I reminded Drake that we would need to monitor his conversation with Chaos and as a concession to him I offered that he could do the same when we contacted Amber.

It was decided that Random would be the person to contact, however I wanted to move to another shadow a little further away from Corwin's Pattern before contacting Random. Keladrian declined to move the group and it fell to Drake and Isabeau to determine who would move us through shadow. Drake agreed to do so and in about half an hour we arrived in a shadow which differed only slightly. There was a bluff in the near distance. The bluff had several shallow caves and Drake instructed us to follow him.

He approached the cave, Isabeau following him. The cave mouth was perhaps 5 to 6 feet wide and with the two of them standing in the mouth it was impossible to see how deep it was. I hung back to see if Keladrian needed assistance with his friend. He indicated that he could handle it and changed into a dragon form not unlike

Derrick's. Seeing that he had everything in hand, or in this case 'claw', I moved towards the cave.

As I approached the cave I could see that Drake and Isabeau had paused at the entrance.

I reached out with my mind to see who was there. It was a woman, obviously from Chaos. Her thoughts were disordered and frivolous.

"You have to bring us to the only place that has someone from Chaos in it!" I protested. "What is this?"

"I'll know in a moment." Drake pulled his blade from its sheath and I immediately reacted.

"Oh back up! Do you have to pull that thing out?" I protested.

"There may still be danger." He replied.

"And most of it is coming from you right now." I sniped.

"Does this bother you?" Drake asked using a word that meant the death of order in Thari.

"Yes!" Isabeau protested immediately.

"I am not that hung up on order, but the blade is nasty put it away." I insisted.

Drake sheathed the blade and moved forward into the cave.

"She seems really pissed that someone shot her." Isabeau said to Drake.

"Ow!" Drake had woken the woman up.

"Don't move I will help you." Drake said to her.

"Drake?" The woman said.

The she obviously knew who Drake was, which meant it was a friend or relative.

"You've got to stop the thing!" The woman seemed hysterical.

Drake tried to calm her down and said he would be getting medical supplies.

She kept talking about the thing, the box. I was intrigued. I looked inside her mind to see what it was that she was so afraid of. When I saw the image in her mind I began to laugh. I noticed Isabeau did also. But it also meant that the Luggage was nearby. I left Isabeau and Drake in the cave and moved away to call for the Luggage.

Keladrian was moving towards the us carrying Derrick. He landed and I explained to him what had been going on in the cave. He told me that he had seen the luggage headed this way and that I might want to calm it down when it got here. I remembered that the luggage hadn't been real happy with Keladrian when last we saw it. I told Keladrian that it might be best if he did not change back to his human form just yet.

I waited for the luggage. It didn't take long, the grass parted and the luggage barreled up to me. I dropped to my knees and spoke to the luggage in soothing tones as I stroked its lid. After I had calmed it down I checked to see if it had collected anymore bodies. I found three, all Ihendren.

I pulled the bodies out and started to examine them. I praised the luggage and told it, "Good job!"

All of these men were wearing the same attire, which also matched the last body. They were carrying nothing of interest in their pouches. On the front of their green pin-striped tunics was a spiral Pattern and each had a spiral earring. I kept one earring and ripped one of the spiral devices off of a tunic.

Keladrian placed his friend on the ground and made him comfortable, then turned to me and asked, "So, who is in the cave?"

"Some relative of Drakes, or a friend." I answered.

"Hello, I'm right here." Came a voice from the cave that I assumed to be the woman.

We had not been talking that loudly, so she must have incredible hearing.

"My pardon, I did not believe that you were aware of our presence." Keladrian offered.

"Allow me to introduce my cousin, Liselle." Said Drake

"Ah! Introductions at last." I said.

"I was a bit busy." Replied Drake.

"I can understand that." I said.

Drake made the appropriate introductions and Keladrian commented on Liselle's armor. I took a good look at our visitor and noticed that the armor did look like Keladrian's.

We decided to continue our plan to contact Amber from here. I informed Isabeau and Drake of the three bodies that had been found in the luggage and that they were Ihendren. Liselle informed us at this time that it had been Ihendren forces that had attacked her. It looked like the contact to Chaos would now be necessary. Keladrian and I were not happy about this. It was interesting to note that Isabeau seemed to be quite eager for Drake to contact Chaos. She was very adamant about it to the point of being rude.

I asked Drake to examine the Ihendren bodies. Maybe he could spot something I hadn't. When Drake emerged from the cave, the luggage immediately came to alert. It would like nothing better than to attack him. I calmed it as best as I could. Drake looked over the bodies as I spoke with the Luggage and determined as I had that these men were Ihendren. He did add that they were Freebooters. In other words elite assassins disguised as common soldiers.

We decided that the Ihendren were probably after Drake, as he was Sawall.

Keladrian began to ask Liselle about the armor she was wearing. She explained that she had found it in the remains of a burnt out hotel room. Keladrian explained that it was his armor and Liselle wanted to know if Keladrian had been the one to remove one of Vox's ears. Keladrian answered in the affirmative. Liselle removed the armor and gave it to Keladrian without further protest. She made some comment about the armor not being effective against arrows anyway. Keladrian responded that it was very effective when it fit. Isabeau commented that most armor was more effective when it fit.

Isabeau mentioned that it was probably better if we could conduct our business and move on so that it would be more difficult for the Vox's of the world to find us. She also wanted a nice place to stay, a bed to sleep in, and food to eat. Keladrian said not to worry that he would take care of the place to stay. He mentioned that it probably would not be up to my standards but it should be sufficient.

I told Keladrian that if he were choosing, it most assuredly would not be up to my standards.

I was ready to try contacting Random. I took my cards out of my pouch and shuffled through them. My card for Random was missing. When did I have it last? Then I remembered that I last had the card when Drake grabbed me with the Logrus back in the hotel. I turned to Drake, "Where is it?" I demanded as I looked at him.

"Where is what?" He tried to sound innocent.

"You know what I am talking about." I glared at him. "Where is Random's card?"

"I don't know." He said

"You took it." I accused.

"I took it, but I don't have it now." He stated.

"What did you do with it?"

"It would be best if I did not say." He demurred.

I was out of patience with this man! I went into his mind and took the information I wanted. He had passed the card to Liselle.

"You had better give the card to me now." I seethed.

Drake turned to Liselle, patted her and said something reassuring. He then turned and handed me Random's card.

I retrieve the card and wiped it off. Who knows where it had been? I placed the rest of the cards away and placed my hand over the pouch. Drake was not getting another card. He moved up behind me and placed his hand on my shoulder so that he could listen in to the Trump contact.

I concentrated on the card. Again I felt the shunt before I reached Random. It took a while before he replied. The image of Random remained static but I could hear his voice.

"Zhelan?" Random asked. I found it interesting that he knew it was I. I had believed that ability to be Trump based.

"Are you busy right now?" When he answered yes I continued, "This is important it is about Corwin's Pattern."

He indicated that I should go ahead. "Are you under attack right now?" He indicated in the affirmative. "Chaos?" I asked. Again he indicated affirmative. "How is my father?" I asked. I was concerned for his safety. And I missed his counsel. "Any change?"

Random indicated that he did not know my father's condition. I asked if he was in amber. He said "No and don't ask where I am."

"I wouldn't dream of it." I assured him. "Do you have any other directions for us at this time?"

I was a bit at a loss what to say next. Then Random added, "I think Gerard got them out of there, but I don't know where they are."

"Got them out?" I repeated dumbly then continued, "Isabeau wants to know about her mother."

Random repeated what he said about Gerard getting them out of there. Which meant neither Fiona nor Bleys were in amber. So much for our plan. I had no Trump for Gerard.

"I'm sorry." Random said. My Uncle Random surprised me again. He must have picked that thought from my mind. I would have to be more careful in the future.
"You guys just stay undercover." Random said.

"That's your only suggestion!" I countered amazed.

"Zhelan, do you want a home to come back to?" Random asked me.

I had to think about that for a while. How important was Amber to me? But it was important to Father that is what mattered.

"Is Vialle OK?" I asked to change the subject.

"Yes, thank you for asking." Random told me.

"Isabeau has a Trump for Benedict. . ." I started.

"That boy is having too much fun." Random sighed.

"Is there anything else we can do?" I asked him.

"Put a tach nuke in Sawall's throne room for me?" Random joked.

I could feel Drake thinking very loudly behind me that he wouldn't recommend it.

"What is the status of Amber? Is there anyone left there?" I asked.

The pause was almost too long before he said, "Of the family, I don't know."

I asked him then if Chaos were there. He said he didn't know but he didn't think so. He continued that he didn't think they would invade. I agreed with him and told him about the orders to detain Isabeau and myself and our run in with Vox.

"Fight dirty." He told me.

"Is there any other way?" I quipped back at him.

Drake asked me to tell Random why Chaos attacked. Random asked if someone else was there and I told him that Lord Drake was listening in.

"Jesus H, Zhelan." Random swore.

"I am still the ambassador to Amber." Drake huffed. I thought it would not be a good time to remind Random of that fact.

"Prince Drake." I amended.

"Good, I'm glad Benedict got one of them." Random said.

"It was something Fiona did that started this conflict." I told Random.

"Twice!!" Random exclaimed.

"We think that perhaps Fiona is the only one who can resolve the current conflict."

"Twice!" He repeated.

"We have someone who might be able to help, but we really need Fiona." We had agreed not to pre-warn Amber of our plan. However the situation had changed dramatically and now we did not know where Fiona was. I thought that maybe Random would offer a Trump for Gerard if he knew the circumstances, or maybe contact Gerard himself on our behalf. But there it was; now Random knew what was at stake.

"That's what I tell myself every night, why do we need that bitch? We really need Fiona. One of these days we are not going to need Fiona anymore." He referred to the recent events that caused Corwin's Pattern to begin with. I had to agree with Random about Fiona. She always seemed to be behind the meddling. And now her daughter.

"And Uncle, I will be there with you on that day." I assured him. "However in the meantime, try and get Gerard to contact us."

"He would be. . . " Random started.

"Where?" I finished for him. "I have no idea. I don't know Gerard that well."

"Who does?" Random chuckled.

"This contact is not secure, I would not say if you knew." I told him remembering the feeling of the strange shunt when I contacted him. "The contact was not straight through here. . . " I began.

"Oh, that would be the shunt." Random said.

"The shunt?" I inquired.

"Well Zhelan, I am fucking king of Amber, my mind is open to anyone who calls. I had Vialle install it about 4 years ago." He told me. I reviewed recent history. This was prior to his being king but about the time that Corwin had been captured after the battle up Kolvir and I had heard something about Random trying for a rescue that failed. Considerations for another time perhaps.

"Oh, I guess I've never tried to contact you this way. So, it is something you know about." I was caught off guard by this new possibility for Trump.

"Yes, it's something I know about, but thank you for being on the uptake." He laughed. "You might consider installing one yourself."

My mind was working on the problem. Was it something I could do using the abilities of the Trump, or was it manufactured like Keladrian's shield? "I will have to talk to Vialle." I told him.

Drake must be getting impatient with this as he whispered to me, "Have they tried suing for peace?"

"Yes, she's pretty good." Random was continuing the conversation.

"Has Chaos offered terms or tried to contact you?" I asked for Drake. When Random didn't answer right away I asked, "Have you tried contacting them?"

"There was this kind of smarmy message a couple of days ago. I sent it back." He said after a brief hesitation.

"And the head of the person who brought it?" I joked.

"The hands actually." He said somewhat sheepishly.

"Wish I'd been there."

"Tell him you've got someone who has the Emperor's ear, is there something he wants to say. Constructive." Drake added.

After the talk of head and hands I almost chuckled at having the emperor's ear, but I refrained and passed this along to Random.

"You won't get us, you bastard." Random suggested. "Or, I invite you to the marshmallow roast over my sister's corpse." We were both laughing now. I really love my uncle's warped sense of humor.

"If only we could find it." I added. "Well, if there isn't anything else we wish to discuss here, we will contact you when we know something."

"I'll be here." He laughed again.

I wished him good luck and he thanked me. Then I told him to stay safe. To which he replied, "I fully intend to."

"Fight dirty." I told him as I broke the contact.

"Well, we have a problem. " turned to the group and said aloud. "Gerard has taken Fiona and Bleys and gone into deep hiding."

The group sat there in silence for a time. "A search through shadow for them could be quite lengthy." I continued. "But perhaps Mandor could find them right away, he seems to be able to find everybody else." I remembered our recent experience in the hotel.

"Finding the dreadful doodle, which is quite large is one thing." Drake began.

"No, if you will recall he seems to have found Isabeau. And he seemed to have found us quite readily."

"But we're talking about Gerard protecting two of his siblings." Drake insisted. "I think you are right in your first estimation that a search could take some time."

"It probably would not be quick and it probably would not be easy, but I could probably get us to her." Isabeau spoke. I thought of the abilities that Pattern walkers seemed to have to be able to find things in shadow by desiring them to be found. It might be possible, unless Gerard planned for that.

"That presupposes that Gerard has not protected against that." I said aloud.

"I don't think that is possible in this case." Isabeau added. But she knew the abilities of shadow walking with Pattern, though not well, better than I.

"Is this something you wish to pursue?" Drake asked Isabeau.

"I think we need to deal with the other half of the equation first." Isabeau answered.

"Chaos and Mandor." I stated.

"Who" came a voice from the cave. I had forgotten about our new acquisition, Liselle.

"He is also from Chaos." Drake told her. "Possibly in your father's ballpark."

"Tall, white-haired." Isabeau added.

"Tall?" asked Keladrian. Who being 7 foot had a different impression of tall than Isabeau.

Drake must have sent her a mental picture of Mandor as Liselle suddenly said, "Oh, he's nice looking, so dark." She practically purred. "He was with Vox." She added.
"Excuse me?" Isabeau said surprised.

"Well, the last time I saw him, he was talking to Vox." Liselle answered.

"He was with Vox?" I asked. Maybe we didn't want to contact Mandor after all. How could I so easily forget that you could never trust someone from Chaos.

"Remember, he was the adept in the balcony." Keladrian reminded me.

"He was!" I said. That meant that he was the one that I had shot. He had shown no animosity to me over that. I'm not sure that I could have reacted the same. This made me more concerned over just how dangerous Mandor must be.

"You did not realize that?" Keladrian asked.

