|As I sat and looked at the sketchpad I changed my mind about what I
wanted to do. I pulled out two Trumps and began a Trump scan looking for
the fastest shadow I could find. I needed time. Lots of it. I couldn't
find anything that suited my needs with the first two Trump, so I pulled
out another two. I finally found a shadow moving fast enough to give me
the time I needed. It wasn't going to be a comfortable shadow but I had
lived through worse.
It had silicon based plant life with wire skeletons and a crystalline formation. The plants were purple growing out of ground covered with a fine powdered glass-like substance. There were mesas in the distance, but I could not discern any intelligent life. The best part was that it seemed to be moving at about a year per day relative time. It would do.
I focused on that particular shadow and brought it to prominence then tried moving through it as if it were a Trump. I had been close to accomplishing this before but had never been successful. It was just a matter of time and precision to make this work. I really needed it to work this time. I felt it was a matter of infusing the image in my mind with Trump energy. The shadow formed up around me and I was through.
My excitement over this new growth of my Trump ability gave way to doubt about my choice of shadow. The smell here burned my nostrils and lungs. The wind picked up the glass sand and abraded my exposed flesh. It was uncomfortable and I hoped I could deal with it long enough to do what I needed to accomplish.
The Luggage disgorged the tent and I began to set up camp as quickly as possible. I arranged the chair and table and my Trump drawing supplies, lit a lamp and sat down.
Merlin was my first choice. I had a strong premonition that this Trump would be important in the very near future. The fact that he was Corwin's son and not attuned to Pattern made him a very likely candidate for a plan that was beginning to form. I just needed time and a little more information. Merlin quickly formed on the card in front of me. Two days passed fairly quickly and I did not stop until I was finished.
I viewed the result and was satisfied. The card felt cold to the touch and Merlin's petulant face stared out at me. Time to rest for the next one. I got some cold rations from the Luggage and downed about a gallon of water. I couldn't taste anything besides the foul chemical odor that permeated this shadow. The rations were pretty tasteless anyway. After eating and re-hydrating I pulled a cot out of the Luggage and slept as long as my body needed. When I woke my skin felt dry and my eyes burned. I used some of my water supply to wash my face then spent some time working the kinks out of my muscles. A few stretching exercises, a few reps with the dumbbells and some deep breathing and meditation. Okay maybe no deep breathing. The air here still burned the lungs.
The next Trump decision was easy. Dorad. No explanation needed. I would really appreciate going back there after I left here. After two days of drawing Dorad I spent another few hours in relaxation exercise, sleep, eating and drinking. Not in that particular order.
Time to draw another Trump. I debated several options and settled on drawing Drake next. It seemed prudent to keep track of someone who was so close to the succession of the Throne of Chaos. That and his link to Keladrian and Isabeau. He was a player and bared watching.
Two days and time off and I was ready to start the fourth Trump. I had saved this for last, as I wasn't sure what could happen during the attempt. I wanted to create a Trump to take me to the first reflection of Corwin's Pattern. I knew that there was no possibility that I could create a Trump to the actual Pattern. It was too full of raw chaotic power. But I had spent some time with Corwin in the first reflection. Hopefully that would be sufficient.
It took about 6 hours of trying before I realize I could not capture Corwin's shadow on the Trump. I could draw the picture with no problem, but when I tried to infuse it with Trump energy it wouldn't take. It was frustrating and it meant that I would need to rely on someone else to execute this part of the plan. I hoped that Keladrian would be able to help me.
As I took down the tent and packed the camp into the Luggage I thought about Keladrian and wished him luck with his mission to get help for his friend. When I finished I pulled out the Trump for Dorad and the Luggage and I stepped through.
We stepped out onto the plain in front of the lake and began the walk to the pyramid. There was a lady standing at the door and reminded me to do no harm. I acknowledged my compliance, asked if I should go to the same room. With her affirmative I headed inside.
The only room with the door closed was Isabeau's. The other rooms looked abandoned. That meant that I had made it back before Keladrian. It also meant that Drake was gone. Well there was nothing I could do about that now. When Keladrian returned we'd deal with it. My room was waiting for me. There was much more animal protein stocked in the kitchen this time and I took a large platter of food to the bath to wash the stink of the last shadow from my body. I filled the tub with hot scented water and scrubbed most of the stink off. When I had finished one platter of food I drained the tub and got another platter of food and filled the tub with fresh water. After the second plate of food and the second bath I was feeling a little more normal. I dried off and had the Luggage provide a loose caftan. It came out clean, pressed and smelling slightly of lavender. The smell was wonderful after the last shadow. I dressed and went to bed. Sleep came quickly.
I woke sometime later much refreshed but feeling the need for another bath. I was on the way to the tub when there was a knock on the door. I hesitated a moment trying to decide if I should ignore the door until after the bath. But it might be Keladrian. I went to the door and inquired who was knocking.
"Keladrian." Came his voice from the other side of the door. "And Drake"
"Oh." I said in some disappointment. I was hoping to speak with Keladrian alone.
"And Liselle." He continued.
"Oh." I said with some disgust. I was not fond of the new addition that had attached itself to our group through Drake. I opened the door anyway.
"Come in I was just waking up." I left the door opened and
headed to the bathroom to try to freshen up a little. I splashed water
on my face and rinsed out my mouth. The Luggage kindly supplied suitable
attire. Sturdy walking shoes, jeans and shirt. I picked up my brush
and returned to the group brushing my hair into some sort of order.
Keladrian asked Drake what had happened since he'd been gone. Drake replied that he only knew what had transpired with him and he could not tell what had happened with Isabeau and myself.
I interrupted Drake by asking Keladrian if his mission was successful.
"No." he answered after some hesitation.
I did not truly care to discuss this with Keladrian in front of Drake,
but decided that there would be little opportunity to get Keladrian
alone. At least Drake had returned. There may be hope for him yet.
"Not likely." Drake was quick to add.
I was briefly annoyed. Drake didn't know my uncle well enough to automatically
assume that. "There is a possibility that he would, under the correct
"The right person might convince him." I told him.
"But unfortunately Deirdre is dead." Drake stated.
I was stunned. How did Drake know about Corwin and Deirdre? The family just didn't talk about that. After all no one was sure that anything had happened between the two. They were full brother and sister.
I gave Drake a look and changed the subject. Turning to Keladrian I told him. "Corwin is not the most capable when it comes to matters of the mind. Perhaps someone else might be able to repair the damage that he did. If it was just to remove the compulsion . . . " I thought a moment. "Corwin is a bit sloppy when it comes to those sorts of things. He does not have much skill in that area."
"How much skill would be required to repair what was done?" Keladrian asked.
"I know a couple of people who could do it." Then I had a thought. "There might be someone else. I don't know what her capabilities are, but she has pulled some surprises out of the hat recently. It intrigues me. I wonder if she could do it?" I thought about Random's Trump shunt. He had said that Vialle had made that for him. Which means that Vialle at least knew Trump. A blind Trump artist? I mused a moment and then was interrupted by Liselle.
"Who?" she demanded.
"Vialle." I told her.
"Fiona would be the one to most likely ask." Drake said.
He obviously didn't know our family that well. Despite the comment about Deirdre. "I wouldn't trust him to Fiona."
"That would not be acceptable." Keladrian added.
"She would probably correct what Corwin did and put in her own programming." I admitted. Then no one that I knew would be able to help Keladrian's friend.
"Fiona seems to be permanently tuned to station WIIFM" Drake quipped. "What's In It For Me."
We all chuckled.
"My father could do it, but I wouldn't trust him with it either." I had to admit that Bleys seemed too interested in Keladrian lately to leave Derrick alone.
"But they are both awake?" Drake asked. He must have not been filled in with all the details.
"At some cost, but they are both awake." I agreed.
"Is Isabeau alright?" Drake's tone was much softer when asking after my cousin. File that information away for future use.
"I don't know. I have not seen Isabeau or Fiona." I admitted. Bleys was the one who had told me that my Aunt was awake. There were two people who shouldn't be together for a while.
"I saw Isabeau before I left." Keladrian said.
"How did you wake your father?" Keladrian asked. "You did not say other than that it was painful."
"Well, Drake, you are familiar with Trump?"
"They are indestructible, aren't they?" I asked him.
"I melted one." I told him.
"How!?" His look of surprise was worth it.
"Trying to wake my father."
"You shove it up his nose or something?" He joked. "His Trump I assume."
"Sympathetic magic?" he asked.
"Pretty much." I agreed. That was the closest way to describe what I had done.
"The Empress isn't really that Trump oriented, though I believe that approach would work with Ulris."
"They may not have the same problem that Bleys did." I thought about my father spread through Trump. He said that he hadn't met anyone else there.
"The Empress does more in Edgefall though we could certainly try the Trump." Drake said.
"It would be interesting to find out what Isabeau did." I added. "I don't think that Isabeau has the same ability that I do to use the Trump. She might have done the same thing, but I don't know that she did."
"Kyrie will not be any help." Drake said.
"No she's off playing with Benedict." I agreed.
"But I actually stand a chance helping the Empress since I am directly descended from her." Drake informed us. I looked briefly towards Keladrian. I didn't think we were at the point where we would trust Drake out of our site and I didn't see any possibility of Keladrian or I going to where the Empress was. Bleys had not specifically told me to stay away from the Courts but I'm sure he would have if I'd talked about going there.
There followed a short discussion on the Empress Tyrelia and what her status would be if the Emperor were gone. Drake said that if the Emperor were out of the picture and if Sawall and Hendrake continued to work together then Tyrelia would remain Empress. If Sawall doesn't throw it's strength behind Hendrake then there would be a big civil war.
"And oh wouldn't Balak love that." Drake concluded.
"Balak?" Keladrian bristled at the name.
"Yes, let's not do anything that Balak would love." I added.
"The children of Seraglio would basically be the only ones left other than Kyrie to claim lineage. Unless Seclar rose from whatever hole he's climbed into. Or Benedict cared to claim the throne." Drake informed us. His last statement was what attracted my attention.
"Benedict? Would you care to elaborate?" I asked Drake.
"He has about as legitimate a claim to the throne as I do." He answered.
"In what way?" I urged.
"In the same way. Remember your Pattern is a Logrus derivative. Dworkin was from Chaos."
"Then you're saying that Benedicts mother was from Chaos?" I asked.
"I didn't say that." Drake denied.
"Benedict is first born of Oberon." Keladrian spoke up.
"No he isn't." I objected.
"First surviving." Keladrian amended. To which I agreed.
"But I most certainly and clearly did not claim that his mother was from Chaos." Drake protested.
Which made me believe that she was. But I let it pass for now. What did that make Isabeau's status? "So where does Mandor fit in all of this?" I inquired.
"I believe I'll reserve that one for later." Drake hedged.
"So what line is he?" I asked.
"I can't swear by the Serpent, but I will most certainly swear
by the Unicorn." I added.
"Oh, and prepare to have the Trump destroyed." I warned Merlin.
"You will have to go past the pain. Can you stand the pain?"
I asked him.
"Let's get out of here." Drake said.
"How about back to Dorad?" I asked.
"That will take too long." He disagreed.
"Trump gate." I offered.
"That won't take too long. Do it" he agreed.
I reached into my pouch and brought forth the new Trump for Dorad and brought up a Trump gate. In retrospect this was not a good idea to bring up that much power in the middle of Ulris' lab. The first thing that happened was that the glowing gyroscope thing in the vice increased its rotation and the sound increased into a high-pitched scream. Keladrian stepped up behind me to shield me from it right before it exploded. There was a brilliant flash of hot light. Drake reached out with a Logrus tendril and grabbed Liselle who was backing out of the lab. She screamed as she was lifted from the floor. The Trump gate was not acting normally. It had not formed up quite yet and I felt a stabbing pain in my head and saw flashes of light at the periphery of my vision. I quickly shut down the gate. Unfortunately the damage had already been done.
The floor started rumbling and things began rattling on the worktables. Drake grabbed Ulris and said. "Let's get out of here."
Keladrian unceremoniously scooped up Merlin under one arm and then threw me over his shoulder. Several thoughts ran through my mind at that moment. 'How did I get myself into this mess? This is what happens when you try to do a good deed for someone.' And 'How dare Keladrian treat me like a sack of produce.' I was very annoyed with his arm around my legs and my rump in the air. But I was getting a good view of what we were running away from. I could have made it out of the lab on my own, I wasn't helpless. But then again, maybe it was my own fault. I had been playing the helpless damsel in distress much too well.
We cleared the lab and headed down the corridor. I called to the Luggage to come quickly so that it would not be left behind in this place. I heard Drake yell. "Ok Liselle, get ready to kick." But could not see what it was she was supposed to be kicking. It was impossible to try to turn around on Keladrian's shoulder and I only managed to pinch my skin in a joint of his armor. And then he did a leap over something in the corridor and I had to hold on tightly to keep from slipping off. When we landed I bounced on his shoulder catching more skin in joints in the armor.
The Luggage cleared the lab and was moving rapidly down the corridor after us. I noticed a hole in the floor of the passage and knew the reason for the jump. Then I heard doors slam open ahead of us. Well behind me actually, ahead of Keladrian. Shortly after that Keladrian launched again and then I felt weightlessness and the bouncing around on his shoulder stopped. We were in zero gravity. Normally I really enjoy weightlessness, it happens to be great for sex. This particular corridor was somewhat unsettling, as there were no actually walls, just spinning light. I held tight to Keladrian and focused on his buns. He has a nice butt.
Back down the corridor we had just left, the Luggage met up with something that had escaped from Ulris' lab. There was a sound like 'splorch' and reality around the Luggage stretched and rippled. Where the ripples touched the corridor the stone just fell away. The Luggage paused, then backed up and took a run and cleared the hole in the floor. It hit the weightless area and kept coming. I could see the little feet on the bottom of the Luggage kicking away as it slowly spiraled after us.
I was just getting comfortable in this section of our departure from the lab when I felt the jerk of the Logrus move us through shadow and we were once again back on the parapet of Drake's castle.
I looked around and asked. "Shall we go to Dorad, or shall we stay here?"
"How likely was that to be noticed in the Courts, with reality coming apart and all?" Keladrian asked Drake.
"It's very isolated from the Courts. I expect the dwellers in the Abyss to notice it before the Courts." Drake's answer did little to reassure me. "I'm not sure how long that will take." He added.
Drake moved back to human size and set Liselle and Ulris down.
Keladrian set me down and turned to check on Merlin. I was annoyed
at this sudden disregard. He had moved to protect me in the lab and
now I was ignored. When Merlin was set down, his knees buckled a little
and then he stood up. It was obvious that he could not see very well.
He must not have been shielded when the thing in the lab exploded. He
seemed pale and his breathing was a little irregular and he was missing
a shoe and sock. When Keladrian seemed assured that Merlin was ok, he
asked Drake. "If whoever goes to investigate that, will they be
able to track us here?"
We moved into a large central receiving hall and several servants appeared.
They all looked alike. They were patchwork people with scars of stitches
on the parts of their body that could be seen. They walked with a shambling
gate and spoke like their mouths were not properly formed or full of
something. An interesting group of shadowlings Drake had found.
Merlin shifted his concentration from the Trump after awhile and started using something else. Not anything that I was familiar with. It wasn't Logrus or Pattern and it was not akin to what Keladrian used. I got the impression of a shower of razor blades. It was sleek and surgical and sang with precision. My link to him weakened at that point but I still got some fleeting impressions. There seemed to be another person in the link. Someone coiled into a fetal position and buried deep. Merlin used the Trump to fine tune the location of the other person then used the blades to start cutting his way down to them. It became more difficult to be around this power.