"No." I told him. "If he was with Vox, why was he helping us?"

"We've had this discussion." Drake said patiently.

"I can't believe he was so polite after I shot him."

"I can speak to the person that Vox receives her orders from. . ." Drake began.

"That would be your Aunt Kyrie?" I inquired.

"Yes, or. . . " Drake did not get to finish.

"I'd go right to the top." Isabeau interrupted.

"Ooh, I wouldn't." Liselle said.

"Why?" Isabeau asked.

"We went to the top in Amber." I added.

"He'd probably be about as receptive as King Random was." Drake stated. "Maybe receptive to talking about ceasing the hostilities."

"Well, if his wife is comatose. . . " I reminded Drake. "Why did we want to talk to Chaos? Other than to talk to Mandor about. . ."

This was probably the wrong thing to say. The discussion grew into a heated argument about whether we should allow Drake to contact anyone in Chaos. We seemed to agree for a while that Drake should not contact anyone who could give him the order to take Isabeau and myself into custody. It was suggested that perhaps Liselle could contact her father. Keladrian wanted to know if Liselle's father could order her to return and I added that that might be a good thing.

I was feeling that our balance of power had shifted to the Chaos side with the addition of Liselle to the group. It would be best if we were rid of her soon. I asked Drake why we needed her with us. He stated that she could be a contact to someone in Chaos who could not order him to do anything. But we didn't know who her father was. We only had her assurance and Drake's that Liselle's father had no political ambitions. And I had so much trust in Drake's word after his little stunt with my Trump for Random.

Something Liselle said about her father having no designs on the throne sparked something in Drake as he mentioned something about the Ihendren's designs on the throne with the help of Methendros. Liselle told Drake that his cousin Ulris had been watching them. Drake mentioned that Ulris was now unfortunately out of the picture.

"That strikes me as very convenient." Liselle said

"Then it may not have been totally what Fiona did?" I asked

"Duh, I've been saying that all along." Isabeau taunted. I ignored her.

"But then Mandor seemed to indicate that is was."

"Well, he may have a vested interest in implying that someone else was responsible." Isabeau said. I had to agree with this point. We did not know where Mandor's true allegiance lay. He had told us that he was not our ally, but that he was not our enemy.

Drake suggested that we try to reawaken someone that we could get to. Since the only two Amberites that were unconscious were not available, that left someone from Chaos. I asked and Drake confirmed that he had meant Ulris.

"In Chaos?" Keladrian scowled. It always seemed to come back to this. There was no resolution that Drake had that did not lead us to Chaos.
"He was in his lab the last I knew and I would not want to try to go there." Liselle said.

The conversation drifted to Merlin. Drake said that his estimation of the man was low due to the company he kept, namely Balak and Lila. Liselle said that she thought he knew better than that. I asked if she knew Merlin. She stated that he did not hang much with the courts. There may be hope for my cousin after all then. Liselle mentioned that it was kind of embarrassing.

"What's embarrassing, having an acknowledged parental tie to . . ." I was thinking of Corwin's relation to Merlin.

"Dara." Liselle finished for me. Dara and Corwin? I recalled the Trump of the young woman with freckles I had seen and Drake's description of her as Hendrake's greatest failure. It must have been tough for Merlin at the Courts. Corwin as father and Dara for mother. I felt some sympathy for my cousin.

We reached a point in the discussion when Drake asked Liselle to contact her father, Keladrian protested. His grounds were that anyone in Chaos could provide orders to Drake that would compromise his agreement with us. Drake and Liselle tried to explain the position of Liselle's father to the throne and politics of Chaos. It was during this discussion that Drake suddenly realized that with the death of his father, that he and Kyrie were the next in line to the throne of Chaos.

But only if something was to happen to Swayvil. If something happened to Swayvil we had an important hostage. But also the biggest target in shadow right now, what with the recent actions of the Ihendren's.

It was only after much heated discussion that Liselle was allowed to contact her father. I monitored her conversation, as I did not believe that Drake or Isabeau was a disinterested party. And I didn't feel that Keladrian had enough experience with Trump to break the contact if it became necessary.

I stood behind Liselle while she withdrew her Trump from under a body flap. I noted that shape shifters had an advantage for storing valuables. Drake wouldn't be able to lift one of her Trump. As she sorted through them I saw the same black gothic castle that Merlin had. There was another of a very good-looking woman in a business suit. The third card was of a woman that looked very similar to Liselle without the black hair, makeup and clothes that Liselle seemed to favor. The next card was a courtyard done in French provincial with formal gardens. Bleys would have like this place. The card she stopped at was a very tall; stern looking man dressed in slate gray, military style jacket. His hands were behind his back. His hair was cut very short and his gray eyes seemed to reach out from the card and penetrate the viewer. The background behind him was swirling, indistinct colors.

The card became active and I felt a very powerful but fragmented presence on the other end, overlain with a sense of iron control.

"Liselle, where are you?" he asked

"Hi Dad." Liselle answered. "I have to make this quick because I have other people waiting." She hurried through her talk. "I was out, like taking a walk, you know. And I saw this. . ."

"Liselle, I want you to come home now." Interrupted her father.

"Listen to me now Dad. I was out and I was following. . ."

"Captain Vox is concerned. I want you home now." He did not seem that he was listening to his daughter.

"Dad! Look! Ihendren shot me! I have these two arrows, they got me good." She squealed.

"Ihendren?" She seemed to have his attention now.

"I was watching, like ya know, like the hit teams. . ." She seemed to be straying from her purpose.

"Liselle." Her father said to bring her back to the subject.

"Sawallian Guards, they hit them Dad, they were all through them." She was very excitable.

I felt the contact go a little deeper as her father reached through to grab the memory of her encounter with the Ihendren. This was dangerous. If her memory of us was present in her mind. . .

"Now it's time to come home." He said.

"I don't think so Dad. Bye." And Liselle severed the contact. I couldn't tell if he knew about us or not. Isabeau and I confirmed to the others that Liselle had not given us away to her father.

I wasn't so sure that he hadn't found out on his own so I suggested a change in location. Quickly.

We gathered together and Keladrian spun us to a new location. It took three spins before we reached his destination. I was becoming used to this mode of transport and I could tell that it did not bother Drake. The expression on Isabeau's face suggested that she did not find it pleasant, but Liselle had dropped to the ground and was having dry heaves. She was pretty much broadcasting her thoughts that this was not how she wanted to meet people. She had a hole in her back, dirt in her hair and now she was throwing up.

The shadow around us was tranquil. The most obvious feature was the large blue planet in the sky overhead. We were standing next to a river on land that sloped gently down to a valley. In the center of the valley, across from the perfectly circular still lake, a many-tiered ziggurat of gleaming white marble rose from the green forest. A feeling of intense peace and contentment permeated the environment. A cool wind was coming off the high snow covered peaks behind us. The few white clouds in the blue sky did not detract from its clearness. The blue planet above could be seen in sharp detail.

I returned my attention to the ziggurat. It appeared to have 7 layers and a ramp extended from the middle layer to the shores of the lake. Where the ramp met the building there was a large opening, highly decorated. The level of magic in this shadow was very high.

Liselle made some comment about being able to rock in this place. Keladrian asked her to clarify and she told him, "Don't bullshit me, conjurer."

I wondered if this is where Keladrian had come to create his armor and the amulet that shielded his mind. Since he had removed that object and placed it on his friend, I had been careful to respect his privacy. I wondered if Isabeau had. She didn't seem to have any ethics in that regard.

Keladrian picked up his friend and launched into the air toward the ziggurat. Isabeau started moving down the slope and a llama came from the forest and she mounted it and rode toward the lake. Drake, who was helping Liselle, began to shift into a lizard like form and moved quickly down to the shore. That left the Luggage and I to walk down to the lake on our own.

I got to the edge of the lake and debated taking out the raft and paddling across. Weighing the time it would take to inflate the raft, I decided to walk around like the others had done. I was the last to arrive at the door of the pyramid and only Isabeau and a tall woman were left at the door. The woman was dressed in a white robe that was classic in cut and embroidered white on white. Her headdress ornamentation matched that on the archway and covered her hair. Her skin was golden and she had almond shaped eyes.

Isabeau introduced me to her as 'the Lady' and said that Keladrian and his friend had already gone ahead as had Drake and Liselle. She also said that the rules of this place were offer no harm and none would be offered. I agreed and asked the Lady if there were accommodations. She nodded in response and we stepped forward into darkness. It was not uncomfortable and there was a sense of observance but not judgment, then we stepped into light. The corridor was very well lit with sconces along the wall. The sconces held globes that could only be described as sunlight.

At the end of the 40-foot corridor there was a tapestry with the blue planet. We turned to the right. The area opened up into a large area that could not possibly be contained in the pyramid that we had entered. The area that we faced was full of terraces with gazebo type housing units around small courtyards forming small communities or neighborhoods. There was a fountain on the lower terrace surrounded by benches with backs. Some of the benches were in shade and others were in the light. There were children playing in the fountain and a few adults. An old man in a rocker, a woman doing needlework, some others sitting and talking. It was a peaceful and domestic scene.

The woman led us to a small courtyard surrounded by six of the cubicles.

She indicated that we could choose any of the rooms we wished. Isabeau inquired about food and the Lady said that food was available in the rooms or we could join them in the communal dining hall later. We thanked the Lady and entered the rooms. I picked one that had good light for drawing as I intended to make some sketches as soon as possible. The rooms had little kitchen areas and a bathroom. I spent some time trying to decide which I wanted first, food or a bath. I eventually settled on fixing a plate and taking it to the bath with me. The Luggage sat calmly in the bath waiting the time I would need fresh clothes.

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Chapter 12

The bath was relaxing and invigorating. Unfortunately the plate of food did not last long and as wonderful as the bath was, my stomach decided that the bath was over. I reluctantly stood from the warm scented water and dried off. The Luggage disgorged suitable attire for the environment. The Kameez was a cobalt blue with navy blue and silver trim. The pants and long tunic were made of silk and lightweight. A sturdy pair of leather sandals completed the ensemble and I felt ready to go in search of food. After a brief hesitation I decided to add the shawl with the outfit remembering that this group could end up leaving a place on a moment's notice and usually without my Luggage.

Entering the courtyard I noticed that the children were no longer playing in the fountain but the elderly couple were still sitting on the bench and conversing. It had become slightly darker now, as it was twilight. Looking around our area I saw that two more doors were now closed. I knew Isabeau had taken the room across from me, and I assumed that the other two must be Drake and Keladrian. The two open doors would account for Keladrian's friend and Drake's cousin who probably were not in condition to take up residence as yet.

I had been hoping to talk with Keladrian alone, this might be my opportunity. I ignored the room that Isabeau had taken and knocked on the next closed door. After a brief wait I determined that no one was answering and went to the next closed door.

"Yes." I heard Keladrian say. I opened the door and let myself in. He was in his human form and sitting at a table with food in front of him. I noticed that he had a nice quantity of meat. I also noticed that he was now wearing the armor that he had retrieved from Liselle. At least it covered up the jeans and shirt.

"How's your friend?" I asked as I moved to the table.

"They believe they can treat him." Keladrian's thoughts were no longer blocked, but I respected him too much to invade his privacy. Even so, it was obvious to me that his friend's condition concerned him deeply. I didn't want actions taken by my Uncle Corwin to jeopardize our relations.

"I see you have food here." I said to change the subject. No sense allowing him to dwell on his friend's condition and my relationship to that problem.

"Would you care to join me?" he offered.

The Luggage, which had followed me in, was not particularly happy, but at least it was not overtly growling at Keladrian.

"Thank you." I sat down and eagerly applied myself to the animal protein that had been lacking in the food stored in my room. The meat was not as refinely prepared as I might have chosen, but it was protein so I wasn't going to protest.

"And the others?" he asked between bites.

"I don't know." I told him. "Isabeau and I were led here. I don't know if she is in her room or not, I haven't checked. There is another door shut, I don't know who's in there, but they are currently not there now."

"I'm sure they can take care of themselves." Keladrian said and I agreed readily with him.

"I'm more concerned about what we are going to do next. How long is it going to take to help your friend? Did they say?"

He told me that it would take about three days. "The time here is not as in most other shadows." He mentioned something about no time passing while we were here.

"The question remains, what do we do next? With Gerard having Bleys and Fiona off to who knows where, it limits our options in resolving the problem with Chaos."

Keladrian suggested that we needed to find other experts that could assist us with the problem.

I asked him if his family had anyone there who might be able to help.

"Oh, indeed, but involving them might not perhaps be wise." He said.

I thought that now would be a good time to broach subjects that would be sensitive. Who knew when we would have time alone again?

"You know that Drake's mother is from the same line that you seem to be from." It was out in the open. I waited to see his reaction.

He carefully put his utensils down and looked carefully at me. "And how do you know this." The tone of voice was almost chilling. I knew that this would be shaky ground with Keladrian but I needed him to know that I knew. I felt that this would build the trust between us. I hoped that I hadn't miscalculated this.

"I saw the image of his mother in his mind when you were questioning him about her. You seemed fairly interested in information about his mother." I tried to say it with no particular emphasis. Attach no importance to any piece that I laid out before him.

"I let my emotions get the best of me at that time." He admitted.

"So, you are descended from a defeated line of Chaos I would assume." I said offhandedly. I concentrated on the next bite of food and tried to catch the look on his face without his awareness of my scrutiny.

"You would do well not to . . . follow up on that line of reasoning." His voice was very calm and even. "An extinct line of Chaos would perhaps not want it known that they were not actually extinct." The threat was there veiled in his words and demeanor.

"Have I spoken of this outside the two of us?" I offered.

He smiled "And you are still sitting here. There are those amongst my people who feel that all contact should be avoided."

"I understand, however the questions that you have asked along the way, have been very revealing." I warned.

"Perhaps." He admitted, "But it was a surprise to find one of my line so close to that of Sawall's."

It appeared that the moment of threat had passed and he was sharing a bit with me. It was a start in my campaign with Keladrian. One day, he would discuss things with me more freely. But the dance must be carefully orchestrated with this one.

"I can imagine."

"I would appreciate it if you would continue with your discretion."

"Have I proven myself untrustworthy as yet?" I asked him.

"No, and I have not said otherwise. I just stated my appreciation that it would continue. And should any of my people appear the less you seem to know of me, the better for you." He counseled.

"There is some concern with your friend Derrick, if Corwin now has the information that he had." I felt a slight change in subject was necessary at this time.

"Agreed. Some information it is already apparent that he does have. They will be able to repair what was done to him to some extent, but of course there is a scar that will remain. Corwin has put himself at risk by doing what he has done. " He revealed.

I had to think about this. Corwin was family, Keladrian wasn't. Whatever I was feeling for Keladrian, I knew how I felt about Corwin. Then the thought of the slaughtered armies around Corwin's Pattern came to mind.

"Corwin can pretty much take care of himself." I told him. "I don't think he sees it as a risk."

"Perhaps I could be more clear. There are those amongst my people who would kill him for what he now knows. When you are hunted unto virtual extinction you learn to preserve yourself or you are extinct." He was deadly serious now.

The thought entered my mind that if his people didn't know that Corwin had this information there wouldn't be a problem. But that seemed unreasonable to achieve at this point.

"Chaos does not appear to like it when people wander off and do their own thing. They certainly haven't left Amber alone." I brought back that which our two families had in common, a dislike of Chaos. A common bond against a common enemy.

He agreed with me. "They are jealous of any power that they do not control. And Line Sawall seems to be the most power hungry of the lot."

"Interesting what is going on with Sawall at this point, what with Drake's father now being deceased. With the Ihendren's looking to seize control and the other information that we have gathered, if only there was some possibility of using that to advantage to distract Chaos." I moved the conversation so that his mind would now be occupied with other speculation. I now knew where he stood on the matter of Corwin, which offered me a dilemma. I didn't want him to dwell on it further. I was tempted to reach out and see what he was thinking about this and other things but held myself in check. I had been too used to shadow dwellers that were unaware of mental manipulation. A wrong move in that direction with Keladrian could be fatal.

"They seem to doing fine on their own and far be it from me to stand in the way of their progress." We laughed at this.

"But seriously," I said, "they seem to be spending a little too much time bothering Amber at this point and I wish there was some way we could distract them further."

"That was a consideration in allowing Liselle to contact her father." Keladrian replied. "With their own forces under attack they will need to guard themselves as well as execute their orders."

"If only there was some way." I began, then laughed. "Good things like this you should be able to take more advantage of. Let me think about this some more." His statement about Liselle reminded me that I wasn't dealing with a shadow dweller. I had to treat him just as I would a member of the family. Give no points away for free. Carefully think through all the moves and permutations before risking your pawn on the board.

"So what else did you learn in your discussion with King Random?" He asked. As a player in the games I should try to get more than I gave out. I thought about my answer before I spoke.

"Gerard has taken Bleys and Fiona off into shadow to some unknown location. They have had small assassination teams enter Amber itself. He didn't know the status of most of the family."

"So they have scattered?" He asked me when I paused.

"Random and Vialle are not in Amber, but they are well."

"Who's in Amber?" he continued.

"He didn't know. He didn't know if Chaos was there or if anyone from the family was there." That statement seemed innocuous enough.

"It seems unwise to leave the project unguarded."

"I'm not sure there is much they could do there. I don't know but I trust that Random knows what he is doing. At least I hope the hell he knows what he is doing. He did say that Benedict was having entirely too much fun." I thought about the word that he used for Amber. I think that he had used that before but could not remember specifically. Whose project? Did he believe that Amber was a mere project for his family?

"My impression of Benedict is that if he is opposing them, then the forces of Chaos are not at their leisure to do what they will." Keladrian commented. "So in your travels have you perhaps come across anyplace in shadow with those who would have the knowledge to aid us?"

"I really wasn't looking for that when I was out in shadow. I found no one really of any great power." I tried to think of the numerous shadows that I had visited. There were beings that were powerful in their own shadow but none that had knowledge outside of their shadows.

"Power and knowledge are not necessarily the same."

"But this is something that affects the nature of the universe itself. It is not likely that someone who is limited to one shadow would have the knowledge that we would need. Unfortunately the two people that I think could do something about this are with Gerard and comatose." I tried to think of anyone else who might help.

"And what of Dworkin?" Keladrian asked.

"The last time I saw Dworkin, he headed to Chaos and to the best of my knowledge has not returned. Dworkin is not the easiest person to talk to at the best of times." I was surprised that he knew Dworkin. This was the second or third time that he had surprised me in this conversation. I needed to pay more attention.


"You know Dworkin?" I asked him.

"No, but I have heard stories. But if you wish one who has knowledge of your Pattern then he would be the one."

"I have no idea how to get hold of Dworkin or whether he would be stable or coherent enough to help us." I thought of my great-grandfather. I had very little contact with him. I don't think that Bleys thought it was safe. I knew Dworkin best through his artwork on the Trump.

"Coherent, how so?"

"Oh, he's like, crazy. Oberon had to lock him up for awhile. So that let's out pretty much anyone in Amber helping. And since you say we can't go to your people for help this is not looking real good. If we could find Fiona and get her to Mandor, he said he could help, but I am completely fresh out of ideas."
"Well, perhaps the others will have come up with something useful." He responded.

"Something useful besides arguing and bickering."

"That does seem to be their nature." We laughed.

We ate in silence for a while and then I told Keladrian that no one had drawn a Trump of him. He seemed confused at the change in subject. "Yes, you seemed concerned about that earlier, I just wanted to let you know that no Trump has been created for you."

"Thank you." He said. "I assume that you can tell that by observing an object or a place or person?"

I answered in the affirmative. By this time we had finished all the food that was in Keladrian's room and were still hungry. It had been some time since the meal with Mandor and it seemed that Keladrian had as fast a metabolism as my family.

Keladrian looked wistfully at the empty table and I told him that they did mention something about a communal dining hall. "Now that we have had the appetizer maybe we should go get dinner." I told him.

"That seems like the best plan we have had so far." He smiled at me.

"Are you going to wear your armor to dinner?" I asked him.

He looked down at the armor as if to say, 'what's wrong with what I am wearing?'

"Actually I will continue to wear the armor. We may need to leave in a hurry." He said. I couldn't argue with that logic having used it once myself today. I smiled as I ran my hand down the shawl I was wearing.

I mentioned that I needed to return his jacket to him. Since I now had the Luggage I would no longer need it.

We left Keladrian's room and it was still twilight outside. As we headed down the terraces we saw a long low building that must be a communal gathering place of some kind. As we headed in that direction the Luggage suddenly went scampering off in a different direction. It is unusual for the Luggage to stop following me and I could only think of one thing at this moment that could be the cause. I wondered if the conjunction about offering no harm applied to the Luggage and didn't want to take the chance. I set off in pursuit of the wayward trunk.

The Luggage went across a plaza and into another one and had stopped by someone who was sitting on a bench. I suddenly realized that I recognized the person as Uncle Gerard. The Luggage was rubbing up against his leg and Gerard was stroking its lid. For a moment I thought that it must be someone else. Gerard was in deep cover. And then I realized that this must be his deep cover. It made a certain kind of sense but the irony of it stopped me cold for a moment. But then I recovered, more or less.

"Uncle Gerard!"

"Zhelan!" he smiled up at me. Though his clothes were tidy and clean, there were dark circles under his eyes. I had never seen my uncle looking so tired.

"I am so glad we found you."

"Who's we?"

"Oh, this is Keladrian." I made the introductions.

I told him that Keladrian and I had been traveling together trying to resolve some of the issues that had been going on. I also mentioned that we were with Isabeau and Prince Drake.

"So I understand." Gerard said.

"Oh, you've met them?" I asked.

"Yes." He said emphatically. "I need to go meet them again."

"Anyway, we're hoping to be able to fix Fiona so that she can fix whatever it was she did that is causing Chaos to attack us." I gave him the short version.

"I'm having such deja vu." He said. I hoped that he wouldn't connect Bleys to the last Chaos fiasco. "They are in the dining hall and I have to go talk to them." Then sort of under his breath he said, "Fiona bred?"

"Yah." I said, "And that's a picture I don't want to see."

"And she's been running around the castle for what? A century?" he marveled.

"Something like that." I really didn't know, being more out of Amber than in during the last 300 plus years, but I figured it was politic to just agree with Gerard. "And nobody knew, but I wasn't around much."

"You're never around, Zhelan." He seemed somewhat sad when he said this. Gerard is the nurturer in the family and I felt the guilt now. He actually loved his family. "She's got her mother's tongue." He added. He knew his family and still loved them. Gerard was different than the rest of us; he was a good man.

"I noticed. And her mother's disposition."

"Her mother's disposition. Blah. But I've got another niece though." He seemed genuinely pleased to have another member of the family.

We had started walking toward the dining hall while we had been talking. We entered the hall and it was very nicely laid out with small groupings of chairs and small tables. I had been expecting a more communal dormitory feel to the dining hall and pleased to see it more closely resembled a restaurant.

We approached a table off to the side where Drake and Isabeau were sitting at a table laden with empty food dishes.

Gerard was in the lead and spoke when we arrived. "I spoke with Random. Welcome to the family niece." He leaned down and hugged Isabeau. Having been on the receiving end of a hug from Gerard before I knew that it only looked intimidating when this bear of a man approached, actually he is very gentle.

Drake smiled at Isabeau and said, "Yes, welcome to the family." I thought the comment strange at the time and filed it away for future reference.

The Luggage quivered and I realized that despite the fact that both Gerard and I were here, Drake and Keladrian were here also. I stroked the Luggage to calm and reassure it. It wasn't happy but it didn't attack.

Gerard was speaking to Isabeau. "You didn't call down the squads?"

"Not that I know of." She told him.

He then turned to Drake, "Did you?"

Drake replied in the negative.

Then Gerard turned to Keladrian. "How about you?"

This was almost amusing knowing what I did about Keladrian and his people.

A small smile played across Keladrian's lips. "Yes, I would be able to command Chaosian hit squads." Drake also smiled at this. "My pardon, Prince Gerard. The concept is amusing. As we understand it was the Emperor himself."

"Something about the fact that the Emperor's wife is in the same condition as my mother and Uncle Bleys." Isabeau said. Her use of the term Uncle for my father startled me a moment. I guess I still wasn't used to the idea that this was my cousin, my father's niece. Fiona's daughter I could buy, the rest hadn't properly sunk in emotionally yet.

"And its Fiona's fault." I added.

Isabeau started to say something and Drake stepped in to avoid the potential fight between us. "More accurately we can say the Emperor believes that Fiona is responsible."

"Thank you." Isabeau said. "I am getting really tired of hearing at every turn, it's Fiona's fault. We have no proof of that."

"Ok, did you want to see your parent's then?" Gerard asked as if the previous venting had not taken place.

Isabeau and I immediately responded in the affirmative.

"It's your call, girls." Gerard said. We looked confused a moment and then Gerard clarified. "Your parents are not really at their best, did you want your guys here meeting them." Leave it to Gerard to make that assumption. I hoped that I did not blush. I had done that around Keladrian too much at the beginning of our time together.

"Keladrian has already met Bleys when my father was conscious." I told him.

"Prince Drake has already had the same honor with Fiona." Isabeau added. "In respect of the wishes of the hospital, it would probably be better if we went alone."

"It would probably be better if you went with them as I am not certain that they would be able to find them." Offered Drake.

"If you two would like to continue with your repast, we will go with Gerard." Isabeau said.

I took one last look at the food, and decided that the hunger would have to wait. I walked quickly to keep up with Gerard's normal pace. We went back out the way that we had come into the terraced area from the door of the pyramid. We passed down the corridor to the T intersection opposite the tapestry of the blue planet and down the other hallway. The Luggage followed happily along, glad to be rid of the two that were disturbing to it.

This hallway opened up into a large open area and there were obviously many beds in here but there was something about the place that prompted you not to notice anyone else. When we had reached the center of the large room, a woman in white robes approached us. I don't know quite where she had appeared from, but there she was in front of us and addressed Gerard. He informed her who we were and said that we wanted to visit our parents.

She then led me to a bed where Bleys was laying. It was a very nice bed that suited him perfectly. It had a red coverlet and orange sheets. I pulled up a chair to the side of the bed and took my father's hand in mine. It was warm and pliable. Bleys looked unconscious. He was not pale or sunken, but there was no vitality there. Father has always been an active sleeper but this still form seemed to have lost its vibrancy.

I reached out to him with my mind trying to make some connection. He was deeply unconscious and seemed strangely ephemeral. It definitely seemed to be related to the power of the Trump like he was spread thinly through the nature of the connection of Trump to the universe.

I tried to follow one of the tendrils of his mind but as I followed it out, I felt the connection to my own body become stretched and my vision focused down to a mere tunnel. It became clear that I could drift off from my body like Bleys and be as lost as he was.

There was not enough concentration of his mind to connect to.

I was frustrated in my attempt. I didn't know what to do now. Sitting here looking at my father I realized that in my own way I loved him. And I imagine that in his own way he had some feelings for me also. I needed to do something; I couldn't leave him like this.

If his current condition was connected to the nature of Trump, then maybe Trump could be used to solve the problem. I reached into my pouch and pulled out my Trump of Bleys. Dworkin had made this one and I hoped that it would have the right rhythm to its power.

I held up the Trump in my right hand and held his hand in my left. I concentrated on seeing Bleys through his Trump. Not trying to contact him, but to see his essence in the Trump. I felt the strands of Trump that had been made of Bleys and moved past that level of seeing. I stared at the Trump and concentrated. Slowly a strange feedback distortion began to build up in the Trump. The distortion caused pain in my forehead and I began to get a sense of motion like a whirling vortex. Slowly the motion began to speed up, myself, Bleys, Trump, myself, Bleys, Trump. Faster and faster while the pain in my head increased. I looked for something that was not Bleys in the contact but only got the sense that it was limits that had been let go and the limits of his mind had been released into infinity. I resolved to concentrate harder and last the pain as long as I could. Thoughts began to interfere in my concentration and I banished them. I held the image of my father before me as a beacon through the maelstrom.

As the feedback loop began to get tighter and tighter I began to feel pieces of Bleys' consciousness that were more solid. The parts of his conscience that I could connect with seemed to be a cross between disorientation and amazement. As more and more of his consciousness gathered, his sheer presence seemed overwhelming. I could feel him all around me, the fire, the noise and the thunder. Bleys had always been a larger than life presence and now I was standing in the middle of his sun, Bleys, Blaze, bleys, blaze, whirling faster and faster. I thought there had been pain before but now I was blinded and deafened from it. I gritted my teeth and held on.