I was fascinated by this new power and I almost missed what Drake said. "I have rooms prepared for you if you need to rest, the kitchen is open if you need to eat." I think Liselle left to accept Drake's hospitality. I remained to watch.
I decided to shift my focus to Ulris. He was not spread out like Bleys had been but coiled inside himself. I tried to find any sign that Ulris was there but it was only through Merlin that I could detect him at all. After about an hour of this ordeal I noticed the small razor cuts that began to appear on Merlin. At the end of two hours he was bleeding fairly profusely and I became concerned about his ability to withstand the use of this strange power. Could he last long enough to wake his friend?
I instructed the servant to bring towels and hot water. I didn't think it would be a good idea to get into close contact while he was working, but we would need to be ready to care for him.
At the end of about three hours, the bleeding Merlin collapsed across the now rousing Ulris. I quickly moved in to attend to my cousin and directed the servant to bring the water and bandages. Even though we had not met on the best of circumstances, this was the son of my uncle and I felt a kinship with him. His ordeal appeared to be worse than what I had gone through to wake my father, but he had been successful. Ulris was awake.
"I think he will need someone he recognizes when he comes fully awake." I told Drake.
Drake moved up to the bed. At that point Ulris snapped awake and opened his eyes. His eyes were black, no white, just pools of liquid blackness. "Can you see me cousin?" Drake asked him.
"Of course." The man on the bed proclaimed.
"When you gaze too long at the Abyss. . . " Drake said.
"It gazes back." Ulris grinned back at him.
"Welcome back, young Merlin injured himself bringing you back to us." Drake told him and indicated the other side of the bed where the servant and I were attending to Merlin.
"May I introduce Duchess Zhelan of Amber who provided the advice which aided your return." Drake added.
"Charmed, forgive me if I don't rise." Ulris said quite cheerily. I nodded to him.
"This is Keladrian, companion of some weeks." Drake continued the introductions.
Keladrian moved closer to the bed.
"Oh. Congratulations." Ulris said to Drake. It was a moment before I realized that he thought Keladrian was Drake's lover.
Drake was even slower on the uptake. He finally responded. "No, though perhaps I should say congratulations to you cousin. You've been silent on the subject of young Merlin. I did not even know you knew each other." Ulris turned to where Merlin lay swathed in bandages on the bed. The look he gave him was obvious to read.
"Your secrets are your own of course." Drake added.
"Of course we do have another matter which is somewhat pressing." I reminded them. "We did wake you for a reason." I told Ulris.
"Perhaps we should let him rest for awhile first." Drake interceded. "How are you feeling?" He asked his cousin.
"Cold." Was all Ulris said.
"You will warm soon." Drake responded.
"You were lying on your laboratory floor for a number of days. It is to be expected." I told him.
Another of the servants appeared with hot broth and tea. They might be rather unpleasant to look at but they were very efficient.
It was obvious that Ulris was trying to be polite to us but his attention was on Merlin.
"Would you like to rest for awhile?" Drake asked our guest.
"Mmhum." He agreed distractedly.
Drake indicated that we should leave. As we exited I commented to the others. "Well, part one of our plan has gone without too many hitches."
Drake smiled. "Yes certainly the flight was a bit bumpy."
"Are you sure they won't leave?" Keladrian asked.
"Basically we've proved ourselves to Merlin, I think they'll stick around." Drake thought a moment and continued. "And even if they do leave I think we've accomplished enough that they will try and help. I think it's safe in Merlin's condition and Ulris' that we can leave them alone for a few minutes."
"I think we need to let Ulris know what we would like to have happen next." I amended.
"Yes, but . . . excuse me for a moment." Drake stopped and concentrated. I felt the Trump power fade around me. Somehow he had made Trump stop working in his shadow. I felt a moment of panic and knew that I would need to stick very close to Keladrian now. Just because Drake had appeared to be cooperative to this point, did not mean that this was not part of his plan. After all we had awoken his cousin, and were now in his shadow close to the Courts. There was still the matter of the warrant to have the Trump artists taken to Chaos. Had he gained our cooperation to his own ends?
"Shall we have something to eat?" he asked us.
|I refrained from saying anything to Drake about his shutting down Trump
power in his shadow. I'm sure he was just making sure that no one could
come or go unexpectedly. It didn't make me feel secure, but I didn't want
to display my concern to him.
The three of us moved to a dining hall and sat down. The Igor's immediately brought food. I certainly couldn't fault Drake's taste in décor or food. It seemed he surrounded himself with the best. The servants were meticulous in their service of the food. They might be odd looking but their dedication could not be faulted.
"After witnessing what Merlin did to wake up Ulris, I really need to talk to Isabeau. I need to know how she woke up Fiona." I was the first to break the silence that had accompanied our dining.
"I think getting reunited with Isabeau would be a good idea." Drake agreed.
"Unfortunately, you've shut down the easiest way for any of us to contact her." I dropped that information carefully displaying no concern or attaching any personal significance to it.
"That can be resolved shortly." Drake offered. "I was just trying to block any attempt by anyone to follow us here."
"Or attempt to leave." Keladrian added.
"Specifically yes, by our recumbent guests." Drake said.
"So what would you suggest would be the easiest way to go get Isabeau and bring her back?" I inquired. "Should we go there? But then we have our guests to consider. Should we go pick her up and bring her here?" I paused to get the other's reactions.
"Probably the best to bring her here." Drake offered his preference.
"So can you adjust to allow Trump?" Keladrian asked Drake.
"Yes, I can make it one way so that we can Trump out but no one can Trump in." explained Drake.
"Ok, I have a Trump of Dorad." I offered. "We can Trump there, but then I don't have a way to get back here and that presupposes that Isabeau is still in Dorad."
"That's where we would have to start." Drake reasoned.
"I have a Trump of Isabeau." Keladrian dropped into the conversation.
"Really!" It escaped my lips before I could think. I wondered what Keladrian's reaction would be to mine. I wondered at my own reaction. Was I jealous? What exactly had happened between Isabeau and Keladrian when they had gone off together? It seemed that it was more than learning how to shadowwalk.
"When I met her in the hallway when I was leaving Dorad, she gave me the Trump so that I could contact her." Obviously my reaction had made Keladrian feel an explanation was necessary. This further confused me. What did that say about how he felt about me? Damn his stupid amulet. I wasn't used to playing games like this with men I was interested in.
"Alright, the fastest way might be if Keladrian took you, Zhelan a shadow's distance and you contact her from there. It's going to take some time for me to adjust this shadow to do a one way Trump." Drake interjected into the awkward silence.
Keladrian shook his head and said, "We are too close to the Courts. I will not be moving via that means here."
"Very well, it will take about an hour before I can make it one way permeable."
"Can the signal be amplified?" Keladrian asked me. "Is that possible."
"I know that it's been done before." I answered him.
"You might be able to leave in about a half an hour." Drake agreed.
"There would be no reason to leave if we have a Trump of Isabeau. If you can alter the shadow enough for us to contact Isabeau, we could contact her, bring her through and then you can shut it back down." I had no idea how this shadow alteration thing worked so offered an alternative suggestion thinking it might be quicker.
Drake thought it over and then said. "It would still take about an hour. Half an hour to bring it up and another half an hour to restore the level of protection. In that time we would be vulnerable."
"But what about the people that we have here that we are trying to prevent from leaving?" I asked.
"There are other ways to prevent that." Keladrian added.
"What take their Trump? Done that." I laughed.
"Or sitting on them. Done that too." Keladrian grinned at me.
"I have a good eye on them." Drake said quietly.
"Are you monitoring them?" Keladrian asked him.
We sat in silence a moment considering options.
"Do you have to move it all the way back up before we can use Trump?" Keladrian asked Drake.
"Probably not since we have a strong Trump user here." He indicated me.
"But the Trump was entrusted to me." Keladrian answered. Despite my fits of jealousy over his having a Trump of Isabeau to begin with, I was impressed by his honor in not offering the Trump to someone it was not given too. And he had not mentioned that he had my Trump. My trust in him had not been misplaced.
"Very well." Drake said and began concentrating on changing the shadow.
While Drake was busy adjusting his shadow, I turned to Keladrian and mentioned some thoughts I had had about helping his friend Derrick.
I offered my assistance in surveying the damage to Derrick's mind. I don't know if I can repair what my Uncle Corwin did, but I might be more familiar with the problem than the healers in Dorad. I made the suggestion that we find someplace that Derrick would be comfortable with when awake and populate the shadow with a few people that Derrick would know by sight but not well. We could find these like people in shadow. After all Caine had done that before. I personally try to avoid myself when shadow traveling.
Keladrian accepted my offer of assistance for his friend, but wanted to pursue the present course of action first. He believed that if he asked the doctor in Dorad to wake his friend that they would be unwilling to sedate him again if the attempt was not successful. Then he asked how to boost the power of Trump.
I mentioned that more than one person could collaborate on a Trump call. Keladrian wanted to know how the person receiving the call would perceive this. I explained that it would only help if there were a block of some kind. The person receiving the call would not notice any significant difference.
Drake stirred from his concentration and asked a servant where Liselle was. In truth I had forgotten all about Drake's cousin. The servant told Drake that Liselle was napping by the fireplace in the Kitchen and that she left. I thought he meant that she had been napping then had left. Apparently Drake was confused also as he asked for clarification.
"She is napping?"
"Yes, mathter." Replied the servant.
"Let me know the minute she returns." Drake asked Igor.
"I thought he just said she was sleeping in the kitchen?" I was confused, either she was sleeping in the kitchen or she had left.
"By what method did she leave?" Keladrian asked Drake.
"I believe she has sent a portion of herself away." Drake told me.
I thought about this for a while and then got really disgusted. "Oooh, that is just wrong."
Drake concentrated a moment then sighed. "She left by the air gate. I don't know by what means." He turned to his servant. "Igor, could you put a couple of extra eyes on the air gate."
"Yeth mathter." Igor bowed and left.
"We could always ask Liselle where she has gone." Keladrian offered.
"She probably doesn't even know. We know that she has her own reasons for keeping her eye on me. I have no doubt that we can deal with her when she returns."
"I'm sorry but this whole concept of splitting your body in half and one of you running off and the other half not knowing where you've gone. This is just so . . . wrong." I just couldn't understand how the other two could just accept this. Even for a shapeshifter this must seem wrong. Wouldn't it?
"Welcome to Chaos." Drake chuckled. "If you wish we could put this one under guard and hold her against her good behavior." I think Drake was teasing me but I wasn't sure.
"You truly do no know her motives?" Keladrian asked Drake.
Drake sighed and looked away.
"And while you may be correct that we can handle her, what about whoever she has gone go report to?" Trust Keladrian to think of the worst possible scenario.
"We can certainly throw her body into the dungeon." Offered Drake.
"You are misunderstanding me." Keladrian countered. "You are not the only person of value here."
"I just believe she's gone to report. Not bring back on invasion."
"And that report goes to whom?" Keladrian asked. I didn't need to add anything to this conversation. Keladrian seemed to see the same pitfalls in this scenario as I. "And what is there agenda? To help us, to hinder us?"
"The last thing I heard was to gather up the Trump artists and haul them away to Chaos." I couldn't keep silent any longer. "50% accomplished."
"I believe it is agents of the Empress that she goes to see." Drake finally said.
There was a long pause as we digested this information. Then Keladrian said. "We must decide whether we will bring Isabeau here or go to wherever she is. And how to take Ulris and Merlin with us."
"You are now able to contact her via Trump." Drake told us.
"At this point it would be easier to bring her here and then all of us can leave." I began.
"Very well." Keladrian accepted my suggestion and took out his Trump of Isabeau. He turned his amulet and then concentrated on the Trump.
After awhile he put the Trump away and said, "She is not responding."
"Interesting." I mused.
"Given what little I know, that's not surprising." Keladrian stated.
"In what way?" I asked. I couldn't imagine what he knew about Isabeau. But I'd like to find out.
"I would be very reluctant to answer any Trump call I did not know."
"Oh. There is no way she could know who was calling." I told him just a little disappointed that that was all he meant. There was another long moment of silence. We had been experiencing several of these here in Drake's shadow. I wondered briefly if it had something to do with the atmosphere of the place.
"You say Trump works out of here but not in?" I asked Drake. He nodded. "We need to go to Dorad and see what happened to her. If she's still there. I can't imagine that Dorad would block Trump. I know it doesn't block Trump."
"She's either blocking or just not answering." Drake said.
"It would be nice to have Bleys' ability to call up a messenger to send over." I laughed. "That was really handy, I wish I could do that." I said more to myself.
"It would be a very slow process right now." Keladrian responded.
"Let me see, Trump works out of here. I have some options for some shadows that we could Trump to where magic works better." I tried to think of other options. "I doubt she could have come to harm in Dorad, the question is whether she is in Dorad any longer. Or she could be asleep."
"You said that the attempt to restore your father was injurious." Drake reminded me.
"But Keladrian saw her afterward and she was alright." I said missing his point.
"I'm just saying that there are ways to become injured even in Dorad."
"That's true, it was self-inflicted. The rule about 'do no harm' is obviously not in force if someone wanted to mutilate themselves."
"But accidents can still happen."
"Ok, we have a couple of options. We can go back to Dorad. We can go to a magic shadow where we could conjure up a messenger to contact her." I ticked off our options. "So what is the choice?"
"I would suggest that if you two would like to track down Isabeau, I will try to determine if Liselle presents a threat. If you do find Isabeau we will need to figure out someway for you to signal me. Either I relax Trump restrictions or you can send a messenger back by say the air gate." Drake suggested.
"Can you tell how long before Merlin and Ulris would be able to travel?" Keladrian changed the subject.
"Probably both of them could benefit from a good nights rest." Drake surmised.
"How long would it take for you to create a messenger to find Isabeau?" I asked Keladrian.
"Not very long, but then we would need to wait for the messenger to find her which in itself takes time." Keladrian had to bring up the time issue.
"If she is in Dorad, a messenger will probably not find her." Drake seemed like he spoke from personal experience. "But if she is outside her room or outside the pyramid, that would be the quickest way to find her."
"You may initiate a Trump contact." Keladrian reminded Drake.
"Yes, you can contact us. We won't be able to contact you." I said.
"Immediately upon our arrival . . . " Keladrian began before I interrupted him.
"Wait a minute, you can't contact us."
"I don't have a Trump for any of you." Drake caught on to the flaw in the plan.
"Can you contact him here?" Keladrian asked me.
"No, not if he's made it one way." I reminded him.
"I mean now, while we are in this shadow."
"While we are in this shadow?" I asked. I couldn't figure out why I would need to contact Drake by Trump when he was standing in the same room with us.
Keladrian told us his plan. I would contact Drake here with his Trump, and then Drake would keep that Trump contact active and maintain it while we stepped through the Trump to Dorad. That way we could stay in contact with Drake and he could bring up back to his shadow when we found Isabeau. It was brilliant for someone who knew nothing of Trump.
I took out my newly created Trump of Drake. He did not seem surprised. I initiated a Trump call to him, which he accepted.
I then activated the Trump to Dorad when Drake took over the maintenance of the Trump contact and Keladrian and I stepped through.
We were standing on the plain on the other side of the lake and then headed to the pyramid. I suggested that Keladrian try contacting Isabeau again with her Trump and I made sure that the contact with Drake was still active.
Keladrian had no luck with the Trump but Drake was still tuned in. At least part of the plan was successful.
"I suppose if we ask if Isabeau is there they won't tell us." I complained as we reached the door. "We're here to see if Isabeau is here. We're going to do it the hard way since you won't tell us." I said as I walked past.
"Welcome. Do no harm." Was all the Lady said.
"May I inquire if the Lady Isabeau is here?" Keladrian asked with no success.
"There is one way to tell. When you leave the door to your room opens and the room reverts back to neutral. We can tell if she is in residence or not by her room." I told him.