There was so much more to this man than I had ever known. This entity that existed around me was massively powerful, I was dwarfed and insignificant before it. A singular sensation reached me in the middle of the pain and the universe that was my father. The Trump in my hand started warming up. Never a good sign.

The Trump became hotter and hotter, like white-hot fire. I realized that the Trump was actually on fire. To the best of my knowledge, Trump are indestructible. The Trump burned down to my fingers and my entire world became white hot and unbearable and then I remembered nothing.

When I came back to my senses I was reminded of the week long benders with Random. The stone floor was wonderfully cool under me. I couldn't focus my eyes and could only find my head because it was a throbbing mass of pain. It seemed to be laying at a strange angle and felt like it was on someone's lap.

I slowly remembered where I was and what I had been trying to do. "Gerard, is that you." I regretted speaking from the moment I opened my mouth. My voice echoed painfully around in my skull.

"No, it's me Pumpkin." Bleys said.

I started to look up but quickly changed my mind. The room spun and the pounding in my head increased, impossible as that seemed.

I chanced speaking again. "Remind me never to do that again."

"Yeah, Zhelan." He protested. I was lifted up and changed places in the hospital bed with my father. I felt doctorly things being done and after awhile life became merely horrible. Meanwhile I don't think that father left my side. At first I thought I had only imagined he had awakened and I called out to him, "Was I only dreaming that?"

"No, I'm right here." And he squeezed my good hand.

With this reassurance I released my hold on consciousness and drifted away from the pain.

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Chapter 13
In Search Of . . .

My first recollection was of pain. An all-pervasive pain, persistent and throbbing. My first somewhat coherent thought was 'how can eyelashes hurt?'. My awareness expanded beyond the pain and I became aware of a nagging voice repeating something over and over. I realized that it was this voice that had pulled me out of the pain nullifying blackness of unconsciousness into my present unpleasant circumstances.

I groaned. The voice came again, and it sounded like the voice of my father, Bleys.


I started to open my eyes and realized that this was not a good idea. At least until the eyelashes quit hurting. I groaned out a "What."

"How are you doing, pumpkin?" The voice asked.

This brought me further awake. I tried to speak coherently and found that forming words of more than one syllable was still beyond me. "Hunhnnn." I said.

"That good, huh?" He asked me.

I started to drift off again and then realized that this was reality and that my father was awake. I hadn't imagined what had happened.

"Pumpkin!" He called to me again.

"Father?" The pain in my eyelashes had subsided somewhat.

"The bump on your head is bigger than it looks, isn't it." He joked.

"I don't remember hitting my head." I managed a full sentence.

"I understand it bounced pretty nicely when you keeled over, dear."

I finally managed to open my eyes and focused on his face. "You're awake." Nothing like stating the obvious.

"I am awake, now you are too." He seemed quite pleased with himself.

I tried to laugh and it sounded weak. "You are looking much better than when I saw you last." I told him. He was still wearing the same clothes and looked tired and weak, but he was awake.

"You are very kind. I bet I look dreadful."

His overwhelming vanity suddenly triggered a deep-seated annoyance in me.

"By the way, why the hell didn't you tell me about Isabeau, and Merlin, and how many other relatives out in shadow do I have that you haven't told me about?" That little outburst cost me more than I cared to think about. The room spun for a while.

He muttered something about my waking up bitchy but then continued, "Let's see, Isabeau, because Fiona made me promise not to. Merlin, because that brat is no good and you shouldn't hang with him dear. And you know you would. So don't give me that. Haven't heard from Martin lately, of course." He at least had the good sense to seem chagrined by this last statement. "Let's see, who else? Nobody important."

"What do you mean, no one important?" I demanded. "What about Mom's side of the family?"

"Are we going to start this again?" he gave me that look like I was a misbehaving child.

I sputtered out several half words in my frustration and then decided that it was no use and gave up. If I wanted to know anything about my mother, I wasn't going to get the information from my father. Who or what the hell was my mother that it should be this big secret? After traveling with Drake and Keladrian the subject of family had become important to me. But this was not the time to try to confront Bleys and force the issue. I was not physically at my best. And with my head still throbbing with pain, neither was I mentally at my best.

So I changed the subject. "Do you know what's been going on?" I asked him.

"Bits and snatches." He replied offhandedly. He would never admit that he lacked information.

"Any ideas?" I asked him to call his bluff.

"That's an open ended statement. What do you mean?"

"Chaos attacking, Trump not working, Corwin's Pattern, Trump artists in coma's, time stoppages." I listed the various things that we had been plagued with in the last few days. "Then there is the issue of the troops you had attack. . ."

"Not troops." He cut me off with a denial.

"Red guys, purple guys weren't yours?" I asked

"Oh, those were, yes." He answered. "That didn't work." He added.

"Obviously not."

"I never learn. Always lead with the army. No wonder Caine keeps sinking my ships." Bleys mused.

I had to bite back a retort on that one. No sense in letting father realize that I heard him mention a weakness.

"I spoke with Corwin." I told him.

"Oh, how's he doing." Family gossip is always good subject change material.

"He's in one of his pathetic depressed poet modes and he truly believes that everything is perfect with his Pattern." When Bleys didn't say anything I tried to put into words my impressions of Corwin's Pattern. "It's incomplete, or as Mandor called it a 'dreadful doodle'." As I was at a loss for words to describe Corwin's Pattern I decided to drop Mandor's name to see father's reaction.

"I don't really feel that Mandor has the right to art criticize. . ." he looked at me and changed the subject. "Corwin can be very particular when he's in his artistic phase." So he knew Mandor.

"Yes, he performed a wonderful rendition of the Battle of Kolvir for me." I continued talking about Corwin.

"Really?" Bleys seemed surprised.

"He said it was your finest hour." I paused for effect. "And that you were a true hero of Amber, only when attacking it."

"That's it. Limerick time for him." Bleys seemed only moderately annoyed. "Only Corwin would feel I was a hero while plummeting to my death."

"Well, it was prior to that as you were carving your way up to the summit, slipping in the blood."

"I never slipped, I was pushed." Bleys immediately took offense. "Just remember that."

"Well, I never did get the story from you." I half accused. "We haven't been together much since that time."

"Well, it didn't seem important at the time, Zhelan." He protested.

"No, you were too busy playing dead." I further accused. My headache was making me snippy. This was not the conversation I had wanted with my father. I just couldn't think clearly through the pain.

"You. . ." he stopped. "Let's not argue, honey, let's just not argue." Fortunately he didn't seem to want a confrontation now either.

"By the way, your friend said that his friend. . . something, something." He said somewhat tauntingly. I guess I was mistaken about the confrontation. I realized that I had hurt his feelings somewhat and this was his way of getting even.

I bit and decided to play his game. "My friend, Keladrian?"

"Yes." He smiled.

"And his friend, Derrick?"


"Something, something?"

"Yes." He smiled more broadly.

"Could you be a little more precise on the somethings?" I asked, probably a bit more testily than I had planned.

"Are we going to be civil?" he countered.

"I'm sorry father." I said contritely, knowing how much my aunts and uncles loved to hear people apologize to them.

"Derrick had needs." He said sarcastically. "He's gone because Derrick had needs. Happy dear?"

"He's done something stupid again." I muttered. "We've got to get hold of him."

Several thoughts raced through my mind. Keladrian's discussion of his people had not provided me with any belief that he was away from home with their blessings. That meant that neither was Derrick. He had not been comfortable with Derrick's prognosis for recovery and I knew that he had to be in contact with someone at home. I was pretty sure that he was now off trying to get help from home for his friend.

Unfortunately someone in Chaos knew where Keladrian's people were. Our encounter in Texarami had revealed that an alarm system was set up around Keladrian's shadow to let them know when anyone came and went. With conflict between Amber and Chaos heating up, the net around Keladrian's home would be more heavily guarded. I didn't know how he could get past that without being spotted. And what about his own people? How would they react when he contacted home? I was afraid that if he did make it home, he wouldn't be able to get back out.

"Do you know whether Trump works yet?" I asked father. "We haven't been able to draw Trump since you and Fiona took the dive into unconsciousness."

"I hadn't really tried." He told me.

"I wouldn't try if I were you." I told him remembering my response versus Isabeau's. She was obviously not as adept as I was in the art of Trump. Being more in tune with them, my reaction had been stronger. Bleys' skill in Trump was as far beyond mine as mine was beyond Isabeau's. If he tried to draw Trump he might end up back in a coma and there was no way I was going through that ordeal again, not even for him.

"Trump wasn't working?" Bleys seemed surprised.

"No, Isabeau can't draw Trump. Isabeau can't draw." I told him to see how much about my cousin he knew.

"That should be making her cranky." He responded.

"Unfortunately, I am afraid that Isabeau knows that I draw Trump. Because I tried and it blew up on me. And it was a little bit noticeable." I waited for his reaction.

"Smell of pine." He said enigmatically

"Smell of pine?" I asked confused.

"Seawater, beach, nighttime." He added.

I remembered how spread out his mind was when I had tried contacting him. It appeared that he was viewing the episode while he had been unconscious.

"Spread out a little bit?" I asked him.

"Just a little bit." He replied

"Well, did you find anything interesting during your nap?" I replied a little testily. It annoyed me to think that I had been spied upon in that manner. I mentally reviewed everything that I had been doing in the last few days to see if I was going to be too embarrassed.

"I thought we were going to be civil, Zhelan." He reproached me.

"I'm sorry, I'm just so annoyed at Fiona." I told him, diverting his attention to his sister and her machinations.

"Not nearly as annoyed as I am." He replied. "While you're awake dear, I need you to distract Gerard."

"Distract Gerard?" I repeated inanely. "Why?"

"So I can kill your Aunt." He told me bluntly.

"Okay." I agreed. I could see nothing wrong with his reason. "But shouldn't we make sure that whatever happened is fixed first?" I reasoned with him. If he killed Fiona and no one else could repair what she did to Trump. . . I didn't really like to think of the implications of that. "Or, do you know how to fix it?" I asked hopefully. "Because that's why Chaos is attacking us."

"That's the excuse they are using." He countered.

"And the real reason?" I coaxed. He didn't seem to be forthcoming with any answers.

"And why does Chaos know that I am a Trump Artist?" I asked him. "They aren't suppose to know this, but it seems that every person in the frigging universe knows it."

"Fiona. . ." he started to say then stopped and said, "Chaos knows. . ." and stopped again.

"They came and they tried to take Isabeau and I into custody as hostages because we are Trump artists." Why couldn't he finish a thought. It was making me dizzy listening to him.

"That would probably be because of the scarcity." He said.

"The what?" I said stupidly. Damn this headache. It seemed that I was only grasping part of what my father was saying and not making much sense of that.

"Well, hon. Trump is basically a Chaosian art. Most of their people are pretty good at it. I have a feeling that when my sister pulled her little stunt, it must have knocked out a good portion of their artists. They are probably just short."

"Why would they need us, we can't draw Trump anyway." I protested. "So what difference does it make?"

"Its called Denial. They would want to make sure their enemy was as hampered with resources as they." He started to explain military tactics to me.

I started to make some angry retort and held my tongue. "Let's just not go there." I said.

"The first thing we have to do is distract Gerard so I can get Fiona out of here, because I can't kill her in Dorad." He neatly circumvented the conversation back to his agenda and I realized that my questions had never really been answered.

I could talk for hours with my father and receive no useful information whatsoever.

"So, if we gut her and still have the problem, then what?" I doggedly stuck to this line of defense. "I have been really annoyed that my only means of getting around has been cut off. I really need to work on some other. . ." I trailed off hoping that Bleys would offer some suggestion.

"Dear, it's temporary." He said ignoring my implied question.

"Well, let's hope so." I snipped. "How do you know it's temporary?" I asked when it finally sank in that he had said that with a touch too much conviction for it to be a guess.

"Because, I'm awake." He stated matter of factly.

"Well, you didn't just wake up on your own." I reminded him tartly.

"And you weren't born on your own either." He snapped back. "Why don't you try a sketch?" he suggested.

I looked at him a moment then said, "Luggage. My sketch book please." The Luggage coughed up my book and pen and I caught it without looking. It was then I noticed that my left hand was bandaged. I vaguely remembered something about a Trump burning in my hand.

"Do you remember that seacoast?" He asked me. "The one with the three orange moons. The one where it was very difficult to connect mentally?"

I figured out what he had in mind. We both knew that Fiona was the best of her generation in mental pursuits. Bleys wanted someplace that would give him the edge over his sister.

I nodded. "Draw that." He said.

I set the pen on the paper and involuntarily flinched at the first stroke. But nothing happened. After about 30 minutes the sketch was finished. It was a bit shaky but it was a working Trump sketch.

I finished the sketch and was immensely pleased that my abilities were back.

"Are we going to whine anymore, dear?" Father chided me.

"Not about that." I countered.

Bleys took the sketch and put it in his pocket. "Now all we have to do is distract Gerard."

"I think I can do this." I told him. I already had an idea about how to get Gerard's attention. My biggest concern was what would Gerard do to me if he suspected that I had anything to do with Fiona disappearing on his watch. Best not to think about that. It would only make the task more difficult.

"Let's see if we can visit." He said.

"Fiona or Gerard?" I asked him.

He didn't respond and I could see he was contemplating his movements.

"I wouldn't mind taking out Isabeau while we're at it." I said to get his attention.

"Well that will be your fight, I've got my own." He answered.

"Well, she certainly has inherited her mother's disposition." I told him. "She started out not too bad on this trip, but she has just been getting worse."

"Unlike yourself dear." He teased. He better be teasing. How anyone could compare me to Isabeau the shrew. . . the very thought infuriated me.

"That's got to be your own fight. I'm not going to get in between you two, either way." He said.

No he'd just use me to get what he wanted. The headache was not going away and if I had to deal with Gerard I needed to be more alert.

"You wouldn't happen to have anything for this headache would you?" I asked

The doctor handed me a small glass of bubbling liquid. This surprised me, as I had not been aware that she had been standing there. I wondered if she had been here the whole time that we had been discussing offing my Aunt Fiona? Would distracting Gerard so that Bleys could abduct my Aunt be considered as offering harm in Dorad?