We stepped into the through the door and entered the area of blackness and then moved into the pyramid. We came to the split in the corridor and went in the direction of our rooms. Drakes Trump contact was still strong inside the pyramid. This is where I had been concerned that we would have problems.
When we reached the area where our rooms had been there was only one building left instead of six. Obviously Isabeau was not here.
"Where would she have gone? And why isn't she answering her Trump?" I mused as we stood in the empty courtyard. "I wonder why she left?"
There was the sound of someone clearing their throat and then Bleys said, "I may have had something to do with that."
"Oh, Hi." I said as I turned to my father. I remembered that I had abruptly left him in shadow when Keladrian had contacted me. I see he had made his way back here. "What do you mean you may have had something to do with that?"
"She's a Trump artist, dear." He said as if that explained everything.
"I knew that." I told him.
"Well, I was, well, you know, admiring her artwork when her mother decided that I was admiring something else." He stumbled through an explanation of sorts.
"Ok." I said prompting him to say more.
"And things got a little testy." He finished.
I thought of my conversation with Bleys about doing away with Aunt Fiona. "You're still here." I pointed out needlessly.
"Yes." He turned to Keladrian and changed the subject. "Hello Keladrian."
"Prince Bleys." Keladrian greeted him coolly.
"It's good to see you well and hale."
"So where did Isabeau go?" I brought Bleys back to the original subject.
"I don't know. I'm afraid some of my anger with her mother leaked over and I may have spooked the young lady."
"Well, we haven't been able to reach her by her Trump." I told him.
"Well, I. . . " He stammered. I had never seen father so non-plussed before and was enjoying the moment.
"And?" I prompted him.
"I think Isabeau has learned an important lesson about Trump calls from family." He said officiously.
"So now she's not answering anybody." I sighed my exasperation. "Wonderful."
"You kids Trumped in right?" Bleys asked us.
"Yes. Why?" I asked him suspiciously
"There's a little bit of trouble going on outside. I recommend that you don't shadow walk or whatever through the nearby environs." He said cryptically. "For a little while until they get that settled."
I thought for a moment then asked, "Mandor still hanging around?" Bleys indicated his affirmative. "Who else is out there now?"
"Your Aunt." He confirmed.
"I don't recall every being quite so fond of Dorad's shield as at this moment." Bleys volunteered.
"Why don't you just Trump somewhere?" I just couldn't imagine Bleys lying low just because Aunt Fiona might be miffed with him.
"Well, this seems to be a touch point for you kids and . . ." He left the rest of the statement unfinished.
"You're saying that Aunt Fiona can't come in?" It hit me what had happened here that might have made Isabeau decide to leave.
He nodded then said, "So, everything alright with you too?" He seemed overly cheery.
"Just looking for Isabeau." I hedged. "We needed to ask her a question." No sense in telling him about the little escapade at the Abyss. He'd only worry or worse, be mad at me.
He concentrated a moment and then said, "She's a long way away right now."
I smiled remembering his propensity for putting tags on people. This might be helpful.
"I don't have a good directional. It's getting messy out there. Her mother is creating quite a disturbance out there. But she's vaguely orderward but a long way."
"Back to Amber?" I asked him.
He shook his head.
"Near Amber?" I felt like I was playing that child's game. You know where you tell someone whether they are hot or cold depending on how close they are to the secret object.
Bleys looked in my direction with a lopsided grin that was quite endearing. "The old man is not omnipotent. I only know that she is orderward from here."
"Do you have a tag on her too?" I asked him.
He gave me a hurt look. "I know I can come off a little harsh at times, but really, Zhelan, it is a dangerous universe. I like to be able to help if something goes wrong."
"Well, if she's not accepting a call there is no way to break through that I know." I wondered what we should do next. A quick check let me know that Drake had been around for this entire conversation also. Wonder what he would make of it.
"She is going to have to learn how to tell whose calling." I said exasperated.
"How do you track your markers?" Keladrian stepped into the conversation.
Bleys looked him over a moment then said, "I'm a sorcerer Keladrian."
"And do you have a device that allows you to track that we might use?" Another good idea from Keladrian.
"Not anymore. Conjuration is a good start but eventually you have to get away from raw materials and go raw power." Bleys warmed to his subject.
"But could one be made?" Keladrian doggedly stuck to his subject.
"Not one that I think you would be comfortable using, Keladrian."
"Somehow I don't think the lady Isabeau would be happy to see you show up." Keladrian countered.
"No, I think I may have to get her a gift." Bleys agreed.
"Better be something good." I told my father.
After a moments thought he said, "Maybe a puppy."
"A puppy would not do it for me." I muttered under my breath.
"So you need to contact Isabeau and you can't use the Trump." He thought for a moment. "I don't think you were particularly fond of my messaging style." He said in Keladrian's direction. "The last time when Trip and Trot reported in they indicated that you were a bit put out."
"It was a rather arrogant set of messengers that you have." Keladrian told him.
"A little bit of the spirit of the creator always imbues the created." Bleys grinned.
Zhelan got a brief flash of commentary from Drake. There was the impression of Isabeau riding off on Keladrian when he had become the fey horse and that Drake would send horses to get Isabeau.
I choked a bit then cleared my throat to cover it up. I then exchanged looks with Keladrian and I believe he understood what I had intended. We could create our own messenger to contact Isabeau.
"Do you have enough of her essence to send a messenger?" Bleys asked Keladrian obviously picking up on our silent communication. Maybe I should see about getting one of those amulets from Keladrian.
"We have her Trump." I reminded father. Surely that should be enough essence for a messenger.
"You need to know her well enough to find the real Isabeau from all of the shadow copies of her." Bleys explained.
I got another flash of Isabeau on Keladrian the horse from Drake.
"Once those two calm down, let me know. We still have a Pattern to deal with." Bleys changed the subject again.
"Yes, I know. We are working on a solution. But we need Isabeau. We managed to wake up somebody else." I informed my father.
"Congratulations." He said.
"Yes, a test run before we try to wake up the Empress."
"Tyrelia?" he seemed impressed.
"Yes, we have been told that she is the only one who can reign Kyrie in. And that if we could get a truce between the two that we could deal with Corwin's Pattern."
As we had been talking two more buildings had formed up in the courtyard. Keladrian excused himself to go to his room and conjure a messenger to reach Isabeau.
I turned to father my curiosity aroused. "So what did Aunt Fiona do to get herself banned from here?"
"Threw a punch." He said offhandedly
"Threw a punch? At whom?" By his look I knew, "You? Physically or . . ." I really couldn't picture Fiona coming after father with her fists.
"You know, there's just places to put the salt." He smirked. "But really if she's going to accuse me of looking down her daughter's shirt she should be prepared for it."
"Were you?" I knew my father's attraction to the ladies and they to him. It was entirely possible that he could have been even if it was his niece.
"No!!" he seemed hurt that I would even think that he had done so and I immediately felt regret. Damn him for being so manipulative.
He started to say something else then stopped. After a moment he turned to me and said, "Zhelan remember the puppy, I'm going for a walk." Then he turned and moved off.
By this I knew that Isabeau was in the near vicinity. "Isabeau?" I said.
"Zhelan, is he gone?" I heard from behind me.
I turned in her direction. "I don't know, you never can tell."
Then Drake said to me, "Perhaps you should tell Keladrian that he doesn't need to send his messengers."
"So where did you go to?" I asked Isabeau ignoring Drake for the moment. "We tried to contact you." I told her.
"Well after your father contacted me I wasn't talking many Trump calls." She explained and I wondered just what father had done or said to her that she would feel that way about him.
"Well we should probably let Keladrian know that he doesn't need to create a messenger now." I stood up and went to the closed door and knocked.
When there was no answer I knocked again and said loudly "Isabeau is here." There was still no response.
"Let's just leave him alone with his conjuring thing." Isabeau suggested.
"Yes, but its pointless now." I laughed.
I proceeded to bring Isabeau up to speed on all that she had missed while we had been separated. I of course did not include my side trips with my father and Keladrian or the information about my father's plots against her mother. There are just certain things that she didn't need to know and those I kept to myself.
She kept interrupting my narrative with statements like, "You did what?" and "You went where?"
Finally at the end I asked her the question that I had wanted to know to formalize my theory on how to wake up recumbent Trump artists. "I need to know, how did you wake up your mother?"
"Well it's hard to explain she was like spread out over the Pattern." she began.
"So did you use Trump to wake her up?" I asked. She shook her head. "You used Pattern?" she nodded. "And you consider Pattern to be your primary power?" she seemed confused by this question. So I clarified. "What do you use most and foremost when you need power, Trump or Pattern?"
"Pattern." She confirmed.
"That confirms my theory that you need to have some relationship . . . " I began when Keladrian's door opened and he stepped out.
I stopped and pointed to Isabeau and said, "Oh look, it worked. Good job conjuring."
"It appears the magic here is more powerful than I thought."
Keladrian quipped back.
"Back where?" Isabeau asked as Drake reached his hand out to me.
I reached out to make physical contact with both Keladrian and Isabeau and took Drake's hand. We were quickly pulled through.
After we had all come through the Trump I turned to Drake and said, "I think we can drop that now."
Drake greeted Isabeau and we sat down to the table as Igor set another place.
"You heard that Fiona has managed to get herself from Dorad." I smirked.
"I was hoping that both of them would get themselves banned, but obviously I was wrong." Isabeau seemed slightly annoyed.
"Why would you want Bleys to be banned?" I inquired of her.
"For the same reason that you are happy that Fiona is." She replied back.
I really didn't think that could be, my father was always so charming. Someday I would have to find out just what he did to Isabeau to disturb her so deeply.
"He's a perfect gentleman, he would never do anything to get himself banned from Dorad."
"Only because my mother moves faster than he does." Isabeau said before shoveling food into her mouth.
I hoped that Bleys had done something truly awful to the ungrateful bitch and he shouldn't worry about making reparations to her.
"I will let you eat if you will excuse me for just a moment." Drake interjected into the discussion.
"Have you had any discussions with Liselle?" Keladrian asked him. I could see that the men were trying very hard to turn the conversation in another direction.
"That's where I was about to go. I was actually busy keeping the Trump contact." Drake explained.
"Isabeau used Pattern to wake Fiona up. I used Trump to wake Bleys up and Merlin used Edgefall to wake Ulris up. I believe that it is the primary power of the person who is acting." I put forth my theory to the others.
"The person who is acting, or the person they are trying to wake up?" Keladrian asked for clarification.
"I believe it is the person who is acting as I do not believe that Trump is my father's primary power."
"Which is he more skilled in?"
"I don't know."
"Ulris is not an Edgefall user." Drake offered.
"But there also has to be some sort of personal connection with the person who is unconscious. With Merlin it was his relationship with Ulris. And it is obvious with Isabeau and myself."
"So the person who is attempting to wake up the other person needs to have a power and has to have a personal connection with the person who they are trying to wake up?" Isabeau summed up.
"In the three cases that we have at this point that is the way it has gone." I agreed.
"So, how does that link to your Empress?" Isabeau turned to Drake.
"It is possible that I could use Logrus to wake up the Empress. It is also more messy but possible to use shape shift." Drake told us. I just didn't want to think how he would go about it with shape shift.
Isabeau blanched slightly at that also and then said, "I think your more dominant power would be recommended."
"When I tend to power it is Logrus. Shape shift is more towards nature." Drake acknowledged.
When it was agreed that Drake had the best shot of waking the Empress, the next question was how to get access. It was suggested that Liselle might have access and the group decided to visit Drake's cousin. There was a silent mutual consent to stay together. We had spent too much time this mission being separated and finding that the others had skills that we needed.
We found Liselle sleeping in the kitchen in front of the fire. There seemed nothing unusual about her to suggest that part of her was not here. Drake bent down and touched Liselle and she roused.
"Oh God, is it time to go already." She grumbled as she started to sit up and rub her eyes.
"It seems you've already left." Drake told her.
"What?" she had sat up now but didn't seem to be quite awake.
"I never thought I would say it in this sense, but it seems that you are not all there." Drake said.
"What?!" she said louder and more awake. She seemed confused.
"Have you ever split yourself with shapeshift before?" Drake asked her.
Liselle seemed to take stock of herself and then suddenly came fully awake and began cursing. She seemed genuinely disconcerted by her condition.
The rest of us looked at each other but it was Keladrian who spoke
first. "Now would be a good time to leave."
Isabeau consoled her by saying that we all seemed to be experiencing difficulties with our parents. I informed her that I was not having any difficulty with my father and she said something to the effect that I hadn't seen his face when he asked her where I was.
I was touched that father was concerned about my whereabouts and well-being. I couldn't see how Isabeau had interpreted that as having difficulty with one's parent.
We began to discuss where we would go from here. Drake said that we needed to go somewhere safe where Merlin and Ulris could recover. We all immediately thought of Dorad.
Keladrian mentioned something about getting rid of the tags on all members of our party as we trooped upstairs to pick up the boys.
Merlin was still asleep on the bed but Ulris was up and looking out the windows when we arrived. He exchanged greetings with Drake.
"She's early." Ulris said as he looked back out of the window.
"How soon?" Asked Drake.
Ulris did not respond.
"What caused it to be ahead of schedule?" I asked him.
"She seems disturbed." Ulris said.
Drake paused to make introductions and tell Ulris our plans about leaving before Liselle's father showed up.
Ulris seemed reluctant to leave, as he would miss the emergence from the Abyss.
It was at this time that we finally got the full story of what this emergence was and what it might mean for Chaos, Amber and Shadow. I was relieved to see that I was not the only one that had been laboring under great misunderstandings over the situation. But when you are pretending to know what's going on, it looks a little suspicious if you ask to many questions. Always a drawback.
It appears that every now and then a creature would emerge from the Abyss and become an Avatar for a line of power. Such was how the serpent of Chaos and the Unicorn of Amber came into the world. Sometimes the other Avatars manage to send the emerging creature back into the Abyss, sometimes not. The last emergence was the Unicorn.
We also learned that the Avatar is directly tied to the head of the line of power. Ulris listed the Avatars for each line. Nightmare for the Creator of Line Barimen, Phoenix for Isabon, Sword Maiden for Lintrel, Kraken for Al-Hareem, Griffin for Riago and Dragon for Thenaroth.
It was also brought out in the conversation with Ulris that the Avatar for Keladrian's line was a dragon. Drake seemed surprised by this but it made sense to me. Drake should be getting close to the truth about his relationship to Keladrian. He had all the pieces.
We also learned that the Avatar and the head of the line were tied together. Ulris told us that the Unicorn was far away and very weak but still coming to the emergence. Did this mean that Oberon was still alive and that he was somewhere recovering?
It appeared that the Serpent of Chaos would not be making it to this emergence party as the Empress had done in the Emperor, Drake's grandfather. Which brought us to the question about whether we should wake the Empress or leave her to the consequences of her actions.
The discussion centered on what the affect of the emergence would have on Amber and Chaos if we did or did not wake up the Empress.
Drake initially wanted to wake the Empress to forestall the hostilities between Amber and Chaos with the argument that Amber was being weakened.
Keladrian countered that since Amber had survived the initial thrust of the attack by Chaos that it would be ok since Chaos would now be fully involved in the Emergence. He further asked whether correcting the second Pattern would help to strengthen the Unicorn.
The discussion continued about the part of the Avatar in the creation and maintenance of the power of the line the represent. It was agreed that the Avatar was somehow involved in the creation of the power of their line, but they were not necessary for the maintenance of it.
We reached no conclusion other than that we needed to go to Dorad.
|Now that we had decided to go to Dorad, Drake wanted a quick way back
to his home shadow if needed. He told us it would take about half an hour
to adjust his shadow to allow Trump to work incoming to his home.
During the time that Drake was busy we discussed a way for Drake to contact the shadow to find out if anyone had come in while we were gone or before we came back. Keladrian had an interesting scheme to take a Trump sketch of Drake and conjure it into a construct that could contact Drake when or if anyone appeared in Tor. There was a suggestion that to make the conjuration simpler that the construct could be given to the Igor's to activate and the Igor's could also use the construct to add more information to the report.
While this was an intriguing idea, it seemed a bit complicated to me. I suggested that we just give an Igor a Trump sketch and they could just use it normally.
Then Isabeau brought up the problems with Trump sketches. If Drake shape-shifted or moved to a different shadow then the sketch would not work. So the Trump sketch we left with the Igor's would be of limited use.
Liselle said, "Wait a minute. Drake if you got a Trump call while you were in Dorad, would you take it?"
The answer of 'Hell no.' ended that discussion.
"So if I had someway to contact the Igor's, maybe?" Drake asked.
"The point of this was to have a warning shot if something showed up." Keladrian protested.
As we were talking Isabeau suggested that she try drawing a sketch of Corwin's Pattern.
I said "Good luck." And explained that I had already tried and didn't think that it was a good idea.
The whole upshot was that in the half hour that it took for Drake to adjust his shadow, neither Isabeau nor I had started a Trump sketch. We had decided that if Drake wanted to contact home and see if it had been invaded that we could draw a sketch of Igor at that time.
I opened a Trump gate to Dorad and we went through.
We walked down to the pyramid and up inside. We greeted the Lady and received the admonition to do no harm. Drake had changed into Dragon mode to carry Ulris and Merlin and he turned left at the juncture to the hospital. We all decided to follow so that we could have access to Merlin in the hospital.
Ulris chose to stay with Merlin in the hospital and Drake got him to agree not to go anywhere without letting us know first. The rest of us left to go to the dining hall and discuss strategy.
We decided that we had one of the ingredients that we needed for our assault on Corwin's Pattern. We still needed the 'crayon' as Drake called the Jewel of Judgment.
When we arrived at the dining hall we noticed that there was meat on the buffet. I also noticed that there were a lot of spicy Middle Eastern style dishes. Bleys was easy to spot though he seemed to be trying to remain somewhat unobtrusive.
We filled out plates and approached his table. He stood and acknowledged the entire group including Liselle. He gestured for us to be seated.
It got very quiet at the table for a while. The others were probably wondering what to say next now that Bleys was here.
I noticed that Drake glanced towards me a couple of times. I didn't want to probe his mind to check what that was about while father was busy watching everyone.
Then Drake said, "I believe your daughter has a subject to broach with you." He paused. When I looked questioningly at him he continued. "Weren't you going to enlist his aid in helping with the doodle?"
"No." I replied.
"No?" he raised an eyebrow at me then turned to Bleys. "Tell me, how are you getting along with King Random?"
"There is no animosity between us. His pardon was generous." Bleys answered.
"Do you have his ear?" Drake continued.
"Right now I'm hoping that no one does." Bleys smiled back at Drake.
The two of them exchanged some pleasantries regarding Random's Queen, Vialle.
Then Drake said, "Sometimes matches do surprise us." And he glanced towards Liselle. I glanced at Isabeau wondering if she had figured out her parentage yet. Then Keladrian glanced at me.
I'm sure that my father found all the sudden glances quite amusing.
"Then your plans have changed?" he asked me.
"Which plans?" I asked him not remembering what we had spoken of last. "Probably." I concluded.
"Our plans change hourly." Isabeau added. "Every time we get new intelligence we change our plans."
"Which means that some of us don't change our plans very often." Isabeau gave me a dirty look.
There was a lull in the conversation after that.
Isabeau and Bleys exchanged comments on the content of the food.
Keladrian asked my father if he'd spoken with Corwin.
Bleys said, "Not recently. He's in one of his artistic phases and conversations with him are pointless."
"He did mention that he would be willing to talk with Random." I reminded the group.
"Well he and the little fink have been getting on like thieves recently." Bleys added.
"Uncle Random is not all that bad." I protested.
"You didn't grow up with the little fink, I think it's perfectly apropos. Not that he's 'your majesty' now does not change anything." Bleys responded.
"The king is a fink." Drake mused. "That seems familiar somehow."
"He may not have grown up around me, but I grew up around him." I ignored Drake.
"Well, if you can get Corwin distracted, I can certainly take a look." Bleys went back to the conversation of earlier.
"If we take Random in to talk to Corwin, would that be enough of a distraction?" I asked. "Has Fiona been to Corwin's Pattern?" I added before he'd had a chance to answer my first question.
"I haven't been able to get her anywhere near it." Bleys told us. "And I'm not going to be able to do that now. Unfortunate timing though. If those two could just settle their differences."
I glanced at Isabeau again and realized I was not the only one.
I asked my father for a spare Trump of himself and he handed me one that he had drawn. I admired the style a moment and then put it away.
Then Bleys said, "I don't believe that Random would provide enough of a distraction."
"There are other ways to distract Corwin." Drake said.
"But could you live through it?" I quipped.
"I believe I could." Drake said confidently.
"I doubt it. Prince Corwin is rather formidable, even in his distracted state. He is the defeater of Chaos son." Bleys smiled at Drake.
"I wasn't planning on taking my breastplate off first." Drake responded.
"First things first. I need to get hold of Random." I interjected. "However after meeting Merlin and talking with him, I have no confidence in our current plan."
"Will he bleed?" Bleys asked me.
"He's got this thing he does with his power that looks like a fall of razor blades. He uses his power and yes, he bleeds." I told him.
"I believe that was equivalent to destroying a Trump." Drake added.
"But will he bleed?" Bleys looked around the group at the table.
"He's alive, he bleeds. Will he bleed for this? Who knows." Isabeau said.
"If you stick him he will." Bleys said softly enough that I'm not sure that everyone at the table heard him.
"If we attempt to fix the Pattern we can always destroy it later. If we destroy it then there is no option of fixing it." Drake explained.
"Why are you attempting to fix that thing?" Bleys asked.
"Because it might be easier than attempting to destroy it." Drake answered.
"There's a better chance of getting Corwin's cooperation on fixing it than destroying it." I explained.
Drake and Bleys argued back and forth about fixing or destroying the Pattern and I could tell that my father's plans were set on wiping Uncle Corwin's Pattern from shadow.
I had to object. "How tied is Corwin to his Pattern. If we destroy his Pattern what will happen to Corwin?"
"Sometimes the Kingdom call for sacrifices." Bleys said matter-of-factly.
I couldn't accept this. We had all thought Corwin lost once before. Caine was dead; we had lost Brand and Deirdre. Our numbers were small enough without deliberately taking out one of our own. "Don't you think enough of your brothers and sisters have died recently?"
"Oh, no." he stated very quietly and calmly.
"I think a fix is worth a try." Drake said.
"I am a simple man, Prince Drake. I like to go for the direct method." Bleys said.
No one was buying that one.
"Besides we may have larger problems later." Drake continued.
"Yes, do you know what side the Unicorn will be taking in the current emergence?" I asked my father.
"The Unicorn has not graced me with her choice." Bleys told me.
"The Unicorn is coming but it is far away and weak." Isabeau added.
"The serpent's not showing up at all." I told Bleys hoping that he would understand the implications.
"We don't need to discuss that." Drake cut me off. "Your father might not be as dead as everyone thinks." He continued addressing Bleys. "Just something to help you sleep better at night."
"Let me assure you of the same." Bleys responded.
"I had guessed as much but have not had the leisure to pursue it."
"I will be willing to look at the Pattern, but I believe that the most expedient method of dealing with it is to destroy it." Bleys returned us to the earlier conversation.
"And how would you suggest we do that?" I asked him.
"The easiest way would be to get Merlin over it and stab him." Bleys looked at me and I suddenly put together all of the little hints that he had dropped in the past. No wonder Martin steered clear of the family. I wondered who had done the deed on him. Anyone of them would have been capable of it.
I wasn't ready for something that drastic. "If the Jewel made the Pattern, could it unmake it?"
"I don't believe that the Jewel can be used that way. It is a creative force." Bleys seemed shocked by the idea that appeared in my mind of walking the Pattern backward with the Jewel.
It was decided that we needed to contact Random and that I had the
best chance of talking with him and I excused myself from the group
to return to my room to do that.
When we arrived at my room I told Keladrian that I thought it best if I was alone when I contacted Random and he agreed to wait outside.
I pulled Random's Trump and initiated contact.
I greeted him when he answered and I asked him to bring me through so that I could bring him up to date.
He extended his hand and I stepped out in the Sapphire sitting room in Rebma. Ah, hanging out in Rebma, I should have figured. I would have thought that Rebma would have been the last place he would have gone, as it is the most obvious place for him to go. Maybe that was the strategy behind it.
Random was looking like he'd been on a three-day bender. There were dark circles under his eyes and his clothing though clean was wrinkled and sloppy looking.
He dropped across a chair and said, "How's it going."
I followed his lead and dropped into a chair and swung a leg over the arm. "Well, you know it's been interesting. Thank you so much." We smiled at each other.
"Where do I begin? Have you been kept informed about what has happened?" I asked him.
"I've been informed?" he queried.
"We called once." I protested. "Fiona and Bleys are awake."
"Great. You've got them working on that Pattern right?" he looked more alert.
"Well, not exactly. Fiona is kinda busy. She and Mandor are having a pissing contest. You did know that Isabeau is Mandor's daughter?" I dropped on him.
"By?" he asked. I don't think he remembered whom he had sent out.
"Oh, man." He said followed by several expletives.
"They are apparently shooting it up around Dorad. Fiona has gotten herself kicked out of Dorad because she attached Bleys. Corwin is perfectly happy with his Pattern. We went to Chaos and woke up Ulris." I fired off.
"Who is Ulris?" Random interrupted the stream of words.
"Ulris is Drake's cousin. He is a kind of flaky guy who fishes stuff out of the Abyss."
"You're kidding?" Random looked shocked.
"And they said I'm self destructive." He muttered.
"We woke him up because we thought he might be able to help us wake up the Empress. But we changed our plans because apparently the Empress killed the Emperor . . . "
Random cut me off. "What??!! While she was unconscious?"
"No, apparently this happened sometime ago. We found this out because a new avatar is arising from the Abyss and apparently the Unicorn is going but the Serpent isn't. Because the avatar's are tied to the heads of the lines. And there are a whole bunch of avatars. The dragon and the griffin, the phoenix and the Sword Maiden. All of the Avatars are heading to the Abyss and deciding whether they will let the new one rise or not. Which would seem to indicate that the Emperor of Chaos is non-existent because the Serpent isn't there to go and Oberon is still alive." I paused to take a breath.
"You can't trust the bastard." Random muttered.
"This is the information that we've gotten. With all the stuff that is going on, Chaos' forces will probably be pulling back from attacking Amber. They have to go do their thing at the Abyss and keep the emergence from happening, as they are not interested in having a new avatar come out. Considering that they don't have one anymore for Sawall. Let's see, what else has happened?" I thought for a while while Random digested the information I had given him.
"We have Merlin in Dorad, with Ulris and the rest of us. Got a beer?" I asked him.
"Yah." He said somewhat stunned as he got up and rang for service.
"Anyway, we thought we should do something about Corwin's Pattern." I continued after he was reseated. "Because it's affecting Amber and it's probably not a good thing to have it affecting Amber during the Emergence. We have a theory about fixing it. If we can't fix it, Bleys says he knows how to destroy it."
"That's gonna be a world of hurt for someone." Random shook his head.
"There was something about stabbing Merlin over it."
"Yah, that would work." He agreed. "But not for Merlin. Keep Merlin away from Bleys. He's pretty ready with the knives, no offense."
"He does a lot of practicing." I nodded. "Anyway, we have a theory which I don't completely understand about Amber and the Logrus. They are talking about Logrus derivatives and that most derivatives are inimical to the original and therefore Corwin's Pattern which is a derivative of The Pattern in inimical to the Pattern. The theory is that it could be fixed by adding Logrus to it."
"Whose 'they'?" Random asked.
"Well apparently Mandor told Keladrian that. It's obviously not complete. We figure that if we could have someone who is not keyed to the Pattern walk Corwin's Pattern with the Jewel and add their abilities to it, that it might complete the Pattern." I stopped for Random's reaction.
"So someone not keyed to the Pattern, using the Jewel." He restated.
"That's the ongoing theory at this point." I agreed.
"I don't know if that's possible." He said slowly.
"Someone told me that all Patterns are contained within the Jewel."
There was another long pause. I wondered what Random was thinking. "And" he prompted.
"We are thinking that since Corwin was only keyed to the Pattern that that is the only thing he pulled from the Jewel. Whereas someone not keyed to the Pattern would pull something else out of the Jewel when they walked his Pattern and it might add something to the Pattern and complete it. So that it was more balanced." It sounded crazy to me when I said it.
"The thing is, Zhelan." He got up to answer the door and accepted a tray with two beers. "Using the Jewel is kind of a personal experience." He handed me a beer and dropped the tray on the floor, then sat back down in his chair and opened his bottle.
"As is walking the Pattern. You bring your nature to both. Someone else walking Corwin's Pattern with the Jewel would bring something else to it, but I'm not sure it would complete it." He sipped his beer.
"I understand that Dworkin's Pattern is genetically coded. Only descendents of Oberon can walk it successfully. So we are figuring that only Corwin's descendents can walk his Pattern." I took a sip of the Ela Remba. It was not my favorite brew but it was the first alcohol that I had had since the Casino, and it was cold.
"Yeah, possible." Random grudgingly agreed.
"We thought we'd let Merlin walk his father's Pattern with the Jewel and see what happens." It sounded somewhat lame when actually presented to someone. The only difference between our plan and Bleys' seemed to be that we needed Merlin cooperating through most of it.
Random thought some more slowly sipping his beer.
"By the way, Corwin said 'Hi' and that he would be willing to talk with you." I added.
"You know, when Dad tried to fix the Pattern using the Jewel, it killed him." Random said eventually.
"But the Pattern was damaged. Corwin's Pattern is not damaged, it's just incomplete." I protested.
Random looked at me, "I'm just not sure the little punk is up to it."
"I'm not sure of that either."
"Well, his mom had him slated for the throne of Amber, I'm not sure I want to hand the Jewel over to him." Random sipped his beer and looked thoughtful.
"It was a shot. Once he starts walking the Pattern I understand he can't stop."
"Well, he can, but . . ." Random made a poufing motion.
"There's going to be enough of us there, once he's finished somebody could grab him."
"Oh, that's not possible. Once a person reaches the center of the Pattern they can go anywhere they want." My uncle explained.
This was something that I hadn't realized. And would be a major flaw in the execution of the plan.
"Well, this was the best idea we could come up with so far." I offered.
"Fiona's busy and Bleys wants to do a tactical strike." Random summed up the other factors.
"At least he's not trying to get another army together. I think that's a great improvement. He said that if we could distract Corwin that he would go in and take a look. I'm not sure what we could do to distract Corwin that we could live through."
We sat and drank our beers in silence for a while. No new inspiration came to me. I had wanted to discuss other matters with Random but had gotten sidetracked with the plan and Corwin's Pattern. I tried to move the conversation back into an area where I could bring up the subject I had wanted to discuss with my uncle.
"So how is Vialle? I bet she's happy to be home."
"Oh yes, she's thrilled." He stated then set back to brooding.
I couldn't push myself to interrupt his mood with something so frivolous as my personal problems. Just as I was getting the courage to say something Random said, "Bring him here."
"The kid." Random clarified.