I drank the liquid down and decided that while father paced and plotted I would make use of the time to make another Trump sketch. It was easy to draw Keladrian. His features and personality flowed easily from my memory to the paper. It was a pleasurable experience to Trump sketch again and the subject matter was pleasant also.

I realized that father was looking over my shoulder at my sketch as I completed it.

"Nothing but trouble, Zhelan." He warned me.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Nothing but trouble." He restated. Then did that spooky thing with the memories from his coma. "Quiet over there." Then he came back to the present and added. "He's just a kid. You've got a least 400 years on him dear."

I tried to figure out what he was implying then figured I knew. "What! He's just a friend. We have been traveling together and I want to make sure he's not off doing something stupid." I protested.

"Drake hasn't been about for awhile." Bleys said offhandedly.

I didn't say anything. Who cared what Drake was up to right now.

"Yah!" Father said gloatingly.

"What's that suppose to mean. Are you saying we should check in on Drake? Do think he might be up to something?" I got the distinct impression that father thought there was something between Keladrian and I and my reaction, or lack of it, to Drake's name had confirmed his impression that Keladrian and I were a pair.

"No, he's a total dupe." Father said in response. I had to stop and remember for a moment whom we were talking about.

"Ok, I can buy that." I replied. "It was kind of interesting watching him get skewered in that inn." I smiled at the memory.

Bleys looked at me for clarification.

"There was something that happened." I said offhandedly.

"He got skewered?" he asked.

"Yes." I chuckled, "Some sort of entity that Drake said might be a construct."

"Oh." Bleys stood a moment in thought and then said. "Crap. That's right."

"What." I asked for clarification.

"But I really want to kill her." He complained to the room at large.

"Did I miss something here?" once again it seemed that part of the conversation had been conducted without me.

"Basically what it comes down to is how deep do we want the fat that Chaos fries in to be." He responded.

"Preferably over their heads." I thought it was a stupid question.

"You know that discussion that we had earlier about cousins?" he asked me.

"Yes." I indicated that he should continue.

"There are a few who shouldn't be fried."

"Such as?" Maybe I could get more information from him.

"Well I really can't be sure that the bitch is going to be better than the Serpent." His answer was just more enigmatic. "So far, I don't like her technique."


"No, the Angels." He stopped and thought. "Kind of a small word really for a big concept."

"That's your construct?"

"I'm flattered you think so much of me dear, but no." he started and stopped several sentences. It wasn't often that father was at a loss for words.

"You said this construct that struck Drake. . . lot's of voices. . . alcohol. Oh! That was one of her servants."

"Whose servants." Could we have a score sheet here. Father was usually more coherent than this, but maybe it was just me. The medicine seemed to be helping somewhat. I could tell that the pain was still there, I was just disconnected from it.

"The Archangel." He said as if that explained everything.

"The Archangel?" I did it again. I didn't want to think how many times during this conversation that I had just parroted things back to my father. Did I think that by repeating what he said it would impart meaning to the disjointed ramblings?

"Yes, let's say it again, firm it up a little more." Bleys seemed annoyed with my denseness.

"Obviously I'm not quite awake yet." I told him.

"Alright Zhelan. Look honey. Words have power. Repeated words add to the power. So let's stop using certain words so that more power isn't fed into the cycle.

That thing that stuck Drake was one of her servants. Alright?" He explained.

I vaguely remembered a conversation like this once or twice before when father was trying to teach me magic, sorcery or something like that. I had been more interested in drawing and making Trump. I had felt that magic was wasted effort. Obviously I should have paid more attention to those lectures.

"I don't trust her motives." He continued and emphasized the word her. "She seems worse than the serpent to me."

"Is she Chaosian?" I asked for clarification.

"She's emergent." He replied.

I shook my head. This still made very little sense. I mentioned to father that I had asked only because Drake had recently told me that Amber was just another line of Chaos.

"Yeah, they're not completely off base with that claim but when one line of Chaos can kick all the other lines of Chaos' butt. . ."

"So, what do we do next. Obviously you've decided not to off Aunt Fiona." Bleys didn't seem quite happy about that statement. "So do I still need to distract Gerard so you can take Aunt Fiona someplace and beat the crap out of her before you tell her you're not going to kill her?"

Father smiled at that. "That's really tempting dear."

"So, we have the time stoppages. Which may or may not be caused by Corwin's Pattern. We have the problem with Trump and Trump artists, which seems to be clearing up. Which may or may not have been caused by Fiona." When I said this Bleys got a strange look on his face. I suddenly remembered how he had been spread through Trump. And how powerful his essence had been when I had gathered it back. It had ignited and destroyed the Trump I had been holding. Bleys being in the Trump might have caused them to malfunction. Bleys, blaze, fire, Trump burning. It made a weird sort of sense.

"Time stoppages caused by Corwin's Pattern. Yes." Bleys was saying. "Trump disruption. Solved. Nice job dear. Chaos going down in flames. Our problem? I don't know."

I interrupted his list with. "I've been finding Ihendren's in my Luggage. And I'm not quite sure, not being up on the current politics in the Courts, but from what I understand, Drake, since his father is missing or deceased. . . "

Bleys interrupted me by adding, "Mostly dead."

"Mostly dead?" There I was doing it again. Why did my father bring out the idiot parrot in me? It was a trait that I was finding most annoying.

"Which moves him up in line to the throne." I continued.

"Way up." Bleys affirmed.

This was new information to me, but made perfect sense with what we had been encountering. "There are hit squads out trying to do off with all the people in line to the throne of Chaos. And we have assassinations squads going into Amber trying to kill off any member of the royal family they can find."

"See they learn, they don't try an army twice." Bleys added.

"Maybe you should buy a clue from that." I said under my breath.

"Can Corwin's Pattern be repaired?" I asked him. "Having never seen the Pattern in Amber, I have nothing to compare his too."

"What did it look like, dear?" He reached out and pulled the image from my mind without warning. I hated when he did that. I only hoped that he got some of my headache at the same time.

"The thing is, the way I felt about it. I don't know if I would feel about Amber's Pattern that way." I started to say that I was not the best judge of Corwin's Pattern and it's rightness.

"Dear, I just don't think you are ready for Amber's Pattern just yet." He interrupted.

Let's just push all of my buttons shall we. "How many more hundreds of years is it going to be?" I asked him.

"I'll let you know." He said.

"Isabeau's walked the Pattern. She's only been around for about a hundred years."

"That was not my idea."

"Martin's walked the Pattern. He's only what? 30." I continued through his interruption.

"And look where it got him." He fired back.

This conversation was going nowhere. Maybe when he was ready to talk about my mother, I would be ready to walk the Pattern. It would probably be in another 500 years.

"It's a house of cards, Zhelan. I have to figure out which one to pick." He seemed lost in thought.

"Random asked us to go look at Corwin's Pattern. We did that. It's screwed. Corwin's perfectly happy with it. Isabeau thinks something about the sentient tree is corrupting Corwin and his Pattern."

"Interesting theory." He answered. "If you're looking for me to put it all into a neat little package for you. . . " He said and let the rest of the sentence trail off. "It's looking like offing Fiona is getting pretty far down the ladder of priorities. Bitch." He was not happy about that.

"She's making alliances again?" I asked.

"No she actually kept her word on that." Bleys seemed surprised. "But what she's doing messing with the scales of the Serpent, I don't know. And I am going to get payback for that."

"So will the Empress of Chaos come out of her coma also?" I asked him. "And the other Trump artists in Chaos?"

"No, not unless you want to go play Trump games with them, dear." He smiled at me.

"No, you're the only one I would have gone through that for." I told him.

He smiled fondly at me. His smile can light a room and I had no regrets for my actions to see him smile at me that way. He was the center of the universe and who could ever stay mad at Bleys for long.

"So, if I have no more missions for the good of Amber, can I go live my own life now?" I asked.

"Well, goodness knows we wouldn't want the good of the universe to get in the way of you living your own life." He chided.

"I haven't been very effective at this point doing anything. Other than waking you up." I protested.

"Which is not inconsiderable, dear." He asserted.

"So, do you want me to distract Gerard or not?" It seemed we had reached no conclusions in this and I worried that time was passing and Keladrian was getting closer to danger.

"What's your dragon off doing?" Bleys asked and I knew that he had been reading me.

"Probably trying to get assistance for his friend." I ignored the indication that Keladrian was my dragon.

"I can't see them, there is no Trump there." He seemed surprised.

I realized he was doing his memory walk down coma lane again. I knew where he was trying to look and why he couldn't see anything.

"He didn't seem to know what Trump were." I told him. I wondered briefly if his time spread through the Trump was allowing him to look at them presently.

"Sometime you are going to have to show me how you are doing that."

"Doing what?" he asked, then continued. "Oh, I'm not right now. It's like this, Zhelan. There I am having a beer with Caine, pushing the little models around the boat, the next thing I know, Fiona's messing with the Scale of the Serpent and my mind is sprayed across the spectrum. But you know, I got a hell of a view. It's kind of cosmic dear. It's hard to explain. So there I was, scent of pine, seabreeze, nighttime. Sorry about the pants."

"So why did you. . ?" I started to ask.

"Well, I didn't really. But the wavelength isn't meant to support a person."

My supposition of earlier was now confirmed.

"But you aren't affecting Isabeau's ability to draw?"


"So that was something Fiona did to her." I chuckled at the irony. "That's too good."

"But the thing is, we have the angel coming up out of the Abyss, we're in trouble."

"Out of the Abyss." Stop repeating what your father is saying. I tried to remember what I knew of the Abyss. I had only heard it mentioned in relation to the final battle at the Courts of Chaos. They called that the Battle of the Abyss. Uncle Brand had fallen in and taken Aunt Deirdre with him. If something could rise from the Abyss? What about Brand and Deirdre? Were they really dead?

"I think I am going to be busy drawing some Trump."

"Some more of your boyfriend?"

"People I want to contact."

"Who?" he asked.

"Oh, never mind." I said. My turn in the game of points.

He mused for a while and then said. "We need to tell Sawall that they are being ambushed by the Ihendren's."

"We already did that."

"Good. Then they are going to start infighting."

"We were kind of hoping that that would be the result." I told him. "We were hoping that they would pull back from Amber to deal with their own issues."

"Which if they are trying to deal with their own issues they've got an icon rising from the Abyss right next door they're not going to be anywhere near to plan. See what I mean. As much as I dislike Sawall he can deal with that Hendrake Bitch of his. They can marshal enough power to keep that thing down."

He muttered several other comments, of which I heard Fiona and Mandor's names, but he was running plans and strategies through his mind and I was not part of that.

"So they don't know that this thing is coming up from the Abyss?" I asked him.

"I don't know. Are any of them reporting back yet?" he asked me.

"I don't know. Are they spread out on the Trump like you were?"

"It's not really a place to chat."

"You couldn't tell if you were by yourself?" It seemed if he were that spread through Trump with his mind as powerful as it is, that he would have some idea if there were others with him.

"No. I couldn't tell. How many people are in this room?" he indicated the hospital around us. I knew that it was large and housed several people but the nature of the place made the others invisible to us.

"Two I can count on." He continued. I understood what he was saying.

"My concern at this time is that they are out there now and getting 'the view'." I told him.

"Then they know they are in deep shit."

"That's true, but if they're not waking up. . ." I left the thought unfinished. Too many moves, too many directions to think in.

"Do we want them to know about this additional issue?" I asked him. "I am unsure of their politics and what it would mean to it."

"It's the big picture, Zhelan. There have been what? Nine, ten, of these things. And here comes another one. What is it going to shake up? Obviously not Sawall."

"Well, it did seem that it was trying to protect me." I remembered the encounter with the entity in the Inn and his warning about protecting Amber.

"Where was your tongue at the time?" father asked.

"What do you mean?" I countered.

"Alcohol, sounds." He said. I realized that he had seen the encounter in the Inn

"I was just trying to see what we could stir up." I knew he was referring to the kiss I had given Drake. Obviously my intentions on that had been badly misunderstood by everyone but me.

"I think this is really going to unbalance the power structure and I kind of like the power structure the way it is, Zhelan."

"Are you suggesting that we need to unite against this?" I asked him, feeling overwhelmed with choices. "We need to set some priorities here. Do we take care of Corwin's Pattern, do we take care of this Entity, do we off Fiona?"

"See what I mean about the ladder." He countered. "She's down to third already." He started listing relatives. "Fiona, Caine, but he's dead. Dworkin."

"You mean Brand." I interrupted.

"I mean Caine."

"He's dead?" how could Bleys know that my Uncle was dead and not tell me until now. Not that I ever really liked Caine, but he was family.

"Yah, but who knows, the spooky bastard. He's been dead at least three times I can remember."

"You say he's dead now?" I just couldn't get over how offhandedly he mentioned his brother's death.

"Chaosian hit squads."

"Chaosian hit squads took out Caine?" I was still in shock. "The last time I talked with Random, he and Vialle were safe."

"Yeah." Bleys agreed.

"Benedict was having a good time chasing Chaosians. Did you see Caine die?" My mind kept returning to his death. No one in the family had ever died except by the hand of another member of the family. It was unthinkable that Caine was killed by a Chaosian.

"He was on his ship, wind, knife, taste of blood, smell of salt." He spoke in that disjointed multiple sense speak that told me this was another coma vision.

"Julian is still in Arden?" I continued with the family count.

"Yes. Most of him anyway."

"And Flora?"

"Flora has always been good at the ally angle. She knows where to butter her bread."

"And who to butter it." I added. "And Martin's ok?"

"Yeah, if anyone knows how to hide, it's Martin." He smiled.

"Well, if we smash the Pattern first, Corwin will be just useless." Bleys offered.

"What if we could get Corwin to believe that Chaos is after his Pattern? Maybe we could make that work to our advantage. But the only way that we can do that is to make it come to him. He was saying that he couldn't leave the Pattern at this time because it is at a delicate point. He said there was much work to do there, he was in the middle of building a foundation around it. It would have to be something pretty drastic to get Corwin to leave his Pattern. I mentioned it to him that Chaos had been attacking Amber and he said he might go check it out. I think he still feels some concern for Amber. If we could get him to Amber. . . " I ran out of steam and didn't know where to take this line of reasoning next.

"That's why I'm going to have to put off icing Fiona. When it comes to screwing with Patterns nothing beats that bitch except for Dworkin."