"Well, I don't know that he's awake, You are talking about Merlin right?" I wasn't sure if he had picked up my other train of thought. If it had been father, I wouldn't wonder.
I pulled out my Trump and tried to raise Merlin. I doubted that he would answer a Trump call even if he were awake after the last Trump call he had received.
"I'm afraid he might not answer as he didn't seem to enjoy our last Trump conversation."
"I'd like to meet him." Random insisted.
"We could go to Dorad." I countered.
"I can't leave right now."
"What's going on?" I asked.
"There's a war going on." He said.
"You can't handle it from wherever you are?" I would think that place would have little bearing on sending orders to troops.
"Zhelan, I can't leave." He gave me the stern, don't annoy me look and I knew it was time to back off. "I need to talk with him before I can make any further decisions."
"I don't know if I can get him here."
"The thing is Ulris is guarding him. I'm not sure that he'll just let me pick up Merlin and Trump out with him." I protested.
"I need to see him." He restated.
"I will see what I can do." I told my uncle and then said, "Give my regards to Vialle. Is Caine really dead?"
"Yes, Zhelan." There was something in the way he said it that made me immediately suspicious.
"Bleys wasn't sure. You're sure it wasn't one of his duplicates?" I asked.
"Yes, Caine is dead. Tell Bleys that Caine is dead." Now I knew that my Uncle Caine was alive. There was some plan afoot that they needed everyone to believe that Caine was dead. I felt better that I had not lost another family member. I don't know why, I have never really liked Caine, but I was glad he was still alive.
I took out my Trump and went to Dorad.
I had a lot of time to think as I walked around the lake and up to the Pyramid. I wondered briefly if Fiona and Mandor were still slugging it out around Dorad of if one or the other had triumphed. It was too bad they couldn't be united. One was a master Logrus user and the other a master Pattern wielder. If anyone could resolve the problem with Corwin's Pattern . . .
It was easier to think of the more immediate problem. Should I tell the others what Random wanted? I could just envision the hours of arguing and conversation and discussion back and forth over whether we should take Merlin to Random or not. I don't think Random wanted his location given away and I didn't trust Drake or Isabeau enough to have them know where my uncle was.
Then there was Ulris and Liselle. I was sure that Drake and Isabeau would insist that if we took Merlin to meet Random that everyone should go along. With Liselle losing parts of herself back to her father and her obvious political ties to the Courts, she was the last person I wanted knowing where Random was.
All in all it just seemed simpler to take Merlin, visit Random and come back to Dorad before anyone knew we had gone.
I pondered this plan a moment and decided there was much merit to it. If I could get Random to agree to come with us with the Jewel it would be worth it. I was sure that the others would see it as a bad idea, but really what could go wrong? Better to ask forgiveness than permission. A quick in and out and no one would have to know. It would even be better if Merlin were unconscious. We could wake him up when we got to Rebma and then he would surely be eager to return to Dorad and join Ulris there. Less hassle with the punk.
I was feeling good about this plan as I entered the pyramid and went to the infirmary. The doctor showed me to Merlin with no problem. After all we had made sure that there would be no difficulty in any one of us contacting him here.
I entered the area where Merlin was resting and found him asleep with Ulris sitting in a chair next to the bed. Ulris was also sleeping but was holding hands with Merlin. I thought if I moved quietly enough that I could probably separate them and get Merlin away. I would need to do a Trump memory to keep from having to wait to contact Random. That might take too long and I didn't want to wait in the room with Ulris that long, he gave me the creeps.
Just after I had separated their hands Drake walked into the room. I put my finger to my lips and mouthed, "I'll be back." Smiled and Trumped out.
I appeared at Bleys' Estate in Amber. I had forgotten that Merlin was lying prone on a bed when we Trumped, and he dropped to the grass. Good thing he was still unconscious. I checked the vicinity quickly but all appeared quiet. I pulled out Random's Trump and contacted him.
Random brought us through to Rebma.
"I told you he wasn't in much of a condition to travel." I told Random.
"This will work." He said as he moved up and put his hands on Merlin's head.
While I was watching Random and Merlin I took out a Trump of Drake and tried to contact him. As I was doing this, the room began to grow darker and dark.
The Luggage moved up close to me and cringed. It was like a black fog was closing in.
I stopped trying to contact Drake and turned to Random. "Is this normal for here?"
Random stood up and drew his sword. This was my clue that here was not a good place to be right now. I was too far away from Merlin to take him with me. Besides Random was much more capable of defending him than I. My Trump memory of our Estate in Amber was put to use for the second time.
I appeared on the grass in the courtyard and realized I was still holding the Trump of Drake. I concentrated on it again and tried to contact him. He would not be pleased that I had lost Merlin, but if I were going to get Merlin back, I would need help.
There was no answer to the Trump call when I felt the Logrus reaching for me. I remembered that there were still Chaosian hit teams around Amber. I decided to leave Amber for Ssalesh. It was the only other Trump memory I had.
The land was not as prosperous as the last time I had been here. The locust had done a number on the local economy. My room had been repaired to the best of their ability but it was obvious that their best was not as good as it used to be. If I ever got a chance I'd payback those Chaos bastards for what they had done here.
I was about to try Trumping Drake again when I received a Trump call. I quickly fingered the Trump in my pouch, but it was the sketch of Keladrian that was active. I accepted the call.
"I've been trying to get hold of Drake, since I did not have a Trump of you that I could use."
"You know not what you have done. Bring us to where you have Merlin." Keladrian answered.
"I'm not with Merlin and Random any longer. Where are you?"
"In the Library in Amber. Come through." He reached a hand out to me.
I took it and stepped into peril. Drake was immediately at my back,
"Oh look, it's the trouble maker. Where's Merlin. Hello." Isabeau snapped her fingers and moved towards me. I ignored her.
"Our whole plan is in jeopardy. We need to get to where Merlin is." Keladrian said to me calmly.
"Our whole plan is not in jeopardy, our whole plan is completely blown up." Isabeau was quite agitated and over exaggerating.
"We do not know until we get there." Keladrian tried to calm Isabeau without much luck. "Where is Merlin?" He turned back to me.
"I took Merlin to Random as he requested. He refused to consider our request until he had seen Merlin. I simply took Merlin to talk to Random." I focused on Keladrian and remained calm.
"And you thought Merlin could talk at this point?" Drake sounded stressed.
"Forget the justifications, where is Merlin?" Isabeau demanded.
"Where is Merlin?" Keladrian said at the same time.
I answered Keladrian. "With Random."
"Where is Merlin and Random?" Demanded Isabeau.
"I don't think I am at liberty to divulge that information, we are at war with Chaos." I reminded her.
She headed towards me and Drake physically grabbed me by the back of the neck. The Luggage was not happy with the current circumstances and attacked Drake. Drake used his Logrus to throw the Luggage out of the window.
"You have put your liege in danger. Ulris has the power of the Abyss. We must go to them now." Keladrian explained.
That was what Random was facing? I shouldn't have left them. "They are in Rebma." I told Keladrian. I had no way to get there from here. I had no Trump and I doubted that Random would answer a Trump call in the middle of battle.
"I have a Trump of Rebma." Isabeau said. And she moved us through to the palace there.
I hoped that the Luggage could catch up soon. This was the second time that Drake had sent it through a window. I doubted that I could keep it from attacking Drake the next time they met.
I recognized where we were and headed to the Sapphire room where I had left Random. Drake let go of my neck but I felt his Logrus tentacle on me as we headed through the halls.
Drake moved ahead of us but we arrived to find the walls dripping blackness. Merlin was still on the floor where I had left him. He was still unconscious.
Random was sitting in a chair with his sword in his hand but the tip was resting on the floor. He was pale and bloody. His shoulder seemed out of place and he was stunned.
Bleys was standing in the room over the body of Ulris. He was also injured but it was internal damage. Ulris lay on the floor between Random and Bleys and the wound in his back was smoking.
When we entered the room Bleys was pointing Helioventar at Drake. He moved back to the body of Merlin.
"We are not here to fight." Drake was speaking softly to Bleys. "Put up your sword, Prince."
"See you in hell." Bleys saluted and Trumped out with Merlin.
"We need to get Ulris out of here." Isabeau said.
Drake grabbed us all with Logrus and Trumped us to his shadow.
When we arrived, Keladrian was not with us. Drake called an Igor and found out that he had company. Liselle changed shape and launched into the air when she found out that the company was her father.
The Igor's took the unconscious form of Ulris and then Drake marched us down to the lower levels of his castle. The room we were led to was comfortable for a cell.
"I expect you to behave yourself while you are my guest." Drake said to me.
Drake turned to Isabeau and said, "Would you mind looking out over here, I have another guest to attend to?"
She agreed and Drake gave her a Trump of himself then locked us in.
I did not speak to either of them. I needed to figure out a way out of here. I could feel Drake's Logrus on me and I knew that the tendril could follow me through shadow if I simply Trumped out. Somehow I would need to find a way to get his Logrus off me before I left here.
We were in a suite of rooms, which included a sitting room, bedroom and bathroom. Isabeau was glaring at me so I chose to remove myself from her presence. I had no desire for her to put her hands on me again and try to breach my mental defenses. I had too many secrets I was not yet ready for her to share. But then, I doubted I would ever be ready to share much with Fiona's daughter. I left Isabeau standing in the sitting room, entered the bedroom and shut the door.
As I sat down on the bed an overwhelming sense of loss settled in the pit of my stomach. It was vague and undirected and I wasn't sure what I felt bad about. Surely being here in Drake's dungeon was only a temporary set back. He couldn't keep me here.
I thought about Random and was concerned about his well-being. I took out his Trump and concentrated. He wasn't taking any calls. Not that I blamed him. I hoped that he didn't hold any grudges against me for the recent happenings. But how could he? I had only done what he'd asked of me, and I had warned him of the circumstances to the best of my knowledge.
No the sense of loss was not centered on Random. I felt no remorse for leaving him to Ulris.
I took out my Trump of Bleys and looked at it. I almost put it back, but then reconsidered. The last thing I wanted right now was to deal with my father. But maybe he wouldn't answer his Trump either. I hesitated a moment and then reached for contact.
The response was immediate and violent. My mind was grabbed and then he pulled himself through and stood in the room with Helioventar drawn and the room crackled with the heat of his anger. I was frozen in place, unable to move.
"Where is he?" he said to me in a deadly calm tone.
"Who?" I managed to gasp.
"Your boyfriend." He snapped.
"I don't know. When we left he disappeared. He didn't come with us." I didn't finish my sentence or thought before he reached into my mind and looked for the information. The onslaught was sudden and severe and took my breath away. I had rarely seen father this angry.
"What is going on?" I asked him as he turned away from me and waved his hand, the door to the sitting room was flung open and he stepped out
I briefly saw Isabeau's panicked face before she Trumped out.
Bleys marched through the other room and broke through the door with two swings of his sword. I decided that it would be safer to stay under the radar and remain where I was. With any luck Bleys would distract Drake enough to drop his Logrus tendril on me, and I could leave them both here to do what they pleased.
He was gone only a short while and the Logrus tentacle did not withdraw. I had ventured out to the sitting room to see what was going on when Bleys returned. He was still angry but there was a rueful look on his face, like a young boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. I wished I had been there to see what had transpired to cause that.
The Logrus tentacle withdrew and without looking at me Bleys said, "Come on Pumpkin, we're leaving." His presence enveloped me and we Trumped out.
We appeared in an open courtyard paved in riveted brass and surrounded by walls approximately 100 feet on each side. The red sun beat down into this area, hot and glaring. Before us was an enormous brass gateway shaped like the rising sun. Beyond this gateway rose an immense structure all plated in beaten brass. Despite it's austerity there was a primal beauty about the place. There were gun emplacements in the sally ports and marks on the wall indicated that projectile weapons had been fired here at some time in the past. The place screamed 'Bleys'. It was his shadow and I had never been here before but I could tell that nothing happened here that Bleys was not aware of or wanted to have happen.
Bleys still had Helioventar unsheathed as he strode to the gateway. Over his shoulder he said to me. "Don't go anywhere."
I was left sweating in the courtyard alone. I decided to stand them to spite him and his imperious instructions. My stubbornness lasted about 5 minutes before I decided that my spitefulness was doing me more harm than him.
I crossed to the gateway and entered the building. The place smelled of hot brass and was obviously a purely military installation. The only inhabitants of this structure were clockwork mechanoids. They paid me little attention.
I thought about making a Trump. A little acid and a plate of metal would work. I opened a few doors and saw war rooms set up with sand tables and war scenarios. Bleys artistic side had not been indulged in the construction of this place. This was where he planned the strategy for his armies. Benedict would love the place.
I found some drawing materials and a place to sit. Anger was overcoming the feeling of loss. How dare my father do this to me? I was no longer a child. I leaned my head back against the wall and closed my eyes. It was Keladrian's face I saw.
|It was very hot in Bleys' shadow. But it was more than the heat that
prevented me from setting stylus to metal to scribe a Trump. I could feel
that the time here was moving faster than it moved in Amber. It didn't
matter whether it was normal for this shadow or something my father had
caused to happen. I knew that I probably had more time than the rest of
the group in shadow, but I needed more time than Bleys. With both of us
here in this shadow, that wasn't going to happen.
When I focused my thoughts on Keladrian the sinking feeling in my gut intensified. To have him think poorly of me was disturbing. I contemplated these feelings for a while and decided to act on them.
Pulling my own Trump from my pouch I concentrated on my own essence encoded in it. I could feel that this shadow favored use of the Trump like no other place I had ever been. I hoped to find and possibly eliminate any markers that Drake or my father had placed on me. By concentrating on my essence I hoped to be able to view anything that was not part of my essence and leave it behind.
Concentrating on my image on the Trump I noticed a dark shadow appeared surrounding part of my essence. I could feel the oily feel of Logrus in the blemish. But there was no way that I could leave it here until I left. I delved further. I saw myself, long red hair, green eyes, strong jaw, and slightly weak chin. Just like father. A lot like father. In fact the more I delved the more my essence resembled Bleys. Too much to be natural. I could not view anything in my Trump or essence that I could not trace directly back to my father. There was no sorceress tag there. He followed my through shadow merely by looking for himself.
The avoidance about my mother made sense now. In fact a lot of things made sense. It was perverse, but it made sense. I was stunned by this revelation and knew that this was something that I could not let Bleys know that I was aware of, nor any other member of my family. It made what I needed to do next harder in some ways but easier in others.
I decided to find father and have a talk. His essence was easy to trace in this citadel. At the end of a corridor was a massive set of brass double doors with the emblem of a rising sun in bas-relief upon them. Two of the clockwork mechanoids carrying particle beam rifles stood guard to either side of the entrance.
One of the guards stepped forward to bar the door as I approached.
"Please move." I ordered the guard. If they could understand voice modulation they should know I was in no mood for this.
When the sentry made no effort to move from his guard position, I made as if to turn away. Then quickly changed direction and moved to its side. At the same time I grabbed the barrel of his rifle and used my momentum to spin him towards the other sentry. I applied pressure on the guard's grip and the weapon discharged, shearing away the upper left torso and one arm of the other sentry.
The wounded guard began sounding an alarm as he dropped his weapon. He attempted to move forward towards me and bring his weapon to bear using only one arm.
The sentry that I was standing behind and using as a shield was attempting to throw me over his head.
I released my hold on the rifle and pushed off from his back towards the double doors. They were much more massive than I had anticipated. I smacked into the doors and felt the contours of the sun emblem press into my back. The sentry was beginning to turn to face me and he was uninjured and armed. I heard the door lock disengage.
The door began to open and I realized they were more like bank vault doors than simple entry doors. It didn't appear that the door would open enough for me to get through before the guard would have a shot.
Timing was critical. As the guard completed his turn and before he brought the weapon up to fire, I dropped to a crouch and grabbed the mechanoid's ankles and lifted. The creature crashed onto its back onto the floor of the corridor as the injured guard moved closer.
The door was open far enough now to allow entry. I didn't bother to stand but rolled through the door and onto my feet on the other side.
I was in a large room facing the double doors. Behind me I heard my father's voice. "Dismissed." He said and the faltering mechanical and the one on the floor rose and stood to attention. The doors closed as I turned to face Bleys.
The room was lined all in brass and was longer than it was wide. There was a semi circular window in the far wall through which the sun beat into the room. As if the room was not warm enough, on either side of the window were two standing braziers alight with flame.
In front of the window was a massive wooden desk in a golden color. Behind the desk was a large leather chair. The desk had nothing on it but there was a feeling that just a moment ago it might have had something on it. The rest of the room was empty, no artwork, no doorways, no windows or any other furnishings.
Father was not sitting in the chair but standing beside it. I had the strangest impression that there was another presence in the room, but the two of us were the only ones visible. I did a quick mental scan around the room and could sense no other presence. I wasn't sure what was twigging the sensation that someone else was here now or had been recently. I beat aside my curiosity and focused on the reason that I had come here to talk with father.
We stood there facing each other a moment, then Bleys arched an eyebrow and seated himself in the chair. I was not going to allow him to use positioning to control this meeting. I deliberately walked the length of the room and moved around the desk and sat on the edge, facing father in his chair.
Bleys put his elbows on the armrest of the chair and steepled his fingers. He moved the chair slightly to face me. We regarded each other for another moment.
"I suppose you can get rid of this disgusting thing that Drake put on me?" I broke the silence first.
"Of course, if I chose to." He regarded me coolly. It was obvious that he was still angry about recent events. Things had not gone well for him.
"Then I'll just leave it behind when I leave here."
"That could be interesting." He said softly. I wasn't sure if he was referring to having the Logrus tag here or my attempting to leave his shadow.
I pushed on. "How are you tracking me through shadow?" I had my suspicions; I wanted to know if he would tell me.
"My unalloyed love for you." He smiled and tried to turn on the charm. I was determined not to give into it this time. It was very difficult not to melt when you see that smile. I focused on my recent revelation about my essence. He couldn't manipulate me now. Well, not as easily.
"Somehow I just don't believe that. You only care for yourself, but that's another issue." I was momentarily distracted. I dropped the memory of my Trump essence and focused on Keladrian.
"You asked me recently what I valued." I looked out the window and took a breath. "Let me start with this, Fiona did most of my raising. She taught me how to bear myself as a member of the royal house of Amber. From her, dear Aunt Fiona, I learned dignity and deceit."
"Attributes that should serve you well." Father interjected.
It was easier to continue now that I had started. I ignored him and continued. "Finally you decided to take some interest in me and you did teach me Trump and the three C's." He arched an eyebrow for me to explain.
"Combat, charm and cunning."
"All important survival skills." He nodded.
"Then I ventured into shadow on my own and I spent a considerable time with Random out there. I don't think you know how much time I actually spent with Random." I glanced at father to check his reaction but he was poker faced.
"From him I learned how to live life on the edge. I learned music and mayhem." I looked back out of the window.
"Something has been lacking in my upbringing. In none of this did I learn anything about honor, teamwork. . . " I took a breath.
"Those are things that will get you killed." He seemed sincere in his concern.
"Or love." I finished.
"Ditto." He added.
"However I've recently come to realize that what I have just come to value, because of my upbringing, I may have placed in jeopardy." It wasn't as eloquent a statement as I had hoped for. But it felt sincere and I knew that Bleys would pick up on that.
"And that is?" he asked quietly.
"I value Keladrian's friendship and his trust, and his respect. And I may have lost those going the way I have been raised." I turned away from the window and looked directly at father. "I want a chance to go out and help the others fix Corwin's Pattern."
I waited for a moment for his response. When none was forthcoming I continued. "I was beginning to learn a little about honor and teamwork working with that group. I want the chance to finish what we started." I held his attention with my eyes. "I can't do it if you are out trying to kill Merlin. And I can't do it if you are constantly following me."
The silence stretched between us. Had I gone too far? Bleys pushed the chair away from the desk and stood. Clasping his hands behind his back he paced slowly to the narrow end of the desk away from me. Then turned to me and asked, "Why now?"
I didn't understand, "Why now, what?"
"Five hundred years, the Patternfall War. Why now?"
"This is the first time I have had a connection with someone. Someone real outside of my, as you put it, my psycho Aunts and Uncles." I faltered in my explanation. It wasn't entirely clear to me what had made this change. "I've never met anyone that's had the virtues, if you would, that Keladrian has displayed. I'd like a chance to explore that friendship more."
"He only has those virtues because he's led a very sheltered life." Bleys countered. "And I do not know how much longer this universe will allow him the luxury of those virtues. Do you intend to stand by him as cold reality leaves its claw marks?"
"I guess we'll have to figure that out when it happens, or if it happens." I shrugged. "The question at this time is, is he willing to stand by me after what I have done?" I turned away from Bleys.
We were held in this moment for a long time each with our separate thoughts.
"You know what you are asking?" Bleys broke the silence.
"Maybe, maybe not. I don't know. I just know that I'd like an opportunity to try. If we fail, you can still go in and destroy Corwin's Pattern. There's still that option."
"I'm not talking about that."
"Then what?" I was confused by what he was hinting at.
"I have been waiting for this day for centuries. And now that it's here, I'm not sure I want it to be. It was never my intention to keep you a child. But the decision you are making now makes you an adult, not my Pumpkin. Do you understand that?"
And then I did. I knew how the Elders viewed their siblings. Adults were fair game in the constant political intrigues. I had been spared all of that. Now I would need to step up and enter the hunt. Whether I was prepared for it or not. This decision could very well place me at odds with the one true protector that I had in all of shadow. I would be on my own, completely for the first time in my life. It was a frightening moment and I resisted the impulse to run to father and say, 'never mind, I take it all back'.
"If this decision puts us at odds, I would not welcome that, but if that's the way it is, then that's the way it is." A great weight settled in my chest as I made this statement and I knew there was no retreat from this. I was no longer a child. The loss was momentarily overwhelming. I wondered if father felt the same.
"If he ever hurts you, I will hunt him down." He turned away and said, "Go." I slid off the desk and stood. "And take care." He said it so softly I almost missed it.
My steps were heavy as I started to head out of the room. Then I stopped. "Um, could you take care of Drake's marker before I go. Or else show me how?" I turned back to the desk where father was standing and looking out the window.
"Drake's on the other end of that, isn't he?" he turned to me with a mischievous smile.
"Yes." I smiled back at him on familiar ground again.
"We'll leave it here." He said and gestured.
"Ok. Is the time fairly quick here? I need two days to draw a Trump and I don't want to lose too much time compared to the others. Will I have enough time here?" I asked him.
"It's a different time everywhere. Can you be more specific?" he wasn't going to make this easy for me. But that was usual.
"Say in comparison to Amber or Dorad?" I wasn't sure where Keladrian was and I didn't know how much control Drake had over his own dimension. For that matter, time didn't matter in Dorad.
"Time moves fairly quick here." Was all he said.
I didn't want to lose time compared to the others. I didn't know if
they would or could pursue the plan that we had thought up. I doubted
that Random would give any of them the Jewel of Judgment or accompany
them to Corwin's Pattern. It was not likely that Merlin would cooperate
after Ulris had been injured and it was not likely that Ulris would
cooperate after being attacked by Bleys.
I headed back to the area that I had set up to work on Trump and gathered materials to do a Trump sketch. I decided to do a sketch of Tor first, as places were easier than people were. Once a sketch is done of a person you have to use the Trump fairly quickly before they move or change. Mandor had not shown any abilities in shape-shift but as he was from Chaos, that was always a possibility. Once I was satisfied with the sketch of Tor, I put it aside and concentrated on Mandor.
His sketch was not easy. I had seen a Trump sketch of him that Merlin had. I thought back to that sketch and reviewed my impressions of his essence from that Trump. Then I reviewed by meetings with Mandor, but I could not reconcile my impressions of his essence from our meetings with the essence from the Trump. I finally discarded my impressions and went with the Trump. Mandor could have been manipulating my impressions when we were meeting in person. That seemed to be a handy thing to do around a Trump artist. I would have to work on detecting Trump artists and masking my essence. Maybe I could just alter my essence enough that when they did a Trump of me they contacted Bleys instead. Interesting idea. I would have to work on it.
I was determined to use the Trump the instant I had finished it. Mandor seemed to travel around a lot and I didn't want him invalidating my hard work. Yet when I finished the sketch I hesitated. This move would finalize the break with my father that had begun in his office. I so much wanted to run back to him and be his Pumpkin again.
I activated the Trump.
Almost immediately my mind was filled with the presence of Mandor. It was an interesting experience. It should have felt invasive but it didn't.
"Zhelan" He said.
"If you are not too busy with my Aunt, can you bring me through."
There was a long pause. "How is your relationship with your Aunt these days Zhelan?" he asked.
I had to think about how to answer this. Try to be political. "Uh, you know, the last I knew it wasn't too bad." I hedged.
"Very well." And he stretched his hand out to me. I accepted it and was pulled through to a place that was as cold as Bleys' shadow was hot. Maybe colder.
There was a sense of brittleness to the surroundings like they had been flash frozen. Mandor was dressed exquisitely. His white hair cascading down one shoulder contrasted nicely with the black mandarin style shirt that came to mid thigh. The sleeves were slightly belled. The black trousers were gathered at the ankle and he was wearing black slippers. Hanging just over his left shoulder was one of his glass globes. He seemed a bit subdued.
I indicated the shadow around me, "Your work or Fiona's?"
"Hers." He glanced away. I saw Fiona lying on the ground. She was still wearing the Dorad style clothing, but had been carefully arranged on the ground. Except for her left hand, which was convulsed. The burns on her hand were vaguely reminiscent of electrical backlash burns. Her hair was singed away on the right side and her skin showing through the rip on her right shoulder was cyan blue. There was a faint odor of lemon coming from her. Next to her, body askew and very dead was Mandor. This version of him was wearing black also but had a black flowing cloak and half of his skull was caved in.
Obviously my Uncle Caine was not the only one who made terminal use of their shadow duplicates.
"I take it your reunion did not go as smoothly as could have been hoped."
"No, I really hadn't anticipated that she would kill me." He gazed sadly at the corpse.
"Well, it seems you are beside yourself." The recent confrontation with my father had left me in a grave humor. He seemed to ignore my comment so I continued trying to inject some concern into my tone of voice. "So, is she okay?"
"No, She is not. I can defend myself." His attention was completely on Fiona.
"So, we obviously need to get her someplace that she can be cared for." I saw my chance to earn some points with Mandor. "And we can't take her to Dorad."
"No." he agreed.
"I do have another option." I focused on getting his attention.
He turned his gaze to me. "And that would be?"
"Shangra La." I stated. When I had his full attention I continued. "They have these mystic monks up there. They do great stuff." I should know I had needed their services on a number of occasions.
"Are any of your relatives there currently?" he asked with some interest.
"Not that I'm aware of. When I found this particular version, it was the first Trump drawn of it."
"They don't have the time stoppage thing going on in Dorad, but they pretty damn good healing." I assured him. "No mental healing, just body healing. Oh, and spiritual healing if you are really into that sort of thing."
"Very well." He bent down and very tenderly scooped Fiona up and cradled her in his arms. "Please stand back."
I took a step back and the orb over his shoulder shot down towards the corpse and it was consumed in a flash of flames. Good idea to leave no evidence. Mandor looked very sad.
I pulled the Trump of Shangra La out of my belt pouch. "I prefer not to waste the energy of a Trump Gate, do you mind. . ." I indicated that I would need to be in physical contact with him. He nodded and I reached out and placed my hand upon his arm. I activated the Trump and we stepped through into a high mountain climate. There was perpetual snow on the jagged peaks around us and a building that appeared to have been carved out of the face of the rock was directly in front of us. We stood at the main gates of the monastery.
It had been important to me to appear where I could receive immediate attention if I passed out on the way here. I stepped closer to the Gate and pulled on the ornate red chord that rang a bell inside the structure.
The monks were quick to respond and ushered us into the main hall. An older monk with a scarlet band running down the length of his tunic greeted us and we were quickly led to their infirmary.
Mandor would not let Fiona be taken from him but placed her on the pad when directed by the monks. A very old monk dressed in white soon entered the room and began to examine Fiona.
Soon there were 4 other monks surrounding the bed and the chanting and spreading incense part of the healing procedures had begun. From experience I knew that this would take awhile.
Mandor hovered near my Aunt his glass globe floating just over his shoulder. After a few minutes I became bored and decided to engage Mandor in conversation. "So, how did you and my Aunt come to such blows after having a daughter together?"
He was quiet for a long time and then sighed.
"It's not hard with Fiona. I understand." I urged him.
"Her strength is something that I have always admired about her." He finally said.
It didn't appear that I would gain much in that direction so got to the heart of the reason that I had sought him out. "You know that we are trying to work on fixing Corwin's Pattern. When I was told that Fiona had been banned from Dorad, such as yourself, and Bleys said not to shadow walk away from Dorad because the two of you were duking it out in the shadows around there. I got to thinking. Here is someone who is very strong in Pattern and someone who is very strong in Logrus." I believed I had enough of his interest now and I warmed to my subject.
"Keladrian said, that you told him that Corwin's Pattern is lacking Logrus. Or any of its derivatives." I made direct eye contact with him and said clearly and distinctly. "If any two people could put their heads together and figure out how to fix Corwin's Pattern it's you and Fiona." I paused for effect. "And here I have the two of you together. How fortuitous."
"Except that one of us in unconscious and one of us is dead." He pointed out.
"I am. Will I be when she wakes up?" he asked me.
"Well maybe when she wakes up if you weren't right here I could. . ." I rethought a moment. "I don't know how good I am at talking sense to Fiona. You know, bridges can be mended." I very much hoped that was true. I had some of my own to work on.
"For the good of Amber." I said. That was the key. What was in it for Fiona. I had to find her button. "All of this disruption by Corwin's Pattern is disrupting her experiments. Aligning with you for a brief moment to fix that and then she can go back to hating you all she wants to." I was thinking out loud hoping to get some feedback from Mandor.
"Zhelan, it's not as if I'm not with you, but she killed me." He emphasized.
"Caine does that sort of thing all the time." I told him not understanding his insistence on this point.
"Caine?" He seemed surprised. "Shapeshifts?" He asked me.
"No, I mean he goes into shadow and finds a duplicate of himself." I explained.
"A shadow likeness of myself couldn't injure your Aunt."
"So, what are you saying?" I thought back to my earlier suspicion. "Are you the shadow duplicate?"
"Zhelan, I am Mandor." He stated.
"Well, you'd have to be. I Trumped you." He nodded. "So you're saying that other Mandor was you also?" It suddenly hit me just what he had done. "And you did a Liselle?" he seemed confused by this.
"She only lost 2 and half pounds, but that was a . . . My God that's disgusting." I just couldn't get over this shape shift thing. I couldn't image splitting off half of yourself.
"Zhelan, really. People who live their entire life inside one small tin can shouldn't throw stones." His rebuke was mild but direct.
"I just can't image loosing half of myself." Then I stopped and remembered my Trump examination. "I may have to talk to Bleys about that." I did some mental gymnastics. "Preconceptions." I said under my breath as I shook my head.
I turned back to Mandor. "Well since she believes she killed you, you can stay out of the way when she wakes up so we can get her use to the idea that you're not really dead."
"Fiona is a little more savvy concerning my nature than you are Zhelan."