"Where is Dworkin?" I asked father.

"Last time I saw him he was heading past the Courts."

"You don't think he's involved in this somehow."

"It's possible. I didn't get a sense of him in the overview, but it's Dworkin." He didn't need to add to that statement.

"I'm sorry, I just don't have enough information to be of much use at this point." I was feeling very frustrated with my perceived inadequacies. "And I am very frustrated."

"Welcome to the real world." Father said softly. "Let me tell you how it felt riding the cosmic wave and not be able to do anything but light your daughter's pants."

"What do you know about Keladrian?" I changed the subject.

"Why are you asking?"

"Just wanted to know what you knew about him." I remembered the handshake in the hotel in Texarami. Keladrian hadn't been shielded then and father was not above snooping.

"He's that way." He pointed off to his left.

"And about his people?"

"They are very quiet. And very reptilian. And they do something else, don't they? That little instant elsewhere trick."

He obviously knew too much about Keladrian's people for his own good as well. "Corwin knows." I told him.

"Does he?"

"Keladrian's friend, Derrick. We found him at Corwin's Pattern. Unconscious."

"Pretty formidable friend." I didn't know if Bleys meant Keladrian or Derrick. "Ok, so Corwin knows."

"There is an additional player in the field."

"Do you think we can get them to assist with Corwin?" he asked me.

"I got the impression that they don't want people to know they are there. And there are those of them that are willing to kill to preserve that."

"Are you working on asking me to go with you?" he prompted.

"Go with me where?" This was unexpected. But I couldn't imagine where he thought I was going.

"Go hunt your boyfriend."

"I hadn't planned on going anywhere." I viewed the Trump in my lap. "But if you wanted to come along, sure. And he's not my boyfriend." Why did I have to keep telling him that.

"Yeah. You're just friends traveling together, yes sir."

"Allies." I told him. It was too long a story. Besides Keladrian hadn't shown any interest in me and I wasn't going to set myself up for disappointment.

"This same thing got your Aunt into so much trouble." Bleys looked at me with disapproval. Obviously the word allies was not one I should have used with him. He turned away and I could hear him say "Women!" under his breath.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time."

"Yeah that's what you'll be saying a hundred years later when you're hanging little blue dresses on em." He seemed to be speaking from personal experience.

"So, you're going to contact your boyfriend?" I ignored the boyfriend remark and concentrated on the Trump sketch.

Everything felt normal and there should have been a connection. Then I remembered the amulet he was wearing and realized that it probably was blocking the Trump contact.

"Nothing. I guess we'll have to go after him the hard way." I told Bleys.

"Ok, but we eat first."

I agreed.

Back to Top


Chapter 14

Since we had decided to eat that meant that it was necessary for me to get out of the hospital bed. This was not as pleasant an experience as I would have liked. The only thing that made it tolerable was the potion I had been given earlier.

Father looked graceful and elegant, but I knew him well enough that I could tell he wasn't up to his usual self either. I resolved to make a display of grace and charm as we walked to the dining hall, no matter the cost. That meant not mentioning anything unpleasant that might start another discussion with my father.

As I was getting up, Bleys reached under the bed and pulled forth Helioventar, his golden Pattern sword and buckled it on.

We proceeded to the dining hall arm and arm. Father seemed to know his way so I concluded that he had been to Dorad before.

As I started my light banter, father seemed willing to play along. "How are your war games going with Caine?" I asked.

"Well, they were going better when he was alive." He smiled and spoke politely.

Scratch talking about the family. I couldn't think of any of the family that I could talk about without bringing up something unpleasant.

"So is this your first trip to Dorad?" Father filled in for me. He obviously could tell that I was having trouble coming up with a workable conversation topic.

"Yes, it is actually. Not a place I would like to hang around much, but it is a good retreat."

"It does have its charms." Father replied.

"I will have to keep this in mind if something comes up in the future and I am in need of sanctuary or a hospital. That fizzy stuff wasn't bad."

"It's only mildly addictive." He added. I wondered briefly how he knew.

We arrived at the dining hall and father pulled out a chair and seated me at a table while he filled our plates and brought them to the table. We kept up the idle banter while managing to put away many plates of food. Father asked how my drawing was going and that he had seen the display of my work at the gallery in Kaleshka. I had almost forgotten that I had paintings there. I would have to stop in and see if I had made any commissions.

Being with my father was an exercise in good table manners. I felt it necessary to be on my best behavior so that I didn't stand out too badly next to him. He is so graceful and charismatic that even my best seemed ill suited to be at the same table. On his way to refill our plates he would stop and chat with other diners and seemed to know several by name. Look it is the east and Bleys is the sun. He graced the hall with the beneficence of a Prince of Amber. None of his siblings could perform so well.

As our eating began to slow down I mentioned to him that I would need to leave soon to find Keladrian and that he had offered to accompany me. I asked if he still knew where Keladrian was.

He concentrated a moment and then said, "Yes, he's that way."

"Are you doing that with Pattern, or something else?" I asked him.

"Something else. Now I don't want you to feel like I'm spying on you, Zhelan. But when you introduced me to your young man in Texarami. . ." he let the sentence trail off. He had put some sort of tracer on him. "There are less than hospitable people out in shadow dear. And I just want to make sure that nothing happens to my

Pumpkin I can't kill for."

I said that I was ready whenever he was.

"I should let Gerard know that we are going." He said. "We should probably check out in deference to our host."

"Not having been here before I didn't know that there was a procedure for this." I said.

He asked if I needed anything I had left in my room and I let him know that all of my possessions were in my Luggage. I was learning not to leave important things behind.

Bleys decided that we didn't need to say anything to Gerard after all and standing up we left the dining hall. When we got outside of the Pyramid, he paused at the entry and turned and made a graceful bow back the way we had come.

Whistling a cheery tune he headed down the steps and around the lake. He waited until we were on the other side of the lake and partly up the hill on the other side before he started shifting shadow. The Luggage trotted closely behind us.

We hadn't gone but maybe two or three shadows on our way when Bleys stopped whistling and pulled his sword. I couldn't see what the threat was put called to the Luggage to provide my sword as well. I took up a defensive position as I caught the sword that the Luggage launched in my direction.

We were in a wooded glade and Bleys moved around scanning the underbrush. It was apparent that he took into consideration my blade and abilities in his defensive posture. I wondered what dire threat we could be facing when I heard a low chuckle and recognized the voice of Mandor.

Bleys turned to the sound of the voice and pointed Helioventar at him.

Mandor was standing about 10 feet above the ground on the root of a large tree.

Father did not seem at all amused. It was obvious that Mandor was keeping his distance.

"Why Prince Bleys, what a surprise." Said Mandor.

"I always aim to please." Father replied looking down the length of his blade at Mandor.

"Mandor." I greeted him over my father's shoulder.

"Zhelan." He acknowledged.

I could tell by the slight stiffening in my father's posture that he was not at all pleased that I seemed to know this person.

"Father have you had the pleasure of meeting Mandor before?" I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get a dig in.

Mandor smiled and chuckled at this.

"Yes, I believe I have had that pleasure, Zhelan." Father replied.

"Well, then I guess introductions are not necessary."

"What are up to Mandor?" Father asked him.

"Prince Bleys I believe we are allies in this situation." Mandor said from his safe distance.

"That's what you said last time." Bleys fired back.

Someday I might learn all of the details of what my father had been doing in the last few decades, but I doubted it.

"It was true then as well." Mandor quipped. "Right up till the abyss. That was not my doing but your sisters."

"Let's leave her out of this." Father said. Considering our recent conversation I felt it poor timing on Mandor's part to mention my Aunt Fiona.

"Is your sister within Dorad as well?" Mandor asked.

Bleys did not reply.

After an uncomfortable pause, Mandor continued. "So, where are you two off to?"

After more uncomfortable silence Mandor spoke again. "Very well. Keep in mind what I said Prince Bleys."

"I'm hardly likely to forget it." Bleys finally replied. He turned to me and said, "Come on, Zhelan."

Intriguing exchange. Sometimes I don't know what comes over me, but I do love stirring the pot to see the water boil. I turned to Mandor as we were leaving and said, "Another time perhaps."

After that we moved through several shadows very quickly and he kept Helioventar in hand throughout. I could tell that father was pissed.

"Anything you want to talk about, Father?" I prodded.

"You really should stay away from him." He replied.

"A chance meeting in shadow." I responded.

"With Mandor there is no such thing as a chance meeting in shadow."

"I didn't think so. He has proved very capable of tracking us though." I mentioned. "He said that he was not our ally but that he was not our enemy."

"As long as you don't do any deals with him." With that he turned and called me to him. When I approached he sheathed his sword and took my chin in his hand. He proceeded to look me over very carefully and I couldn't imagine what he could be looking for as he did not try to pry into my thoughts.

"Either he's gotten better or you're clean." He said finally.

"What are you looking for?" I asked.

"The tracker." He told me.

Then he ran his fingers through my hair and there was a flash and tingling sensation. "The company you keep, dear." He muttered.

"Most of it wasn't my idea in the last few days." I protested.

"King and country." He sighed as we resumed moving through shadow.

"Benedict." I replied.

"Benedict?" he queried.

"Yes, Random said we could leave the next morning but Benedict said no and hurried us off with unseemly haste." I told him. "I don't know why he needed to hustle us out of Amber so fast."

"Maybe to avoid the assassination teams."

"But they hadn't started at that time." I was confused. "This was very shortly after you and Fiona went unconscious. I can't imagine that anyone could have known that Chaos was sending hit squads at that point. Chaos probably hadn't even made the decision by then."

"It is not unlikely that Benedict would have realized the potential for retaliatory reaction."

"How could he have known how far Fiona's problem went?" I asked.

"No, but the two lions at the gates of Amber are himself and Fiona. If one was down. . . and I am not inconsequential in that equation either. With myself and Fiona out of the picture, he could well have anticipated some attempt by Chaos."

"Or he could have assumed that Fiona and your condition was an attack from outside rather than Fiona's own bungling." I offered.

"It's hard to tell what Benedict is thinking most of the time." He replied.

We continued walking awhile in silence.

"So, I take it that you have had previous alliances with Mandor?" I asked. When he did not reply I said. "One of these days you'll have to tell me the whole story."

"One of these days when I have. . ." He left the thought unfinished. After a pause he continued. "The thing is Mandor is very much a free agent. He's got connections with Swayvil I'm sure of it. I'm not sure what they are."

"Or where his allegiances lie?" I asked. "I would imagine that they lie mostly with Mandor himself."

"Or what his agenda is. Neither Fiona, nor Brand or I could get a good enough picture. It was he who originally introduced us to the Courts, but he is not a member of them. But still they hold him in some regard. It is not clear what his connection is."

"Or what line he is?" I asked.

"I believe Brand did some investigation into that. He is somehow connected to the Royal line but I don't know how."

"I really had no plans on getting together with Mandor, he's just too damn scary." I confessed. I hadn't told father that Mandor had been part of the retrieval squad that was trying to take Isabeau and I to Chaos. For that matter I don't think I told him that Chaos was trying to apprehend us.

"He is a very accomplished individual."

"I did shoot him though." I told father.

"Good for you. I'm sure your Aunt will be thrilled." He chuckled. "I'm sure she's been fantasizing about that for what. . about a century?" he mused.

"A century?" I asked. Bleys had mentioned that Isabeau was about a hundred. I wondered what the connection could be. "And who is Isabeau's father?"

"You're getting better, aren't you dear?" father said. I wasn't sure what he meant by that statement. Whether he thought I was feeling better from my stay in the hospital, or whether I had just made a good guess. Was Mandor Isabeau's father?

"Mandor is Isabeau's father?" I asked.

"I didn't say that." Bleys replied. Of course he didn't say it. And he could face down Fiona and have that come out as the truth. That didn't mean that he hadn't told me in a way.

"But someone from Chaos is?" I decided to play his game. I wondered if Isabeau knew. If so she was a consummate actress.

"I didn't say that either." Father continued the game.

"By what you're not saying, you're saying a lot." I told him.

"How so?" he asked me.

"You told me that Isabeau is about a hundred years old and that Fiona has been wanting to kill Mandor for about that length of time."

"Those are both true." He replied.

"I thought maybe the two might be connected."

"That kind of conjecture I just can't back."

"What is it about the other parental units that such a big secret?" I demanded in frustration.

"Is my mother from the Courts?" I asked him.

"No." he stated without elaboration.

"Thank god. At least I'm not related to any of that."

"Not at all."

"Thank Goodness." I replied with real relief. I had not been overly impressed with what I had seen of the Courts these past few days. That still left a great deal of shadow that mother could have come from. The question was, was she real when father met her, or just a shadowling? Maybe she was from one of the Golden Circle Kingdoms, or Rebma. What if mother had been from Tir na Goth? That was an interesting thought and I toyed with the idea of what life would be like lived only in shadow when the moon was full over Kolvir. I dismissed that as a fantasy.

I still couldn't imagine what circumstances were keeping my father from telling me who my mother was. Why did it need to be a secret? Was it because he was afraid that Fiona would find out from me who she was? And why would Fiona care?

We had continued walking through shadow during this time. It became obvious to me after a while that father's trek through shadow was not consistently forward to our destination. It seemed that we would move with purpose for a time and then spend time circling around, then move with purpose again for a short time. It started to drive me nuts and when I couldn't stand the suspense anymore I finally asked Bleys what was going on.

"Are we avoiding things?"

"Not at all. It seems your friend has developed some bit of common sense."

"Is he a bit difficult to track?" I asked realizing at once that Keladrian must be using spin and it was throwing father off.

"Only delaying the inevitable."

"Well, let's continue with all speed, please."

"Would you care to lead?" He asked me somewhat miffed.

"If I could find him." I replied. I pulled out the sketch that I had made of Keladrian back in the hospital and again tried to make contact. There was no reply. He must still have his amulet operating.

"He's still not available to Trump, so I guess you will need to continue to lead." I told father.

"Thank you." He was not mollified but continued on anyway.

We had been traveling for 8 to 9 hours when Bleys brought us to a town for a food break. Bleys changed our clothes to match that of the shadow around us. It was very hot and bright and our clothes changed to reflective jumpsuits. We came to a small cantina. Small plastic cubicles along one wall contained food and beverages. The light level was reduced and the room was much cooler and moister than the outside. The food that he chose from the wall units was much better than I had expected from the source.