To which I had to agree. I couldn't lie to her anyway. She also had very little patience with me and usually took what she wanted to know from my mind.
"The fact that she's killed you. . ." It was difficult to phrase these concepts. "She's probably gotten it out of her system now."
"You obviously have no children." Was all Mandor said. "She said over her dead body."
"Over her dead body what?" my curiosity was as strong as ever.
"It's a family thing." He remained close-lipped about his disagreement with my Aunt.
"Something about Isabeau." I guessed.
He gave me a look that said, 'drop it'.
"Well, could you just give it up for a bit?" I tried bargaining with him.
"Would you?" he asked.
"I don't know as I have no idea what your point of contention is. I therefore couldn't give you an honest answer on that." I decided to play it straight with Mandor. He seemed like a nice enough person for a Chaos Lord. I could see how Fiona could have been attracted to him.
He brushed a lock of hair from Fiona's forehead as his only answer.
"You obviously care for my Aunt." I began when he interrupted me.
"Despite her rather obvious flaws, your Aunt is a brilliant woman. Insightful, intelligent. Even surrounded by gorillas of her brothers she's managed to explore and define and learn and apply that all with a wicked ambition."
I had to agree with Mandor on the ambition part. I was pretty sure that she was one of the main driving forces behind her brothers during the Patternfall war.
"Unfortunately she'll not allow that for anyone else. I am willing Zhelan but . . . " He let the thought trail off. I had learned much about my Aunt and Isabeau's father this day.
"If we could Fiona to agree then you will agree?" I challenged him.
He looked at me and nodded. "That horrible thing needs to be dealt with.
"That is my concern." I told him and then added, "Amber is my concern." And knew that I spoke honestly. "I would prefer to make an attempt at fixing it. And I have gotten Bleys to agree to allow me to attempt that."
He looked at me slightly differently. "Oh to have been a fly on the wall."
"It was an interesting revelation and conversation." I admitted to him.
"Your father and I have never seen eye to eye, Zhelan. And we may never." He appeared to showing great restraint when discussing my father with me. "If he could stand off for awhile or deal with his brother . . ." he suggested.
"As for my group. I am not sure that Drake and Isabeau would welcome be back soon. And I also need to find Keladrian. You seem to be fairly quick at locating people in shadow." I paused, then asked, "By the way, how were you tracking us through shadow?" This seemed to be the question du jour.
"Which time?" he inquired.
"After the blow up in the casino, when you sent the message to us. Let's start there." Might as well start with that one because it was the only one that I was clearly aware of.
"I had something in my possession whose entire purpose was to go to Keladrian." I could tell he was reluctant to reveal his methods.
I remembered Keladrian's messenger lizard in the globe.
"A magician should never reveal his tricks. I couldn't locate you, but it could." He smiled.
"So, do you conjure." I continued asking the blunt questions since we seemed in a mood to share.
"Why do you ask?" he hedged.
"Because that would obviously be the best way to locate someone is to create a messenger to find them." I remembered Bleys' flaming horses.
"I conjure, but. . ." he began.
"You don't have Keladrian's essence?" I asked him.
"I do." I revealed. "Would a Trump sketch help?"
"Perhaps we could collaborate." I offered.
He looked at me closely and narrowed his eyes. "Your father would not approve."
"At this point, that is not a matter of importance." I told him.
"You have to spend Christmas with him, not I." He shook his head.
We got down to particulars. "The current field of theory is to find someone who is not attuned to Pattern, give them the Jewel of Judgment."
Mandor raised an eyebrow, "That will be a trick."
I ignored him and continued. "Have them walk Corwin's Pattern. This person would have to, of course, be related to Corwin and would have to have either Logrus or a derivative power and not be imbued with Pattern."
"Poor bastard." Muttered Mandor. "Do you realize that that young man has been pushed around by every hand that has ever met him."
"I guess he was just born with 'Pawn' stenciled on his forehead." I had little sympathy for my cousin after meeting him. "We are trying to prevent my father from doing a Martin on him."
"I'm rather fond of that young man." Mandor said.
"I'd like to have a chance to see that side of him. I've tried to talk with him, but he wasn't not willing to discourse with me."
"He is rightfully, very distrustful. If you had grown up pushed by every hand that had ever held yours, how much would you trust?"
How did Mandor know that I hadn't also been pushed. Probably not to the degree that Merlin had but close. "Less than I do now, which isn't saying much. I understand. However, can you come up with a better plan?" I challenged him. "That's why I have come to you. That you and Fiona together can come up with some way. Keladrian believes that the Pattern is missing something. You yourself told him that it was Logrus. I see it as an artist does. It appears as a child's attempt at a masterpiece. It's missing colors and hues, depth." I was at a loss for words to describe my impressions.
"And you think that Merlin is a master?" he seemed incredulous.
"No, I don't think that Merlin is a master. However he might be able to pull something out of the Jewel of Judgment that Corwin could not."
"He would have to. He couldn't pull out what Corwin did." Mandor agreed.
"That's right. And maybe what he pulls out of the Jewel will complete it."
"You realize that you run the risk of overwriting one doodle with another?" he cautioned.
"At that point, we destroy it."
"I'm still fond of that young man." He reminded me.
"It didn't kill Martin to damage the Pattern." I reminded him in turn.
"You are right. It didn't kill Martin to damage the Pattern." his emphasis was pointed.
"Do you think we would have to kill Merlin to destroy it?" I was not sure I was ready for that drastic of a measure, but I wouldn't leave it to father to do.
"Well, I've personally never unmade one." He looked at Fiona. "But I'm certainly willing to try."
"I would like to see my cousin live through this." I had to agree. I didn't want to lose Merlin before I really got to know him. "Corwin was one of my favorites. Even though he is a gorilla." I teased Mandor about his earlier reference to my family.
"What do you suggest?" he asked.
"I told you what our plan was. I left Random in less than ideal circumstances." I began.
"The King of Amber is injured?" he seemed quite interested in this information. I hoped that this did not come back to bite me later.
"Yes, something with Ulris. Apparently he's been hanging around the Abyss a little too long."
"Oh, what a clever young man." Mandor positively oozed his appreciation. It was a bit frightening really.
"I believe he's with Drake right now. Keladrian I believe has Merlin. They are not in the same location. And then Random had the Jewel of Judgment. Three pieces of the puzzle, three locations. And us the fourth, here." I summed it up.
"And you want to send messages?"
"I would like to send a message to Keladrian." I agreed. "And let him know of the promise that I have from my father."
"You do remember how Keladrian feels about my messaging him?" he reminded me.
"Keladrian doesn't enjoy being messaged." I agreed. I not only remembered his reaction to Mandor's message, but to my father's as well. But he wouldn't answer Trump. Maybe he needed help with learning teamwork also. "Perhaps we can try a subtle message, but not too subtle." I was remembering the enigmatic, 'we need to talk, M' and the flaming stallions. Something between those two might be acceptable.
"I can't believe I am standing here in league with Chaos." I muttered to myself.
"Because you've spent some time around your kin, we start to look good." Mandor smiled charmingly at me.
"I always thought you looked exceptionally good." I flattered him.
Mandor stood up from beside Fiona. "Something not too subtle that Keladrian would not find offensive." He mused. He was warming up to the task. "May I have the sketch?" he held out his hand and I pulled out the sketch of Keladrian and handed it to him.
He didn't look at it but rolled it up into a tube. He stepped away from the area where the monks were chanting over the body of Fiona, then slipped the tube into the globe over his shoulder.
Now we were getting somewhere. I had Mandor's cooperation and soon might be able to speak with Keladrian. Surely a message delivered through Mandor would let Keladrian know that I was away from Bleys.
Now I had to figure out what to say to my Aunt when she woke.
"I would agree, I would not like to lose another of me."
"But I will need you to stay close. If I can get her to the point where she will accept working with you, then you must be close enough to take advantage of the moment before she changes her mind."
"Oh yes, not a problem." He assured me.
"I believe I know my Aunt well enough that I can get her to accept working with you."
"How do you plan to do that?" he asked somewhat incredulously.
"I can talk to my Aunt." I said with much more confidence than I felt. "It's just a matter of knowing what's important and what buttons to push."
"With Fiona of Amber?" He raised an eyebrow. "I think you'll regret it."
"I already do." I ran my hands through my hair then faced him directly. "But I am dedicated to this course of action, to do something about my Uncle Corwin's Pattern. And I feel that you and my Aunt working together are our best hope at this point. At figuring out exactly what needs to be done. I'm tired of stumbling around with inadequate information, inadequate plans and inadequate companions."
Mandor nodded but didn't say anything.
"Shall we check on my Aunt, then find something to eat." I asked him.
We consulted a monk who assured us that it would be several hours before
my Aunt awoke. Mandor and I left to find food.
Mandor, like Bleys, had impeccable table manners. Unlike Bleys he was more in tune with his surroundings and blended in. His demeanor did not announce its presence to the shadow around us. I began to notice small differences in mannerisms between this Mandor and the one that I had known. This one seemed less martial.
I couldn't stand it any longer and my curiosity finally got the better of me. I asked. "How long have you been separated?"
Mistaking the direction of my question, he said. "100 years."
"I mean from yourself."
"Oh." He adjusted his thoughts "I've never been separated from myself, Zhelan."
"I mean physically. That was a part of you at one point?" I referred to the body that he had destroyed.
"That was not a part of me, that was me." He corrected.
"Ok so you did this shapeshifter split thing, like Liselle?"
"I am unfamiliar with Liselle's latest stunts." He smiled, "Perhaps you could elucidate?"
"Well two and half pounds of her walked off while she was sleeping." I giggled somewhat nervously.
Mandor grinned, "How disconcerting for her."
"I take it this was a more conscious choice?"
"I can guarantee you that anything that I do is of a more conscious choice than anything Liselle does."
"Well, there is that. I have not had much experience with shape shifters, I find the whole concept rather . . ." I searched for the right word that would not sound offensive. "Interesting."
"And distasteful." He nailed me.
I started to stutter protest then stopped. "Ok, turning into other creatures, that's not so bad. But. . . " I was again at a loss for words.
"You are very firmly fixed to your flesh, Zhelan. Some of us are aware that our flesh is not our entirety. In fact not even our essence."
"But your essence is different from the one I met." I protested.
"Why would you assume that?" He asked quietly.
"Because I couldn't incorporate both of them into the one Trump."
"So the essence was different." I thought I had it.
"No, the view was different." He threw back then added. "Trump is not my specialty. I've studied some of its effects."
"Was the Mandor that died, the one I met? Or are there others?"
"Yes and yes." He agreed.
"So I did meet that one."
"You see and hear everything that he did?" I was trying hard to grasp this concept but it remained alien to my thinking.
"Of course, he's me."
"This is just too weird. I'm sorry I can't grasp this concept yet."
"You see out of both eyes at the same time." He began. I agreed and he continued. "In fact it's a bit alarming when one is covered permanently, is it not? Your view is diminished, you can not perceive as much." He waited for my agreeing nod. "Are you disconcerted or feel it is unnatural when you see out of two eyes? Hear out of two ears at the same time? Is one of your eyes not you?"
I thought a moment. But both eyes and ears are connected to the same brain. In this case was he saying that somehow all of their minds were connected? "I'm still going to have to think about this. This is a totally different world view than I am used to."
"You should get out more." He told me.
I found that amusing. "I try to."
"You travel the neighborhood well. But things are different downtown." He chided.
"Well I'm beginning to realize that. Where I've traveled and how I've gotten there is starting to expand but I have been confined. Some of the confinement has lifted."
"That's good, it's a large universe."
"As fascinating as this conversation has been. A bath and fresh
clothes are really high on my agenda at this time." I excused myself
from the table in went in search of those items.
After dressing I went to the small chapel and sat and meditated. I wanted to prepare for my meeting with my Aunt. I carefully built the best mental barrier that I was capable of. Above this barrier I populated my mind with thoughts and memories that would support the story that I was about to spin for my Aunt. Information that it would be safe for me to let her have. Above these memories I constructed another barrier. Not as strong as the first but substantial enough that I hoped it would fool my Aunt into believing that this was the best I could do.
As always Fiona would choose the most inconvenient time to make her presence felt. I didn't have time to go back and review my work before I was interrupted by the appearance of a young novitiate letting me know that my Aunt was waking up.
I followed him towards the healing chambers but as we neared I could tell that Fiona was already awake. Several monks were departing the area in disarray and confusion.
"Faster." I requested of the young man in front of me. Instead he came to a standstill and would approach the room no further. I sighed and continued forward without him.
Fiona was struggling to a sitting position when I entered the room. She was trying to balance on the headboard of the bed with the hand that was bandaged. I could almost see the steam coming out of her ears. I hurried to her side.
"Aunt Fiona, please, you are injured. Lay down and rest some." I tried putting as much care and concern into the tone of my voice as I could. "I will get what you need?"
It was obvious by the look on her face that I was not who she expected. "Where's Isabeau?" She demanded.
"The last I saw her, Drake had her." I began. My goal was to point Fiona's angry indignation in another direction; away from myself and any thoughts of Mandor. I was hoping that another target to focus on would provide the necessary distraction that I would need to reintroduce Isabeau's father.
The breath went out of her and she stopped her struggles to rise and collapsed back onto the bed. I had scored a point.
"Please, please. I found you dying out in shadow and I brought you here to heal you and save your life. Please rest; give your body the chance to finish the work that the monks have started. I would not care to see you die also." I realized as I said this last that I had gone a bit too far in my performance. I had aroused some suspicion in her.
"What were you doing out in shadow?" She demanded sharply.
"I was trying to find someone to assist in retrieving Isabeau and I came across you and thought, this is as good a person as any."
"Where does he have her?" Her questions came across sharp and direct.
"I'm not really sure. But you need to rest and recover and we have time here to do that. As you are . . ." I didn't get to finish this sentence as Fiona immediately spotted where I was going.
"Still good enough to kick your ass, girly." She glared at me then looked around. "Where's Gerard?"
"Random was attacked in Rebma and I don't know where Gerard is. A lot of things have happened." I tried to organize my thoughts. What order should I present things to her? I needed to continue to control this conversation. This was my best shot, while she was still weak and disoriented.
"Well, don't babble, get on with it."
"When I found you, I recognized the body next to you as Mandor. You had killed him. I have to tell you that Drake has told Isabeau that Mandor is her father." I paused for effect and got the expected reaction. Point two.
"And where's your precious papa." She unexpectedly demanded.
"My father and I are not speaking right now."
"That's because you are here with me and he's not." She raised her voice in agitation. I was on dangerous ground again of a sudden.
"I believe that he is working on another project at this point. By the way if he invites you to go walking along the beach, I'd decline." I decided to use her anger towards my father as another target to diffuse her away from Mandor. "We still have the issue of Corwin's Pattern also. It is putting Amber at risk." I knew that Fiona's ambitions for Amber were very strong. I couldn't believe that I had spent this much time with her and hadn't been mentally attacked as yet. She was definitely not at her best. If I could just keep her confused by changing the subject, I might pull this off.
"I know that." She was showing signs of irritation.
"Have you seen Corwin's Pattern." I challenged her.
"No I was a little busy being unconscious and all." She snapped testily at me.
I felt like saying, 'whose fault is that', but restrained myself. "I don't know what Isabeau told you about it."
"She thinks Corwin's been taken over by a tree." She sneered.
"There were many different impressions of Corwin's Pattern. Isabeau seemed to think it was just young and exuberant. The rest of us felt that there was something lacking or amiss with the Pattern." I paused for effect. "Mandor had some interesting theories while he was alive." She turned away from me with a look of disgust. I ignored her reaction and continued. "There are further complications. You are aware of the emergence? And I believe the problem with Corwin's Pattern is hindering the Unicorn's participation in handling the emergence."
"Yes, there is another avatar arising from the Abyss." That got her attention.
"Oh, shit." She said softly.
"Bleys seemed to think you had something to do with it." This remark was designed to move her focus to Bleys and also to stroke her ego.
"Which is part of the reason why you . . . " I began.
"Shouldn't go walking on a beach with him." She finished. "Idiot." She muttered.
"From information we've received, it appears that Oberon is alive,
but maybe weak or injured." Fiona
"She opposes it." Fiona's response was quick and firm. I wondered how she knew the Unicorn's status on the emergence when she hadn't been aware of the emergence. Interesting.
"The serpent is not showing up at the Emergence." This statement brought no surprise from my Aunt either. "Were you aware that the Emperor is dead?" I had pressed too hard and strayed from my original intent. I had gotten caught up in my curiosity about how deep into events my Aunt had her fingers. She slowly shook her head then nailed my mind.
She quickly ripped through the first barrier and dismissed the thoughts she found there. I was somewhat mollified that the second barrier gave her a bit of trouble before she broke through. That didn't make my head hurt any less. I controlled my anger and modulated my voice to be calm.
"We still need to do something about Corwin's Pattern. You are the one person who knows enough about Pattern that could get some insight into it. There is a theory that the Pattern is wrong because Corwin knew only Pattern and knew no other form, so there is no Logrus in it."
"That would be Mandor talking. Get him in here." She was through discussing things with me. After the invasion of my mind there was not much hope of fooling her any longer. I didn't know what all she had collected from my thoughts, but I hoped that there were some things that she had missed.
"Under one condition that you don't immediately try to kill him again." I was firm and couldn't believe I was giving conditions to my Aunt. "He really does care for you." I didn't understand why, but then there was a lot about Mandor that I didn't understand. "Do you think that Isabeau would appreciate you killing her father?" I was not giving up on this and decided to pull out any and all guilt trips that I could think of. I had a brief thought that I was just being suicidal, but I had come this far and I refused to give up because my Aunt was a stupid homicidal bitch. Let her pick that thought up from my mind.
"As many times as it takes." She fumed.
"Aren't you afraid that you will alienate your daughter that way?"
"I can fix that." She threatened. She reeked of menace.
"Will you work with Mandor in fixing Corwin's Pattern?" I decided to be as stubborn as she, but kept my voice modulated to a soothing, calm, and neutral tone. "It only has to be a temporary truce, then you can go back to trying to kill each other. I don't care. I do care about getting Corwin's Pattern fixed."
She didn't speak, or look at me. It was almost impossible to out-stubborn Aunt Fiona.
I played my last card. "For the good of Amber." I pleaded.
She snorted, "Get him in here."
"Do I have your word?" I said doggedly.
"Oh sure, whatever word you want." Her words dripped with venom and sarcasm.
"That you will cooperate?"
"I'm not going to cooperate with anyone." She stated. "But I will work on the damn Pattern." She conceded.
"And not try to kill Mandor until after the Pattern is resolved?"
She muttered something under her breath, but I felt I had the best acquiescence that I would ever receive from her.
"Mandor." I called and he stepped around the corner and into the room.
"My Fi, you're looking lovely as ever." He said cheerfully.
"You!" she spat.
At least she's not trying to kill him, only glare him to death, I thought.
I suggested that Aunt Fiona might feel better after having something
to eat and that the food in this shadow would probably not be to her
liking. Fiona seemed to ignore me. She and Mandor were busy eyeing each
other. Fiona with Malice and Mandor was staying out of her reach, so
it fell to me to get her out of bed and on her feet.
"I'll eat his heart." Was all she said and then waited for me to provide transport to a suitable destination for food. I mentally flipped through my available Trump and discarded several. I would really have liked to go back to Quasmir but I wasn't sure that the earthquake damage would have been repaired there as yet. I finally settled on this nice little island community where I knew that we could get roast pig and the atmosphere was very soothing. I pulled the Trump from my pack without displaying them to Fiona. I concentrated a moment and then took us through.
It was after I had Trumped us through that I realized I was walking Fiona down the beach. Something that I had warned her not to do with Bleys. I found some humor in that. Fiona moved slowly and had a death grip on my shoulder to maintain her balance. I knew that if I were to check later that she would have left bruises there.
We settled down at a table on the beach where we could hear the soothing sounds of the surf washing up on the shore. There was quiet music playing in the background and the service was excellent. At least until Fiona started flashing her displeasure and disquiet through the minds of the shadow dwellers around us.
Mandor did not eat, Fiona ate ravenously and I, I had been through a very stressful ordeal. I can always eat, especially when I'm stressed.
After Fiona had eaten she became calmer. Never polite, but more like herself. The obscenities dropped from her language and she seemed more stable and level. I ate slowly and savored each bite. I wanted to make sure that my mouth was always full so that I would not be obliged to provide any conversation. I was feeling somewhat pleased with my accomplishments. I was sitting at a dinner table sharing a repast with my Aunt Fiona and Mandor. I think father would have been quite surprised and hopefully proud of what I had accomplished. I had no delusions that I had accomplished this on my own. Circumstances and Fiona's own ambitions and murky agendas had contributed.
After about an hour and a half of eating Fiona slowed down and ordered several drinks from the shaking waiter. After the drinks she leaned back in her chair and asked. "So how are we going to get near it?" She looked at me.
"We need to distract Corwin. And I think I have a plan for that." I let the statement hang till I had their attention.
"Spit it out." Fiona had no patience.
"When I spoke with Corwin last I told him Amber was experiencing some problems. He however does not know at this point that Amber has been invaded. That Caine is dead, that Random has been attacked in his hiding spot, that hit squads are running loose in Amber. And I thought that he still cares about Amber and if somebody were to tell him this, that we could probably get him to leave to go check it out. When he goes to check it out, you and Mandor can go in and look."
They didn't dismiss the idea out of hand but sat there and thought about it.
"You'll have to be pretty convincing." Fiona finally said. "We'll mess you up, injure you lightly." This idea seemed to please her. I wondered what she considered light injury. "He'll wonder where your companions are."
"I suppose I could go with one of my companions, or . . ." I stumbled off into silence. I didn't know what to do about 'my companions'.
"Dinner is not an option." She said.
"Dinner? I don't know who you are referring to?" I told her. Then connected what she had said about eating Drake's heart. "Oh, no absolutely Drake is not an option." I agreed with her. "That would be the last person I would go there with. Drake seems to have a proclivity for carting off daughters of Amber and throwing them in his dungeon." I stated. Partly as a test to see just how much of my mind she had scanned, partly to keep her focused on a threat outside of Mandor, but truthfully, mostly because I was still pissed at Drake for thinking he could grab me and throw me in his dungeon. The statement had the desired effect. She had not gotten the information from my mind that Isabeau was with Drake willingly and I could see the fire burning in her eyes. I wouldn't want to be Drake at this moment. Point three for those of us keeping score.
She went back to our planning. "So you are going to go screaming in there, 'help, help me, Uncle Corwin. How you get rid of him. . . we're going to need, what?" She looked to Mandor.
"An hour." He spoke for the first time since we had left Shangri La.
"An hour." Aunt Fiona confirmed.
"So we should probably have a Chaos hit squad in Amber that we could fight. Or something. That would be good." I warmed up to the plan. "If we get there and there is no Chaosian hit squad. . ." I shrugged my shoulders.
"You just need to find one?" Fiona asked.
"If I knew where there was a Chaosian hit squad that I could lead him to, that would be good. That way he'll want to go further and check out a few more places before he would head back. I could probably string him along for a couple of shadows anyway."
Fiona thought for a moment then looked at Mandor and got the evil look in her green eyes. They seemed to have this uncanny knack of communicating without speaking to each other. I was pretty sure they weren't doing it mentally either.
"You will need to take him to Random eventually." Mandor said to me and I agreed. "Make sure you let him know that the king is injured."
"At least he was the last time I saw him." I agreed.
"Good, that will help." Mandor nodded.
"It is much easier to build your lies on the truth." I said.
Fiona looked at Mandor and said, "You'll have to change, you are
not going in that."
Fiona turned to me. "Ready?"
"I suppose, as I'll ever be."
"Come with me, if you can keep up." Fiona got up; she still was not steady on her feet but she no longer clung to me with the death grip. We left the restaurant and got into the car that was waiting out front. I realized that Fiona was going to hellride us someplace. I had only been with her once or twice when she had been in a hurry and didn't look forward to this trip. Fiona knew shortcuts through shadow that no one else did. Her mastery of Pattern was amazing. We endured the 3-hour drive and pulled to a stop in Arden just before the car would have stopped working.
It was strange not to be greeted by Julian or his hellhounds. Not even
his birds were about.
"Where do you want them?" He asked my Aunt.
"Do you remember the clearing by the rock outcroppings down from
Kolvir, with the blueberries?"
I stood in Arden and thought, 'just draw a target on me.' I knew that
Fiona had some plan to 'rough me up and injure me slightly', and wondered
how she meant to accomplish this. I half expected some energy bolt to
come out of the trees and blast me where I stood. I'd like to think
it wasn't blind stupidity that kept me standing there.
They looked confused for a moment but obviously they weren't ones to overlook the opportunity of appearing around a member of the Royal house of Amber.
There was no time to pull out a Trump. I called up my memory of Ssaleesh.
They were quick. When I appeared in Ssaleesh one of them was with me. The odds were much improved. However he had a weapon and I did not.
The Ihendren had been jumping towards me from my left side and had his left hand on my sleeve. That was how he got through with me. His right hand held a sword and it was slightly raised and behind my back. I spun in towards him bending my right arm and smacking my elbow into his chin. His left hand slipped from my sleeve as he dropped to his right knee. He swung his sword downward put missed, then altered his trajectory to make a cut at my hamstring.
I leapt over the sword swing and aimed a kick to his head. I was a
little too close to him for this maneuver to work effectively and his
sword carried through in its cutting arc, stopped and switched trajectories
back towards my extended leg, ripped through the silk trousers I wore
and put a long bloody scratch on my thigh. At the same time he had bent
down and my kick missed his head and I jumped over him and landed to
his right side. His sword hand was coming back around to threaten me.
I kicked out to try and block the hand with the blade.
I ran around the backside of him and headed towards my rooms. I would
have a bit of a lead while he got up off his knees. I entered the room
and looked around. There was a bed, a table, an easel, flowerboxes at
the windows. The closest thing to a weapon would be to use the curtains,
as the rod holding them was too flimsy. I yanked the curtain down from
the window and gave it a couple of flips between my hands to make a
My hands were occupied by controlling the blade with the curtain, but I used elbows, knees, and head, anything that I could to batter him as we rolled around on the floor. He had the advantage in that he had one hand free and I did not. About the third head slam to the floor seemed to take affect and I twisted and broke his neck just to make sure.
I stood up and looked down at the dirt and blood on my garments. This should satisfy Fiona's need for verisimilitude. I left the body where it lay and called out to Mandor. His globe appeared before me and I began the walk to Corwin's Pattern. I was fuming. Not only was I a mess, but I had in a moment of panic done a Trump memory in front of Fiona. I'm sure if she thought about it she could put two and two together and come up with 'Zhelan is a Trump Artist.'
The globe came to the land with the melted red and purple armies then stopped. I remembered that this was as close as Mandor could get us and that Isabeau and gotten us the rest of the way. I would be unable to move through shadow further on my own so I pulled out Corwin's Trump and hoped that I was close enough to get his attention.
The problem was Corwin wasn't answering and Mandor's globe was gone.
I couldn't get any closer to Corwin's Pattern than I was right now without
some assistance. I kept trying to raise Corwin on his Trump.
Keladrian was in Tor.
I had mixed feelings about this.
"Keladrian." I said guardedly. I was afraid that my father would be monitoring my Trump. But I could see that Keladrian had not yet been touched by them. I would need to watch what I said and to some extent what was said by him.
"Zhelan. I do not see Mandor."
"Do not speak freely over the Trump. There are people who can listen. Please come through." I held out my hand to him. I was too close to my goal to go to him and I would not set foot back in Tor without some reconciliation with Drake. "I have something I need to tell you."
"I will call you back." He said and broke the connection.
I hoped he meant what he said. With him here, our plan could go forward. Time dragged by and I was beginning to feel that he would not call back when a Trump call came through. It was him.
"Keladrian." I greeted him with a calm tone and reached out my hand.
He reached forth his hand to me and I brought him through.
"I want to thank you for rescuing my cousin Merlin. I do not stand with my father's intent for him. Despite how it may have appeared, there was no malicious intent in my taking Merlin to Random." I spoke quickly before he could say anything.
I felt Keladrian probe my mind. I intentionally kept my shields down and let him look. I needed him to know that he could trust me. I needed to learn to trust him. Our hands were still clasped from when I brought him through and I made no effort to break that hold. It was hard to deliberately allow some access to my mind.
"That is good but you have the animosity of Drake and Isabeau. Isabeau in particular and you will need to do much to make amends. Regardless of your intent you acted without informing the rest of us and caused much damage." His tone was even and I could gain no insight from his demeanor. I resisted the urge to probe him in return.
"Hindsight is always a much more informative companion than foresight. Knowing what I do now, I might not have done what I had done. However, as I said, hindsight is never wrong." I would not apologize for my actions. They had seemed right to me at the time. Given similar circumstances I could not have blamed the others if they had done the same.
"Why did you take Merlin?"
"At the request of Random." I replied. "I believed there was a chance of gaining our objective of him bringing the Jewel to Corwin's Pattern. I did as he requested."
"Well, that chance is probably slim now."
"I realize that, so I have another plan."
"Which would be why you are here." Keladrian said as he indicated the shadow around us. We still stood facing each other our hands clasped. "And you seem unconcerned about your state." He looked down at my torn and bloody clothing.
"Fiona's idea." I said and looked away suddenly conscious of my disheveled appearance. "Let me assure you that my goal is still the same, to fix Corwin's Pattern. But I would not do so by my father's intent for Merlin. Being here has cost me much."
"Such as?" Keladrian inquired.
"I chose not to go into that at this point." I noticed that he didn't pry into my mind on that issue and this I would not have allowed had he tried.
"And how did you get here?"
"I managed to get Fiona and Mandor to agree to work together, to view Corwin's Pattern and come up with an idea of what to do about it. My goal at this point is to get Corwin to leave his Pattern to allow Fiona and Mandor time to inspect it uninterrupted. Unfortunately I am unable to progress further towards Corwin's Pattern on my own. A small weak spot in our plan." I laughed nervously. "I have been trying to contact Corwin via Trump from here but have been unsuccessful. Then you called me." I stopped and waited for a response from him.
He hadn't reacted when I mentioned getting Fiona and Mandor to work together. I was quite proud of that accomplishment, but perhaps he was not aware of the significance of it.
We stood in silent contemplation for a while; I wondered what he was thinking and whether he would help me in this new plan. I found it comforting that he had not yet released my hand. But it might only be for his own selfish reasons. After all he had probed my mind once. And he was very strong and quick. If he chose to grab me and spin me off to Tor, I would not be able to escape.
"If you could get me as far as the top of the cliff at Corwin's Pattern, you could leave. I can manage from there." I told him to give him an out if he didn't want to remain with me. I would have preferred to have him with me if I could get Corwin to leave and go to Amber. After all there was that Ihendren hit squad waiting for us.
It turned out that his silence had only been contemplation about what form to shape shift to. He did not want to use spin this close to Corwin after what had happened to Derrick. I suggested that he take the form of my Luggage. With his amulet turned on there should be no suspicions aroused in Corwin in seeing me arrive with my Luggage at his doorstep.
I felt much more confident about my plan now that I had Keladrian with