I questioned Bleys on the closeness of Keladrian and he couldn't find him at first. He asked me what he was doing and again I could tell that Keladrian must be spinning to throw Bleys off that much. I told father that Keladrian had some abilities that he might be familiar with, conjuration and he also was a shape shifter.

Father concentrated a moment and then said, "I can tell he is loose-celled, but . . ." he concentrated some more and then said, "Very odd young man. Where did you meet him?"

I reminded father of the conversation that we had in Texarami about Keladrian rescuing me from Vereema. Then I told father that Keladrian had called Amber a project and that he knew about Dworkin. I knew that father had spent a lot of time with Dworkin and thought maybe that this information would make some connection clear that Dworkin might have mentioned. Obviously not.

"Utterly whacked and brilliant." Father replied.

"I wish I had known my great-grandfather a little more." While I had him talking about Dworkin I hoped to have him ramble further.

"Hon, by the time you were born, he was dangerous. He was always dangerous but dangerous in close, personal ways. As opposed to the take over the universe, raving madman type."

"I saw him around Amber occasionally but not very often."

"That's the problem with the loose-celled you know." Father replied. "You have to be careful with that. You can't hold those neurons too straight. Of course Fiona says that ions and neurons are not necessary."

"Not necessary?" I nudged for him to elaborate.

"Not one of the experiments that I'm looking forward to attempting." His answer failed to bring forth any more enlightenment so I changed the subject.

"One of these days, I will have to teach me a little more about sorcery. Would that be a useful tool?"

There followed a small lecture on the nature of the universe and the benefits of magic and the misconceptions about high-tech worlds etc. I tried to absorb the information. Obviously father thought I wasn't paying attention because he said, "Sorcery takes discipline, Zhelan. It's a worthwhile pursuit but one of the key elements of sorcery is that you really have to understand the place you are in."

He elaborated on what he meant by how sorcery is keyed to the rules of the shadow you are in. I asked if the Trump would help me gain that understanding for that purpose and he agreed.

I then told him that I had been experimenting with Trump and explained to him about the ability that I had discovered that I called Trump spanning. He seemed surprised about activating two Trump at the same time and I wasn't about to tell him that it was a moment of indecision and accident that had led me to the discovery and not studiousness.

He applauded my studying then warned me to be careful. And not to involve my Aunt.

I reminded him that Isabeau was aware of my Trump ability and asked him if he could talk to her about not mentioning anything to her mother.

Bleys told me that he would not get between Isabeau and her mother as it was a good way to play Titanic. Then he said it was a shame that Brand didn't have any children. I asked him how he knew Brand didn't after all there was Isabeau. He reminded me that Fiona had made him promise not to tell anyone about Isabeau and asked me if I would break a promise to Fiona. Not a good idea I agreed.

I reminded him that I didn't want to be around Fiona any more than absolutely necessary but that she had helped me out when I had needed refuge from the 'Black Road' and was persona non gratis in Amber due to his and Corwin's assault up Kolvir.

"Would have worked." He said with great conviction. "It was close. And then you would be heir to the throne of Amber."

I let him know in no uncertain terms that I was not seeking that sort of elevation. Being a monarch was just too damn much work and not much fun. Father smiled and said that he could have arranged for another heir.

"Random can have it. You might just as well paint a big target on yourself and say, 'Come and get me'."

"You have to understand, Zhelan. The kingdom was in trouble. Oberon had abandoned his duties, there was dissension in the Golden Circle. Caine and Flora started squabbling again, Eric was just marching everywhere. That Regent thing wasn't working and it needed to be changed."

I decided that the topic of conversation should be changed and I asked about Keladrian's location. We moved on again in the same manner, random movement and then with purpose when Bleys could locate Keladrian.

This continued for days. We discussed Corwin's Pattern and what could be done about it. My father's take was that Corwin had based his Pattern on a series of faulty assumptions. He mentioned that Corwin had told him that the Jewel of Judgment was involved in the creating of the Pattern. This information had surprised my father at the time as he thought the Jewel to be no more than a weather control device at the time. The upshot still was that Corwin was never properly trained in reality subjugation and from what he understood of the Jewel now, it takes the raw essence of reality and focuses it down into a concrete plan for reality.

At the time of the battle of the Abyss, Corwin was not entirely whole and he was never much of a student of the nature of reality. Father said he suspected that Corwin wielded the tool amateurishly. Which fit with my impression of the Pattern of a drawing that outstripped the skills of its creator.

I asked him if it could be fixed or did it need to be eliminated.

Bleys said that he would need to study it first hand before he could make that call and he doubted that Corwin would let him anywhere near it right now.

I asked father if it would be possible to draw a Trump to there but he said that he wouldn't recommend it. "His Pattern has skewed the nature of reality so much, I'm not sure what the action of your Trump on it would be." I thought about that. The Trump has the ability to make things more real. A Trump to Corwin's Pattern could stabilize the Pattern but in what state?

"Since reality there is in such a state of flux, if you attempt to anchor any point of it with Trump, you could tear a portion of it loose. Or you could tear yourself into it.

I wouldn't recommend it." I had to agree with him this time.

The other topic of conversation that I tried to get more information on during that time was Isabeau's parentage. The only thing I got was that he did know both sides of that equation and wasn't talking.

We talked about what could be done to get Chaos to back off from sending their assassination teams after members of the family. "Other than killing them all?" He joked.

I reminded him what he had said earlier that there were some of them that we should keep. I asked him what their names were so that I didn't accidentally dispatch one of them. Like that would happen, but it made for conversation and as long as he was willing to talk, I was willing to listen and try to glean any hidden meanings from the conversation. No luck, but it keeps me in practice.

He mentioned that Suhey was the only one keeping the Logrus under control so it was a good idea to keep him around. I had seen a Trump for Suhey from Merlin's deck. Not a man I wanted to meet or deal with.

He also mentioned Ulris. I told father that I had seen his Trump, but I didn't tell him that Drake thought I would get along well with his cousin. When I mentioned that Merlin had Ulris' Trump, father said, "What an odd pair."

That struck me as strange as someone else had said the same thing. I believe it was Mandor and I told my father this. It quite upset him to be compared with Mandor in any way and I filed this information away for future reference.

I named off the other Trump that Merlin had. When I mentioned Dara, father said, "Bitch." That led us to a discussion of Merlin's parentage and when Dara and Corwin had conceived him. Father mentioned that Corwin didn't like to talk about it. It appears that Merlin was conceived only about a year and half ago Amber time. Which meant that he had been raised in some rather fast time shadows.

Bleys further mentioned that he thought Merlin was a real freak job and had issues.

I did ask once about whether my mother was real or a shadowling and no conversation occurred for perhaps five hours. He was just not going to go there and was punishing me for prying. Someone, somewhere had to know something. I just had to find out who they were and what I needed to do to get them to talk.

We had been walking for about 4 days when Bleys suddenly stopped. I asked him what was the matter and he said again, "How does he do that?" I wondered who he was talking about and then realized he must mean Keladrian.

"He's a long ways off. And if he does that again, I don't know how long it will take to get to him." He continued.

I wished there was a faster way to follow Keladrian and then took out the sketch and thought I'd give it another try.

This time there was a sense of presence on the other end but it quickly shut off. I had caught him with his amulet turned off, but never having experienced Trump contact before, it must have startled him. So close but it was hopeless. I expressed my exasperation to my father and my perception that Keladrian had been unaware of the nature of the contact.

Bleys asked if Keladrian would ignore a message if he knew who had sent it.

"Do you have an idea?" I asked him.

"You said you think he is doing something stupid."

"I'm pretty sure he is." I replied.

"Would he be likely to stop if you told him to?" He asked me.

Keladrian might stop if I asked him to, but not if I told him to. But I just didn't want to go there with father right now. "I don't know." I said. "Do you have a way to send a message to him?"

"Of course, but how likely is he to heed a message from me?"

"It depends on what you say."

"Knock the shit off and get back here." He asked.

I laughed. "He's probably not going to respond real well to that."

"Then what would you suggest?"

"How about, 'open up and talk to us, let us know what is going on.'" I suggested.

Bleys thought a moment and we began walking again as Bleys shifted us through shadow. I felt the level of magic potential rise and we stopped in place where the magic manifested itself in a glowing aura around us. The aura around my father was massive. Almost impossible to look at, it was so bright.

Bleys was not a quiet conjurer. He put on quite the impressive show with grand gestures and mystical words spoken in stentorian tones. The ground rumbled and split open and two magnificent steeds of flame erupted from the opening.

He stared them in the eyes and then spoke some words to them. They snorted once or twice then took to the air and disappeared on the horizon.

"Very impressive." I told my father.

He smiled and said. "It was good for me."

Now we just had to wait.

Back to Top


Chapter 15
Conversations with Bleys

After the flaming horses disappeared from the shadow we were in I turned to father and said, "So we wait."

"We'll move." He replied. Whether on his own volition or just to be contrary to me. He started walking and I followed. Bleys started shifting shadow fairly quickly.

"So, how did Corwin create his Pattern?" I asked, "How do you create a Pattern?" I figured that if there was any hope in fixing Corwin's Pattern that I would need to know how it was created to begin with.

"I wouldn't recommend it, dear." Father brushed off my inquiry.

"I mean you just don't pull one out of your butt." It annoyed me when he treated me like a child. Worse yet, I tended to respond with childish behavior.

"No, that would be very painful." He laughed.

"How did he do it? You said that before the battle of the Abyss, he was on his way to Chaos and he stopped and creates a Pattern. How?"

He was quiet for some time and the response when it came was not what I had expected. "Zhelan, what do you value?"

I thought a moment and then answered truthfully. "I'm not sure yet."

"What do you hold sacred?" He asked.

When I didn't answer he continued. "Why should I trust you with this information?"

"Because, we're trying to figure out why Corwin's Pattern is causing problems. Was it how he created it or the method he used, the tools he used, where he placed it? And how can it be fixed. What would you need to go about correcting it? Or obliterating it if that was the case." I explained.

"If your Aunt suggest to you obliterating the Pattern, I want you to run as quickly and as far as you can." He responded

"Ok. . ." I said slowly trying to figure how this statement fit in with our current conversation. I knew that I had just received some valuable information but I wasn't sure this puzzle piece was needed right now. File away for future thought and reference.

"I'm afraid you have me in a quandary here, Pumpkin. When we get home, I'm going to kick my little brother around for sending you on this little errand. It brought you into proximity with something I really didn't want you brought into proximity with, dear."

"What the Pattern?" I asked him.


"Why?" I demanded.

"Not going there." He responded with a tone that I knew brooked no further questions in that direction. "If I tell you how to make a Pattern, what's to stop you from trying it?" he asked. "Knowing you." He added as an afterthought.

"Well, I don't know, but how are we going to resolve Corwin's Pattern. Something needs to be done about it. Unless I know how it was created, I don't know where to start in figuring out how to fix it." I realized as I said this that I was wholly committed to doing something about Corwin's Pattern. I don't know what motivated me to this task. Probably purely selfish motives. Maybe some of Keladrian's honor was rubbing off.

There was a long moment of silence between the two of us. Then father must have realized how serious I was about this. He probably thought that this was the first time in my life that I had been serious about anything.

"It takes a tool to create a Pattern." he began then paused.

"Any old tool?" I prompted.

"No, not any old tool." He mocked. "Right now Random has that tool." He added.

I thought a moment. What does Random have that no one else has besides a wife? And it couldn't be Vialle as she wasn't around when the Pattern of Amber was created. "The Jewel of Judgment?" I asked.

His body language answered me.

"So you need the Jewel of Judgment to create a Pattern." I said. He did not respond verbally but concentrated on shifting shadow around us. "Ok."

"But it. . .Well Dworkin wasn't. . ." Father couldn't seem to finish a sentence.

"Real clear on how to do it?" I finished for him.

"No, he didn't leave written instructions." He finished.

"So Dworkin created the original Pattern? With the Jewel of Judgment? And Corwin created his Pattern using the Jewel of Judgment." I asked and received his confirmation.

"I always wondered if because Corwin was initiated into the Pattern in Amber before he drew his Pattern. . ." Bleys said.

"Dworkin wasn't before he drew his Pattern because there was no Pattern." I said. Something about this revelation seemed significant and right. "So what did Dworkin know?" I asked "Besides Trump." I finished.

"Oh, that old coot knows things." Bleys replied.

"Then maybe it was Corwin's lack of background, knowledge, skill, information that caused his Pattern. . ." I began trying to put concepts into thought and words.

"Oh, your Uncle Corwin is quite an artist and he's mad. But I don't know if he is artist or mad enough." Bleys interrupted

"Interesting concept." I stated. So father thought that you needed to be a madman to draw a Pattern. Maybe it was drawing the Pattern that made Dworkin and Corwin mad.

"I don't think Random could do it." Then I stopped and thought about Random. He just might be more mad than Corwin. He certainly was when he was drunk. "He might." I amended.

"Yes, Random is also artistic and a little psychopathic. But he's also initiated." Bleys added.

"In the Pattern." I confirmed. I think I could see where father was going. Was that why I had never been allowed to walk the Pattern? Did father have plans for me and the Jewel of Judgment?

"Are you saying that someone who has not walked the Pattern . . .?"

"You're getting into where we didn't want to go Pumpkin." He cut me short.

"Ok." I said as several thoughts ran through my mind in quick succession. "So who named me, you or Mom?" maybe I could catch him off guard to reveal something else while trying to keep my mind off of Patterns.

"I did." He stated simply.

I thought about all of my uncles and aunts and their names were not like mine. No one I knew in Amber had a name like mine. "Where did you come up with the name?" I asked.

"I'm not sure you really want to know dear." He smiled. "It was a song." He told me the name and it was really something silly.

"I told you, you wouldn't want to know, dear." He laughed.

It was almost as bad as finding out you had been named after a family pet.

On a more serious note he asked, "What are you reaching for, Zhelan?"

"Anything I can get." I retorted.

I looked around me as we shifted through another shadow. I hadn't been paying attention to the ones we had been passing through. Missed opportunities. I think Bleys sensed that I had grown pensive.

"Zhelan." He said softly. "Walking the Pattern is one of the most perilous things that a child of Oberon can do. And being a child of Oberon is not a guarantee of success. I can name five of Oberon's children and sixteen of ours that have failed."

"Sixteen of Oberon's grandchildren? Yours?" He shook his head. "I didn't realize that there were that many potential cousins I had out there." The number surprised me. I always thought of my aunts and uncles as non-breeders, but somebody had had a lot of children.

"When they fail, they are gone. We just don't talk about it." He said this last very quietly. "Pumpkin I don't want you to be seventeen." He looked off into the distance for a moment. "I have tried to give you this so you wouldn't be trapped with your psycho aunts and uncles and father. You could be free to walk the shadows and see the universe."

"I wish I had been given the choice. Instead of having it made for me." I responded. I wasn't ready to buy this Bleys as attentive and caring father routine.

"When you have kids of your own."

"How do you know I don't." I replied spitefully.

"We keep track of the family dear."

"Mmm." Was all I said. "Well interesting. I have some information to consider."

He looked away a moment as if he wanted to say something else. Then chose distraction.

"Oh look, a bistro." As he headed in the direction of a quaint little diner.

As we started into the shop, Bleys stopped. "Oh, he did it again."

"What?" I asked even though I knew he was referring to Keladrian. "He moved?" I finally added as father stood blocking the doorway.

"Yes, what is he doing?"

"Moving through shadow." I responded. Father didn't look like he was going to accept this glib answer this time.

"If he were to Trump wouldn't it be the same?" I asked.

"Yes, but are you telling me that Keladrian is carrying eight place Trump with him?" he countered.

"I really don't know what he has in the way of Trump." I lied.

He gave me a look and waited.

"So, are the messengers managing to catch up with him?" I diverted the conversation.

"We'll see, they will let me know." He said as we continued on into the Bistro.

After we had been seated into a booth and given menus, I asked, "Anything useful that you remember from your sojourn over the Trump?" I asked offhandedly as I perused the menu.

"You mentioned something about the Abyss." I prompted when he didn't answer.

"Bubble, bubble, boil and trouble." Was all he said.

"You said that this occurs occasionally?"

"Very occasionally."

"When was the last time." I prompted.

"The Unicorn." He said.

Sometimes I wish we could have a normal conversation.

"The Unicorn came out of the Abyss?" I asked.

"She came out of the Abyss during the war but she came out of there before that also."

"You mean originally?" So the symbol of Amber was straight from the Abyss of Chaos. Interesting. What did that mean and how did it affect Amber?

"So you are saying that the Unicorn came out of the Abyss and met up with Dworkin near Chaos. And they just kind of wandered off through shadow together."

"Well, he never told me the intimate details." Bleys looked intently at his menu.

"So who was Oberon's mother?" I asked.

"That was something that my father did not discuss." Bleys said directly putting down him menu. So Bleys came by it naturally at least, hiding the name and identity of a person's mother.

"But I strongly suspect that his first set of baby shoes came in four." He continued.

"The Unicorn?" I was a bit surprised. "No wonder he didn't go into intimate details."

"It's really just a theory." Bleys hedged.

"Well Dworkin is a shape shifter." I said. It was a bit strange to think that you could be descended from a Chaosian and a magical creature. Unless the Unicorn was just a person that chose to appear as a Unicorn.

"He's beyond the Courts of Chaos right now correct?" I asked father.

"As far as I know." He agreed.

"If he came from the Courts that means that he is a shape shifter and a Logrus user?"

"I'm not sure about the Logrus." Bleys said. "He may have been using one of the other derivatives."

"Other derivatives? There is something else besides Pattern and Logrus?" I asked surprised.

"Oh yes." Was all he answered. "Dreamstrand. Is probably what he used." He said more quietly.

"Dreamstrand? That sounds interesting."

"It's a Barriman specialty." He replied.

"So different Houses of Chaos have different powers? Not all of them do Logrus?" Sometimes conversations with my father can be very enlightening.

"No, only Sawall does Logrus."

"So then Mandor must be Sawall." I said.

"Except in Mandor's case." Bleys stated.

"Are there any non-Amberites who do Pattern?" I wanted to pin down this thought. Were the powers based on blood?

"Not in my knowledge. But I think Dworkin may have built something into the Pattern to prevent it. He was really into family. He might have tied it to the blood." Bleys was warming up to the subject.

"So anybody could do Logrus?" I asked thinking about Mandor again. If you could tell someone's house by their power it might make keeping track of Chaosians easier.

"No, you don't have to be Sawall to learn the Logrus. And Logrus has a lower fatality rate, but Logrus also has a 100% guarantee of madness." Bleys cautioned. I was amused that he thought I was interested in learning the Logrus. I had been closer to it than I really cared already. I just couldn't imagine coming any closer to it.

"So, every user of Logrus will eventually go wacko?" I thought of Drake and wondered if he knew or cared about this statistic. Maybe it was just accepted as normal where he came from.

"The more they use it, the more they wack." Bleys affirmed.

This didn't bode well for Drake. He seemed particularly fond of using Logrus at every opportunity.

"How long does that take?" I was very concerned about traveling with someone who was a walking time bomb of insanity.

"It's very much a usage/time thing." Bleys explained. "The more use, the more wacko, you don't use it for awhile, you calm down."

"You can get better by not using Logrus?" I asked for clarification.

"Yes." He agreed.

"Except if you're wacko, you want to use it all the time. Does shape shifting have that problem also?" I was suddenly concerned that Keladrian might turn strange on me. I had been relying heavily on his honor and stability while my ability to use Trump had been constrained. I wanted to know what the risks were to continue our friendship.

"No, shape shifters just have that cancer problem."

"Cancer?" I must admit that I had focused my medical training on injuries and not diseases. "What's that?" I asked.

"When you shape shift a lot the cells of the body lose their elasticity and tend to get diseased and go their own way."

"So if you shape shift a lot, you tend to lose your cohesion?"

"Different people, different reactions." Bleys elaborated.

"Oh, I was sort of picturing a pool of blubber on the floor." I admitted. "Ok, so what's the Pattern's drawback."

"High fatality rate." Father said.

"So what is Trump's drawback?" There seemed to be a Pattern here that I thought it was important to pursue. Maybe the elders taught you these powers without letting you know what was going to happen to you. "In other words, what's going to happen to me if I do Trump a lot?"

"You get ink under your fingers." Bleys responded sarcastically. "Zhelan, seriously, I don't know any. The only people I know who do Trump a whole lot are Dworkin."

"And he has the other problems." I interjected.

"And Brand."

"And we know he was crazy. But whether it was from Trump or not. . ." I thought a while. I didn't feel any different than I had three hundred years ago, but then, would I really notice?

"There are a couple of people over in Chaos who do Trump a lot and they are a little free-floating if you know what I mean. But whether that's a by-product of Trump or something else. . ." he shrugged.

"So, if you draw a Trump of a place, could you alter the shadow by altering the Trump?" I hoped to pin father down to some hard answers while he was in the mood to talk.

"Or would you really be altering that shadow, or creating another?"

"I've never really tried that dear." Bleys seemed thoughtful a moment as if contemplating what the effect would be.

"What about people?" I asked.

"You know you cast shadows, we all do." Bleys began. "I don't know if you can change. . ." he left the thought unspoken. "I'll admit there is a link there. But Pumpkin when you start reaching through to change reality, that's when the unhinging gets serious. And I love you dear, but I don't think your personality's cohesive enough yet to be experimenting with changing reality. When you start breaking down the walls to change reality. . ." He shook his head and from the tone of his voice I could tell he was being straight with me as far as his knowledge of the subject went.

"I was wondering about creating a clone or a duplicate." I interrupted him to draw him away from any more thought about what I might be contemplating with these questions. "A doppelganger of someone."

"Of someone?" he asked. And I knew I had said too much and aroused his curiosity. "Of who?"

"Oh, someone. Just keeping it as an option." I hedged.

"If you want to do that, go off into shadow and find yourself a shadow of the person. Caine does it all the time."

"I know, but I was just wondering. . " I stopped and redirected. "You said that Caine was dead. But that's been said of Caine before."

"Yes, that's why. . ." father started.

"You're not too broken up about it?" I finished for him.

"Yes," He smiled. "Anyway he's someone we're better off without."

This bothered me. We were in a war with Chaos and despite how we might feel about our family, they were family. "We are small enough in numbers as it is, I hate to see us grow smaller."

During our conversation we had managed to get the attention of a waitress and place an order. Our food arrived about this time and the conversation quieted as we enjoyed the repast.

Bleys seemed to be very interested in the spot on the wall just over my left shoulder and I figured that he was concentrating on the constructs that he had sent to deliver a message to Keladrian. So, when the Trump call came I was not surprised but I was still cautious. I reached into my pouch and pulled out the sketch I had made of Keladrian and concentrated on it a moment. The Trump signature was his so I took the call.

"Hello Keladrian." I greeted him.

"Zhelan." He seemed a bit perturbed. Not exactly what I had hoped for.

"What are you doing?" I asked a bit sharper than I had intended.

"Is your father there?" he countered.

"Yes, he is." This was going downhill quite rapidly. "What are you doing?" I asked again.

"Tell him that his messengers may leave now."

I looked over at Bleys and relayed this information and then continued with Keladrian. "Where are you and what are you doing?" I had meant it to sound more caring and concerned but it came out somewhat shrewish. "Are you safe?" I rephrased but felt that did not come across much better.

"In what manner?" Keladrian replied. He was still guarded with that amulet and I could only use the tone of his thought and stance to judge that he was not pleased. "I am doing what I must to assure that Derrick has what he needs."

"There are outposts around your home shadow. Your home shadow is on the alert. You are not doing something that is going to get you noticed are you?"

"Being chased by flaming horses through many shadows might have gotten me somewhat noticed." He responded. "Oh yes, ask your father how they tracked me."

We all have secrets that we don't want to share. I didn't chose to answer this in front of my father. I was pretty sure that he could listen in on this Trump conversation quite easily. "They were conjured to do so." I told him. I didn't really know how the messengers were tracking Keladrian, but Bleys could have utilized the same method he was using to track Keladrian.

"I realize that but it still requires something for the construct to focus on."

Well, he knew conjuration and I didn't so I couldn't disagree with him. "Bring me through." I asked him.

"What do you mean?" he asked and I realized that he had no experience with this.

"Reach out to me and focus on touching my hand." I told him.

"Things have grown apace Zhelan. I will perhaps not have time to return you before I need to meet who I hope to." He seemed concerned. Whether for my welfare or his I could not tell.

"If they will come to you, surely they won't be too concerned about me or anyone else. You were planning to bring them to Dorad were you not?" I questioned. I was very interested in meeting more people from Keladrian's home. He was full of mystery and intrigue and my curiosity was peaked. To meet more people from his home would be fascinating.

"Yes, but I will not know whether my plans have succeeded until they arrive and who will be arriving with them. The ones I intend or others. It may be that I have to run fast."

"So, bring me through and I won't hang around. Just a brief moment." I cajoled.

"Very well." He said. I was relieved that he agreed to this. He couldn't be that mad at me if he was willing to meet. He reached out and I felt his hand connect with mine. A small tingle ran through my hand and up my arm. It was a bit different. I realized that no inexperienced person had ever brought me through Trump before.

I stood in front of him as he towered over me. "You say time is of the essence after you meet with people from your own Shadow. How quickly can you get back to Dorad by spinning there?" I asked him. I had in mind to draw him a Trump sketch of Dorad if it would speed his path. I knew how important his friend seemed to be to him.

"Extremely. One spin." He replied. "If you and your father were to head there from where you were, shadow walking. I expect that you would arrive after we will."

"I don't have to shadow walk there." I told him. I suddenly remembered that he hadn't been around when I learned that I could draw Trump. And he didn't know that I had a Trump of him. Yet.

"Now you can draw Trump?" he asked.

"Yes, I drew a Trump of you and I did try to contact you." I blurted it out without meaning to. I hadn't planned on telling him that I had drawn his Trump.

"I have never liked to allow that type of contact." He looked away.

"There was a moment when you must have had your amulet turned off. I felt a moment of contact and then it was blanked." I told him what I had experienced.

"I don't know if Bleys will return to Dorad or not." I continued when he didn't say anything. "But if you give me half an hour, I will be able to get back there directly."

"Time. . ." he grimaced.

"Do you need to be here?" I asked.


"Then I will stay here and you continue on where you need to go." I assured him. "We have been following you for a number of days." I offered knowing that time pressed for him. "I was concerned that we did not know where you were." I couldn't bring myself share more with him.

"How is your father tracking me through shadow?" he asked.

"Apparently when we met in Texarami, he put a marker on you." I admitted. "How to remove it, I do not know. I don't even know how he did it, or what he used. However it appears that Drake also put a marker on me, which my father removed. We are such a warm and loving group of people aren't we." I smiled at him.

"Father was concerned about my consorting with you and wanted to keep tabs on you." I paused and when he didn't reply continued. "I didn't want to tell you this with him sitting there."

"And now?" he asked.

I shrugged.

"I am meeting some people. . ." he seemed concerned that they would be able to detect it.

"I can't sense it, can you?"

He shook his head.

"The bottom line is that, if my father could follow you, if someone else was aware of it, they could also. And I know your privacy is important to you."

"Realize that it is important to all of my people. And the fact that I have been tracked puts your father at risk." He cautioned.

I laughed. I just couldn't imagine Bleys being concerned about it. He probably would consider it a challenge and try to round up an army. He really needed to get with Benedict and get some new strategies.

"Are all of your people so blood thirsty?" I joked.

"We lived when we should not, because we were careful." He was serious and I felt he was repeating some dogma that he had learned as a child.

"A defeated line of Chaos." I said.

"You do not know that, you should not know that. And say that to no one." His words were very soft.

"So what was your Line called?" I asked remembering the conversation with Bleys about different Lines and different powers.

"It would be best not to pursue this. Especially if perchance you were to meet those others."

"Not a big chance of that, since they don't get out much. But we are going to meet in Dorad. One way or the other." I reminded him. "Are you going to introduce me to your family." I teased him.

"Perhaps or perhaps not." He responded. I hoped that tone was teasing as well.

"Well, you said time is short. You need to go and I need to start drawing. Good luck with your endeavor. Stay safe. I will expect to see you in Dorad shortly." I took out my sketchpad and pen and sat down and began to sketch as Keladrian disappeared from this shadow.

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